Article IV-b. Of Love and the Fulfilling of the Law.
Shouldn’t this be V (IV II) – in Tappert and Kolb it’s just an extension of the IV, Justification. So if anything it should be numbered IV II.
1 Here the adversaries urge against us: If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments, Matt. 19:17; likewise: The doers of the Law shall be justified, Rom. 2:13, and many other like things concerning the Law and works. Before we reply to this, we must first declare what we believe concerning love and the fulfilling of the Law.
2 It is written in the prophet, Jer. 31:33: I will put My Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts. And in Rom. 3:31, Paul says: Do we, then, make void the Law through faith? God forbid! Yea, we establish the Law. And Christ says, Matt. 19:17: If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. Likewise, 1 Cor. 13:3: If I have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 3 These and similar sentences testify that the Law ought to be begun in us, and be kept by us more and more [that we are to keep the Law when we have been justified by faith, and thus increase more and more in the Spirit]. Moreover, we speak not of ceremonies, but of that Law which gives commandment concerning the movements of the heart, namely, the Decalog. 4 Because, indeed, faith brings the Holy Ghost, and produces in hearts a new life, it is necessary that it should produce spiritual movements in hearts. And what these movements are, the prophet, Jer. 31:33 shows, when he says: I will put My Law into their inward parts, and write it in their hearts. Therefore, when we have been justified by faith and regenerated, we begin to fear and love God, to pray to Him, to expect from Him aid, to give thanks and praise Him, and to obey Him in afflictions. We begin also to love our neighbors, because our hearts have spiritual and holy movements [there is now, through the Spirit of Christ a new heart, mind, and spirit within].
5 These things cannot occur until we have been justified by faith, and, regenerated, we receive the Holy Ghost: first, because the Law cannot 6 be kept without [the knowledge of] Christ; and likewise the Law cannot be kept without the Holy Ghost. But the Holy Ghost is received by faith, according to the declaration of Paul, Gal. 3:14: That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. 7 Then, too, how can the human heart love God while it knows that He is terribly angry, and is oppressing us with temporal and perpetual calamities? But the Law always accuses us, always shows that God is angry. [Therefore, what the scholastics say of the love of God is a dream.] 8 God therefore is not loved until we apprehend mercy by faith. Not until then does He become a lovable object.
9 Although, therefore, civil works, i.e., the outward works of the Law, can be done, in a measure, without Christ and without the Holy Ghost [from our inborn light], nevertheless it appears from what we have said that those things which belong peculiarly to the divine Law, i.e., the affections of the heart towards God, which are commanded in the first table, cannot be rendered without the Holy Ghost. 10 But our adversaries are fine theologians; they regard the second table and political works; for the first table [in which is contained the highest theology, on which all depends] they care nothing, as though it were of no matter; or certainly they require only outward observances. They in no way consider the Law that is eternal, and placed far above the sense and intellect of all creatures [which concerns the very Deity, and the honor of the eternal Majesty], Deut. 6:5: Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thine heart. [This they treat as such a paltry small matter as if it did not belong to theology.]
11 But Christ was given for this purpose, namely, that for His sake there might be bestowed on us the remission of sins, and the Holy Ghost to bring forth in us new and eternal life, and eternal righteousness [to manifest Christ in our hearts, as it is written John 16:15: He shall take of the things of Mine, and show them unto you. Likewise, He works also other gifts, love, thanksgiving, charity, patience, etc.]. Wherefore the Law cannot be truly kept unless the Holy Ghost be received through faith. Accordingly, Paul says that the Law is established by faith, and not made void; because the Law can only then be thus kept when the Holy Ghost is given. 12 And Paul teaches 2 Cor. 3:15 sq., the veil that covered the face of Moses cannot be removed except by faith in Christ, by which the Holy Ghost is received. For he speaks thus: But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless, when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 13 Paul understands by the veil the human opinion concerning the entire Law, the Decalog and the ceremonies, namely, that hypocrites think that external and civil works satisfy the Law of God, and that sacrifices and observances justify before God ex opere operato. 14 But then this veil is removed from us, i.e., we are freed from this error when God shows to our hearts our uncleanness and the heinousness of sin. Then, for the first time, we see that we are far from fulfilling the Law. Then we learn to know how flesh, in security and indifference, does not fear God, and is not fully certain that we are regarded by God, but imagines that men are born and die by chance. Then we experience that we do not believe that God forgives and hears us. But when, on hearing the Gospel and the remission of sins, we are consoled by faith, we receive the Holy Ghost so that now we are able to think aright concerning God, and to fear and believe God, etc. From these facts it is apparent that the Law cannot be kept without Christ and the Holy Ghost.
15 We, therefore, profess that it is necessary that the Law be begun in us, and that it be observed continually more and more. And at the same time we comprehend both spiritual movements and external good works [the good heart within and works without]. Therefore the adversaries falsely charge against us that our theologians do not teach good works while they not only require these, but also show how they can be done [that the heart must enter into these works, lest they be mere, lifeless, cold works of hypocrites]. 16 The result convicts hypocrites, who by their own powers endeavor to fulfil the Law, that they cannot accomplish 17 what they attempt. [For are they free from hatred, envy, strife, anger, wrath, avarice, adultery, etc.? Why, these vices were nowhere greater than in the cloisters and sacred institutes.] For human nature is far too weak to be able by its own powers to resist the devil, who holds as captives all who have not been freed through faith. 18 There is need of the power of Christ against the devil, namely, that, inasmuch as we know that for Christ’s sake we are heard, and have the promise, we may pray for the governance and defense of the Holy Ghost, that we may neither be deceived and err, nor be impelled to undertake anything contrary to God’s will. [Otherwise we should, every hour, fall into error and abominable vices.] Just as Ps. 68:18 teaches: Thou hast led captivity captive; Thou hast received gifts for man. For Christ has overcome the devil, and has given to us the promise and the Holy Ghost, in order that, by divine aid, we ourselves also may overcome. And 1 John 3:8: For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 19 Again, we teach not only how the Law can be observed, but also how God is pleased if anything be done, namely, not because we render satisfaction to the Law, but because we are in Christ, as we shall say after a little. It is, therefore, manifest that we require good works. 20 Yea, we add also this, that it is impossible for love to God, even though it be small, to be sundered from faith, because through Christ we come to the Father, and the remission of sins having been received, we now are truly certain that we have a God, i.e., that God cares for us; we call upon Him, we give Him thanks, we fear Him, we love Him as 1 John 4:19 teaches: We love Him, because He first loved us, namely, because He gave His Son for us, and forgave us our sins. Thus he indicates that faith precedes and love follows. 21 Likewise the faith of which we speak exists in repentance, i.e., it is conceived in the terrors of conscience, which feels the wrath of God against our sins, and seeks the remission of sins, and to be freed from sin. And in such terrors and other afflictions this faith ought to grow and be strengthened. Wherefore 22 it cannot exist in those who live according to the flesh who are delighted by their own lusts and obey them. Accordingly, Paul says, Rom. 8:1: There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. So, too, Rom 8:12-13: We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 23 Wherefore, the faith which receives remission of sins in a heart terrified and fleeing from sin does not remain in those who obey their desires, neither does it coexist with mortal sin.
24 From these effects of faith the adversaries select one, namely, love, and teach that love justifies. Thus it is clearly apparent that they teach only the Law. They do not teach that remission of sins through faith is first received. They do not teach of Christ as Mediator, that for Christ’s sake we have a gracious God, but because of our love. And yet, what the nature of this love is they do not say, neither 25 can they say. They proclaim that they fulfil the Law, although this glory belongs properly to Christ; and they set against the judgment of God confidence in their own works; for they say that they merit de condigno (according to righteousness) grace and eternal life. This confidence is absolutely impious and vain. For in this life we cannot satisfy the Law, because carnal nature does not cease to bring forth wicked dispositions [evil inclination and desire], even though the Spirit in us resists them.
26 But some one may ask: Since we also confess that love is a work of the Holy Ghost, and since it is righteousness, because it is the fulfilling of the Law, why do we not teach that it justifies? To this we must reply: In the first place, it is certain that we receive remission of sins, neither through our love, nor for the sake of our love, but for Christ’s sake, by faith alone. 27 Faith alone, which looks upon the promise, and knows that for this reason it must be regarded as certain that God forgives, because Christ has not died in vain, etc., overcomes the terrors of sin and death. 28 If any one doubts whether sins are remitted him, he dishonors Christ, since he judges that his sin is greater or more efficacious than the death and promise of Christ; although Paul says, Rom. 5:20: Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, i.e., that mercy is 29 more comprehensive [more powerful, richer, and stronger] than sin. If any one thinks that he obtains the remission of sins because he loves, he dishonors Christ and will discover in God’s judgment that this confidence in his own righteousness is wicked and vain. Therefore it is necessary that faith [alone] reconciles and 30 justifies. And as we do not receive remission of sins through other virtues of the Law, or on account of these, namely, on account of patience, chastity, obedience towards magistrates, etc., and nevertheless these virtues ought to follow, so, too, we do not receive remission of sins because of love to God, although it is necessary that this should follow. 31 Besides, the custom of speech is well known that by the same word we sometimes comprehend by synecdoche the cause and effects. Thus in Luke 7:47 Christ says: Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. For Christ interprets Himself [this very passage] when He adds: Thy faith hath saved thee. Christ, therefore, did not mean that the woman, by that work of love, had merited the remission of sins. For that is the reason He says: Thy faith hath saved thee. 32 But faith is that which freely apprehends God’s mercy on account of God’s Word [which relies upon God’s mercy and Word, and not upon one’s own work]. If any one denies that this is faith [if any one imagines that he can rely at the same time upon God and his own works], he does not understand at all 33 what faith is. [For the terrified conscience is not satisfied with its own works, but must cry after mercy, and is comforted and encouraged alone by God’s Word.] And the narrative itself shows in this passage what that is which He calls love. The woman came with the opinion concerning Christ that with Him the remission of sins should be sought. This worship is the highest worship of Christ. Nothing greater could she ascribe to Christ. To seek from Him the remission of sins was truly to acknowledge the Messiah. Now, thus to think of Christ, thus to worship Him, thus to embrace Him, is truly to believe. Christ, moreover, employed the word “love” not towards the woman, but against the Pharisee, because He contrasted the entire worship of the Pharisee with the entire worship of the woman. He reproved the Pharisee because he did not acknowledge that He was the Messiah, although he rendered Him the outward offices due to a guest and a great and holy man. He points to the woman and praises her worship, ointment, tears, etc., all of which were signs of faith and a confession, namely, that with Christ she sought the remission of sins. It is indeed a great example, which, not without reason, moved Christ to reprove the Pharisee, who was a wise and honorable man, but not a believer. He charges him with impiety, and admonishes him by the example of the woman, showing thereby that it is disgraceful to him, that, while an unlearned woman believes God, he, a doctor of the Law, does not believe, does not acknowledge the Messiah, and does not seek from Him remission of sins and salvation. 34 Thus, therefore, He praises the entire worship [faith with its fruits, but towards the Pharisee He names only the fruits which prove to men that there is faith in the heart], as it often occurs in the Scriptures that by one word we embrace many things; as below we shall speak at greater length in regard to similar passages, such as Luke 11:41: Give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. He requires not only alms, but also the righteousness of faith. Thus He here says: Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much, i.e., because she has truly worshiped Me with faith and the exercises and signs of faith. He comprehends the entire worship. Meanwhile He teaches this, that the remission of sins is properly received by faith, although love, confession, and other good fruits ought to follow. Wherefore He does not mean this, that these fruits are the price, or are the propitiation, because of which the remission of sins, which reconciles us to God, is given. 35 We are disputing concerning a great subject, concerning the honor of Christ, and whence good minds may seek for sure and firm consolation, whether confidence is to be placed 36 in Christ or in our works. Now, if it is to be placed in our works, the honor of Mediator and Propitiator will be withdrawn from Christ. And yet we shall find, in God’s judgment, that this confidence is vain, and that consciences rush thence into despair. But if the remission of sins and reconciliation do not occur freely for Christ’s sake, but for the sake of our love, no one will have remission of sins, unless when he has fulfilled the entire Law, because the Law does not justify as long as it can accuse us. 37 Therefore it is manifest that, since justification is reconciliation for Christ’s sake, we are justified by faith, because it is very certain that by faith alone the remission of sins is received.
38 Now, therefore, let us reply to the objection which we have above stated: [Why does love not justify anybody before God?] The adversaries are right in thinking that love is the fulfilling of the Law, and obedience to the Law is certainly righteousness. [Therefore it would be true that love justifies us if we would keep the Law. But who in truth can say or boast that he keeps the Law, and loves God as the Law has commanded? We have shown above that God has made the promise of grace, because we cannot observe the Law. Therefore Paul says everywhere that we cannot be justified before God by the Law.] But they make a mistake in this that they think that we are justified by the Law. [The adversaries have to fail at this point, and miss the main issue, for in this business they only behold the Law. For all men’s reason and wisdom cannot but hold that we must become pious by the Law, and that a person externally observing the Law is holy and pious. But the Gospel faces us about, directs us away from the Law to the divine promises, and teaches that we are not justified, etc.] Since, however, we are not justified by the Law [because no person can keep it], but receive remission of sins and reconciliation by faith for Christ’s sake, and not for the sake of love or the fulfilling of the Law, it follows necessarily that we are justified by faith in Christ. [For before we fulfil one tittle of the Law, there must be faith in Christ by which we are reconciled to God and first obtain the remission of sin. Good God, how dare people call themselves Christians or say that they once at least looked into or read the books of the Gospel when they still deny that we obtain remission of sins by faith in Christ? Why, to a Christian it is shocking merely to hear such a statement.]
39 Again, [in the second place,] this fulfilling of the Law, or obedience towards the Law, is indeed righteousness, when it is complete; but in us it is small and impure. [For, although they have received the first-fruits of the Spirit, and the new, yea, the eternal life has begun in them, there still remains a remnant of sin and evil lust, and the Law still finds much of which it must accuse us.] Accordingly, it is not pleasing for its own sake, and is not accepted for its own sake. 40 But although from those things which have been said above it is evident that justification signifies not the beginning of the renewal, but the reconciliation by which also we afterwards are accepted, nevertheless it can now be seen much more clearly that the inchoate fulfilling of the Law does not justify, because it is accepted only on account of faith. [Trusting in our own fulfilment of the Law is sheer idolatry and blaspheming Christ, and in the end it collapses and causes our consciences to despair. Therefore, this foundation shall stand forever, namely, that for Christ’s sake we are accepted with God, and justified by faith, not on account of our love and works. This we shall make so plain and certain that anybody may grasp it. As long as the heart is not at peace with God, it cannot be righteous; for it flees from the wrath of God, despairs, and would have God not to judge it. Therefore the heart cannot be righteous and accepted with God while it is not at peace with God. Now, faith alone makes the heart to be content, and obtains peace and life, Rom. 5:1, because it confidently and frankly relies on the promise of God for Christ’s sake. But our works do not make the heart content, for we always find that they are not pure. Therefore it must follow that we are accepted with God, and justified by faith alone, when in our hearts we conclude that God desires to be gracious to us, not on account of our works and fulfilment of the Law, but from pure grace, for Christ’s sake. What can our opponents bring forward against this argument? What can they invent and devise against the plain truth? For this is quite certain, and experience teaches forcibly enough, that when we truly feel the judgment and wrath of God, or become afflicted, our works and worship cannot set the heart at rest. Scripture indicates this often enough as in Ps. 143:2: Enter not into judgment with Thy servant; for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified. Here he clearly shows that all the saints, all the pious children of God, who have the Holy Ghost, if God would not by grace forgive them their sin, still have remnants of sin in the flesh. For when David in another place, Ps. 7:8, says: Judge me O Lord, according to my righteousness, he refers to his cause, and not to his righteousness, and asks God to protect his cause and word, for he says: Judge, O Lord, my cause. Again, in Ps. 130:3 he clearly states that no person, not even the greatest saints, can bear God’s judgment, if He were to observe our iniquity, as he says: If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand? And thus says, Job 9:28: I was afraid of all my works (Engl. vers., sorrows). Likewise Job 9:30: If I wash myself with snow-water, and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt Thou plunge me in the ditch. And Prov. 20:9: Who can say, I have made my heart clean? And 1 John 1:8: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. And in the Lord’s Prayer the saints ask for the forgiveness of sins. Therefore even the saints have guilt and sins. Again, in Num. 14:18: The innocent will not be innocent. And Zechariah 2:13, says: Be silent O all flesh, before the Lord. And Isaiah 40:6 sqq.: All flesh is grass, i.e., flesh and righteousness of the flesh cannot endure the judgment of God. And Jonah says, 2:8: They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. Therefore, pure mercy preserves us; our own works, merits, endeavors, cannot preserve us. These and similar declarations in the Scriptures testify that our works are unclean, and that we need mercy. Wherefore works do not render consciences pacified, but only mercy apprehended by faith does.] Nor must we trust that we are accounted righteous before God by our own perfection and fulfilling of the Law, but rather for Christ’s sake.
41 First [in the third place], because Christ does not cease to be Mediator after we have been renewed. They err who imagine that He has merited only a first grace, and that afterwards we please God and merit eternal life by our fulfilling of the Law. 42 Christ remains Mediator, and we ought always to be confident that for His sake we have a reconciled God, even although we are unworthy. As Paul clearly teaches when he says [By whom also we have access to God, Rom. 5:2. For our best works, even after the grace of the Gospel has been received, as I stated, are still weak and not at all pure. For sin and Adam’s fall are not such a trifling thing as reason holds or imagines; it exceeds the reason and thought of all men to understand what a horrible wrath of God has been handed on to us by that disobedience. There occurred a shocking corruption of the entire human nature, which no work of man, but only God Himself, can restore], 1 Cor. 4:4: I know nothing by myself, yet am I not hereby justified, but he knows that by faith he is accounted righteous for Christ’s sake, according to the passage: Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, Ps. 32:1; Rom. 4:7. [Therefore we need grace, and the gracious goodness of God, and the forgiveness of sin, although we have done many good works.] But this remission is always received by faith. Likewise, the imputation of the righteousness of the Gospel is from the promise; therefore it is always received by faith, and it always must be regarded certain that by faith we are, 43 for Christ’s sake, accounted righteous. If the regenerate ought afterwards to think that they will be accepted on account of the fulfilling of the Law, when would conscience be certain that it pleased God, since we never satisfy the Law? 44 Accordingly, we must always recur to the promise; by this our infirmity must be sustained, and we must regard it as certain that we are accounted righteous for the sake of Christ, who is ever at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us, Rom. 8:34. If any one think that he is righteous and accepted on account of his own fulfilment of the Law, and not on account of Christ’s promise, he dishonors this High Priest. Neither can it be understood how one could imagine that man is righteous before God when Christ is excluded as Propitiator and Mediator.
45 Again [in the fourth place], what need is there of a long discussion? [If we were to think that, after we have come to the Gospel and are born again, we were to merit by our works that God be gracious to us, not by faith, conscience would never find rest, but would be driven to despair. For the Law unceasingly accuses us, since we never can satisfy the Law.] All Scripture, all the Church cries out that the Law cannot be satisfied. Therefore this inchoate fulfilment of the Law does not please on its own account, but on account 46 of faith in Christ. Otherwise the Law always accuses us. For who loves or fears God sufficiently? Who with sufficient patience bears the afflictions imposed by God? Who does not frequently doubt whether human affairs are ruled by God’s counsel or by chance? Who does not frequently doubt whether he be heard by God? Who is not frequently enraged because the wicked enjoy a better lot than the pious, because the pious are oppressed by the wicked? Who does satisfaction to his own calling? Who loves his neighbor as himself? Who is not tempted 47 by lust? Accordingly, Paul says, Rom. 7:19: The good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. Likewise Rom 7:25: With the mind I myself serve the Law of God, but with the flesh, the law of sin. Here he openly declares that he serves the law of sin. And David says, Ps. 143:2: Enter not into judgment with Thy servant; for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified. Here even a servant of God prays for the averting of judgment. Likewise Ps. 32:2: Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity. Therefore, in this our infirmity there is always present sin, which could be imputed, and of which he says a little while after, Ps. 32:6: For this shall every one that is godly pray unto Thee. Here he shows that even saints ought to seek remission 48 of sins. More than blind are those who do not perceive that wicked desires in the flesh are sins, of which Paul, Gal. 5:17, says: The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. 49 The flesh distrusts God, trusts in present things, seeks human aid in calamities, even contrary to God’s will, flees from afflictions, which it ought to bear because of God’s commands, doubts concerning God’s mercy, etc. The Holy Ghost in our hearts contends with such dispositions [with Adam’s sin] in order to suppress and mortify them [this poison of the old Adam, this desperately wicked disposition], 50 and to produce new spiritual movements. But concerning this topic we will collect more testimonies below, although they are everywhere obvious not only in the Scriptures, but also in the holy Fathers.
51 Well does Augustine say: All the commandments of God are fulfilled when whatever is not done, is forgiven. Therefore he requires faith even in good works [which the Holy Spirit produces in us], in order that we may believe that for Christ’s sake we please God, and that even the works are not of 52 themselves worthy and pleasing. And Jerome, against the Pelagians, says: Then, therefore, we are righteous when we confess that we are sinners, and that our righteousness consists not in our own merit, but in God’s mercy. 53 Therefore, in this inchoate fulfilment of the Law, faith ought to be present, which is certain that for Christ’s sake we have a reconciled God. For mercy cannot be apprehended unless by faith, as has been repeatedly said above. [Therefore those who teach that we are not accepted by faith for Christ’s sake, but for the sake of our own works, lead consciences into despair.] 54 Wherefore, when Paul says, Rom. 3:31: We establish the Law through faith, by this we ought to understand, not only that those regenerated by faith receive the Holy Ghost, and have movements agreeing with God’s Law, but it is by far of the greatest importance that we add also this, that we ought to perceive that we are far distant from the perfection of the Law. 55 Wherefore we cannot conclude that we are accounted righteous before God because of our fulfilling of the Law, but in order that the conscience may become tranquil, justification must be sought elsewhere. For we are not righteous before God as long as we flee from God’s judgment, and are angry with God. 56 Therefore we must conclude that, being reconciled by faith, we are accounted righteous for Christ’s sake, not for the sake of the Law or our works, but that this inchoate fulfilling of the Law pleases on account of faith, and that, on account of faith, there is no imputation of the imperfection of the fulfilling of the Law, even though the sight of our impurity terrifies us. Now, if justification is to be sought elsewhere, our love 57 and works do not therefore justify. Far above our purity, yea, far above the Law itself, ought to be placed the death and satisfaction of Christ, presented to us that we might be sure that because of this satisfaction, and not because of our fulfilling of the Law, we have a gracious God.
58 Paul teaches this in Gal. 3:13, when he says: Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us, i.e., the Law condemns all men, but Christ, because without sin He has borne the punishment of sin, and been made a victim for us, has removed that right of the Law to accuse and condemn those who believe in Him, because He Himself is the propitiation for them for whose sake we are now accounted righteous. But since they are accounted righteous, the Law cannot accuse or condemn them, even though they have not actually satisfied the Law. To the same purport he writes to the Colossians 2:10: Ye are complete in Him, as though he were to say: Although ye are still far from the perfection of the Law, yet the remnants of sin do not condemn you, because for Christ’s sake we have a sure and firm reconciliation, if you believe, even though sin inhere in your flesh.
59 The promise ought always to be in sight that God, because of His promise, wishes for Christ’s sake, and not because of the Law or our works, to be gracious and to justify. In this promise timid consciences ought to seek reconciliation and justification; by this promise they ought to sustain themselves and be confident that for Christ’s sake, because of His promise, they have a gracious God. Thus works can never render a conscience pacified, 60 but only the promise can. If, therefore, justification and peace of conscience must be sought elsewhere than in love and works, love and works do not justify, although they are virtues and pertain to the righteousness of the Law, in so far as they are a fulfilling of the Law. So far also this obedience of the Law justifies by the righteousness of the Law. But this imperfect righteousness of the Law is not accepted by God, unless on account of faith. Accordingly it does not justify, i.e., it neither reconciles, nor regenerates, nor by itself renders us accepted before God.
61 From this it is evident that we are justified before God by faith alone [i.e., it obtains the remission of sins and grace for Christ’s sake, and regenerates us. Likewise, it is quite clear that by faith alone the Holy Ghost is received, again, that our works and this inchoate fulfilling of the Law do not by themselves please God. Now, even if I abound in good works like Paul or Peter, I must seek my righteousness elsewhere, namely, in the promise of the grace of Christ; again, if only faith calms the conscience, it must, indeed, be certain that only faith justifies before God. For, if we wish to teach correctly, we must adhere to this, that we are accepted with God, not on account of the Law, not on account of works, but for Christ’s sake. For the honor, due Christ, must not be given to the Law or our miserable works.] because by faith alone we receive remission of sins and reconciliation, because reconciliation or justification is a matter promised for Christ’s sake, and not for the sake of the Law. Therefore it is received by faith alone, although, when the Holy Ghost is given, the fulfilling of the Law follows.
Reply to the Arguments of the Adversaries.
62 Now, when the grounds of this case have been understood, namely, the distinction between the Law and the promises, or the Gospel, it will be easy to resolve the objections of the adversaries. For they cite passages concerning the Law and works, and omit passages concerning the promises. 63 But a reply can once for all be made to all opinions concerning the Law, namely, that the Law cannot be observed without Christ, and that if civil works are wrought without Christ, they do not please God. [God is not pleased with the person.] Wherefore, when works are commended, it is necessary to add that faith is required, that they are commended on account of faith, that they are the fruits and testimonies of faith. [This our doctrine is, indeed, plain; it need not fear the light, and may be held against the Holy Scriptures. We have also clearly and correctly presented it here, if any will receive instruction and not knowingly deny the truth. For rightly to understand the benefit of Christ and the great treasure of the Gospel (which Paul extols so greatly), we must separate, on the one hand, the promise of God and the grace that is offered, and, on the other hand, the Law, as far as the heavens are from the earth. In shaky matters many explanations are needed, but in a good matter one or two thoroughgoing explanations dissolve all objections which men think they can raise.] 64 Ambiguous and dangerous cases produce many and various solutions. For the judgment of the ancient poet is true: “An unjust cause, being in itself sick, requires skilfully applied remedies."
But in just and sure cases one or two explanations derived from the sources correct all things that seem to offend. This occurs also in this case of ours. For the rule which I have just recited, explains all the passages that are cited concerning the Law 65 and works [namely, that without Christ the Law cannot be truly observed, and although external works may be performed, still the person doing them does not please God outside of Christ]. For we acknowledge that Scripture teaches in some places the Law, and in other places the Gospel, or the gratuitous promise of the remission of sins for Christ’s sake. But our adversaries absolutely abolish the free promise when they deny that faith justifies, and teach that for the sake of love and of our works we receive remission of sins and 66 reconciliation. If the remission of sins depends upon the condition of our works, it is altogether uncertain. [For we can never be certain whether we do enough works, or whether our works are sufficiently holy and pure. Thus, too, the forgiveness of sins is made uncertain, and the promise of God perishes, as Paul says, Rom. 4:14: The promise is made of none effect, and everything is rendered uncertain.] Therefore the promise will be abolished. 67 Hence we refer godly minds to the consideration of the promises, and we teach concerning the free remission of sins and concerning reconciliation, which occurs through faith in Christ. Afterwards we add also the doctrine of the Law. [Not that by the Law we merit the remission of sins, or that for the sake of the Law we are accepted with God, but because God requires good works.] And it is necessary to divide these things aright, as Paul says, 2 Tim. 2:15. We must see what Scripture ascribes to the Law and what to the promises. For it praises works in such a way as not to remove the free promise [as to place the promise of God and the true treasure, Christ, a thousand leagues above it].
68 For good works are to be done on account of God’s command, likewise for the exercise of faith [as Paul says, Eph. 2:10: We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works], and on account of confession and giving of thanks. For these reasons good works ought necessarily to be done, which, although they are done in the flesh not as yet entirely renewed, that retards the movements of the Holy Ghost, and imparts some of its uncleanness, yet, on account of Christ, are holy, divine works, sacrifices, and acts pertaining to the government of Christ, who thus displays His kingdom before this world. For in these He sanctifies hearts and represses the devil, and, in order to retain the Gospel among men, openly opposes to the kingdom of the devil the confession of saints, and, in our weakness, declares His power. 69 The dangers, labors, and sermons of the Apostle Paul, of Athanasius, Augustine, and the like, who taught the churches, are holy works, are true sacrifices acceptable to God, are contests of Christ 70 through which He repressed the devil, and drove him from those who believed. David’s labors, in waging wars and in his home government, are holy works, are true sacrifices, are contests of God, defending the people who had the Word of God against 71 the devil, in order that the knowledge of God might not be entirely extinguished on earth. We think thus also concerning every good work in the humblest callings and in private affairs. Through these works Christ celebrates His victory over the devil, just as the distribution of alms by the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 16:1, was a holy work, and a sacrifice and contest of Christ against the devil, who labors that nothing may be done 72 for the praise of God. To disparage such works, the confession of doctrine, affliction, works of love, mortifications of the flesh, would be indeed to disparage the outward government of Christ’s kingdom among men. 73 Here also we add something concerning rewards and merits. We teach that rewards have been offered and promised to the works of believers. We teach that good works are meritorious, not for the remission of sins, for grace or justification (for these we obtain only by faith), but for other rewards, bodily and spiritual, in this life and after this life, because Paul 74 says, 1 Cor. 3:8: Every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labor. There will, therefore be different rewards according to different labors. But the remission of sins is alike and equal to all, just as Christ is one, and is offered freely to all who believe that for Christ’s sake their sins are remitted. Therefore the remission of sins and justification are received only by faith, and not on account of any works, as is evident in the terrors of conscience, because none of our works can be opposed to God’s wrath, as Paul clearly says, Rom. 5:1: Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith, etc. 75 But because faith makes sons of God, it also makes coheirs with Christ. Therefore, because by our works we do not merit justification, through which we are made sons of God, and coheirs with Christ, we do not by our works merit eternal life; for faith obtains this, because faith justifies us and has a reconciled God. But eternal life is due the justified, according to the passage Rom. 8:30: Whom He justified, them He also glorified. 76 Paul, Eph. 6:2, commends to us the commandment concerning honoring parents, by mention of the reward which is added to that commandment, where he does not mean that obedience to parents justifies 77 us before God, but that, when it occurs in those who have been justified, it merits other great rewards. Yet God exercises His saints variously, and often defers the rewards of the righteousness of works in order that they may learn not to trust in their own righteousness, and may learn to seek the will of God rather than the rewards; as appears in Job, in Christ, and other saints. And of this, many psalms teach us, which console us against the happiness of the wicked, as Ps. 37:1: Neither be thou envious. And Christ says, Matt. 5:10: Blessed are they 78 which are persecuted for righteousness' sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. By these 79 praises of good works, believers are undoubtedly moved to do good works. Meanwhile, the doctrine of repentance is also proclaimed against the godless, whose works are wicked; and the wrath of God is displayed, 80 which He has threatened all who do not repent. We therefore praise and require good works, and show many reasons why they ought to be done.
Thus of works Paul also teaches when he says, Rom. 4:9 sq., that Abraham received circumcision, not in order that by this work he might be justified; for by faith he had already attained it that he was accounted righteous. But circumcision was added in order that he might have in his body a written sign, admonished by which he might exercise faith, and by which also he might confess his faith before others, and, by his testimony, might invite others to believe. 81 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice, Heb. 11:4. Because, therefore, he was just by faith, the sacrifice which he made was pleasing to God; not that by this work he merited the remission of sins and grace, but that he exercised his faith and showed it to others, in order to invite them to believe.
82 Although in this way good works ought to follow faith, men who cannot believe and be sure that for Christ’s sake they are freely forgiven, and that freely for Christ’s sake they have a reconciled God, employ works far otherwise. When they see the works of saints, they judge in a human manner that saints have merited the remission of sins and grace through these works. Accordingly, they imitate them, and think that through similar works they merit the remission of sins and grace; they think that through these works they appease the wrath of God, and attain that for the sake of these works they are accounted righteous. 83 This godless opinion concerning works we condemn. In the first place, because it obscures the glory of Christ when men offer to God these works as a price and propitiation. This honor, due to Christ alone, is ascribed to our works. Secondly, they nevertheless do not find, in these works, peace of conscience, but in true terrors, heaping up works upon works, they at length despair because they find no work sufficiently pure [sufficiently important and precious to propitiate God, to obtain with certainty eternal life, in a word, to tranquilize and pacify the conscience]. The Law always accuses, and produces wrath. Thirdly, such persons never attain the knowledge of God [nor of His will]; for, as in anger they flee from God, who judges and afflicts them, they never believe that they are heard. 84 But faith manifests the presence of God, since it is certain that God freely forgives and hears us.
85 Moreover, this godless opinion concerning works always has existed in the world [sticks to the world quite tightly]. The heathen had sacrifices, derived from the fathers. They imitated their works. Their faith they did not retain, but thought that the works were a propitiation and price on account of which God would be reconciled to them. 86 The people in the Law [the Israelites] imitated sacrifices with the opinion that by means of these works they would appease God, so to say, ex opere operato. We see here how earnestly the prophets rebuke the people: Ps. 50:8: I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices, and Jer. 7:22: I spake not unto your fathers concerning burnt offerings. Such passages condemn not works, which God certainly had commanded as outward exercises in this government, but they condemn the godless opinion according to which they thought that by these works they appeased the wrath of God, and 87 thus cast away faith. And because no works pacify the conscience, new works, in addition to God’s commands, were from time to time devised [the hypocrites nevertheless used to invent one work after another, one sacrifice after another, by a blind guess and in reckless wantonness, and all this without the word and command of God, with wicked conscience as we have seen in the Papacy]. The people of Israel had seen the prophets sacrificing on high places [and in groves]. Besides, the examples of the saints very greatly move the minds of those, hoping by similar works to obtain grace just as these saints obtained it. [But the saints believed.] Wherefore the people began, with remarkable zeal, to imitate this work, in order that by such a work [they might appease the wrath of God] they might merit remission of sins, grace, and righteousness. But the prophets had been sacrificing on high places, not that by these works they might merit the remission of sins and grace, but because on these places they taught, and, accordingly, presented there a testimony of their faith. 88 The people had heard that Abraham had sacrificed his son. Wherefore they also, in order to appease God by a most cruel and difficult work, put to death their sons. But Abraham did not sacrifice his son with the opinion that this work was a price and propitiatory work for the sake of which he was accounted righteous. 89 Thus in the Church the Lord’s Supper was instituted that by remembrance of the promises of Christ, of which we are admonished in this sign, faith might be strengthened in us, and we might publicly confess our faith, and proclaim the benefits of Christ, as Paul says, 1 Cor. 11:26: As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death, etc. But our adversaries contend that the mass is a work that justifies us ex opere operato, and removes the guilt and liability to punishment in those for whom it is celebrated; for thus writes Gabriel.
90 Anthony, Bernard, Dominicus, Franciscus, and other holy Fathers selected a certain kind of life either for the sake of study [of more readily reading the Holy Scriptures] or other useful exercises. In the mean time they believed that by faith they were accounted righteous for Christ’s sake, and that God was gracious to them, not on account of those exercises of their own. But the multitude since then has imitated not the faith of the Fathers, but their example without faith, in order that by such works they might merit the remission of sins, grace, and righteousness; they did not believe that they received these freely on account of Christ as Propitiator. [Thus the human mind always exalts works too highly, and puts them in the wrong place. And this error the Gospel reproves, which teaches that men are accounted righteous not for the sake of the Law, but for the sake of Christ alone. Christ, however, is apprehended by faith alone; wherefore we are accounted righteous by faith alone for Christ’s sake.] Thus the world judges of all works 91 that they are a propitiation by which God is appeased; that they are a price because of which we are accounted righteous. It does not believe that Christ is Propitiator; it does not believe that by faith we freely attain that we are accounted righteous for Christ’s sake. And, nevertheless, since works cannot pacify the conscience, others are continually chosen, new rites are performed, new vows made, and new orders of monks formed beyond the command of God, in order that 92 some great work may be sought which may be set against the wrath and judgment of God. Contrary to Scripture, the adversaries uphold these godless opinions concerning works. But to ascribe to our works these things, namely, that they are a propitiation, that they merit the remission of sins and grace, that for the sake of these and not by faith, for the sake of Christ as Propitiator we are accounted righteous before God, what else is this than to deny Christ the honor of Mediator and 93 Propitiator? Although, therefore, we, believe and teach that good works must necessarily be done (for the inchoate fulfilling of the Law ought to follow faith), nevertheless we give to Christ His own honor. We believe and teach that by faith, for Christ’s sake, we are accounted righteous before God, that we are not accounted righteous because of works without Christ as Mediator, that by works we do not merit the remission of sins, grace, and righteousness, that we cannot set our works against the wrath and justice of God, that works cannot overcome the terrors of sin, but that the terrors of sin are overcome by faith alone, 94 that only Christ the Mediator is to be presented by faith against the wrath and judgment of God. If any one think differently, he does not give Christ due honor, who has been set forth that He might be a Propitiator, that through Him 95 we might have access to the Father. We are speaking now of the righteousness through which we treat with 96 God, not with men, but by which we apprehend grace and peace of conscience. Conscience however, cannot be pacified before God, unless by faith alone, which is certain that God for Christ’s sake is reconciled to us, according to Rom. 5:1: Being justified by faith, we have peace, because justification is only a matter freely promised for Christ’s sake, and therefore is always received before God by faith alone.
97 Now, then, we will reply to those passages which the adversaries cite, in order to prove that we are justified by love and works. From 1 Cor. 13:2 they cite: Though I have all faith, etc., and have not charity, I am nothing. And here they triumph greatly. Paul testifies to the entire Church, they say, that faith alone does not justify. 98 But a reply is easy after we have shown above what we hold concerning love and works. This passage of Paul requires love. We also require this. For we have said above that renewal and the inchoate fulfilling of the Law must exist in us, according to Jer. 31:33: I will put My Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts. If any one should cast away love, even though he have great faith, yet he does not retain it, 99 for he does not retain the Holy Ghost [he becomes cold and is now again fleshly, without Spirit and faith; for the Holy Ghost is not where Christian love and other fruits of the Spirit are not]. Nor indeed does Paul in this passage treat of the mode of justification, but he writes to those who, after they had been justified, should be urged to bring forth good fruits lest they might lose the Holy Ghost. 100 The adversaries furthermore, treat the matter preposterously: they cite this one passage, in which Paul teaches concerning fruits, they omit very many other passages, in which in a regular order he discusses the mode of justification. Besides, they always add a correction to the other passages, which treat of faith, namely, that they ought to be understood as applying to fides formata. Here they add no correction that there is also need of the faith that holds that we are accounted righteous for the sake of Christ as Propitiator. Thus the adversaries exclude Christ from justification and teach only a righteousness of the Law. But let us return to Paul. 101 No one can infer anything more from this text than that love is necessary. This we confess. So also not to commit theft is necessary. But the reasoning will not be correct if some one would desire to frame thence an argument such as this: “Not to commit theft is necessary. Therefore, not to commit theft justifies.” Because justification is not the approval of a certain work, but of the entire person. Hence this passage from Paul does not harm us; only the adversaries must not in imagination add to it whatever they please. For he does not say that love justifies, but: [“And if I have not love”] “I am nothing,” namely, that faith, however great it may have been, is extinguished. He does not say that love overcomes the terrors of sin and of death, that we can set our love against the wrath and judgment of God, that our love satisfies God’s Law, that without Christ as Propitiator we have access, by our love, to God, that by our love we receive the promised remission of sins. Paul says nothing of this. He does not, therefore, think that love justifies, because we are justified only when we apprehend Christ as Propitiator, and believe that for Christ’s sake God is reconciled to us. Neither is justification even to be dreamed of with the omission of Christ as Propitiator. 102 If there be no need of Christ, if by our love we can overcome death, if by our love, without Christ as Propitiator, we have access to God, then let our adversaries remove the promise concerning Christ, then let them abolish the Gospel [which teaches that we have access to God through Christ as Propitiator, and that we are accepted not for the sake of our fulfilling of the Law, but for Christ’s sake]. 103 The adversaries corrupt very many passages, because they bring to them their own opinions, and do not derive the meaning from the passages themselves. For what difficulty is there in this passage if we remove the interpretation which the adversaries, who do not understand what justification is or how it occurs [what faith is, what Christ is, or how a man is justified before God], out of their own mind attach to it? The Corinthians, being justified before, had received many excellent gifts. In the beginning they glowed with zeal, just as is generally the case. Then dissensions [factions and sects] began to arise among them, as Paul indicates; they began to dislike good teachers. Accordingly, Paul reproves them, recalling them [to unity and] to offices of love. Although these are necessary, yet it would be foolish to imagine that works of the Second Table, through which we have to do with man and not properly with God, justify us. But in justification we have to treat with God; His wrath must be appeased and conscience must be pacified with respect to God. None of these occur through the works of the Second Table [by love, but only by faith, which apprehends Christ and the promise of God. However, it is true that losing love involves losing the Spirit and faith. And thus Paul says: If I have not love, I am nothing. But, he does not add the affirmative statement, that love justifies in the sight of God].
104 But they object that love is preferred to faith and hope. For Paul says, 1 Cor. 13:13: The greatest of these is charity. Now, it is reasonable that the greatest and chief virtue should justify, 105 although Paul, in this passage, properly speaks of love towards one’s neighbor, and indicates that love is the greatest, because it has most fruits. Faith and hope have to do only with God; but love has infinite offices externally towards men. [Love goes forth upon earth among the people, and does much good, by consoling, teaching, instructing, helping, counseling privately and publicly.] Nevertheless, let us, indeed, grant to the adversaries that love towards God and our neighbor is the greatest virtue, because the chief commandment is this: Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, Matt. 22:37. But how will they infer thence that love justifies? 106 The greatest virtue, they say, justifies. By no means. [It would be true if we had a gracious God because of our virtue. Now, it was proven above that we are accepted and justified for Christ’s sake, not because of our virtue; for our virtue is impure.] For just as even the greatest or first Law does not justify, so also the greatest virtue of the Law does not justify. [For as the Law and virtue is higher, and our ability to do the same proportionately lower, we are not righteous because of love.] But that virtue justifies which apprehends Christ, which communicates to us Christ’s merits, by which we receive grace and peace from God. But this virtue is faith. For as it has been often said, faith is not only knowledge, but much rather willing to receive or apprehend those things which are offered in the promise concerning Christ. 107 Moreover this obedience towards God, namely, to wish to receive the offered promise, is no less a divine service, latreiva, than is love. God wishes us to believe Him, and to receive from Him blessings, and this He declares to be true divine service.
108 But the adversaries ascribe justification to love because they everywhere teach and require the righteousness of the Law. For we cannot deny that love is the highest work of the Law. And human wisdom gazes at the Law, and seeks in it justification. Accordingly, also the scholastic doctors, great and talented men, proclaim this as the highest work of the Law, and ascribe to this work justification. But deceived by human wisdom, they did not look upon the uncovered, but upon the veiled face of Moses, just as the Pharisees, philosophers, Mahometans. 109 But we preach the foolishness of the Gospel, in which another righteousness is revealed namely, that for the sake of Christ, as Propitiator, we are accounted righteous, when we believe that for Christ’s sake God has been reconciled to us. Neither are we ignorant how far distant this doctrine is from the judgment of reason and of the Law. Nor are we ignorant that the doctrine of the Law concerning love makes a much greater show; for it is wisdom. But we are not ashamed of the foolishness of the Gospel. For the sake of Christ’s glory we defend this, and beseech Christ, by His Holy Ghost, to aid us that we may be able to make this clear and manifest.
110 The adversaries, in the Confutation, have also cited against us Col. 3:14: Charity, which is the bond of perfectness. From this they infer that love justifies because it renders men perfect. Although a reply concerning perfection could here be made in many ways, yet we will simply recite the meaning of Paul. It is certain that Paul spoke of love towards one’s neighbor. Neither must we indeed think that Paul would ascribe either justification or perfection to the works of the Second Table, rather than to those of the First. And if love render men perfect, there will then be no need of Christ as Propitiator, [However, Paul teaches in all places that we are accepted on account of Christ and not on account of our love, or our works, or of the Law; for no saint (as was stated before) perfectly fulfils the Law. Therefore since he in all places writes and teaches that in this life there is no perfection in our works, it is not to be thought that he speaks here of personal perfection.] for faith apprehends Christ only as Propitiator. This, however, is far distant from the meaning of Paul, who never suffers 111 Christ to be excluded as Propitiator. Therefore he speaks not of personal perfection, but of the integrity common to the Church [concerning the unity of the Church, and the word which they interpret as perfection means nothing else than to be not rent]. For on this account he says that love is a bond or connection, to signify that he speaks of the binding and joining together with each other, of the many members of the Church. For just as in all families and in all states concord should be nourished by mutual offices, and tranquillity cannot be retained unless men overlook and forgive certain mistakes among themselves; so Paul commands that there should be love in the Church in order that it may preserve concord, bear with the harsher manners of brethren as there is need, overlook certain less serious mistakes, lest the Church fly apart into various schisms, and enmities and factions and heresies arise from the schisms.
112 For concord must necessarily be rent asunder whenever either the bishops impose, [without cause] upon the people heavier burdens, or have no respect to weakness in the people. And dissensions arise when the, people judge too severely [quickly censur, and criticize] concerning. the conduct [wall and life] of teachers [bishops or preachers] or despise the teachers because of certain less serious faults; for then both another kind of doctrine and other teachers are sought after. 113 On the other hand, perfection, i. e the integrity of the Church, is preserved, when the strong bear with the weak, when the people take in good part some faults in the conduct of their teachers [have patience also with their preachers], when the bishops make some allowances for the weakness of the people [know how to exercise forbearance to the people, according to circumstances, with respect to all kinds of weaknesses and faults]. 114 Of these precepts of equity the books of all the wise are full, namely, that in every-day life we should make many allowances mutually for the sake of common tranquillity. And of this Paul frequently teaches both here and elsewhere. Wherefore the adversaries argue indiscreetly from. the term “perfection” that love justifies, while Paul speaks of common integrity and tranquillity. And thus Ambrose interprets this passage: Just as a building is said to be perfect or entire when all its parts are fitly joined together with one another. 115 Moreover, it is disgraceful for the adversaries to preach so much concerning love while they nowhere exhibit it. What are they now doing? They are rending asunder churches, they are writing laws in blood, and are proposing to the most clement prince, the Emperor, that these should be promulgated; they are slaughtering priests and other good men, if any one have [even] slightly intimated that he does not entirely approve some manifest abuse. [They wish all dead who say a single word against their godless doctrine.] These things are not consistent with those declamations of love, which if the adversaries would follow, the churches would be tranquil and the state have peace. For these tumults would be quieted if the adversaries would not insist with too much bitterness [from sheer vengeful spite and pharisaical envy, against the truth which they have perceived] upon certain traditions, useless for godliness, most of which not even those very persons observe who most earnestly defend them. But they easily forgive themselves, and yet do not likewise forgive others according to the passage in the poet: I forgive myself, Maevius said. 116 But this is very far distant from those encomiums of love which they here recite from Paul, nor do they understand the word any more than the walls which give it back. 117 From Peter they cite also this sentence, 1 Pet. 4:8: Charity shall cover the multitude of sins. It is evident that also Peter speaks of love towards one’s neighbor, because he joins this passage to the precept by which he commands that they should love one another. Neither could it have come into the mind of any apostle that our love overcomes sin and death; that love is the propitiation on account of which to the exclusion of Christ as Mediator, God is reconciled; that love is righteousness without Christ as Mediator. For this love, if there would be any, would be a righteousness of the Law, and not of the Gospel, which promises to us reconciliation and righteousness if we believe that, for the sake of Christ as Propitiator, the Father has been reconciled, and that the merits of Christ are bestowed upon us. 118 Peter, accordingly, urges us, a little before, to come to Christ that we may be built upon Christ. And he adds, 1 Pet. 2:4-6: He that believeth on Him shall not be confounded. When God judges and convicts us, our love does not free us from confusion [from our works and lives, we truly suffer shame]. But faith in Christ liberates us in these fears, because we know that for Christ’s sake we are forgiven.
119 Besides, this sentence concerning love is derived from Prov. 10:12, where the antithesis clearly shows how it ought to be understood: Hatred stirreth up strifes; but love covereth all sins. 120 It teaches precisely the same thing as that passage of Paul taken from Colossians, that if any dissensions would occur they should be moderated and settled by our equitable and lenient conduct. Dissensions, it says, increase by means of hatred, as we often see that from the most trifling offenses tragedies arise [from the smallest sparks a great conflagration arises]. Certain trifling offenses occurred between Caius Caesar and Pompey, in which, if the one had yielded a very little to the other, civil war would not have arisen. But while each indulged his own hatred, from a matter of no account the greatest commotions arose. 121 And many heresies have arisen in the Church only from the hatred of the teachers. Therefore it does not refer to a person’s own faults, but to the faults of others, when it says: Charity covereth sins, namely, those of others, and that, too, among men, i.e., even though these offenses occur, yet love overlooks them, forgives, yields, and does not carry all things to the extremity of justice. Peter, therefore, does not mean that love merits in God’s sight the remission of sins, that it is a propitiation to the exclusion of Christ as Mediator, that it regenerates and justifies, but that it is not morose, harsh, intractable towards men, that it overlooks some mistakes of its friends, that it takes in good part even the harsher manners of others, just as the well-known maxim enjoins: Know, but do not hate, the manners of a friend. 122 Nor was it without design that the apostle taught so frequently concerning this office what the philosophers call ejpieivkeian, leniency. For this virtue is necessary for retaining public harmony [in the Church and the civil government], which cannot last unless pastors and Churches mutually overlook and pardon many things [if they want to be extremely particular about every defect, and do not allow many things to flow by without noticing them].
123 From James 2:24 they cite: Ye see, then, how by works a man is justified, and not by faith alone. Nor is any other passage supposed to be more contrary to our belief. But the reply is easy and plain. If the adversaries do not attach their own opinions concerning the merits of works, the words of James have in them nothing that is of disadvantage. But wherever there is mention of works, the adversaries add falsely their own godless opinions, that by means of good works we merit the remission of sins; that good works are a propitiation and price on account of which God is reconciled to us; that good works overcome the terrors of sin and of death, that good works are accepted in God’s sight on account of their goodness; and that they do not need mercy and Christ as Propitiator. None of all these things came into the mind of James, which the adversaries nevertheless, defend under the pretext of this passage of James.
124 In the first place, then, we must ponder, this, namely, that the passage is more against the adversaries than against us. For the adversaries teach that man is justified by love and works. Of faith, by which we apprehend Christ as Propitiator, they say nothing. Yea, they condemn this faith, nor do they condemn it only in sentences and writings, but also by the sword and capital punishments they endeavor to exterminate it in the Church. How much better does James teach, who does not omit faith, or present love in preference to faith, but retains faith, so that in justification Christ may not be excluded as Propitiator! Just as Paul also, when he treats of the sum of the Christian life, includes faith and love, 1 Tim. 1:5: The end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.
125 Secondly, the subject itself declares that here such works are spoken of as follow faith, and show that faith is not dead, but living and efficacious in the heart. James, therefore, did not believe that by good works we merit the remission of sins and grace. For he speaks of the works of those who have been justified, who have already been reconciled and accepted, and have obtained remission of sins. Wherefore the adversaries err when they infer that James teaches that we merit remission of sins and grace by good works, and that by our works we have access to God, without Christ as Propitiator.
126 Thirdly, James has spoken shortly before concerning regeneration, namely, that it occurs through the Gospel. For thus he says James 1:18: Of His own will begat He us with the Word of Truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures. When he says that we have been born again by the Gospel, he teaches that we have been born again and justified by faith. For the promise concerning Christ is apprehended only by faith, when we set it against the terrors of sin and of death. James does not, therefore, think that we are born again by our works.
127 From these things it is clear that James does not contradict us, who, when censuring idle and secure minds, that imagine that they have faith, although they do not have it, made a distinction between dead and living faith. 128 He says that that is dead which does not bring forth good works [and fruits of the Spirit obedience, patience, chastity, love]; he says that that is living which brings forth good works. Furthermore, we have frequently already shown what we term faith. For we do not speak of idle knowledge [that merely the history concerning Christ should be known], such as devils have, but of faith which resists the terrors of conscience, and cheers and consoles terrified hearts [the new light and power which the Holy Ghost works in the heart, through which we overcome the terrors of death, of sin, etc.]. 129 Such faith is neither an easy matter, as the adversaries dream [as they say: Believe, believe, how easy it is to believe! etc.], nor a human power [thought which I can form for myself], but a divine power, by which we are quickened, and by which we overcome the devil and death. Just as Paul says to the Colossians 2:12 that faith is efficacious through the power of God, and overcomes death: Wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God. Since this faith is a new life, it necessarily produces new movements and works. [Because it is a new light and life in the heart, whereby we obtain another mind and spirit, it is living, productive, and rich in good works.] Accordingly, James is right in denying that we are justified by such a faith as is 130 without works. But when he says that we are justified by faith and works, he certainly does not say that we are born again by works. Neither does he say this, that partly Christ is our Propitiator, and partly our works are our propitiation. Nor does he describe the mode of justification, but only of what nature the just are, after they have been already justified and regenerated. [For he is speaking of works which should follow faith. There it is well said: He who has faith and good works is righteous, not indeed, on account of the works, but for Christ’s sake, through faith. And as a good tree should bring forth good fruit, and yet the fruit does not make the tree good, so good works must follow the new birth, although they do not make man accepted before God; but as the tree must first be good, so also must man be first accepted before God by faith for Christ’s sake. The works are too insignificant to render God gracious to us for their sake, if He were not gracious to us for Christ’s sake. Therefore James does not contradict St. Paul, and does not say that by our works we merit, etc.] 131 And here to be justified does not mean that a righteous man is made from a wicked man, but to be pronounced righteous in a forensic sense, as also in the passage Rom. 2:13: The doers of the Law shall be justified. As, therefore, these words: The doers of the Law shall be justified, contain nothing contrary to our doctrine, so, too, we believe concerning the words of James: By works a man is justified, and not by faith alone, because men having faith and good works are certainly pronounced righteous. For, as we have said, the good works of saints are righteous, and please on account of faith. For James commends only such works as faith produces, as he testifies when he says of Abraham, James 2:22: Faith wrought with his works. In this sense it is said: The doers of the Law are justified, i.e., they are pronounced righteous who from the heart believe God, and afterwards have good fruits, which please Him on account of faith, and, accordingly, are the fulfilment of the Law. 132 These things, simply spoken, contain nothing erroneous, but they are distorted by the adversaries, who attach to them godless opinions out of their mind. For it does not follow hence that works merit the remission of sins that works regenerate hearts; that works are a propitiation; that works please without Christ as Propitiator; that works do not need Christ as Propitiator. James says nothing of these things, which, nevertheless, the adversaries shamelessly infer from the words of James.
133 Certain other passages concerning works are also cited against us. Luke 6:37: Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Is. 58:7 [ 9 : Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry? … Then shalt thou call, and the Lord will answer. Dan. 4:24 [ 27 : Break off thy sins, by showing mercy to the poor. Matt. 5:3: Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; 134 and Matt. 5:7: Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy. Even these passages would contain nothing contrary to us if the adversaries would not falsely attach something to them. For they contain two things: The one is a preaching either of the Law or of repentance, which not only convicts those doing wrong, but also enjoins them to do what is right; the other is a promise which is added. But it is not added that sins are remitted without faith, or that works themselves are a propitiation. 135 Moreover, in the preaching of the Law these two things ought always to be understood namely: First, that the Law cannot be observed unless we have been regenerated by faith in Christ, just as Christ says, John 15:5: Without Me ye can do nothing. Secondly, and though some external works can certainly be done, this general judgment: Without faith it is impossible to please God, which interprets the whole Law, must be retained; and the Gospel must be retained, that through Christ we have access to the Father, 136 Heb. 10:19; Rom. 5:2. For it is evident that we are not justified by the Law. Otherwise, why would there be need of Christ or the Gospel, if the preaching of the Law alone would be sufficient? Thus in the preaching of repentance, the preaching of the Law, or the Word convicting of sin, is not sufficient, because the Law works wrath, and only accuses, only terrifies consciences, because consciences never are at rest, unless they hear the voice of God in which the remission of sins is clearly promised. Accordingly, the Gospel must be added, that for Christ’s sake sins are remitted, and that we obtain remission of sins by faith in Christ. If the adversaries exclude the Gospel of Christ from the preaching of repentance, they are judged aright to be blasphemers against Christ.
137 Therefore, when Isaiah 1:16-18, preaches repentance: Cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet they shall be white as snow, the prophet thus both exhorts to repentance, and adds the promise. But it would be foolish to consider in such a sentence only the words: Relieve the oppressed; judge the fatherless. For he says in the beginning: Cease to do evil, where he censures impiety of heart and requires faith. Neither does the prophet say that through the works: Relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, they can merit the remission of sins ex opere operato, but he commands such works as are necessary in the new life. Yet, in the mean time, he means that remission of sins is received by faith, and accordingly the promise is added. 138 Thus we must understand all similar passages. Christ preaches repentance when He says: Forgive, and He adds the promise: And ye shall be forgiven, Luke 6:37. Nor, indeed does He say this, namely, that, when we forgive, by this work of ours we merit the remission of sins ex opere operato, as they term it, but He requires a new life, which certainly is necessary. Yet, in the mean time, He means that remission of sins is received by faith. Thus, when Isaiah says, 58:7: Deal thy bread to the hungry, he requires a new life. Nor does the prophet speak of this work alone, but, as the text indicates, of the entire repentance; 139 yet, in the mean time, he intends that remission of sins is received by faith. For the position is sure, and none of the gates of hell can overthrow it, that in the preaching of repentance the preaching of the Law is not sufflcient, because the Law works wrath and always accuses. But the preaching of the Gospel should be added, namely, that in this way remission of sins is granted us, if we believe that sins are remitted us for Christ’s sake. Otherwise, why would there be need of the Gospel, why would there be need of Christ? This belief ought always to be in view, in order that it may be opposed to those who, Christ being cast aside and the Gospel being blotted out, wickedly distort the Scriptures to the human opinions, that by our works we purchase remission of sins.
140 Thus also in the sermon of Daniel 4:24, faith is required. [The words of the prophet, which were full of faith and spirit, we must not regard as heathenish as those of Aristotle, or any other heathen. Aristotle also admonished Alexander that he should not use his power for his own wantonness, but for the improvement of countries and men. This was written correctly and well; concerning the office of king nothing better can be preached or written. But Daniel is speaking to his king, not only concerning his office as king, but concerning repentance, the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation to God, and concerning sublime, great, spiritual subjects, which far transcend human thoughts and works.] For Daniel did not mean that the king should only bestow alms [which even a hypocrite can do], but embraces repentance when he says: Break off [Redeem, Vulg.] thy iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, i.e., break off thy sins by a change of heart and works. But here also faith is required. And Daniel proclaims to him many things concerning the worship of the only God, the God of Israel, and converts the king not only to bestow alms, but much more to faith. For we have the excellent confession of the king concerning the God of Israel: There is no other God that can deliver after this sort, Dan. 3:29. Therefore, in the sermon of Daniel there are two parts. The one part is that which gives commandment concerning the new life and the works of the new life. The other part is, that Daniel promises to the king the remission of sins. [Now, where there is a promise, faith is required. For the promise cannot be received in any other way than by the heart’s relying on such word of God, and not regarding its own worthiness or unworthiness. Accordingly, Daniel also demands faith; for thus the promise reads: There will be healing for thy offenses.] And this promise of the remission of sins is not a preaching of the Law, but a truly prophetical and evangelical voice, of which Daniel certainly meant that it should be received in faith. 141 For Daniel knew that the remission of sins in Christ was promised not only to the Israelites, but also to all nations. Otherwise he could not have promised to the king the remission of sins. For it is not in the power of man, especially amid the terrors of sin, to assert, without a sure word of God concerning God’s will, that He ceases to be angry. And the words of Daniel speak in his own language still more clearly of repentance, and still more clearly bring out the promise: Redeem thy sins by righteousness and thy iniquities by favors toward the poor. These words teach concerning the whole of repentance. [It is as much as to say: Amend your life! And it is true, when we amend our lives, we become rid of sin.] For they direct him to become righteous, then to do good works, to defend the miserable against injustice, as was the duty of a king. 142 But righteousness is faith in the heart. Moreover, sins are redeemed by repentance, i.e., the obligation or guilt is removed, because God forgives those who repent, as it is written in Ezek. 18:21-22. Nor are we to infer from this that He forgives on account of works that follow, on account of alms; but on account of His promise He forgives those who apprehend His promise. Neither do any apprehend His promise, except those who truly believe, and by faith overcome sin and death. These, being regenerated, ought to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, just as John says, Matt. 3:8. The promise, therefore, was added: So, there will be healing for thy offenses, Dan. 4:24. [Daniel does not only demand works, but says: Redeem thy sins by righteousness. Now, everybody knows that in Scripture righteousness does not mean only external works, but embraces faith, as Paul says: Iustus est fide vivet, The just shall live by his faith, Heb. 10:38. Hence, Daniel first demands faith when he mentions righteousness and says: Redeem thy sins by righteousness, that is, by faith toward God, by which thou art made righteous. In addition to this, do good works, administer your office, do not be a tyrant, but see that your government be profitable to your country and people, preserve peace, and protect the poor against unjust force. These are princely alms.] 143 Jerome here added a particle expressing doubt, that is beside the matter, and in his commentaries contends much more unwisely that the remission of sins is uncertain. But let us remember that the Gospel gives a sure promise of the remission of sins. And to deny that there must be a sure promise of the remission of sins would completely abolish the Gospel. Let us therefore dismiss Jerome concerning this passage. Although the promise is displayed even in the word redeem. For it signifies that the remission of sins is possible, that sins can be redeemed, i.e., that their obligation or guilt can be removed, or the wrath of God appeased. But our adversaries, overlooking the promises, everywhere, consider only the precepts, and attach falsely the human opinion that remission occurs on account of works, although the text does not say this, but much rather requires faith. For wherever a promise is, there faith is required. For a promise cannot be received unless by faith. [The same answer must also be given in reference to the passage from the Gospel: Forgive, and you will be forgiven. For this is just such a doctrine of repentance. The first part in this passage demands amendment of life and good works, the other part adds the promise. Nor are we to infer from this that our forgiving merits for us ex opere operato remission of sin. For that is not what Christ says, but as in other sacraments Christ has attached the promise to an external sign, so He attaches the promise of the forgiveness of sin in this place to external good works. And as in the Lord’s Supper we do not obtain forgiveness of sin without faith, ex opere operato, so neither in this action, when we forgive. For, our forgiving is not a good work, except it is performed by a person whose sins have been previously forgiven by God in Christ. If, therefore, our forgiving is to please God, it must follow after the forgiveness which God extends to us. For, as a rule, Christ combines these two, the Law and the Gospel, both faith and good works, in order to indicate that, where good works do not follow, there is no faith either, that we may have external marks, which remind us of the Gospel and the forgiveness of sin, for our comfort, and that thus our faith may be exercised in many ways. In this manner we are to understand such passages, otherwise they would directly contradict the entire Gospel, and our beggarly works would be put in the place of Christ, who alone is to be the propitiation, which no man is by any means to despise. Again, if these passages were to be understood as relating to works, the remission of sins would be quite uncertain; for it would rest on a poor foundation, on our miserable works.]
144 But works become conspicuous among men. Human reason naturally admires these, and because it sees only works, and does not understand or consider faith, it dreams accordingly that these works merit remission of sins and justify. This opinion of the Law inheres by nature in men’s minds; 145 neither can it be expelled, unless when we are divinely taught. But the mind must be recalled from such carnal opinions to the Word of God. We see that the Gospel and the promise concerning Christ have been laid before us. When, therefore, the Law is preached, when works are enjoined, we should not spurn the promise concerning Christ. But the latter must first be apprehended, in order that we may be able to produce good works, and our works may please God, as Christ says, John 15:5: Without Me ye can do nothing. Therefore, if Daniel would have used such words as these: “Redeem your sins by repentance,” the adversaries would take no notice of this passage. Now, since he has actually expressed this thought in apparently other words, the adversaries distort his words to the injury of the doctrine of grace and faith, although Daniel meant most especially to include faith. Thus, therefore, we reply to the words of Daniel, that, inasmuch as he is preaching repentance, he is teaching not only of works, but also of faith, as the narrative itself in the context testifies. Secondly, because Daniel clearly presents the promise, he necessarily requires faith which believes that sins are freely remitted by God. AIthough, therefore, in repentance he mentions works, yet Daniel does not say that by these works we merit remission of sins. For Daniel speaks not only of the remission of the punishment; because remission of the punishment is sought for in vain, unless the heart first receive the remission of guilt. Besides, if the adversaries understand Daniel as speaking only of the remission of punishment, this passage will prove nothing against us, because it will thus be necessary for even them to confess that the remission of sin and free justification precede. Afterwards even we concede that the punishments by which we are chastised, are mitigated by our prayers and good works, and finally by our entire repentance, according to 1 Cor. 11:31: For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. And Jer. 15:19: If thou return, then will I bring thee again. And Zech. 1:3: Turn ye unto Me, and I will turn unto you. And Ps. 50:15: Call upon Me in the day of trouble.
148 Let us, therefore, in all our encomiums upon works and in the preaching of the Law retain this rule: that the Law is not observed without Christ. As He Himself has said: Without Me ye can do nothing. Likewise that: Without faith it is impossible to please God, Heb. 11:6. For it is very certain that the doctrine of the Law is not intended to remove the Gospel, and to remove Christ as Propitiator. And let the Pharisees, our adversaries, be cursed, who so interpret the Law as to ascribe the glory of Christ to works, namely, that they are a propitiation, that they merit the remission of sins. It follows, therefore, that works are always thus praised, namely, that they are pleasing on account of faith, as works do not please without Christ as Propitiator. By Him we have access to God, Rom. 5:2, not by works, without Christ as Mediator. 149 Therefore, when it is said, Matt. 19:17: If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments, we must believe that without Christ the commandments are not kept, and without Him cannot please. Thus in the Decalog itself, in the First Commandment, Ex. 20:6: Showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments, the most liberal promise of the Law is added. But this Law is not observed without Christ. For it always accuses the conscience which does not satisfy the Law, and therefore in terror, flies from the judgment and punishment of the Law. Because the Law worketh wrath, Rom. 4:15. Man observes the Law however, when he hears that for Christ’s sake God is reconciled to us, even though we cannot satisfy the Law. When, by this faith Christ is apprehended as Mediator, the heart finds rest, and begins to love God and observe the Law, and knows that now, because of Christ as Mediator, it is pleasing to God, even though the inchoate fulfilling of the Law 150 be far from perfection and be very impure. Thus we must judge also concerning the preaching of repentance. For although in the doctrine of repentance the scholastics have said nothing at all concerning faith, yet we think that none of our adversaries is so mad as to deny that absolution is a voice of the Gospel. And absolution ought to be received by faith, in order that it may cheer the terrified conscience.
151 Therefore the doctrine of repentance, because it not only commands new works, but also promises the remission of sins, necessarily requires faith. For the remission of sins is not received unless by faith. Therefore, in those passages that refer to repentance, we should always understand that not only works, but also faith is required, as in Matt. 6:14: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Here a work is required, and the promise of the remission of sins is added, which does not occur on account of the work, but through faith, on account of Christ. 152 Just as Scripture testifies in many passages: Acts 10:43: To Him give all the prophets witness that through His name, whosoever believeth in Him, shall receive remission of sins; and 1 John 2:12: Your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake; Eph. 1:7: In whom 153 we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Although what need is there to recite testimonies? This is the very voice peculiar to the Gospel, namely, that for Christ’s sake, and not for the sake of our works, we obtain by faith remission of sins. Our adversaries endeavor to suppress this voice of the Gospel by means of distorted passages which contain the doctrine of the Law, or of works. For it is true that in the doctrine of repentance works are required, because certainly a new life is required. But here the adversaries wrongly add that by such works we merit the remission of sins, or justification. 154 And yet Christ often connects the promise of the remission of sins to good works, not because He means that good works are a propitiation, for they follow reconciliation; but for two reasons. One is, because good fruits must necessarily follow. Therefore He reminds us that, if good fruits do not follow, the repentance is hypocritical and feigned. The other reason is, because we have need of external signs of so great a promise, because 155 a conscience full of fear has need of manifold consolation. As, therefore, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are signs that continually admonish, cheer, and encourage desponding minds to believe the more firmly that their sins are forgiven, so the same promise is written and portrayed in good works, in order that these works may admonish us to believe the more firmly. And those who produce no good works do not excite themselves to believe, but despise these promises. The godly on the other hand, embrace them, and rejoice that they have the signs and testimonies of so great a promise. Accordingly, they exercise themselves in these signs and testimonies. Just as, therefore, the Lord’s Supper does not justify us ex opere operato, without faith, so alms do not justify us without faith, ex opere operato.
156 So also the address of Tobias 4:11, ought to be received: Alms free from every sin and from death. We will not say that this is hyperbole, although it ought thus to be received, so as not to detract from the praise of Christ, whose prerogative it is to free from sin and death. But we must come back to the rule that without Christ the doctrine of the Law 157 is of no profit. Therefore those alms please God which follow reconciliation or justification, and not those which precede. Therefore they free from sin and death, not ex opere operato, but, as we have said above concerning repentance, that we ought to embrace faith and its fruits, so here we must say concerning alms that this entire newness of life saves [that they please God because they occur in believers]. Alms also are the exercises of faith, which receives the remission of sins and overcomes death, while it exercises itself more and more, and in these exercises receives strength. We grant also this, that alms merit many favors from God [but they cannot overcome death, hell, the devil, sins, and give the conscience peace (for this must occur alone through faith in Christ)], mitigate punishments, and that they merit our defense in the dangers of sins and of death, as we have said a little before concerning the entire repentance. [This is the simple meaning, which agrees also with other passages of Scripture. For wherever in the Scriptures good works are praised, we must always understand them according to the rule of Paul, that the Law and works must not be elevated above Christ, but that Christ and faith are as far above all works as the heavens are above the earth.] 158 And the address of Tobias, regarded as a whole, shows that faith is required before alms, Tobias 4:5: Be mindful of the Lord, thy God, all thy days. And afterwards, Tobias 4:19: Bless the Lord, thy God, always, and desire of Him that thy ways be directed. This, however, belongs properly to that faith of which we speak, which believes that God is reconciled to it because of His mercy, and which wishes to be justified sanctified, and governed by God. 159 But our adversaries, charming men, pick out mutilated sentences, in order to deceive those who are unskilled. Afterwards they attach something from their own opinions. Therefore, entire passages are to be required, because, according to the common precept, it is unbecoming, before the entire Law is thoroughly examined, to judge or reply when any single clause of it is presented. And passages, when produced in their entirety, very frequently bring the interpretation with them.
160 Luke 11:41 is also cited in a mutilated form, namely: Give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. The adversaries are very stupid [are deaf, and have callous ears; therefore, we must so often etc.]. For time and again we have said that to the preaching of the Law there should be added the Gospel concerning Christ, because of whom good works are pleasing, but they everywhere teach (without shame] that, Christ being excluded, 161 justification is merited by the works of the Law. When this passage is produced unmutilated, it will show that faith is required. Christ rebukes the Pharisees who think that they are cleansed before God, i.e., that they are justified by frequent ablutions [by all sorts of baptismata carnis, that is, by all sorts of baths, washings, and cleansings of the body, of vessels, of garments]. Just as some Pope or other says of the water sprinkled with salt that it sanctifies and cleanses the people; and the gloss says that it cleanses from venial sins. Such also were the opinions of the Pharisees which Christ reproved, and to this feigned cleansing He opposes a double cleanness, the one internal, the other external. He bids them be cleansed inwardly [(which occurs only through faith)], and adds concerning the outward cleanness: Give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. 162 The adversaries do not apply aright the universal particle all things; for Christ adds this conclusion to both members: “All things will be clean unto you, if you will be clean within, and will outwardly give alms.” For He indicates that outward cleanness is to be referred to works commanded by God, and not to human traditions, such as the ablutions were at that time, and the daily sprinkling of water, the vesture of monks, the distinctions of food, and similar acts of ostentation are now. But the adversaries distort the meaning by sophistically transferring the universal particle to only one part: 163 “All things will be clean to those having given alms.” (As if any one would infer: Andrew is present; therefore all the apostles are present. Wherefore in the antecedent both members ought to be joined: Believe and give alms. For to this the entire mission, the entire office of Christ points; to this end He is come that we should believe in Him. Now, if both parts are combined, believing and giving alms, it follows rightly that all things are clean: the heart by faith, the external conversation by good works. Thus we must combine the entire sermon, and not invert the parts, and interpret the text to mean that the heart is cleansed from sin by alms. Moreover, there are some who think that these words were spoken by Christ against the Pharisees ironically, as if He meant to say: Aye, my dear lords, rob and steal, and then go and give alms, and you will be promptly cleansed, so that Christ would in a somewhat sarcastic and mocking way puncture their pharisaical hypocrisy. For, although they abounded in unbelief, avarice, and every evil work, they still observed their purifications, gave alms, and believed that they were quite pure, lovely saints. This interpretation is not contrary to the text.] Yet Peter says, Acts 15:9, that hearts are purified by faith. And when this entire passage is examined, it presents a meaning harmonizing with the rest of Scripture, that, if the hearts are cleansed, and then outwardly alms are added, i.e., all the works of love, they are thus entirely clean, i.e., not only within, but also without. And why is not the entire discourse added to it? There are many parts of the reproof, some of which give commandment concerning faith, and others concerning works. Nor is it the part of a candid reader to pick out the commands concerning works, while the passages concerning faith are omitted.
164 Lastly, readers are to be admonished of this, namely, that the adversaries give the worst advice to godly consciences when they teach that by works the remission of sins is merited, because conscience, in acquiring remission through works, cannot be confident that the work will satisfy God. Accordingly, it is always tormented, and continually devises other works and other acts of worship, until it altogether despairs. This course is described by Paul, Rom. 4:5, where he proves that the promise of righteousness is not obtained because of our works, because we could never affirm that we had a reconciled God. For the Law always accuses. Thus the promise would be in vain and uncertain. He accordingly concludes that this promise of the remission of sins and of righteousness is received by faith, not on account of works. This is the true, simple, and genuine meaning of Paul, in which the greatest consolation is offered godly consciences, and the glory of Christ is shown forth, who certainly was given to us for this purpose, namely, that through Him we might have grace, righteousness, and peace.
165 Thus far we have reviewed the principal passages which the adversaries cite against us, in order to show that faith does not justify, and that we merit, by our works, remission of sins and grace. But we hope that we have shown clearly enough to godly consciences that these passages are not opposed to our doctrine; that the adversaries wickedly distort the Scriptures to their opinions; that the most of the passages which they cite have been garbled; that, while omitting the clearest passages concerning faith, they only select from the Scriptures passages concerning works, and even these they distort; that everywhere they add certain human opinions to that which the words of Scripture say; that they teach the Law in such a manner as to suppress the Gospel concerning Christ. 166 For the entire doctrine of the adversaries is, in part, derived from human reason, and is, in part, a doctrine of the Law, not of the Gospel. For they teach two modes of justification, of which the one has been derived from reason and the other from the Law, not from the Gospel, or the promise concerning Christ.
167 The former mode of justification with them is, that they teach that by good works men merit grace both de congruo and de condigno. This mode is a doctrine of reason, because reason, not seeing the uncleanness of the heart, thinks that it pleases God if it perform good works, and for this reason other works and other acts of worship are constantly devised, by men in great peril, against the terrors of conscience. The heathen and the Israelites slew human victims, and undertook many other most painful works in order to appease God’s wrath. Afterwards, orders of monks were devised, and these vied with each other in the severity of their observances against the terrors of conscience and God’s wrath. And this mode of justification, because it is according to reason, and is altogether occupied with outward works, can be understood, and to a certain extent be rendered. And to this the canonists have distorted the misunderstood Church ordinances, which were enacted by the Fathers for a far different purpose, namely, not that by these works we should seek after righteousness, but that, for the sake of mutual tranquillity among men, there might be a certain order in the Church. In this manner they also distorted the Sacraments, and most especially the Mass, through which they seek ex opere operato righteousness, grace, and salvation.
168 Another mode of justification is handed down by the scholastic theologians when they teach that we are righteous through a habit infused by God, which is love, and that, aided by this habit, we observe the Law of God outwardly and inwardly, and that this fulfilling of the Law is worthy of grace and of eternal life. This doctrine is plainly the doctrine of the Law. For that is true which the Law says: Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, etc., Deut. 6:5. Thou shalt love thy neighbor, Lev. 19:18. Love is, therefore, the fulfilling of the Law.
169 But it is easy for a Christian to judge concerning both modes, because both modes exclude Christ, and are therefore to be rejected. In the former, which teaches that our works are a propitiation for sin, the impiety is manifest. The latter mode contains much that is injurious. It does not teach that, when we are born again, we avail ourselves of Christ. It does not teach that justification is the remission of sins. It does not teach that we attain the remission of sins before we love, but falsely represents that we rouse in ourselves the act of love, through which we merit remission of sins. Nor does it teach that by faith in Christ we overcome the terrors of sin and death. It falsely represents that, by their own fulfilling of the Law, without Christ as Propitiator, men come to God. Finally, it represents that this very fulfilling of the Law, without Christ as Propitiator, is righteousness worthy of grace and eternal life, while nevertheless scarcely a weak and feeble fulfilling of the Law occurs even in saints.
170 But if any one will only reflect upon it that the Gospel has not been given in vain to the world, and that Christ has not been promised, set forth, has not been born, has not suffered, has not risen again in vain, he will most readily understand that we are justified not from reason or from the Law. In regard to justification, we therefore are compelled to dissent from the adversaries. For the Gospel shows another mode; the Gospel compels us to avail ourselves of Christ in justification; it teaches that through Him we have access to God by faith; it teaches that we ought to set Him as Mediator and Propitiator against God’s wrath; it teaches that by faith in Christ the remission of sins and reconciliation are received, 171 and the terrors of sin and of death overcome. Thus Paul also says that righteousness is not of the Law, but of the promise, in which the Father has promised that He wishes to forgive, that for Christ’s sake He wishes to be reconciled. This promise, however, is received by faith alone, as Paul testifies, Rom. 4:13. This faith alone receives remission of sins, justifies, and regenerates. Then love and other good fruits follow. Thus, therefore, we teach that man is justified, as we have above said, when conscience, terrified by the preaching of repentance, is cheered and believes that for Christ’s sake it has a reconciled God. This faith is counted for righteousness before God, Rom. 4:3-5. 172 And when in this manner the heart is cheered and quickened by faith, it receives the Holy Ghost, who renews us, so that we are able to observe the Law; so that we are able to love God and the Word of God, and to be submissive to God in afflictions; so that we are able to be chaste, to love our neighbor, etc. Even though these works are as yet far distant from the perfection of the Law, yet they please on account of faith, by which we are accounted righteous, because we believe that for Christ’s sake we have a reconciled God. 173 These things are plain and in harmony with the Gospel, and can be understood by persons of sound mind. And from this foundation it can easily be decided why we ascribe justification to faith, and not to love; although love follows faith, because love is the fulfilling of the Law. But Paul teaches that we are justified not from the Law, but from the promise which is received only by faith. For we neither come to God without Christ as Mediator, nor receive remission of sins for the sake of our love, but for the sake of Christ. 174 Likewise we are not able to love God while He is angry, and the Law always accuses us, always manifests to us an angry God. Therefore, by faith we must first apprehend the promise that for Christ’s sake the Father is reconciled and forgives. 175 Afterwards we begin to observe the Law. Our eyes are to be cast far away from human reason, far away from Moses upon Christ, and we are to believe that Christ is given us, in order that for His sake we may be accounted righteous. In the flesh we never satisfy the Law. Thus, therefore, we are accounted righteous, not on account of 176 the Law, but on account of Christ, because His merits are granted us, if we believe on Him. If any one, therefore, has considered these foundations, that we are not justified by the Law, because human nature cannot observe the Law of God and cannot love God, but that we are justified from the promise, in which, for Christ’s sake, reconciliation, righteousness, and eternal life have been promised, he will easily understand that justification must necessarily be ascribed to faith, if he only will reflect upon the fact that it is not in vain that Christ has been promised and set forth, that He has been born and has suffered and been raised again; if he will reflect upon the fact that the promise of grace in Christ is not in vain, that it was made immediately from the beginning of the world, apart from and beyond the Law; if he will reflect upon the fact that the promise should be received by faith, as 1 John 5:10 sq. says: He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son. And this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. And Christ says, John 8:36: If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. And Paul, Rom. 5:2: By whom also we have access to God; and he adds: by faith. By faith in Christ, therefore, the promise of remission of sins and of righteousness is received. Neither are we justified before God by reason or by the Law.
177 These things are so plain and so manifest that we wonder that the madness of the adversaries is so great as to call them into doubt. The proof is manifest that, since we are justified before God not from the Law, but from the promise, it is necessary to ascribe justification to faith. What can be opposed to 178 this proof, unless some one wish to abolish the entire Gospel and the entire Christ? The glory of Christ becomes more brilliant when we teach that we avail ourselves of Him as Mediator and Propitiator. Godly consciences see that in this doctrine the most abundant consolation is offered to them, namely, that they ought to believe and most firmly assert that they have a reconciled Father for Christ’s sake, and not for the sake of our righteousness, and 179 that, nevertheless, Christ aids us, so that we are able to observe also the Law. Of such great blessings as these the adversaries deprive the Church when they condemn, and endeavor to efface, the doctrine concerning the righteousness of faith. Therefore let all well-disposed minds beware of consenting to the godless counsels of the adversaries. In the doctrine of the adversaries concerning justification no mention is made of Christ, and how we ought to set Him against the wrath of God, as though, indeed, we were able to overcome the wrath of God by love, or to love an angry God. 180 In regard to these things, consciences are left in uncertainty. For if they are to think that they have a reconciled God for the reason that they love, and that they observe the Law, they must needs always doubt whether they have a reconciled God, because they either do not feel this love, as the adversaries acknowledge, or they certainly feel that it is very small; and much more frequently do they feel that they are angry at the judgment of God, who oppresses human nature with many terrible evils, with troubles of this life, the terrors of eternal wrath, etc. When, therefore, will conscience be at rest, when will it be pacified? When, in this doubt and in these terrors, will it love God? What else is the doctrine of the Law than a doctrine of despair? 181 And let any one of our adversaries come forward who can teach us concerning this love, how he himself loves God. They do not at all understand what they say; they only echo, just like the walls of a house, the little word “love,” without understanding it. So confused and obscure is their doctrine: it not only transfers the glory of Christ to human works, but also leads consciences either to presumption or to despair. 182 But ours, we hope, is readily understood by pious minds, and brings godly and salutary consolation to terrified consciences. For as the adversaries quibble that also many wicked men and devils believe, we have frequently already said that we speak of faith in Christ, i.e., of faith in the remission of sins, of faith which truly and heartily assents to the promise of grace. This is not brought about without a great struggle in human hearts. And men of sound mind can easily judge that the faith which believes that we are cared for by God, and that we are forgiven and heard by Him, is a matter above nature. For of its own accord the human mind makes no such decision concerning God. Therefore this faith of which we speak is neither in the wicked nor in devils.
183 Furthermore, if any sophist cavils that righteousness is in the will, and therefore it cannot be ascribed to faith, which is in the intellect, the reply is easy, because in the schools even such persons acknowledge that the will commands the intellect to assent to the Word of God. We say also quite clearly: Just as the terrors of sin and death are not only thoughts of the intellect, but also horrible movements of the will fleeing God’s judgment, so faith is not only knowledge in the intellect, but also confidence in the will, i.e., it is to wish and to receive that which is offered in the promise, namely, reconciliation and remission of sins. 184 Scripture thus uses the term “faith,” as the following sentence of Paul testifies, Rom. 5:1: Being justified by faith, we have peace with God. Moreover, in this passage, to justify signifies, according to forensic usage, to acquit a guilty one and declare him righteous, but on account of the righteousness of another, 185 namely, of Christ, which righteousness of another is communicated to us by faith. Therefore, since in this passage our righteousness is the imputation of the righteousness of another, we must here speak concerning righteousness otherwise than when in philosophy or in a civil court we seek after the righteousness of one’s own work, which certainly is in the will. Paul accordingly says, 1 Cor. 1:30: Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption. And 2 Cor. 5:21: 186 He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. But because the righteousness of Christ is given us by faith, faith is for this reason righteousness in us imputatively, i.e., it is that by which we are made acceptable to God on account of the imputation and ordinance of God, as Paul says, 187 Rom. 4:3-5: Faith is reckoned for righteousness. Although on account of certain captious persons we must say technically: Faith is truly righteousness, because it is obedience to the Gospel. For it is evident that obedience to the command of a superior is truly a species of distributive justice. And this obedience to the Gospel is reckoned for righteousness, so that, only on account of this, because by this we apprehend Christ as Propitiator, good works, or obedience to the Law, are pleasing. For we do not satisfy the Law, but for Christ’s sake this is forgiven us, as Paul says, Rom. 8:1: There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. This faith gives God the honor, gives God 188 that which is His own, in this, that, by receiving the promises, it obeys Him. Just as Paul also says, Rom. 4:20: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. 189 Thus the worship and divine service of the Gospel is to receive from God gifts; on the contrary, the worship of the Law is to offer and present our gifts to God. We can, however, offer nothing to God unless we have first been reconciled and born again. This passage, too, brings the greatest consolation, as the chief worship of the Gospel is to wish to receive remission of sins, grace, and righteousness. Of this worship Christ says, John 6:40: This is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life. And the Father says, Matt. 17:5: This is My beloved Son, 190 in whom I am well pleased, hear ye Him. The adversaries speak of obedience to the Law; they do not speak of obedience to the Gospel; and yet we cannot obey the Law, unless, through the Gospel, we have been born again, since we cannot love God, unless the remission of sins has been received. 191 For as long as we feel that He is angry with us, human nature flees from His wrath and judgment. If any one should make a cavil such as this: If that be faith which wishes those things that are offered in the promise, the habits of faith and hope seem to be confounded, because hope is that which expects promised things, —to this we reply that these dispositions cannot in reality be severed, in the manner that they are divided by idle speculations in the schools. For also in the Epistle to the Hebrews faith is defined as the substance ( exspectatio) of things hoped for, Heb. 11:1. Yet if any one wish a distinction to be made, we say that the object of hope is properly a future event, but that faith is concerned with future and present things, and receives in the present the remission of sins offered in the promise.
192 From these statements we hope that it can be sufficiently understood, both what faith is, and that we are compelled to hold that by faith we are justified, reconciled, and regenerated, if, indeed, we wish to teach the righteousness of the Gospel, and not the righteousness of the Law. For those who teach that we are justified by love teach the righteousness of the Law, 193 and do not teach us in justification to avail ourselves of Christ as Mediator. These things also are manifest, namely, that not by love, but by faith, we overcome the terrors of sin and death, that we cannot oppose our love and fulfilling of the Law to the wrath of God, because Paul says, Rom. 5:2: By Christ we have access to God by faith. We urge this sentence so frequently for the sake of perspicuity. For it shows most clearly the state of our whole case, and, when carefully considered, can teach abundantly concerning the whole matter, and can console well-disposed minds. Accordingly, it is of advantage to have it at hand and in sight, not only that we may be able to oppose it to the doctrine of our adversaries, who teach that we come to God not by faith, but by love and merits, without Christ as Mediator; and also, at the same time that, 194 when in fear, we may cheer ourselves and exercise faith. This is also manifest, that without the aid of Christ we cannot observe the Law, as He Himself says, John 15:5: Without Me ye can do nothing. Accordingly, before we observe the Law, our hearts must be born again by faith. [From the explanations which we have made it can easily be inferred what answer must be given to similar quotations. For the rule so interprets all passages that treat of good works that outside of Christ they are to be worthless before God, and that the heart must first have Christ, and believe that it is accepted with God for Christ’s sake, not because of its own works. The adversaries also bring forward some arguments of the schools, which are easily answered, if you know what faith is. Tried Christians speak of faith quite differently from the sophists, for we have shown before that to believe means to rely on the mercy of God, that He desires to be gracious for Christ’s sake, without our merits. That is what it means to believe the article of the forgiveness of sin. To believe this does not mean to know the history only, which the devils also know. Therefore we can easily meet the argument of the schools when they say that the devils also believe, therefore faith does not justify. Aye, the devils know the history, but they do not believe the forgiveness of sin. Again, they say: To be righteous is to be obedient. Now, to perform works is certainly obedience; therefore works must justify. We should answer this as follows: To be righteous is a kind of obedience which God accepts as such. Now, God is not willing to accept our obedience in works as righteousness; for it is not an obedience of the heart, because none truly keep the Law. For this reason He has ordained that there should be another kind of obedience which He will accept as righteousness, namely, that we are to acknowledge our disobedience, and trust that we are pleasing to God for Christ’s sake, not on account of our obedience. Accordingly, to be righteous in this case means to be pleasing to God, not on account of our own obedience, but from mercy for Christ’s sake. Again, to sin is to hate God; therefore, to love God must be righteousness. True, to love God is the righteousness of the Law. But nobody fulfils this Law. Therefore the Gospel teaches a new kind of righteousness, namely, that we are pleasing to God for Christ’s sake, although we have not fulfilled the Law; and yet, we are to begin to do the Law. Again, what is the difference between faith and hope? Answer: Hope expects future blessings and deliverance from tribulation; faith receives the present reconciliation, and concludes in the heart, that God has forgiven my sin, and that He is now gracious to me. And this is a noble service of God, which serves God by giving Him the honor, and by esteeming His mercy and promise so sure that without merit we can receive and expect from Him all manner of blessings. And in this service of God the heart should be exercised and increase, of which the foolish sophists know nothing.]
195 Hence it can also be understood why we find fault with the doctrine of the adversaries concerning meritum condigni. The decision is very easy: because they do not make mention of faith, that we please God by faith for Christ’s sake, but imagine that good works, wrought by the aid of the habit of love, constitute a righteousness worthy by itself to please God, and worthy of eternal life, and that they have no need of Christ as Mediator. [This can in no wise be tolerated.] 196 What else is this than to transfer the glory of Christ to our works, namely, that we please God because of our works, and not because of Christ? But this is also to rob Christ of the glory of being the Mediator, who is Mediator perpetually, and not merely in the beginning of justification. Paul also says, Gal. 2:17, that if one justified in Christ have need afterwards to seek righteousness elsewhere, he affirms of Christ that He is a minister of sin, i.e., that 197 He does not fully justify. [And this is what the holy, catholic, Christian Church teaches, preaches, and confesses, namely, that we are saved by mercy, as we have shown above from Jerome.] And most absurd is that which the adversaries teach, namely, that good works merit grace de condigno, as though indeed after the beginning of justification, if conscience is terrifled, as is ordinarily the case, grace must be sought through a good work, and not by faith in Christ.
198 Secondly, the doctrine of the adversaries leaves consciences in doubt, so that they never can be pacified, because the Law always accuses us, even in good works. For always the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, Gal. 5:17. How, therefore, will conscience here have peace without faith, if it believe that, not for Christ’s sake, but for the sake of one’s own work, it ought now to please God? What work will it find, upon what will it firmly rely as worthy of eternal life, if, indeed, hope ought to originate from merits? 199 Against these doubts Paul says, Rom. 5:1: Being justified by faith, we have peace with God; we ought to be firmly convinced that for Christ’s sake righteousness and eternal life are granted us. And of Abraham he says, Rom. 4:18: Against hope he believed in hope.
200 Thirdly, how will conscience know when, by the inclination of this habit of love, a work has been done of which it may affirm that it merits grace de condigno? But it is only to elude the Scriptures that this very distinction has been devised, namely, that men merit at one time de congruo and at another time de condigno, because, as we have above said, the intention of the one who works does not distinguish the kinds of merit; but hypocrites, in their security, think simply their works are worthy, and that for this reason they are accounted righteous. On the other hand, terrified consciences doubt concerning all works, and for this reason are continually seeking other works. For this is what it means to merit de congruo, namely, to doubt and, without faith, to work, until despair takes place. In a word, all that the adversaries teach in regard to this matter is full of errors and dangers.
201 Fourthly, the entire [the holy, catholic, Christian] Church confesses that eternal life is attained through mercy. For thus Augustine speaks On Grace and Free Will, when, indeed, he is speaking of the works of the saints wrought after justification: God leads us to eternal life not by our merits, but according to His mercy. And Confessions, Book IX: Woe to the life of man, however much it may be worthy of praise, if it be judged with mercy removed. And Cyprian in his treatise on the Lord’s Prayer: Lest any one should flatter himself that he is innocent, and by exalting himself, should perish the more deeply, he is instructed and taught that he sins 202 daily, in that he is bidden to entreat daily for his sins. But the subject is well known, and has very many and very clear testimonies in Scripture, and in the Church Fathers, who all with one mouth declare that, even 203 though we have good works, yet in these very works we need mercy. Faith looking upon this mercy cheers and consoles us. Wherefore the adversaries teach erroneously when they so extol merits as to add nothing concerning this faith that apprehends mercy. For just as we have above said that the promise and faith stand in a reciprocal relation, and that the promise is not apprehended unless by faith, so we here say that the promised mercy correlatively requires faith, and cannot be apprehended without faith. Therefore we justly find fault with the doctrine concerning meritum condigni, since it teaches nothing of justifying faith, 204 and obscures the glory and office of Christ as Mediator. Nor should we be regarded as teaching anything new in this matter, since the Church Fathers have so clearly handed down the doctrine that even in good works we need mercy.
205 Scripture also often inculcates the same. In Ps. 143:2: And enter not into judgment with Thy servant; for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified. This passage denies absolutely, even to all saints and servants of God, the glory of righteousness, if God does not forgive, but judges and convicts their hearts. For when David boasts in other places of his righteousness, he speaks concerning his own cause against the persecutors of God’s Word; he does not speak of his personal purity; and he asks that the cause and glory of God be defended, as in Ps. 7:8: Judge me, O Lord, according to Thy righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me. Likewise in Ps. 130:3, he says that no one can endure God’s judgment, if God were to mark our sins: 206 If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? Job 9:28: I am afraid of all my sorrows [Vulg., opera, works]; Job 9:30: If I wash myself with snow-water, and make my hands never so clean, yet Thou shalt plunge me in the ditch. Prov. 20:9: Who can 207 say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin? 1 John 1:8: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, etc. 208 And in the Lord’s Prayer the saints ask for the remission of sins. Therefore even the saints have sins. Num. 14:18: The innocent shall not be innocent [cf. Ex. 34:7). Deut. 4:24: The Lord, thy God, is a consuming fire. Zechariah 2:13 also says: Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord. Is. 40:6: All flesh is as grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field; the grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it, i.e., flesh and righteousness of the flesh cannot endure the judgment of God. 209 Jonah 2:8 also says: They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy, i.e., all confidence is vain, except confidence in mercy; mercy delivers us; our own merits, our own efforts, do not. 210 Accordingly, Daniel, also prays, Dan. 9:18 sq.: For we do not present our supplications before Thee for our righteousnesses, but for Thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do it; defer not for Thine own sake, O my God; for Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name. Thus Daniel teaches us in praying to lay hold upon mercy, i.e., to trust in God’s mercy, and not to trust in our own 211 merits before God. We also wonder what our adversaries do in prayer, if, indeed; the profane men ever ask anything of God. If they declare that they are worthy because they have love and good works, and ask for grace as a debt, they pray precisely like the Pharisee in Luke 18:11, who says: I am not as other men are. He who thus prays for grace, and does not rely upon God’s mercy, treats Christ with dishonor, who, since He is our High Priest, intercedes 212 for us. Thus, therefore, prayer relies upon God’s mercy, when we believe that we are heard for the sake of Christ, the High Priest, as He Himself says, John 14:13: Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you. In My, name, He says, because without this High Priest we cannot approach the Father.
The following, through paragraph 213, are left out of the Readers Edition.
[All prudent men will see what follows from the opinion of the adversaries. For if we shall believe that Christ has merited only the prima gratia, as they call it, and that we afterwards merit eternal life by our works, hearts or consciences will he pacified neither at the hour of death, nor at any other time, nor can they ever build upon certain ground; they are never certain that God is gracious. Thus their doctrine unintermittingly leads to nothing but misery of soul and, finally, to despair. For God’s Law is not a matter of pleasantry; it ceaselessly accuses consciences outside of Christ, as Paul says, Rom. 4:15: The Law worketh wrath. Thus it will happen that if consciences feel the judgment of God, they have no certain comfort and will rush into despair.
Paul says: Whatsoever is not of faith is sin, Rom. 14:23. But those persons can do nothing from faith who are first to attain to this that God is gracious to them only when they have at length fulfilled the Law. They will always quake with doubt whether they have done enough good works, whether the Law has been satisfied, yea, they will keenly feel and understand that they are still under obligation to the Law. Accordingly, they will never be sure that they have a gracious God, and that their prayer is heard. Therefore they can never truly love God, nor expect any blessing from Him, nor truly worship God. What else are such hearts and consciences than hell itself, since there is nothing in them but despair, fainting away, grumbling, discontent, and hatred of God, and yet in this hatred they invoke and worship God, just as Saul worshiped Him.
Here we appeal to all Christian minds and to all that are experienced in trials; they will be forced to confess and say that such great uncertainty, such disquietude, such torture and anxiety, such horrible fear and doubt follow from this teaching of the adversaries who imagine that we are accounted righteous before God by our own works or fulfilling of the Law which we perform, and point us to Queer Street by bidding us trust not in the rich, blessed promises of Grace, given us by Christ the Mediator, but in our own miserable works. Therefore, this conclusion stands like a rock, yea, like a wall, namely, that, although we have begun to do the Law, still we are accepted with God and at peace with Him, not on account of such works of ours, but for Christ’s sake by faith; nor does God, owe us everlasting life on account of these works. But just as forgiveness of sin and righteousness is imputed to us for Christ’s sake, not on account of our works, or the Law, so everlasting life, together with righteousness, is offered us, not on account of our works, or of the Law, but for Christ’s sake, as Christ says, John 6:40: This is the Father’s will that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life. Again, John 6:47: He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life. Now, the adversaries should be asked at this point what advice they give to poor consciences in the hour of death: whether they comfort consciences by telling them that they will have a blessed departure, that they will be saved, and have a propitiated God, because of their own merits, or because of God’s grace and mercy for Christ’s sake. For St. Peter, St. Paul, and saints like them cannot boast that God owes them eternal life for their martyrdom, nor have they relied on their works, but on the mercy promised in Christ.
Nor would it be possible that a saint, great and high though he be, could make a firm stand against the accusations of the divine Law, the great might of the devil, the terror of death, and, finally, against despair and the anguish of hell, if he would not grasp the divine promises, the Gospel, as a tree or branch in the great flood, in the strong, violent stream, amidst the waves and billows of the anguish of death; if he does not cling by faith to the Word, which proclaims grace, and thus obtains eternal life without works, without the Law, from pure grace. For this doctrine alone preserves Christian consciences in afflictions and anguish of death. Of these things the adversaries know nothing, and talk of them like a blind man about color.
Here they will say: If we are to be saved by pure mercy, what difference is there between those who are saved, and those who are not saved? If merit is of no account, there is no difference between the evil and the good, and it follows that both are saved alike. This argument has moved the scholastics to invent the meritum condigni; for there must be (they think) a difference between those who are saved, and those who are damned.
We reply, in the first place, that everlasting life is accorded to those whom God esteems just, and when they have been esteemed just, they are become, by that act, the children of God and coheirs of Christ, as Paul says, Rom. 8:30: Whom He justified, them He also glorified. Hence nobody is saved except only those who believe the Gospel. But as our reconciliation with God is uncertain if it is to rest on our works, and not on the gracious promise of God, which cannot fail, so, too, all that we expect by hope would be uncertain if it must be built on the foundation of our merits and works. For the Law of God ceaselessly accuses the conscience, and men feel in their hearts nothing but this voice from the fiery, flaming cloud: I am the Lord, thy God; this thou shalt do; that thou art obliged to do; this I require of thee. Deut. 5:6ff No conscience can for a moment be at rest when the Law and Moses assails the heart, before it apprehends Christ by faith. Nor can it truly hope for eternal life, unless it be pacified before. For a doubting conscience flees from God, despairs, and cannot hope. However, hope of eternal life must be certain. Now, in order that it may not be fickle, but certain, we must believe that we have eternal life, not by our works or merits, but from pure grace, by faith in Christ.
In secular affairs and in secular courts we meet with both, mercy and justice. Justice is certain by the laws and the verdict rendered; mercy is uncertain. In this matter that relates to God the case is different; for grace and mercy have been promised us by a certain word, and the Gospel is the word which commands us to believe that God is gracious and wishes to save us for Christ’s sake, as the text reads, John 3:17: God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not condemned.
Now, whenever we speak of mercy, the meaning is to be this, that faith is required, and it is this faith that makes the difference between those who are saved, and those who are damned, between those who are worthy, and those who are unworthy. For everlasting life has been promised to none but those who have been reconciled by Christ. 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.
Now, just as we say that true repentance is to endure throughout our entire life, we say, too, that good works and the fruits of faith must be done throughout our life, although our works never become so precious as to be equal to the treasure of Christ, or to merit eternal life, as Christ says, Luke 17:10: When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants. And St. Bernard truly says: There is need that you must first believe that you cannot have forgiveness of sin except by the grace of God; next, that thereafter you cannot have and do any good work, unless God grants it to you; lastly, that you cannot earn eternal life with your works, though it is not given you without merit. A little further on he says: Let no one deceive himself; for when you rightly consider the matter, you will undoubtedly find that you cannot meet with ten thousand him who approaches you with twenty thousand. These are strong sayings of St. Bernard; let them believe these if they will not believe us.
In order, then, that hearts may have a true, certain comfort and hope, we point them, with Paul, to the divine promise of grace in Christ, and teach that we must believe that God gives us eternal life, not on account of our works, but for Christ’s sake, as the Apostle John says in his Epistle, 1 John 5:12: He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.]
213 Here belongs also the declaration of Christ, Luke 17:10: So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants. These words clearly declare that God saves by mercy and on account of His promise, not that it is due on account of the value 214 of our works. But at this point the adversaries play wonderfully with the words of Christ. In the first place, they make an antistrophe and turn it against us. Much more, they say, can it be said: “If we have believed all things, say, We are unprofitable servants.” 215 Then they add that works are of no profit to God, but are not without profit to us. See how the puerile study of sophistry delights the adversaries, and although these absurdities do not deserve a refutation, nevertheless we will reply to them in a few words. The antistrophe is defective. 216 For, in the first place, the adversaries are deceived in regard to the term faith; because, if it would signify that knowledge of the history which is also in the wicked and in devils, the adversaries would be correct in arguing that faith is unprofitable when they say: “When we have believed all things, say, We are unprofitable servants.” But we are speaking, not of the knowledge of the history, but of confidence in the promise and mercy of God. And this confidence in the promise confesses that we are unprofitable servants; yea, this confession that our works are unworthy is the very voice of faith, as appears in this example of Daniel 9:18, which we cited a little above: We do not present Our supplications before Thee for our righteousnesses, etc. 217 For faith saves because it apprehends mercy, or the promise of grace, even though our works are unworthy; and, thus understood, namely, that our works are unworthy, the antistrophe does not injure us: “When ye shall have believed all things, say, We are unprofitable servants;” for that we are saved by mercy, we teach with the entire Church. 218 But if they mean to argue from the similar: When you have done all things, do not trust in your works, so also, when you have believed all things, do not trust in the divine promise, there is no connection. [The inference is wrong: “Works do not help; therefore, faith also does not help.” We must give the uncultured men a homely illustration: It does not follow that because a half-farthing does not help, therefore a florin also does not help. Just as the florin is of much higher denomination and value than the half-farthing, so also should it be understood that faith is much higher and more efficacious than works. Not that faith helps because of its worth, but because it trusts in God’s promises and mercy. Faith is strong, not because of its worthiness, but because of the divine promise.] For they are very dissimilar, as the causes and objects of confidence in the former proposition are far dissimilar to those of the latter. In the former, confidence is confidence in our own works. In the latter, confidence is confidence in the divine promise. Christ, however, condemns confidence in our works; He does not condemn confidence in His promise. He does not wish us to despair of God’s grace and mercy. He accuses our works as unworthy, 219 but does not accuse the promise which freely offers mercy. And here Ambrose says well: Grace is to be acknowledged; but nature must not be disregarded. We must trust in the promise of grace and not 220 in our own nature. But the adversaries act in accordance with their custom, and distort, against faith, 221 the judgments which have been given on behalf of faith. [Hence, Christ in this place forbids men to trust in their own works; for they cannot help them. On the other hand, He does not forbid to trust in God’s promise. Yea, He requires such trust in the promise of God for the very reason that we are unprofitable servants and works can be of no help. Therefore, the knaves have improperly applied to our trust in the divine promise the words of Christ which treat of trust in our own worthiness. This clearly reveals and defeats their sophistry. May the Lord Christ soon put to shame the sophists who thus mutilate His holy Word! Amen.] We leave, however, these thorny points to the schools. The sophistry is plainly puerile when they interpret “unprofitable servant,” as meaning that the works are unprofitable to God, but are profitable to us. Yet Christ speaks concerning that profit which makes God a debtor of grace to us, although it is out of place to discuss here concerning that which is profitable or unprofitable. For “unprofitable servants” means “insufficient,” because no one fears God as much, and loves God as much, and believes God as much 222 as he ought. But let us dismiss these frigid cavils of the adversaries, concerning which, if at any time they are brought to the light, prudent men will easily decide what they should judge. They have found a flaw in words which are very plain and clear. But every one sees that in this passage confidence in our own works is condemned.
223 Let us, therefore, hold fast to this which the Church confesses, namely, that we are saved by mercy. And lest any one may here think: “If we are to be saved by mercy, hope will be uncertain, if in those who obtain salvation nothing precedes by which they may be distinguished from those who do not obtain it,” we must give him a satisfactory answer. For the scholastics, moved by this reason, seem to have devised the meritum condigni. 224 For this consideration can greatly exercise the human mind. We will therefore reply briefly. For the very reason that hope may be sure, for the very reason that there may be an antecedent distinction between those who obtain salvation, and those who do not obtain it, it is necessary firmly to hold that we are saved by mercy. When this is expressed thus unqualifiedly, it seems absurd. For in civil courts and in human judgment, that which is of right or of debt is certain, and mercy is uncertain. But the matter is different with respect to God’s judgment; for here mercy has a clear and certain promise and command from God. For the Gospel is properly that command which enjoins us to believe that God is propitious to us for Christ’s sake. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved, John 3:17-18. 225 As often, therefore, as mercy is spoken, of, faith in the promise must be added; and this faith produces sure hope, because it relies upon the Word and command of God. If hope would rely upon works, then, indeed, it would be uncertain, because works cannot pacify 226 the conscience, as has been said above frequently. And this faith makes a distinction between those who obtain salvation, and those who do not obtain it. Faith makes the distinction between the worthy and the unworthy, because eternal life has been promised to the justified; and faith justifies.
227 But here again the adversaries will cry out that there is no need of good works if they do not merit eternal life. These calumnies we have refuted above. Of course, it is necessary to do good works. We say that, eternal life has been promised to the justified. But those who walk according to the flesh retain neither faith nor righteousness. We are for this very end justified, that, being righteous, we may begin to do good works and to obey God’s Law. 228 We are regenerated and receive the Holy Ghost for the very end that the new life may produce new 229 works, new dispositions, the fear and love of God, hatred of concupiscence, etc. This faith of which we speak arises in repentance, and ought to be established and grow in the midst of good works, temptations, and dangers, so that we may continually be the more firmly persuaded that God for Christ’s sake cares for us, forgives us, hears us. This is not learned without many and great struggles. How often is conscience aroused, how often does it incite even to despair when it brings to view sins, either old or new, or the impurity of our nature! This handwriting is not blotted out without a great 230 struggle, in which experience testifies what a difficult matter faith is. And while we are cheered in the midst of the terrors and receive consolation, other spiritual movements at the same time grow, the knowledge of God, fear of God, hope, love of God; and we are regenerated, as Paul says, Col. 3:10 and 2 Cor. 3:18, in the knowledge of God, and, beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, i.e., we receive the true knowledge of God, 231 so that we truly fear Him, truly trust that we are cared for, and that we are heard by Him. This regeneration is, as it were, the beginning of eternal life, as Paul says, Rom. 8:10: If Christ be in you, 232 the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. And 2 Cor. 5:2-3: We are clothed upon, if so be that, being clothed, we shall not be found naked. From these statements the candid reader can judge that we certainly require good works, since we teach that this faith arises in repentance, and in repentance ought continually to increase; and in these matters we place Christian and spiritual perfection, if repentance and faith grow together in repentance. This can be better understood by the godly than 233 those things which are taught by the adversaries concerning contemplation or perfection. Just as, however, justification pertains to faith, so also life eternal pertains to faith. And Peter says, 1 Pet. 1:9: Receiving the end, or fruit, of your faith, the salvation of your souls. For the adversaries confess 234 that the justified are children of God and coheirs of Christ. Afterwards works, because on account of faith they please God, merit other bodily and spiritual rewards. For there will be distinctions in the glory of the saints.
235 But here the adversaries reply that eternal life is called a reward, and that therefore it is merited de condigno by good works. We reply briefly and plainly: Paul, Rom. 6:23, calls eternal life a gift, because by the righteousness presented for Christ’s sake, we are made at the same time sons of God and coheirs of Christ, as John says, 3:36: He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life. And Augustine says, as also do very many others who follow him: God crowns His gifts in us. Elsewhere indeed, Luke 6:23, it is written: Your reward is great in heaven. If these passages seem to the adversaries 236 to conflict, they themselves may explain them. But they are not fair judges; for they omit the word gift. They omit also the sources of the entire matter [the chief part, how we are justified before God, also that Christ remains at all times the Mediator], and they select the word reward, and most harshly interpret this not only against Scripture, but also against the usage of the language. Hence they infer that inasmuch as it is called a reward, our works, therefore, are such that they ought to be a price for which eternal life is due. They are, therefore, worthy of grace and life eternal, and do not stand in need of mercy, or of Christ as Mediator, 237 or of faith. This logic is altogether new; we hear the term reward, and therefore are to infer that there is no need of Christ as Mediator, or of faith having access to God for Christ’s sake, and not for the sake of our works! Who does not see that these are anacoluthons? We do not contend concerning the term reward. We dispute concerning this matter, namely, whether good works are of themselves worthy of grace and of eternal life, or whether they please only on account of faith, which apprehends Christ as Mediator. 239 Our adversaries not only ascribe this to works, namely, that they are worthy of grace and of eternal life, but they also state falsely that they have superfluous merits, which they can grant to others, and by which they can justify others, as when monks sell the merits of their orders to others. These monstrosities they heap up in the manner of Chrysippus, where this one word reward is heard, namely: “It is called a reward, and therefore we have works which are a price for which a reward is due; therefore works please by themselves, and not for the sake of Christ as Mediator. And since one has more merits than another, therefore some have superfluous merits. And those who merit them can bestow these merits upon others.” 240 Stop, reader; you have not the whole of this sorites. For certain sacraments of this donation must be added; the hood is placed upon the dead. [As the Barefooted monks and other orders have shamelessly done in placing the hoods of their orders upon dead bodies.] By such accumulations the blessings brought us in Christ, and the righteousness of faith have been obscured. [These are acute and strong arguments, all of which they can spin from the single word reward, whereby they obscure Christ and faith.]
241 We are not agitating an idle logomachy concerning the term reward [but this great, exalted, most important matter, namely, where Christian hearts are to find true and certain consolation; again, whether our works can give consciences rest and peace; again, whether we are to believe that our works are worthy of eternal life, or whether that is given us for Christ’s sake. These are the real questions regarding these matters; if consciences are not rightly instructed concerning these, they can have no certain comfort. However, we have stated clearly enough that good works do not fulfil the Law, that we need the mercy of God, that by faith we are accepted with God, that good works, be they ever so precious, even if they were the works of St. Paul himself, cannot bring rest to the conscience. From all this it follows that we are to believe that we obtain eternal life through Christ by faith, not on account of our works, or of the Law. But what do we say of the reward which Scripture mentions?] If the adversaries will concede that we are accounted righteous by faith because of Christ, and that good works please God because of faith, we will not afterwards contend much concerning the term reward. We confess that eternal life is a reward, because it is something due on account of the promise, not on account of our merits. For the justification has been promised, which we have above shown to be properly a gift of God; and to this gift has been added the promise of eternal life, according to Rom. 8:30: Whom He justified, them 242 He also glorified. Here belongs what Paul says, 2 Tim. 4:8: There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me. For the crown is due the justified 243 because of the promise. And this promise saints should know, not that they may labor for their own profit, for they ought to labor for the glory of God; but in order that they may not despair in afflictions, they should know God’s will, that He desires to aid, to deliver, to protect them. [Just as the inheritance and all possessions of a father are given to the son, as a rich compensation and reward for his obedience, and yet the son receives the inheritance, not on account of his merit, but because the father, for the reason that he is his father, wants him to have it. Therefore it is a sufficient reason why eternal life is called a reward, because thereby the tribulations which we suffer, and the works of love which we do, are compensated, although we have not deserved it. For there are two kinds of compensation: one, which we are obliged, the other, which we are not obliged, to render. E. g., when the emperor grants a servant a principality, he therewith compensates the servant’s work; and yet the work is not worth the principality, but the servant acknowledges that he has received a gracious lien. Thus God does not owe us eternal life, still, when He grants it to believers for Christ’s sake, that is a compensation for our sufferings and works.] Although the perfect hear the mention of penalties and rewards in one way, and the weak hear it in another way; for the weak labor for the sake of their own advantage. 244 And yet the preaching of rewards and punishments is necessary. In the preaching of punishments the wrath of God is set forth, and therefore this pertains to the preaching of repentance. In the preaching of rewards, grace is set forth. And just as Scripture, in the mention of good works, often embraces faith, —for it wishes righteousness of the heart to be included with the fruits, —so sometimes it offers grace together with other rewards, as in Is. 58:8f, and frequently in other places in the prophets. 245 We also confess what we have often testified, that, although justification and eternal life pertain to faith, nevertheless good works merit other bodily and spiritual rewards [which are rendered both in this life and after this life; for God defers most rewards until He glorifies saints after this life, because He wishes them in this life to be exercised in mortifying the old man] and degrees of rewards, according to 1 Cor. 3:8: Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. [For the blessed will have reward, one higher than the other. This difference merit makes, according as it pleases God; and it is merit, because they do these good works whom God has adopted as children and heirs. For thus they have merit, which is their own and peculiar, as one child with respect to another.] For the righteousness of the Gospel, which has to do with the promise of grace, freely receives justification and quickening. But the fulfilling of the Law, which follows faith, has to do with the Law, in which a reward is offered and is due, not freely, but according to our works. But those who merit this are justified before they do the Law. Therefore, as Paul says, Col. 1:13; Rom. 8:17, they have before been translated into the kingdom of God’s Son, and been made joint-heirs with Christ. 246 But as often as mention is made of merit, the adversaries immediately transfer the matter from other rewards to justification, although the Gospel freely offers justification on account of Christ’s merits and not of our own; and the merits of Christ are communicated to us by faith. But works and afflictions merit, not justification, but other remunerations, as the reward is offered for the works in these passages: He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly, and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully, 2 Cor. 9:6. Here clearly the measure of the reward is connected with the measure of the work. Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land, Ex. 20:12. Also here the Law offers a reward to a certain work. 247 Although, therefore, the fulfilling of the Law merits a reward, for a reward properly pertains to the Law, yet we ought to be mindful of the Gospel, which freely offers justification for Christ’s sake. We neither observe the Law, nor can observe it, before we have been reconciled to God, justified, and regenerated. Neither would this fulfilling of the Law please God, unless we would be accepted on account of faith. And because men are accepted on account of faith, for this very reason the inchoate fulfilling of the Law pleases, and has a reward in this life and after this life. 248 Concerning the term reward, very many other remarks might here be made, derived from the nature of the Law, which, as they are too extensive, must be explained in another connection.
249 But the adversaries urge that it is the prerogative of good works to merit eternal life, because Paul says, Rom. 2:6: Who will render to every one according to his works. Likewise Rom 2:10: Glory, honor, and peace to every man that worketh good. John 5:29: They that have done good [shall come forth] unto the resurrection of life. Matt. 25:35: I was an hungered and ye gave Me meat, etc. 250 In these and all similar passages in which works are praised in the Scriptures, it is necessary to understand not only outward works, but also the faith of the heart, because Scripture does not speak of hypocrisy, but of the righteousness of the heart with its fruits. 251 Moreover, as often as mention is made of the Law and of works, we must know that Christ as Mediator is not to be excluded. For He is the end of the Law, and He Himself says, John 15:5: Without Me ye can do nothing. According to this rule we have said above that all passages concerning works can be judged. Wherefore, when eternal life is granted to works, it is granted to those who have been justified, because no men except justified men, who are led by the Spirit of Christ, can do good works; and without faith and Christ, as Mediator, good works do not please, according to Heb. 11:6: Without faith it is impossible to please God. 252 When Paul says: He will render to every one according to his works, not only the outward work ought to be understood, but all righteousness or unrighteousness. So: Glory to him that worketh good, i.e., to the righteous. Ye gave Me meat, is cited as the fruit and witness of the righteousness of the heart and of faith, and therefore eternal life is rendered 253 to righteousness. [There it must certainly be acknowledged that Christ means not only the works, but that He desires to have the heart, which He wishes to esteem God aright, and to believe correctly concerning Him, namely, that it is through mercy that it is pleasing to God. Therefore Christ teaches that everlasting life will be given the righteous, as Christ says: The righteous shall go into everlasting life.] In this way Scripture, at the same time with the fruits, embraces the righteousness of the heart. And it often names the fruits, in order that it may be better understood by the inexperienced, and to signify that a new life and regeneration, and not hypocrisy, are required. But regeneration occurs, by faith, in repentance.
254 No sane man can judge otherwise; neither do we here affect any idle subtilty, so as to separate the fruits from the righteousness of the heart; if the adversaries would only have conceded that the fruits please because of faith, and of Christ as Mediator, and that by themselves they are not worthy of grace and of eternal life. 255 For in the doctrine of the adversaries we condemn this, that in such passages of Scripture, understood either in a philosophical or a Jewish manner, they abolish the righteousness of faith, and exclude Christ as Mediator. From these passages they infer that works merit grace, sometimes de congruo, and at other times de condigno, namely, when love is added; i.e., that they justify, and because they are righteousness they are worthy of eternal life. This error manifestly abolishes the righteousness, of faith, which believes that we have access to God for Christ’s sake, not for the sake of, our works, and that through Christ, as Priest and Mediator, we are led to the Father, and have a reconciled Father, 256 as has been sufficiently said above. And this doctrine concerning the righteousness of faith is not to be neglected in the Church of Christ, because without it the office of Christ cannot be considered, and the doctrine of justification that is left is only a doctrine of the Law. But we should retain the Gospel, and the doctrine concerning the promise, granted for Christ’s sake.
[We are here not seeking an unnecessary subtilty, but there is a great reason why we must have a reliable account as regards these questions. For as soon as we concede to the adversaries that works merit eternal life, they spin from this concession the awkward teaching that we are able to keep the Law of God, that we are not in need of mercy, that we are righteous before God, that is, accepted with God by our works, not for the sake of Christ, that we can also do works of supererogations, namely, more than the Law requires. Thus the entire teaching concerning faith is suppressed. However, if there is to be and abide a Christian Church, the pure teaching concerning Christ, concerning the righteousness of faith, must surely be preserved. Therefore we must fight against these great pharisaical errors, in order that we redeem the name of Christ and the honor of the Gospel and of Christ, and preserve for Christian hearts a true, permanent, certain consolation. For how is it possible that a heart or conscience can obtain rest, or hope for salvation, when in afflictions and in the anguish of death our works in the judgment and sight of God utterly become dust, unless it becomes certain by faith that men are saved by mercy, for Christ’s sake, and not for the sake of their works, their fulfilling of the Law? And, indeed, St. Laurentius, when placed on the gridiron, and being tortured for Christ’s sake, did not think that by this work he was perfectly and absolutely fulfilling the Law, that he was without sin, that he did not need Christ as Mediator and the mercy of God. He rested his case, indeed, with the prophet, who says: Enter not into judgment with Thy servant; for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified, Ps. 143:2. Nor did St. Bernard boast that his works were worthy of eternal life, when he says: Perdite vixi, I have led a sinful life, etc. But he boldly comforts himself, clings to the promise of grace, and believes that he has remission of sins and life eternal for Christ’s sake, just as Psalm 32:1 teaches: Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. And Paul says, Rom. 4:6: David also describeth the blessedness of the man to whom God imputeth righteousness without works. Paul, then, says that he is blessed to whom righteousness is imputed through faith in Christ, even though he have not performed any good works. That is the true, permanent consolation, by which hearts and consciences can be confirmed and encouraged, namely, that for Christ’s sake, through faith, the remission of sins, righteousness, and life eternal are given us. Now, if passages which treat of works are understood in such a manner as to comprise faith, they are not opposed to our doctrine. And, indeed, it is necessary always to add faith, so as not to exclude Christ as Mediator. But the fulfilment of the Law follows faith; for the Holy Ghost is present, who renews life. Let this suffice concerning this article.]
257 We are not, therefore, on this topic contending with the adversaries concerning a small matter. We are not seeking out idle subtilties when we find fault with them for teaching that we merit eternal life by works, while that faith is omitted 258 which apprehends Christ as Mediator. For of this faith which believes that for Christ’s sake the Father is propitious to us there is not a syllable in the scholastics. Everywhere they hold that we are accepted and righteous because of our works, wrought either from reason, or certainly wrought by the inclination 259 of that love concerning which they speak. And yet they have certain sayings, maxims, as it were, 260 of the old writers, which they distort in interpreting. In the schools the boast is made that good works please on account of grace, and that confidence must be put in God’s grace. Here they interpret grace as a habit by which we love God, as though, indeed, the ancients meant to say that we ought to trust in our love, of which we certainly experience how small and how impure it is. Although it is strange how they bid us trust in love, since they teach us that we are not able to know whether it be present. Why do they not here set forth the grace, the mercy of God toward us? And as often as mention is made of this, they ought to add faith. For the promise of God’s mercy, reconciliation, and love towards us is not apprehended unless by faith. With this view they would be right in saying that we ought to trust in grace, 261 that good works please because of grace, when faith apprehends grace. In the schools the boast is also made that our good works avail by virtue of Christ’s passion. Well said! but why add nothing concerning faith? For Christ is a propitiation, as Paul, Rom. 3:25, says, through faith. When timid consciences are comforted by faith, and are convinced that our sins have been blotted out by the death of Christ, and that God has been reconciled to us on account of Christ’s suffering, then, indeed, the suffering of Christ profits us. If the doctrine concerning faith be omitted, it is said in vain that works avail by virtue of Christ’s passion.
262 And very many other passages they corrupt in the schools because they do not teach the righteousness of faith, and because they understand by faith merely a knowledge of the history or of dogmas, and do not understand by it that virtue which apprehends the promise of grace and of righteousness, and which quickens hearts in the terrors of sin and of death. 263 When Paul says, Rom. 10:10: With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation, we think that the adversaries acknowledge here that confession justifies or saves, not ex opere operato, but only on account of the faith of the heart. And Paul thus says that confession saves, in order to show what sort of faith obtains eternal life; namely, that which is firm and 264 active. That faith, however, which does not manifest itself in confession is not firm. Thus other good works please on account of faith, as also the prayers of the Church ask that all things may be accepted for Christ’s sake. They likewise ask all things for Christ’s sake. For it is manifest that at the close of prayers 265 this clause is always added: Through Christ, our Lord. Accordingly, we conclude that we are justified before God, are reconciled to God and regenerated by faith, which in repentance apprehends the promise of grace, and truly quickens the terrified mind, and is convinced that for Christ’s sake God is reconciled and propitious to us. And through this faith, 1 Peter 1:5 says, we are kept unto salvation, ready to be revealed. 266 The knowledge of this faith is necessary to Christians, and brings the most abundant consolation in all afflictions, and displays to us the office of Christ, because those who deny that men are justified by faith, and deny that Christ is Mediator and Propitiator, deny the promise of grace and the Gospel. They teach only the doctrine either of reason or of the Law concerning justification. 267 We have shown the origin of this case, so far as can here be done, and have explained the objections of the adversaries. Good men, indeed, will easily judge these things, if they will think, as often as a passage concerning love or works is cited, that the Law cannot be observed without Christ and that we cannot be justified from the Law, but from 268 the Gospel, that is, from the promise of the grace promised in Christ. And we hope that this discussion, although brief, will be profitable to good men for strengthening faith, and teaching and comforting conscience. For we know that those things which we have said are in harmony with the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures, with the holy Fathers, Ambrose, Augustine, and very many others, and with the whole Church of Christ, which certainly confesses that Christ is Propitiator and Justifier.
269 Nor are we immediately to judge that the Roman Church agrees with everything that the Pope, or cardinals, or bishops, or some of the theologians, or monks approve. For it is manifest that to most of the pontiffs their own authority is of greater concern than the Gospel of Christ. And it has been ascertained that most of them are openly Epicureans. It is evident that theologians have mingled with Christian doctrine more of philosophy 270 than was sufficient. Nor ought their influence to appear so great that it will never be lawful to dissent from their disputations, because at the same time many manifest errors are found among them, such as, that we are able from purely natural powers to love God above all things. This dogma, although it is manifestly false, has produced many other errors. 271 For the Scriptures, the holy Fathers, and the judgments of all the godly everywhere make reply. Therefore, even though Popes, or some theologians, and monks in the Church have taught us to seek remission of sins, grace, and righteousness through our own works, and to invent new forms of worship, which have obscured the office of Christ, and have made out of Christ not a Propitiator and Justifier, but only a Legislator, 272 nevertheless the knowledge of Christ has always remained with some godly persons. Scripture, moreover, has predicted that the righteousness of faith would be obscured in this way by human traditions and the doctrine of works. Just as Paul often complains (cf. Gal. 4:9; 5:7; Col. 2:8,16 sq.; 1 Tim. 4:2 sq., etc.) that there were even at that time those who, instead of the righteousness of faith, taught that men were reconciled to God and justified by their own works and own acts of worship, and not by faith for Christ’s sake; because men 273 judge by nature that God ought to be appeased by works. Nor does reason see a righteousness other than the righteousness of the Law, understood in a civil sense. Accordingly, there have always existed in the world some who have taught this carnal righteousness alone to the exclusion of the righteousness of faith; and such teachers will also always exist. 274 The same happened among the people of Israel. The greater part of the people thought that they merited remission of sins by their works; they accumulated sacrifices and acts of worship. On the contrary, the prophets, in condemnation of this opinion, taught the righteousness of faith. And the occurrences among the people of Israel are illustrations of those things which 275 were to occur in the Church. Therefore, let the multitude of the adversaries, who condemn our doctrine, not disturb godly minds. For their spirit can easily be judged, because in some articles they have condemned truth that is so clear and manifest that their godlessness appears openly. 276 For the bull of Leo X condemned a very necessary article, which all Christians should hold and believe, namely, that we ought to trust that we have been absolved not because of our contrition, but because of Christ’s word, Matt. 16:19: 277 Whatsoever thou shalt bind, etc. And now, in this assembly, the authors of the Confutation have in clear words condemned this, namely, that we have said that faith is a part of repentance, by which we obtain remission of sins, and overcome the terrors of sin, and conscience is rendered pacified. Who, however, does not see that this article, that by faith we obtain the remission of sins, is most true, most certain, and especially necessary to all Christians? Who to all posterity, hearing that such a doctrine has been condemned, will judge that the authors of this condemnation had any knowledge of Christ?
278 And concerning their spirit, a conjecture, can be made from the unheard-of cruelty, which it is evident that they have hitherto exercised towards most good men. And in this assembly we have heard that a reverend father, when opinions concerning our Confession were expressed, said in the senate of the Empire that no plan seemed to him better than to make a reply written in blood to the Confession which we had presented written in ink. What more cruel would Phalaris say? Therefore some princes also have judged this expression unworthy to be spoken in such a meeting. Wherefore, 279 although the adversaries claim for themselves the name of the Church, nevertheless we know that the Church of Christ is with those who teach the Gospel of Christ, not with those who defend wicked opinions contrary to the Gospel, as the Lord says, John 10:27: My sheep hear My voice. And Augustine says: The question is, Where is the Church? What, therefore, are we to do? Are we to seek it in our own words or in the words of its Head, our Lord Jesus Christ? I think that we ought to seek it in the words of Him who is Truth, and who knows His own body best. Hence the judgments of our adversaries will not disturb us, since they defend human opinions contrary to the Gospel, contrary to the authority of the holy Fathers, who have written in the Church, and contrary to the testimonies of godly minds.