The Church and the Sacraments, The Time of the Reformation, Views on the Church, Material Principle (continued)

We will now continue with our quotation of Chapter VII of the Sixth Session of the Roman Catholic Council of Trent, devoted to the subject of Justification: “Of this Justification the causes are these: the final cause indeed is the glory of God and of Jesus Christ, and life everlasting; while the efficient cause is a merciful God who washes and sanctifies gratuitously, signing, and anointing with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance; but the meritorious cause is his most beloved only-begotten, otir Lord Jesus Christ, who, when we were enemies, for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, merited Justification for us by his most holy Passion on the wood of the cross, and made satisfaction for us unto God the Father; the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which (faith) no man was ever justified; lastly, the alone formal cause is the justice of God, not that whereby he himself is just, but that whereby he maketh us just, that, to wit, with which we, being endowed by him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and we are not only reputed, but are truly called, and are just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributed to every one as he wills, and according to each one’s proper disposition and co-operation. For, although no one can be just, but he to whom the merits of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet is this done in the said justification of the impious, when by the merit of that same most holy Passion, the charity of God is poured forth, by the Holy Spirit, in the hearts of those that are justified, and is inherent therein: whence, man, through Jesus Christ, in whom he is engrafted, received, in the said justification, together with the remission of sins, all these (gifts) infused at once, faith, hope, and charity. For faith, unless hope and charity be added thereto, neither unites man perfectly with Christ, nor makes him a living member of his body. For which reason it is most truly said, that Faith without works is dead and profitless; and, In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by charity. This faith, Catechumens beg of the Church—agreeably to a tradition of the apostles—previously to the sacrament of Baptism; when they beg for the faith which bestows life everlasting, which, without hope and charity, faith can not bestow: whence also do they immediately hear that word of Christ: If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. Wherefore, when receiving true and Christian justice, they are bidden, immediately on being born again, to preserve it pure and spotless, as the first robe given them through Jesus Christ in lieu of that which Adam, by his disobedience, lost for himself and for us, that so they may bear it before the judgment-seat of our Lord Jesus Christ, and may have life eternal.” 

In this article the Roman Catholic Church sets forth what Justification is. Besides speaking of the final cause, efficient cause, and the meritorious cause of this justification, that Church also speaks of its instrumental cause: the sacrament of baptism. And that the Lord justifies us, through the sacrament of baptism”, means that we are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and that we receive, in this justification, together with the remission of sins, all these gifts infused at once, faith, hope, and charity. And then this article declares that faith, without hope and charity, means nothing, does not make one a living member of the body of Christ. And it quotes the passage from the epistle of James, which, we understand, does not speak of faith but of a faith without works, and therefore of a dead faith.

CHAPTER VIII 

In What Manner It Is To Be Understood, That The Impious Is Justified By Faith, And Gratuitously 

“And whereas the Apostle saith, that man is justified by faith and freely, those words are to be understood in that sense which the perpetual consent of the Catholic Church hath held and expressed; to wit, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation, and the root of all Justification; without which it is impossible to please God, and to come unto the fellowship of his sons: but we are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification—whether faith or works—merit the grace itself of justification. For, if it be a grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the same Apostle says, grace is no more grace.” 

In this article the Romish Church attempts to explain the words of Scripture that we are justified by faith and freely. And, to be justified by faith simply means that faith is the beginning of human salvation, thereby allowing for the possibility that what follows is not by faith but by works. And that we are justified freely simply means that none of the things that precede this justification merits the grace itself of justification. This, we understand, according to Rome, does not apply to that which follows, our works by which we merit and can merit eternal salvation.

CHAPTER IX 

Against The Vain Confidence Of Heretics 

Notice, please, how the Roman Catholic Church denies in this article that we are justified by faith alone, and that the child of God can enjoy perfect and complete assurance of his justification and the forgiveness of his sins while in this life. The Romish Church teaches in this article that the child of God, when he regards himself and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension touching his own grace and also that he cannot know with a certainty of faith. But, we may now quote this article: “But, although it is necessary to believe that sins neither are remitted, nor ever were remitted save gratuitously by the mercy of God for Christ’s sake; yet is it not to be said, that sins are forgiven, or have been forgiven, to any one who boasts of his confidence and certainty of the remission of his sins, and rests on that alone; seeing that it may exist, yea does in our day exist, amongst heretics and schismatics; and with great vehemence is this vain confidence, and one alien from all godliness, preached up in opposition to the Catholic Church. But neither is this to be asserted- that they who are truly justified must needs, without any doubting whatever, settle within themselves that they are justified, and that no one is absolved from sins and justified, but he that believes for certain that he is absolved and justified; and that absolution and justification are effected by this faith alone: as though whoso has not this belief, doubts of the promises of God, and of the efficacy of the death and resurrection of Christ. For even as no pious person ought to doubt of the mercy of God, of the merit of Christ, and of the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments, even so each one, when he regards himself, and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension touching his own grace: seeing that no one can know with a certainty of faith, which can not be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.”

CHAPTER X 

On The Increase Of Justification Received 

In this article the Romish Church declares that we can increase in that justification which we have received through the grace of Christ, and that this increase is effected by the cooperation of our faith with good works. We quote: “Having, therefore, been thus justified, and made the friends and “domestics of God,” advancing “from virtue to virtue,” they are “renewed,” as the Apostle says, “day by day;” that is? “by mortifying the members “of their own flesh, and by “presenting them as instruments of justice unto sanctification,” they, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith co-operating with good works, increase in that justice which they have received through the grace of Christ, and are still further justified, as it is written: “He that is just, let him be justified still;” and again, “Be not afraid to be justified even to death;” and also, “Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” And this increase of justification the holy Church begs, when she prays, “Give unto us, O Lord, increase of faith, hope, and charity.” The reader will notice that we, when quoting these quotations, place those expressions in quotation marks which appear in the original quotations in italics, and are quotations from Holy Writ. 

CHAPTER XII 

In Article XI, which we will not quote, the Council of Trent sets forth its doctrine on the necessity and possibility of keeping the commandments of God. Now we understand, of course, that the Reformation did not deny the necessity or possibility of the keeping of the commandments of the Lord. This is simply camouflage on the part of the Church of Rome. But that Church also declares in this eleventh article that they are opposed to the orthodox doctrine of religion who assert that the just man sins if, in his good works, he performs them as having in view the eternal reward in order to excite their sloth, and to encourage themselves to run in the course. However, we surely perform good works as having our eye upon the eternal reward. This is surely Scriptural. But this is far different than to assert that we, by our good works, also merit that eternal reward. In Article XII the Romish Church calls attention to a rash presumptuousness in the matter of predestination which is to be avoided. And now we quote this brief article: “No one, moreover, so long as he is in this mortal life, ought so far to presume as regards the secret mystery of divine predestination, as to determine for certain that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate; as if it were true, that he that is justified, either can not sin any more, or if he do sin, that he ought to promise himself an assured repentance; for except by special revelation, it can not be known whom God hath chosen unto himself.”

In this article the Romish Church denies the personal assurance of a child of God is his eternal election. Now we must bear in mind that the Romish Church, although maintaining, in its own way, the doctrine of election, denies the doctrine of reprobation. This can be verified by quotes of Roman Catholic authors and writers. But, in this article the Romish Church surely contradicts the Holy Scriptures when they assert that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, even as we read it in Romans 8:38-39: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And it also denied the word of God in I Thess. 1:4: “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.” 

—H.V.