Doctrine of Justification by Faith

Author: John Owen

Objections against the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ — Personal holiness and obedience not obstructed, but furthered by it

Objections against the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ

—Nature of these objections

—Difficulty in discerning aright the sense of some men in this argument

—Justification by works, the end of all declension from the righteousness of Christ

—Objections against this doctrine derived from a supposition thereof alone

—First principal objection: Imputed righteousness overthrows the necessity of a holy life

—This objection, as managed by them of the church of Rome, an open calumny

—How insisted on by some among ourselves

—Socinus’ fierceness in this charge

—His foul dishonesty therein

—False charges on men’s opinions making way for the rash condemnation of their persons

—Iniquity of such censures

—The objection rightly stated

—Sufficiently answered in the previous discourses about the nature of faith, and force of the moral law

—The nature and necessity of evangelical holiness elsewhere pleaded

—Particular answers unto this objection

—All who profess this doctrine do not exemplify it in their lives

—The most holy truths have been abused

—None by whom this doctrine is now denied exceeds them in holiness by whom it is formerly professed, and the power of it attested

—The contrary doctrine not successful in the reformation of the lives of men

—The best way to determine this difference

—The one objection managed against the doctrine of the apostle in his own days

—Efficacious prejudices against this doctrine in the minds of men

—The whole doctrine of the apostle liable to be abused

—Answer of the apostle unto this objection

—He never once attempts to answer it by declaring the necessity of personal righteousness, or good works, unto justification before God

—He confines the cogency of evangelical motives unto obedience only unto believers

—Grounds of evangelical holiness asserted by him, in compliance with his doctrine of justification:

—1 Divine ordination

—Exceptions unto this ground removed

—2. Answer of the apostle vindicated

—The obligation of the law unto obedience

—Nature of it, and consistency with grace

—This answer of the apostle vindicated

—Heads of other principles that might be pleaded to the same purpose

That which remains to put an issue to this discourse is the consideration of some things that in general are laid in objection against the truth pleaded for. Many things of that nature we have occasionally met withal, and already removed; yea, the principal of those which at present are most insisted on. The testimonies of Scripture urged by those of the Roman church for justification by works, have all of them so fully and frequently been answered by Protestant divines, that it is altogether needless to insist again upon them, unless they had received some new enforcement; which of late they have not done. That which, for the most part, we have now to do withal are rather sophistical cavils, from supposed absurd consequences, than real theological arguments. And some of those who would walk with most wariness between the imputation of the righteousness of Christ and justification by our own works, either are in such a slippery place that they seem sometimes to be on the one side, sometimes on the other; or else to express themselves with so much caution, as it is very difficult to apprehend their minds. I shall not, therefore, for the future dare to say that this or that is any man’s opinion, though it appear unto me so to be, as clear and evident as words can express it; but that this or that opinion, let it be maintained by whom it will, I approve or disapprove, this I shall dare to say. And I will say, also, that the declination that has been from the common doctrine of justification before God on the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, does daily proceed towards a direct assertion of justification by works; nor, indeed, has it where to rest until it comes unto that bottom. And this is more clearly seen in the objections which they make against the truth than in what they plead in defense of their own opinions: for herein they speak as yet warily, and with a pretense of accuracy in avoiding extremes; but in the other, or their objections, they make use of none but what are easily resolved into a supposition of justification by works in the grossest sense of it. To insist on all particulars were endless; and, as was said, most of those of any importance have already occasionally been spoken unto. There are, therefore, only two things which are generally pleaded by all sorts of persons, Papists, Socinians, and others with whom here we have to do, that I shall take notice of the first and fountain of all others is, that the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ does render our personal righteousness needless, and overthrows all necessity of a holy life. The other is, that the apostle James, in his epistle, does plainly ascribe our justification unto works; and what he affirms there is inconsistent with that sense of those many other testimonies of Scripture which we plead for.

For the first of these, although those who oppose the truth we contend for do proceed on various different and contradictory principles among themselves, as to what they exalt in opposition unto it, yet do they all agree in a vehement urging of it. For those of the church of Rome who renewed this charge, invented of old by others, it must be acknowledged by all sober men, that, as managed by them, is an open calumny: for the wisest of them, and those whom it is hard to conceive but that they knew the contrary, as Bellarmine, Vasquez, Suarez, do openly aver that Protestant writers deny all inherent righteousness (Bellarmine excepts Buyer and Chemnitius); that they maintain that men may be saved, although they live in all manner of sin; that there is no more required of them but that they believe that their sins are forgiven; and that whilst they do so, at though they give themselves up unto the most sensual vices and abominations, they may be assured of their salvation.

"Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum!"

So will men, out of a perverse zeal to promote their own interest in the religion they profess, wilfully give up themselves unto the worst of evils, such as false accusation and open calumny; and of no other nature are these assertions, which none of the writings or preachings of those who are so charged did ever give the least countenance unto. Whether the forging and promulgation of such impudent falsehoods be an expedient to obtain justification by works in the sight of God, they who continue in them had best consider. For my part, I say again, as I suppose I have said already, that it is one to me what religion men are of who can justify themselves in courses and proceedings. And for those among ourselves who are pleased to make use of this objection, they either know what the doctrine is which they would oppose, or they do not. If they do not, the wise man tells them that "he who answereth a matter before he hear it, it is folly and shame unto him." If they do understand it, it is evident that they use not sincerity but artifices and false pretenses, for advantage, in their handling of sacred things; which is scandalous to religion. Socinus fiercely manages this charge against the doctrine of the Reformed churches, De Servat. par. 4, cap. l; and he made it the foundation whereon, and the reason why, he opposed the doctrine of the imputation of the satisfaction of Christ, if any such satisfaction should be allowed; which yet he peremptorily denies. And he has written a treatise unto the same purpose, defended by Schlichtingius against Meisnerus. And he takes the same honest course herein that others did before him; for he charges it on the divines of the Protestant churches, that they taught that God justifies the ungodly, — not only those that are so, and whilst they are so, but although they continue so; that they required no inherent righteousness or holiness in any, nor could do so on their principles, seeing the imputed righteousness of Christ is sufficient for them, although they live in sin, are not washed nor cleansed, nor do give up themselves unto the ways of duty and obedience unto God, whereby he may be pleased, and so bring in libertinism and antinomianism into the church. And he thinks it a sufficient confutation of this doctrine, to allege against it that "neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers," etc., "shall inherit the kingdom of God." And these are some of those ways which have rendered the management of controversies in religion scandalous and abominable, such as no wise or good man will meddle withal, unless compelled for the necessary service of the church; for these things are openly false, and made use of with a shameful dishonesty, to promote a corrupt design and end. When I find men at this kind of work, I have very little concernment in what they say afterwards, be it true or false. Their rule and measure is what serves their own end, or what may promote the design and interest wherein they are engaged, be it right or wrong. And as for this man, there is not any article in religion (the principal whereof are rejected by him) on whose account he does with more confidence adjudge us unto eternal ruin, than he does on this of the satisfaction of Christ, and the imputation of it unto them that do believe. So much darkness is there remaining on the minds of the most of men, — so many inveterate prejudices on various occasions are they pestered withal, especially if not under the conduct of the same enlightening Spirit, — that some will confidently condemn others unto eternal flames for those thing whereon they place, on infallible grounds, their hopes of eternal blessedness, and know that they love God and live unto him on their account. But this wretched advantage of condemning all them to hell who dissent from them is greedily laid hold of by all sorts of persons, for they thereby secretly secure their own whole party in the persuasion of eternal salvation, be they otherwise what they will; for if the want of that faith which they profess will certainly damn men whatever else they be, and how good soever their lives be, many will easily suffer themselves to be deceived with a foolish sophism, that then that faith which they profess will assuredly save them, be their lives what they please, considering how it falls in with their inclinations. And hereby they may happen also to frighten poor, simple people into a compliance with them, whilst they peremptorily denounce damnation against them unless they do so. And none, for the most part, are more fierce in the denunciation of the condemnatory sentence against others for not believing as they do, than those who so live as that, if there be any truth in the Scripture, it is not possible they should be saved themselves. For my part, I believe that, as to Christians in outward profession, all unregenerate unbelievers who obey not the gospel shall be damned, be they of what religion they will, and none else; for all that are born again, do truly believe and obey the gospel, shall be saved, be they of what religion they will as unto the differences that are at this day among Christians. That way wherein these things are most effectually promoted is, in the first place, to be embraced by every one that takes care of his own salvation. If they are in any way or church obstructed, that church or way is, so far as it does obstruct them, to be forsaken; and if there be any way of profession, or any visible church state, wherein any thing or things absolutely destructive of or inconsistent with these things are made necessary unto the professors of it, in that way, and by virtue of it, no salvation is to be obtained. In other things, every man is to walk according unto the light of his own mind; for whatever is not of faith is sin. But I return from this digression, occasioned by the fierceness of him with whom we have to do.

For the objection itself that has fallen under so perverse a management, so far as it has any pretense of sobriety in it, is this and no other: "If God justify the ungodly merely by his grace, through faith in Christ Jesus, so as that works of obedience are not antecedently necessary unto justification before God, nor are any part of that righteousness whereon any are so justified, then are they no way necessary, but men may be justified and saved without them." For it is said that there is no connection between faith unto justification, as by us asserted, and the necessity of holiness, righteousness, or obedience, but that we are by grace set at liberty to live as we list; yea, in all manner of sin, and yet be secured of salvation: for if we are made righteous with the righteousness of another, we have no need of any righteousness of our own. And it were well if many of those who make use of this plea would endeavor, by some other way, also to evidence their esteem of these things; for to dispute for the necessity of holiness, and live in the neglect of it, is uncomely.

I shall be brief in the answer that here shall be returned unto this objection; for, indeed, it is sufficiently answered or obviated in what has been before discoursed concerning the nature of that faith whereby we are justified, and the continuation of the moral law in its force, as a rule of obedience unto all believers. An unprejudiced consideration of what has been proposed on these heads will evidently manifest the iniquity of this charge, and how not the least countenance is given unto it by the doctrine pleaded for. Besides, I must acquaint the reader that, some while since, I have published an entire discourse concerning the nature and necessity of gospel holiness, with the grounds and reasons thereof, in compliance with the doctrine of justification that has now been declared. Nor do I see it necessary to add any thing thereunto, nor do I doubt but that the perusal of it will abundantly detect the vanity of this charge. Dispensation of the Holy Spirit, chap. 5. Some few things may be spoken on the present occasion: —

1. It is not pleaded that all who do profess, or have in former ages professed, this doctrine, have exemplified it in a holy and fruitful conversation. Many, it is to be feared, have been found amongst them who have lived and died in sin. Neither do I know but that some have abused this doctrine to countenance themselves in their sins and neglect of duty. The best of holy things or truths cannot be secured from abuse, so long as the sophistry of the old serpent has an influence on the lusts and depraved minds of men. So was it with them of old who turned the grace of God into lasciviousness; or, from the doctrine of it, countenanced themselves in their ungodly deeds. Even from the beginning, the whole doctrine of the gospel, with the grace of God declared therein, was so abused. Neither were all that made profession of it immediately rendered holy and righteous thereby. Many from the first so walked as to make it evident that their belly was their God, and their end destruction. It is one thing to have only the conviction of truth in our minds; another to have the power of it in our hearts. The former will only produce an outward profession; the latter effect an inward renovation of our souls. However, I must add three things unto this concession: —

(1.)I am not satisfied that any of those who at present oppose this doctrine do, in holiness or righteousness, in the exercise of faith, love, zeal, self-denial, and all other Christian graces, surpass those who, in the last ages, both in this and other nations, firmly adhered unto it, and who constantly testified unto that effectual influence which it had into their walking before God. Nor do I know that any can be named amongst us, in the former ages, who were eminent in holiness (and many such there were), who did not cordially assent unto that imputation of the righteousness of Christ which we plead for. I doubt not in the least but that many who greatly differ from others in the explication of this doctrine, may be and are eminently holy, at least sincerely so; which is as much as the best can pretend unto. But it is not comely to find some others who give very little evidence of their "diligent following after that holiness without which no man shall see God," vehemently declaiming against that doctrine as destructive of holiness, which was so fruitful in it in former days.

(2.)It does not appear as yet, in general, that an attempt to introduce a doctrine contrary unto it has had any great success in the reformation of the lives of men. Nor has personal righteousness or holiness as yet much thrived under the conduct of it, as to what may be observed. It will be time enough to seek countenance unto it, by declaiming against that which has formerly had better effects, when it has a little more commended itself by its fruits.

(3.)It were not amiss if this part of the controversy might, amongst us all, be issued in the advice of the apostle James, chap. 2:18, "Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works." Let us all labor that fruits may thus far determine of doctrines, as unto their use unto the interest of righteousness and holiness; for that faith which does not evidence itself by works, that has not this "endeixin", this index which James calls for, whereby it may be found out and examined, is of no use nor consideration herein.

2. The same objection was from the beginning laid against the doctrine of the apostle Paul, the same charge was managed against it; which sufficiently argues that it is the same doctrine which is now assaulted with it. This himself more than once takes notice of, Romans 3:31"Do we make void the law through faith?" It is an objection that he anticipates against his doctrine of the free justification of sinners, through faith in the blood of Christ. And the substance of the charge included in these words is, that he destroyed the law, took off all obligation unto obedience, and brought in Antinomianism. So again, chap. 6:1, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" Some thought this the natural and genuine consequence of what he had largely discoursed concerning justification, which he had now fully closed; and some think so still: "If what he taught concerning the grace of God in our justification be true, it will not only follow that there will be no need of any relinquishment of sin on our part, but also a continuance in it must needs tend unto the exaltation of that grace which he had so extolled." The same objection he repeats again, verse 15, "What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace?" And in sundry other places does he obviate the same objection, where he does not absolutely suppose it, especially Ephesians 2:9, 10. We have, therefore, no reason to be surprised with, nor much to be moved at, this objection and charge; for it is no other but what was insinuated or managed against the doctrine of the apostle himself, whatever enforcements are now given it by subtlety of arguing or rhetorical exaggerations. However, evident it is, that there are naturally in the minds of men efficacious prejudices against this part of the mystery of the gospel, which began betides to manifest themselves, and ceased not until they had corrupted the whole doctrine of the church herein: and it were no hard matter to discover the principal of them, were that our present business; however, it has in part been done before.

3. It is granted that this doctrine, both singly by itself, or in con- junction with whatever else concerns the grace of God by Christ Jesus, is liable unto abuse by them in whom darkness and the love of sin are predominant; for hence, from the very beginning of our religion, some fancied unto themselves that a bare assent unto the gospel was that faith whereby they should be saved, and that they might be so however they continued to live in sin and a neglect of all duties of obedience. This is evident from the epistles of John, James, and Jude, in an especial manner. Against this pernicious evil we can give no relief, whilst men will love darkness more than light, because their deeds are evil. And it would be a fond imagination in any, to think that their modellings of this doctrine after this manner will prevent future abuse. If they will, it is by rendering it no part of the gospel; for that which is so was ever liable to be abused by such persons as we speak of.

These general observations being premised, which are sufficient of themselves to discard this objection from any place in the minds of sober men, I shall only add the consideration of what answers the apostle Paul returns unto it, with a brief application of them unto our purpose.

The objection made unto the apostle was, that he made void the law, that he rendered good works needless; and that, on the supposition of his doctrine, men might live in sin unto the advancement of grace. And as unto his sense hereof we may observe, —

1. That he never returns that answer unto it, no not once, which some think is the only answer whereby it may be satisfied and removed, — namely, the necessity of our own personal righteousness and obedience or works, in order unto our justification before God. For that by "faith without works," he understands faith and works, is an unreasonable supposition. If any do yet pretend that he has given any such answer, let them produce it; as yet it has not been made to appear. And is it not strange, that if this indeed were his doctrine, and the contrary a mistake of it, — namely, that our personal righteousness, holiness, and works, had an influence into our justification, and were in any sort our righteousness before God therein, — that he who, in an eminent manner, everywhere presses the necessity of them, shows their true nature and use, both in general and in particular duties of all sorts, above any of the writers of the New Testament, should not make use of this truth in answer unto an objection wherein he was charged to render them all needless and useless? His doctrine was urged with this objection, as himself acknowledged; and on the account of it rejected by many, Romans 10:3, 4; Galatians 2:18. He did see and know that the corrupt lusts and depraved affections of the minds of many would supply them with subtle arguing against it; yea, he did foresee, by the Holy Spirit, as appears in many places of his writings, that it would be perverted and abused. And surely it was highly incumbent on him to obviate what in him lay these evils, and so state his doctrine upon this objection as that no countenance might ever be given unto it. And is it not strange that he should not on this occasion, once at least, somewhere or other, give an intimation that although he rejected the works of the law, yet he maintained the necessity of evangelical works, in order unto our justification before God, as the condition of it, or that whereby we are justified according unto the gospel? If this were indeed his doctrine, and that which would so easily solve this difficulty and answer this objection, as both of them are by some pretended, certainly neither his wisdom nor his care of the church under the conduct of the infallible Spirit, would have suffered him to omit this reply, were it consistent with the truth which he had delivered. But he is so far from any such plea, that when the most unavoidable occasion was administered unto it, he not only waives any mention of it, but in its stead affirms that which plainly evidences that he allowed not of it. See Ephesians 2:9, 10. Having positively excluded works from our justification, — "Not of works, lest any man should boast," — it being natural thereon to inquire, "To what end do works serve? Or is there any necessity of them?" Instead of a distinction of works legal and evangelical in order unto our justification, he asserts the necessity of the latter on other grounds, reasons, and motives, manifesting that they were those in particular which he excluded; as we have seen in the consideration of the place. Wherefore, — that we may not forsake his pattern and example in the same cause, seeing he was wiser and holier, knew more of the mind of God, and had more zeal for personal righteousness and holiness in the church, than we all, — if we are pressed a thousand times with this objection, we shall never seek to deliver ourselves from it, by answering that we allow these things to be the condition or causes of our justification, or the matter of our righteousness before God, seeing he would not so do.

2. We may observe, that in his answer unto this objection, whether expressly mentioned or tacitly obviated, he insists not anywhere upon the common principle of moral duties, but on those motives and reasons of holiness, obedience, good works alone, which are peculiar unto believers. For the question was not, whether all mankind were obliged unto obedience unto God, and the duties thereof, by the moral law? But, whether there were an obligation from the gospel upon believers unto righteousness, holiness, and good works, such as was suited to affect and constrain their minds unto them? Nor will we admit of any other state of the question but this only: whether, upon the supposition of our gratuitous justification through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, there are in the gospel grounds, reasons, and motives, making necessary, and efficaciously influencing the minds of believers unto obedience and good works? For those who are not believers, we have nothing to do with them in this matter, nor do plead that evangelical grounds and motives are suited or effectual to work them unto obedience: yea, we know the contrary, and that they are apt both to despise them and abuse them. See 1 Corinthians 1:23, 24; 2 Corinthians 4:4. Such persons are under the law, and there we leave them unto the authority of God in the moral law. But that the apostle does confine his inquiry unto believers, is evident in every place wherein he makes mention of it: Romans 6:2, 3"How shall we, that are dead unto sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ," etc.; Ephesians 2:10"For we are the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." Wherefore, we shall not at all contend what cogency unto duties of holiness there is in gospel motives and reasons unto the minds of unbelievers, whatever may be the truth in that case; but what is their power, force, and efficacy, towards them that truly believe.

3. The answers which the apostle returns positively unto this objection, wherein he declares the necessity, nature, ends, and use of evangelical righteousness and good works, are large and many, comprehensive of a great part of the doctrine of the gospel. I shall only mention the heads of some of them, which are the same that we plead in the vindication of the same truth: —

(1.)He pleads the ordination of God: "God has before ordained that we should walk in them," Ephesians 2:10. God has designed, in the disposal of the order of the causes of salvation, that those who believe in Christ should live in, walk in, abound in good works, and all duties of obedience unto God. To this end are precepts, directions, motives, and encouragements, everywhere multiplied in the Scripture. Wherefore, we say that good works, — and that as they include the gradual progressive renovation of our natures, our growith and increase in grace, with fruitfulness in our lives, — are necessary from the ordination of God, from his will and command. And what need there any farther dispute about the necessity of good works among them that know what it is to believe, or what respect there is in the souls and consciences of believers unto the commands of God?

"But what force," say some, "is in this command or ordination of God, when notwithstanding it, and if we do not apply ourselves unto obedience, we shall be justified by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, and so may be saved without them?" I say, — First, as was before observed, That it is believers alone concerning whom this inquiry is made; and there is none of them but will judge this a most unreasonable and senseless objection, as that which arises from an utter ignorance of their state and relation unto God. To suppose that the minds of believers are not as much and as effectually influenced with the authority and commands of God unto duty and obedience, as if they were all given in order unto their justification, is to consider neither what faith is, nor what it is to be a believer, nor what is the relation that we stand in unto God by faith in Christ Jesus, nor what are the arguments or motives wherewith the minds of such persons are principally affected and constrained. This is the answer which the apostle gives at large unto this exception, Romans 6:2, 3. Secondly, The whole fallacy of this exception is, — First, In separating the things that God has made inseparable; these are, our justification and our sanctification. To suppose that the one of these may be without the other, is to overthrow the whole gospel. Secondly, In compounding those things that are distinct, — namely, justification and eternal actual salvation; the respect of works and obedience being not the same unto them both, as has been declared. Wherefore, this imagination, that the commands of God unto duty, however given, and unto what ends soever, are not equally obligatory unto the consciences of believers, as if they were all given in order unto their justification before God, is an absurd figment, and which all of them who are truly so defy. Yea, they have a greater power upon them than they could have if the duties required in them were in order to their justification, and so were antecedent thereunto; for thereby they must be supposed to have their efficacy upon them before they truly believe. For to say that a man may be a true believer, or truly believe, in answer unto the commands of the gospel, and not be thereon in the same instant of time absolutely justified, is not to dispute about any point of religion, but plainly to deny the whole truth of the gospel. But it is faith alone that gives power and efficacy unto gospel commands effectually to influence the soul unto obedience. Wherefore, this obligation is more powerfully constraining as they are given unto those that are justified, than if they were given them in order unto their justification.

(2.)The apostle answers, as we do also, "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the law." For though the law is principally established in and by the obedience and sufferings of Christ, Romans 8:3, 4; 10:3, 4 yet is it not, by the doctrine of faith and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto the justification of life, made void as unto believers. Neither of these does exempt them from that obligation unto universal obedience which is prescribed in the law. They are still obliged by virtue thereof to "love the LORD their God with all their hearts, and their neighbors as themselves". They are, indeed, freed from the law, and all its commands unto duty as it abides in its first considerations "Do this, and live"; the opposite whereunto is, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the law to do them." For he that is under the obligation of the law, in order unto justification and life, falls inevitably under the curse of it upon the supposition of any one transgression. But we are made free to give obedience unto it on gospel motives, and for gospel ends; as the apostle declares at large, chap. 6. And the obligation of it is such unto all believers as that the least transgression of it has the nature of sin. But are they hereon bound over by the law unto everlasting punishment? Or, as some phrase it, "will God damn them that transgress the law?" without which all this is nothing. I ask, again, what they think hereof; and upon a supposition that he will do so, what they farther think will become of themselves? For my part, I say, No; even as the apostle says, "There is no condemnation unto them that are in Christ Jesus." "Where, then," they will say, "is the necessity of obedience from the obligation of the law, if God will not damn them that transgress it?" And I say, It were well if some men did understand what they say in these things, or would learn, for a while at least, to hold their peace. The law equally requires obedience in all instances of duty, if it require any at all. As unto its obligatory power, it is capable neither of dispensation nor relaxation, so long as the essential differences of good and evil do remain. If, then, none can be obliged unto duty by virtue of its commands, but that they must on every transgression fall under its curse, either it obliges no one at all, or no one can be saved. But although we are freed from the curse and condemning power of the law by Him who has made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness; yet, whilst we are "viatores," in order unto the accomplishment of God’s design for the restoration of his image in us, we are obliged to endeavor after all that holiness and righteousness which the law requires of us.

(3.)The apostle answers this objection, by discovering the necessary relation that faith has unto the death of Christ, the grace of God, with the nature of sanctification, excellency, use, and advantage of gospel holiness, and the end of it in God’s appointment. This he does at large in the whole sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and that with this immediate design, to show the consistency of justification by faith alone with the necessity of personal righteousness and holiness. The due pleading of these things would require a just and full exposition of that chapter, wherein the apostle has comprised the chief springs and reasons of evangelical obedience. I shall only say, that those unto whom the reasons of it, and motives unto it, therein expressed, — which are all of them compliant with the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, — are not effectual unto their own personal obedience, and do not demonstrate an indispensable necessity of it, are so unacquainted with the gospel, the nature of faith, the genius and inclination of the new creature (for, let men scoff on whilst they please, "he that is in Christ Jesus is a new creature"), the constraining efficacy of the grace of God, and love of Christ, of the economy of God in the disposition of the causes and means of our salvation, as I shall never trouble myself to contend with them about these things.

Sundry other considerations I thought to have added unto the same purpose, and to have showed, —

1.That to prove the necessity of inherent righteousness and holiness, we make use of the arguments which are suggested unto us in the Scripture.

2.That we make use of all of them in the sense wherein, and unto the ends for which, they are urged therein, in perfect compliance with what we teach concerning justification.

3.That all the pretended arguments or motives for and unto evangelical holiness, which are inconsistent with the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, do indeed obstruct it and evert it;

4.That the holiness which we make necessary unto the salvation of them that believe is of a more excellent, sublime, and heavenly nature, in its causes, essence, operations, and effects, than what is allowed or believed by the most of those by whom the doctrine of justification is opposed.

5.That the holiness and righteousness which is pleaded for by the Socinians and those that follow them, does in nothing exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees; nor upon their principles can any man go beyond them. But whereas this discourse has already much exceeded my first intention, and that, as I said before, I have already at large treated on the doctrine of the nature and necessity of evangelical holiness, I shall at present omit the farther handling of these things, and acquiesce in the answers given by the apostle unto this objection.


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Chicago: John Owen, "XIX. Objections Against the Doctrine of Justification by the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ — Personal Holiness and Obedience Not Obstructed, but Furthered by It," Doctrine of Justification by Faith, ed. William H. Goold in The Doctrine of Justification by Faith Through the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ Explained, Confirmed, & Vindicated, Works, Vol. 5 Original Sources, accessed July 12, 2024,

MLA: Owen, John. "XIX. Objections Against the Doctrine of Justification by the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ — Personal Holiness and Obedience Not Obstructed, but Furthered by It." Doctrine of Justification by Faith, edited by William H. Goold, in The Doctrine of Justification by Faith Through the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ Explained, Confirmed, & Vindicated, Works, Vol. 5, Original Sources. 12 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Owen, J, 'XIX. Objections Against the Doctrine of Justification by the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ — Personal Holiness and Obedience Not Obstructed, but Furthered by It' in Doctrine of Justification by Faith, ed. . cited in 1850-55, The Doctrine of Justification by Faith Through the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ Explained, Confirmed, & Vindicated, Works, Vol. 5. Original Sources, retrieved 12 July 2024, from