- Dr. Barnes was an Englishman, who lived during the reign of King Henry VIII. Like Dr. Martin Luther, Barnes was an Augustinian – though at Cambridge. Following in the footsteps of Erasmus, he left Cambridge for the continent to acquire an education at Louvain, returning in 1523 with his Doctor of Divinity. Recognized for his scholarship, his order made him Prior of his house, a position he used to introduce the classical learning he had been exposed to at Louvain. Of course, knowledge of Luther and his theology was not hidden on the Cambridge campus, but, being Roman Catholic, such theology was officially forbidden and rejected. Knowing that it was being discussed anyway, at times the University even conducted searches for heretical books or pamphlets that may have made their way from Germany. For this reason, scholars often met off campus, to study the text of the Bible and discuss theology. One place they met was the White Horse Inn. Among the group who met there was Dr. Barnes, who was the indisputable leader of that group, Thomas Cranmer, who would later become Archbishop of Canterbury, and William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale – important Bible translators and publishers – along with many others who would later be referred to as the Cambridge Reformers...
In 1525, the Cambridge Reformers agreed that Christmas would be the day that they would announce their allegiance to evangelical theology, and that Dr. Barnes would deliver that announcement in a sermon, from the pulpit of St. Edward’s Church – the chapel of Trinity Hall and Clare Colleges of Cambridge University. As a result, he was arrested, tried and imprisoned, but by 1528, had escaped, finding his way to the University of Wittenberg where he studied under Dr. Martin Luther, fully absorbing his theology, until 1531.
While a student of Luther’s in Wittenberg, Dr. Barnes wrote two books. The first was a collection of proof texts for theologians entitled, Sententia Ex Doctoribus Collectae, Quas Papistae Valde Impudenter Hodie Damnant (“Sentences collected from the doctors which the papists today impudently condemn”). His second book was a protest to the King of England for the condemnation he suffered at the hands of the Bishops. It was entitled, Supplication to Henry VIII. It contained several essays. One of them is the essay, Treatise on Justification, reproduced below from a collection works by Dr. Barnes, along with works by William Tyndale and John Frith, that was first published in America in 1842. The title of that collection was Writings of Tindal, Frith and Barnes, and the selections it contains (including the prefacing biographies of these martyrs) were taken from the full collection of their writings compiled in John Foxe’s Actes and Monuments.
On the basis of his Supplication, and his intimate association with the German Reformers, Dr. Barnes was recalled to England and placed in the service of the King, as Ambassador to the Smalcaldic Princes – an appointment which positioned him to greatly influence the doctrinal stances of the early Anglican Church. One can read more about this episode of history in the post Lutheran Martyr: The story of Dr. Robert Barnes as a lesson in the realities of “Political Unity”, including the events leading up to the martyrdom of Dr. Barnes at the hands of King Henry VIII.
I won’t say much about his essay, Treatise on Justification, other than to point out the following:
- Regarding the false doctrine of Universal Justification – a relatively recent innovation among Lutherans that is now widely confessed among the majority of America’s Lutheran church bodies, and a doctrine which has been very frequently discussed, both at length and in depth, on Intrepid Lutherans (most recently in the post, What do you do with a Certified Letter? Here is one idea... ) – one will not find any support whatsoever in Dr. Barnes’ Treatise for this false teaching . At no point does Barnes confess the doctrine of Universal Justification, nor does he imply it, nor is there a shred of evidence suggesting that such a doctrine is “implicit” in his Treatise. Rather, over and over and over again we read Barnes’ emphatic confession that BEFORE GOD we are JUSTIFIED ONLY BY FAITH!.
It’s almost as if he had read the Augsburg Confession (AC:IV; AC VI; AC:XXIV:28ff) and its Apology (AP:II(IV):48ff; AP:II(IV):86ff; AP:III:61; AP:III:93ff ;AP:III:171ff; AP:III:177; AP:III:265; AP:V(XII):36) and actively discussed in depth with Luther and Melanchthon the doctrines they confessed! Both of those confessional documents were published during his tenure with Luther and Melanchthon in Wittenberg, and they make a confession that is identical to that of Dr. Barnes in his Treatise. That is the evidence I see in what follows, below.
- Dr. Barnes, like Luther, does not regard faith as an idle or passive thing, but as something that is active.
- Dr. Barnes, like Luther, sees two different kinds of “faith,” one that does not save and one that does. In one place, he uses this distinction in the manner of Augustana, as “that which merely acknowledges or believes the historical facts of Jesus Christ” and “that which believes we have grace, righteousness, and forgiveness of sins through Christ” (AC:XX:23), but in another place he adduces St. Athanasius to defend the idea that there is one kind of faith that is a gift of God which “justifies,” and that there is a second kind which is also a gift of God “whereby miracles are done.” Unable to find the source and context from the writings of St. Athanasius in English, I note this in footnote 16. I’m not sure if this is a doctrine that has been formally rejected, or a line of thinking that was never developed, but I note it here to alert the reader, because I have never heard this teaching before and thought it was rather curious.
- Dr. Barnes directly addresses the accusation that “Faith is a work, and therefore cannot justify,” and rejects it. Faith does not justify because it is either “work” or “merit,” rather “faith alone justifies, because it is that thing alone whereby I do depend upon Christ.”
- Regarding the formatting of the text, there was no bold or italics in the text of the 1842 document from which this was taken. I added these elements of formatting to signify the quotation of Scripture and of the Church Fathers, and to aid in the emphases and distinctions being made by Barnes.
- Regarding the footnotes, all of the footnotes from the 1842 document are reproduced here (with more explanatory text in most cases), except for one: in many places, the term “justice” was footnoted as “righteousness” for clarification. In those places, I simply substituted the word “righteousness” and omitted the footnote. In addition, I have added several other footnotes directing the reader to sources of quotations from the Church Fathers used by Dr. Barnes, and added one explanatory footnote.
- The main heading was in the original document, I added the subheadings to help break up the essay a bit, due to its length.
- Finally, this has got to be the clearest, most direct, most complete and most efficient defense of Justification by Faith Alone that I have yet read. It utterly devastates the works righteousness of the Romans and of other Synergists and Pelagians, and leaves no doubt as to the clarity of Scripture on the issue: apart from faith, there is no Justification whatsoever.
“Faith, however, reconciles and justifies BEFORE GOD the moment we apprehend the promise by faith. And throughout our entire life we are to pray God and be diligent, to receive faith and to grow in faith. For, as stated before, faith is where repentance is, and it is not in those who walk after the flesh. This faith is to grow and increase throughout our life by all manner of afflictions. Those who obtain faith are regenerated, so that they lead a new life and do good works.” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Chapter III, para. 212)
“Then, again, [the word regeneratio, that is, ‘regeneration’] is sometimes used pro remissione peccatorum et adoptione in filios Dei, that is, so as to mean only the remission of sins, and that we are adopted as sons of God. And in this latter sense the word is much and often used in the Apology, where it is written: Iustificatio est regeneratio, that is, Justification BEFORE GOD is regeneration.” (Formula of Concord: Solid Declaration, Part III, para. 19)
TREATISE ON JUSTIFICATION
This Tract is appended to a Supplication
unto the most gracious prince, King Henry VIII
by Robert Barnes, D.D.
ONLY FAITH JUSTIFIETH BEFORE GOD
If your grace do not take upon you to hear the disputation and the probation of this article, out of the ground of the Holy Scripture, my lords the bishops will condemn it, before they read it, as their manner is to do with all things that please them not, and which they understand not; and then cry they, “Heresy, heresy, a heretic, a heretic, he ought not to be heard, for his matters are condemned by the church, and by his holy fathers, and by all long customs, and by all manner of laws.”
Unto whom, with your grace’s favour, I make this answer; I would know of them, if all these things that they have reckoned, can overcome Christ, and His holy Word, or set the Holy Ghost to school? And if they cannot, why should not I then be heard, who do require it in the name of Christ? and also bring for me His holy Word, and the holy fathers, which have understood God’s Word, as I do? Therefore, though they will not hear me, yet must they needs hear them. In Holy Scripture, Christ is nothing else but a Saviour, a Redeemer, a Justifier, and a perfect peacemaker between God and man. This testimony did the angel give of Him in these words, “He shall save His people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21). And also St. Paul: “Christ is made our righteousness, our satisfaction, and our redemption” (1 Co. 1:30). Moreover, the prophet witnesses the same, saying, “For the wretchedness of my people, have I stricken Him” (Is. 53:8); so that here have we Christ with His properties.
Now, if we will truly confess Christ, then must we grant with our hearts, that Christ is all our justice, all our redemption, all our wisdom, all our holiness, all alone the purchaser of grace, alone the peacemaker between God and man. Briefly, all goodness that we have, that it is of Him, by Him, and for His sake only. And that we have need of nothing towards our salvation, but of Him only, and we desire no other salvation, nor any other satisfaction, nor any help of any other creature, either heavenly or earthly, but of Him only; for as St. Peter saith: “There is no other name given unto men, wherein they must be saved” (Ac. 4;12). And also St. Paul saith: “By Him are all that believe justified from all things” (Ac. 13:39). Moreover St. John witnesses the same, in these words: “He it is that hath obtained grace for our sins” (1 Jn. 2:2 [Tyndale]). And in another place: “He sent His Son to make agreement for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10).
Now, my lords, here have you Christ, and His very nature full and whole. And he that denies any thing, or any part of these things, or takes any part of them, and applies them, or gives the glory of them to any other person, than to Christ only, the same man robs Christ of His honour, and denies Christ, and is very antichrist. Wherefore, my lords, First, What say you to this, and unto the properties of Christ? If you grant them, then are we at a point. For they prove that only faith in Jesus Christ justifieth before God. Secondly, If you deny it, as I am sure you will, for you had rather deny your creed, than grant it, how can you then avoid, but that you are the very antichrist of whom St. John speaks? For now have we tried your spirits, that they be not of God, for you deny Christ, that is, you deny the very nature and property of Christ. You grant the name; but you deny the virtue. You grant that He descended from heaven; but you deny the profit thereof. For He descended for our salvation, this you deny; and yet it is your creed. You grant that He was born; but you deny the purpose. You grant that He is risen from death; but you deny the profit thereof, for He rose to justify us. You grant that He is a Saviour; but you deny that He alone is the Saviour. I pray you, wherefore was He born? Was it to justify us in part, to redeem us in part; to do satisfaction for part of our sins? so that we must set a pair of old shoes, a lump of bread and cheese, or a filthy gray coat to make satisfaction, for the other part?1 Say what you will, if you give not all, and fully, and only to one Christ, then you deny Christ, and the Holy Ghost, and St. John declares you to be contrary to Christ. This may also be proved by a plain scripture of the Holy Ghost, which is this: “No man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, or to look on the book, till the Lamb came, unto whom the elders spake on this manner: Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof, for Thou wast killed, and hast redeemed us by Thy blood” (Re. 5:9).
Man’s Works Excluded in Scripture
How say you to this, my lords? In heaven was there none found, neither by the angels, nor yet by the elders, worthy to open the book, but Christ only? And will you find that which they could not find? will you set a helper to Christ, whom they set alone? but I pray you tell us what this shall be. All the world knoweth, that they are good works. But now, from whence come your good works? From heaven? or out of the earth? or from under the earth? If they were in any of these places, where were they when the angels and the elders sought them? Have you found them, whom they could not find? But let this pass: I pray you, what will you lay for your good works? or by what title will you bring them in, to join them with the Lamb in opening of the book? The elders have laid for them, that the Lamb only was worthy to open the book, because He was slain, and redeemed them with His precious blood. Now, what cause lay you for your good works? The Lamb hath alone died for us, the Lamb only hath shed His blood for us: the Lamb only hath redeemed us; these things hath He done alone; now, if these be sufficient, then hath He alone made satisfaction, and is alone worthy to be our Redeemer and justifier.
Moreover, they that are in heaven confess, that this Lamb is alone worthy to redeem them. Are your works better than theirs, or can your works help them? If they can, then is the Lamb not, alone, worthy to redeem them. Moreover the elders fall down before the Lamb, giving Him alone praise. And shall your good works stand up by the Lamb? then are they better than the works of the elders. But let us prove this by open Scriptures. St. Paul took so great labour to prove this article, as he never took in any other; and all because he would make it plain, and stop the mouths of the gainsayers. But all this will not help them that have not the Spirit of God. Nevertheless, we will by God’s favour, do the best we can to confound the crooked enemies of Christ’s blood, and though we cannot make them His friends, yet at the least we will so handle them, that they shall be ashamed openly so to speak against Him, as they have done long time. And so will we handle them, by God’s help, that all the world shall know that they glory in Christ’s name, and by Him are they also so high promoted in this world, that they cannot be higher. And yet deserve they of Christ, worst of all men.
Justification comes freely by faith, not by works
But let us go to our purpose. St. Paul saith: “All men are sinners and want the glory of God, but they are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Ro. 3:24-25). What is this, that “all men have sinned,” yea, and are “justified freely?” how shall a sinner do good works? how can he deserve to be justified? what call you “freely?” If there be any deservings less or more, then it is not freely. What call you by “His grace?” If it be any part of works, then it is not of grace. For as St. Paul saith, “Then grace were not grace” (Ro. 11:6). Here can be no evasion, the words are so plain. If you bring in any help of works, then for so much our redemption is not free, nor yet is it of grace, as concerning the part that cometh of works, but partly of works, and then do you destroy all of St. Paul and his whole disputation. For he contends against works, and clearly excludes works in justification and brings in grace only. Now, that which is excluded as a whole by contention, cannot be brought in as a part of the cause. This is clear in his words, where he saith: “Where is now thy rejoicing? It is excluded. By what law? by the law of works? Nay but by the law of faith. We do judge therefore, that a man is justified by faith, without the works of the law” (Ro. 3:27-28). Hear you not, that the gloriation of works is excluded; and yet will you boast your works? hear you not plainly St. Paul’s sentence, which judges clearly with faith, and against all works? how can this be avoided?
Is it not clear? what can be answered to it? Is not this St. Paul’s proposition, that he undertook to prove, Faith only justifieth? It were but lost labour for St. Paul to prove that works did help to justification, for that the Jews did grant, and required no more but that works might not be clearly excluded. They were christened, and content to receive Christ for their Saviour, but not only, and alone. In this were they content. Insomuch that they gloried against the gentiles who had no manner of works, and for that despised them, as people unworthy to be justified.
Works of the “old Law” may be excluded by Scripture... but what about those of the “new Law”?
But peradventure here will be said, that St. Paul condemneth the works of the old law, but not the works of the new law. Are you now satisfied in your conscience? think you, that you have well solved St. Paul’s argument? Think you, that this is sufficient to avoid St. Paul, who hath taken so great labour to prove this cause? Think you, that you shall be thus discharged before God? If you do, then go boldly into the straight judgment of God with this evasion, and doubt you not but there you shall find St. Paul, as stiffly and as strongly against you, and your new works, as ever he was against the Jews, and their old works. And if he did condemn the works of the law, that were instituted by the mouth of God, and the best works that ever were, think you that those works which you have invented, shall be there allowed?
Briefly, what works can you do, or excogitate, that are good, which are not in the old law, and of the old law? therefore he speaks of all manner of works, for the law includes all works that ever God instituted. The highest, and the best, and most perfect of all works are, the works of the Ten Commandments. And these are the works of the old law, and cannot justify, after your own sayings. Now, what works have you of the new law, other, or better than these? Our master, Christ, showed that in fulfilling two of these commandments, all works are included (Mt. 22:37-40). What works then are of the new law, that were not commanded in the old? Peradventure, you will say, all those works that Christ speaketh of in the fifth of Matthew are of the new law, and not of the old. For Christ saith, “I say unto you, he that calleth his brother fool, or he that looketh on a woman to desire her, and such like, doth offend” (Mt. 5:22,28). These seem to be works of Christ, and not of Moses. Therefore, ye say there are works of the new law, not commanded in the old, and against them St. Paul disputes not.
To this I answer, that our Master, Christ, there reproves the false interpretation, which the scribes and pharisees did set to the law, but He teaches no new works, nor is a giver of any new law. For St. John saith: “The law is given through Moses, but grace and verity came by Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17). He is the giver of grace and mercy, as all the prophets testify, and not another Moses. And therefore to purchase us favour, He died on the cross; but Moses did not so do, instead he commands us to do this, and do that. But Christ saith, Depend thou on My doing, and believe thou what I have done for thee, for thee and not for Me.
Now, to our purpose; Christ, I say, doth interpret, and declare the old law against the scribes and pharisees, who learned that the law was fulfilled and content with outward works, and that was their justification. This false doctrine our Master, Christ, reproves; and saith, that the law requires a pure and clean heart; and He will have His works fulfilled out of the heart, and not alone with hand, and feet, and tooth, and nail, as the pharisees say, and teach. So our Master, Christ, teaches no new works, but alone expresses the virtue of the old law. And thus do holy doctors declare this fifth chapter of Matthew, and especially Augustine2 Wherefore, out of that place cannot be proved that there are certain works of the new law which never were commanded in the old.3
Moreover, look in the old law, whether these things be forbidden, or commanded, and you shall find that the words of the law and Christ’s exposition do agree. So that our Master teaches no new thing, nor yet any new works. But now grant, that there are certain works of the new law, which are not of the old. Yet have you not, and cannot prove that these shall justify. For there can be no more goodness in works, than were in works of the old law, for they were to God’s honour, and to the profit of our neighbour. What goodness can works have more? and yet you grant that they cannot justify. How then shall your new works justify? Blessed St. Paul disputed against them that were christened, and had both works of the old law, and also of the new, and yet he concluded that Christ alone was their justifier. Mark his argument: “If righteousness cometh of the law, then is Christ dead in vain” (Ga. 2:21), as if he would say, “If the law help to justify, for that was the opinion of the Jews, then Christ alone is not your justifier. If He be not your justifier alone, then is He dead in vain.” How will St. Paul prove this consequence? On this manner – Either Christ doth this alone, or else He is dead in vain, for He will have no helper. This must needs be the meaning of his argument.
Now will I take this argument of St. Paul, and likewise dispute against your new works. If new works do help to justify, then is Christ dead in vain. But Christ is not dead in vain. Therefore, new works do not help to justify. The first part is St. Paul’s. The second you grant. Therefore, the third must needs follow. But let us see how St. Paul proves this proposition by an example; not of the old law, as though he disputed alone against the works of the old law, but by that holy and excellent patriarch Abraham, whom no manner of works could justify, but faith only (Ro. 4:2-3; Ga. 3:6). Think you that St. Paul speaks here of the works of the old law! Nay, doubtless. For how could Abraham do the works of law, and there was no law given till four hundred and thirty years after (Ga. 3:17)? Wherefore St. Paul constrains you to conclude, that no manner of good works, though they are as good as Abraham’s works, can help to justification.
Note also St. Paul’s argument. Abraham was justified so many years before the law was given. Therefore, saith he, “The law doth not justify” (Ga. 3:11). So likewise, dispute I against your new works. Men were sufficiently, and perfectly justified alone by faith, before any new works were given, or preached. Therefore the works of the new law do not justify of necessity. The antecedent I prove thus; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and John Baptist, and all the holy prophets were perfectly justified, before any new works, as you take new works, were spoken of. Therefore men were sufficiently justified, alone by faith. If St. Paul’s argument conclude, so must mine also. Wherefore say what you can, here stands holy St. Paul stiffly and strongly for me, and against you, and saith, “That we are freely, and alone justified by faith, without all manner of works” (Ro. 3:23-24,28; Ga. 2:16). But let us see what Ambrose saith to this text: “They are justified freely, for they doing nothing, nor nothing deserving, alone by faith are justified by the gift of God...”.4 Hear you not, that men working nothing at all, nor nothing deserving, are justified by faith alone? yea, and freely? You were wont to cry for, “only, only, only;” here you have it, and in addition have also “gratis,” that is to say, “freely;” and also “the gift of God,” and “working nothing at all.” If these words do not exclude works, and allow faith only, I cannot tell what words will do it; grant these words, and I will be content.
I will also bring you Origen on the same text, whose words are these: “Paul saith, that the justification of faith alone is sufficient. So that if a man do believe only, he is justified, though there be no works done of him at all. By faith was the thief justified, without the works of the law. For our Lord did not ask him what he had done; nor did look for any works of him, but accepted him only for confessing of Christ.” It continues: “Wherefore a man is justified by faith, unto whom as concerning justification, the works of the law help nothing...”5 What say you to Origen, who saith how men are justified, though they do no good works at all, for works do help nothing to justification, but faith only? Are not these plain words? Grant these words, and we will ask no more of you. Here have you also, “alone, alone, alone,” so that you need cry no more for “alone.” Also Origen brings an open example of the thief, which no man can deny. Who can have less good works than a thief, who is neither good before God nor man? So that all the world may see, that this is no new opinion, seeing that the Scripture, and also holy doctors do teach it. Also St. Paul, in the ninth chapter, brings in the gentile, who knows nothing of God, nor has done any good works, but on the contrary blasphemes God and his name, lived always in idolatry, and as an utter enemy unto all goodness (Ro. 9:30).
He brings in also the Jew (Ro. 9:31), full of good works of the law, who has also great zeal unto God, and to his works, yea, and of that St. Paul bears him witness. Briefly, he brings in for him such a Jew, that no man can complain of, but is full of good works. Yea, take all the best of the Jews together, for it were madness of St. Paul to speak of the damnable Jews, who were open wretches and condemned by the judgment of the law, with all their good works, and yet St. Paul excludes them, and repels them clearly from justification, with all their good zeal, and with all their good works, and concludes with plain words, that the gentile who is full of damnable works, and had neither zeal, nor love unto goodness, is justified by faith only.
These are St. Paul’s words: “We say that the gentiles, which follow not righteousness, have obtained righteousness. I mean the righteousness which cometh of faith. But Israel, which followeth the law of righteousness, could not attain unto righteousness. Wherefore? because he sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law” (Ro. 9:32). Are these not plain words? that the gentiles, which followed no righteousness nor had any mind thereto, are justified freely by faith? Is not here, “faith alone?” Moreover, the Jew is reproved, with all his zeal, with all his love with all his study, and with all his good works. Is not this a marvelous thing? Yes, verily, and so marvelous, that you shall never understand it, unless you believe. But peradventure, here shall be said, that the good works of the Jews did not profit them, because they had no faith: but if they had possessed faith, then would they have holpen to their justification.
To this I make answer, truth it is, good works did not profit the Jews for lack of faith. But this is false, that works should have holpen to justification, if they had possessed faith. For St. Paul proves clearly that good works help nothing to justification, and evil works hinder not the justification, that cometh by faith. And this he proved by the example of the gentile, who had no good works, but all evil works, and yet is justified by faith. Moreover, the Jew had the zeal of God, and all manner of good works with all things that the world can devise; yea, and also St. Paul speaks of the Jews that were christened, and all this could not help. Wherefore, no manner of works, whether they are in faith, or out of faith, can help to justify. NEVERTHELESS, works have their glory and reward. But the glory and praise of justification belongeth to Christ only. Also, St. Paul proves plainly in these words, that works have no place in justification: “to him that worketh is the reward not given of favour, but of duty; to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the wicked man, is faith counted for righteousness” (Ro. 4:4-5).
Perhaps works alone do not justify, but what about works with faith? Surely, both are necessary, are they not?
How think you of these words? Are they not openly against all works? saith he not, “that justification is imputed unto him that worketh not, but alone believeth in Him that justifieth the wicked man?” (Ro. 4:5) I pray you what good works doth the wicked man? Mark also how he saith, that “righteousness is imputed unto him.” Therefore, it is not deserved. For that which is deserved, is not imputed of favour, but it must be given of duty. How think you? is not this, “faith alone?” You know that there are but works, and faith that do justify; and St. Paul excludeth works clearly. Therefore, faith alone remaineth. But peradventure, you will say, that works with faith do justify, nevertheless out of meekness, and lowliness, and avoiding of all boast of goodness, you will give all the glory to faith, as unto the principal thing, and without which, no works can help; yet that, notwithstanding, works are good, and help to justification, though of meekness you will not know it. Is not this damnable hypocrisy? Yea, and that with God, which were intolerable, if it were with men. But how can you prove by Scripture, that works are worthy of any glory of justification? Is not this open lying on faith; to give all to him, and yet, as you say, he is not worthy of all, for works are worthy of part? If faith be not worthy alone, confess it openly, and give works their praise, and faith her praise, and say not one thing with your mouth, and think another in your heart. For God searches the privacies of hearts. Who has required of you such a meekness? But I pray you, how can works help to justification, either less or more, when they are neither done, nor yet thought of? Who is justified, but a wicked man, who thinks nothing of good works? But these meek lies deserve no answer. Wherefore, let us hear what holy doctors say on this text: “To him that worketh not...” (Ro. 4:5).
Ambrose saith on this manner: “It was so decreed of God, that after the law, the grace of God should require unto salvation, faith alone!” Which he proves by the example of the prophet, saying, “Blessed is that man to whom God doth impute justification without works. He saith, that they are blessed of whom God hath determined without labour, without all manner of observation, alone by faith, that they shall be justified before God. Blessed are they whose sins be forgiven. Clearly they are blessed, unto whom without labour, or without any work, their iniquities are remitted and their sins are covered, and no manner of works required of them, but only that they should believe...”6
Are not these words plain? God hath decreed, that He shall require nothing to justification but faith; and he is blessed, to whom God imputes justification, without all manner of works, without all manner of observations. Also their sins are covered, and no manner of works of penance required of them, but only to believe. Here have you “faith alone,” and “faith only,” and here you cannot say, that Ambrose speaks alone of works of the law, but of all manner of works, of all manner of observations, yea and also of penance. Peradventure it will be said, as a great doctor7 said once to me, that Ambrose understood it of young children, that were newly baptized; them their faith should save alone, without works. How think you? is not this a likely answer for a great doctor of divinity; for a great Duns man; for so great a preacher? Are not St. Paul and Ambrose well avoided, and clerkly?8 But I made him this answer, that this epistle was written of St. Paul to the Romans, who were men, and not children, and also the words of Scripture speak of the man, and not of the child. And Ambrose saith, “Blessed is that man.”
But at this answer, he was not a little moved, and sware, “Let Ambrose and Augustine say what they will, he would never believe, but that works did help to justification!” This was a lordly word of a prelate, and of a pillar of Christ’s church! But what meddling is there with such mad men. But yet peradventure, you will say that I take a piece of the doctor, as much as makes for my purpose, notwithstanding he saith otherwise in another place, which I do not bring. What is that to me? yet is not my doctor thus avoided. For you cannot deny, but this is his saying, and upon this place of Scripture, and this doth agree with Scripture, or else he doth expound Scripture evil. Wherefore, you must answer to the saying of the doctor in this place, for this is the place that he is laid against you, and this the place whereby other places must be expounded. And if you dare deny him in this place, then will I deny him in all other places, by that same authority: then are the holy doctors clearly gone! Nevertheless, Holy Scripture stands openly against you, which if you deny, then have I a cause to suspect you. Wherefore take heed what you do. But yet peradventure will ye say, that I understand not Ambrose, nor holy doctors, as my lord of Rochester said, “I understood not Tertullian;” he had no other evasion to save his honour with. But it is not enough so to say, you must prove it, and other men must judge between you and me.
Here have I translated a great many of their sayings into English; let other men judge, whether I understand them or not. Go ye to the Latin and let us see what other sense you can take out. But, my lords, remember that our God is alive, whose cause we defend, before whom I dare well say, you are already confounded in your conscience; wherefore doubt you not, but that terrible vengeance hangeth over you, if you repent not, which when it cometh, cometh sharply. How are ye able to defend a thing that you cannot prove openly by Holy Scripture? Say what you will, your conscience will murmur and grudge, and will never be satisfied with men’s dreams, nor yet with tyranny. Think you that your laws and your inventions can be a sufficient rule for Christian men to live by? and to save their conscience thereby? Think you that your cause is sufficiently proved, when you have compelled poor men by violence to grant it? then may we destroy all Scripture, and receive alone your tyranny.
But, my lords, this matter is not righted by your judgment, but by our master Christ, and His blessed Word, before whose straight judgment you shall be judged, and that straightly. For when all your grace, all your honour, all your dignity, all your pomp and pride; briefly all that your hearts do now rejoice in, shall lie in the dust, then shall you be called to a straight reckoning: it is no light game, nor child’s play. Mark it well, for it lieth on your neck. But what needeth me to lose many words, for if you are half so full of grace as you say you are of good works, then will you reckon it better than I can move you. But again to our purpose. St. Paul proves the justification of faith only, in these words: “No man is justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, and we do believe in Jesus Christ, that we may be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law” (Ga. 2:16).
Mark, how he saith, that no man is justified by the works of the law, no not even St. Peter. How think you? does not St. Paul exclude works, and bring in faith alone? yea, and that the works of the law, which were the best works in the world; but he believed, to be justified only by the faith of Jesus Christ and not by works, and this he proves in these words of the prophet: “A righteous man liveth by faith” (Ga. 3:11). Hear you not, how a righteous man lives by faith? What call you living by faith? If he live any part by works, then he lives not by faith, but partly by works. Then is St. Paul’s probation imperfect. But let us see how your doctors9 do expound this text.
Now St. Paul plainly shows that faith alone hath the virtue to justify, and he brings Habakkuk, saying: “Of faith, (and not of the law) shall a righteous man live” (Ha. 2:4). He adds well, “afore God,” for before man, peradventure, they shall be reckoned righteous, that stick to the law, but not before God, etc. Here have you “only;” and also that this holy justification is “before God,” and according to His judgment, and not according to men’s judgments. Wherefore, glory as much as you can of your good works. Alone, they cannot justify you. Moreover, they are of no value, but damnable and very sin, if there be no faith. So far are they from helping to justification. This Augustine witnesses in these words: “Those same works that are done before faith, though they seem unto men laudable, yet are they but vain, and I do judge them as great strength, and as swift running, out of the way. Wherefore let no man count his good works before faith: where faith is not, there is no good work; the intention maketh a good work, but faith doth guide the intention...”10 Here Augustine condemneth all your good works before faith, and saith, that they are of no worth, but vain, and things out of the way. How can such things help to justification?
Mark also, how that your good intention, whereupon you boast that you do so many good works by, cannot help you, for it is blind, and knows not what to do, though it stand well in its own conceit, without faith, which is its guide. So that all things before faith, are but very blindness. But as soon as faith cometh, it doth both justify, and also maketh the works good, which before were sin. But let us see what Bernard saith of good works. “I do abhor whatsoever thing is of me. Except, peradventure that that be mine, which God hath made me. By grace hath He justified me freely, and by that hath He delivered me from the bondage of sin. ‘Thou hast not chosen me,’ saith Christ, ‘but I have chosen thee, nor found I any merits in thee, that might move me to choose thee, but I prevented [i.e. “came before”] all thy merits. Wherefore thus by faith have I married thee unto me, and not by the works of the law; I have married thee also in righteousness, but not in the righteousness of the law, but in the righteousness which is of faith. Now this remains, that thou dost judge a right judgment between thee and Me, give thou judgment, wherein that I have married thee, where it is open, that thy merits did not come between, but My pleasure and will’...”11 Bernard doth despise all his good works, and betakes himself only to grace, but you stick partly to your good works, and not only to grace. Had Bernard no good works to stick to? mark that. Bernard is God’s child, freely by grace, which cannot be, if works do help less or more. Was he not a christened man? had he no works of the new law, as you call them? I think, yes. And yet he saith, that there was no merit, nor any goodness, but that we were freely chosen. Wherefore he provoketh you, and all such as you be, to judge righteously between God and you, the which hath prevented all your goodness, and that of his own will, and of his own pleasure. How can he find any goodness that comes before all goodness? so that here have you clearly, that good works of the law, or moral good works (as you feign) do nothing help to justification before God, for they are prevented of justification.
This is also well proved by Augustine, saying, “Wherefore, these things considered, and declared according to the strength that it hath pleased God to give as, we do gather, that a man cannot be justified by the precepts of good living, that is, not by the law of works, but by the law of faith; not by the letter, but by the Spirit; not by the merits of works, but by free grace...”12 Hear you this? Not by merits of works, but by free grace? what call you “free grace,” but, without all things, saving grace? what call you “not of works,” but that works help nothing? For if works did help, then would he not say, “not of works,” but “not of works only,” but “part of works, and part of faith;” but he excludes works, fully and only. Again, the same that purchases us remission of our sins, also purchases justification. For justification is nothing but remission of sins. Now faith purchases us remission, therefore by faith we are justified.
Faith alone Justifies
Now, that faith doth purchase remission of sins, it is well proved by this article of our faith, “I believe remission of sins.” Now, if I have not this remission for faith, then faith deceives me, for I do believe only because I would have remission of sins. What needeth me to believe remission of sins, if I may deserve it by works? also our Master, Christ, declares openly, that no manner of works, whatsoever they be, can justify before God. These are his words, “When you have done all things that are commanded you, yet say, that we are unprofitable servants;” – if you be unprofitable, then are you not justified. And if you cannot be justified when you have done all things, how will you be justified, when you do in a manner nothing? and especially of those things that are commanded you; wherefore this is plain, that our works cannot help us to justification. For when we have done all things, yet we are unprofitable. But let us prove this by an open example. I put this ease, my lords, (unto you I speak,) that our noble prince would call you all before him, and say, “My Lords, so it is, that it has pleased us to call you unto the spiritual dignity of bishops, and to make you of our council, and lords of our realm, and also of our parliament. Now, would we know of you, which of you all has deserved it, or reckons himself worthy, by his deserving, less or more, of this dignity?” What will you say to this? What will you answer to the king’s grace? Is there one among you all, that dare be so bold as to say to the king’s grace, that he has not given it unto him freely, but that he has done the king such faithful service, that he was bound to give it unto him? yea, and that of his deserving? If there were one that were so proud as to say this, think you that the king’s grace would not lay to his charge, how that he had not done half his duty, but were rather bound to do ten times as much more, and yet the king’s grace were not bound to give him a bishopric, for he had done but his duty, and not all that.
Now, all your good works, and all your faithful service, be not able to deserve a bishopric of the king’s grace, how will you be able, by your works, to deserve heaven, and justification before the King of all kings? When you have answered to this, before the king’s grace, then come and dispute with God, of the justification of your works, and yet they shall be far unlike. Wherefore, I conclude of these Scriptures, and of these doctors, that the faith, which we have in Christ Jesus, and his blessed blood, doth only, and sufficiently justify us before God, without the help of any works.
Faith is a free gift from God
And though that all Scripture be nothing else, but a whole probation of this article (that is, alone a perfect commendation, and a praise of Christ, and His blessed merits, that He hath deserved for us), yet will I pass over to bring in any more places. For they that are not content with these Scriptures, will not be satisfied, nor yet content to give alone all glory to God, though I brought in all the New Testament. Yea Christ Himself could not satisfy them, if He were here, no nor yet though heaven, and earth, and all creatures therein, were nothing else, but probations of this article, it would not help. Wherefore, I let such infidels pass, and leave them to the judgment of God, alone certifying them of this one thing, which is infallible, how the day shall come, that it shall repent them, yea, and that sorer than I can either write, or think, that they did not believe the least jot of this holy article. But unto our purpose. The very true way of justification is this. First cometh God, for the love of Christ Jesus, alone of His mere mercy, and giveth us freely the gift of faith, whereby we do believe God, and His holy Word, and stick fast unto the promises of God, and believe, that though heaven, and earth, and all that is in them should perish, and come to nought, yet God shall be found true in His promises – for this faith sake, are we the elect children of God.
This is not such a faith, as men dream, when they merely believe that there is one God, and believe that He is eternal; believing that He made the world of nought, yea, and believe that the gospel is true, and all things that God speaketh must be true, and fulfilled, with other such things. This, I say, is not the faith that we are justified by, for devils and infidels have this faith, and also we may attain to these things by strength of reason; but the faith that shall justify us, must be of another manner of strength, for it must come from heaven, and not from the strength of reason. It must also make me believe, that God, the Maker of heaven and earth, is not alone a Father, but also my Father: yea, and that through the favour, which Christ hath purchased me, from the which favour, neither heaven nor earth, tribulation, nor persecution, death nor hell, can divide me. But to this stick I fast, that He is not alone my Father, but also a merciful Father, yea, and that unto me merciful, and so merciful, that He will not impute my sins unto me, though they are ever so great, so long as I depend on the blessed blood of Christ Jesus, and sin not of malice, but of frailty, and of no pleasure.
He also is a liberal Father, yea, and that unto me liberal, who will not alone promise me all things, but also give them me, whether they be necessary to the body or to the soul. He also is not only liberal, but mighty to perform all things that He promiseth unto me. Briefly, this faith makes me to hang clearly upon God, and of His blessed promises made in Christ, and in His sweet and precious blood, and not to fear death, nor any affliction, nor persecution, nor tribulation; but to despise all these things; and not alone these, but to despise also mine own life for Christ’s sake.
Faith is not an idle thing, but produces good works – to the honour of God and profit of our neighbor
Finally, of a fleshly brute, it makes me a spiritual man; of a damnable child, it makes me a heavenly son; of a servant of the devil, it makes me a free-man of God; delivered from the law, from sin, from death, from the devil, and from all misery that might hurt me. My lords, this is the faith that doth justify, and that we do preach. And because it is given from heaven into our hearts by the Spirit of God, therefore it can be no idle thing; but it must needs do all manner of things, that are to the honour of God, and also to the profit of our neighbour; insomuch, that at all times necessary, it must needs work well, and also bring forth all good works, that may be to the profit and helping of any man. But these works are not done to justify the man, but a just man must needs do them. Not unto his profit, but only to other men’s profits, even as our Master, Christ, suffered hunger, and thirst, and persecution, and took great labours in preaching of His Word, yea, and also suffered death. All these things, I say, did He not to further or to profit Himself, but for our merits, and for our profit. So likewise doth a just man his works. And as a good tree in time of the year brings forth good apples, not to make it good, for it is good before, nor yet is this apple to its profit, but unto others, notwithstanding, the good nature that is in it, must needs bring it forth – so likewise, the just man must needs do good works, not by them to be justified, but only in them to serve his brother; for he hath no need of them, concerning his justification.
Answering reasons commonly adduced to prove the claim that works do justify
Wherefore, now here have you the very true cause of justification; that is, faith alone: and also the very true way and manner of doing good works: and how that no man can do good works, but a justified man, as our Master, Christ, saith; Either make the tree good, and then his fruit good, or else the tree evil, and his fruit evil; for a good tree must needs bring forth good fruit, and a bad tree, evil fruit (Mt. 7:17). But now let me answer to the Scriptures, and to the reasons that they bring to prove that works do justify. First, comes the fleshly and damnable reason, and she saith: “If we be justified alone by faith, what need we to do any good works? what need we to crucify, or mortify our flesh? for all these will not profit us, and we shall be saved, though we do none of them all.” Thus did blind reason dispute with St. Paul, when he had proved that God, of His mercy, had delivered us freely from the damnable bondage of the law (Ro. 6:15-23).
Anon he judged that he might do what he would, for he was no longer under the law. To this St. Paul answers, that if we obey unto the works of sin, then are we the servants of sin; and if we obey to the works of justice, then are we the servants of justice. So, that if we truly have that same faith, that justifieth us, we shall desire to do none other works but those that belong to justification; not that the works do justify, but that we must needs do these works, as the very true fruits of justification, and not as the cause of justification. And therefore those men that will do no good works because they are justified only by faith, are not the children of God, nor the children of justification. For the living Spirit of God is no author of evil nor of sin, but He crieth in our hearts, “Abba, Father.” And of that, is this a sure and an evident token, for if they were the very true children of God, they would be the more glad to do good works, because that they are justified freely. Therefore, should they also be moved freely to works, if it were for no other purpose, nor profit, but only to do the will of their merciful God, who hath so freely justified them; and also to profit their neighbour, whom they are bound to serve of very true charity.
Take an example. Here is a thief, who is condemned by right and the law to be hanged, whom the king’s grace of his mercy, freely delivers from the gallows, and gives him his pardon. Now this thief, thus delivered, will not keep himself a true man, nor do those works that belong to a true man to do, but he falls again to stealing, because the king pardoned him so freely, and reckons that the king is so merciful, that he will hang no thieves, but will deliver them all of his mercy, without their deserving. Now, how think you, will the king be merciful unto this thief, when he comes again to the gallows? Nay truly, for he was not delivered for that cause, but to keep himself a true man.
Then comes my lord of Rochester, and he saith, that faith doth “begin” a justification in us, but works do perform it, and make it perfect. I will recite his own words: “Justification is said to be begun only by faith, but not to be consummated, for consummate justification can no otherwise be attained than by works, wrought and brought forth to light; works do consummate justification. Faith first begins...” What Christian man would think, that a bishop would thus trifle, and play with God’s holy Word? God’s Word is so plain, that no man can avoid it, how that faith justifieth alone; and now comes my lord Rochester, with a little, and a vain distinction, invented of his own brain, without authority of Scripture, and will clearly avoid all Scriptures, and all the whole disputation of St. Paul. But, my lord, say to me of your conscience, how do you reckon to avoid the vengeance of God, since you thus trifle, and despise God’s holy Word? Think you, that this vain distinction will be allowed before Jesus Christ? for whose glory we do contend and strive; before whom we do handle this matter?
I do think verily, that your own conscience doth sorely accuse you, for thus blaspheming the holy Word of God. Wherefore, my lord, for Christ’s sake remember that you are aged, and shall not long tarry here, and these vain distinctions that you have invented to the pleasure of men, and to the great perverting of God’s holy Word, shall be to your everlasting damnation. And, at the least, if you fear not the terrible vengeance of God, remember the shame of the world, and think not that all men are so mad, and so unlearned, as to be deceived by this trifling distinction; seeing that the Word of God is so plain against it. Doth not St. Paul say that our justification is alone of faith, and not of works? How can you avoid this same: “Not of works” (Ep. 2:9). If works do make justification perfect, then St. Paul’s words are not true; also St. Paul saith, that we are the children of God, by faith. And if we be the children, we are also the heirs (Ga. 3:26,29).
Now, what imperfection find you in children, and in heirs? Christian men desire no more than this, and all this have they by faith only. And will you say, that faith doth but begin a justification? Besides that, you know well, that St. Paul doth prove in all the whole Epistle to the Romans, and also to the Galatians, that faith doth justify, yea, and that by contention against works. Now, how can you bring in works to make justification perfect, and St. Paul hath excluded them?
Moreover, why did not the Jews, against whose works St. Paul disputed, bring in this distinction for them? Briefly, what will you say to all the doctors that I have here recited, who say, that “only faith” doth justify? But doubtless, if it were not to satisfy other men, this distinction were not worthy an answer. Another damnable reason is made, that is an open and plain lie, which is this. Thou sayest, “that works do not justify, nor yet help to justification, but faith only. Therefore, thou destroyest all good works, and wilt that no man shall work well, but alone believe.”
I answer, if there were any shame in men, they might well be ashamed of these open lies.
Tell me one that is learned, that ever did say, or teach, that men should do no good works. Many there be, that say, “Works do not justify,” as St. Paul, and all his scholars; but no man denies good works. But I marvel not at them, for they do but the works of their father, who was a liar, and a murderer from the beginning. I pray you, what consequent is this, after your own logic? “works do not justify, therefore, we need not to do them, but despise them, for they are of no value.” Take a like consequent. You say, that the king’s grace doth not justify – therefore, you despise him? – therefore, he is no longer king? Also the sun and moon do not justify – therefore, you destroy them? But such a lie must St. Paul needs suffer, when he had proved, that only faith justifies. Then came your overthwart fathers13, and said, “Therefore thou destroyest the law, for thou teachest that it justifieth not.” God forbid, saith St. Paul (Ro. 3:31), for we do learn the very way to fulfill the law, that is, Faith; whereby the law alone is fulfilled, and without the which, all the works of the law are but sin. So do we likewise teach the very true way, whereby all good works must be done. As first, a man is by faith to be justified; and then, a just man must needs do good works, which before were but sin, and now all are good, yea, his eating, drinking, and sleeping, are good.
But, beside all these, have they certain Scriptures. First, of St. James, whose words are these, “Wilt thou understand, O thou vain man, that faith without deeds is dead?. Was not Abraham our father justified of his deeds, when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? likewise, was not Rahab the harlot justified, when she received the messengers, and sent them out another way?” (Ja. 2:20-21,25). St. Augustine declares in divers places, that blessed St. Paul and St. James, seemed to be contrary in this matter, and declares how that St. Paul speaks of works that go before faith, and St. James speaks of works that follow faith; and yet St. Augustine will not be compelled by the words of this Epistle, to grant that any works do justify, by the reason that St. Paul’s words are so openly and vehemently to the contrary. Wherefore, seeing that there appears a controversy here in two places of the Scripture, it stands with all reason and learning, that the same place, which seems to be feeblest, and also the darkest, should be expounded, and declared by that part of Scripture, which is clearest and most of authority.
Now therefore, inasmuch that both blessed St. Paul, and also St. James’s meaning is, that good works should be done, and they that are Christian men should not be idle, and do no good, because they are the children of grace, but that they should rather in their living, express outwardly their goodness, received of grace; and as blessed St. Paul saith, to give their members to be servants unto righteousness, as they were before servants unto uncleanness (Ro. 6:19). For this cause, I say, St. James’s saying must needs be understood for to be written against those men, that boasted themselves of an idle and vain opinion, that they thought themselves to have, which they reckoned to be a good faith. Now St. James, to prove that this faith was but an idle thing, and of none effect, declares it clearly, by that it brought forth in time and place convenient no good works. And therefore he calls it “a dead faith.”
He brings in also a naked brother, who hath need of clothing, unto these men, that boast of their faith, who had no compassion of his necessity. Wherefore he concludes, that they have no true faith. And therefore he saith unto them, “Show unto me thy faith without works, and I shall show unto thee of works, my faith” (Ja. 2:18).
Here is it plain, that St. James would no more but that the faith is a dead faith, and of no value, which hath no works. For works should declare and show the outward faith, and works should be an outward declaration, and a testimony of the inward justification, received of faith; not that works can or may take away our sin, or else be any satisfaction for any part of sin, for that belongs to Christ alone. As blessed St. John saith, and also St. Paul: “He hath appeared once for all, to put sin to flight by the offering up of Himself” (He. 9:26). And that this is St. James’s meaning, it is declared by that which follows: “Thou seest,” saith he, “that faith wrought in Abraham’s deeds, and through the deeds was his faith made perfect” (Ja. 2:22).
Mark, how faith wrought in his deeds; that is, his faith, because it was a living faith, brought forth, and wrought out that high work of oblation. Also, his faith was perfect through his deeds. That is, his faith was declared, and had a great testimony before all the world, that it was a living, and a perfect, and a right shapen faith, which Abraham had. So that his inward faith declared him before God, and his outward works before the world, to be good, and justified. And thus was his faith made perfect before God and man. Now unto this do we all agree, that faith alone justifieth before God, which in time and place doth good works, yea, it is a living thing of God, which cannot be dead, nor idle in man. But yet for all that, we do give to faith and to Christ’s blood, that glory which belongs to them alone, that is to say, justification, remission of sins, satisfying of God’s wrath, taking away of everlasting vengeance, purchasing of mercy, fulfilling of the law, with all other like things. The glory of these, I say, belongs to Christ only, and we are partakers of them by faith in Christ’s blood only. For it is no work that receives the promise made in Christ’s blood, but faith only.
Take an example. God saith to Abraham, “In thy seed shall I bless all people” (Ge. 26:4; Ga. 3:8). Now, Abraham’s works can do nothing to receiving of this blessing; nor yet can they make him depend on that seed, but he believes God, and cleaves fast by faith to that promise, and thinks that God shall be true, though he be a liar, and so is he partaker of the blessing made in the seed. Note also, that this blessing is promised in Abraham’s seed, and not to Abraham’s works. Therefore, Abraham is blessed because he depends upon the seed, and not on his works. Also, blessed St. Paul doth drive a sore argument against works, inasmuch as Scripture declares: “He saith, not unto seeds, as of many; but as of one” (Ga. 3:16).
Now, if works do help less or more to justification, then the promise must needs be made and pertain to many, and not to one only, which were sorely against blessed St. Paul. Wherefore, I conclude, that the glory and praise of justification belongs only to faith in Christ’s blood, and not to works in any wise. Notwithstanding, we do also laud and praise good works, and do teach men diligently to do good works, inasmuch as God their Maker hath commanded them: yea, and also to profit their neighbours by their good works: and that other men, who blaspheme the verity, might be moved, through their virtuous living and conversation, to the holy religion of Christ.
For these causes, and others more, I say, do I teach good men to live well and virtuously; yea, and also we teach that good works shall have a reward of God, as Scripture testifies (Pr. 11:31,13:21; Ep. 6:8; Ru. 2:11-12); but not remission of sins, nor yet justification, for their reward. Wherefore, this saying of St. James must needs be verified against them that boast themselves of vain faith; which was indeed but an idle opinion, and no true faith, for it did not work through charity. And therefore St. James disputes well against them, that this faith was but a dead faith, and could not help them more than it helped the devil. So that this of St. James makes nothing against me, but rather with me.
Also, you have another Scripture for you, which is this: “Before God they are not justified, which hear the law, but they which do the law shall be justified” (Ro. 2:13). Of this text you glory and cry, “Works, works.” But if you would consider the mind of St. Paul, you should well perceive that he means not, how works might deserve justification, for then could he not have concluded this against the Jews; for they did the works of the law to the uttermost, and yet were they not justified. Wherefore, St. Paul means by the “hearers of the law,” all them that do the outward works of the law, for fear, or for reward, or of hypocrisy, or else by them to be justified. “The doers of the law” calls he them that do the works of the law, after the intent of the law, and as the law commands them, that is, in the true faith of Christ Jesus, which is the very end of the law, and the fulfilling of the law, as St. Paul saith (Ro. 3:20-26), “to all them that believe.” Wherefore all men are but hearers only of the law, till the time that they have the faith of Christ Jesus, which is imputed unto them for righteousness. And the works of the law are no cause of justification, but alone an outward testimony and witness that the law is fulfilled inwardly in their conscience before God, and so fulfilled, that it has no accusation against them, for Christ hath made satisfaction for them, of the which they are partakers by their faith. And so the law must be content to admit all these men to be fulfillers and doers of the law.
And now, that you shall not say that this is my dream, here are St. Augustine’s words: “The doers of the law shall be justified. So must it be understood, that we may know that they can none otherwise be the doers of the law, except they are first justified; not that justification belongeth unto doers, but that justification doth precede all manner of doings...”14 Hear you not that justification is first given, that men might be able to do the works of the law? This is also the exposition of your gloss.15 I have marveled you study it no better.
Also, you have another Scripture, and that is this: “Cornelius, a gentile, did great alms, and prayed unto God always: unto whom the angel spake on this manner, Thy prayer and thy alms are come up into remembrance in the presence of God” (Ac. 10:3-4). Of this text you gather, that his good works did help to justify him. I answer; the Holy Ghost hath openly declared Himself there. For he saith, that this “Cornelius was a devout man, and one that feared God” (Ac. 10:2). How could this be, without that God had taught him inwardly by faith? Yea, how could he know God, and that devoutly, but by faith? Therefore he was justified before God by his faith, but the world knew not his justification. And therefore, the Holy Ghost doth declare his inward justification, when he saith that he was devout, and feared God: and also doth show openly the fruits of his justification, when he saith, that he did alms. Moreover, you have there, that the Holy Ghost fell on them, before they were baptized in water (Ac. 10:44), which declares openly that they were justified before God.
This is well declared also in your own law, whose words are these: “Cornelius, the centurion, being yet a heathen man, was made clean by the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Here have you plainly, that he was justified by the gift of the Holy Ghost, before all good works. For he was a heathen man. Another Scripture ye have, which is this: “If I have all faith, so that I may transpose mountains, and have no charity, I am nothing” (1 Co. 13:2). Of this you gather, that faith without charity cannot justify: I answer; this can you not gather of St. Paul, for it is clear that he speaks not of this thing, whereby man may be justified, but he teaches only how they that be justified must work with charity. It is also plain that he speaks not of faith, that doth justify inwardly, but of that faith which doth work outwardly. The which is called a gift of the Holy Ghost; as the gift of tongues, the gift of prophecies, the gift of healing, the gift of interpretation, as it is opened in the chapter before. Now, is this faith not given to justify, but only to do miracles, wonders, and signs by. Therefore, saith St. Paul, “If I had all faith, so that I could move mountains...”
Also it is plain, that certain men shall say unto Christ: “Behold, we have done miracles, and cast out devils in thy name” and yet He shall say unto them. Truly, I know you not” (Mt. 7:22-23). So that this faith is a gift of God, that justifieth not, any more than the gift of science, or prophecies. And sometimes is it in the church, and sometimes not, and it is never of necessity there to be. But, the faith that we speak of, which doth believe the promises of God, and cleaveth fast to the blood of Christ, hath no other virtue, but to justify, and must needs justify, wheresoever it is, and it cleaves so fast to God’s Word, that it looks for no miracles. This faith is never out of the church, for it is the life of the church, and it is that faith which our Master, Christ, prayed for, that it might never fail. And therefore St. Paul, when he describes this faith, he calls it a faith that worketh by charity (Ga. 5:6), not that it justifieth by charity. For as he saith there plainly: “It is neither circumcision, nor yet uncircumcision, that is of any value in Christ Jesus, but faith.” Here he plainly excludes from justification the highest work of the law – circumcision, and setteth faith alone – not the gift of faith that doeth miracles, but the gift of faith that worketh by charity. And that ye shall not think this to be a dream, here bring I to you, St. Athanasius, whose words are these: “There are two manner of faiths: one is justifying, as that of the which is spoken, ‘Thy faith hath saved thee.’ Another is called the gift of God, whereby miracles are done. Of the which it is written: ‘If you have faith, as a grain of mustard seed...’”16 So that here have you plain, that faith doth justify only and perfectly, before all manner of works; that is, faith is given of God freely into our souls, unto the which faith, justification is all only promised, and is all only imputed, and reckoned of God. Nevertheless, this faith, in time and place convenient, is of that strength, that one must needs work by charity, not to be justified thereby, for if one were not already justified, it would not be possible that he could have charity. For according to your own schoolmen, an unbeliever cannot have charity; but the justified man is a free servant unto God, for the love that he hath unto Him. The which love seeks not in God its own profit, nor its own advantage, for then were it wicked, but seeks alone the will of God, and the profit of other men, and works neither for love of heaven, nor yet for fear of hell. For he knoweth well, that heaven, with all the joys thereof, is prepared from the beginning of the world, not by him, but by his Father. And it must needs follow, as contrariwise, that the infidel, and the wicked man, do not work their wicked deeds, because they would have hell or everlasting damnation to their reward, but they would rather the contrary. Notwithstanding, hell and everlasting damnation must needs follow their wicked deeds. Finally, a righteous man is a free servant of God, and worketh not as a hireling. For if it were possible that there were no heaven, yet would he do no less good; for his respect is to the Maker of the world, and the Lord of all rewards.
There is also another argument, and that is this: “Faith is a work: but works do not justify; therefore, faith doth not justify.” Answer: Truth it is, that we do not mean that faith, for its own dignity, and for its own perfection, doth justify us. But the Scripture saith, that faith alone justifieth, because it is that thing alone whereby I do depend upon Christ. And by my faith alone am I partaker of the merits and mercy purchased by Christ’s blood; and faith it is alone that receives the promises made in Christ. Wherefore, we say with blessed St. Paul, that faith only justifieth by imputation; that is, all the merits and goodness, grace and favour, and all that is in Christ to our salvation, is imputed and reckoned unto us, because we hang and believe on Him, and He can deceive no man that believeth in Him. And our righteousness is not, as the schoolmen teach, a formal justice, which is by fulfilling of the law deserved of us; for then our justification were not of grace and of mercy, but of deserving and of duty. But it is a justice that is reckoned and imputed unto us, for the faith in Christ Jesus, and it is not of our deserving, but clearly and fully of mercy imputed unto us.
Now, most honourable and gracious prince, I have declared unto your highness, what faith it is, that doth justify us before God, and also brought for my sentence, not only the blessed Word of God, the which were sufficient in this cause, but the exposition of holy doctors, that your grace might see, that I am not moved to this opinion of a light cause, nor that this doctrine of mine is so new, as men have noted it. Moreover, I have declared unto your grace, how that I would have good works done, and would not have a Christian man’s life to be idle, or else a life of uncleanness; but I would have them to be changed into all virtue and goodness, and to live in good works, after the commandment and will of God. So, that your grace may well perceive, that mine adversaries have not reported truly of me, when they have said, how that I would that men should neither fast, nor pray, nor give alms, nor yet be penitent for their sins, I have never said it, nor yet taught any like sentence. I take God to record, my works and my deeds, and all my writings, that ever I wrote, or made. Wherefore, I doubt not, if it please your grace graciously to hear me, but that I will prove them untrue in this cause, and many other more. This doth almighty God know to be true. Who ever preserve your most royal majesty, in honour, and goodness.
- Tjernagel, N. (1982). Lutheran Martyr. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Publishing House. pg. 71. (return)
- In listing these specific works to make satisfaction for the “other part,” Barnes is referring to monastic rules and habits. (return)
- See St. Augustin’s Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. (return)
- Barnes, in referring to the fifth chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew, is summarizing Christ’s teaching in His Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:3-7:27). Christ, indeed was NOT teaching a “new Law” in this Sermon, but instead, was teaching the people what the Law of God had always required:
- “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:17-20)
The fact that He was NOT making a “new Law” is reinforced in the immediately following sections: Regarding the Fifth Commandment, “Thou shalt not murder”, Christ preaches “I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment...” (Mt. 5:22); and regarding the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, Christ preaches “I say unto you, whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Mt. 5:28). In all the sections that follow, Christ makes plain that actively fulfilling the Law includes the motivations for doing so. The enemy of God is compelled to obey the Law out of FEAR and grows to hate God even more. This is obedience as a negative concept. Christ, in His Sermon, and elswhere, refers to the fulfilling of the Law as a positive concept, to which He refers indirectly near the end of His Sermon, but which is spoken by Him directly at a later time. Summed up in a single word, that positive concept is: LOVE. He says:
- “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Mt. 7:12)
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mt. 22:37-40)
The enemy of God has no reason to love God or his neighbor. He is only filled with fear, and with it hate and rebellion. But Christ by His pefect life, innocent death, and resurrection gives mankind a reason to Love Him instead; and those who through faith receive His promise of forgiveness of sins, spiritual life and eternal salvation, have this Love of God, and voluntarily and gladly obey His commands out of a heart full of joy and gratitude for what He has done for them. And God accepts the works of His children, done in faith with a heart full of Love.
- “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” (Jn. 14:15)
“And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth His Word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him.” (1 Jn. 2:2-5)
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’, ‘Thou shalt not kill’, ‘Thou shalt not steal’, ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness’, ‘Thou shalt not covet’; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Ro. 13:8-10)
“Herein is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us.
“Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us: because He hath given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us.
“God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
“We love Him, because He first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from Hhim, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” (1 Jn. 4:10-21)
- Actually, the author of this statement was Ambrosiaster, the name referring to the unknown author of an early commentary on St. Paul’s letters, that were long-attributed to St. Ambrose of Milan. This statement was from his Commentary on Romans 3:24. One can read about the significance of this quote in the May 27, 2010, post of the blog Lutheran Catholicity: A Catalogue of Testimonies – Ambrosiaster on Justification Through Faith Alone. (return)
- These quotes come from Origen’s Commentary on Romans. It is available in English in two volumes: Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans Books 1-5 and Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans Books 6-10. For links to public domain Greek and Latin sources of these and other works of Origen, visit Links to Works of Origen in English, Greek, and Latin. (return)
- As with this his previous quote from “Ambrose” (see footnote 3, above) the author of this statement was Ambrosiaster. This statement was from his Commentary on Romans 4:6ff. (return)
- Dr. Wetherall, according to the biography of Dr. Barnes in John Foxxe’s Acts and Monuments. (return)
- That is, “Cleverly put aside, and in an able manner.” (return)
- Dr. Barnes is referring to Athanasius, according to his biographer, John Foxxe. (return)
- This quotation from St. Augustin of Hippo is taken from his Second Exposition (Enarratio II) of Psalm 31. However, it does not appear that this Second Exposition has been translated into English. Only the First Exposition is included in the collection of selected writings of the Early Church Fathers (St. Augustin of Hippo. . Exposition of the Psalms. In P. Schaff & A. Coxe [Eds.] Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series: Exposition of the Psalms [Vol. 8]. Reprinted by Hendrickson 1994.), and no English translation of this Second Exposition seems to be available in the public domain on the internet, or advertised/referenced in any modern work. It seems to be a free translation from the pen of Dr. Barnes. Indeed, Thomas Cranmer, who was a fellow reformer with Barnes, and later Archbishop of Canterbury (and collaborator with Barnes, going back to their association at the White Horse Inn), was well aware of this reference, having used it himself in his Homily of Good Works annexed unto Faith. His translation of St. Augustin reads as follows:
- “We must set no good works before faith, nor think that without faith a man may do any good work; for such works, although they seem unto men to be praise-worthy, yet indeed they be but vain, and not allowed before God. They be as the course of a horse that runneth out of the way, which taketh great labour, but to no purpose. Let no man, therefore, reckon upon his good works before his faith; where as faith was not, good works were not. The intent maketh the good works; but faith must guide and order the intent of man.”
Augustin’s Second Exposition of Psalm 31 is accessible today (it seems) only in Latin. In Latin, this section of his exposition reads as follows:
- “Quid ergo? Debemus nulla opera praeponere fidei, id est ut ante fidem, quisquam dicatur bene operatus? Ea enim ipsa opera quae dicuntur ante fidem, quamvis videantur hominibus laudabilia, inania sunt. Ita mihi videntur esse, ut magnae vires et cursus celerrimus praeter viam. Nemo ergo computet bona opera sua ante fidem: ubi fides non erat, bonum opus non erat. Bonum enim opus intentio facit, intentionem fides dirigit.” (Augustine: In Eumdem Psalmum 31, Enarratio II:4)
- This quotation from St. Bernard of Clairvaux is taken from his Sermons on the Canticle of Canticles: Sermon LXVII – On Mystical Eructation and on Grace, Antecedent and Consequent. These sermons are available in English in the public domain, in a two volume set published in 1920.
The quotation used by Dr. Barnes can be read on page 291 of Volume II. (return)
- This quotation from St. Augustin of Hippo is found in Chapter 22 (“No Man Justified by Works”) of his Treatise on the Spirit and the Letter (from his collection of works written against the Pelagians). It is available in the collection of selected writings of the Early Church Fathers (St. Augustin of Hippo. . Anti-Pelagian Writings. In P. Schaff [Ed.] Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series: Anti-Pelagian Writings [Vol. 5]. Reprinted by Hendrickson 1994.), and is in the public domain at the link provided, and elsewhere. (return)
- That is to say, “The fathers of the church, who contradict you.” (return)
- This quotation from St. Augustin of Hippo is found in Chapter 45 (“It is Not by Their Works, But by Grace, that the Doers of the Law are Justified”) of his Treatise on the Spirit and the Letter (from his collection of works written against the Pelagians). It is available in the collection of selected writings of the Early Church Fathers (St. Augustin of Hippo. . Anti-Pelagian Writings. In P. Schaff [Ed.] Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series: Anti-Pelagian Writings [Vol. 5]. Reprinted by Hendrickson 1994.), and is in the public domain at the link provided, and elsewhere. (return)
- By “gloss,” Dr. Barnes means “The commentaries of the church.” (return)
- I am unable to locate any source for this quotation from St. Athanasius in English. It may well still be locked up in the Greek... (return)