Reply to the Arguments of the Adversaries.
Now, when the grounds of this case have been understood, namely, the distinction between the Law and the promises, or the Gospel, it will be easy to resolve the objections of the adversaries. For they cite passages concerning the Law and works, and omit passages concerning the promises. But a reply can once for all be made to all opinions concerning the Law, namely, that the Law cannot be observed without Christ, and that if civil works are wrought without Christ, they do not please God. [God is not pleased with the person.] Wherefore, when works are commended, it is necessary to add that faith is required, that they are commended on account of faith, that they are the fruits and testimonies of faith. [This our doctrine is, indeed, plain; it need not fear the light, and may be held against the Holy Scriptures. We have also clearly and correctly presented it here, if any will receive instruction and not knowingly deny the truth. For rightly to understand the benefit of Christ and the great treasure of the Gospel (which Paul extols so greatly), we must separate, on the one hand, the promise of God and the grace that is offered, and, on the other hand the Law, as far as the heavens are from the earth. In shaky matters many explanations are needed, but in a good matter one or two thoroughgoing explanations dissolve all objections which men think they can raise.] Ambiguous and dangerous cases produce many and various solutions. For the judgment of the ancient poet is true:
"An unjust cause, being In Itself sick, requires skilfully applied remedies."
But in just and sure cases one or two explanations derived from the sources correct all things that seem to offend. This occurs also in this case of ours. For the rule which I have just recited, explains all the passages that are cited concerning the Law and works [namely, that without Christ the Law cannot be truly observed, and although external works may be performed, still the person doing them does not please God outside of Christ]. For we acknowledge that Scripture teaches in some places the Law, and in other places the Gospel, or the gratuitous promise of the remission of sins for Christ's sake. But our adversaries absolutely abolish the free promise when they deny that faith justifies, and teach that for the sake of love and of our works we receive remission of sins and reconciliation. If the remission of sins depends upon the condition of our works, it is altogether uncertain. [For we can never be certain whether we do enough works, or whether our works are sufficiently holy and pure. Thus, too, the forgiveness of sins is made uncertain, and the promise of God perishes, as Paul says, Rom. 4, 14: The promise is made of none effect, and everything is rendered uncertain.] Therefore the promise will be abolished. Hence we refer godly minds to the consideration of the promises, and we teach concerning the free remission of sins and concerning reconciliation, which occurs through faith in Christ. Afterwards we add also the doctrine of the Law. [Not that by the Law we merit the remission of sins, or that for the sake of the Law we are accepted with God, but because God requires good works.] And it is necessary to divide these things aright, as Paul says, 2 Tim. 2, 15. We must see what Scripture ascribes to the Law, and what to the promises. For it praises works in such a way as not to remove the free promise [as to place the promise of God and the true treasure, Christ, a thousand leagues above it].
For good works are to be done on account of God's command, likewise for the exercise of faith [as Paul says, Eph. 2, 10: We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works], and on account of confession and giving of thanks. For these reasons good works ought necessarily to be done, which, although they are done in the flesh not as yet entirely renewed, that retards the movements of the Holy Ghost, and imparts some of its uncleanness, yet, on account of Christ, are holy, divine works, sacrifices, and acts pertaining to the government of Christ, who thus displays His kingdom before this world. For in these He sanctifies hearts and represses the devil, and, in order to retain the Gospel among men, openly opposes to the kingdom of the devil the confession of saints, and, in our weakness, declares His power. The dangers, labors, and sermons of the Apostle Paul, of Athanasius, Augustine, and the like, who taught the churches, are holy works, are true sacrifices acceptable to God, are contests of Christ through which He repressed the devil, and drove him from those who believed. David's labors, in waging wars and in his home government, are holy works, are true sacrifices, are contests of God, defending the people who had the Word of God against the devil, in order that the knowledge of God might not be entirely extinguished on earth. We think thus also concerning every good work in the humblest callings and in private affairs. Through these works Christ celebrates His victory over the devil, just as the distribution of alms by the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 16, 1, was a holy work and a sacrifice and contest of Christ against the devil, who labors that nothing may be done for the praise of God. To disparage such works, the confession of doctrine, affliction, works of love, mortifications of the flesh would be indeed to disparage the outward government of Christ's kingdom among men. Here also we add something concerning rewards and merits. We teach that rewards have been offered and promised to the works of believers. We teach that good works are meritorious, not for the remission of sins, for grace or justification (for these we obtain only by faith), but for other rewards, bodily and spiritual, in this life and after this life because Paul says, 1 Cor. 3, 8: Every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labor. There will, therefore, be different rewards according to different labors. But the remission of sins is alike and equal to all, just as Christ is one, and is offered freely to all who believe that for Christ's sake their sins are remitted. Therefore the remission of sins and justification are received only by faith, and not on account of any works, as is evident in the terrors of conscience, because none of our works can be opposed to God's wrath, as Paul clearly says, Rom. 5, 1: Being justified by faith, toe have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith, etc. But because faith makes sons of God, it also makes coheirs with Christ. Therefore, because by our works we do not merit justification, through which we are made sons of God, and coheirs with Christ, we do not by our works merit eternal life; for faith obtains this, because faith justifies us and has a reconciled God. But eternal life is due the justified, according to the passage Rom. 8, 30: Whom He justified, them He also glorified. Paul, Eph. 6, 2, commends to us the commandment concerning honoring parents, by mention of the reward which is added to that commandment where he does not mean that obedience to parents justifies us before God, but that, when it occurs in those who have been justified, it merits other great rewards. Yet God exercises His saints variously, and often defers the rewards of the righteousness of works in order that they may learn not to trust in their own righteousness, and may learn to seek the will of God rather than the rewards, as appears in Job, in Christ, and other saints. And of this, many psalms teach us, which console us against the happiness of the wicked, as Ps. 37, 1: Neither be thou envious. And Christ says, Matt. 5, 10: Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. By these praises of good works, believers are undoubtedly moved to do good works. Meanwhile, the doctrine of repentance is also proclaimed against the godless, whose works are wicked; and the wrath of God is displayed, which He has threatened all who do not repent. We therefore praise and require good works, and show many reasons why they ought to be done.
Thus of works Paul also teaches when he says, Rom. 4, 9 sq., that Abraham received circumcision, not in order that by this work he might be justified; for by faith he had already attained it that he was accounted righteous. But circumcision was added in order that he might have in his body a written sign, admonished by which he might exercise faith, and by which also he might confess his faith before others, and by his testimony might invite others to believe. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice, Heb. 11, 4. Because, therefore, he was just by faith, the sacrifice which he made was pleasing to God, not that by this work he merited the remission of sins and grace, but that he exercised his faith and showed it to others, in order to invite them to believe.
Although in this way good works ought to follow faith, men who cannot believe and be sure that for Christ's sake they are freely forgiven, and that freely for Christ's sake they have a reconciled God, employ works far otherwise. When they see the works of saints, they judge in a human manner that saints have merited the remission of sins and grace through these works. Accordingly, they imitate them, and think that through similar works they merit the remission of sins and grace; they think that through these works they appease the wrath of God, and attain that for the sake of these works they are accounted righteous. This godless opinion concerning works we condemn. In the first place, because it obscures the glory of Christ when men offer to God these works as a price and propitiation. This honor, due to Christ alone, is ascribed to our works. Secondly, they nevertheless do not find, in these works, peace of conscience, but in true terrors, heaping up works upon works, they at length despair because they find no work sufficiently pure [sufficiently important and precious to propitiate God, to obtain with certainty eternal life, in a word, to tranquilize and pacify the conscience]. The Law always accuses, and produces wrath. Thirdly, such persons never attain the knowledge of God [nor of His will]; for, as in anger they flee from God, who judges and afflicts them, they never believe that they are heard. But faith manifests the presence of God, since it is certain that God freely forgives and hears us.
Moreover, this godless opinion concerning works always has existed in the world [sticks to the world quite tightly]. The heathen had sacrifices, derived from the fathers. They imitated their works. Their faith they did not retain, but thought that the works were a propitiation and price on account of which God would be reconciled to them. The people in the law [the Israelites] imitated sacrifices with the opinion that by means of these works they would appease God, so to say, ex opere operato. We see here how earnestly the prophets rebuke the people: Ps. 50, 8: I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices, and Jer. 7, 22: I spake not unto your fathers concerning burnt offerings. Such passages condemn not works, which God certainly had commanded as outward exercises in this government, but they condemn the godless opinion according to which they thought that by these works they appeased the wrath of God, and thus cast away faith. And because no works pacify the conscience, new works, in addition to God's commands, were from time to time devised [the hypocrites nevertheless used to invent one work after another, one sacrifice after another, by a blind guess and in reckless wantonness, and all this without the word and command of God, with wicked conscience as we have seen in the Papacy]. The people of Israel had seen the prophets sacrificing on high places [and in groves]. Besides, the examples of the saints very greatly move the minds of those, hoping by similar works to obtain grace just as these saints obtained it. [But the saints believed.] Wherefore the people began, with remarkable zeal, to imitate this work, in order that by such a work [they might appease the wrath of God] they might merit remission of sins, grace, and righteousness. But the prophets had been sacrificing on high places, not that by these works they might merit the remission of sins and grace, but because on these places they taught, and, accordingly, presented there a testimony of their faith. The people had heard that Abraham had sacrificed his son. Wherefore they also, in order to appease God by a most cruel and difficult work, put to death their sons. But Abraham did not sacrifice his son with the opinion that this work was a price and propitiatory work for the sake of which he was accounted righteous. Thus in the Church the Lord's Supper was instituted that by remembrance of the promises of Christ, of which we are admonished in this sign, faith might be strengthened in us, and we might publicly confess our faith, and proclaim the benefits of Christ, as Paul says, 1 Cor. 11, 26: As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death, etc. But our adversaries contend that the mass is a work that justifies us ex opere operato, and removes the guilt and liability to punishment in those for whom it is celebrated, for thus writes Gabriel.
Anthony, Bernard, Dominicus, Franciscus, and other holy Fathers selected a certain kind of life either for the sake of study [of more readily reading the Holy Scriptures] or other useful exercises. In the mean time they believed that by faith they were accounted righteous for Christ's sake, and that God was gracious to them, not on account of those exercises of their own. But the multitude since then has imitated not the faith of the Fathers, but their example without faith, in order that by such works they might merit the remission of sins, grace, and righteousness: they did not believe that they received these freely on account of Christ as Propitiator. [Thus the human mind always exalts works too highly, and puts them in the wrong place. And this error the Gospel reproves which teaches that men are accounted righteous not for the sake of the Law, but for the sake of Christ alone. Christ, however, is apprehended by faith alone; wherefore we are accounted righteous by faith alone for Christ's sake.] Thus the world judges of all works that they are a propitiation by which God is appeased; that they are a price because of which we are accounted righteous. It does not believe that Christ is Propitiator; it does not believe that by faith we freely attain that we are accounted righteous for Christ's sake. And, nevertheless, since works cannot pacify the conscience, others are continually chosen, new rites are performed, new vows made, and new orders of monks formed beyond the command of God, in order that some great work may be sought which may be set against the wrath and judgment of God. Contrary to Scripture, the adversaries uphold these godless opinions concerning works. But to ascribe to our works these things, namely, that they are a propitiation, that they merit the remission of sins and grace that for the sake of these and not by faith for the sake of Christ as Propitiator we are accounted righteous before God, what else is this than to deny Christ the honor of Mediator and Propitiator? Although, therefore, we believe and teach that good works must necessarily be done (for the inchoate fulfilling of the Law ought to follow faith), nevertheless we give to Christ His own honor. We believe and teach that by faith, for Christ's sake, we are accounted righteous before God, that we are not accounted righteous because of works without Christ as Mediator, that by works we do not merit the remission of sins, grace, and righteousness, that we cannot set our works against the wrath and justice of God, that works cannot overcome the terrors of sin, but that the terrors of sin are overcome by faith alone, that only Christ the Mediator is to be presented by faith against the wrath and judgment of God. If any one think differently, he does not give Christ due honor, who has been set forth that He might be a Propitiator, that through Him we might have access to the Father. We are speaking now of the righteousness through which we treat with God not with men, but by which we apprehend grace and peace of conscience. Conscience however, cannot be pacified before God, unless by faith alone, which is certain that God for Christ's sake is reconciled to us, according to Rom. 5, 1: Being justified by faith, we have peace because justification is only a matter freely promised for Christ's sake, and therefore is always received before God by faith alone.
Now, then, we will reply to those passages which the adversaries cite, in order to prove that we are justified by love and works. From 1 Cor. 13, 2 they cite: Though I have all faith, etc., and hove not charity, I am nothing. And here they triumph greatly. Paul testifies to the entire Church, they say, that faith alone does not justify. But a reply is easy after we have shown above what we hold concerning love and works. This passage of Paul requires love. We also require this. For we have said above that renewal and the inchoate fulfilling of the Law must exist in us, according to Jer. 31, 33: 1 will put My Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts. If any one should cast away love, even though he have great faith, yet he does not retain it, for he does not retain the Holy Ghost [he becomes cold and is now again fleshly, without Spirit and faith; for the Holy Ghost is not where Christian love and other fruits of the Spirit are not]. Nor indeed does Paul in this passage treat of the mode of justification, but he writes to those who, after they had been justified, should be urged to bring forth good fruits lest they might lose the Holy Ghost. The adversaries, furthermore, treat the matter preposterously: they cite this one passage, in which Paul teaches concerning fruits, they omit very many other passages, in which in a regular order he discusses the mode of justification. Besides, they always add a correction to the other passages, which treat of faith, namely, that they ought to be understood as applying to fides formata. Here they add no correction that there is also need of the faith that holds that we are accounted righteous for the sake of Christ as Propitiator. Thus the adversaries exclude Christ from justification, and teach only a righteousness of the Law. But let us return to Paul. No one can infer anything more from this text than that love is necessary. This we confess. So also not to commit theft is necessary. But the reasoning will not be correct if some one would desire to frame thence an argument such as this: "Not to commit theft is necessary. Therefore, not to commit theft justifies." Because justification is not the approval of a certain work, but of the entire person. Hence this passage from Paul does not harm us; only the adversaries must not in imagination add to it whatever they please. For he does not say that love justifies, but: ["And if I have not love"] "I am nothing," namely, that faith, however great it may have been, is extinguished. He does not say that love overcomes the terrors of sin and of death that we can set our love against the wrath and judgment of God, that our love satisfies God's Law, that without Christ as Propitiator we have access, by our love, to God, that by our love we receive the promised remission of sins. Paul says nothing of this. He does not, therefore, think that love justifies, because we are justified only when we apprehend Christ as Propitiator, and believe that for Christ's sake God is reconciled to us. Neither is justification even to be dreamed of with the omission of Christ as Propitiator. If there be no need of Christ, if by our love we can overcome death, if by our love, without Christ as Propitiator' we have access to God, then let our adversaries remove the promise concerning Christ, then let them abolish the Gospel [which teaches that we have access to God through Christ as Propitiator, and that we are accepted not for the sake of our fulfilling of the Law, but for Christ's sake]. The adversaries corrupt very many passages, because they bring to them their own opinions, and do not derive the meaning from the passages themselves. For what difficulty is there in this passage if we remove the interpretation which the adversaries, who do not understand what justification is or how it occurs [what faith is, what Christ is, or how a man is justified before God], out of their own mind attach to it? The Corinthians, being justified before, had received many excellent gifts. In the beginning they glowed with zeal, just as is generally the case. Then dissensions [factions and sects] began to arise among them as Paul indicates; they began to dislike good teachers. Accordingly, Paul reproves them, recalling them [to unity and] to offices of love. Although these are necessary, yet it would be foolish to imagine that works of the Second Table, through which we have to do with man and not properly with God, justify us. But in justification we have to treat with God; His wrath must be appeased, and conscience must be pacified with respect to God. None of these occur through the works of the Second Table [by love, but only by faith, which apprehends Christ and the promise of God. However, it is true that losing love involves losing the Spirit and faith. And thus Paul says: If I have not love, I am nothing. But he does not add the affirmative statement, that love justifies in the sight of God].
But they object that love is preferred to faith and hope. For Paul says, 1 Cor. 13, 13: The greatest of these is charity. Now, it is reasonable that the greatest and chief virtue should justify, although Paul, in this passage, properly speaks of love towards one's neighbor, and indicates that love is the greatest, because it has most fruits. Faith and hope have to do only with God; but love has infinite offices externally towards men. [Love goes forth upon earth among the people, and does much good, by consoling, teaching, instructing, helping, counseling privately and publicly.] Nevertheless, let us, indeed, grant to the adversaries that love towards God and our neighbor is the greatest virtue, because the chief commandment is this: Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God Matt. 22, 37. But how will they infer thence that love justifies? The greatest virtue, they say, justifies. By no means. [It would be true if we had a gracious God because of our virtue. Now, it was proven above that we are accepted and justified for Christ's sake, not because of our virtue, for our virtue is impure.] For just as even the greatest or first Law does not justify, so also the greatest virtue of the Law does not justify. [For, as the Law and virtue is higher, and our ability to do the same proportionately lower, we are not righteous because of love.] But that virtue justifies which apprehends Christ, which communicates to us Christ's merits, by which we receive grace and peace from God. But this virtue is faith. For as it has been often said, faith is not only knowledge, but much rather willing to receive or apprehend those things which are offered in the promise concerning Christ. Moreover this obedience towards God, namely, to wish to receive the offered promise, is no less a divine service, latreia, than is love. God wishes us to believe Him, and to receive from Him blessings, and this He declares to be true divine service.
But the adversaries ascribe justification to love because they everywhere teach and require the righteousness of the Law. For we cannot deny that love is the highest work of the Law. And human wisdom gazes at the Law, and seeks in it justification. Accordingly, also the scholastic doctors, great and talented men, proclaim this as the highest work of the Law, and ascribe to this work justification. But deceived by human wisdom, they did not look upon the uncovered, but upon the veiled face of Moses, just as the Pharisees, philosophers, Mahometans. But we preach the foolishness of the Gospel, in which another righteousness is revealed, namely, that for the sake of Christ, as Propitiator, we are accounted righteous, when we believe that for Christ's sake God has been reconciled to us. Neither are we ignorant how far distant this doctrine is from the judgment of reason and of the Law. Nor are we ignorant that the doctrine of the Law concerning love makes a much greater show; for it is wisdom. But we are not ashamed of the foolishness of the Gospel. For the sake of Christ's glory we defend this, and beseech Christ, by His Holy Ghost, to aid us that we may be able to make this clear and manifest.
The adversaries, in the Confutation, have also cited against us Col. 3, 14: Charity, which is the bond of perfectness. From this they infer that love justifies because it renders men perfect. Although a reply concerning perfection could here be made in many ways, yet we will simply recite the meaning of Paul. It is certain that Paul spoke of love towards one's neighbor. Neither must we indeed think that Paul would ascribe either justification or perfection to the works of the Second Table, rather than to those of the First. And if love render men perfect, there will then be no need of Christ as Propitiator, [However, Paul teaches in all places that we are accepted on account of Christ, and not on account of our love, or our works, or of the Law; for no saint (as was stated before) perfectly fulfils the Law. Therefore since he in all places writes and teaches that in this life there is no perfection in our works, it is not to be thought that he speaks here of personal perfection.] for faith apprehends Christ only as Propitiator. This, however, is far distant from the meaning of Paul, who never suffers Christ to be excluded as Propitiator. Therefore he speaks not of personal perfection, but of the integrity common to the Church [concerning the unity of the Church and the word which they interpret as perfection means nothing else than to be not rent]. For on this account he says that love is a bond or connection, to signify that he speaks of the binding and joining together, with each other, of the many members of the Church. For just as in all families and in all states concord should be nourished by mutual offices, and tranquillity cannot be retained unless men overlook and forgive certain mistakes among themselves; so Paul commands that there should be love in the Church in order that it may preserve concord, bear with the harsher manners of brethren as there is need, overlook certain less serious mistakes, lest the Church fly apart into various schisms, and enmities and factions and heresies arise from the schisms.
For concord must necessarily he rent asunder whenever either the bishops impose [without cause] upon the people heavier burdens, or have no respect to weakness in the people. And dissensions arise when the people judge too severely [quickly censure and criticize] concerning the conduct [walk and life] of teachers [bishops or preachers], or despise the teachers because of certain less serious faults; for then both another kind of doctrine and other teachers are sought after. On the other hand, perfection, i.e., the integrity of the Church, is preserved, when the strong bear with the weak, when the people take in good part some faults in the conduct of their teachers [have patience also with their preachers], when the bishops make some allowances for the weakness of the people [know how to exercise forbearance to the people, according to circumstances, with respect to all kinds of weaknesses and faults]. Of these precepts of equity the books of all the wise are full, namely, that in every day life we should make many allowances mutually for the sake of common tranquillity. And of this Paul frequently teaches both here and elsewhere. Wherefore the adversaries argue indiscreetly from the term "perfection" that love justifies, while Paul speaks of common integrity and tranquillity. And thus Ambrose interprets this passage: Just as a building is said to be perfect or entire when all its parts are fitly joined together with one another. Moreover, it is disgraceful for the adversaries to preach so much concerning love while they nowhere exhibit it. What are they now doing? They are rending asunder churches, they are writing laws in blood, and are proposing to the most clement prince, the Emperor, that these should be promulgated; they are slaughtering priests and other good men, if any one have [even] slightly intimated that he does not entirely approve some manifest abuse. [They wish all dead who say a single word against their godless doctrine.] These things are not consistent with those declamations of love, which if the adversaries would follow, the churches would be tranquil and the state have peace. For these tumults would be quieted if the adversaries would not insist with too much bitterness [from sheer vengeful spite and pharisaical envy, against the truth which they have perceived] upon certain traditions, useless for godliness, most of which not even those very persons observe who most earnestly defend them. But they easily forgive themselves, and yet do not likewise forgive others, according to the passage in the poet: I forgive myself, Maevius said. But this is very far distant from those encomiums of love which they here recite from Paul, nor do they understand the word any more than the walls which give it back. From Peter they cite also this sentence, 1 Pet. 4, 8: Charity shall cover the multitude of sins. It is evident that also Peter speaks of love towards one's neighbor, because he joins this passage to the precept by which he commands that they should love one another. Neither could it have come into the mind of any apostle that our love overcomes sin and death; that love is the propitiation on account of which to the exclusion of Christ as Mediator, God is reconciled; that love is righteousness without Christ as Mediator. For this love, if there would be any, would be a righteousness of the Law, and not of the Gospel, which promises to us reconciliation and righteousness if we believe that, for the sake of Christ as Propitiator, the Father has been reconciled, and that the merits of Christ are bestowed upon us. Peter, accordingly, urges us, a little before, to come to Christ that we may be built upon Christ. And he adds, 1 Pet. 2, 4-6: He that believeth on Him shall not be confounded. When God judges and convicts us, our love does not free us from confusion [from our works and lives, we truly suffer shame]. But faith in Christ liberates us in these fears, because we know that for Christ's sake we are forgiven.
Besides, this sentence concerning love is derived from Prov. 10,12, where the antithesis clearly shows how it ought to be understood: Hatred stirreth up strifes; but love covereth all sins. It teaches precisely the same thing as that passage of Paul taken from Colossians, that if any dissensions would occur, they should be moderated and settled by our equitable and lenient conduct. Dissensions, it says, increase by means of hatred, as we often see that from the most trifling offenses tragedies arise [from the smallest sparks a great conflagration arises]. Certain trifling offenses occurred between Caius Caesar and Pompey, in which, if the one had yielded a very little to the other, civil war would not have arisen. But while each indulged his own hatred, from a matter of no account the greatest commotions arose. And many heresies have arisen in the Church only from the hatred of the teachers. Therefore it does not refer to a person's own faults, but to the faults of others, when it says: Charity covereth sins, namely, those of others, and that, too, among men, i.e., even though these offenses occur, yet love overlooks them, forgives, yields, and does not carry all things to the extremity of justice. Peter, therefore, does not mean that love merits in God's sight the remission of sins, that it is a propitiation to the exclusion of Christ as Mediator, that it regenerates and justifies, but that it is not morose, harsh, intractable towards men, that it overlooks some mistakes of its friends, that it takes in good part even the harsher manners of others, just as the well-known maxim enjoins: Know, but do rot hate, the manners of a fiend. Nor was it without design that the apostle taught so frequently concerning this office what the philosophers call epieicheia, leniency. For this virtue is necessary for retaining public harmony [in the Church and the civil government], which cannot last unless pastors and Churches mutually overlook and pardon many things [if they want to be extremely particular about every defect, and do not allow many things to flow by without noticing them].
From James they cite 2, 24: Ye see, then how by works a man is justified, and not by faith alone. Nor is any other passage supposed to be more contrary to our belief. But the reply is easy and plain. If the adversaries do not attach their own opinions concerning the merits of works, the words of James have in them nothing that is of disadvantage. But wherever there is mention of works, the adversaries add falsely their own godless opinions, that by means of good works we merit the remission of sins; that good works are a propitiation and price on account of which God is reconciled to us; that good works overcome the terrors of sin and of death; that good works are accepted in God's sight on account of their goodness; and that they do not need mercy and Christ as Propitiator. None of all these things came into the mind of James, which the adversaries nevertheless, defend under the pretext of this passage of James.
In the first place, then, we must ponder this, namely, that the passage is more against the adversaries than against us. For the adversaries teach that man is justified by love and works. Of faith, by which we apprehend Christ as Propitiator, they say nothing. Yea they condemn this faith; nor do they condemn it only in sentences and writings, but also by the sword and capital punishments they endeavor to exterminate it in the Church. How much better does James teach, who does not omit faith, or present love in preference to faith, but retains faith, so that in justification Christ may not be excluded as Propitiator! Just as Paul also, when he treats of the sum of the Christian life, includes faith and love, 1 Tim. 1, 5: The end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.
Secondly, the subject itself declares that here such works are spoken of as follow faith, and show that faith is not dead, but living and efficacious in the heart. James, therefore, did not believe that by good works we merit the remission of sins and grace. For he speaks of the works of those who have been justified, who have already been reconciled and accepted, and have obtained remission of sins. Wherefore the adversaries err when they infer that James teaches that we merit remission of sins and grace by good works, and that by our works we have access to God, without Christ as Propitiator.
Thirdly, James has spoken shortly before concerning regeneration, namely, that it occurs through the Gospel. For thus he says 1, 18: Of His own will begat He us with the Word of Truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures. When he says that we have been born again by the Gospel, he teaches that we have been born again and justified by faith. For the promise concerning Christ is apprehended only by faith, when we set it against the terrors of sin and of death. James does not, therefore, think that we are born again by our works.
From these things it is clear that James does not contradict us, who, when censuring idle and secure minds, that imagine that they have faith, although they do not have it, made a distinction between dead and living faith. He says that that is dead which does not bring forth good works [and fruits of the Spirit: obedience, patience, chastity, love]; he says that that is living which brings forth good works. Furthermore, we have frequently already shown what we term faith. For we do not speak of idle knowledge [that merely the history concerning Christ should be known], such as devils have, but of faith which resists the terrors of conscience, and cheers and consoles terrified hearts [the new light and power which the Holy Ghost works in the heart, through which we overcome the terrors of death, of sin, etc.]. Such faith is neither an easy matter, as the adversaries dream [as they say: Believe, believe, how easy it is to believe! etc.], nor a human power [thought which I can form for myself], but a divine power, by which we are quickened, and by which we overcome the devil and death. Just as Paul says to the Colossians, 2, 12, that faith is efficacious through the power of God, and overcomes death: Wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God. Since this faith is a new life, it necessarily produces new movements and works. [Because it is a new light and life in the heart, whereby we obtain another mind and spirit, it is living, productive, and rich in good works.] Accordingly, James is right in denying that we are justified by such a faith as is without works. But when he says that we are justified by faith and works, he certainly does not say that we are born again by works. Neither does he say this, that partly Christ is our Propitiator, and partly our works are our propitiation. Nor does he describe the mode of justification, but only of what nature the just are, after they have been already justified and regenerated. [For he is speaking of works which should follow faith. There it is well said: He who has faith and good works is righteous; not, indeed, on account of the works, but for Christ's sake, through faith. And as a good tree should bring forth good fruit, and yet the fruit does not make the tree good, so good works must follow the new birth, although they do not make man accepted before God; but as the tree must first be good, so also must man be first accepted before God by faith for Christ's sake. The works are too insignificant to render God gracious to us for their sake, if He were not gracious to us for Christ's sake. Therefore James does not contradict St. Paul, and does not say that by our works we merit, etc.] And here to be justified does not mean that a righteous man is made from a wicked man, but to be pronounced righteous in a forensic sense, as also in the passage Rom. 2, 13: The doers of the Law shall be justified. As, therefore, these words: The doers of the Law shall be justified, contain nothing contrary to our doctrine, so, too, we believe concerning the words of James: By works a man is justified, and not by faith alone, because men having faith and good works are certainly pronounced righteous. For, as we have said, the good works of saints are righteous, and please on account of faith. For James commends only such works as faith produces, as he testifies when he says of Abraham, 2, 21: Faith wrought with his works. In this sense it is said: The doers of the Law are justified, i.e., they are pronounced righteous who from the heart believe God, and afterwards have good fruits which please Him on account of faith, and accordingly, are the fulfilment of the Law. These things, simply spoken, contain nothing erroneous, but they are distorted by the adversaries who attach to them godless opinions out of their mind. For it does not follow hence that works merit the remission of sins; that works regenerate hearts; that works are a propitiation, that works please without Christ as Propitiator; that works do not need Christ as Propitiator. James says nothing of these things, which, nevertheless, the adversaries shamelessly infer from the words of James.
Certain other passages concerning works are also cited against us. Luke 6, 37: Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Is. 58, 7 : Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry?…Then shalt thou call, and the Lord will answer. Dan. 4, 24 : Break off thy sins, by showing mercy to the poor. Matt. 5, 3: Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; and v. 7: Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy. Even these passages would contain nothing contrary to us if the adversaries would not falsely attach something to them. For they contain two things: The one is a preaching either of the Law or of repentance, which not only convicts those doing wrong, but also enjoins them to do what is right; the other is a promise which is added. But it is not added that sins are remitted without faith, or that works themselves are a propitiation. Moreover, in the preaching of the Law these two things ought always to be understood, namely: First, that the Law cannot be observed unless we have been regenerated by faith in Christ, just as Christ says, John 15, 5: Without Me ye can do nothing. Secondly, and though some external works can certainly be done, this general judgment: Without faith it is impossible to please God, which interprets the whole Law, must be retained: and the Gospel must be retained, that through Christ we have access to the Father, Heb. 10, 19, Rom. 5, 2. For it is evident that we are not justified by the Law. Otherwise, why would there be need of Christ or the Gospel, if the preaching of the Law alone would be sufficient? Thus in the preaching of repentance, the preaching of the Law, or the Word convicting of sin, is not sufficient, because the Law works wrath, and only accuses, only terrifies consciences, because consciences never are at rest, unless they hear the voice of God in which the remission of sins is clearly promised. Accordingly, the Gospel must be added, that for Christ's sake sins are remitted, and that we obtain remission of sins by faith in Christ. If the adversaries exclude the Gospel of Christ from the preaching of repentance, they are judged aright to be blasphemers against Christ.
Therefore, when Isaiah, 1, 16. 18, preaches repentance: Cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sine be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow, the prophet thus both exhorts to repentance, and adds the promise. But it would be foolish to consider in such a sentence only the words: Relieve the oppressed; judge the fatherless. For he says in the beginning: Cease to do evil, where he censures impiety of heart and requires faith. Neither does the prophet say that through the works: Relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, they can merit the remission of sins ex opere operato, but he commands such works as are necessary in the new life. Yet, in the mean time, he means that remission of sins is received by faith, and accordingly the promise is added. Thus we must understand all similar passages. Christ preaches repentance when He says: Forgive, and He adds the promise: And ye shall be forgiven, Luke 6, 37. Nor, indeed, does He say this, namely, that, when we forgive, by this work of ours we merit the remission of sins ex opere operato, as they term it, but He requires a new life, which certainly is necessary. Yet, in the mean time He means that remission of sins is received by faith. Thus, when Isaiah says, 58, 7: Deal thy bread to the hungry, he requires a new life. Nor does the prophet speak of this work alone, but, as the text indicates, of the entire repentance; yet, in the mean time, he intends that remission of sins is received by faith. For the position is sure, and none of the gates of hell can overthrow it, that in the preaching of repentance the preaching of the Law is not sufficient, because the Law works wrath and always accuses. But the preaching of the Gospel should be added, namely, that in this way remission of sins is granted us, if we believe that sins are remitted us for Christ's sake. Otherwise, why would there be need of the Gospel, why would there be need of Christ? This belief ought always to be in view, in order that it may be opposed to those who, Christ being cast aside and the Gospel being blotted out, wickedly distort the Scriptures to the human opinions, that by our works we purchase remission of sins.
Thus also in the sermon of Daniel, 4, 24, faith is required. [The words of the prophet which were full of faith and spirit, we must not regard as heathenish as those of Aristotle or any other heathen. Aristotle also admonished Alexander that he should not use his power for his own wantonness, but for the improvement of countries and men. This was written correctly and well; concerning the office of king nothing better can be preached or written. But Daniel is speaking to his king, not only concerning his office as king, but concerning repentance, the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation to God, and concerning sublime, great, spiritual subjects, which far transcend human thoughts and works.] For Daniel did not mean that the king should only bestow alms [which even a hypocrite can do], but embraces repentance when he says: Break off [Redeem, Vulg.] thy iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, i.e. break off thy sins by a change of heart and works. But here also faith is required. And Daniel proclaims to him many things concerning the worship of the only God, the God of Israel, and converts the king not only to bestow alms, but much more to faith. For we have the excellent confession of the king concerning the God of Israel: There is no other God that can deliver after this sort Dan. 3, 29. Therefore, in the sermon of Daniel there are two parts. The one part is that which gives commandment concerning the new life and the works of the new life. The other part is, that Daniel promises to the king the remission of sins. [Now, where there is a promise, faith is required. For the promise cannot be received in any other way than by the heart's relying on such word of God, and not regarding its own worthiness or unworthiness. Accordingly, Daniel also demands faith: for thus the promise reads: There will be healing for thy offenses.] And this promise of the remission of sins is not a preaching of the Law, but a truly prophetical and evangelical voice, of which Daniel certainly meant that it should be received in faith. For Daniel knew that the remission of sins in Christ was promised not only to the Israelites, but also to all nations. Otherwise he could not have promised to the king the remission of sins. For it is not in the power of man especially amid the terrors of sin, to assert without a sure word of God concerning God's will, that He ceases to be angry. And the words of Daniel speak in his own language still more clearly of repentance and still more clearly bring out the promise. Redeem thy sins by righteousness and thy iniquities by favors toward the poor. These words teach concerning the whole of repentance. [It is as much as to say: Amend your life! And it is true, when we amend our lives, we become rid of sin.] For they direct him to become righteous, then to do good works, to defend the miserable against injustice, as was the duty of a king. But righteousness is faith in the heart. Moreover, sins are redeemed by repentance, i.e. the obligation or guilt is removed, because God forgives those who repent, as it is written in Ezek. 18, 21. 22. Nor are we to infer from this that He forgives on account of works that follow, on account of alms, but on account of His promise He forgives those who apprehend His promise. Neither do any apprehend His promise, except those who truly believe, and by faith overcome sin and death. These, being regenerated, ought to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, just as John says, Matt. 3, 8. The promise, therefore, was added: So, there will be healing for thy offenses, Dan. 4, 24. [Daniel does not only demand works, but says: Redeem thy sins by righteousness. Now, everybody knows that in Scripture righteousness does not mean only external works, but embraces faith, as Paul says: Iustus ex fide vivet? The just shall live by his faith, Heb. 10, 38. Hence, Daniel first demands faith when he mentions righteousness and says: Redeem thy sins by righteousness, that is, by faith toward God, by which thou art made righteous. In addition to this do good works, administer your office, do not be a tyrant, but see that your government be profitable to your country and people, preserve peace, and protect the poor against unjust force. These are princely alms.] Jerome here added a particle expressing doubt, that is beside the matter, and in his commentaries contends much more unwisely that the remission of sins is uncertain. But let us remember that the Gospel gives a sure promise of the remission of sins. And to deny that there must be a sure promise of the remission of sins would completely abolish the Gospel. Let us therefore dismiss Jerome concerning this passage. Although the promise is displayed even in the word redeem. For it signifies that the remission of sins is possible that sins can be redeemed, i.e., that their obligation or guilt can be removed, or the wrath of God appeased. But our adversaries, overlooking the promises, everywhere, consider only the precepts, and attach falsely the human opinion that remission occurs on account of works, although the text does not say this, but much rather requires faith. For wherever a promise is, there faith is required. For a promise cannot be received unless by faith. [The same answer must also be given in reference to the passage from the Gospel: Forgive, and you will be forgiven. For this is just such a doctrine of repentance. The first part in this passage demands amendment of life and good works, the other part adds the promise. Nor are we to infer from this that our forgiving merits for us ex opere operato remission of sin. For that is not what Christ says, but as in other sacraments Christ has attached the promise to an external sign, so He attaches the promise of the forgiveness of sin in this place to external good works. And as in the Lord's Supper we do not obtain forgiveness of sin without faith, ex opere operato, so neither in this when we forgive. For, our forgiving is not a good work, except it is performed by a person whose sins have been previously forgiven by God in Christ. If, therefore, our forgiving is to please God, it must follow after the forgiveness which God extends to us. For, as a rule, Christ combines these two, the Law and the Gospel, both faith and good works, in order to indicate that, where good works do not follow, there is no faith either that we may have external marks, which remind us of the Gospel and the forgiveness of sin, for our comfort and that thus our faith may be exercised in many ways. In this manner we are to understand such passages, otherwise they would directly contradict the entire Gospel, and our beggarly works would be put in the place of Christ, who alone is to be the propitiation, which no man is by any means to despise. Again, if these passages were to be understood as relating to works, the remission of sins would be quite uncertain; for it would rest on a poor foundation, on our miserable works.]
But works become conspicuous among men. Human reason naturally admires these, and because it sees only works, and does not understand or consider faith, it dreams accordingly that these works merit remission of sins and justify. This opinion of the Law inheres by nature in men's minds; neither can it be expelled, unless when we are divinely taught. But the mind must be recalled from such carnal opinions to the Word of God. We see that the Gospel and the promise concerning Christ have been laid before us. When, therefore, the Law is preached, when works are enjoined, we should not spurn the promise concerning Christ. But the latter must first be apprehended, in order that we may be able to produce good works, and our works may please God, as Christ says, John 16; 5: With out Me ye can do nothing. Therefore, if Daniel would have used such words as these: "Redeem your sins by repentance," the adversaries would take no notice of this passage. Now, since he has actually expressed this thought in apparently other words, the adversaries distort his words to the injury of the doctrine of grace and faith, although Daniel meant most especially to include faith. Thus, therefore, we reply to the words of Daniel, that, inasmuch as he is preaching repentance, he is teaching not only of works, but also of faith, as the narrative itself in the context testifies. Secondly, because Daniel clearly presents the promise, he necessarily requires faith which believes that sins are freely remitted by God. Although, therefore, in repentance he mentions works, yet Daniel does not say that by these works we merit remission of sins. For Daniel speaks not only of the remission of the punishment; because remission of the punishment is sought for in vain unless the heart first receive the remission of guilt. Besides, if the adversaries understand Daniel as speaking only of the remission of punishment, this passage will prove nothing against us, because it will thus be necessary for even them to confess that the remission of sin and free justification precede. Afterwards even we concede that the punishments by which we are chastised, are mitigated by our prayers and good works, and finally by our entire repentance, according to 1 Cor. 11, 31: For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. And Jer. 15, 19: If thou return, then will I bring thee again. And Zech. 1, 3: Turn ye unto Me, and I will turn unto you. And Ps. 50, 15: Call upon Me in the day of trouble.
Let us, therefore, in all our encomiums upon works and in the preaching of the Law retain this rule: that the Law is not observed without Christ. As He Himself has said: Without Me ye can do nothing. Likewise that: Without faith it is impossible to please God, Heb. 11, 6. For it is very certain that the doctrine of the Law is not intended to remove the Gospel, and to remove Christ as Propitiator. And let the Pharisees, our adversaries, be cursed, who so interpret the Law as to ascribe the glory of Christ to works namely, that they are a propitiation, that they merit the remission of sins. It follows, therefore, that works are always thus praised, namely, that they are pleasing on account of faith, as works do not please without Christ as Propitiator. By Him we have access to God, Rom. 5, 2, not by works, without Christ as Mediator. Therefore, when it is said, Matt. 19, 17: If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments, we must believe that without Christ the commandments are not kept, and without Him cannot please. Thus in the Decalog itself, in the First Commandment Ex. 20, 6: Showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments, the most liberal promise of the Law is added. But this Law is not observed without Christ. For it always accuses the conscience which does not satisfy the Law, and therefore in terror, flies from the judgment and punishment of the Law. Because the Law worketh wrath, Rom. 4, 15. Man observes the Law, however, when he hears that for Christ's sake God is reconciled to us, even though we cannot satisfy the Law. When, by this faith, Christ is apprehended as Mediator, the heart finds rest, and begins to love God and observe the Law, and knows that now, because of Christ as Mediator, it is pleasing to God, even though the inchoate fulfilling of the Law be far from perfection and be very impure. Thus we must judge also concerning the preaching of repentance. For although in the doctrine of repentance the scholastics have said nothing at all concerning faith, yet we think that none of our adversaries is so mad as to deny that absolution is a voice of the Gospel. And absolution ought to be received by faith, in order that it may cheer the terrified conscience.
Therefore the doctrine of repentance, because it not only commands new works, but also promises the remission of sins, necessarily requires faith. For the remission of sins is not received unless by faith. Therefore, in those passages that refer to repentance, we should always understand that not only works, but also faith is required, as in Matt. 6, 14. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Here a work is required, and the promise of the remission of sins is added which does not occur on account of the work, but through faith, on account of Christ. Just as Scripture testifies in many passages: Acts 10, 43: To Him give all the prophets witness that through His name, whosoever believeth in Him, shall receive remission of sins; and 1 John 2, 12: Your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake; Eph. 1, 7: In whom we have redemption through His blood the forgiveness of sins. Although what need is there to recite testimonies? This is the very voice peculiar to the Gospel, namely, that for Christ's sake, and not for the sake of our works, we obtain by faith remission of sins. Our adversaries endeavor to suppress this voice of the Gospel by means of distorted passages which contain the doctrine of the Law, or of works. For it is true that in the doctrine of repentance works are required, because certainly a new life is required. But here the adversaries wrongly add that by such works we merit the remission of sins, or justification. And yet Christ often connects the promise of the remission of sins to good works not because He means that good works are a propitiation, for they follow reconciliation; but for two reasons. One is, because good fruits must necessarily follow. Therefore He reminds us that, if good fruits do not follow the repentance is hypocritical and feigned. The other reason is, because we have need of external signs of so great a promise, because a conscience full of fear has need of manifold consolation. As, therefore, Baptism and the Lord's Supper are signs that continually admonish, cheer, and encourage desponding minds to believe the more firmly that their sins are forgiven, so the same promise is written and portrayed in good works, in order that these works may admonish us to believe the more firmly. And those who produce no good works do not excite themselves to believe, but despise these promises. The godly on the other hand, embrace them, and rejoice that they have the signs and testimonies of so great a promise. Accordingly, they exercise themselves in these signs and testimonies. Just as, therefore, the Lord's Supper does not justify us ex opere operato, without faith, so alms do not justify us without faith, ex opere operato.
So also the address of Tobias, 4, 11, ought to be received: Alms free from every sin and from death. We will not say that this is hyperbole, although it ought thus to be received, so as not to detract from the praise of Christ, whose prerogative it is to free from sin and death. But we must come back to the rule that without Christ the doctrine of the Law is of no profit. Therefore those alms please God which follow reconciliation or justification, and not those which precede. Therefore they free from sin and death, not ex opere operato, but, as we have said above concerning repentance, that we ought to embrace faith and its fruits, so here we must say concerning alms that this entire newness of life saves [that they please God because they occur in believers]. Alms also are the exercises of faith, which receives the remission of sins and overcomes death, while it exercises itself more and more, and in these exercises receives strength. We grant also this, that alms merit many favors from God [but they cannot overcome death, hell, the devil, sins, and give the conscience peace (for this must occur alone through faith in Christ)], mitigate punishments, and that they merit our defense in the dangers of sins and of death, as we have said a little before concerning the entire repentance. [This is the simple meaning, which agrees also with other passages of Scripture. For wherever in the Scriptures good works are praised, we must always understand them according to the rule of Paul, that the Law and works must not be elevated above Christ, but that Christ and faith are as far above all works as the heavens are above the earth.] And the address of Tobias, regarded as a whole shows that faith is required before alms, 4, 5: Be mindful of the Lord, thy God, all thy days And afterwards, v. 19. Bless the Lord, thy God, always, and desire of Him that thy ways be directed. This, however, belongs properly to that faith of which we speak, which believes that God is reconciled to it because of His mercy, and which wishes to be justified, sanctified, and governed by God. But our adversaries, charming men, pick out mutilated sentences, in order to deceive those who are unskilled. Afterwards they attach something from their own opinions. Therefore, entire passages are to be required, because, according to the common precept, it is unbecoming, before the entire Law is thoroughly examined, to judge or reply when any single clause of it is presented. And passages, when produced in their entirety, very frequently bring the interpretation with them.
Luke 11, 41 is also cited in a mutilated form, namely: Give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. The adversaries are very stupid [are deaf, and have callous ears; therefore, we must so often etc.]. For time and again we have said that to the preaching of the Law there should be added the Gospel concerning Christ, because of whom good works are pleasing, but they everywhere teach [without shame] that, Christ being excluded, justification is merited by the works of the Law. When this passage is produced unmutilated, it will show that faith is required. Christ rebukes the Pharisees who think that they are cleansed before God i.e. , that they are justified by frequent ablutions [by all sorts of baptismata carnis, that is, by all sorts of baths, washings, and cleansings of the body, of vessels, of garments]. Just as some Pope or other says of the water sprinkled with salt that it sanctifies and cleanses the people; and the gloss says that it cleanses from venial sins. Such also were the opinions of the Pharisees which Christ reproved, and to this feigned cleansing He opposes a double cleanness, the one internal, the other external. He bids them be cleansed inwardly [(which occurs only through faith)], and adds concerning the outward cleanness: Give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. The adversaries do not apply aright the universal particle all things; for Christ adds this conclusion to both members: "All things will be clean unto you, if you will be clean within, and will outwardly give alms." For He indicates that outward cleanness is to be referred to works commanded by God, and not to human traditions, such as the ablutions were at that time, and the daily sprinkling of water, the vesture of monks, the distinctions of food, and similar acts of ostentation are now. But the adversaries distort the meaning by sophistically transferring the universal particle to only one part: "All things will be clean to those having given alms." [As if any one would infer: Andrew is present; therefore all the apostles are present. Wherefore in the antecedent both members ought to be joined: Believe and give alms. For to this the entire mission, the entire office of Christ points; to this end He is come that we should believe in Him. Now, if both parts are combined, believing and giving alms, it follows rightly that all things are clean: the heart by faith, the external conversation by good works. Thus we must combine the entire sermon, and not invert the parts, and interpret the text to mean that the heart is cleansed from sin by alms. Moreover, there are some who think that these words were spoken by Christ against the Pharisees ironically, as if He meant to say: Aye, my dear lords, rob and steal, and then go and give alms, and you will be promptly cleansed, so that Christ would in a somewhat sarcastic and mocking way puncture their pharisaical hypocrisy. For, although they abounded in unbelief, avarice, and every evil work, they still observed their purifications, gave alms, and believed that they were quite pure, lovely saints. This interpretation is not contrary to the text.] Yet Peter says, Acts 15, 9, that hearts are purified by faith. And when this entire passage is examined, it presents a meaning harmonizing with the rest of Scripture, that, if the hearts are cleansed and then outwardly alms are added, i.e., all the works of love, they are thus entirely clean i.e. not only within, but also without. And why is not the entire discourse added to it? There are many parts of the reproof, some of which give commandment concerning faith and others concerning works. Nor is it the part of a candid reader to pick out the commands concerning works, while the passages concerning faith are omitted.
Lastly, readers are to be admonished of this, namely, that the adversaries give the worst advice to godly consciences when they teach that by works the remission of sins is merited, because conscience, in acquiring remission through works, cannot be confident that the work will satisfy God. Accordingly, it is always tormented, and continually devises other works and other acts of worship until it altogether despairs. This course is described by Paul, Rom. 4, 6, where he proves that the promise of righteousness is not obtained because of our works, because we could never affirm that we had a reconciled God. For the Law always accuses. Thus the promise would be in vain and uncertain. He accordingly concludes that this promise of the remission of sins and of righteousness is received by faith, not on account of works. This is the true, simple, and genuine meaning of Paul, in which the greatest consolation is offered godly consciences, and the glory of Christ is shown forth, who certainly was given to us for this purpose, namely, that through Him we might have grace, righteousness, and peace.
Thus far we have reviewed the principal passages which the adversaries cite against us, in order to show that faith does not justify, and that we merit, by our works, remission of sins and grace. But we hope that we have shown clearly enough to godly consciences that these passages are not opposed to our doctrine; that the adversaries wickedly distort the Scriptures to their opinions; that the most of the passages which they cite have been garbled; that, while omitting the clearest passages concerning faith, they only select from the Scriptures passages concerning works, and even these they distort; that everywhere they add certain human opinions to that which the words of Scripture say; that they teach the Law in such a manner as to suppress the Gospel concerning Christ. For the entire doctrine of the adversaries is, in part, derived from human reason, and is, in part, a doctrine of the Law, not of the Gospel. For they teach two modes of justification, of which the one has been derived from reason and the other from the Law, not from the Gospel, or the promise concerning Christ.
The former mode of justification with them is, that they teach that by good works men merit grace both de congruo and de condigno. This mode is a doctrine of reason, because reason, not seeing the uncleanness of the heart, thinks that it pleases God if it perform good works, and for this reason other works and other acts of worship are constantly devised, by men in great peril, against the terrors of conscience. The heathen and the Israelites slew human victims, and undertook many other most painful works in order to appease God's wrath. Afterwards, orders of monks were devised, and these vied with each other in the severity of their observances against the terrors of conscience and God's wrath. And this mode of justification, because it is according to reason, and is altogether occupied with outward works, can be understood, and to a certain extent be rendered. And to this the canonists have distorted the misunderstood Church ordinances, which were enacted by the Fathers for a far different purpose, namely, not that by these works we should seek after righteousness, but that, for the sake of mutual tranquillity among men, there might be a certain order in the Church. In this manner they also distorted the Sacraments and most especially the Mass, through which they seek ex opere operatorighteousness, grace, and salvation.