53 For the two chief works of God in men are these, to terrify, and to justify and quicken those who have been terrified. Into these two works all Scripture has been distributed. The one part is the Law, which shows, reproves, and condemns sins. The other part is the Gospel, i.e., the promise of grace bestowed in Christ, and this promise is constantly repeated in the whole of Scripture, first having been delivered to Adam a, afterwards to the patriarchs; then, still more clearly proclaimed by the prophets; lastly, preached and set forth among the Jews by Christ, and disseminated over the entire world by the apostles. 54 For all the saints were justified by faith in this promise, and not by their own attrition or contrition.
55 And the examples b show likewise these two parts. After his sin Adam is reproved and becomes terrified; this was contrition. Afterward God promises grace, and speaks of a future seed (the blessed seed, i.e., Christ), by which the kingdom of the devil, death, and sin will be destroyed; there He offers the remission of sins. These are the chief things. For although the punishment is afterwards added, yet this punishment does not merit the remission of sin. And concerning this kind of punishment we shall speak after a while.
56 So David is reproved by Nathan, and, terrified, he says, 2 Sam. 12, 13: I have sinned against the Lord. This is contrition. Afterward he hears the absolution: The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. This voice encourages David, and by faith sustains, justifies, and quickens him. Here a punishment is also added, but this punishment does not merit the remission of sins. 57 Nor are special punishments always added, but in repentance these two things ought always to exist, namely, contrition and faith, as Luke 7, 37. 38. The woman, who was a sinner, came to Christ weeping. By these tears the contrition is recognized. Afterward she hears the absolution: Thy sins are forgiven; thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace. This is the second part of repentance, namely, faith, which 58 encourages and consoles her. From all these it is apparent to godly readers that we assign to repentance those parts which properly belong to it in conversion, or regeneration, and the remission of sin. Worthy fruits and punishments c follow regeneration and the remission of sin. For this reason we have mentioned these two parts, in order that the faith which we require in repentance d might be the better seen. And what that faith is which the Gospel proclaims can be better understood when it is set over against contrition and mortification.
59 But as the adversaries expressly condemn our statement that men obtain the remission of sins by faith, we shall add a few proofs from which it will be understood that the remission of sins is obtained not ex opere operato because of contrition, but by that special faith by which an individual believes that sins are remitted to him. For this is the chief article concerning which we are contending with our adversaries, and the knowledge of which we regard especially necessary to all Christians. As, however, it appears that we have spoken sufficiently above concerning the same subject, we shall here be briefer. For very closely related are the topics of the doctrine of repentance and the doctrine of justification.
60 When the adversaries speak of faith, and say that it precedes repentance, they understand by faith, not that which justifies, but that which, in a general way, believes that God exists, that punishments have been threatened to the wicked e, etc. In addition to this faith we require that each one believe that his sins are remitted to him. Concerning this special faith we are disputing, and we oppose it to the opinion which bids us trust not in the promise of Christ, but in the opus operatum of contrition, confession, and satisfactions, etc. This faith follows terrors in such a manner as to overcome them, and render the conscience pacified. To this faith we ascribe justification and regeneration, inasmuch as it frees from terrors, and brings forth in the heart not only peace and joy, but also a new life. We maintain f that this faith is truly necessary for the remission of sins, and accordingly place it among the parts of repentance. Nor does the Church of Christ believe otherwise, although our adversaries g contradict us.
61 Moreover, to begin with, we ask the adversaries whether to receive absolution is a part of repentance, or not. But if they separate it from confession, as they are subtile in making the distinction, we do not see of what benefit confession is without absolution. If, however, they do not separate the receiving of absolution from confession, it is necessary for them to hold that faith is a part of repentance, because absolution is not received except by faith. That absolution, however, is not received except by faith can be proved from Paul, who teaches, Rom. 4, 16, that the promise cannot be received except by faith. But absolution is the promise of the remission of sins h. 62 Therefore, it necessarily requires faith. Neither do we see how he who does not assent to it may be said to receive absolution. And what else is the refusal to assent to absolution but charging God with falsehood? If the heart doubts, it regards those things which God promises as uncertain and of no account. Accordingly, in 1 John 5, 10 it is written: He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son
63 Secondly, we think that the adversaries acknowledge that the remission of sins is either a part, or the end, or, to speak in their manner, the terminus ad quem of repentance. i Therefore that by which the remission of sins is received is correctly added to the parts j of repentance. It is very certain, however, that even though all the gates of hell contradict us, yet the remission of sins cannot be received except by faith alone, which believes that sins are remitted for Christ's sake, according to Rom.3, 25: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood. Likewise Rom. 5, 2: By whom also we have access by faith unto 64grace, etc. For a terrified conscience cannot set against God's wrath our works or our love, but it is at length pacified when it apprehends Christ as Mediator, and believes the promises given for His sake. For those who dream that without faith in Christ hearts become pacified, do not understand what the remission of sins is, or how it came to us. 65 1 Peter 2, 6, cites from Is. 49, 23, and 28, 16: He that believeth on Him shall not be confounded. It is necessary, therefore, that hypocrites be confounded, who are confident that they receive the remission of sins because of their own works, and not because of Christ. Peter also says in Acts 10, 43: To Him give all the prophets witness that through His name, whosoever believeth in Him, shall receive remission of sins. What he says, through His name, could not be expressed more clearly, and he adds: Whosoever believeth in Him. Thus, therefore, we receive the remission of sins only through the name of Christ, i.e., for Christ's sake, and not for the sake of any merits and works of our own. And this occurs when we believe that sins are remitted to us for Christ's sake.
66 Our adversaries cry out that they are the Church, that they are following the consensus of the Church k. But Peter also here cites in our issue the consensus of the Church: To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name, whosoever believeth in Him, shall receive remission of sins, etc. The consensus of the prophets is assuredly to be judged as the consensus of the Church universal. l We concede neither to the Pope nor to the Church the power to make decrees against this consensus of the prophets. 67 But the bull of Leo openly condemns this article, Of the Remission of Sins, and the adversaries condemn it in the Confutation. From which it is apparent what sort of a Church we must judge that of these men to be, who not only by their decrees censure the doctrine that we obtain the remission of sins by faith, not on account of our works, but on account of Christ, but who also give the command by force and the sword to abolish it, and by every kind of cruelty m to put to death good men who thus believe.
68 But they have authors of a great name, Scotus, Gabriel, and the like, and passages of the Fathers which are cited in a mutilated form in the decrees. Certainly, if the testimonies are to be counted, they win. For there is a very great crowd of most trifling writers upon the Sententiae, who, as though they had conspired, defend these figments concerning the merit of attrition and of works, and other things which we have above recounted. n 69 But lest any one be moved by the multitude of citations, there is no great weight in the testimonies of the later writers, who did not originate their own writings, but only, by compiling from the writers before them, transferred these opinions from some books into others. They have exercised no judgment, but just like petty judges silently have approved the errors of their superiors, which they have not understood. Let us not, therefore, hesitate to oppose this utterance of Peter, which cites the consensus of the prophets, 70 to ever so many legions of the Sententiaries. 71 And to this utterance of Peter the testimony of the Holy Ghost is added. For the text speaks thus, Acts 10, 44: While Peter yet spoke these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which 72 heard the Word. Therefore, let pious consciences know that the command of God is this, that they believe that they are freely forgiven for Christ's sake, and not for the sake of our works. And by this command of God let them sustain themselves against despair, and 73 against the terrors of sin and of death. And let them know that this belief has existed among saints from the beginning of the world. o For Peter clearly cites the consensus of the prophets, and the writings of the apostles testify that they believe the same thing. Nor are testimonies of the Fathers wanting. For Bernard says the same thing in words that are in no way obscure: For it is necessary first of all to believe that you cannot have remission of sins except by the indulgence of God, but add yet that you believe also this, namely, that through Him sins are forgiven thee. This is the testimony which the Holy Ghost asserts in your heart, saying: "Thy sins are forgiven thee." For thus the apostle judges that man is justified freely through faith. 74 These words of Bernard shed a wonderful light upon our cause, because he not only requires that we in a general way believe that sins are remitted through mercy, but he bids us add special faith, by which we believe that sins are remitted even to us; and he teaches how we may be rendered certain concerning the remission of sins, namely, when our hearts are encouraged by faith, and become tranquil through the Holy Ghost. What more do the adversaries require? p Do they still dare deny that by faith we obtain the remission of sins, or that faith is a part of repentance?
75 Thirdly, the adversaries say that sin is remitted, because an attrite or contrite person elicits an act of love to God q, and by this act merits to receive the remission of sins. This is nothing but to teach the Law, the Gospel being blotted out, and the promise concerning Christ being abolished. For they require only the Law and our works, because the Law demands love. Besides, they teach us to be confident that we obtain remission of sins because of contrition and love. What else is this than to put confidence in our works, not in the Word and promise of God concerning Christ? But if the Law be sufficient for obtaining the remission of sins, what need is there of the Gospel? What need is there of Christ if we obtain remission of sins because of our own work? 76 We, on the other hand, call consciences away from the Law to the Gospel, and from confidence in their own works to confidence in the promise and Christ, because the Gospel presents to us Christ, and promises freely the remission of sins for Christ's sake. In this promise it bids us trust, namely, that for Christ's sake we are reconciled to the Father, and not for the sake of our own contrition or love. For there is no other Mediator or Propitiator than Christ. Neither can we do the works of the Law unless we have first been reconciled through Christ. And if we would do anything, yet we must believe that not for the sake of these works, but for the sake of Christ, as Mediator and Propitiator, we obtain the remission of sins.
77 Yea, it is a reproach to Christ and a repeal of the Gospel to believe that we obtain the remission of sins on account of the Law, or otherwise than by faith in Christ. This method also we have discussed above in the chapter Of Justification, where we declared why we confess that men are justified by faith, not by love. 78 Therefore the doctrine of the adversaries, when they teach that by their own contrition and love men obtain the remission of sins, and trust in this contrition and love, is merely the doctrine of the Law, and of that, too, as not understood r, just as the Jews looked upon the veiled face of Moses. For let us imagine that love is present, let us imagine that works are present, yet neither love nor works can be a propitiation for sin s. And they cannot even be opposed to the wrath and judgment of God, according to Ps. 143, 2: Enter not into judgment with Thy servant; for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified. Neither ought the honor of Christ to be transferred to our works.
79 For these reasons Paul contends that we are not justified by the Law, and he opposes to the Law the promise of the remission of sins, which is granted for Christ's sake, and teaches that we freely receive the remission of sins for Christ's sake. Paul calls us away from the Law to this promise. Upon this promise he bids us look t, which certainly will be void if we are justified by the Law before we are justified through the promise, or if we obtain the remission of sins on account of our own righteousness. 80 But it is evident that the promise was given us and Christ was tendered to us for the very reason that we cannot do the works of the Law. Therefore it is necessary that we are reconciled by the promise before we do the works of the Law. The promise, however, is received only by faith. Therefore it is necessary for contrite persons to apprehend by faith the promise of the remission of sins granted for Christ's sake, and to be confident that freely for Christ's sake they have a reconciled Father. 81 This is the meaning of Paul, Rom. 4, 16, where he says: Therefore it is of faith that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure. And Gal. 3, 22: The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given them that believe, i.e., all are under sin, neither can they be freed otherwise than by apprehending by faith the promise of the remission of sins. 82 Therefore we must by faith accept the remission of sins before we do the works of the Law; although, as has been said above, love follows faith, because the regenerate receive the Holy Ghost, and accordingly begin u to do the works of the Law.
83 We would cite more testimonies if they were not obvious to every godly reader in the Scriptures. And we do not wish to be too prolix, in order that 84 this case may be the more readily seen through. Neither, indeed, is there any doubt that the meaning of Paul is what we are defending, namely, that by faith we receive the remission of sins for Christ's sake, that by faith we ought to oppose to God's wrath Christ as Mediator, and not our works. Neither let godly minds be disturbed, even though the adversaries find fault with the judgments of Paul. Nothing is said so simply that it cannot be distorted by caviling. We know that what we have mentioned is the true and genuine meaning of Paul; we know that this our belief brings to godly consciences v sure comfort, without which no one can stand in God's judgment.
85 Therefore let these pharisaic opinions of the adversaries be rejected, namely, that we do not receive by faith the remission of sins, but that it ought to be merited by our love and works; that we ought to oppose our love and our works to the wrath of God. Not of the Gospel, but of the Law is this doctrine, which feigns that man is justified by the Law before he has been reconciled through Christ to God, since Christ says, John 15, 5: Without Me He can do nothing; likewise: I am the true Vine; ye are the branches. 86 But the adversaries feign that we are branches, not of Christ, but of Moses. For they wish to be justified by the Law, and to offer their love and works to God before they are reconciled to God through Christ, before they are branches of Christ. Paul, on the other hand w, contends that the Law cannot be observed without Christ. Accordingly, in order that we x may be reconciled to God for Christ's sake, the promise must be received before we do the works of the Law. 87 We think that these things are sufficiently clear to godly consciences. And hence they will understand why we have declared above that men are justified by faith, not by love, because we must oppose to God's wrath not our love or works (or trust in our love and works), but Christ as Mediator y. And we must apprehend the promise of the remission of sins before we do the works of the Law.
88 Lastly, when will conscience be pacified if we receive remission of sins on the ground that we love, or that we do the works of the Law? For the Law will always accuse us, because we never satisfy God's Law. Just as Paul says, Rom. 4, 15: The Law worketh wrath. Chrysostom asks concerning repentance, Whence are we made sure that our sins are remitted us? The adversaries also, in their "Sentences," ask concerning the same subject. z This cannot be explained, consciences cannot be made tranquil, unless they know that it is God's command and the very Gospel that they should be firmly confident that for Christ's sake sins are remitted freely, and that they should not doubt that these are remitted to them. If any one doubts, he charges, as 1 John 5, 10 says, the divine promise with falsehood. We teach that this certainty of faith is required in the Gospel. The adversaries leave consciences uncertain and wavering. 89 Consciences, however, do nothing from faith when they perpetually doubt whether they have remission. aa How can they in this doubt call upon God, how can they be confident that they are heard? Thus the entire life is without God ab and without the true worship of God. This is what Paul says, Rom. 14, 23: Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. And because they are constantly occupied with this doubt, they never experience what faith ac is. Thus it comes to pass that they rush at last into despair ad. Such is the doctrine of the adversaries, the doctrine of the Law, the annulling of the Gospel, the doctrine of despair. ae Now 90 we are glad to refer to all good men the judgment concerning this topic of repentance (for it has no obscurity), in order that they may decide whether we or the adversaries have taught those things which are more godly and healthful to consciences. Indeed, these dissensions in the Church do not delight us; wherefore, if we did not have great and necessary reasons for dissenting from the adversaries we would with the greatest pleasure be silent. But now, since they condemn the manifest truth, it is not right for us to desert a cause which is not our own, but is that of Christ and the Church. af
91 We have declared for what reasons we assigned to repentance these two parts, contrition and faith. And we have done this the more readily because many expressions concerning repentance are published which are cited in a mutilated form from the Fathers ag, and which the adversaries have distorted in order to put faith out of sight. Such are: Repentance is to lament past evils, and not to commit again deeds that ought to be lamented. Again: Repentance is a kind of vengeance of him who grieves, thus punishing in himself what he is sorry for having committed. In these passages no mention is made of faith. And not even in the schools, when they interpret, is anything 92 added concerning faith. Therefore, in order that the doctrine of faith might be the more conspicuous, we have enumerated it among the parts of repentance. For the actual fact shows that those passages which require contrition or good works, and make no mention of justifying faith, 93 are dangerous ah. And prudence can justly be desired in those who have collected these centos of the "Sentences" and decrees. For since the Fathers speak in some places concerning one part, and in other places concerning another part of repentance, it would have been well to select and combine their judgments not only concerning one part but concerning both, i.e., concerning contrition and faith.
94 For Tertullian speaks excellently concerning faith, dwelling upon the oath in the prophet, Ezek. 33, 11: As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. For as God swears that He does not wish the death of a sinner, He shows that faith is required, in order that we may believe the one swearing, and be firmly confident that He forgives us. The authority of the divine promises ought by itself to be great in our estimation. But this promise has also been confirmed by an oath. Therefore, if any one be not confident that he is forgiven, he denies that God has sworn what is true, than which a more horrible blasphemy cannot be imagined. For Tertullian speaks thus: He invites by reward to salvation, even sweating. Saying, "I live," He desires that He be believed. Oh, blessed we, for whose sake God swears! Oh, most miserable if we believe not the Lord even when He swears! 95 But here we must know that this faith ought to be confident that God freely forgives us for the sake of Christ, for the sake of His own promise, not for the sake of our works, contrition, confession, or satisfactions. For if faith relies upon these works, it immediately becomes uncertain, because the terrified conscience sees that these 96 works are unworthy. Accordingly, Ambrose speaks admirably concerning repentance: Therefore it is proper for us to believe both that we are to repent, and that we are to be pardoned, but so as to expect pardon as from faith, which obtains it as from a handwriting. Again: It is faith which covers our sins. 97 Therefore, there are sentences extant in the Fathers, not only concerning contrition and works, but also concerning faith. But the adversaries, since they understand neither the nature of repentance nor the language of the Fathers, select passages concerning a part of repentance, namely, concerning works; they pass over the declarations made elsewhere concerning faith, since they do not understand them.