Sibbes on Justification at the Last Day

Richard Sibbes has a fairly unique position on final justification, as he is willing to discuss the various ways one is justified. He is justified individually by Christ’s sacrifice. Christ justifies the entire Church. The Spirit justifies Christ. We justify Christ. We justify ourselves. Sibbes discusses all of these realities. I will only quote a small portion of this.

Sibbes writes:

For our further instruction and comfort, let us consider, that in regard of God likewise, we shall be ‘justified’ from our sins in our consciences here and at the day of judgment, before angels and devils and men. As Christ was ‘justified’ from our sins himself, and he will justify every one of us by his Spirit, his Spirit shall witness to our souls that we are justified; and likewise his Spirit shall declare it at the day of judgment; it shall be openly declared that we are so indeed. There is a double degree of justification: one in our conscience now, another at the day of judgment. Then it shall appear that we have believed in Christ, and are cleansed from our sins. When we shall stand on the right hand of Christ, as all that cleave to Christ by faith [will do], then it shall appear that by him we are ‘justified’ from all our sins whatsoever.

~ The Fountain Opened in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes vol. 5 pg. 492-493

Sibbes goes on to say that we will justify Christ on the last day. We do this in four ways. We justify that he is God by relying on him as our rock of salvation. We justify him as prophet by our enlightened understandings. We justify him as priest by relying on him alone for mediation and intercession. We justify him as king by holy living and the practice of lovely religion.

Thomas Goodwin on Justification By Works

Goodwin asserts that we can affirm a justification by works on the last day, for to do so is not materially different than to say that the judgment is according to works or that it is noting the evidence of faith. Neither of these could serve as an excuse for the lack of works, however. He believes that faith was always meant to be perfected, and its perfection is good works. Goodwin’s position is a combination of earlier views, as he will speak of a living faith and a true justification made on one’s deeds. He writes:

And in relation to this outward judgment at the latter day, our sentence of salvation is termed expressly a justification; and this very thing is asserted by Christ himself: Mat. xii. 36,37, ‘I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment; for by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.’ Neither is it anywhere said, that God will judge men according to their faith only; nor will it be a sufficient plea at the latter day to say, Lord, thou knowest I believed, and cast myself at thy grace. God will say, I am to judge thee so as to every one shall be able to judge my sentence righteous together with me: 1 Cor. iv. 5, ‘Therefore, shew me thy faith by thy works;’ let me know by them thou fearest me; for as I did judge Abraham, and gave thereupon a testimony of him, so I must proceed towards thee. And this God will do, to the end that all the sons of Israel, yea, the whole world, may know that he justified one that had true faith indeed. Continue reading

Turretin on a priori and a posteriori Justification

Francis Turretin does speak of varying senses of justification, though he is much less comfortable with affirming “double justification.” He indeed reconciles James and Paul, arguing that they are talking of different types of justification, but his interpretation is somewhat different from his fellow Genevans, Diodati and Pictet.

He writes:

XXII. Since Paul and James were inspired by the same Spirit, they cannot be said to oppose each other on the doctrine of justification, so that one should ascribe justification to faith alone and the other to works also. The reconciliation is not difficult, if the design of each be considered and the natures of faith and of justification (concerning which both treat) be attended. Continue reading

Double Justification in Reformed Orthodoxy

I have not completed my series on double justification(s) in Reformed Orthodoxy, somewhat because I continue to find more and more examples of it.  I did think it would be helpful to list the ones that I have completed so far.  It would be an interesting project to place these thinkers in chronological order and trace the development of the doctrine.

So far I have:

John Calvin

John Diodati

Benedict Pictet

Herman Witsius

John Preston

Gataker-Gouge-Downame (from their Annotations)

I’ve also read (and will post when I can) Turretin, Sibbes, Ussher, Davenant, Baxter, and Polhill on this topic.  I can tell you that they do not all agree with one another, yet similar strands of thought run through the various names, sometimes in surprising ways (for instance, Gataker &c.’s Annotations reference Diodati’s earlier work as an influence, yet they take a different interpretation of double justification).  By the time you get to Polhill, what you find is simply a combination of all of the earlier views.

Calvin on Double Justification

Witsius cites Calvin’s Institutes 3.17.8 in support of the tradition of double justification. In section 8, Calvin, after defending justification by faith alone, does teach a justification by works which is itself founded on the prior justification by faith alone. Calvin writes:

Forgiveness of sins being previously given, the good works which follow have a value different from their merit, because whatever is imperfect in them is covered by the perfection of Christ, and all their blemishes and pollutions are wiped away by his purity, so as never to come under the cognizance of the divine tribunal. The guilt of all transgressions, by which men are prevented from offering God an acceptable service, being thus effaced, and the imperfection which is wont to sully even good works being buried, the good works which are done by believers are deemed righteous, or; which is the same thing, are imputed for righteousness.

Notice that Calvin rejects that these works, which are imputed for righteousness, have any merit. They are acceptable, even counted righteous, but they are not meritorious. John Davenant will follow him in this very position in his treatise on inherent and imputed righteousness.

Calvin continues in sections 9 and 10 of the same chapter on this same topic. He states:

They cannot deny that justification by faith is the beginning, the foundation, the cause, the subject, the substance, of works of righteousness, and yet they conclude that justification is not by faith, because good works are counted for righteousness. Let us have done then with this frivolity, and confess the fact as it stands; if any righteousness which works are supposed to possess depends on justification by faith, this doctrine is not only not impaired, but on the contrary confirmed, its power being thereby more brightly displayed. Nor let us suppose, that after free justification works are commended, as if they afterwards succeeded to the office of justifying, or shared the office with faith. For did not justification by faith always remain entire, the impurity of works would be disclosed. There is nothing absurd in the doctrine, that though man is justified by faith, he is himself not only not righteous, but the righteousness attributed to his works is beyond their own deserts.

And also:

In this way we can admit not only that there is a partial righteousness in works (as our adversaries maintain), but that they are approved by God as if they were absolutely perfect. If we remember on what foundation this is rested, every difficulty will be solved. The first time when a work begins to be acceptable is when it is received with pardon. And whence pardon, but just because God looks upon us and all that belongs to us as in Christ? Therefore, as we ourselves when ingrafted into Christ appear righteous before God, because our iniquities are covered with his innocence; so our works are, and are deemed righteous, because every thing otherwise defective in them being buried by the purity of Christ is not imputed. Thus we may justly say, that not only ourselves, but our works also, are justified by faith alone. Now, if that righteousness of works, whatever it be, depends on faith and free justification, and is produced by it, it ought to be included under it and, so to speak, made subordinate to it, as the effect to its cause; so far is it from being entitled to be set up to impair or destroy the doctrine of justification.

So we can now add Calvin to our list of Reformed doctors who taught some form of double justification. Witsius also cites Bucer, whose Loci Communes I have ordered (it is checked out from the library and says it won’t be back for a year!). Bucer’s double justification is clear though, and most people know about it.

The other important thing about the selections from Calvin is that they were noticed in their day and cited by later Reformed doctors. This was a legitimate part of the tradition.

Witsius on Double Justification

Continuing with my series on future justification(s) in Reformed Orthodoxy, I would like to quote a lengthy passage from Herman Witsius. It needs to be reiterated, however, that in this discussion on inherent righteousness, Witsius is not opposing imputed righteousness. Like all of the Reformed doctors that I’ve written about, he affirmed the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. This concept of inherent righteousness and indeed, the justification that comes from it, is in addition to the justification based on imputed righteousness. Witsius sees himself standing in the tradition of Calvin, Bucer, and others, and indeed, we have seen similar language from Pictet and Diodati. We will also see it in Baxter and Polhill.

Here is Witsius:

XXI. Thus much for the declaration of God concerning the actions of men. On the other hand, his declaration as to their state is of several kinds. For either God considers them as they are in themselves, according to inherent qualities, either vicious through corrupt nature, or holy and laudable through reforming grace; or as they are reputed in Christ the surety.

XXII. God can neither consider nor declare men to be otherwise than as they really are. For “his judgment is according to truth,” Rom. ii. 2. and therefore they, who are still under the dominion of sin, and walk with delight, according to their depraved lusts, are judged and declared by God to be unregenerate, wicked, and slaves of the devil, as they really are; for, “by no means does he clear the guilty,” Exod. xxxiv. 7 but they who are regenerated by his grace, created anew after his image, and heartily give themselves up to the practice of sincere holiness, are by him absolved from the sin of profaneness, impiety, and hypocrisy, and are no longer looked upon as dead in sins, slaves to the devil, children of the world; but as true believers, his own children, restored to his image, and endowed with his life. It was thus he justified his servant Job, declaring, “that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man one that feareth God and escheweth evil,” Job i.8. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

John Preston on Faith, Works, and Double Justification

Continuing with the series on future justification(s), I would like to now give a slightly different perspective. I don’t think it is wholly at odds with Diodati or Pictet (later writers could combine the perspectives without much trouble), but it certainly reads James differently. Rather than appealing to two different types of justification, an initial and a final, this perspective understands justification to always be by faith alone, but it insists that the faith is itself a working faith. Later types of justification are opportunities to justify the first justification, or to prove that the faith was true faith.

One representative of this type of reading would be John Preston. There have been some critics of Preston lately who would say that he’s out of the mainstream of the Reformed tradition, but I think this is false. The work which I had access to of his was a posthumous publication put out by Richard Sibbes and John Davenport. Thomas Goodwin also printed Preston’s work. So however one may choose to criticize Preston, it is historically the case that Puritan mainstays looked up to him with respect and admiration. Regarding English Reformed and Westminsterian theology, Preston is a legitimate father in the faith.

Now to the subject at hand. Continue reading

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.” Continue reading

John Diodati on Final Justification

Commenting on James 2:21, Diodati writes:

We must of necessity distinguish the meaning of this word justifie, which is used by St. Paul, for absolving a man as he is in his natural state, bound to the law, and subject to damnation for his sin, which God doth by a rigid act of justice, that requireth full satisfaction, which seeing he could not get of man Rom. 8.2, he hath received at Christ’s hand (who was the Surety) imputed to man by God’s grace, and apprehended by a lively faith. Whereas St. James takes the same word for the approving of man, in a benigne and fatherly judgment, as he is considered in the quality of God’s child, and living in the covenant of grace, as having the two essentiall parts of that covenant joyned together, faith to receive God’s grace and Christ’s benefit, and works to yield him the duties of service and acknowledgement; and this justification is no longer opposite to the condemnation of a sinner in generall, but to the particular one of an hypocrite, who rending asunder these two inseparable parts, sheweth that he hat neither the one nor the other: see Luke 17.19.

~ Pious and learned annotations upon the Holy Bible 3rd ed. (London : Printed by James Flesher for Nicholas Fussell, 1651).