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§ 10. Departures from the Protestant Doctrine.


During the lifetime of the Reformers, a very earnest controversy began in the Lutheran Church on the nature of justification. This arose from the views of Andreas Osiander, a man of distinguished learning and of a speculative turn of mind; eminent first as a preacher, and afterwards as a professor in the university of Königsberg. His principal work is entitled “De Unico Mediatore Jesu Christo et Justificatione Fidei. Confessio Andreæ Osiandri.” His difference of opinion from the other Reformers so clearly indicated in the following words, in which he denounces the errors which he means to oppose: “Omnes horribiliter errant. Primo, quia verbum justificare tantum pro justum reputare et pronunciare intelligunt, atque interpretantur, et non pro eo, quod 180est, reipsa et in veritate justum efficere. Deinde etiam in hoc quod nullam differentiam tenent inter redemptionem et justificationem, quum tamen magna differentia sit, sicut vel inde intelligi sit, quod homines furem a suspendio redimere possunt, bonum et justum efficere non possunt. Porro etiam in hoc, quod nihil certe statuere possunt, quid tandem justitia Christi sit, quam per fidem in nobis esse, nobisque imputari oporteat. Ac postremo errant omnium rudissime etiam in hoc, quod divinam naturam Christi a justificatione separant, et Christum dividunt atque solvunt, id quod haud dubie execrandi Satanæ opus est.178178Confessio, Königsberg, 1551; by count, pp. 42, 43, of the text.

Osiander taught, (1.) That Christ has redeemed us by the satisfaction which He rendered to divine justice. (2.) But he denied that this was any part of our justification. (3.) He maintained that to justify does not mean to declare just, or to render righteous in a judicial or forensic sense, but to render inherently or subjectively just and holy. (4.) That the righteousness of Christ by which the believer is justified, and which he receives by faith, and which is imputed to him in the judgment of God, is not, as the Protestants taught, the work of Christ, consisting in what He did and suffered as the substitute of sinners, nor is it, as Romanists teach, the work of the Holy Spirit consisting in the infusion of a holy nature or of new habits of grace, but it is the “essential righteousness of God,” “the divine essence, “God Himself.” (5.) That consequently the proximate and real ground of our acceptance with God, and of our reception into heaven, is what we are, or what we become, in virtue of this in-dwelling of God in the soul.

The speculations of Osiander as to the nature of God and his relation to man, might have led him under any circumstances to adopt the peculiar views above stated, but the proximate cause was no doubt the reaction from the too exclusive prominence given at that time to the objective work of Christ. This is not to be wondered at, and perhaps was not to be blamed. The Romanists, with whom the Protestants had to contend, did not deny the necessity of an inward change in the nature of fallen man. But they made this almost all of Christ’s redeeming work. What He did for the expiation of sin and for meeting the demands of justice, was only to open the way for God’s giving renewing and sanctifying grace to sinners. Men were themselves to merit eternal life. It was unavoidable therefore, that the Reformers should strenuously insist upon what Christ did for us 181and that they should protest against confounding justification with sanctification. Osiander’s cast of mind made him revolt at this, and carried him completely over to the Romish side, so far as the nature of justification is concerned. He said that the Protestant doctrine of justification is “colder than ice.” It is as though a man should pay the ransom of a Turkish slave, and leave him and his children in bondage. Still more violent is his denunciation of the doctrine that Christ’s righteousness, of which we partake through faith, consists of his obedience and sufferings. What good can they do us? Christ obeyed and suffered centuries ago; we cannot appropriate what He then did and make it our own. Imputing it to us does not alter the case. It does not make us better. Speculative as well as Biblical reasons, however, prevented Osiander from accepting the Romish solution of the difficulty. What we are said to receive is “the righteousness of Christ,” “the righteousness of God;” but sanctifying grace is never called the righteousness of God. If, therefore, that righteousness by which the believer is constituted righteous, be neither the obedience of Christ, nor infused grace, what can it be other than the essential righteousness of God, the divine essence itself? Calvin, who in his “Institutes” earnestly combats the theory of Osiander, says that he invented “monstrum nescio quod essentialis justitiæ.” “Dilucide exprimit, se non ea justitia contentum, quæ nobis obedientia et sacrificio mortis Christi parta est, fingere nos substantialiter in Deo justos esse tam essentia quam qualitate infusa. . . . . Substantialem mixtionem ingerit, qua Deus se in nos transfundens, quasi partem sui faciat. Nam virtute Spiritus sancti fieri, ut coalescamus cum Christo, nobisque sit caput et nos ejus membra, fere pro nihilo ducit, nisi ejus essentia nobis misceatur.179179Institutio, III. xi. 5, edit. Berlin, 1834, part ii. p. 8.

But what theory of the nature of God and of his relation to man did Osiander hold, which admitted of this doctrine of the infusion of the divine essence into the soul? His views on this point were not clearly brought out, but the primary idea which underlies his speculation is the old doctrine of the oneness of God and man. Man is God in at least one form of his existence. He held that Christ is the image, the representative, the realized ideal of the Godhead, not as Logos or Son, but as Godman, the Theanthropos. As from its nature or from the nature of God this idea realized, this manifestation of God in his true idea must occur, and therefore the incarnation would have taken 182place had man never sinned. The fall of Adam only modified the circumstances attending the incarnation, determining that it should involve suffering and death. But the incarnation itself, the appearance of God in fashion as a man arose from a law of the divine nature. Adam was created not after the image of God as such, but after the image of Christ; in some sort, a God-man. The affinity of this theory with the modern pantheistic speculations is apparent. Baur, therefore, is doubtless right when he says, at the close of his apologetic notice of Osiander’s doctrine, that his idea of the relation between the divine and human “is that which at last found its adequate scientific expression by Schleiermacher and Hegel, that Christ as Redeemer is the perfected creation of human nature; or, that the divine nature is the truth of humanity, and human nature the reality, or existence-form (die Wirklichkeit) of the divine nature.”180180Baur, Die Christliche Lehre von der Versöhnung, II. i. 1, Tübingen, 1838, p. 330, note.


Stancarus, a contemporary and opponent of Osiander, went to the extreme of asserting that the righteousness of Christ was the work of his human nature exclusively. This doctrine was however repudiated by the Romanists as well as by Protestants. If it was Christ’s human nature as such (and not the divine person) who obeyed, then the human nature in Christ was a distinct subsistence, and thus the unity of his person is destroyed. Besides, if it was not a divine person in his human nature who obeyed and suffered, then we have but a human Saviour, and a righteousness of no higher than a human value. We know from Scripture that it was the Lord of glory who was crucified, the Son of God who, being born of a woman, was made under the law.


The first conspicuous departure from the Protestant doctrine of justification among the Reformed, was on the part of Piscator, whose denial of the imputation of the active obedience of Christ to the believer, excited for some years a good deal of discussion, but it passed away without leaving any distinct trace in the theology of the Reformation. Baur, indeed, assigns to it more importance, as he regards it as the first step in the downfall of the whole doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ, over which he rejoices. Piscator was a native of Strasburg, and a member of 183the Lutheran Church, to whose service his first ministerial and professional labors were devoted. It coming to the knowledge of the ecclesiastical authorities that in his exposition of the Epistle to the Philippians he denied the ubiquity of the human nature of Christ, and taught the doctrine of predestination, he was deprived of his position in the Lutheran Church and passed over to the Reformed. He was soon appointed one of the professors of the new Institution of Hebron founded by the Duke of Nassau. He remained in connection with that institution from 1584 until his death in 1625, in the seventy-ninth year of his age. He was a prolific writer. Besides a new translation of the Bible, he wrote numerous commentaries on books of the Old and New Testaments, and conducted many controversies with Lutherans and Romanists, before he embroiled himself with the theologians of his own church.181181Theses Theolog., vol. iii. locus 39: “De causa meritoria justificationis hominis coram Deo, sive de ea re, quæ a Deo ad justitiam imputatur.” He took the ground that the “imputatio justitiæ” and “remissio peccatorum” are identical; the former means nothing more than the latter; and consequently that Christ’s work consists simply in the expiation of sin. His active obedience to the divine law constitutes no part of the righteousness by which the believer is justified before God. He admits that Christ rendered a twofold obedience, — the one to the law of God as a rule of duty; the other to the special command given to Him as Mediator. He came to accomplish a certain work; to do the will of the Father, which was to make satisfaction for sin. In this we are interested; but his obedience to the moral law was for Himself, and was the necessary condition of his satisfaction. He could not have made atonement for others had He not been Himself holy. “Tribuitur morti,” he says,182182Loc. xxvi. p. 331. “quod ei tribuendum, nimirum, quod sit plenissima satisfactio pro peccatis nostris; sic etiam vitæ obedientiæ tribuitur, quod scriptura ei tribuendum perhibet, nimirum, quod sit causa, sine qua non potuerat Christus idoneus esse mediator inter Deum et hominem.” Although Piscator made some effort to prove exegetically that pardon and justification, the remission of sin and imputation of righteousness, are identical, yet his arguments against the received doctrine, that the obedience of Christ is part our justifying righteousness, are not Biblical. The question before his mind was not simply, What do the Scriptures teach? but, What is true, logical, and symmetrical? He saw objections 184to the imputation of the active obedience of Christ, which seemed to him fatal, and on the ground of those objections he rejected the doctrine. Thus, for example, he argues that Christ’s obedience to the law was due from Himself as a man, and therefore not imputable to others. He argues thus,183183Loc. xxvi. p. 334.Qui Christum dicunt ubique ut hominem, Christum dicunt non hominem, dum enim dico ubique, dico Deum, qui solus est in cœlo et in terra. Similiter cum dico subjectum legi, dico hominem. Qui ergo Christum subjectum legi negant, negant ipsum esse hominem.” Every man as such in virtue of being a man’s individually bound to obey the moral law. Christ was a man; therefore He was bound to obey the law for Himself. He did not perceive, or was not willing to admit, that the word “man” is taken in different senses in the different members of this syllogism, and therefore, the conclusion is vitiated. In the first clause, “man” means a human person; in the second clause, it means human nature. Christ was not a human person, although He assumed human nature. He was a man in the sense in which we are dust and ashes. But because we are dust, it does not follow that all that may be predicated of dust, may be predicated of us; e.g., that we have no life, no reason, no immortality. In like manner, although the eternal Son of God took upon Himself a true body and a reasonable soul, yet as He was a divine person, it does not follow that everything that is true of human persons must be true of Him. Piscator also argues that the law binds either to punishment or to obedience, but not to both at once. Therefore, if Christ’s obedience is imputed to us, there was no necessity that He should die for us. On the other hand, if He died for us, there was no necessity that He should obey for us. The principle here assumed may be true with regard to unfallen man. But where sin has been committed there is need of expiation as well as of obedience, and of obedience as well as expiation, if the reward of perfect obedience is to be conferred. Again, he says, if Christ has fulfilled the law for us, we are not bound to keep it. This is the old objection of the Jews; if justified by grace we may live in sin. But Christ has fulfilled the law for us only as a covenant of works. In that sense, says the Apostle, we are not under the law, but it does not thence follow that we are free from all moral obligation arising from our relation to God, as rational creatures. It may be true as Baur, himself a thorough skeptic in the English and American sense of that word, thinks, 185that this innovation of Piscator prepared the way for the rejection of the whole Scriptural doctrine of satisfaction. Certain it is that both Lutherans and Reformed united, with scarcely a dissenting voice, in the condemnation of Piscator’s doctrine. It was judicially repudiated by the national Synod of France on several different occasions; first in 1603, again at La Rochelle in 1607, and afterwards in 1612 and 1613. The Swiss churches in the “Formula Consensus Helvetica,” which received symbolical authority in Switzerland, pronounced clearly in favour of the old doctrine. This matter was soon lost sight of in consequence of the rise of Arminianism of far more historical importance.

The Arminian Doctrine.

Jacobus Arminius, a man of learning, talents, attractive accomplishments, and exemplary character, was born in Holland 1560, and died professor in the University of Leyden, in 1609, having filled the chair of theology since 1603. His departures from the Reformed doctrines in which he had been educated were far less serious than those of his successors, although involving them, apparently, by a logical necessity. His great difficulty was with the doctrine of predestination or the sovereignty of God in election. He could not, however, get rid of that doctrine without denying the entire inability of man to do what is spiritually good. He, therefore, taught that although mankind fell in Adam and are born in a state of sin and condemnation, and are of themselves entirely unable to turn from sin to holiness, yet that they are able to coöperate with the grace of the Holy Spirit given to all men, especially to all who hear the Gospel, in sufficient measure to enable them to repent and believe, and to persevere in holy living unto the end. But whether any man doe thus repent and believe, or, having believed, perseveres in a holy life, depends on himself and not on God. The purpose of election, therefore, is not a purpose to save, and to that end to give faith and repentance to a definite number of individuals, but a purpose to save those who repent, believe, and persevere in faith until the end. The work of Christ has, therefore, an equal reference to all men. He made full satisfaction to God for the sins of all and every man, so that God can now consistently offer salvation to all men on the conditions laid down in the Gospel.

This is a self-consistent scheme. One part implies, or necessitates admission of the others. The above statement includes all the doctrines presented by the followers of Arminius, after 186his death, to the authorities in the form of a Remonstrance, as a justification of their views. Hence the Arminians were called Remonstrants. The document just mentioned contains the five points on which its authors and their associates differed from the Reformed faith. The first relates to predestination, which is explained as the purpose “illos in Christo, propter Christum et per Christum servare, qui Spiritus Sancti gratia, in eundem ejus filjum credunt, et in ea, fideique obedientia, per eandem gratiam in finem perseverant: contra vero eos, qui non convertentur et infideles, in peccato et iræ subjectos relinquere, et condemnare, secundum illud Evang. Joann. iii. 36.

The second relates to the work of Christ, as to which it is said, “Proinde Jesum Christum mundi servatorem pro omnibus et singulis mortuum esse, atque ita quidem, ut omnibus per mortem Christi reconciliationem et peccatorum remissionem impetravit: ea tamen conditione, ut nemo illa remissione peccatorum re ipsa fruatur, præter hominem fidelem, et hoc quoque secundum Evang. Joann. iii. 16, et 1 Joann. ii. 2.

The third, concerning the sinner’s ability, declares, “Hominem vero salutarem fidem a se ipso non habere, nec vi liberi sui arbitrii, quandoquidem in statu defectionis et peccati nihil boni, quandoquidem vere bonum est, quale quid est fides salutaris, ex se possit cogitare, vel facere: sed necessarium esse eum a Deo in Christo per Spiritum Sanctum regigni et renovari mente, affectibus, seu voluntate et omnibus facultatibus, ut aliquid boni possit intelligere, cogitare, velle et perficere. Ev. Joann. xv. 5.” No Augustinian, whether Lutheran or Calvinist, can say more than that, or desire more to be said by others.

The fourth article, concerning grace, however, shows the point of departure: “Hanc Dei gratiam esse initium, progressum ac perfectionem omnis boni, atque id eo quidem usque ut ipse homo regenitus absque hac præcedentia, sen adventitia excitante, consequente et cooperante gratia, neque boni quid cogitare, velle, aut facere possit, neque etiam ulli malæ tentatione resistere; adeo quidem ut omnia bona opera, quæ excogitare possumus, Dei gratiæ in Christo tribuenda sint; quod vero modum operationis illius gratiæ, illa non irresistibilis; de multis enim dicitur eos Spiritui Sancto resistere, Act. vii. 51 et alibi multis locis.” It was not to be expected, in a brief exposition of principles designed for the justification of those who hold them, as members of a Reformed or Calvinistic church, that doubtful terms should be explained. It is beyond controversy, however, and, it is believed, 187is not controverted, that irresistible is here used in the sense of certainty efficacious. The Holy Spirit operates on the hearts of all men. Some are thereby renewed and brought to faith and repentance; others are not. This difference, according to the Remonstrants, is not to be referred to the nature of the influence exerted, but to the fact that some yield to this grace and coöperate with it; while others reject and resist it.

The fifth article refers to the perseverance of the saints, and is indefinite. It admits that the Spirit furnishes grace abundantly sufficient to enable the believer to persevere in holiness: “Sed an illi ipsi negligentia sua initium sui esse in Christo deserere non possint, et præsentem mundum iterum amplecti, a sancta doctrina ipsis semel tradita deficere, conscientiæ naufragium facere, a gratia excidere; penitus ex sacra Scriptura esset expendum, antequam illud cum plena animi tranquillitate et πληροφορία docere possent.” Of course no man who believed the doctrine could write thus, and this doubtful mode of expression was soon laid aside, and “falling from grace,” in the common sense of the phrase, was admitted to be an Arminian doctrine.

It will be observed that the doctrine of justification is not embraced in the five points in the Remonstrance as presented to the authorities in Holland, and as made the basis of the decisions of the Synod of Dort. The aberration of the Arminians, however, from the faith of the Reformed churches, extended to all the doctrines connected with the plan of salvation. Arminius himself, at least, held far higher and more Scriptural views on original sin, inability, and the necessity of supernatural grace, than those which have since become so prevalent even among the Reformed or Calvinistic churches themselves. In matters concerning the method of salvation, especially as to the nature of Christ’s work and its application to the believer, they at first adhered closely to the language of the Reformed confessions. Thus they did not hesitate to say that Christ made full satisfaction for the sins of men; that He was a ransom, a sacrifice, a propitiation; that He made expiation for sin; that his righteousness or obedience is the ground of our acceptance with God; that the faith which saves is not mere assent to truth, or pious confidence in God, but specifically faith in Christ as the Saviour of men; and that justification is an act of God pronouncing the sinner just, or in which He pardons sin and accepts the sinner as righteous. All this is satisfactory to the ear. Language, however, admits a different interpretations and it soon became apparent and 188avowed that the Remonstrants intended something very different from what the Reformed Church meant to express by the same terms.

1. They said that Christ’s work was a satisfaction to divine justice. But they did not mean by satisfaction, either a “solutio,” a real value rendered for what was due; nor even an “acceptio,” taking one thing for another as an equivalent; but an “acceptilatio,” a gracious acceptance as a satisfaction of that which in its own nature was no equivalent; as though God should accept the life of a brute for that of a man; or faith for perfect obedience. Neither did the Remonstrants mean by justice the attribute which requires the righteous distribution of rewards and punishments, and which renders it necessary that the penalty of the law should be executed in case of transgression.

With regard to this latter point (the nature of justice) the language of Grotius, and of the great body of the Remonstrant or Arminian theologians, is perfectly explicit. Grotius says: “Pœnas infligere, aut a pœnis aliquem liberare, quem punire possis, quod justificare vocat Scriptura, non est nisi rectoris, qua talis primo et per se: ut, puta, in familia patris; in republica regis, in universo Dei. . . . . Unde sequitur, omnino hic Deum considerandum, ut rectorem.184184De Satisfactione Christi, cap. 2; Works, edit. London, 1679, vol. iii. p. 306, b (19-24). Again,185185Ibid. cap. 5; p. 317, b (35-41). Ratio [cur ‘rectori relaxare legem talem non liceat, nisi causa aliqua accedat, si non necessaria, certe sufficiens’] . . . . est, quod actus ferendi aut relaxandi legem non sit actus absoluti dominii, sed actus imperii, qui tendere debeat ad boni ordinis conservationem.186186Ibid. cap. 2; p. 308, b (62, 63). Pœna enim omnis propositum habet bonum commune.” “Prudentia quoque hoc nomine rectorem ad pœnam incitat. Augetur præterea causa puniendi, ubi lex aliqua publicata est, quæ pœnam minatur. Nam tunc omissio pœnæ ferme aliquid detrahit de legis authoritate apud subditos.187187Ibid. cap. 5; p. 316, b (9-13).

Here everything is purely governmental. It is not justice, in the proper and ordinary sense of the word, that is satisfied, but God’s wise and benevolent regard to the interests of his moral government. This changes everything. If God’s justice be not satisfied guilt is not removed, and sin is not expiated. And therefore conscience is not appeased; nor can the real authority and honour of the law be upheld.

As to the other point, the nature of the satisfaction rendered 189it was not a real equivalent, which by its intrinsic value met the obligations of the sinner, but it was something graciously accepted as such. Although Grotius rejects the use of the word “acceptilatio,” and endeavours to show that it does not express his meaning, nevertheless, though he repudiates the word, he retains the idea. He says,188188De Satisfactione Christi, cap. 8; Works, edit. London, 1679, vol. iii. p. 328, b (12-14). Ea est pretii natura, ut sui valore aut æstimatione alterum moveat ad concedendam rem, aut jus aliquod, puta impunitatem.” This amounts to the principle of Duns Scotus that a thing avails (is worth) for what God pleases to take it. Although Grotius does not carry out the principle to the length to which the Schoolmen carried it, and say that God might have accepted the death of one man as a satisfaction for the sins of the world, or the blood of bulls or of goats as a real expiation, nevertheless, he teaches that God graciously accepted “aliquid pro aliquo,” the death of Christ for the death of all the world, not because of its being a real equivalent in itself, but because as ruler, having the right to remit sin without any satisfaction, He saw that the interests of his government could thereby be promoted. Still more clearly is this idea expressed by Limborch:189189Theologia Christiana, III. xxi. 8, edit. Amsterdam, 1715, p. 262, a. In eo errant quam maxime, quod velint redemtionis pretium per omnia equivalens esse debere miseriæ illi, e qua redemtio fit: redemtionis pretium enim constitui solet pro libera æstimatione illius, qui captivum detinet, non autem solvi pro captivi merito. . . . . Ita pretium, quod Christus persolvit, juxta Dei Patris æstimationem persolutum est.

According to Grotius, Christ died as an example, “exemplum pœnæ.” The whole efficacy of his work was its moral impression on the universe. It was not an expiation or satisfaction for past sins, but a means of deterring from the commission of sin in the future. This, as Baur190190Die christliche Lehre von der Versöhnung, II. i. 4, Tübingen, 1838, p. 429. and Strauss191191Dogmatik, Tübingen and Stuttgart, 1841, vol. ii. p. 315. remark, is the point in which the theory of Grotius and that of Socinus coincide. They both refer the efficacy of Christ’s work to the moral impression which it makes on the minds of intelligent creatures. They refer that moral influence, indeed, to different causes, but moral impression is all the efficacy it has. Although the word satisfaction is retained by Grotius, the idea attached to it by the Church is rejected. The leading Remonstrant or Arminian theologians, as Episcopius, Curcellæus, and Limborch, differ from Grotius in their mode of presenting this subject. Instead of regarding the work of Christ as an example of punishment, designed to deter from  190the commission of sin, they adhere to the Scriptural mode of regarding Him as a ransom and sacrifice. The difference however is more in form than in reality. They admit that Christ redeems us by giving Himself as a ransom for many. But a ransom, as Curcellæus says, is not an equivalent; it is anything the holder of the captive sees fit to accept. It is admitted, also, that Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice for our salvation; but a sacrifice is said not to be a satisfaction to justice, but simply the condition on which pardon is granted. Under the Old Testament God pardoned sin on the occasion of the sacrifice of irrational animals; under the New Testament, on the occasion of the sacrifice of Christ. “Sacrificia,” says Limborch,192192Theologia Christiana, III. xxi. 6, 8, ut supra, pp. 261, a, 262, a. non sunt solutiones debitorum, neque plenariæ pro peccatis satisfactiones; sed illis peractis conceditur gratuita peccati remissio.” “Redemtionis pretium constitui solet pro libera æstimatione illius, qui captivum detinet.” We know, however, from Scripture that a sacrifice was not merely an arbitrarily appointed antecedent of gratuitous forgiveness; it was not simply an acknowledgment of guilt. We know also that the blood of bulls and of goats under the Old Testament could not take away sin; it availed only to the purifying of the flesh, or the remission of ceremonial penalties. The only efficacy of the Old Testament sacrifices, so far as sin committed against God is concerned, was sacramental; that is, they signified, sealed, and applied the benefits of the only real and effectual expiation for sin, to those who believed. As the victim symbolically bore the penalty due to the offender, so the eternal Son of God really bore our sins, really became a curse for us, and thus made a true and perfect satisfaction to God for our offences.

2. As the Remonstrants denied that Christ’s work was a real satisfaction for sin, they of necessity denied any real justification of the sinner. Justification with them is merely pardon. This is asserted by Grotius in the passage above cited; and even the Rev. Richard Watson, whose excellent system of theology, or “Theological Institutes,” is deservedly in high repute among the Wesleyan Methodists, not only over and over defines justification as pardon, but elaborately argues the question. “The first point,” he says, “which we find established by the language of the New Testament is, that justification, the pardon and remission of sins, the non-imputation of sin, and the imputation of righteousness, are terms and phrases of the same import.”193193II. xxiii.; edit. New York, 1832, p. 426. He then goes on to establish that position.


If therefore, pardon and justification are distinct things, the one the executive act of a ruler, the other a judicial act; the one setting aside the demands of justice, the other a declaration that justice is satisfied; then those who reduce justification to mere pardon, deny the doctrine of justification as understood and professed by the Lutheran and Reformed churches. It of course is not intended that these Remonstrant or Arminian theologians do not hold what they call justification; nor is it denied that they at times, at least, express their doctrine in the very language of the Symbols of the Protestant churches. Thus the Remonstrants194194Apologia pro Confessione Remonstrantium, cap. 11, 12; Episcopii Opera, edit. Rotterdam, 1665, vol. ii. p. 166, a, of second set. say, “Justificatio est actio Dei, quam Deus pure pute in sua ipsius mente efficit, quia nihil aliud est, quam volitio aut decretum, quo peccata remittere, et justitiam imputare aliquando vult iis, qui credunt, id est, quo vult pœnas, peccatis eorum promeritas, iis non infligere, eosque tanquam justos tractare et premio afficere.” Nevertheless they tell us that they mean by this only pardon. Protestants, when they say justification includes pardon “and” the imputation of righteousness, mean two distinct things by pardon and imputation of righteousness. The Remonstrants regard them as identical, and, therefore, can use the very language of Protestants, while rejecting their doctrine. As every one feels and knows that when a criminal is pardoned by the executive, and allowed to resume his rights of property and right of voting, he is not thereby justified; so every candid mind must admit that there is an immense difference between the Remonstrant or Arminian doctrine of justification and that held as the cardinal principle of the Reformation by both Lutherans and Reformed.

3. This difference becomes still more apparent when we consider what the Remonstrants make the ground of justification As they deny that Christ made any real satisfaction to divine justice (as distinguished from benevolence), so they deny that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer as the ground of his justification. On this point, Limborch195195Theologia Christiana, VI. iv. 18, ut supra, p. 703, a. says, “Hæc autem, quæ nobis imputatur, non est Christi justitia; nus quam enim Scriptura docet, Christi justitiam nobis imputari; sed tantum fidem nobis imputari in justitiam, et quidem propter Christum.” And Curcellæus196196Relig. Christ. Inst. 7, 9, 6. says, “Nullibi docet Scriptura justitiam Christi nobis imputari. Et id absurdum est. Nemo enim in se injustus aliena justitia potest esse formaliter justus, non magis, quam aliena albedine Æthiops esse albus.


As the righteousness of Christ is not imputed to the believer, the ground of his justification, that which is accepted as righteousness, is faith and its fruits, or faith and evangelical obedience. On this subject Limborch says,197197Theologia Christiana, VI. iv. 37, ut supra, p. 706, a. that under the new covenant God demands “obedientiam fidei, hoc est, non rigidam et omnibus æqualem, prout exigebat lex; sed tantam, quantam fides, id est, certa de divinis promissionibus persuasio, in unoquoque efficere potest; in qua etiam Deus multas imperfectiones et lapsus condonat, modo animo sincero præceptorum ipsius observationi incumbamus, et continuo in eadem proficere studeamus.

And again,198198Ibid. VI. iv. 41; p. 706, b, 707, a. Deus non judicat hominum justitiam esse perfectam, imo eam judicat esse imperfectam; sed justitiam, quam imperfectam judicat, gratiose accipit ac si perfecta esset.” He, therefore,199199Ibid. VI. iv. 18; p. 703, a. thus defines justification, “Est gratiosa æstimatio, seu potius acceptatio justitiæ nostræ imperfectæ (quæ, si Deus rigide nobiscum agere vellet, in judicio Dei nequaquam consistere posset) pro perfecta, propter Jesum Christum.

The same view is presented when he speaks of faith in its relation to justification. Faith is said to be imputed for righteousness; but Limborch says,200200Ibid. VI. iv. 32; p. 705, b.Sciendum, quando dicimus, nos fide justificari, nos non excludere opera, quæ fides exigit et tanquam fœcunda mater producit; sed ea includere.” Again,201201Ibid. VI. iv. 31; p. 705, a. Fides est conditio in nobis et a nobis requisita, ut justificationem consequamur. Est itaque talis actus, qui, licet in se spectatus perfectus nequaquam sit, sed in multis deficiens, tamen a Deo gratiosa et liberrima voluntate pro pleno et perfecto acceptatur et propter quem Deus homini gratiose remissionem peccatorum et vitæ æternæ præmium conferre vult.

Fletcher202202Last Check to Antinomianism, sect. i; Works, N. Y. 1833, vol. ii. pp. 493, 494. says, “With respect to the Christless law of paradisaical obedience, we entirely disclaim sinless perfection.” “We shall not be judged by that law; but by a law adapted to our present state and circumstances, a milder law, called the law of Christ.” “Our Heavenly Father never expects of us, in our debilitated state, the obedience of immortal Adam in paradise.”

Dr. Peck203203Christian Perfection, New York, 1843, p. 294. says, “The standard of character set up in the Gospel must be such as is practicable by man, fallen as he is. Coming up to this standard is what we call Christian perfection.”


Under the covenant of works as made with Adam, perfect obedience was the condition of acceptance with God and of eternal life; under the Gospel, for Christ’s sake, imperfect, or evangelical obedience, is the ground of justification, i.e., it is that (propter quam) on account of which God graciously grants us the remission of sin and the reward of eternal life.

We have then the three great systems. First, that of the Romanists, which teaches that on account of the work of Christ God grants, through Christian baptism, an infusion of divine grace, by which all sin is purged from the soul and all ground for the infliction of the penalty is removed and the sinner rendered inherently just or holy. This is the first justification. Then in virtue of the new principle of spiritual life thus imparted, the baptized or regenerated are enabled to perform good works, which are really meritorious and on account of which they are admitted to heaven.

Secondly, the Arminian theory, that on account of what Christ has done, God is pleased to grant sufficient grace to all men, and to accept the imperfect obedience which the believer is thus enabled to render in lieu of the perfect obedience required under the covenant made with Adam, and on account of that imperfect obedience, eternal life is graciously bestowed.

Thirdly, the Protestant doctrine that Christ, as the representative and substitute of sinners or of his people, takes their place under the law, and in their name and in their behalf fulfils all righteousness, thereby making a real, perfect, and infinitely meritorious satisfaction to the law and justice of God, which righteousness is imputed, or set to the account of the believer, who is thereupon and on that account freely pardoned and pronounced righteous in the sight of God, and entitled not only to the remission of sin but also to eternal life. Being united to Christ by faith, the believer becomes partaker of his life, so that it is not he that lives but Christ that liveth in him, and the life which the believer now lives in the flesh is by faith of the Son of God, who loved him, and gave Himself for him.

Comparison of the Different Doctrines.

The first remark which suggests itself on the comparison of these several schemes is, that the relation between the believer and Christ is far more close, peculiar, and constant on the Protestant scheme than on any other. He is dependent on Him every hour; for the imputation of his righteousness; for the supplies of 194the Spirit of life; and for his care, guidance, and intercession. He must look to Him continually; and continually exercise faith in Him as an ever present Saviour in order to live. According to the other schemes, Christ has merely made the salvation of all men possible. There his work ended. According to Romanists, He has made it possible that God should give sanctifying grace in baptism; according to the Remonstrants, He has rendered it possible for Him to give sufficient grace to all men whereby to sanctify and save themselves. We are well aware that this is theory; that the true people of God, whether Romanists or Remonstrants, do not look on Christ thus as a Saviour afar off. They doubtless have the same exercises towards Him that their fellow believers have; nevertheless, such is the theory. The theory places a great gulf between the soul and Christ.

Secondly, it hardly admits of question that the Protestant view conforms to the Scriptural mode of presenting the plan of salvation. Christ in the Bible is declared to be the head of his people, their representative; they were in Him in such a sense that they died in Him; they are raised with Him, and sit with Him in heavenly places. They were in Him as the race was in Adam, and as branches are in the vine. They individually receive the sprinkling of that blood which cleanses from all sin. They are constituted righteous by his obedience. As He was made sin for them, so are they made the righteousness of God in Him. He is not only an example of punishment as Grotius represents, a mere governmental device, but a sacrifice substituted for us, on whose head every believer must lay his hand and to whom he must transfer the burden of his sins.

Thirdly, what is included indeed in the above, but is so important and decisive as to require distinct and repeated mention; all schemes, other than the Protestant, refer the proximate ground of our acceptance with God to our own subjective character. It is because of our own goodness that we are regarded and treated as righteous. Whereas conscience demands, the Scriptures reveal, and the believer instinctively seeks something better than that. His own goodness is badness. It cannot satisfy his own bleared vision; how then can it appear before the eyes of God? It matters not how the Romanist may exalt his “inward habits of grace;” or how the Arminian may sublimate his evangelical obedience to perfection; neither can satisfy either the conscience or God.

Fourthly, the Protestant doctrine is the only one on which the 195soul can live. This has been urged before when speaking of the work of Christ. It is fair to appeal from theology to hymnology from the head to the heart; from what man thinks to what God makes men feel. It is enough to say on this point, that Lutheran and Reformed Christians can find nowhere, out of the Bible, more clear, definite, soul-satisfying expression of their doctrinal views upon this subject, than are to be found in many, of the hymns of the Latin and Arminian churches. As a single example may be cited the following stanzas from John Wesley’s “Hymns and Spiritual Songs”: —

“Join, earth and heaven to bless

The Lord our Righteousness.

The mystery of redemption this,

This the Saviour’s strange design —

Man’s offence was counted his.

Ours his righteousness divine.

“In Him complete we shine;

His death, his life, is mine;

Fully am I justified,

Free from sin, and more than free,

Guiltless, since for me He died;

Righteous, since He lived for me.”

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