The righteousness of God with which the Gospel
is concerned can mean only either an attribute or
a relation of God (Rom. i. 17, 19), or else a righteousness created by God (II Cor. v. 20;
Rom. x. 3). In any case, it is directly
opposed to Pharisaic self-righteousness
under the law; having its sole
source in God, man is only a recipient
of it. The significance of faith appears
in two characteristic passages
of Paul (Rom. iii. 26 and
II Cor. v. 21). Thus
righteousness or communion with God is possible
in Christ, since only in him in virtue of his atonement is there righteousness. This divine arrangement
for salvation must be realized by the subordination
of man in the form of faith (Rom. x. 3 sqq.).
Legal justification being impossible, faith in Christ
alone remains. The distinction between law-works
and faith was for Paul the fundamental question of
religion, viz., whether communion with God is from
man or from God; if the latter, it can be experienced
by faith alone. Faith includes an intellectual
element--related to historical facts, as the
death and resurrection of Jesus, yet only so far as
by means of these facts Christ has become what he
is for man. According to its peculiar nature, however,
faith is essentially trust in the person of the
Lord in its historical and present meaning. Where-ever
faith is there is also a condition of justification
as God's act. This signifies not a making but a
declaring righteous (cf. Luke xviii. 14;
this both agrees with and diverges from
Paul's view. Paul's presentation of the kingdom
of God as a gift corresponds with that of Jesus.
Jesus distinctly emphasizes the mutual relations between
the religious and the ethical aspect of sonship.
On the ethical side as a condition of entering
that kingdom there is repentance. Faith is conceived
as the right relation to Christ--trust not
merely in his wonderful power to help, but in his
person. Faith affirms that in him the kingdom of
God has come and that he is the Messiah. Jesus
complains of lack of faith, prays for increase of his
disciples' faith, and he designates those as his followers
who have faith in him. Of this the Pauline
teaching is only a continuation.
The self-witness of Jesus, according to John, stands in close relation to the Pauline circle of thought, yet with its own characteristic features. Paul's secret of religion recalls John's living communion with God. The Synoptics designate this as divine sonship, which in John is mediated through Jesus. Here both the person of Jesus and faith in him are far more strongly accentuated; also the saving significance of his death. The central good is the "life," which includes the forgiveness of sins--a present salvation and a future perfection. In sonship the ethical and religious elements are inseparable and conditioned through faith in Jesus and a new birth, wherein one discerns a leaning toward the Pauline view of the new birth as mediated by faith. In faith the aspect of trust is not lacking, but the intellectual element is conspicuous. There is an approach to Paul's idea of faith--the mystic fellowship with Christ. Nor is the ethical element wanting: "he that is born of God doeth no sin" is an ideal judgment and is to be understood empirically, as is Paul's statement that the Christian is dead to sin. More strongly than Paul, John affirms that the Christian is deceived who declares that he does not sin. Divine sonship is traced wholly to God's love, and the Christian is led to ground his salvation not on his love to God but on God's love to him, guaranteed in the sending of his Son and the atonement for sin.
In the rest of the New-Testament writings, James' Epistle mainly demands attention. The author's interest is wholly practical. The Christian community is presupposed, but the content of faith is never developed and no warning to the Christian community rests on it. Owing to uncertainty in the date of this epistle, no intentional polemic against Paul can be affirmed. One must, however, reckon with the possibility that James' presentation was directed against a practical abuse of Pauline preaching. James holds that a separation of faith and works is impossible; rather does faith prove itself alive through works. With reference to other passages in the New Testament: at Pentecost, salvation is connected with the person of the crucified and risen Christ, and forgiveness of sins with faith in him. With this agrees I Peter, where, however, faith appears rather as trust in the redemptive activity of Jesus, and the ethical element and fear before God are strongly accentuated. The Epistle to the Hebrews accords with Paul's view in emphasizing perfection (vii. 11) in Christ's work, and forgiveness of sins in baptism, as well as the enduring high priesthood of Christ.
More clearly than Augustine, Ambrose rests sal vation and the certainty of it on the historical work of Christ. Yet he advances the doctrine of merit, almsgiving, and especially virginity. To Augus tine more than to any one the Roman Church owes its doctrine of justification. For him Christianity is a present rest in God--a conception, shaped, although not immediately, by his experience, first, of distance from God, and then by the inward commotion of a finding of God. His earlier, differing from his later, teaching on sin and grace is drawn not directly from his conflict with Pelagius but from his study of Paul and from Neoplatonic sources. His personal experience is for him the key, and as with Paul and later with Luther sin and grace are the two poles of all Christian knowledge. Outside of grace mankind is a "mass of lost souls" which may through God's grace be reunited to God. According to Augustine the Law said: "Do what thou orderestl" the Gospel: "Give what thou orderest!" That is, grace is preeminently a power of religious and ethical renewal. Concerning forgiveness of sins Augustine holds that (1) baptism as foundation of Christianity confers forgiveness of sins; (2) forgiveness is bound to justification; (3) there exists a continual forgiveness even for the baptized Christian. Fruitful for piety is the personality of Christ-his inner life, his humility, his entire manifestation the highest proof of love, his death the ground of forgiveness of sins. But grace through Christ is present by means of "word and sacrament," not clearly connected with Christ's historical work but in the strict sense creative. As operating or prevenient it establishes, as cooperating it alone sustains, the Christian position. From it comes justification, i.e., renewal, which makes one actually righteous; instead of evil concupiscence comes good concupiscence. The entire Christian life becomes a process of sanctification wherein is merit which the Christian must gain for himself. He teaches a justification by a faith that works through love. In De fide et operibus, along with faith, works are so emphasized as to make this writing valuable to Roman Catholic histories of dogma to-day. He approaches the Reformation doctrine when he gives a more mystical turn to faith--such a union with Christ that all that is Christ's becomes ours. In love to God a present life from and in God is attained. But here is no personal certainty of salvation.
Scholastic theology adhered to Augustine's didactic definitions, at the same time it was influenced by the religious impulse originating in him. Yet here Semipelagianism and Augustinianism appeared in many shades of conflicting differences. According to the Tridentine confession, justification is not simply, but includes, forgiveness of sins. According to Thomas Aquinas, it is a consequence of forgiveness of sins--a physical infusion of grace. Other church teachers regard the connection as ethical, thus its elation to the historical redemptive work is uncertain. The infusion of grace is variously interpreted: the substance of the Holy Spirit is planted in men (Peter the Lombard); sanctifying grace is identified with love (Duns Scotus); the Tridentine seeks to combine both views. Later dogmatics side with Thomas. According to the Roman teaching, justifying grace is a pure gift of grace--a heritage from Augustine. Merit (meritum de condigno) is first grounded on sanctifying grace, while the corresponding action of man is rewarded by infusion of justifying grace (meritum de congrao). Concerning this the Tridentine was silent. Later theology teaches that grace is not given for merit. Yet if one does what he can he may humbly hope that God will lend his grace. Others do not admit a psychological necessity of a preparation for reception of grace. In the Roman Catholic Church the increase of grace received, eternal life, and the winning of a higher glory in that life are subjects of human merit. According to Thomas the three signs of a state of grace are: joy in God, scorn of worldly things, consciousness that one is not guilty of mortal sin.
For Luther the fundamental question was concerning the gracious God, and how one might be justified in the judgment of God. Through a painful experience in the complete renunciation of his own righteousness, he understood the Pauline word--by grace alone through faith in Christ. Justification includes not merely forgiveness, which has precedence, but inner justification. Grace is pardoning mercy, and faith is trust. Christ himself in his person and his historical work is man's righteousness. The law can only increase sin and it demands God's righteous judgment against the sinner. The law must indeed be preached; yet God's proper work begins when he comforts the alarmed conscience by the gospel of forgiveness in Christ. Wherever faith lays hold on Christ and becomes one with him, Christ's righteousness becomes our righteousness; God declares man righteous and forgives his sin. Thus Christ becomes the power of a new life. Later, Luther speaks of a beginning, an advancing, and a completed justification yet to be hoped for. Never could faith by reason of an inner quality be regarded as justifying. The Christian position is grounded in God's gracious judgment. Luther warns against confusing the certainty of salvation with the feeling of it. He combines baptism and justification but without precise theological treatment. Through Melanchthon the doctrine of justification received its first symbolic form (The Augsburg Confession, q.v.). We are righteous before God, not "by our own strength, merits or works," but by faith alone. Justification is grounded in Christ and is mediated by faith alone. In the "Apology" the impelling interest of the Reformation against the Roman
The later dogmatists distinguished not merely between the human and the divine aspect of the appropriation of Christ's righteousness (Baier), but within faith itself a certainty before, in, and after regeneration (Quenstedt). The certainty of salvation was to be experienced by looking wholly away from self to Christ as the promise. Thus the process of justification was conceived as purely transcendental for which faith is only an essential presupposition. According to Burk, who presents this view, justification is withdrawn from all vacillation of the inner life so that assurance becomes possible to those whose peace has been disturbed. But the question arises as to the criteria of faith. The Lutherans presupposed the universality and promise of Christ's redeeming work; to the Reformed who restricted this to the elect, personal assurance of salvation must be gathered from the works of faith as supernaturally caused. Schleiermacher co-ordinated justification with conversion; to be taken up into living communion with Christ is, as a changed form of life, conversion, as a changed relation to God, justification. He, however, conceives this as purely general and progressively realized. Some theologians resolve the objective process of justification into subjective consciousness, others emphasize the ethical aspect. Hengstenberg toward the end of his life distinguished stages of justification; according to Beck, in justification mediated through Christ one enters on a condition of life where on the one hand all earlier sins are wiped out, on the other hand a new ethical condition is awakened which must express itself in righteousness of conduct; with Martensen the justifying power of faith lay in God beholding in it the seed-corn of future blessedness, and in the pure will the already realized ideal of freedom. In the so-called Bornholmer movement (see BORNHOLMERS), since the world is justified in Christ; justification is identified with his redemptive work and faith is simply a becoming aware of what one has in Christ.
Ritschl combines justification with the historical work of Christ. In Christ the community is so far justified as God reckons to the community belonging to Christ the position which Christ himself maintained toward God, and for his sake admits the community to fellowship with himself. The individual is justified on the ground that through faith in the Gospel he is a member of the community. Justification and reconciliation have the same content. Reconciliation is the result of justification. Ritechl's entire treatment has en during significance on account of the many problems involved, especially the relation of justification to the historical work of Christ and to faith. Dorner characteristically emphasized the historical deed of reconciliation in relation to the Christian's present position: faith is thus simply "the assimilating organ" of forgiveness already complete so far as the divine aspect is concerned. Justification is identified with reconciliation: the central significance, the express founding, and the certainty of justification on the basis of the historical work of Christ is a peculiar characteristic of Cremer's theology.
A comprehensive discussion of this subject must be limited to the clear presentation of the controlling interest and the simplest possible designation of the points on which it depends. Communion with God and personal assurance of this stand or fall together. If Christianity is a present personal communion with God, a necessary and radical implication is that it can only be a conscious experience. This being established, one has further to ascertain whether the Christian can be certain of it. There is finally only the alternative, the initiative of communion with God is wholly from God or wholly from man. Whenever the question concerning communion with God wakens in a man, it always occurs at first in his desire to make himself pious, and so to work in fellowship with God. This has its source in the painful consciousness of separation from God in sin; if one recognizes his responsibility for this, it is quite natural for him to establish his own righteousness before God. Yet in all such attempts, on account of their abiding imperfection, one does not escape from inward uncertainty. This has, however, its objective ground: only from God himself can men be admitted to communion with him. It is therefore a more correct understanding when the Catholic view refers the initiative in the entire process of justification definitely to God, and sees the final ground of justification in a justifying act which proceeds from God; this, resulting from suitable preparation and made fruitful in congruous activity, assures one of eternal life. In reality, however, what is here under discussion is such a kind of mediation as brings vividly to consciousness how every attempt to effect reconciliation actually points man after all to his own self-doing, and thrusts him into inner uncertainty. But one can arrive at an actual assurance of a gracious state only when he is clear that this rests solely on God's offer, and that nothing remains for him except in faith to appropriate this divine gift, or rather to let trust in it be begotten in him. God has completed this offer of himself in the work of Christ in which, through an atonement for sin, he has reconciled the world to himself. In so far, then, certainty of salvation is based wholly upon a justice outside ourselves: the righteousness which has been created by Christ's undertaking in man's behalf is the real ground, or, on the ground of his sufferings and death, he now represents man before God. So far, however, as that historical work of Christ reaches man only in the Word and the sacrament therein contained, the Word and the sacrament are the ground of assurance. Later on, these positions will require completion and confirmation.
It is now plain in what sense justification as a forensic act is to be understood. If communion with God is established only by him, and if, on the other hand, both on account of the personal nature of this relation of communion and because of the remaining imperfection of the justified, the thought of a magic transformation is excluded, then the justifying act of God on which the Christian position is based can be thought of only in the form of a gracious judgment of God which is not analytic but synthetic. In a word, since the justifying act of God does not first of all contemplate the establishing of a new ethical quality in man, but the founding of a new relation to God, it must be understood not as the confirmation of an ethical quality existing in man, but simply as a judgment of God's gracious will which passes over the sinner and in and with forgiveness of sins justifies and takes him up into communion with God. Even faith, without which there can be no justification, may not, as a meritorious attainment, be made the real ground of justification, nor may the continuance of the state of justification be grounded in part on the life-work of the Christian as a completing of God's act of justification. On the contrary, from beginning to end, the Christian position rests exclusively on God's gracious judgment, so that this, in spite of remaining imperfection, depends solely on affirming the judgment of faith. As a matter of terms, one may question whether God's relation to the sins of the justified person is to be interpreted as daily forgiveness or with older dogmaticians as a continuous justification. According to the former phraseology, the fundamental character of God's justifying act comes indeed to the clearest possible expression, but one may doubt whether the believer can avoid thinking of the daily forgiveness of sins as a constant and radical renewal of his relation to God. In any case, by the acceptance of the notion of a justification continually renewed one is not warranted in supposing that the Christian position is composed of ever new additions. On the contrary, a continuous state of grace is grounded in the original divine act of justification.
If, however, the continuity of this gracious state is due to the historical work of Christ, but originates and is sustained by the gracious judgment of justification, it follows at once that under all circumstances justification and the historical work of Christ must be brought into the closest connection. But the limits within which this connection is to be sought are designated by the following propositions: (1) justification may not be identified with the historical work of Christ--the Biblical connection between justification and faith would be obscured and the reality of a reciprocal communion of God and man lost. (2) It would be a relapse into the Roman Catholic way of thinking to see in the historical work of Christ only the general ground of possible justification--manifestly the final decisive ground of the divine justifying act of God must then be somehow sought in man himself. If one carries through the combination already suggested in the Biblical presentation, then an adjustment between the apparently divergent interests is possible only when justification is understood as an actual fulfilment of God's offer of himself as completed in the historical work of Christ. Paul does not conceive that the reconciliation in Christ renders the demand "be ye reconciled to God" (II Cor. v. 20) superfluous; rather he sees in the word of reconciliation the necessary accomplishment of reconciliation. On the other hand, he believes that in the Gospel righteousness is disclosed and made efficacious. A combination of these two lines of thought compels one to see that God's historical offer of himself in the work of Christ endures in his Word and so reaches the individual. It is not the fact that God has reopened the way of access to himself in his historical revelation, while man must work his way through to God in reliance on the divine deed; on the contrary, self-disclosure of God in the Word effectively reaches the individual, and wherever through God's offer of grace one lets himself be won to trust in this, the judgment of justification is passed upon him, and this both objectively and subjectively establishes the condition of justification.
The same conclusion follows from the answer to the other question--What position and meaning belong to faith in the act of justification? That faith alone can be regarded as justifying is clear from the foregoing (III., § 1); there it was remarked that the justifying power of faith may not be found in its ethical quality. If fellowship with God rests solely on Christ's redemptive work and the righteousness procured by it, then faith can be regarded simply as the assimilating organ and as justifying only on account of the object apprehended by it. The peculiar difficulty first emerges in the question, how this understanding of faith which is to be maintained under all circumstances is consistent with the other proposition which must be as firmly emphasized, that only where faith exist is there justification. Does not the latter position indeed involve that somehow on man's part faith appears as an efficient condition of justification? In reality this consequence would be unavoidable if one had to suppose that man--always of course under the influence of the Word--first himself ripens faith in Christ, and then God completes the judgment of justification on the ground of confirming this faith as if it were a finished achievement. The element of truth in such a view is that in fact faith in the strict sense is an offering of Christ to the wrath of God, and precisely for this reason justification comes to pass by means of it. Evidently these propositions which aim to complete the doctrine of justification really point to such a method as will not allow faith to appear in any way as real ground of justification. If, on the other hand, the conclusions just indicated are to be drawn, this means nothing less than that the original interest of the Reformation
The last intimations, if they are to receive concrete form, depend on the answer to a previous question which can not be solved in this article. The foregoing discussion suffers from an unavoidable abstraction in that it can not show whether the original justification is mediated by the Word or by baptism, in the case of children or adults. In fact, manifold difficulties and obscurities beset the treatment of the subject when one does not seriously consider how the general propositions concerning justification are necessarily modified according as they are put to the test in a community of those who were baptized in infancy, or are maintained in the mission field. It is, e.g., plain how the question of the relation of confirmation to justification gains a wholly different meaning when it is put on the basis of child-baptism. Yet these questions can not be settled here because they presuppose the understanding of baptism (see BAPTISM, I.- II.). Only this, however, may be directly inferred from the treatment of the doctrine of the Scripture, that justification and baptism are to be combined. If this is true in the first instance of baptism itself, then it must of necessity apply to child-baptism, if only this is regarded as a real baptism. Here the question concerning the relation of justification and faith takes on a new meaning and raises serious difficulties. For a solution of these a path has already been so far prepared as it was expressly emphasized how faith springs from the divine offer. In any case, one must believe that in the baptism of adults there is a completion both of the divine offer of salvation and, under its influence, of faith, and just in this way the Christian position is both objectively and subjectively established. With reference to the baptism of children, it is to be maintained under all circumstances that even in such cases faith, which affirms baptism, must somehow grow out of baptism. But the question, whether and in what sense one is to connect the origin of faith with baptism, can not here be settled.
The discussion concerning the nature of Christian assurance begun in III., § 1, may now be completed so far as need be in accordance with what has been established in III., §§ 2-5. First then one may formulate the significance of Rom. viii. 16 for the assurance of salvation. If faith in the historical divine revelation, by which the Christian position is created, takes place only by the Holy Spirit, the immanent certainty of the Christian therein given could not maintain itself without the continuous witness of the Spirit. This repudiates the Methodistic view which will experience this witness of the Spirit in an immediate feeling of peace; preferable is the Lutheran view which has the entire economy of salvation on its side as it relates the continuous witness of the Spirit to the historical process of salvation, mediating this by the Word and the sacrament. Yet the strictly supernatural
On the N. T. side consult the works on
N. T. theology, especially that of Beyschlag; the literature
on the Apostle Paul; R. A. Lipsius, Die paulinische
Rechtfertigungslehre, Leipsic, 1853; E. Riggenbach,
Die Rechtfertigungslehre des Apostels Paulus, Stuttgart, 1897;
H. Cremer, Die paulinische Rechtfertigungslehre,Gütersloh,
1900; K. F. Nösgen, Der Schriftbeweis für die evangelische
Rechtfertigungslehre, Halle, 1901; C. Clemen, Paulus, sein
Leben und Wirken, 2 vols., Giessen, 1904; C. E. Woods,
The Gospel of Rightness. A Study in Pauline Philosophy,
On the dogmatic and historical sides consult: G. S. Faber, The Primitive Doctrine of Justification, London, 1839; G. Bull, Harmony of St. Paul and St. James on Justification, 2 vols., in Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology, Oxford, 1841 sqq.; C. A. Heurtley, Justification, ib. 1846; G. Junkin, A Treatise on Justification, Philadelphia, 1850; P. D. Burk, Rechtfertigung und Versicherung, Stuttgart, 1854; C. Cholmondely, The Protestant Doctrine of Justification . . . Confuted, London, 1854; J. Buchanan, The Doctrine of Justification, Edinburgh, 1867; A. Ritschl, Critical Hist. of the Christian Doctrines of Justification and Reconciliation, ib. 1872; C. Hodge, Systematic Theology, iii. 114 sqq., New York, 1873; R. N. Davies, A Treatise on Justification, New York, 1878; I. A. Dorner, System of Christian Doctrine, passim, 4 vols., Edinburgh, 1880-82; J. H. Newman, Lectures on the Doctrine of Justification, London, 1885; J. T. Beck, Vorlesungen über christliche Glaubenslehre, 2 vols., Gütersloh, 1886-87; T. R. Birks, Justification and Imputed Righteousness ib. 1887; J. T. O'Brien, An Attempt to Explain and Establish the Doctrine of Justification by Faith only, Dublin, 1887; W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, ii. 538 sqq., New York, 1888; H. B. Smith, System of Christian Theology, ed. W. S. Karr, pp. 522-552, ib. 1890; H. Bushnell, Vicarious Sacrifice, ii. 177 sqq., ib. 1891; E. V. Gerhart, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ii. 717-759, ib. 1894; J. Miley, Systematic Theology, ii. 308 sqq., ib 1894; R. V. Foster, Systematic Theology, pp. 678 sqq., Nashville, Tenn., 1898; J. Macpherson, Christian Dogmatics, pp. 379-387, Edinburgh, 1898; J. Wilhelm and T. B. Scannell, Manual of Catholic Theology, ii. 246 sqq., London, 1901; H. W. Holden, Justification by Faith, ib. 1902; A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology, pp. 471-483, New York, 1902; H. C. G. Moule. Justification by Faith, London, 1903; the literature on Luther, and in general the works on the history of doctrine.
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