Thomas Watson explores the Shorter Catechism’s answer to the question, ‘What is justification?’ in the following sequence of questions and answers in his book, A Body of Divinity, first published 1692 for use by the general public. The style of the whole book is practical and devotional – ie not a comprehensive theological treatment of the doctrine – but aiming to be comprehensible and applicable by any reader.
- What is meant by justification?
It is verbum forense, a word borrowed from law-courts, wherein a person arraigned is pronounced righteous, and is openly absolved. God, in justifying a person, pronounces him to be righteous, and looks upon him as if he had not sinned.
- What is the source of justification?
The causa, the inward impellant motive or ground of justification, is the free grace of God … God does not justify us because we are worthy, but by justifying us makes us worthy.
- What is the ground, or that by which a sinner is justified?
The ground of our justification is Christ’s satisfaction made to his Father. If it be asked, how can it stand with God’s justice and holiness to pronounce us innocent when we stand guilty? the answer is, that Christ having made satisfaction for our fault, God may, in equity and justice, pronounce us righteous. It is a just thing for a creditor to discharge a debtor of the debt, when a satisfaction is made by the surety.
- But how was Christ’s satisfaction meritorious, and so sufficient to justify?
In respect of the divine nature. As he was man he suffered, as God he satisfied. By Christ’s death and merits, God’s justice is more abundantly satisfied than if we had suffered the pains of hell for ever.
- Wherein lies the method of our justification?
In the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us. …
- What is the means or instrument of our justification?
Faith. ‘Being justified by faith.’ The dignity is not in faith as a grace, but relatively, as it lays hold on Christ’s merits.
- What is the efficient cause of our justification?
The whole Trinity. All the persons in the blessed Trinity have a hand in the justification of a sinner: opera Trinitatis ad extra sunt indivisa. God the Father is said to justify. ‘It is God that justifieth,’ Rom 8 v 33. God the Son is said to justify. ‘By him all that believe are justified.’ Acts 13 v 39. God the Holy Ghost is said to justify. ‘But ye are justified by the Spirit of our God.’ 1 Cor 6 v 11. God the Father justifies, as he pronounces us righteousness; God the Son justifies, as he imputes his righteousness to us; and God the Holy Ghost justifies, as he clears up our justification, and seals us up to the day of redemption.
- What is the end of our justification?
The end is, (1) that God may inherit praise. ‘To the praise of the glory of his grace.’ Eph 1 v 6. Hereby God raises t everlasting trophies of his own honour. How will the justified sinner proclaim the love of God, and make heaven ring with his praises! (2) That the justified person may inherit glory. ‘Whom he justified, them he also glorified,’ Rom 8 v 30. …
- Are we justified from eternity?
No: for, (1) By nature we are under a sentence of condemnation. John 3 v 18. We could never have been condemned, if we were justified from eternity. (2) The Scripture confines justification to those who believe and repent. ‘Repent therefore, that your sins may be blotted out,’ Acts 3 v 19. Therefore their sins were uncancelled, and their persons unjustified, till they did repent. Though God does not justify us for our repentance, yet not without it. …
[Sorry there’s nothing remotely attempting to be original in this post – attention mostly diverted workwards at the moment :( ]