This doctrine is of great use. First, we learn hence that a man is justified by the mere mercy of God, and that there is excluded from justification all merit of congruity,* all meritorious works of preparation wrought by us, all cooperation of man’s will with God’s grace in the effecting of our justification. Secondly, we learn that a man is justified by the mere merit of Christ—that is, by the meritorious obedience which He wrought in Himself, and not by anything wrought by Him in us. Here then our merits, and satisfactions, and all inward justice, is excluded from the justification of a sinner. To this end Paul says that “we are justified freely by the redemption that is in Christ” (Rom. 3:24); that “we are made the justice of God in Him,” and not in us (2 Cor. 5:21); that “he gave himself to deliver us” (Gal. 1:4); that “he hath purged our sins by himself” (Heb. 1:3) and not by anything in us. Hence it appears, that the papists err and are deceived when they teach that Christ did merit that we might merit and satisfy for ourselves. For then we should not be justified by our faith alone. Thirdly, hence we learn that a sinner is justified by mere faith—that is, that nothing within us concurs as a cause of our justification, but faith; and that nothing apprehends Christ’s obedience for our justification, but faith. This will more easily appear, if we compare faith, hope, and love. Faith is like a hand that opens itself to receive a gift, and so is neither love, nor hope. Love is also a hand, but yet a hand that gives out, communicates, and distributes. For as faith receives Christ into our hearts, so love opens the heart and powers out praise and thanks to God and all manner of goodness to men. Hope is no hand, but an eye that [with strong desire] looks and waits for the good things which faith believes. Therefore it is the only property of faith to clasp and lay hold of Christ and His benefits. *Merit of congruity: the doctrine of some medieval theologians that God has promised to give supernatural grace to those who do their best in their natural, fallen condition, as a fitting reward for their efforts, though not strictly deserved.
William Perkins | The Works of William Perkins, vol. 2, ed. Paul M. Smalley, Joel R. Beeke, and Derek W. H. Thomas (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2015), 122–23.
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