Justification By Faith Alone

Justification by Faith AloneEdward Leigh
Body of Divinity
Seventh Book, Ch. 10

Whether Faith alone doth justify

God justifies judicially, Christ’s blood meritoriously, Faith instrumentally, Works declaratively (Rom. 3:24, 28; Rom. 4:5; Mark 5:36; Luke 8:50; Acts 13:39).

The Papists, Socinians and Remonstrants all acknowledge faith to justify, but by it they mean obedience to God’s commandments, and so make it a work, and do not consider it as an instrument receiving Christ and his promise.

A Papist, a Socinian, a Protestant saith “We are justified by faith,” but dispositive [i.e. distributively by being the root of other graces], saith the Papist, conditionaliter [conditionally], saith the Socinian, applicative, saith the Protestant.

Faith justifieth not as a quality or habit in us, as the Papists teach, Ipsa fides censetur esse justitia, for so it is a part of Sanctification, but as it is the instrument and hand to receive Christ who is our righteousness. Much less as it is an act, as Socinus and his followers teach, as though ipsum credere [faith itself], did properly justify. If we should be justified by it as it is an act, then we should be justified by our works, and we should be no longer justified actually than when we do actually believe, and so there should be an intercision [interruption] of Justification so oft as there is an intermission of the act of faith; but Justification is a continued act.

We are justified only by faith, for what else does Scripture mean by those many negatives, “not by works” (Rom. 9:11; Gal. 2:16; Titus 3:5), “not of works” (Rom. 11:6; Eph. 2:9), “not according to works” (2 Tim. 1:19) “without works” (Rom. 4. 6), “not through the Law” (Rom. 4:13), “not by the works of the Law” (Rom. 3:20), “without the Law” (Rom. 3:27), “not but by faith” (Gal. 2:16)?

How can a man be justified by his works when he himself must be just before the works can be (Gen. 4:4)? Good works make not a man good, but a good man makes a work good, and shall that work which a man made good return again and make the man good?

When we say, “Faith alone doth justify,” we do not mean fidem solitariam, that saith “faith which is alone;” neither do we in construction join sola with fides the subject, but with Justification the predicate, meaning that true faith, though it be not alone, yet it doth justify alone. Even as the eye, though in respect of being it is not alone, yet in respect of seeing, unto which no other member doth concur with it, it being the only instrument of that faculty, it is truly said to see alone, so faith though in respect of the being thereof it is not alone, yet in respect of justifying, unto which act no other grace doth concur with it, it being the only instrument of apprehending and receiving Christ, is truly said to justify alone.

When we say by faith only, this opposeth all other graces of the same order, but not the merits of Christ, or the efficacy of God’s grace, the Apostle makes it all one, to prove a man justified by grace, Christ, and by faith (Rom. 4). It is to be considered as alone in the act of Justification, but not in the subject justified, therefore that is a reproach cast on Protestants to call them “Solifidians.” What the judgement of the Catholics before the Council of Trent was in this matter of Justification, B. Carlton proves out of Contarenus.

We are said to be justified by faith, to live by it, to be saved by it, to have it imputed unto us for righteousness: all which is to be understood not principally, immediately, meritoriously in regard of any worth or dignity of it, or efficaciously in regard of any power or efficacy in itself, but mediately, subserviently, organically, as it is a means to apprehend Christ his satisfaction and his sufferings, by the price and merit whereof we are justified, saved, and stand as righteous in God’s sight, and as it hath a special respect and relation thereto. Mr. Gataker against Saltmarsh, Shadows without Substance, p. 56.

In the Covenant of Works, works are considered as in themselves performed by the parties to be justified and in reference unto ought done, or to be done for them by any other; whereas in the Covenant of Grace, faith is required and considered, not as a work barely done by us, but as an instrument or means whereby Christ is apprehended and received, in whom is found, and by whom that is done, whereby God’s justice is satisfied, and life eternal meritoriously procured for us, that which carrieth the power and efficacy of all home to Christ.

Objection: Faith is a work, therefore if we be justified by faith, then by works. [1]

Answer: With faith we must join the object of it, that is Christ. Fides justificat non absolute, sed relative sc. cum objecto, non efficiendo sed afficiendo & applicando [Faith justifies, not absolutely, but relatively, that is to say together with its object, it does not cause, but it affects and applies]. The Scripture saith, “We are justified by faith,” and “through faith,” but never for faith, or because of our faith, per fidem, ex fide, non propter fidem [by means of faith, on account of faith, not because of faith]. We can only be justified by that righteousness which is universal and complete, faith is a partial righteousness (Phil. 3:9), and as imperfect as other graces.

Objection: (Gal. 2:16) Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ.

Answer: “But” is adversative [denoting contrariety or opposition], that is, by faith alone. 2. Only faith receives Christ and a promise.

Faith justifies by the mere ordination of God, that on the receiving of Christ, or resting on him we shall be justified. The proper act of faith which justifieth is the relying on Christ for pardon of sin.

To justify doth not flow from any act of grace, because of the dignity and excellency of that act, but because of the peculiar nature, that it doth receive and apply. Therefore to receive Christ and to believe in him is all one, and faith is always opposed to works.

Bellarmine objects, that to apply is a work or action. It is true, it is a grammatical action, but a predicamental passion [i.e. metaphysically, it is the reception of change]. But saith Bellarmine, love layeth hold on Christ, and by love we are made one; but yet there is a difference, love makes us one with Christ extramittendo [by going out], faith intramittendo [by going in], and besides love joineth us to Christ after we are made one by faith, so that it cannot justify us.

Paul and James do not contradict one another; Paul sheweth what is that which justifieth [2], and James sheweth what kind of faith justifieth, that is a lively effectual faith. James sheweth that faith justifieth Quae viva [and is lively], Paul sheweth that it doth not justify Qua viva [because it is lively], which is a great difference. Though the Remonstrants scoff at such a nicety, who would give a Lemmon-paring for the difference?

There is a justification: 1. Ad Regnum [toward the kingdom], which brings one into the state of Grace, of which Paul speaks. 2. In Regno [in the kingdom], Abraham was justified by works, and he was called the friend of God, of that James speaks.

Whether Sanctification precedes Justification.

Sanctification is of the same time with Justification, but Justification doth in order of nature go before it, for all the graces of Sanctification are bestowed on a man as in Christ (Eph. 1:3).

Bishop Downame in his Appendix to the Covenant of Grace, doth oppose my worthy Tutor M. Pemble for holding this opinion, but perhaps a distinction may solve all.

As Sanctification is taken for the act of the Holy Ghost working holiness into us, so it goes before Faith and Justification, so the Apostle puts it before justifying, saying “but ye are sanctified, justified…” (1 Cor. 6:11); but as it is taken for the exercise of holiness in regard of amendment of heart and life, so it follows Justification in nature, but it is joined with it in time. The Apostle placeth Vocation [i.e. effectual calling] before Justification (Rom. 8:30), which Vocation is the same thing with the first Sanctification or Regeneration. See Acts 26:18, “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”



[1] Faith justifies instrumentally, correlatively, not because of any worth in it, but because of the excellency of Christ, not dispositively by being the root of other graces, so the Papists affirm, but then it would still be in the way of a work.

[2] See M. Down of Reconcil. of Paul and James; Mr. Manton on James 2:24.

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