No Symmetry Between Salvation and Damnation

Certain covenant theologians need to read this over again:

 “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life,” (Rom. 6:23). Why, as he contrasts life with death, does he not also contrast righteousness with sin? Why, when setting down sin as the cause of death, does he not also set down righteousness as the cause of life? The antithesis which would otherwise be complete is somewhat marred by this variation; but the Apostle employed the comparison to express the fact, that death is due to the deserts of men, but that life was treasured up solely in the mercy of God. In short, by these expressions, the order rather than the cause is noted.  The Lord adding grace to grace, takes occasion from a former to add a subsequent, so that he may omit no means of enriching his servants. Still, in following out his liberality, he would have us always look to free election as its source and beginning. For although he loves the gifts which he daily bestows upon us, inasmuch as they proceed from that fountain, still our duty is to hold fast by that gratuitous acceptance, which alone can support our souls; and so to connect the gifts of the Spirit, which he afterwards bestows, with their primary cause, as in no degree to detract from it.

~ John Calvin Institutes Book 3, Chapt. 14.21

Calvin, agreeing with Paul, shows an important way in which the work of Christ was not like the work of Adam.  Death is earned.  Life is graced.

Polhill on Justification and the Evangelical Condition

Thirdly, Obedience is necessary, though not to the first entrance into justification, yet to the continuance of it; not indeed as a cause, but as a condition. Thus Bishop Davenant, Bona opera sunt necessaria ad justificationis statum retinendum et conservandum; non ut causae, quae per se efficiant aut mereantur hanc conservationem; sed ut media seu conditiones, sine quibus Deus non vult justificationis gratiam in hominibus conservare. If a believer, who is instantly justified upon believing, would continue justified, he must sincerely obey God. Though his obedience in measure and degree reach not fully to the precept of the gospel; yet in truth and substance it comes up to the condition of it; else he cannot continue justified; this to me is very evident; we are at first justified by a living faith, such as virtually is obedience; and cannot continue justified by a dead one such as operates not at all. We are at first justified by a faith which accepts Christ as a Saviour and Lord; and cannot continue justified by such a faith as would divide Christ, taking his salvation from guilt, and by disobedience casting off his lordship; could we suppose that which never comes to pass, that a believer should not sincerely obey: How should he continue justified? if he continue justified, he must, as all justified persons have, needs have a right to life eternal; and if he have such a right, how can he be judged according to his works? no good works being found in him after his believing, how can he be adjudged to life? or how to death, if he continue justified? These things evince, that obedience is a condition necessary as to our continuance in a state of justification: nevertheless it is not necessary, that obedience should be perfect as to the evangelical precept; but that it should be such, that the truth of grace which the evangelical condition calls for, may not fail for want of it: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city,” (Rev. xxii.14.) The first fundamental right to heaven they have by the faith of Christ only: but sincere obedience is necessary that that right may be continued to them: in this sense we may fairly construe that conclusion of St James, “Ye see, then, how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only,” (Jam. ii.24.) Faith brings a man into a justified estate; but may he rest here? No, his good works must be a proof of his faith, and give a kind of experiment of the life of it. Nay, they are the evangelical condition, upon which his blessed estate of justification is continued to him; in foro legis, Christ and his righteousness is all; neither our faith nor our works can supply the room of his satisfaction to justify against us against the law: but in foro gratiae, our obedience answers to the evangelical condition, and is a means to continue our justified estate: it is true, St. Paul asserts that we are justified by faith, not by works, (Rom iv.); which seems directly contrary to that of St. James, that a man is justified by works, not by faith only. But the difference is reconciled very fairly, if we do but consider what the works are in St. Paul, and what they are in St. James. In St. Paul, the works are pefect works, such as correspond to the law, such as make the reward to be of debt, (ver. 4.) Hence Calvin saith, “Operantem vocat, qui suis meritis aliqui promeretur, non operantem, cui nihil debetar operum merito.” In St. James, the works are sincere only, such as answer not to the law, but to the evangelical condition; such as merit not, but are rewarded out of grace. Works in St. Paul, are such as stand in competition or co-ordination with Christ and his righteousness, which satisfied the law for us. Works in St. James are such as stand in due subordination to Christ and his righteousness, and are required only as fruits of faith, and conditions upon which we are to continue in a justified state.

~A View of Some Divine Truths pg. 92-93

Hilary on Sola Fide

My God is a Calvinist’s God, and so He sent me the newest edition of Pro Ecclesia yesterday. I’ve been reading a lot of Hilary of Poitiers lately, so I found one of the articles on Hilary (by D H Williams no less!) to be quite providential. The topic was Hilary’s commentary on the gospel of Matthew and the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Here’s the relevant quote:

“Because faith alone justifies… publicans and prostitutes will be first in the kingdom of heaven.”

~Hilary of Poitier’s Commentary on Matt. 21:15

At first I thought Williams was adding the “alone” part, but when I got to this quote from Hilary I saw that he wasn’t. While this still doesn’t answer all the questions of “imputation” vs. “infusion,” it does deep-six the RC apologists who oh-so love to say that Luther “invented” the alone part of justification by faith alone.

Patristic studies are so hot right now.

Righteousness Obtained by Resurrection

Calvin comments on Rom. 4:25-

Who was delivered for our offences, etc. He expands and illustrates more at large the doctrine to which I have just referred. It indeed greatly concerns us, not only to have our minds directed to Christ, but also to have it distinctly made known how he attained salvation for us. And though Scripture, when it treats of our salvation, dwells especially on the death of Christ, yet the Apostle now proceeds farther: for as his purpose was more explicitly to set forth the cause of our salvation, he mentions its two parts; and says, first, that our sins were expiated by the death of Christ, — and secondly, that by his resurrection was obtained our righteousness. But the meaning is, that when we possess the benefit of Christ’s death and resurrection, there is nothing wanting to the completion of perfect righteousness. By separating his death from his resurrection, he no doubt accommodates what he says to our ignorance; for it is also true that righteousness has been obtained for us by that obedience of Christ, which he exhibited in his death, as the Apostle himself teaches us in the following chapter. But as Christ, by rising from the dead, made known how much he had effected by his death, this distinction is calculated to teach us that our salvation was begun by the sacrifice, by which our sins were expiated, and was at length completed by his resurrection: for the beginning of righteousness is to be reconciled to God, and its completion is to attain life by having death abolished. Paul then means, that satisfaction for our sins was given on the cross: for it was necessary, in order that Christ might restore us to the Father’s favor, that our sins should be abolished by him; which could not have been done had he not on their account suffered the punishment, which we were not equal to endure. Hence Isaiah says, that the chastisement of our peace was upon him. (Isaiah 53:5.) But he says that he was delivered, and not, that he died; for expiation depended on the eternal goodwill of God, who purposed to be in this way pacified.

And was raised again for our justification. As it would not have been enough for Christ to undergo the wrath and judgment of God, and to endure the curse due to our sins, without his coming forth a conqueror, and without being received into celestial glory, that by his intercession he might reconcile God to us, the efficacy of justification is ascribed to his resurrection, by which death was overcome; not that the sacrifice of the cross, by which we are reconciled to God, contributes nothing towards our justification, but that the completeness of his favor appears more clear by his coming to life again.

But I cannot assent to those who refer this second clause to newness of life; for of that the Apostle has not begun to speak; and further, it is certain that both clauses refer to the same thing. For if justification means renovation, then that he died for our sins must be taken in the same sense, as signifying that he acquired for us grace to mortify the flesh; which no one admits. Then, as he is said to have died for our sins, because he delivered us from the evil of death by suffering death as a punishment for our sins; so he is now said to have been raised for our justification, because he fully restored life to us by his resurrection: for he was first smitten by the hand of God, that in the person of the sinner he might sustain the misery of sin; and then he was raised to life, that he might freely grant to his people righteousness and life. He therefore still speaks of imputative justification; and this will be confirmed by what immediately follows in the next chapter.

He has similar thoughts regarding 1 Cor. 15:4-

That Christ died, etc. See now more clearly whence he received it, for he quotes the Scriptures in proof. In the first place, he makes mention of the death of Christ, nay also of his burial, that we may infer, that, as he was like us in these things, he is so also in his resurrection. He has, therefore, died with us that we may rise with him. In his burial, too, the reality of the death in which he has taken part with us, is made more clearly apparent. Now there are many passages of Scripture in which Christ’s death and resurrection are predicted, but nowhere more plainly than in Isaiah 53, in Daniel 9:26, and in Psalm 22

For our sins That is, that by taking our curse upon him he might redeem us from it. For what else was Christ’s death, but a sacrifice for expiating our sins — what but a satisfactory penalty, by which we might be reconciled to God — what but the condemnation of one, for the purpose of obtaining forgiveness for us? He speaks also in the same manner in Romans 4:25, but in that passage, on the other hand, he ascribes it also to the resurrection as its effect — that it confers righteousness upon us; for as sin was done away through the death of Christ, so righteousness is procured through his resurrection. This distinction must be carefully observed, that we may know what we must look for from the death of Christ, and what from his resurrection. When, however, the Scripture in other places makes mention only of his death, let us understand that in those cases his resurrection is included in his death, but when they are mentioned separately, the commencement of our salvation is (as we see) in the one, and the consummation of it in the other.

Robert Rollock on the Ground of Justification

It may be demanded, Had it not been sufficient for our good, and to the end he might redeem us, if he had only lived well and holily, and not also so to have suffered death for us? I answer, it had not sufficed. For all his most holy and righteous works had not satisfied the justice and wrath of God for our sins, nor merited the mercy of God, reconciliation, righteousness, and life eternal for us. The reason is, for that the justice of God did require for our breach of God’s covenant, that we should be punished with death eternal, according to the condition denounced and annexed to the promise of that covenant. Therefore, no good works of our own, or of any mediator for us, after the breach of that covenant of works, could have satisfied the justice of God, which of necessity after a sort required the punishment and death of the offender, or certainly of some mediator in his stead. If, then, all the good and holy works of the Mediator could not satisfy that wrath and justice of God for sin, it is clear they could not merit any new grace or mercy of God for us.

But you will say, that the good and holy works of Christ our Mediator have wrought some part at least of that satisfaction, whereby God’s justice was appeased for us, and some part of that merit whereby God’s favour was purchased for us? I answer, these works did serve properly for no part of satisfaction or merit for us: for that, to speak properly, the death of Christ and his passion only did satisfy God’s justice, and merited his mercy for us.

If any will yet farther demand, May we not divide the satisfaction and merit of Christ into his doings and sufferings, that we may speak on this manner, Christ by his death and passion hath satisfied God’s justice, and by his good and holy works he hath merited God’s mercy for us, that so satisfaction may be ascribed to his death, and merit to his works; that the righteousness wherewith we are justified before God may be partly the satisfaction which Christ performed by his death for us, partly the merits which he obtained by his works for us? I answer; to speak properly, the satisfaction and merit which is by the passion of Christ only, both was and is our righteousness, or the satisfactory and meritorious death of Christ, or the satisfaction which was by Christ’s death, or the merit of his death, or the obedience of Christ, as being obedient to his Father unto the death, the death also of the cross, to be short, that justice of Christ which he obtained when in his passion he satisfied his Father’s wrath- this is our righteousness. For we may say, that either the death of Christ, or his satisfaction, or his merit, or his obedience, or his righteousness, is imputed unto us for righteousness. For all these are taken for one and the same thing.

But here it may be replied, If the works of Christ cannot properly procure for us any satisfaction nor merit, nor any part of satisfaction or merit, then it may be demanded, What hath been, and what is the use of Christ’s works, or of his active obedience, or of the obedience of his life? I answer, that the holiness of the person of Christ, and of his natures, divine and human, and of his works, is the very ground or foundation of the satisfaction and merit which we have in the passion of Christ. That is, the excellency and worthiness of that person and of his works did cause that his passion was both satisfactory and meritorious: for if this person which suffered had not been so holy and excellent, as also his life so pure and godly, it is most certain that his passion could neither have satisfied God’s wrath nor merited mercy for us. For which cause the Apostle, (Heb. vii. 26,) speaking of this ground of his meritorious passion of Christ, saith that such an high priest it became us to have, which is holy, blameless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. And thus far of Christ, and how he may be said to be under the covenant of works.

~ A Treatise of God’s Effectual Calling pg. 53-55 in The Select Works of Robert Rollock Vol. 1 (Woodrow Society 1849)

Let us note that Rollock goes through both the aspects of Christ’s active and passive obedience and their relationship to providing satisfaction and merit.

He says:

A) The active obedience of Christ does not acquire merit.
B) To speak of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, merit, or obedience is the same as saying the imputation of his passive obedience.
C) The active obedience serves as the ground of the passive obedience.
D) The passion of Christ (his death/ passive obedience) is the satisfaction for sins and meritorious ground for our justification.