how does faith justify?

Came across these quotes from Thomas Watson while I was re-reading A Body of Divinity.

What is justifying faith?

True justifying faith consists in three things:

(i) Self-renunciation. Faith is a going out of one’s self, being taken off from our own merits, and seeing we have no righteousness of our own. … Repentance and faith are both humbling graces: by repentance a man abhors himself; by faith he goes out of himself … he sees nothing in himself to help, but he must perish unless he can find help in another.

(ii) Reliance. The soul casts itself upon Jesus Christ; faith rests on Christ’s person. Faith believes the promise, but that which faith rests upon in the promise is the person of Christ. … Faith rests on Christ’s person as he was crucified.

(iii) Appropriation, or applying Christ to ourselves. A medicine, though it be ever so sovereign, if not applied, will do no good. Though the plaster be made of Christ’s own blood, it will not heal, unless applied by faith; the blood of God, without faith in God, will not save.

How does faith justify?

(1) Faith does not justify as it is a work, which would make a Christ out of our faith; but faith justifies as it lays hold of the object, viz Christ’s merits. If a man had a precious stone in a ring that could heal, we would say the ring heals; but properly it is not the ring, but the precious stone in the ring, that heals. Thus faith saves and justifes, but it is not any inherent virtue in faith, but as it lays hold on Christ it justifies.

(2) Faith does not justify as it exercises grace. It cannot be denied that faith invigorates all the graces, puts strength and liveliness into them, but it does not justify under this notion. Faith works by love, but it does not justify as it works by love, but as it applies Christ’s merits.

Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, p215-217, Banner of Truth 1978 reprint (first published 1692).

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2 thoughts on “how does faith justify?

  1. For the first time, this year in my OU course, I have been introduced to academic referencing. The way they do it, and the way I’ve seen it done elsewhere
    (a) gives you no indication of how long ago a writer is (just gives the date of the edition they happen to have quoted from), leaving the unitiated with the idea that, for instance, Herodotus wrote in 1981
    (b) doesn’t tell you the author’s first name (so you’re reading along and suddenly discover that A van Bork- imaginary example – who you’d assumed to be some dry and ancient man, is actually a lady called Angela)

    So I’m pleased to see some more intelligent referencing in your blog. How do you get taught to do it at university?

    And, btw, I did read the post – and I am interested – just the academic referencing thing prompted me to reply.

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  2. Hmm, it varies quite a lot. In linguistics we use the Harvard system (found this by googling) but I don’t know if there’s any convention for citing works which have been republished. Technically the citation should have been:
    Watson (date), A Body of Divinity
    but I did it less formally so as to avoid saying Watson (1692) because, in my impression anyway, that might have implied i had the actual 1692 volume – that could be a wrong impression of course! but i also wouldn’t have known where to put the information that I was using page numbers from the 1978 BOT edition. I seem to remember seeing one of the dates in square brackets, but I can’t remember for sure which way round it was … most likely:
    Watson, Thomas (1978) [1692]. A Body of Divinity. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth

    I think they use a different system in, say, the history literature, but I can’t remember if it’s got a particular name – where they use footnotes instead of the “author (date)” system for references in the text, and I expect they would have well defined conventions for dealing with the 1692/1978 dilemma as well. Maybe if you prowl around on the websites of university courses in history depts, you might find a stylesheet in some of the undergrad/introductory bumpf. Referencing styles were definitely hammered into us by way of departmental coursebooks and stylesheets so i assume it’s the same in the more humanities end of the spectrum :D

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