III. THAT GOOD WORKS ARE NECESSARY FOR SALVATION, AND THAT FAITH ALONE IS NOT SUFFICIENT.

 

 

 

13. Luther said that, not alone the works of infidels and sinners were of no use, but that even works performed by the just are mere sins, or, at all events, vitiated by sin. Here are his words : ” In omni opera bono Justus peccat (1). Opus bonum, optime factum, est mortale peccatum secunduni judicium Dei (2).  Justus in bono opere peccat mortaliter” (3). Becanus (4) says that Calvin taught the same, that the works of the just are nothing but iniquity. 0, my God, how blind is the human understanding, when it loses the light of Faith. This blasphemy of Luther and Calvin was properly condemned by the Council of Trent (Sess. vi, can. 22) : ” Si quis in quodlibet bono opere justum saltem venialiter peccare dixerit, aut quod intolerabilius est, mortaliter, atque ideo pœnas æternis mereri; tantumque ob id non damnari, quia Deus ea opera non imputet ad damnationem; anathema sit.” They quote Isaias, however, who says (Ixiv, 6) : ” And we have all become as one unclean, and all our justices,” &c. But, as St. Cyril explains this text, the Prophet here is not speaking of the works of the just, but of the iniquity of the Jews of that day. How could good works possibly be sinful, when Christ exhorts us to perform them : ” Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works” (Matt, v, 16). They are not sins; but, on the contrary, God delights in them, and without them we cannot obtain salvation. Nothing can be clearer than the Scripture on this point : ” Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doth the will of my Father” (Matt, vii, 21). To do the will of God is to do good works : ” If thou wilt enter into life, keep the Commandments” (Matt, xix, 17). When God shall condemn the wicked, he will say to them : ” Go from me, ye accursed.” And why ? ” For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave mo not to drink” (Matt, xxv, 42). ” Patience is necessary for you : that, doing the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Heb. x, 36). ” What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but hath not works ? Shall Faith be able to save him” (James, ii, 14). Here it is proved that works are necessary for salvation, and that Faith is not alone sufficient. We will treat this subject more extensively by and by.

 

(l) Luther, in Assert, art. 31. (2) Idem, art. 33 (3) Idem, art. 36.  (4) Becan. Man. contr. l. 1, c. 18, ex Calv. Inst, 1. 2, t. I, sec. 9, &c.

 

14. Our adversaries object, that St. Paul, writing to Titus (iii. 5-7), says : ” Not by the works of justice, which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the laver of regeneration, and renovation of the Holy Ghost. Whom he hath poured forth upon us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour : That being justified by his grace, we may be heirs, according to hope of life everlasting.” Therefore, they say that no work of ours, though a work of justice, is available to salvation; but that we should rest all our hopes of Grace and salvation in Jesus Christ, who, by his merits, has obtained both Grace and salvation for us. To answer this argument clearly, we must make several distinctions. We can deserve Grace and eternal salvation in two ways de condigno and de congruo. To deserve it de condigno, it is necessary that the Remunerator should be obliged to reward us, as a debt of justice; but to deserve it, de congruo, the Remunerator has no obligation to reward us it is fit that he should do so, but it is totally an act of liberality on his part. Now, as far as human merit is with God as a matter of justice, several conditions are requisite. The act itself must be good; it is requisite that he who performs it be in a state of Grace, and, on the part of the Almighty, it is necessary that he should have promised to reward us, for he, as man’s supreme Lord, might require all service from him, without any reward at all. To make it a debt of justice, therefore, it is necessary that a gratuitous Divine promise should have been already given, by which God himself gratuitously makes himself a debtor for the reward promised. It is after this manner that St. Paul could say that he expected, in justice, eternal life, as the reward of his good works : ” I have fought the good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the Faith. As to the next, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just judge, will render to me in that day” (II. Tim. iv, 7, 8). And here St. Augustine (5) says : ” Debitorem Dominus ipse se fecit, non accipiendo, sed promittendo. Non ei dicimus : Redde quod accepisti, sed redde quod promisisti.”

 

15. Here, then, is what the Catholic Church teaches. No man can merit actual justifying Grace de condigno, but only de congruo, and Melancthon stated a falsehood in his Apology of the Confession of Augsburg (p. 137), when he asserted that we believe we can merit justification by our works. The Council of Trent has declared, and this is our faith, and no other, that sinners are justified gratuitously by God, and that no work of theirs preceding their justification can deserve it. But the Council has also said that man justified, although he cannot de condigno, merit final perseverance (Sess. vi, c. 13), still can merit de condigno, by the good works he does, assisted by Divine Grace, and the merits of Christ, the augmentation of Grace and eternal life. The Council fulminates its anathema against all who deny this doctrine, in the Sixth Session (Can. 33) : ” Si quis dixerit hominis justificati bona opera ita esse dona Dei, ut non sint etiam bona ipsius justificati merita; aut ipsum justificatum bonis operibus, quæ ab eo per Dei gratiam, et per Jesu Christi meritum, cujus vivum membrum est, fiunt, non vere mereri augmentum gratiæ, vitam æternam, et ipsius vitæ æternæ (si tamen in gratia decesserit) consecutionem, atque etiam glorias augmentum : anathema sit.”

 

(5) St. Augus. in Psalm, 83.

 

All, therefore, that we receive from God, we get through his mercy, and through the merits of Jesus Christ: but, through his goodness, he has so disposed that, with the good works we perform, by the power of his Grace, we can deserve eternal life, on account of the gratuitous promise made by him to those who do what is right. Hear again the words of the Council : ” Justificatis, sive acceptam gratiam conservaverint sive amissam recuperaverint, proponenda est vita æterna, et tamquam gratia filiis Dei per Christum Jesum promissa et tanquam merces ex ipsius Dei promissione ipsorum meritis reddenda” (Sess. vi, cap.16). Therefore, say the heretics, he who is saved can glorify himself that he is saved through his own works. No; for the Council says : ” Licet bonis operibus merces tribuatur absit tamen, ut Christianus in se ipso vel confidat, vel glorietur, et non in Domino : cujus tanta est erga homines bonitas, ut eorum velit esse merita, quæ sunt ipsius dona.”

 

16. Our adversaries may thus see how unjustly the Calvinists charge us with insulting the mercy of God and the merits of Jesus Christ by attributing to our own merits the acquisition of eternal salvation. We assert that we can do nothing good, unless in virtue of the Grace communicated to us by God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, and hence all our merits are the gift of God, and if he gives us glory as a reward of our merits, he does not do so because he is obliged to give it, but because (to encourage us in his service, and make us more certain of eternal salvation if we are faithful), it is his wish merely through his own goodness gratuitously to bind himself by a promise to give eternal life to those who serve them. That being the case, what have we to glorify ourselves in, since all that is given to us we receive through the mercy of God, and by the merits of Jesus Christ communicated to us?

 

17. The Scriptures most clearly prove that eternal glory in the next life is given as a reward for good works, and this glory is called a reward, a debt, a crown of justice, and a payment: ” Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour” (I. Cor. iii, 8); Now to him that worketh the reward is not reckoned according to grace, but according to debt” (Rom. iv, 4). Mark the words “according to debt.” ” As to the rest there is laid up for me a crown of justice” (II. Tim. iv, 8); ” And having agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard” (Matt, xx, 2); ” That you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you suffer” (II. Thess. i, 5); Because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matt, xxv, 21); “Blessed is the man that endureth temptations, for when he hath been proved he shall receive the crown of life, which God hath promised to them that love him” (James, i, 12). All these texts prove that the merit of the just man is a merit of justice, de condigno.

 

18. The Holy Fathers prove the same doctrines. St. Cyprian says (6): ” Justitiæ opus ut accipiant merita nostra mercedem.” St. John Chrysostom, in a long passage which I abridge, says (7) : ” Nunquam profecto, cum Justus sit Deus, bonos hic cruciatibus affici sineret, si non in futuro seculo mercedem promeritis parasset.” St. Augustine says (8) : ” Non est injustus Deus, qui justos fraudet mercede justitiæ.” And again (9) : ” Nullane sunt merita justorum? sunt plane, sed ut justi fierent; merita non fuerunt;” as they are not just by their own merits, but by the Divine Grace. Again, the same Saint says : ” Deus cum coronat nostra merita, quid aliud coronat quam sua dona ?” The Fathers of the Second Council of Oranges decided that, “Debetur merces bonis operibus, si fiant; sed gratiæ Dei, quæ non debetur, præcedit ut fiant.” In conclusion, therefore, all our merits depend on the assistance of Grace, without which we cannot have any, and the reward of salvation due to our good works is founded in the promise gratuitously made to us by God through the merits of Jesus Christ.”

 

19. They object that text of St. Paul (Rom. vi, 23) : ” The grace of God life everlasting in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Eternal life, therefore, say they, is a grace of the Divine Mercy, and not a reward due to our good works. We reply, that eternal life is justly to be attributed to the mercy of God, for he, by his mercy, has promised it to our good works. The Apostle, therefore, with good reason, calls eternal life a grace, since it is by the grace of God alone that he has constituted himself a debtor of eternal life to all who perform good works.

 

(6) St. Cyprian de Unit, (7) St. Chrysos. l. 5, I. 1, de Prav. (8) St. Aug. l. de Nat. et Grat c 2  (9) Idem. Epis. 165.

 

20. They object, secondly, that eternal life is called an inheritance, ” Knowing that you shall receive of the Lord the reward of inheritance” (Col. iii, 24). Inheritance, they say, then, is not the right of Christians, as being children of God by merit, but solely on account of his gratuitous adoption. We answer, that to  infants glory is given, solely on the title of inheritance; but adults obtain it as an inheritance, as they are the adopted children of God, and also as a reward for their good works, since God has promised them the inheritance if they observe the law; so that this inheritance is, at the same time, a gift and a retribution due to them for their merits, and this is what the Apostle means when he says : ” You shall receive of the Lord the reward of inheritance.”

 

21. They object, thirdly, that our Lord wishes that no matter how carefully we fulfil the commandments, we should call ourselves unprofitable servants : ” So you also, when you shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants, we have done that which we ought to do” (Luke, xvii, 10). If then, say they, we are unprofitable servants, how can we merit eternal life by our works ? We answer, that our works of themselves, without grace, have no merit, but being performed with grace, they, with justice, merit eternal life, in regard of the promise made by God to those who perform them.

 

22. They object, fourthly, that our works are due to God by obedience, as our supreme Lord, and, hence, they cannot merit eternal life, as justly due to them. We answer, however, that God, through his goodness, laying on one side every other title by which he might justly require all the services we can pay him, has bound himself by a promise to give us eternal glory, as the reward of our good works. But they still say, when every good work is from God, what reward can we expect ? We answer, every good work is all from God, but not totally from God, in the same manner as every good work is all our own, but not totally our own, because God works with us, and we with him, and it is to this co-operation of ours that it has pleased God to promise, gratuitously, the reward of eternal life.

 

23. They object, fifthly, that although the good work might be deserving of glory, still there should be some proportion between the labour and the reward; but what proportion, say they, can be found between our works and eternal glory ? ” The sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us” (Rom. viii, 18). We answer, that our works in themselves, and unconnected with Divine Grace, are, without doubt, unworthy of eternal glory, but rendered valuable by Grace, they are worthy of it, and a proportion then exists between them, as the same Apostle says : ” For that which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory” (II. Cor. iv, 17).

 

24. They object, sixthly, that St. Paul says : ” For by grace you are saved through faith, and not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God, not of works, that no man may glory” (Ephes. ii, 8, 9). Here, then, say they, it is clear that it is Grace that saves us, by means of faith in Jesus Christ. The Apostle, however, is not here speaking of eternal life, but of Grace itself, which, undoubtedly, we never can merit by our works; but, as we have already proved, God wishes that those who fulfil his precepts should, on account of the promise made by him, acquire eternal glory. Then, they reply, if our works are necessary for salvation, the merits of Christ alone are not sufficient to save us. No, in truth they are not enough, but our works are also requisite, for the benefit of Jesus Christ is, that he obtained for us the power of applying his merits with our own works. Neither is there anything in that out of which we can pride ourselves, because what ever power we have to merit heaven, we have solely through the merits of Christ; and, therefore, all the glory is his, as when the vine branches produce fruit, the whole is due to the vine, which sends sap to the branches. When the just man, then, obtains eternal life, he does not glory in his own works, but in the Divine Grace which, by the merits of Christ, gave him the power of meriting it. According to the doctrine of our adversaries, however, almost every means of salvation is taken from us, for if our works are of no avail to us for salvation, and God does everything, then it is no matter whether our morals are good or bad, we need no preparation to receive the Sacraments; and prayer, inculcated in so many passages of the Scripture, is totally useless to us. What worse doctrine than this could the devil himself invent to lead souls to perdition?

 

25. This leads us on to another point, following from the former one that Faith alone is sufficient to save us, as Luther and Calvin said, who, on this anchor alone, trusted their eternal salvation, and therefore, despised all law and judgment, cared nothing for righteousness, prayers, or sacraments, and considered all things, no matter how wicked, lawful. They asserted that the Faith by which we firmly believe that  God will save us by the merits of Jesus Christ, and the promises made by him, is alone sufficient without works, to obtain salvation for us from God and this Faith they called Fiducia, confidence, it being a hope founded on the promise of Jesus Christ. They quote Scripture, too, in favour of this opinion : ” Who believes in the Son, hath eternal life” (John, iii, 36); ” That he himself may be just, and the justifier of him who is of the Faith of Jesus Christ” (Romans, iii, 26); ” In him, every one that believeth is justified” (Acts, xiii, 39); ” Whoever believeth in him shall not be confounded” (Rom. x, 11); ” The just man liveth by Faith” (Gal. iii, 11); “The justice of God, by Faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all them that believe in him” (Rom. iii, 22).

 

26. If Faith alone, however, justifies us, how is it, that the very same Scriptures declare, that it is of no use without works ? ” What shall it profit my brethren, if a man say he hath faith but hath not works ? Shall faith be able to save him ?” (James ii, 14); and immediately after he says (ver. 17) : ” So Faith also, if it have not works is dead in itself.” Luther, to be sure, says, that this Epistle is not canonical, but we believe rather the authority of the Church, which includes it in her Canon. But there are numberless other passages to prove that Faith alone is not sufficient to save us, but that it is necessary also, that we fulfil the commandments. St. Paul says : ” If I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing” (I. Cor. xiii. 2). Jesus Christ commanded his disciples: ” Go teach all nations to observe all things whatever I commanded you” (Mark, xxviii, 19, 20). And he said to the young man : ” If thou wilt enter into eternal life, observe the commandments” (Matt, xix, 17), and there are many other texts of a like nature. The texts, therefore, adduced by our adversaries, must be understood to refer to that Faith, which, as St. Paul teaches, operates by charity : ” For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith, that worketh by charity” (Gal. v, 6); and hence St. Augustine (10) says, that Faith may exist without charity, but it availeth nothing. Hence, when we find it said in the Scriptures, that Faith saves us, we are to understand that living Faith, that is, the Faith which saves us by good works, which are the vital operations of Faith, for if these are wanting it is a sign that the Faith is dead, and that which is dead cannot give life. Hence it is that the Lutherans themselves, as Lomer, Gerard, the Doctors of Strasbourg, and the greater part of the sect, as a certain author states (11), forsaking the doctrine of their master, insist on the necessity of good works for salvation. Bossuet(12) tells us that the Lutherans of the University of Wittemberg in the Confession they presented to the Council of Trent, said ” that good works ought of necessity be practised, and that they deserve, by the gratuitous goodness of God, recompense both corporal and spiritual.”

 

27. The Council of Trent (Sess. vi, can. 19), says : ” Si quis dixerit, nihil præceptum esse in Evangelic præter fidem, cetera esse indifferentia, neque prohibita, sed libera; aut decem præcepta nihil pertinere ad Christianos : anathema sit ;” and in Can. 20 : ” Si quis hominem justificatum, et quantumlibet perfectum, dixerit non teneri ad observantiam mandatorum Dei, et Ecclesiæ, sed tantum ad credendum; quasi vero Evangelium sit nuda, et absoluta promissio vitæ æternæ, sine conditione observationis mandatorum : anathema sit.”

 

(10) St. Aug. I. 15 de Trin. c. 18. (11) Pich. Theol. Pol. par. post. ar. 6. (12) Bossuet. Variat. l. 8, n. 30 in fine.