Gataker-Gouge-Downame on Final Justification

The English counterpart to Diodati’s Annotations is written by a group of Divines, the most well-known of whom are Thomas Gataker, William Gouge, and John Downame. The cite Diodati with high praise in the foreword. They have a different reading of James 2 than Diodati though and are closer to Preston. Commenting on James 2:21 they write:

justified] That is, say some, declaratively and in the sight of men, his works bearing witness of, or to his faith, and not causally and in respect of God; but because St. James here disputes against those who looked to be justified by a faith separated from good works, and that causally in the sight of God, it cannot stand with the scope of the Apostle, unless here by [justified] we understand that justification whereby we are justified causally in the sight of God; the state of the question being not, whether we are justified declaratively, or in the sight of men by faith without good works, but, whether we are justified in the sight of God without works.

It is important to note that the Divines are asserting that James is discussing justification in the sight of God.  They do not limit it to a public proof of private justification.  They understand that a faith without good works is incapable of justifying one.

They continue:

works] That is, a working faith, for in this discourse or dispute, works are not opposed to a justifying of saving faith, but to such a faith which hath not works; so that we may well by [works] as a part for the whole, or to the effect for the cause, understand here such a faith which hath works conjoyned with it. Besides, how could the Apostle conclude as he doth, verse 23. that the Scripture was fulfilled viz. that Abraham beleeved and it was accounted to him for righteousness, from Abraham’s being justified by works, when he offered up his son Isaac, unless by works here we understand a working faith? Did not the Apostle mean the same thing by works, vers. 21 and by faith, vers. 23? Hence it appears, that there is no contradiction between Saint Paul, Rom. 4.2 where he proves that Abraham was not justified by works, and Saint James, who here affirms, that he was, although they express themselves diversely, disputing against adversaries of different dispositions: Saint Paul disputes against those who looked to be justified by their own perfect or inherent righteousness or works; Saint James against those who looked to be saved by a faith without works: now there is a mean between these two extreme opinions, wherein both agree, and that is, that justification is by a faith which hath works or a working faith.

~ Gouge, Gataker, Downame, Ley, Reading, Taylor, Pemerton, and Featly. Annotations Upon all the Books of the Old and New Testament: 2nd ed. (London, Printed by John Legatt, 1651)

So again, we see that James and Paul are harmonized by understanding that the faith that alone justifies is a working faith.

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.

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