(BE) - A Brief Exposition of the Teachings for the New Church Meant by the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation

BE 5

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5. Concerning Faith, Charity, Good Works and Merits. (a) When the apostle says, that man is justified by faith and freely, these words are to be understood in the sense wherein the Catholic church has uniformly held and expressed them; namely, that we are said to be justified by faith, because faith is the commencement of man's salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God, and attain to the fellowship of His sons. But we are said to be justified freely, because none of those things which precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the actual grace of justification; for if it be grace, it is not from works, otherwise grace would not be grace (Sess. vi. chap. 8). (b) Although no one can be just, but they to whom the merits of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, nevertheless that is effected in justification, when by the merit of the same most holy passion, the charity of God is infused by the Holy Spirit into the hearts of those who are justified, and abides in them. Hence in the act of justification, man receives, together with the remission of his sins, all these things infused into him at once by Jesus Christ, in whom he is ingrafted by faith, hope, and charity. For faith, unless charity be added to it, neither unites perfectly with Christ, nor constitutes a living member of His body (Sess. vi. chap. 7, 3). (c) That Christ is not only the Redeemer in whom they have faith, but also a Lawgiver, whom they obey (Sess. vi. chap. 16, Can. 21). (d) That faith without works is dead and vain, because in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh through charity. For faith without hope and charity cannot avail unto eternal life; wherefore also they hearken to the word of Christ, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." Thus they who are born again, receiving true Christian justice, are commanded to keep it white and unspotted, as their first robe, given them by Jesus Christ, instead of that which Adam lost both for himself and us by his disobedience, that they may present it before the tribunal of our Lord Jesus Christ, and obtain eternal life (Sess. vi. chap. 7). (e) That there is a continual influx of power from Jesus Christ Himself into those who are justified, as from a head into the members, and from a vine into the branches; which power always precedes, accompanies, and follows their good works, and without which they could not by any means be acceptable and meritorious in the sight of God; wherefore we are to believe, that nothing more is wanting to those who are justified, but they may be fully assured, that by those works which have been wrought in God, they have merited eternal life, which will be bestowed upon them in due time (Sess. vi. chap. 16). (f) We do not mean our own justice, as though it were our own from ourselves; for that which is termed our justice, is the justice of God, because it is infused into us by God through the merit of Christ. Far be it, therefore, from any Christian man either to trust or glory in himself, and not in the Lord, whose goodness towards us men is so great, that He vouchsafes to regard those things as our merits, which are His own gifts (Sess. vi. chap. 16). (g) For of ourselves, as of ourselves, we can do nothing; but by His cooperation, who strengthens us, we can do all things. Thus man has not whereof to glory, but all our glory is in Christ, in whom we live, in whom we merit, in whom we make satisfaction, bringing forth fruits worthy of repentance, which have their efficacy from Him, are offered unto the Father by Him, and are accepted by the Father through Him (Sess. xiv. chap. 8). (h) Whosoever shall say that man may be justified in the sight of God, by his own works, which are done either through the powers of human nature, or through the teaching of the law, without Divine grace through Christ Jesus, let him be accursed (Sess. vi. can. 1). (i) Whosoever shall say that man may believe, hope, and love (that is, have faith, hope, and charity), as is necessary in order that the grace of justification may be conferred upon him, without the preventing inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and its assistance, let him be accursed (Sess. vi. Can. 2). (k) Whosoever shall say that man is justified without the justice of christ, whereby He has merited for us, let him be accursed (Sess. vi. Can. 10). Not to mention many more passages, principally relating to the conjunction of faith with charity or good works, and the condemnation of their separation.


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