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Question 63. What! do not our good works merit, which yet God will reward in this and a future life?

Answer. This reward is not of merit, but of grace.




This question anticipates an objection on the part of the Papists in favor of justification before God, on account of our works and merits. Reward, say they, presupposes merit, so that where the one is, there the other must be also, for they are correlatives. Everlasting life is proposed as a reward for good works. Therefore the merit of good works is everlasting life. Ans.  The first proposition is sometimes true of creatures, because men may de serve something from each other; but it does not always follow even among men, that where there is merit, there is reward. Rewards are often given by men when there is nothing to deserve them. But it is improperly said of God that he bestows eternal life as the reward of our good works: for we cannot deserve any thing at the hands of God by our works. Or the objection may be thus stated: That to which there is a reward attached is meritorious. There is a reward attached to good works. Therefore, ac cording to the order of justice they are meritorious. Ans. That is meritorious to which a reward is attached by obligation; but the reward of good works is according to grace. There are two things to be considered in a reward: obligation and recompense. But here there is no obligation, and hence the reward which follows our good works is a reward which follows of grace. God bestows rewards upon our good works, that he may thereby testify that they are pleasing to him that he may teach us, that eternal life is promised only to those who strive and agonize, and that he will just as certainly grant us this reward as if we had merited it. All the other arguments by which the Papists endeavor to prove that our good works are meritorious, may properly be referred to this place.

Obj. 2. We are justified by faith. Faith is a work. Therefore we are justified by works. Ans. We deny the consequence which is here drawn, because there is more in the conclusion than in the premises: for this is all that follows legitimately. Therefore we are justified by that work, which we grant, if understood in the sense of an instrument or means, and not as the Papists understand it: for we are justified by faith, as a means, but not for, nor on account of it. There is also in the above syllogism a different form of speech: for in the first proposition faith is understood correlatively, and in the second properly.

Obj. 3. Our righteousness is that by which we are formally made righteous. Faith is our righteousness. Therefore we are formally made righteous by faith. Ans. We deny the consequence which is here drawn, because the term faith, as used in this syllogism must be understood in a different sense in the major and minor propositions, or else it is not true: for properly speaking it is not faith, but the object of faith, or that which faith apprehends and applies to itself, which is the merit of Christ, that constitutes our righteousness. Or, we may reply that there are four terms in this syllogism; because the major speaks of legal, and the minor of evangelical righteousness, or else the major is not true: for evangelical righteousness is not formally in us, as whiteness in a wall; but it is without us in Christ; and becomes ours by the imputation and application of it through faith.

Obj. 4. We are counted righteous in view of that which is imputed unto us for righteousness. Faith is imputed unto us for righteousness.

Therefore we are accounted righteous, not only by faith, but also on account of it. A us. There is here again a different kind of affirmation in the terms of this syllogism. The major is true of that which is properly and by itself imputed unto us for righteousness, whilst the minor is true of that which is imputed unto us correlatively; because, when it is said through faith, it means through the object of faith, which being apprehended, is properly the for mal cause of our righteousness; the efficient cause is God applying unto us the merit of Christ, whilst faith is the instrumental cause. Hence the declaration, we are justified by faith, if understood legally as the Papists understand it, is not true, but blasphemy. But if understood evangelically, having respect to the merits of Christ, it is true: for the merit of Christ is the correlative of faith, arid is apprehended by it as an instrument.

Obj. 5. Evil works condemn. Therefore good works justify. Ans.  But evil works are wholly evil, whilst good works are only imperfectly good, so that these two declarations cannot be opposed to each other in the form in which they are here placed. And even if our works were perfectly good, yet they could not merit eternal life, inasmuch as they are due from us. A reward is due to evil works according to the order of justice; but not unto good works, because we are bound to do them as the creatures of God; but no one can bind God, on the other hand, by any works or means to confer any benefit upon him. Evil works, again, in their very design oppose and injure God, whilst good works add nothing to his felicity.

Obj. 6. He who does righteously is righteous. (1 John 8:7.) There fore we are justified by works. Ans. He that works righteousness is righteous in the sight of men; but in the sight of God no one is righteous by working, but by believing, as the Scripture saith: “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” (Rom. 3:20.) Again, John does not speak of the manner in which we become righteous, but declares who are righteous; as if he would say, He that is regenerated is also justified, because by doing righteousness he gives evidence that he is justified. There is, therefore, in this objection a fallacy in making that which is not the cause of our justification, the cause of it.

Obj. 7. But Christ said of Mary (Luke 7:47) her sins which were many were forgiven her, because she loved much. Therefore love is the cause of our justification. Ans, Christ here reasons from the effect to the cause. He concludes that because Mary loved much, and had a deep sense of her indebtedness to God for his mercy, that she must have received the forgiveness of many sins. That this is the meaning of Christ is evident from the parable itself. Again, not every thing that is the cause of a consequence is also the cause of the consequent and thing itself, which would here be the case if it were added: therefore many sins were forgiven her, because she loved much. The particle because does not always signify the cause of the thing consequent: for this does not follow; the sun is risen, because it is day. Therefore the day is the cause of the rising of the sun. The contrary is rather true.



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