Thomas Cartwright Contra Rome On Romans 2:13

Verse. 13 For * ‖ not the hearers of the Law are just with God: but the doers of the Law ‖ shall be justified.

RHEM. 5. [ 13. Not the hearers] This same sentence agreeable also to Christs words (Mat, 7. 21.) is the very ground of S. James disputation that not faith alone, but good works also do justify, [note] Therefore S. Paul (howsoever some perversely construe his words in other places) meaneth the same that S. James. And here he speaketh * not properly of the first justification, when an Infidel or ill man is made just, who had no acceptable works before to be justified by (of which kind he specially meaneth in other places of this Epistle) but he speaketh of the second justification or increase of former justice, which he that is in Gods grace, daily proceedeth in, by doing all kind of good works, which be justices: and for doing of which, he is just indeed before God, and of this kind doth S. James namely treate. Which is directly against the Heretics of this time, who not only attribute nothing to the works done in sin and infidelity, but esteeme nothing at all of all Christian mens works toward justification and salvation, condemning them unclean, sinful, hypocritical, and Pharisaical: which is directly against these and other Scriptures, and plain blaspheming of Christ and his grace, by whose spirit and cooperation we do them,

CARTW. 5 [13. Not the hearers.] And if the wresting of mens words from their honest meaning be a sin worthy of death, what a horrible condemnation waiteth for these Jesuits, that pull and hale the Lords words to a quite contrary meaning then he set them downe. For the Apostle [note] having disputed in the former chapter, that no man hath any righteousness of his owne by any manner of worke. In this second chapter he descendeth to the special cause of the Jews, which of all other might seeme to be exempted from that generallity of Injustice, wherewith he had charged the whole world, the opinion of whose Justice might rise in that they had not only an exact knowledge of the law, in such sort, that every Jew was able after a sort to be a guide unto the blind, and a Doctor to the unlearned: But also for that in some measure of the holy spirit they received, many of [note] them gave their endeavor to do the works of the law, Now the Apostle to throw down this stately & proud Castle of the opinion of their own justice, declareth that the Justification that is of the law, standeth not in the hearing or knowledge of the law, no if (possibly) they could attain the full and perfect knowledge thereof, but in the full and perfect doing and accomplishment thereof, which he doth more expressly set forth to the Galatians, where he requireth to justification by the works [note] of the law a performance of all the commandments, and that constant and perpetual without any intermission or interruption by stepping a hair breadth aside, either on the right hand or on the left. Now that the Apostle meaneth not those only which either heard the law only, or did the outward and civil works of the law, which a mere natural man doth, that but he withal compriseth those which having believed brought forth by the work of the spirit, good fruits; it appeareth diversely. First by the writing of this Epistle, wherein he instructed those that believed in Christ, but not without some wavering in this doctrine which he so largely unfoldeth, as appeareth in that his desire was [note] to come to them, that they might be strengthened. Secondly it appeareth by the testimony of the Prophet Ezechiel, who doth evidently as well by that which goeth before, as by that which cometh after, refer the sentence which the Apostle draweth from him, touching the name of God blasphemed amongst the Gentiles for the Jews sake, unto the true Church and spouse of Christ. And this the floating and unconstant Jesuits have in their marginal note at unawares confessed. wherein they say; It is a great sin that by the evil life of the faithful our Lords name should be evil [note] spoken of. And the example of David, a faithful man, who caused the name of God to be blasphemed, will not suffer us to remaine in any doubt, but that the cause of blaspheming of Gods name may fall into the Church of God. Last of all, this is evident by the examples of Abraham and David, which the [note] Apostle setteth forth. For touching Abraham, he obeying the voice of the Lord when he called him first out of Chaldea, and then out of Charan, must needs even then have faith; yet some years after upon the promise made unto him of the blessed seede received by faith, it is said that his faith did justify him, and not his good works, which he had done very excellent and manifold. So that although he were a doer of the law after he believed, yet still his Justification is placed in faith. This is yet more manifest in the example of David, who having believed, or at least having been sanctified more than 40 years, and done many singular acts of true godliness before his foul crimes, of the murder of many his faithful servants by the sword of the Ammonites, of the adultery with Bathsheba, and finally of the drunkenness that he threw Uriah into, placeth his repaire not as the Jesuits blasphemously do in the [note] satisfaction which is by works, but in faith which believeth and layeth hold of remission of sins by Christ. Whereby appeareth the lewd and blockish answer of the Jesuits, which wrest the Apostles denial of justification by works of the law to those civil works that men either worke by the light and strength of nature, or by a bare knowledge of the law, without any assistance of Gods spirit, and with all their sottish καινοφονία, and newfangled distinction of the first justification by faith alone, and of the second justification by faith and works together is crushed all to pieces; seeing the Apostles ascribeth the justification which men have after they are entered into the way of righteousness, not to works [note] done, either before or after to be done, but unto that faith which being first planted in their hearts after waxeth and groweh to that proportion that the Lord seeth good in his great wisdome to be fit for every one according to the place he occupieth in the body of Christ, and trials that he will prove them with. Hereupon the Apostle in the stairs whereby we orderly come to the kingdom of [note] heaven, doth never set one justification after another, but placeth sanctification after justification. And if this new and unlawful coine of distinction were true, then the sentence of the Apostle, should not have where to set foot, which declareth that as there is but one true body, one spirit whereby [note] that body liveth, one hope of our calling, one true Lord, one lawful baptisme, one true God: so there is but one true and holy faith. Touching Saint James it shall be answered (God willing) in the proper place. As for Augustine, he utterly refuseth to be fraughted with such beggarly merchandise, as you would load him with. But so (saith he) it must be understood that the doers of the law shall be justified, that we may know that they are not otherwise doers of the law, unless they be justified: that justification should not come to the doers of the law, or be an after comer to them, but that justification should go before the doers of the law, which cleane overturneth the Jesuits diversely. First that he maketh the doing of the law to be the effect of justification, which they make the cause, and call it the second Justification. Secondly because he maketh one Justification which always goeth before good works, and is done that we may be fit for good works. So this giveth answere to his words alleged in the next Annotation. For those words meane thus much, that we being just in Christ, because we have in him done the law, must have that grace ere we can do the law, as apeareth first because these words follow upon the former sentence, and is so expounded by the words immediately following. And by this it is as much as if a man would say, they shall be made doers of the law, not that they were, but that they may be, that so the Jews might understand which are the hearers of the law, that they have need of the grace of the just justifier: that they may be doers. For that Augustine doth not acknowledge a second righteousness, whereby a man may be justified, shall once for all appeare by these places following. Every living man justifieth [note] himselfe before himselfe, not before thee. How before himselfe? In pleasing themselves and displeasing thee. But before thee no man is justified. Enter not therefore with me into judgment O Lord my God, how much soever I seem to be righteous. Thou bringest out of thy treasure a rule, which when thou appliest unto me I shall be found nought. And after having noted with thy servant, that all, even the Apostles, after they were Apostles must pray, forgive us our sins. He saith in the end; Let therefore the Apostles say, Let them hardly say forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And when it is said to them why say you so? what be your debts? [note] Let them answere, because no man living shall be justified in thy sight. And in another place he saith; He said not I shall not be able to abide it, but who shall be able to abide it, for that the whole life of man is in a manner barked at by their owne sins, that all consciences are accused by their owne thoughts, that there is not found a chaste heart which presumeth of it owne righteousness. If therefore there is no chaste heart that can presume of it own righteousness, let every mans heart presume of Gods mercy, and let it say unto God; If thou O Lord wilt observe or marke up our iniquities, O Lord who shall abide it? But what hope is there? because with thee there is mercy: And what is this mercy but the sacrifice? And what is the sacrifice but that which was offered for us? even the innocent blood that was shed hath done away all the sins of the guilty: the price only which was given redeemeth all captive from the hands of the enemy that carried them captive. Therefore there is mercy with the Lord: for if there were not mercy with thee: and if thou wilt be nothing else but a Judge, and not merciful, and observe or marke up all our iniquities, and inquire into them, who shall be able to abide it; who should stand and say I am innocent.

As for the other trash which they have in their next noteless note. First let the good Reader marke, that they confessing proofe of our part out of the Scripture that to justify is to impute justifice, bring nothing to the reproofe thereof beside their owne barking. For their sottish consequence that God should be either ignorant or unjust, if he should repute him as righteous which is not so, is unworthy any answere: for first he hath Christs righteousness, which being a true and perfect righteousness is as verily his through faith, as if he had done it in his owne person. Secondly, they wickedly speak of a man that being justified by faith, is made a member of the body of Christ; when they say he is wicked, impious and unjust: for although they have remnant of sin in them, yet for [note] that the same is not imputed unto them, it is blasphemous against Christ to account his members impious, and to make him a head of any impious body. Thirdly, this is not so much against us as against the Apostle, who speaketh so plainly that God justifieth the wicked, that he loved us when we were his enemies, as we cannot speak plainer. Againe they impudently belie us, when they make the state of the question between us and them; Whither it be more glory to God, and more to the commendation of Christs justice, to call and count an evil man so continuing for just, then by his grace to make him of an evil one just indeed, and so truly to justify him. For they know well that we teach, that the justified man must walk in all the ways and commandments of God, and urge the keeping of the Law much more straightly then they do, which make partly sin no sin, partly make venial sins, which a little holy, or rather harlotry water may take away: yea so we urge it, as we pronounce that they never truly believed, nor were ever justified which remaine in the same wickedness wherein they were when they first obtained mercy. Now take away your slanderous and lying forgery of us, that a man justified by faith remaineth still in impiety. And we boldly affirme that there is more glory to God, and commendation to Christs Justice, to call and account an evil man just; theu to make him of an evil one just, in the works that are done in and by himselfe. And this we say not only as you beggarly Sophisters are wont to do, but with sound and substantial proofe. And first after this sort, it is more to Gods glory, whereby glory is to be taken from men and given unto God, then that whereby glory being added to men is taken from God: But by justification through faith alone, or by imputation, glory is taken from men, and given to God; and contrariwise in justification by the deeds of the law. Wherefore it is more to Gods glory that he justifieth us by faith only then by the works of the law. The first proposition is both evident in itself, and is confirmed by the plaine testimonies of the Apostle. The second is as evident by the same Apostle, who shutteth out glorying from men not by the law of works, but by the law of faith. Where if the Jesuits would run to their old hole, that he meaneth the civil and outward works done of Jews and Gentiles not believing in Christ, their own disciples would hiss and clap their hands against them: for so much as so they should place greater excellency in works done in infidelity, than in the faith that is in Christ; considering that the Apostle by that doing of the law there spoken of, affirmeth that more glory is pulled to men from God, then when their justification standeth by faith without works, wherein if there were yet any manner of scruple, yet the same is most evidently remedied of the Apostle, who by and by asking whether faith which he had mentioned in the former words were contrary to that law which likewise he had mentioned before: he (with great detestation) affirmeth, that faith not only doth not make the law void, or is contrary unto it: but that by faith he and all other of his fellows did establish the law. And indeed whither we consider the exact righteousness which God requireth in his law, it was never heretofore, nor ever shall be hereafter, that any the sons of Adam beside Christ, could or can precisely observe the law of God, or whither we consider that the Lord requireth sanctification in some acceptable measure, according to the gifts which he hath dealt to every of the faithful: there could not so much as the least and smallest commandment of God be once with a good heart (I say) not done, but not so much as endeavored by unbelievers, seeing all good works come from faith as the fountaine of them all. Now it is manifest that the faith of Christ is contrary to all such works proceeding from infidelity, as those which are not done of faith, nor proceede from a pure conscience purged by faith. Secondly we say that by our judgment of faith alone in the cause of salvation the justice of God is maintained, which by their fantasy of justification by works of the law is utterly overthrowne. For whilst the redemption and riddance from sin is placed in the death of Christ, and our stole and robe of righteousness, whereby we may confidently stand against the sentence of Gods judgment is placed in the obedience which our Saviour Christ yielded unto God his father in his own person: It is brought to pass that we have both a full & perfect satisfaction for all our sins, and a whole and unmaimed righteousness, against which God in his most exact justice cannot proceede, no more than he can call his owne son unto a second death, or not accept his face, who is the righteousness of God himselfe. On the other side, if he should accept in Christ mens owne satisfaction for their sins, or the worke that they do after they be engraffed in this body of Christ for righteousness. It must necessarily follow, that God should be unjust in both, for he should take that for a perfect satisfaction which is not, (no man being able to make payment for the manifold talents wherewith he is indebted unto God) and that for a perfect and whole righteousness, which hath many transgressions of the law joined therewith: when therefore this justice (wherein his glory consisteth as well as in his mercy) would not suffer him to show mercy without a full recompence for sin, and an exact righteousness of the law: there remained only this way to accord his justice and mercy, and to cause them to embrace one another, that Christ should be both our surety to pay our debts, and our righteousness, by the which we might come into the presence of God. And if this imputative Justice without the works of the law be so strange in your ears; how cometh it to pass that yourselves hold that original sin of infants that are baptized is (without any work of theirs) pardoned in the blood of Christ: If imputation be generally refused in the Scripture, why have you admitted it in the remission of sins? why should you thrust it out in the other part of our salvation, which is righteousuess. And if God may impute mens sins to Christ being just, why may he not impute his righteousness to those that are not in themselves righteous? If therefore the pride of your heart doth carry you away that you will not amend yourselves at our correction, yet suffer yourselves to be corrected by yourselves. Having answered your question tell us we pray you, whether there is more honour to a King in freely forgiving his servant a debt, and giving him forthwith to be rich of; or to give him some means of office or occupation, whereby he may in time (if he will) both pay his debt, and grow to wealth again. And for that you would seeme to be jealous of Gods glory, and of the commendation of Christs Justice, tell us further whither we or you shot nearer this mark: we which affirm that we have no manner of ability in ourselves, or by our natural power to do any thing which is good, but only by the grace of God in Christ; or you that affirme that we have some strength of nature in ourselves, which being helped by the grace of God in Christ is able to do the will of God. We which say with the Apostles that naturally we are stark dead; or you that say we are but half dead: we which give greater [note] power unto Christ in the healing of the soul, then to the Physician in healing of the body, or you which give no more unto Christ in healing the soul than is given to Physicians in healing the body: For when as the Physician through his cunning is able to recover a man that is halfe dead by his skill, notwithstanding cannot attaine to the restoring of a man that is dead: By this doctrine of yours you match and mate the Physicians cunning in his faculty, and our Saviour Christs in his. Finally we which make Christ a whole Saviour, or you that make him halfe a Saviour.

Thomas Cartwright A Confutation Of The Rhemists Translation, Glosses And Annotations On The New Testament (Leiden, 1618), 331–34.

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
    Author Image

    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!

One comment

  1. What an amazing passage this is. It is completely to the point on our current justification controversy. Written 400 years ago, it addresses the question of how we shall be right with God. The moralists of every kind, be they the Romanists, Richard Baxter, NPP, FV, Daniel Fuller, John Piper, John Frame, and others, obscure the law/gospel distinction. Rather than a distinct covenant of grace and a distinct covenant of works, they want to conflate it to a covenant of conditional grace where initial justification is on the basis of grace, through faith, but final salvation, to be determined at the final judgment, depends on the evidence of our works, making us co-saviours with Christ. The error centres on the meaning of Romans 5:13 “the doers of the law shall be justified.” The moralists want to understand this as meaning that they who do the law shall finally justified, which is clearly to return to a teaching of salvation through works righteousness. Rightly understood, this passage means that those who are justified, do the law. Striving to obey the law is the fruit and evidence that we are justified, and demonstrates our love and gratitude to God, in confidence and faith that we are already completely justified and secure, so that we are forever accepted by God, solely on the basis of Christ’s finished work on our behalf.

Comments are closed.