Benedict Pictet on Final Justification

Pictet represents a nearly identical position as Diodati’s. There were other views, as we will see in a few posts to come, but this concept of “the Justification of the Righteous” and how they are judged by the evangelical standard is one way which the Reformed doctors sought to harmonize Paul and James. Pictet writes:

On the Justification of a Righteous Man

We have spoken of the justification of man as a sinner ; we must now speak of his justification as a righteous man, i. e, that by which he proves that he is justified, and that he possesses a true justifying faith. Now this justification is by works, even in the sight of God, as well as of men; and of this James speaks, when he declares that “by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.’ (James ii. 24.) To illustrate this, we must remark that there is a two-fold accusation of man. First, he is accused before God’s tribunal of the guilt of sin, and this accusation is met or done away by the justification of which we have already treated. Secondly, the man who has been thus justified may be accused of hypocrisy, false profession and unregeneracy ; now he clears himself from this accusation, and justifies his faith by his works—this is his second justification; it differs from the first; for in the first a sinner is acquitted from guilt, in the second a godly man is distinguished from the ungodly. In the first God imputes the righteousness of Christ ; in the second he pronounces judgment from the gift of holiness bestowed upon us; both these justifications the believer obtains, and therefore it is true that “by works he is justified, and not by faith only.”

From these remarks it is plain, that James is easily reconciled with Paul, especially if we consider, that Paul had to do with justiciaries, who sought to be justified by the law, i. e. by their own works; but James had to deal with a sort of Epicureans, who, content with a mere profession, neglected good works ; it is no wonder then, that Paul should insist upon faith, and James upon works. Moreover, Paul speaks of a lively and efficacious faith, but James of a faith without works. Paul also speaks of the justification of the ungodly or sinner, James of that justification,- which a man as it were justifies his faith, and proves himself to be justified. For it is his design to show that it is not enough for a Christian man to glory in the remission of sins, which is un-questionably obtained only by a living faith in Christ, but that he must endeavour to make it manifest by his works, that he is truly renewed, that he possesses real faith and righteousness, and lives as becomes a regenerate and justified person. Hence it is plain, that Abraham is properly said to have been justified, when he offered up Isaac, because by this he proved that he had real faith, and cleared himself from every charge of hypocrisy, of which he might have been accused. In this sense that passage may be explained, (Rev. xxii.,) ” he that is righteous, let him be righteous still,” i. e. let him show by his works that he is justified ; although the words may be differently read and explained. When James says that “by works was faith made perfect,” (James ii. 22,) this is to be understood as referring to the efficacy of faith, which exercised itself in works, and proved that it was perfect, as when “strength is said to be made perfect in weakness,” i. e. fully known and declared. Again, when it is said, that ” the scripture was fulfilled which said, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness,” (James ii. 23,) the meaning is, that it was thereby proved that he had been before justified by faith. We may add a word or two concerning the justification of our own cause, as it may be called, of which we so often read in the Psalms of David, and in the book of Job, whereby we defend ourselves against the charges of the devil or even of our own friends; thus Paul says of himself, ” With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment,” &,c. (I Tor. iv. 34.) Of this kind also was the justification of Phinehas, of whom it is read that the “judgment executed by him was counted unto him for righteousness,” (Psalm cvi. 30, 31; Num. xxv. 11, 12.) i. e. he was judged to have acted rightly, although there seemed several things to be disapproved of in what he did; for it was not suitable for a priest, as Phinehas was, to stain his hands with blood; nor was he one of “the judges of Israel,” (Num. xxv. 5,) who had the power of punishing the guilty; neither also did he observe the forms of a regular and lawful judgment.

Thee whole doctrine of justification displays the glory of God; it sets forth his amazing goodness, his inviolable justice, his wonderful wisdom; it humbles the sinner, takes away all ground of boasting, comforts the soul when cast down and harassed with a sense of its sins, the accusation of the devil, and the terrors of the law, and tends to the promotion of real holiness.

Christian Theology Book 8 Chapt. 5

Notice now what Pictet says about the Last Judgment:

Of the Last Judgment

…We must consider, also, who will be judged. All will be judged, both angels and men : we cannot doubt as to evil angels, for they are said to be “reserved unto judgment.” (2 Peter ii. 4.) Perhaps we might say that their judgment has already been passed, but that they are reserved for punishment, which will be inflicted after the final judgment, far more grievously than that which they now suffer. We cannot affirm anything concerning the judgment of good angels, who are everywhere described as attendants of Christ the Judge. But besides angels, all mankind will be judged, (Rom. xiv. 10—12; 2 Cor. v. 10,) of every sex and condition, of all places, and of all ages—not one will be exempt from judgment. And if it be inquired, for what things we shall be judged, we answer,—

that all outward actions will be judged, (Jude 15. Rev. XX. 12, 13,)—and words, even vain and idle ones, (Matt. xii. 3G, 37.)—the secrets of men, whether actions performed, unknown to all, or inward thoughts, (Eccles. xii. 14; 1 Cor. iv. 5.)—and all omissions of duty, (Matt, iii. 10; xxv. 30; Luke xii. 47; James iv. 17.) If it be Inquired, what will be the nature or form of the judgment, we reply, that it will consist in these three things—the trial of the cause, the passing of the sentence, and the execution of it. The trial of the cause will not be difficult to an omniscient Judge. (Heb. iv. 13.) All “the books will be opened,” (Dan. vii. 10; Rev. xx. 12,) the book of God’s providence and omniscience—the book of conscience, in which will be found written what good and evil has been done by every one—and the book of life. By all these books, the scripture means, that nothing will be unknown to the Judge, the metaphor or figure being taken from the practice of human courts of justice. The rule of judgment will be revelation; the heathen will be judged by the law of nature; the Jews by the written law, or legal dispensation; Christians by the gospel; for “those who have sinned without law, and those in the law, shall be judged without law, and by the law.” (Rom. ii. 12.) The passing of sentence will take place after the trial of the cause; first, the sentence of acquittal, then that of condemnation; the Judge will begin with the former, to show that he is more willing to pardon than to punish; and to the greater joy of the faithful, and to the greater sorrow of the wicked. It might appear strange to some, that Christ, in describing the kind of judgment which he will exercise at the last day, does not mention any works, except works of mercy towards himself, whereas neither the performance of them can be ascribed to, nor the neglect of them be charged upon, vast numbers of persons who have never heard of Christ; but it has been justly observed, that these are only brought forward by Christ by way of specimen or example, as some good works out of many. There is a question also raised, as to whether the sins of the righteous, as well as of the wicked, will be brought forth to view. We do not think they will ; first, because, if they were, it would turn to the confusion of the righteous, who are surely not then to be confounded: again, because the free mercy of Christ will not remember the offences of believers; nor is it likely, that Christ will reproach his own members with their iniquities. Finally, the execution of the sentence will follow—” The wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.” (Matt. xxv. 4G.) None will be able to escape the power of the Judge; to deceive his wisdom; to move his equity; or to recall his sentence. He will neither be prepossessed by favour, nor influenced by mercy, nor corrupted by gifts, nor appeased by repentance or satisfaction.

Book 9 Chapt. 4

Two answers to final justification will become fairly standard within Reformed Orthodoxy. Pictet and Diodati’s view that there will be a different sort of justification wherein those in Christ will be judged by the evangelical law, a gracious law at that, is one such answer. The other, as we will see in Gouge-Gataker-Downame, as well as Preston is that James’ works is equivalent to a “working faith.” This second answer shall be examined next time.

This entry was posted in church history, justification by Steven Wedgeworth. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steven Wedgeworth

Steven Wedgeworth is the associate pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, British Columbia. He writes about theology, history, and political theory, and he has taught Jr. High and High School. He is the founder and general editor of The Calvinist International, an online journal of Christian Humanism and political theology, and a Director for the Davenant Institute.

3 thoughts on “Benedict Pictet on Final Justification

  1. Ah, well I didn’t actually read it from your site. I got his whole Christian Theology from google books, and I’ve been doing a broader study on final just.

    But yes, Mark beat me to it.

  2. Pingback: Future Justification in Reformed Orthodoxy « Evangelical Catholicity

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