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 Issues | Five Fundamentals | Justification

Five Fundamentals of the Faith

by the Rev J.W.Hayes.

The Church Book Room 1924

Justification

First then. What does the Church of England teach as to the source of all doctrine necessary for salvation ? It will be found in Article VI., viz. :-

“Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to Salvation, so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an Article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to Salvation.” etc.

This at once clears the ground and places out of court all traditions of men, speculations of ecclesiastics, and decrees of Popes. We build our faith on the rock of God's Word; on the direct teaching of Our Lord, and His apostles.

Now, what does the Bible say about the first of our fundamentals? viz. : Justification. “What saith the Scriptures”?

  • Ps. 143.2. “Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified.”
  • Acts 16.31. “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house.”
  • Romans 3.28 “We reckon, therefore, that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”
  • Romans 5.1 “Being therefore justified by faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • Ephes. 2.8 “For by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”
  • Ephes. 2.9 “Not of works, that no man should glory.” (See also John 3.16, Acts 13.39, Gal 2.16, Php 3.9)
  • Romans 4.5 “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth, the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness.” v. 6. “Even as David also pronounceth blessing upon the man, unto whom God reckoneth righteousness apart from works.”
  • Romans 10.3. “For, being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.”
  • Romans 11.6 “If it is by grace, it is no more of works : otherwise grace is no more grace."
  • Gal. 3.11 “That no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, is evident: for, the righteous shall live by faith.”
  • 2 Tim. 1.9. “ Who saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus.”
  • Titus 3.5 “Not by works done in righteousness which we did ourselves, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (See also Acts xiii. 39 ; Gal. ii. 16, 21.)

So then it is not by the outward ceremony of Water in Baptism, nor by Priestly Absolution, nor by Purgatory, we are saved, or justified; but by free grace alone. It is the “gift of God” and not capable of increase by any meritorious works of ours. With this principle our Church of England Articles are in perfect harmony. For instance, Article XI. reads thus:-

“We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.”

The earlier Reformers in the 20th Article of the Confession of Augsburg, on which our own was founded, testify to the same truth, viz. :-

“As the doctrine of faith, which ought to be the chief doctrine in the Church, has so long lain unknown-for all must confess that there used in sermons to be the profoundest silence respecting the righteousness of faith, and that the doctrine of works was the only one heard in Churches-our teachers have thus admonished their Churches respecting faith : First, that our works cannot reconcile God, or merit the remission of sins, or grace, or justification, but that this we receive only by faith, believing that we are received into grace for Christ's sake.”

In no way, however, do they decry the doing of good works as the result of justification, for the sixth Augsburg Article says, viz. :-

“We teach that this faith ought to produce good fruits, and that we are bound to do good works commanded by God, for the sake of God's will, though not that we may have any confidence of deserving by those works justification before God.”

Then they say :-

“Further, we teach that it is necessary to do good works, not in order to trust to merit grace by them, but for the sake of the will of God. By faith alone we apprehend the remission of sins and grace. Hence it is readily apparent that our doctrine is not to be accused of prohibiting good works, but much rather to be praised for showing how we may be able to do good works.”

The New Testament urges all Christian people, i.e., those who are justified by faith in Christ, to be most careful, when opportunity arises, to prove the faith that is in them by constancy, and by their works, thus :-

  • Matt. 6.16. “Let your light so shine . . . see your good works.” etc.
  • 1 Tim 5.10 “Well reported of for good works . . . if she have diligently followed every good work.”
  • 2 Tim 2.21 “Prepared unto every good work.”
  • 1 Tim 6.18 “Charge the rich that they be rich in good works.”
  • 2 Tim 3.17 “Thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
  • Titus 2.7 “Shewing thyself a pattern of good works.”
  • Titus 3.8 “They be careful to maintain good work.”
  • Titus 2.14 “Zealous of good works.”
  • Col. 1.10 “Being fruitful in every good work”; and in eight or nine other places.

After all, this is only carrying out Our Blessed Lord's instruction so to let our light shine before men “that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.” At the same time, we are in no way to trust in them, but rather, after we have done all, to say: “We are unprofitable servants. We have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17.10. In other words, good deeds are ever the result of warm love to the Lord and flow naturally from this love. Article XII. most clearly expresses the idea, viz. :-

“Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God's Judgment ; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith ; insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit."

Turning now to the teaching of the erring Roman Church on this vital point, we read in the Decrees of the Council of Trent thus:-

  • “If any one shall say that the ungodly man is justified by faith only so as to understand that nothing else is required that may co-operate to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is in no wise necessary for him to be prepared and disposed by the motion of his own will. -let him be accursed.” Canon 9.
  • “If any one shall say that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in the Divine mercy pardoning sins for Christ's sake; or that it is that confidence alone by which we are justified, - let him be accursed.” Canon 12.
  • “If any one shall say, that he who is once justified cannot sin, nor lose grace, . . . let him be accursed.” Canon 23.
  • “If any one shall say, that justification received is not preserved, and also increased before God by good works ; but that these works are only the fruits and marks of justification obtained, and not the cause of increasing the same, - let him be accursed.” Canon 24.
  • “If any one shall say, that the good works of a justified man are the gifts of God, in such a sense as not also to be the good merits of the justified man himself, or that the justified man, by the good works which are done by him through the grace of God, and the merit of Jesus Christ, of whom he is a living member, does not truly deserve increase of grace, eternal life, and the obtaining of eternal life itself, provided he shall die in a state of grace, and even an increase of glory, - let him be accursed.” Canon 32.

1. Thus she anathematises those who hold the doctrine of justification by faith only.
2. She teaches that grace, or the justified state may be lost.
3. That justification can be increased.
4. That good works are the merits of the justified person himself.

And any one holding a contrary opinion is subject to an everlasting anathema. How different the teaching of St. Paul, viz.: “Being therefore justified by faith, let us have peace with God through Our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 6.1). Yet, it required a decree containing 16 chapters, and 88 canons, to establish Roman Justification at Trent.

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