Friday, July 31, 2009

Chesterton, Heretics, 4

Mr. Bernard Shaw

In the glad old days, before the rise of modern morbidities,when genial old Ibsen filled the world with wholesome joy, and thekindly tales of the forgotten Emile Zola kept our firesides merryand pure, it used to be thought a disadvantage to be misunderstood.It may be doubted whether it is always or even generally a disadvantage.The man who is misunderstood has always this advantage over his enemies,that they do not know his weak point or his plan of campaign.They go out against a bird with nets and against a fish with arrows.There are several modern examples of this situation. Mr. Chamberlain,for instance, is a very good one. He constantly eludes or vanquisheshis opponents because his real powers and deficiencies are quitedifferent to those with which he is credited, both by friends and foes.His friends depict him as a strenuous man of action; his opponentsdepict him as a coarse man of business; when, as a fact, he is neitherone nor the other, but an admirable romantic orator and romantic actor.He has one power which is the soul of melodrama--the power of pretending,even when backed by a huge majority, that he has his back to the wall.For all mobs are so far chivalrous that their heroes must makesome show of misfortune--that sort of hypocrisy is the homagethat strength pays to weakness. He talks foolishly and yetvery finely about his own city that has never deserted him.He wears a flaming and fantastic flower, like a decadent minor poet.As for his bluffness and toughness and appeals to common sense,all that is, of course, simply the first trick of rhetoric.He fronts his audiences with the venerable affectation of Mark Antony--

"I am no orator, as Brutus is; But as you know me all, a plain blunt man."
It is the whole difference between the aim of the orator andthe aim of any other artist, such as the poet or the sculptor.The aim of the sculptor is to convince us that he is a sculptor;the aim of the orator, is to convince us that he is not an orator.Once let Mr. Chamberlain be mistaken for a practical man, and hisgame is won. He has only to compose a theme on empire, and peoplewill say that these plain men say great things on great occasions.He has only to drift in the large loose notions common to allartists of the second rank, and people will say that businessmen have the biggest ideals after all. All his schemes haveended in smoke; he has touched nothing that he did not confuse.About his figure there is a Celtic pathos; like the Gaels in MatthewArnold's quotation, "he went forth to battle, but he always fell."He is a mountain of proposals, a mountain of failures; but stilla mountain. And a mountain is always romantic.

There is another man in the modern world who might be calledthe antithesis of Mr. Chamberlain in every point, who is alsoa standing monument of the advantage of being misunderstood.Mr. Bernard Shaw is always represented by those who disagreewith him, and, I fear, also (if such exist) by those who agree with him,as a capering humorist, a dazzling acrobat, a quick-change artist.It is said that he cannot be taken seriously, that he will defend anythingor attack anything, that he will do anything to startle and amuse.All this is not only untrue, but it is, glaringly, the opposite ofthe truth; it is as wild as to say that Dickens had not the boisterousmasculinity of Jane Austen. The whole force and triumph of Mr. BernardShaw lie in the fact that he is a thoroughly consistent man.So far from his power consisting in jumping through hoops or standing onhis head, his power consists in holding his own fortress night and day.He puts the Shaw test rapidly and rigorously to everythingthat happens in heaven or earth. His standard never varies.The thing which weak-minded revolutionists and weak-minded Conservativesreally hate (and fear) in him, is exactly this, that his scales,such as they are, are held even, and that his law, such as it is,is justly enforced. You may attack his principles, as I do; but Ido not know of any instance in which you can attack their application.If he dislikes lawlessness, he dislikes the lawlessness of Socialistsas much as that of Individualists. If he dislikes the fever of patriotism,he dislikes it in Boers and Irishmen as well as in Englishmen.If he dislikes the vows and bonds of marriage, he dislikes stillmore the fiercer bonds and wilder vows that are made by lawless love.If he laughs at the authority of priests, he laughs louder at the pomposityof men of science. If he condemns the irresponsibility of faith,he condemns with a sane consistency the equal irresponsibility of art.He has pleased all the bohemians by saying that women are equal to men;but he has infuriated them by suggesting that men are equal to women.He is almost mechanically just; he has something of the terriblequality of a machine. The man who is really wild and whirling,the man who is really fantastic and incalculable, is not Mr. Shaw,but the average Cabinet Minister. It is Sir Michael Hicks-Beach whojumps through hoops. It is Sir Henry Fowler who stands on his head.The solid and respectable statesman of that type does reallyleap from position to position; he is really ready to defendanything or nothing; he is really not to be taken seriously.I know perfectly well what Mr. Bernard Shaw will be sayingthirty years hence; he will be saying what he has always said.If thirty years hence I meet Mr. Shaw, a reverent beingwith a silver beard sweeping the earth, and say to him,"One can never, of course, make a verbal attack upon a lady,"the patriarch will lift his aged hand and fell me to the earth.We know, I say, what Mr. Shaw will be, saying thirty years hence.But is there any one so darkly read in stars and oracles that he willdare to predict what Mr. Asquith will be saying thirty years hence?

The truth is, that it is quite an error to suppose that absenceof definite convictions gives the mind freedom and agility.A man who believes something is ready and witty, because he hasall his weapons about him. he can apply his test in an instant.The man engaged in conflict with a man like Mr. Bernard Shaw mayfancy he has ten faces; similarly a man engaged against a brilliantduellist may fancy that the sword of his foe has turned to ten swordsin his hand. But this is not really because the man is playingwith ten swords, it is because he is aiming very straight with one.Moreover, a man with a definite belief always appears bizarre,because he does not change with the world; he has climbed intoa fixed star, and the earth whizzes below him like a zoetrope.Millions of mild black-coated men call themselves sane and sensiblemerely because they always catch the fashionable insanity,because they are hurried into madness after madness by the maelstromof the world.

People accuse Mr. Shaw and many much sillier persons of "proving that blackis white." But they never ask whether the current colour-language isalways correct. Ordinary sensible phraseology sometimes calls black white,it certainly calls yellow white and green white and reddish-brown white.We call wine "white wine" which is as yellow as a Blue-coat boy's legs.We call grapes "white grapes" which are manifestly pale green.We give to the European, whose complexion is a sort of pink drab,the horrible title of a "white man"--a picture more blood-curdlingthan any spectre in Poe.

Now, it is undoubtedly true that if a man asked a waiter in a restaurantfor a bottle of yellow wine and some greenish-yellow grapes, the waiterwould think him mad. It is undoubtedly true that if a Government official,reporting on the Europeans in Burmah, said, "There are only twothousand pinkish men here" he would be accused of cracking jokes,and kicked out of his post. But it is equally obvious that bothmen would have come to grief through telling the strict truth.That too truthful man in the restaurant; that too truthful manin Burmah, is Mr. Bernard Shaw. He appears eccentric and grotesquebecause he will not accept the general belief that white is yellow.He has based all his brilliancy and solidity upon the hackneyed,but yet forgotten, fact that truth is stranger than fiction.Truth, of course, must of necessity be stranger than fiction,for we have made fiction to suit ourselves.

So much then a reasonable appreciation will find in Mr. Shawto be bracing and excellent. He claims to see things as they are;and some things, at any rate, he does see as they are,which the whole of our civilization does not see at all.But in Mr. Shaw's realism there is something lacking, and that thingwhich is lacking is serious.

Mr. Shaw's old and recognized philosophy was that powerfullypresented in "The Quintessence of Ibsenism." It was, in brief,that conservative ideals were bad, not because They were conservative,but because they were ideals. Every ideal prevented men from judgingjustly the particular case; every moral generalization oppressedthe individual; the golden rule was there was no golden rule.And the objection to this is simply that it pretends to free men,but really restrains them from doing the only thing that men want to do.What is the good of telling a community that it has every libertyexcept the liberty to make laws? The liberty to make laws is whatconstitutes a free people. And what is the good of telling a man(or a philosopher) that he has every liberty except the liberty tomake generalizations. Making generalizations is what makes him a man.In short, when Mr. Shaw forbids men to have strict moral ideals,he is acting like one who should forbid them to have children.The saying that "the golden rule is that there is no golden rule,"can, indeed, be simply answered by being turned round.That there is no golden rule is itself a golden rule, or ratherit is much worse than a golden rule. It is an iron rule;a fetter on the first movement of a man.

But the sensation connected with Mr. Shaw in recent years hasbeen his sudden development of the religion of the Superman.He who had to all appearance mocked at the faiths in the forgottenpast discovered a new god in the unimaginable future. He who had laidall the blame on ideals set up the most impossible of all ideals,the ideal of a new creature. But the truth, nevertheless, is that anyone who knows Mr. Shaw's mind adequately, and admires it properly,must have guessed all this long ago.

For the truth is that Mr. Shaw has never seen things as they really are.If he had he would have fallen on his knees before them.He has always had a secret ideal that has withered all the thingsof this world. He has all the time been silently comparing humanitywith something that was not human, with a monster from Mars,with the Wise Man of the Stoics, with the Economic Man of the Fabians,with Julius Caesar, with Siegfried, with the Superman. Now, to havethis inner and merciless standard may be a very good thing,or a very bad one, it may be excellent or unfortunate, but itis not seeing things as they are. it is not seeing things as theyare to think first of a Briareus with a hundred hands, and then callevery man a cripple for only having two. It is not seeing thingsas they are to start with a vision of Argus with his hundred eyes,and then jeer at every man with two eyes as if he had only one.And it is not seeing things as they are to imagine a demigodof infinite mental clarity, who may or may not appear in the latterdays of the earth, and then to see all men as idiots. And thisis what Mr. Shaw has always in some degree done. When we really seemen as they are, we do not criticise, but worship; and very rightly.For a monster with mysterious eyes and miraculous thumbs,with strange dreams in his skull, and a queer tenderness for thisplace or that baby, is truly a wonderful and unnerving matter.It is only the quite arbitrary and priggish habit of comparison withsomething else which makes it possible to be at our ease in front of him.A sentiment of superiority keeps us cool and practical; the mere factswould make, our knees knock under as with religious fear. It is the factthat every instant of conscious life is an unimaginable prodigy.It is the fact that every face in the street has the incredibleunexpectedness of a fairy-tale. The thing which prevents a manfrom realizing this is not any clear-sightedness or experience,it is simply a habit of pedantic and fastidious comparisonsbetween one thing and another. Mr. Shaw, on the practical sideperhaps the most humane man alive, is in this sense inhumane.He has even been infected to some extent with the primaryintellectual weakness of his new master, Nietzsche, the strangenotion that the greater and stronger a man was the more he woulddespise other things. The greater and stronger a man is the morehe would be inclined to prostrate himself before a periwinkle.That Mr. Shaw keeps a lifted head and a contemptuous face beforethe colossal panorama of empires and civilizations, this doesnot in itself convince one that he sees things as they are.I should be most effectively convinced that he did if I foundhim staring with religious astonishment at his own feet."What are those two beautiful and industrious beings," I can imagine himmurmuring to himself, "whom I see everywhere, serving me I know not why?What fairy godmother bade them come trotting out of elfland when Iwas born? What god of the borderland, what barbaric god of legs,must I propitiate with fire and wine, lest they run away with me?"

The truth is, that all genuine appreciation rests on a certainmystery of humility and almost of darkness. The man who said,"Blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall not be disappointed,"put the eulogy quite inadequately and even falsely. The truth "Blessedis he that expecteth nothing, for he shall be gloriously surprised."The man who expects nothing sees redder roses than common men can see,and greener grass, and a more startling sun. Blessed is he thatexpecteth nothing, for he shall possess the cities and the mountains;blessed is the meek, for he shall inherit the earth. Until werealize that things might not be we cannot realize that things are.Until we see the background of darkness we cannot admire the lightas a single and created thing. As soon as we have seen that darkness,all light is lightening, sudden, blinding, and divine.Until we picture nonentity we underrate the victory of God,and can realize none of the trophies of His ancient war.It is one of the million wild jests of truth that we know nothinguntil we know nothing,

Now this is, I say deliberately, the only defect in the greatnessof Mr. Shaw, the only answer to his claim to be a great man,that he is not easily pleased. He is an almost solitary exception tothe general and essential maxim, that little things please great minds.And from this absence of that most uproarious of all things, humility,comes incidentally the peculiar insistence on the Superman.After belabouring a great many people for a great many years forbeing unprogressive, Mr. Shaw has discovered, with characteristic sense,that it is very doubtful whether any existing human being with twolegs can be progressive at all. Having come to doubt whetherhumanity can be combined with progress, most people, easily pleased,would have elected to abandon progress and remain with humanity.Mr. Shaw, not being easily pleased, decides to throw over humanitywith all its limitations and go in for progress for its own sake.If man, as we know him, is incapable of the philosophy of progress,Mr. Shaw asks, not for a new kind of philosophy, but for a new kindof man. It is rather as if a nurse had tried a rather bitterfood for some years on a baby, and on discovering that it wasnot suitable, should not throw away the food and ask for a new food,but throw the baby out of window, and ask for a new baby.Mr. Shaw cannot understand that the thing which is valuableand lovable in our eyes is man--the old beer-drinking,creed-making, fighting, failing, sensual, respectable man.And the things that have been founded on this creature immortally remain;the things that have been founded on the fancy of the Superman havedied with the dying civilizations which alone have given them birth.When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society,He chose for its comer-stone neither the brilliant Paul northe mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob a coward--in a word, a man.And upon this rock He has built His Church, and the gates of Hellhave not prevailed against it. All the empires and the kingdomshave failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness,that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men.But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was foundedon a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible.For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chesterton, Heretics, 3

On Mr. Rudyard Kipling and Making the World Small

There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject;the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.Nothing is more keenly required than a defence of bores.When Byron divided humanity into the bores and bored, he omittedto notice that the higher qualities exist entirely in the bores,the lower qualities in the bored, among whom he counted himself.The bore, by his starry enthusiasm, his solemn happiness, may,in some sense, have proved himself poetical. The bored has certainlyproved himself prosaic.

We might, no doubt, find it a nuisance to count all the blades of grassor all the leaves of the trees; but this would not be because of ourboldness or gaiety, but because of our lack of boldness and gaiety.The bore would go onward, bold and gay, and find the blades ofgrass as splendid as the swords of an army. The bore is strongerand more joyous than we are; he is a demigod--nay, he is a god.For it is the gods who do not tire of the iteration of things;to them the nightfall is always new, and the last rose as redas the first.

The sense that everything is poetical is a thing solid and absolute;it is not a mere matter of phraseology or persuasion. It is notmerely true, it is ascertainable. Men may be challenged to deny it;men may be challenged to mention anything that is not a matter of poetry.I remember a long time ago a sensible sub-editor coming up to mewith a book in his hand, called "Mr. Smith," or "The Smith Family,"or some such thing. He said, "Well, you won't get any of your damnedmysticism out of this," or words to that effect. I am happy to saythat I undeceived him; but the victory was too obvious and easy.In most cases the name is unpoetical, although the fact is poetical.In the case of Smith, the name is so poetical that it mustbe an arduous and heroic matter for the man to live up to it.The name of Smith is the name of the one trade that even kings respected,it could claim half the glory of that arma virumque which allepics acclaimed. The spirit of the smithy is so close to the spiritof song that it has mixed in a million poems, and every blacksmithis a harmonious blacksmith.

Even the village children feel that in some dim way the smithis poetic, as the grocer and the cobbler are not poetic,when they feast on the dancing sparks and deafening blows inthe cavern of that creative violence. The brute repose of Nature,the passionate cunning of man, the strongest of earthly metals,the wierdest of earthly elements, the unconquerable iron subduedby its only conqueror, the wheel and the ploughshare, the sword andthe steam-hammer, the arraying of armies and the whole legend of arms,all these things are written, briefly indeed, but quite legibly,on the visiting-card of Mr. Smith. Yet our novelists call theirhero "Aylmer Valence," which means nothing, or "Vernon Raymond,"which means nothing, when it is in their power to give himthis sacred name of Smith--this name made of iron and flame.It would be very natural if a certain hauteur, a certain carriageof the head, a certain curl of the lip, distinguished everyone whose name is Smith. Perhaps it does; I trust so.Whoever else are parvenus, the Smiths are not parvenus.From the darkest dawn of history this clan has gone forth to battle;its trophies are on every hand; its name is everywhere;it is older than the nations, and its sign is the Hammer of Thor.But as I also remarked, it is not quite the usual case.It is common enough that common things should be poetical;it is not so common that common names should be poetical.In most cases it is the name that is the obstacle.A great many people talk as if this claim of ours, that all thingsare poetical, were a mere literary ingenuity, a play on words.Precisely the contrary is true. It is the idea that some things arenot poetical which is literary, which is a mere product of words.The word "signal-box" is unpoetical. But the thing signal-box isnot unpoetical; it is a place where men, in an agony of vigilance,light blood-red and sea-green fires to keep other men from death.That is the plain, genuine description of what it is; the prose onlycomes in with what it is called. The word "pillar-box" is unpoetical.But the thing pillar-box is not unpoetical; it is the placeto which friends and lovers commit their messages, conscious thatwhen they have done so they are sacred, and not to be touched,not only by others, but even (religious touch!) by themselves.That red turret is one of the last of the temples. Posting a letter andgetting married are among the few things left that are entirely romantic;for to be entirely romantic a thing must be irrevocable.We think a pillar-box prosaic, because there is no rhyme to it.We think a pillar-box unpoetical, because we have never seen itin a poem. But the bold fact is entirely on the side of poetry.A signal-box is only called a signal-box; it is a house of life and death.A pillar-box is only called a pillar-box; it is a sanctuary ofhuman words. If you think the name of "Smith" prosaic, it is notbecause you are practical and sensible; it is because you are too muchaffected with literary refinements. The name shouts poetry at you.If you think of it otherwise, it is because you are steeped andsodden with verbal reminiscences, because you remember everythingin Punch or Comic Cuts about Mr. Smith being drunk or Mr. Smithbeing henpecked. All these things were given to you poetical.It is only by a long and elaborate process of literary effortthat you have made them prosaic.

Now, the first and fairest thing to say about Rudyard Kiplingis that he has borne a brilliant part in thus recovering the lostprovinces of poetry. He has not been frightened by that brutalmaterialistic air which clings only to words; he has pierced throughto the romantic, imaginative matter of the things themselves.He has perceived the significance and philosophy of steam and of slang.Steam may be, if you like, a dirty by-product of science.Slang may be, if you like, a dirty by-product of language.But at least he has been among the few who saw the divine parentage ofthese things, and knew that where there is smoke there is fire--that is,that wherever there is the foulest of things, there also is the purest.Above all, he has had something to say, a definite view of things to utter,and that always means that a man is fearless and faces everything.For the moment we have a view of the universe, we possess it.

Now, the message of Rudyard Kipling, that upon which he hasreally concentrated, is the only thing worth worrying aboutin him or in any other man. He has often written bad poetry,like Wordsworth. He has often said silly things, like Plato.He has often given way to mere political hysteria, like Gladstone.But no one can reasonably doubt that he means steadily and sincerelyto say something, and the only serious question is, What is thatwhich he has tried to say? Perhaps the best way of stating thisfairly will be to begin with that element which has been most insistedby himself and by his opponents--I mean his interest in militarism.But when we are seeking for the real merits of a man it is unwiseto go to his enemies, and much more foolish to go to himself.

Now, Mr. Kipling is certainly wrong in his worship of militarism,but his opponents are, generally speaking, quite as wrong as he.The evil of militarism is not that it shows certain men to be fierceand haughty and excessively warlike. The evil of militarism is that itshows most men to be tame and timid and excessively peaceable.The professional soldier gains more and more power as the generalcourage of a community declines. Thus the Pretorian guard becamemore and more important in Rome as Rome became more and moreluxurious and feeble. The military man gains the civil powerin proportion as the civilian loses the military virtues.And as it was in ancient Rome so it is in contemporary Europe.There never was a time when nations were more militarist.There never was a time when men were less brave. All ages and all epicshave sung of arms and the man; but we have effected simultaneouslythe deterioration of the man and the fantastic perfection of the arms.Militarism demonstrated the decadence of Rome, and it demonstratesthe decadence of Prussia.

And unconsciously Mr. Kipling has proved this, and proved it admirably.For in so far as his work is earnestly understood the military tradedoes not by any means emerge as the most important or attractive.He has not written so well about soldiers as he has aboutrailway men or bridge builders, or even journalists.The fact is that what attracts Mr. Kipling to militarismis not the idea of courage, but the idea of discipline.There was far more courage to the square mile in the Middle Ages,when no king had a standing army, but every man had a bow or sword.But the fascination of the standing army upon Mr. Kipling isnot courage, which scarcely interests him, but discipline, which is,when all is said and done, his primary theme. The modern armyis not a miracle of courage; it has not enough opportunities,owing to the cowardice of everybody else. But it is reallya miracle of organization, and that is the truly Kiplingite ideal.Kipling's subject is not that valour which properly belongs to war,but that interdependence and efficiency which belongs quiteas much to engineers, or sailors, or mules, or railway engines.And thus it is that when he writes of engineers, or sailors,or mules, or steam-engines, he writes at his best. The real poetry,the "true romance" which Mr. Kipling has taught, is the romanceof the division of labour and the discipline of all the trades.He sings the arts of peace much more accurately than the arts of war.And his main contention is vital and valuable. Every thing is militaryin the sense that everything depends upon obedience. There is noperfectly epicurean corner; there is no perfectly irresponsible place.Everywhere men have made the way for us with sweat and submission.We may fling ourselves into a hammock in a fit of divine carelessness.But we are glad that the net-maker did not make the hammock in a fit ofdivine carelessness. We may jump upon a child's rocking-horse for a joke.But we are glad that the carpenter did not leave the legs of itunglued for a joke. So far from having merely preached that a soldiercleaning his side-arm is to be adored because he is military,Kipling at his best and clearest has preached that the baker bakingloaves and the tailor cutting coats is as military as anybody.

Being devoted to this multitudinous vision of duty, Mr. Kiplingis naturally a cosmopolitan. He happens to find his examplesin the British Empire, but almost any other empire woulddo as well, or, indeed, any other highly civilized country.That which he admires in the British army he would find even moreapparent in the German army; that which he desires in the Britishpolice he would find flourishing, in the French police.The ideal of discipline is not the whole of life, but it is spreadover the whole of the world. And the worship of it tends to confirmin Mr. Kipling a certain note of worldly wisdom, of the experienceof the wanderer, which is one of the genuine charms of his best work.

The great gap in his mind is what may be roughly called the lackof patriotism--that is to say, he lacks altogether the faculty of attachinghimself to any cause or community finally and tragically; for allfinality must be tragic. He admires England, but he does not love her;for we admire things with reasons, but love them without reasons.He admires England because she is strong, not because she is English.There is no harshness in saying this, for, to do him justice, he avowsit with his usual picturesque candour. In a very interesting poem,he says that--

"If England was what England seems"
--that is, weak and inefficient; if England were not what (as he believes)she is--that is, powerful and practical--

"How quick we'd chuck 'er! But she ain't!"
He admits, that is, that his devotion is the result of a criticism,and this is quite enough to put it in another category altogether fromthe patriotism of the Boers, whom he hounded down in South Africa.In speaking of the really patriotic peoples, such as the Irish, he hassome difficulty in keeping a shrill irritation out of his language.The frame of mind which he really describes with beauty andnobility is the frame of mind of the cosmopolitan man who has seenmen and cities.

"For to admire and for to see, For to be'old this world so wide."
He is a perfect master of that light melancholy with which a manlooks back on having been the citizen of many communities,of that light melancholy with which a man looks back on having beenthe lover of many women. He is the philanderer of the nations.But a man may have learnt much about women in flirtations,and still be ignorant of first love; a man may have known as manylands as Ulysses, and still be ignorant of patriotism.

Mr. Rudyard Kipling has asked in a celebrated epigram what they canknow of England who know England only. It is a far deeper and sharperquestion to ask, "What can they know of England who know only the world?"for the world does not include England any more than it includesthe Church. The moment we care for anything deeply, the world--that is, all the other miscellaneous interests--becomes our enemy.Christians showed it when they talked of keeping one's self"unspotted from the world;" but lovers talk of it just as muchwhen they talk of the "world well lost." Astronomically speaking,I understand that England is situated on the world; similarly, I supposethat the Church was a part of the world, and even the loversinhabitants of that orb. But they all felt a certain truth--the truth that the moment you love anything the world becomes your foe.Thus Mr. Kipling does certainly know the world; he is a man of the world,with all the narrowness that belongs to those imprisoned in that planet.He knows England as an intelligent English gentleman knows Venice.He has been to England a great many times; he has stopped therefor long visits. But he does not belong to it, or to any place;and the proof of it is this, that he thinks of England as a place.The moment we are rooted in a place, the place vanishes.We live like a tree with the whole strength of the universe.

The globe-trotter lives in a smaller world than the peasant.He is always breathing, an air of locality. London is a place, to becompared to Chicago; Chicago is a place, to be compared to Timbuctoo.But Timbuctoo is not a place, since there, at least, live menwho regard it as the universe, and breathe, not an air of locality,but the winds of the world. The man in the saloon steamer hasseen all the races of men, and he is thinking of the things thatdivide men--diet, dress, decorum, rings in the nose as in Africa,or in the ears as in Europe, blue paint among the ancients, or redpaint among the modern Britons. The man in the cabbage field hasseen nothing at all; but he is thinking of the things that unite men--hunger and babies, and the beauty of women, and the promise or menaceof the sky. Mr. Kipling, with all his merits, is the globe-trotter;he has not the patience to become part of anything.So great and genuine a man is not to be accused of a merelycynical cosmopolitanism; still, his cosmopolitanism is his weakness.That weakness is splendidly expressed in one of his finest poems,"The Sestina of the Tramp Royal," in which a man declares that he canendure anything in the way of hunger or horror, but not permanentpresence in one place. In this there is certainly danger.The more dead and dry and dusty a thing is the more it travels about;dust is like this and the thistle-down and the High Commissionerin South Africa. Fertile things are somewhat heavier, like the heavyfruit trees on the pregnant mud of the Nile. In the heated idlenessof youth we were all rather inclined to quarrel with the implicationof that proverb which says that a rolling stone gathers no moss. We wereinclined to ask, "Who wants to gather moss, except silly old ladies?"But for all that we begin to perceive that the proverb is right.The rolling stone rolls echoing from rock to rock; but the rollingstone is dead. The moss is silent because the moss is alive.

The truth is that exploration and enlargement make the world smaller.The telegraph and the steamboat make the world smaller.The telescope makes the world smaller; it is only the microscopethat makes it larger. Before long the world will be clovenwith a war between the telescopists and the microscopists.The first study large things and live in a small world; the secondstudy small things and live in a large world. It is inspiritingwithout doubt to whizz in a motor-car round the earth, to feel Arabiaas a whirl of sand or China as a flash of rice-fields. But Arabiais not a whirl of sand and China is not a flash of rice-fields. Theyare ancient civilizations with strange virtues buried like treasures.If we wish to understand them it must not be as tourists or inquirers,it must be with the loyalty of children and the great patience of poets.To conquer these places is to lose them. The man standingin his own kitchen-garden, with fairyland opening at the gate,is the man with large ideas. His mind creates distance; the motor-carstupidly destroys it. Moderns think of the earth as a globe,as something one can easily get round, the spirit of a schoolmistress.This is shown in the odd mistake perpetually made about Cecil Rhodes.His enemies say that he may have had large ideas, but he was a bad man.His friends say that he may have been a bad man, but he certainlyhad large ideas. The truth is that he was not a man essentially bad,he was a man of much geniality and many good intentions, but a manwith singularly small views. There is nothing large about paintingthe map red; it is an innocent game for children. It is just as easyto think in continents as to think in cobble-stones. The difficultycomes in when we seek to know the substance of either of them.Rhodes' prophecies about the Boer resistance are an admirablecomment on how the "large ideas" prosper when it is not a questionof thinking in continents but of understanding a few two-legged men.And under all this vast illusion of the cosmopolitan planet,with its empires and its Reuter's agency, the real life of mangoes on concerned with this tree or that temple, with this harvestor that drinking-song, totally uncomprehended, totally untouched.And it watches from its splendid parochialism, possibly with a smileof amusement, motor-car civilization going its triumphant way,outstripping time, consuming space, seeing all and seeing nothing,roaring on at last to the capture of the solar system, only to findthe sun cockney and the stars suburban.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chesterton, Heretics, 2

On the negative spirit

Much has been said, and said truly, of the monkish morbidity, of the hysteria which as often gone with the visions of hermits or nuns. But let us never forget that this visionary religion is, in one sense,necessarily more wholesome than our modern and reasonable morality.It is more wholesome for this reason, that it can contemplate the idea of success or triumph in the hopeless fight towards the ethical ideal,in what Stevenson called, with his usual startling felicity,"the lost fight of virtue." A modern morality, on the other hand,can only point with absolute conviction to the horrors that follow breaches of law; its only certainty is a certainty of ill.It can only point to imperfection. It has no perfection to point to.But the monk meditating upon Christ or Buddha has in his mind an image of perfect health, a thing of clear colours and clean air.He may contemplate this ideal wholeness and happiness far more than he ought;he may contemplate it to the neglect of exclusion of essential THING She may contemplate it until he has become a dreamer or a driveller; but still it is wholeness and happiness that he is contemplating.He may even go mad; but he is going mad for the love of sanity.But the modern student of ethics, even if he remains sane, remains sane from an insane dread of insanity.

The anchorite rolling on the stones in a frenzy of submissionis a healthier person fundamentally than many a sober man in a silk hat who is walking down Cheapside. For many such are good only through a withering knowledge of evil.I am not at this moment claiming for the devotee anything more than this primary advantage, that though he may be making himself personally weak and miserable, he is still fixing his thoughts largely on gigantic strength and happiness,on a strength that has no limits, and a happiness that has no end.Doubtless there are other objections which can be urged without unreason against the influence of gods and visions in morality,whether in the cell or street. But this advantage the mystic morality must always have--it is always jollier. A young man may keep himself from vice by continually thinking of disease. He may keep himself from it also by continually thinking of the Virgin Mary. There may be question about which method isthe more reasonable, or even about which is the more efficient. But surely there can be no question about which is the more wholesome.

I remember a pamphlet by that able and sincere secularist, Mr. G. W. Foote, which contained a phrase sharply symbolizing and dividing these two methods. The pamphlet was called BEER AND BIBLE, those two very noble things, all the nobler for a conjunction which Mr. Foote, in his stern old Puritan way, seemed to think sardonic,but which I confess to thinking appropriate and charming.I have not the work by me, but I remember that Mr. Foote dismissed very contemptuously any attempts to deal with the problemof strong drink by religious offices or intercessions, and said that a picture of a drunkard's liver would be more efficacious in the matter of temperance than any prayer or praise.In that picturesque expression, it seems to me, is perfectly embodied the incurable morbidity of modern ethics.In that temple the lights are low, the crowds kneel, the solemn anthems are uplifted. But that upon the altar to which all men kneel is no longer the perfect flesh, the body and substance of the perfect man; it is still flesh, but it is diseased.It is the drunkard's liver of the New Testament that is marred for us, which which we take in remembrance of him.

Now, it is this great gap in modern ethics, the absence of vivid pictures of purity and spiritual triumph, which lies at the back of the real objection felt by so many sane men to the realistic literature of the nineteenth century. If any ordinary man ever said that he was horrified by the subjects discussed in Ibsenor Maupassant, or by the plain language in which they are spoken of,that ordinary man was lying. The average conversation of average men throughout the whole of modern civilization in every class or trade is such as Zola would never dream of printing.Nor is the habit of writing thus of these things a new habit.On the contrary, it is the Victorian prudery and silence which is new still, though it is already dying. The tradition of calling a spade a spade starts very early in our literature and comes down very late. But the truth is that the ordinary honest man,whatever vague account he may have given of his feelings, was not either disgusted or even annoyed at the candour of the moderns.What disgusted him, and very justly, was not the presence of a clear realism, but the absence of a clear idealism.Strong and genuine religious sentiment has never had any objection to realism; on the contrary, religion was the realistic thing,the brutal thing, the thing that called names. This is the great difference between some recent developments of Nonconformity andthe great Puritanism of the seventeenth century. It was the whole point of the Puritans that they cared nothing for decency. Modern Nonconformist newspapers distinguish themselves by suppressing precisely those nouns and adjectives which the founders of Nonconformity distinguished themselves by flinging at kings and queens.But if it was a chief claim of religion that it spoke plainly about evil,it was the chief claim of all that it spoke plainly about good.The thing which is resented, and, as I think, rightly resented,in that great modern literature of which Ibsen is typical,is that while the eye that can perceive what are the wrong things increases in an uncanny and devouring clarity, the eye which sees what things are right is growing mistier and mistier every moment,till it goes almost blind with doubt. If we compare, let us say,the morality of the DIVINE COMEDY with the morality of Ibsen's GHOSTS,we shall see all that modern ethics have really done.No one, I imagine, will accuse the author of the INFERNO of an Early Victorian prudishness or a Podsnapian optimism.But Dante describes three moral instruments--Heaven, Purgatory,and Hell, the vision of perfection, the vision of improvement,and the vision of failure. Ibsen has only one--Hell.It is often said, and with perfect truth, that no one could read a play like GHOSTS and remain indifferent to the necessity of anethical self-command. That is quite true, and the same is to be said of the most monstrous and material descriptions of the eternal fire.It is quite certain the realists like Zola do in one sense promote morality--they promote it in the sense in which the hangman promotes it, in the sense in which the devil promotes it. But they only affect that small minority which will accept any virtue of courage. Most healthy people dismiss these moral dangers as they dismiss the possibility of bombs or microbes.Modern realists are indeed Terrorists, like the dynamiters;and they fail just as much in their effort to create a thrill.Both realists and dynamiters are well-meaning people engagedin the task, so obviously ultimately hopeless, of using science to promote morality.

I do not wish the reader to confuse me for a moment with those vague persons who imagine that Ibsen is what they call a pessimist. There are plenty of wholesome people in Ibsen, plenty of good people, plenty of happy people, plenty of examples of menacting wisely and things ending well. That is not my meaning. My meaning is that Ibsen has throughout, and does not disguise, a certain vagueness and a changing attitude as well as a doubting attitude towards what is really wisdom and virtue in this life--a vagueness which contrasts very remarkably with the decisivenesswith which he pounces on something which he perceives to be a rootof evil, some convention, some deception, some ignorance.We know that the hero of GHOSTS is mad, and we know why he is mad.We do also know that Dr. Stockman is sane; but we do not knowwhy he is sane. Ibsen does not profess to know how virtueand happiness are brought about, in the sense that he professesto know how our modern sexual tragedies are brought about.Falsehood works ruin in THE PILLARS OF SOCIETY, but truth works equalruin in THE WILD DUCK. There are no cardinal virtues of Ibsenism.There is no ideal man of Ibsen. All this is not only admitted,but vaunted in the most valuable and thoughtful of all the eulogiesupon Ibsen, Mr. Bernard Shaw's QUINTESSENCE OF IBSENISM.Mr. Shaw sums up Ibsen's teaching in the phrase, "The goldenrule is that there is no golden rule." In his eyes thisabsence of an enduring and positive ideal, this absenceof a permanent key to virtue, is the one great Ibsen merit.I am not discussing now with any fullness whether this is so or not.All I venture to point out, with an increased firmness,is that this omission, good or bad, does leave us face to facewith the problem of a human consciousness filled with verydefinite images of evil, and with no definite image of good.To us light must be henceforward the dark thing--the thing of whichwe cannot speak. To us, as to Milton's devils in Pandemonium,it is darkness that is visible. The human race, according to religion,fell once, and in falling gained knowledge of good and of evil.Now we have fallen a second time, and only the knowledge of evilremains to us.

A great silent collapse, an enormous unspoken disappointment,has in our time fallen on our Northern civilization. All previousages have sweated and been crucified in an attempt to realizewhat is really the right life, what was really the good man.A definite part of the modern world has come beyond questionto the conclusion that there is no answer to these questions,that the most that we can do is to set up a few notice-boardsat places of obvious danger, to warn men, for instance,against drinking themselves to death, or ignoring the mereexistence of their neighbours. Ibsen is the first to returnfrom the baffled hunt to bring us the tidings of great failure.

Every one of the popular modern phrases and ideals isa dodge in order to shirk the problem of what is good.We are fond of talking about "liberty"; that, as we talk of it,is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good. We are fond of talkingabout "progress"; that is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good.We are fond of talking about "education"; that is a dodgeto avoid discussing what is good. The modern man says, "Let usleave all these arbitrary standards and embrace liberty."This is, logically rendered, "Let us not decide what is good,but let it be considered good not to decide it." He says,"Away with your old moral formulae; I am for progress."This, logically stated, means, "Let us not settle what is good;but let us settle whether we are getting more of it."He says, "Neither in religion nor morality, my friend, lie the hopesof the race, but in education." This, clearly expressed,means, "We cannot decide what is good, but let us give itto our children."

Mr. H.G. Wells, that exceedingly clear-sighted man, has pointed out in arecent work that this has happened in connection with economic questions.The old economists, he says, made generalizations, and they were(in Mr. Wells's view) mostly wrong. But the new economists, he says,seem to have lost the power of making any generalizations at all.And they cover this incapacity with a general claim to be, in specific cases,regarded as "experts", a claim "proper enough in a hairdresser or afashionable physician, but indecent in a philosopher or a man of science."But in spite of the refreshing rationality with which Mr. Wells hasindicated this, it must also be said that he himself has falleninto the same enormous modern error. In the opening pages of thatexcellent book MANKIND IN THE MAKING, he dismisses the ideals of art,religion, abstract morality, and the rest, and says that he is goingto consider men in their chief function, the function of parenthood.He is going to discuss life as a "tissue of births." He is not goingto ask what will produce satisfactory saints or satisfactory heroes,but what will produce satisfactory fathers and mothers. The whole is setforward so sensibly that it is a few moments at least before the readerrealises that it is another example of unconscious shirking. What is the goodof begetting a man until we have settled what is the good of being a man?You are merely handing on to him a problem you dare not settle yourself.It is as if a man were asked, "What is the use of a hammer?" and answered,"To make hammers"; and when asked, "And of those hammers, what isthe use?" answered, "To make hammers again". Just as such a man wouldbe perpetually putting off the question of the ultimate use of carpentry,so Mr. Wells and all the rest of us are by these phrases successfullyputting off the question of the ultimate value of the human life.

The case of the general talk of "progress" is, indeed,an extreme one. As enunciated today, "progress" is simplya comparative of which we have not settled the superlative.We meet every ideal of religion, patriotism, beauty, or brutepleasure with the alternative ideal of progress--that is to say,we meet every proposal of getting something that we know about,with an alternative proposal of getting a great deal more of nobodyknows what. Progress, properly understood, has, indeed, a mostdignified and legitimate meaning. But as used in oppositionto precise moral ideals, it is ludicrous. So far from it beingthe truth that the ideal of progress is to be set against thatof ethical or religious finality, the reverse is the truth.Nobody has any business to use the word "progress" unlesshe has a definite creed and a cast-iron code of morals.Nobody can be progressive without being doctrinal; I might almostsay that nobody can be progressive without being infallible--at any rate, without believing in some infallibility.For progress by its very name indicates a direction;and the moment we are in the least doubtful about the direction,we become in the same degree doubtful about the progress.Never perhaps since the beginning of the world has there beenan age that had less right to use the word "progress" than we.In the Catholic twelfth century, in the philosophic eighteenthcentury, the direction may have been a good or a bad one,men may have differed more or less about how far they went, and inwhat direction, but about the direction they did in the main agree,and consequently they had the genuine sensation of progress.But it is precisely about the direction that we disagree.Whether the future excellence lies in more law or less law,in more liberty or less liberty; whether property will be finallyconcentrated or finally cut up; whether sexual passion will reachits sanest in an almost virgin intellectualism or in a fullanimal freedom; whether we should love everybody with Tolstoy,or spare nobody with Nietzsche;--these are the things about which weare actually fighting most. It is not merely true that the agewhich has settled least what is progress is this "progressive" age.It is, moreover, true that the people who have settled leastwhat is progress are the most "progressive" people in it.The ordinary mass, the men who have never troubled about progress,might be trusted perhaps to progress. The particular individualswho talk about progress would certainly fly to the fourwinds of heaven when the pistol-shot started the race.I do not, therefore, say that the word "progress" is unmeaning; I sayit is unmeaning without the previous definition of a moral doctrine,and that it can only be applied to groups of persons who holdthat doctrine in common. Progress is not an illegitimate word,but it is logically evident that it is illegitimate for us.It is a sacred word, a word which could only rightly be usedby rigid believers and in the ages of faith.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Chesterton, Heretics, 1

Introductory Remarks on the Importance of Orthodoxy

Nothing more strangely indicates an enormous and silent evil of modern society than the extraordinary use which is made nowadays of the word "orthodox." In former days the hereticwas proud of not being a heretic. It was the kingdoms of the world and the police and the judges who were heretics.He was orthodox. He had no pride in having rebelled against them;they had rebelled against him. The armies with their cruel security,the kings with their cold faces, the decorous processes of State,the reasonable processes of law--all these like sheep had gone astray.The man was proud of being orthodox, was proud of being right.If he stood alone in a howling wilderness he was more than a man;he was a church. He was the centre of the universe; it was round him that the stars swung. All the tortures torn out of forgotten hells could not make him admit that he was heretical.But a few modern phrases have made him boast of it. He says,with a conscious laugh, "I suppose I am very heretical," and looks round for applause. The word "heresy" not only means no longer being wrong; it practically means being clear-headed and courageous.The word "orthodoxy" not only no longer means being right;it practically means being wrong. All this can mean one thing,and one thing only. It means that people care less for whether they are philosophically right. For obviously a man ought to confess himself crazy before he confesses himself heretical.The Bohemian, with a red tie, ought to pique himself on his orthodoxy.The dynamiter, laying a bomb, ought to feel that, whatever else he is,at least he is orthodox.

It is foolish, generally speaking, for a philosopher to set fire to another philosopher in Smithfield Market because they do not agree in their theory of the universe. That was done very frequently in the last decadence of the Middle Ages, and it failed altogether in its object. But there is one thing that is infinitely more absurd and unpractical than burning a man for his philosophy.This is the habit of saying that his philosophy does not matter,and this is done universally in the twentieth century,in the decadence of the great revolutionary period.General theories are everywhere contemned; the doctrine of the Rights of Man is dismissed with the doctrine of the Fall of Man. Atheism itself is too theological for us to-day. Revolution itself is too much of a system; liberty itself is too much of a restraint.We will have no generalizations. Mr. Bernard Shaw has put the view in a perfect epigram: "The golden rule is that there is no golden rule."We are more and more to discuss details in art, politics, literature.A man's opinion on tramcars matters; his opinion on Botticelli matters;his opinion on all things does not matter. He may turn over and explore a million objects, but he must not find that strange object,the universe; for if he does he will have a religion, and be lost.Everything matters--except everything.

Examples are scarcely needed of this total levity on the subject of cosmic philosophy. Examples are scarcely needed to show that,whatever else we think of as affecting practical affairs, we do not think it matters whether a man is a pessimist or an optimist,a Cartesian or a Hegelian, a materialist or a spiritualist.Let me, however, take a random instance. At any innocent tea-table we may easily hear a man say, "Life is not worth living."We regard it as we regard the statement that it is a fine day;nobody thinks that it can possibly have any serious effect on the manor on the world. And yet if that utterance were really believed,the world would stand on its head. Murderers would be given medals for saving men from life; firemen would be denounced for keeping men from death; poisons would be used as medicines;doctors would be called in when people were well; the Royal Humane Society would be rooted out like a horde of assassins.Yet we never speculate as to whether the conversational pessimist will strengthen or disorganize society; for we are convinced that theories do not matter.

This was certainly not the idea of those who introduced our freedom. When the old Liberals removed the gags from all the heresies, their idea was that religious and philosophical discoveries might thus be made.Their view was that cosmic truth was so important that every one ought to bear independent testimony. The modern idea is that cosmic truth is so unimportant that it cannot matter what any one says.The former freed inquiry as men loose a noble hound; the latter frees inquiry as men fling back into the sea a fish unfit for eating.Never has there been so little discussion about the nature of men as now, when, for the first time, any one can discuss it. The old restriction meant that only the orthodox were allowed to discuss religion. Modern liberty means that nobody is allowed to discuss it.Good taste, the last and vilest of human superstitions,has succeeded in silencing us where all the rest have failed.Sixty years ago it was bad taste to be an avowed atheist.Then came the Bradlaughites, the last religious men, the last men who cared about God; but they could not alter it. It is still bad taste to be an avowed atheist. But their agony has achieved just this--that now it is equally bad taste to be an avowed Christian.Emancipation has only locked the saint in the same tower of silence as the heresiarch. Then we talk about Lord Anglesey and the weather,and call it the complete liberty of all the creeds.

But there are some people, nevertheless--and I am one of them--who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy's numbers,but still more important to know the enemy's philosophy.We think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether in the long run, anything else affects them.In the fifteenth century men cross-examined and tormented a man because he preached some immoral attitude; in the nineteenth century we feted and flattered Oscar Wilde because he preached such an attitude,and then broke his heart in penal servitude because he carried it out. It may be a question which of the two methods was the more cruel;there can be no kind of question which was the more ludicrous.The age of the Inquisition has not at least the disgrace of having produced a society which made an idol of the very same man for preaching the very same things which it made him a convict for practising.

Now, in our time, philosophy or religion, our theory, that is, about ultimate things, has been driven out, more or less simultaneously, from two fields which it used to occupy. General ideals used to dominate literature. They have been driven out by the cry of "art for art's sake." General ideals used to dominate politics.They have been driven out by the cry of "efficiency," which may roughly be translated as "politics for politics' sake."Persistently for the last twenty years the ideals of order or liberty have dwindled in our books; the ambitions of wit and eloquence have dwindled in our parliaments. Literature has purposely become less political; politics have purposely become less literary.General theories of the relation of things have thus been extruded from both; and we are in a position to ask, "What have we gained or lost by this extrusion? Is literature better, is politics better,for having discarded the moralist and the philosopher?"

When everything about a people is for the time growing weak and ineffective, it begins to talk about efficiency. So it is that when aman's body is a wreck he begins, for the first time, to talk about health.Vigorous organisms talk not about their processes, but about their aims. There cannot be any better proof of the physical efficiency of a man than that he talks cheerfully of a journey to the end of the world.And there cannot be any better proof of the practical efficiency of a nation than that it talks constantly of a journey to the end of the world, a journey to the Judgment Day and the New Jerusalem.There can be no stronger sign of a coarse material health than the tendency to run after high and wild ideals; it is in the first exuberance of infancy that we cry for the moon.None of the strong men in the strong ages would have understood what you meant by working for efficiency. Hildebrand would have said that he was working not for efficiency, but for the Catholic Church.Danton would have said that he was working not for efficiency,but for liberty, equality, and fraternity. Even if the ideal of such men were simply the ideal of kicking a man downstairs,they thought of the end like men, not of the process like paralytics.They did not say, "Efficiently elevating my right leg, using,you will notice, the muscles of the thigh and calf, which are in excellent order, I--" Their feeling was quite different.They were so filled with the beautiful vision of the man lying flat at the foot of the staircase that in that ecstasy the rest followed in a flash. In practice, the habit of generalizing and idealizing did not by any means mean worldly weakness.The time of big theories was the time of big results. In the era of sentiment and fine words, at the end of the eighteenth century, men were really robust and effective. The sentimentalists conquered Napoleon.The cynics could not catch De Wet. A hundred years ago our affairs for good or evil were wielded triumphantly by rhetoricians.Now our affairs are hopelessly muddled by strong, silent men.And just as this repudiation of big words and big visions has brought forth a race of small men in politics, so it has brought forth a race of small men in the arts. Our modern politicians claim the colossal license of Caesar and the Superman, claim that they aretoo practical to be pure and too patriotic to be moral; but the upshot of it all is that a mediocrity is Chancellor of the Exchequer.Our new artistic philosophers call for the same moral license,for a freedom to wreck heaven and earth with their energy;but the upshot of it all is that a mediocrity is Poet Laureate.I do not say that there are no stronger men than these; but will any one say that there are any men stronger than those men of old who were dominated by their philosophy and steeped in their religion?Whether bondage be better than freedom may be discussed.But that their bondage came to more than our freedom it will be difficult for any one to deny.

The theory of the unmorality of art has established itself firmly in the strictly artistic classes. They are free to produce anything they like. They are free to write a "Paradise Lost"in which Satan shall conquer God. They are free to write a"Divine Comedy" in which heaven shall be under the floor of hell. And what have they done? Have they produced in their universality anything grander or more beautiful than the things uttered bythe fierce Ghibbeline Catholic, by the rigid Puritan schoolmaster? We know that they have produced only a few roundels. Milton does not merely beat them at his piety, he beats themat their own irreverence. In all their little books of verse you will not find a finer defiance of God than Satan's. Nor will you find the grandeur of paganism felt as that fiery Christian felt it who described Faranata lifting his head as in disdain of hell. And the reason is very obvious. Blasphemy is an artistic effect, because blasphemy depends upon a philosophical conviction. Blasphemy depends upon belief and is fading with it. If any one doubts this, let him sit down seriously and try to think blasphemous thoughts about Thor. I think his family will find him at the end of the day in a state of some exhaustion.

Neither in the world of politics nor that of literature, then,has the rejection of general theories proved a success.It may be that there have been many moonstruck and misleading idealsthat have from time to time perplexed mankind. But assuredlythere has been no ideal in practice so moonstruck and misleadingas the ideal of practicality. Nothing has lost so many opportunitiesas the opportunism of Lord Rosebery. He is, indeed, a standingsymbol of this epoch--the man who is theoretically a practical man,and practically more unpractical than any theorist. Nothing in thisuniverse is so unwise as that kind of worship of worldly wisdom.A man who is perpetually thinking of whether this race or that raceis strong, of whether this cause or that cause is promising, is the manwho will never believe in anything long enough to make it succeed.The opportunist politician is like a man who should abandon billiardsbecause he was beaten at billiards, and abandon golf because he wasbeaten at golf. There is nothing which is so weak for workingpurposes as this enormous importance attached to immediate victory.There is nothing that fails like success.

And having discovered that opportunism does fail, I have been inducedto look at it more largely, and in consequence to see that it must fail.I perceive that it is far more practical to begin at the beginningand discuss theories. I see that the men who killed each otherabout the orthodoxy of the Homoousion were far more sensiblethan the people who are quarrelling about the Education Act.For the Christian dogmatists were trying to establish a reign of holiness,and trying to get defined, first of all, what was really holy.But our modern educationists are trying to bring about a religiousliberty without attempting to settle what is religion or whatis liberty. If the old priests forced a statement on mankind,at least they previously took some trouble to make it lucid.It has been left for the modern mobs of Anglicans and Nonconformiststo persecute for a doctrine without even stating it.

For these reasons, and for many more, I for one have cometo believe in going back to fundamentals. Such is the generalidea of this book. I wish to deal with my most distinguishedcontemporaries, not personally or in a merely literary manner,but in relation to the real body of doctrine which they teach.I am not concerned with Mr. Rudyard Kipling as a vivid artistor a vigorous personality; I am concerned with him as a Heretic--that is to say, a man whose view of things has the hardihoodto differ from mine. I am not concerned with Mr. Bernard Shawas one of the most brilliant and one of the most honest men alive;I am concerned with him as a Heretic--that is to say, a man whosephilosophy is quite solid, quite coherent, and quite wrong.I revert to the doctrinal methods of the thirteenth century,inspired by the general hope of getting something done.

Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something,let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire topull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages,is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid mannerof the Schoolmen, "Let us first of all consider, my brethren,the value of Light. If Light be in itself good--" At this pointhe is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rushfor the lamp-post, the lamp-post is down in ten minutes, and they goabout congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality.But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Some peoplehave pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light;some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness,because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of alamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smashmunicipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something.And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes.So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day,there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all,and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light.Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now mustdiscuss in the dark.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Institutes Book 3, Chapter 11


In this chapter and the seven which follow, the doctrine of Justification by Faith is expounded, and opposite errors refuted. The following may be regarded as the arrangement of these chapters:—Chapter 11 states the doctrine, and the four subsequent chapters, by destroying the righteousness of works, confirm the righteousness of faith, each in the order which appears in the respective titles of these chapters. In Chapter 12 the doctrine of Justification is confirmed by a description of perfect righteousness; in Chapter 13 by calling attention to two precautions; in Chapter 14 by a consideration of the commencement and progress of regeneration in the regenerate; and in Chapter 15 by two very pernicious effects which constantly accompany the righteousness of works. The three other chapters are devoted to refutation; Chapter 16 disposes of the objections of opponents; Chapter 17 replies to the arguments drawn from the promises of the Law or the Gospel; Chapter 18 refutes what is said in support of the righteousness of faith from the promise of reward.

There are three principal divisions in the Eleventh Chapter. I. The terms used in this discussion are explained, sec. 1-4. II. Osiander’s dream as to essential righteousness impugned, sec. 5-13. III. The righteousness of faith established in opposition to the righteousness of works.


1. Connection between the doctrine of Justification and that of Regeneration. The knowledge of this doctrine very necessary for two reasons.

2. For the purpose of facilitating the exposition of it, the terms are explained. 1. What it is to be justified in the sight of God. 2. To be justified by works. 3. To be justified by faith. Definition.

3. Various meanings of the term Justification. 1. To give praise to God and truth. 2. To make a vain display of righteousness. 3. To impute righteousness by faith, by and on account of Christ. Confirmation from an expression of Paul, and another of our Lord.

4. Another confirmation from a comparison with other expressions, in which justification means free righteousness before God through faith in Jesus Christ. 1. Acceptance. 2. Imputation of righteousness. 3. Remission of sins. 4. Blessedness. 5. Reconciliation with God. 6. Righteousness by the obedience of Christ.

5. The second part of the chapter. Osiander’s dream as to essential righteousness refuted. 1. Osiander’s argument: Answer. 2. Osiander’s second argument: Answer. Third argument: Answer.

6. necessity of this refutation. Fourth argument: Answer. Confirmation: Another answer. Fifth and sixth arguments and answers.

7. Seventh and eighth arguments.

8. Ninth argument: Answer.

9. Tenth argument: Answer.

10. In what sense Christ is said to be our righteousness. Eleventh and twelfth arguments and answers.

11. Thirteenth and fourteenth arguments: Answers. An exception by Osiander. Imputed and begun righteousness to be distinguished. Osiander confounds them. Fifteenth argument: Answer.

12. Sixteenth argument, a dream of Osiander: Answer. Other four arguments and answers. Conclusion of the refutation of Osiander’s errors.

13. Last part of the chapter. Refutation of the Sophists pretending a righteousness compounded partly of faith and partly of works.

14. Sophistical evasion by giving the same name to different things: Two answers.

15. Second evasion: Two answers. First answer. Pernicious consequences resulting from this evasion.

16. Second answer, showing wherein, according to Scripture, Justification consists.

17. In explanation of this doctrine of Justification, two passages of Scripture produced.

18. Another passage of Scripture.

19. Third evasion. Papistical objection to the doctrine of Justification by Faith alone: Three answers. Fourth evasion: Three answers.

20. Fifth evasion, founded on the application of the term Righteousness to good works, and also on their reward: Answer, confirmed by the invincible argument of Paul. Sixth evasion: Answer.

21. Osiander and the Sophists being thus refuted, the accuracy of the definition of Justification by Faith established.

22. Definition confirmed. 1. By passages of Scripture. 2. By the writings of the ancient Fathers.

23. Man justified by faith, not because by it he obtains the Spirit, and is thus made righteous, but because by faith he lays hold of the righteousness of Christ. An objection removed. An example of the doctrine of Justification by Faith from the works of Ambrose.

1. I trust I have now sufficiently shown 04 404 See Institutes, Book 2 chap. 6 and 7, and Book 3 from the commencement to the present chapter. how man’s only resource for escaping from the curse of the law, and recovering salvation, lies in faith; and also what the nature of faith is, what the benefits which it confers, and the fruits which it produces. The whole may be thus summed up: Christ given to us by the kindness of God is apprehended and possessed by faith, by means of which we obtain in particular a twofold benefit; first, being reconciled by the righteousness of Christ, God becomes, instead of a judge, an indulgent Father; and, secondly, being sanctified by his Spirit, we aspire to integrity and purity of life. This second benefit—viz. regeneration, appears to have been already sufficiently discussed. On the other hand, the subject of justification was discussed more cursorily, because it seemed of more consequence first to explain that the faith by which alone, through the mercy of God, we obtain free justification, is not destitute of good works; and also to show the true nature of these good works on which this question partly turns. The doctrine of Justification is now to be fully discussed, and discussed under the conviction, that as it is the principal ground on which religion must be supported, so it requires greater care and attention. For unless you understand first of all what your position is before God, and what the judgment which he passes upon you, you have no foundation on which your salvation can be laid, or on which piety towards God can be reared. The necessity of thoroughly understanding this subject will become more apparent as we proceed with it.

2. Lest we should stumble at the very threshold (this we should do were we to begin the discussion without knowing what the subject is), let us first explain the meaning of the expressions, To be justified in the sight of God, to be Justified by faith or by works. A man is said to be justified in the sight of God when in the judgment of God he is deemed righteous, and is accepted on account of his righteousness; for as iniquity is abominable to God, so neither can the sinner find grace in his sight, so far as he is and so long as he is regarded as a sinner. Hence, wherever sin is, there also are the wrath and vengeance of God. He, on the other hand, is justified who is regarded not as a sinner, but as righteous, and as such stands acquitted at the judgment-seat of God, where all sinners are condemned. As an innocent man, when charged before an impartial judge, who decides according to his innocence, is said to be justified by the judge, as a man is said to be justified by God when, removed from the catalogue of sinners, he has God as the witness and assertor of his righteousness. In the same manner, a man will be said to be justified by works, if in his life there can be found a purity and holiness which merits an attestation of righteousness at the throne of God, or if by the perfection of his works he can answer and satisfy the divine justice. On the contrary, a man will be justified by faith when, excluded from the righteousness of works, he by faith lays hold of the righteousness of Christ, and clothed in it appears in the sight of God not as a sinner, but as righteous. Thus we simply interpret justification, as the acceptance with which God receives us into his favor as if we were righteous; and we say that this justification consists in the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ (see sec. 21 and 23).

3. In confirmation of this there are many clear passages of Scripture. First, it cannot be denied that this is the proper and most usual signification of the term. But as it were too tedious to collect all the passages, and compare them with each other, let it suffice to have called the reader’s attention to the fact: he will easily convince himself of its truth. I will only mention a few passages in which the justification of which we speak is expressly handled. First, when Luke relates that all the people that heard Christ “justified God,” (Luke 7:29), and when Christ declares, that “Wisdom is justified of all her children,” (Luke 7:35), Luke means not that they conferred righteousness which always dwells in perfection with God, although the whole world should attempt to wrest it from him, nor does Christ mean that the doctrine of salvation is made just: this it is in its own nature; but both modes of expression are equivalent to attributing due praise to God and his doctrine. On the other hand, when Christ upbraids the Pharisees for justifying themselves (Luke 16:15), he means not that they acquired righteousness by acting properly, but that they ambitiously courted a reputation for righteousness of which they were destitute. Those acquainted with Hebrew understand the meaning better: for in that language the name of wicked is given not only to those who are conscious of wickedness, but to those who receive sentence of condemnation. Thus, when Bathsheba says, “I and my son Solomon shall be counted offenders,” she does not acknowledge a crime, but complains that she and her son will be exposed to the disgrace of being numbered among reprobates and criminals (1 Kings 1:21). It is, indeed, plain from the context, that the term even in Latin40 05 405 Latin, “etiam dum Latine legitur.”—French, “mesme en Grec et en Latin;” even in Greek and Latin must be thus understood—viz. relatively—and does not denote any quality. In regard to the use of the term with reference to the present subject, when Paul speaks of the Scripture, “foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith,” (Gal. 3:8), what other meaning can you give it than that God imputes righteousness by faith? Again, when he says, “that he (God) might be just, and the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus,” (Rom. 3:26), what can the meaning be, if not that God, in consideration of their faith, frees them from the condemnation which their wickedness deserves? This appears still more plainly at the conclusion, when he exclaims, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:33, 34). For it is just as if he had said, Who shall accuse those whom God has acquitted? Who shall condemn those for whom Christ pleads? To justify, therefore, is nothing else than to acquit from the charge of guilt, as if innocence were proved. Hence, when God justifies us through the intercession of Christ, he does not acquit us on a proof of our own innocence, but by an imputation of righteousness, so that though not righteous in ourselves, we are deemed righteous in Christ. Thus it is said, in Paul’s discourse in the Acts, “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses,” (Acts 13:38, 39). You see that after remission of sins justification is set down by way of explanation; you see plainly that it is used for acquittal; you see how it cannot be obtained by the works of the law; you see that it is entirely through the interposition of Christ; you see that it is obtained by faith; you see, in fine, that satisfaction intervenes, since it is said that we are justified from our sins by Christ. Thus when the publican is said to have gone down to his house “justified,” (Luke 18:14), it cannot be held that he obtained this justification by any merit of works. All that is said is, that after obtaining the pardon of sins he was regarded in the sight of God as righteous. He was justified, therefore, not by any approval of works, but by gratuitous acquittal on the part of God. Hence Ambrose elegantly terms confession of sins “legal justification,” (Ambrose on Psalm 118 Serm. 10).

4. Without saying more about the term, we shall have no doubt as to the thing meant if we attend to the description which is given of it. For Paul certainly designates justification by the term acceptance, when he says to the Ephesians, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the Beloved,” (Eph. 1:5, 6). His meaning is the very same as where he elsewhere says, “being justified freely by his grace,” (Rom. 3:24). In the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, he first terms it the imputation of righteousness, and hesitates not to place it in forgiveness of sins: “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven,” &c. (Rom. 4:6-8). There, indeed, he is not speaking of a part of justification, but of the whole. He declares, moreover, that a definition of it was given by David, when he pronounced him blessed who has obtained the free pardon of his sins. Whence it appears that this righteousness of which he speaks is simply opposed to judicial guilt.40 06 406 French, “Dont il appert qu’il note ces deux choses comme opposites, Estre justifies et Estre tenu coulpable; à ce que le proces soit fait à l’homme qui aura failli;”—whence it appears that he sets down as oppopsites the two things, To be justified, and To be held guilty, in that the process is brought against man who has failed. But the most satisfactory passage on this subject is that in which he declares the sum of the Gospel message to be reconciliation to God, who is pleased, through Christ, to receive us into favor by not imputing our sins (2 Cor. 5:18-21). Let my readers carefully weigh the whole context. For Paul shortly after adding, by way of explanation, in order to designate the mode of reconciliation, that Christ who knew no sin was made sin for us, undoubtedly understands by reconciliation nothing else than justification. Nor, indeed, could it be said, as he elsewhere does, that we are made righteous “by the obedience” of Christ (Rom. 5:19), were it not that we are deemed righteous in the sight of God in him and not in ourselves.

5. But as Osiander has introduced a kind of monstrosity termed essential righteousness, by which, although he designed not to abolish free righteousness, he involves it in darkness, and by that darkness deprives pious minds of a serious sense of divine grace40 07 407 French “Que les poures ames ne sauroyent comprendre en telle obscurité la grace de Christ;”—that poor souls cannot in such obscurity comprehend the grace of Christ. ; before I pass to other matters, it may be proper to refute this delirious dream. And, first, the whole speculation is mere empty curiosity. He indeed, heaps together many passages of scripture showing that Christ is one with us, and we likewise one with him, a point which needs no proof; but he entangles himself by not attending to the bond of this unity. The explanation of all difficulties is easy to us, who hold that we are united to Christ by the secret agency of his Spirit, but he had formed some idea akin to that of the Manichees, desiring to transfuse the divine essence into men.40 08 408 French, “C’est, que l’ame est de l’essence de Dieu;”—that is, that the soul is of the essence of God. Hence his other notion, that Adam was formed in the image of God, because even before the fall Christ was destined to be the model of human nature. But as I study brevity, I will confine myself to the matter in hand. He says, that we are one with Christ. This we admit, but still we deny that the essence of Christ is confounded with ours. Then we say that he absurdly endeavors to support his delusions by means of this principle: that Christ is our righteousness, because he is the eternal God, the fountain of righteousness, the very righteousness of God. My readers will pardon me for now only touching on matters which method requires me to defer to another place. But although he pretends that, by the term essential righteousness, he merely means to oppose the sentiment that we are reputed righteous on account of Christ, he however clearly shows, that not contented with that righteousness, which was procured for us by the obedience and sacrificial death of Christ, he maintains that we are substantially righteous in God by an infused essence as well as quality. For this is the reason why he so vehemently contends that not only Christ but the Father and the Spirit dwell in us. The fact I admit to be true, but still I maintain it is wrested by him. He ought to have attended to the mode of dwelling—viz. that the Father and the Spirit are in Christ; and as in him the fulness of the Godhead dwells, so in him we possess God entire. Hence, whatever he says separately concerning the Father and the Spirit, has no other tendency than to lead away the simple from Christ. Then he introduces a substantial mixture, by which God, transfusing himself into us, makes us as it were a part of himself. Our being made one with Christ by the agency of the Spirit, he being the head and we the members, he regards as almost nothing unless his essence is mingled with us. But, as I have said, in the case of the Father and the Spirit, he more clearly betrays his views—namely, that we are not justified by the mere grace of the Mediator, and that righteousness is not simply or entirely offered to us in his person, but that we are made partakers of divine righteousness when God is essentially united to us.

6. Had he only said, that Christ by justifying us becomes ours by an essential union, and that he is our head not only in so far as he is man, but that as the essence of the divine nature is diffused into us, he might indulge his dreams with less harm, and, perhaps, it were less necessary to contest the matter with him; but since this principle is like a cuttle-fish, which, by the ejection of dark and inky blood, conceals its many tails,40 09 409 French, “Mais comme le principe qu’il prend est comme une seche, laquelle en jettant son sang qui est noir comme encre, trougle l’eau d’alentour pour cacher une grande multitude de queuse;”—But as the principle which he adopts is like a cuttlefish, which, casting out its blood, which is black as ink, troubles the water all around, to hide a great multitude of tails. if we would not knowingly and willingly allow ourselves to be robbed of that righteousness which alone gives us full assurance of our salvation, we must strenuously resist. For, in the whole of this discussion, the noun righteousness and the verb to justify, are extended by Osiander to two parts; to be justified being not only to be reconciled to God by a free pardon, but also to be made just; and righteousness being not a free imputation, but the holiness and integrity which the divine essence dwelling in us inspires. And he vehemently asserts (see sec. 8) that Christ is himself our righteousness, not in so far as he, by expiating sins, appeased the Father, but because he is the eternal God and life. To prove the first point—viz. that God justifies not only by pardoning but by regenerating, he asks, whether he leaves those whom he justifies as they were by nature, making no change upon their vices? The answer is very easy: as Christ cannot be divided into parts, so the two things, justification and sanctification, which we perceive to be united together in him, are inseparable. Whomsoever, therefore, God receives into his favor, he presents with the Spirit of adoption, whose agency forms them anew into his image. But if the brightness of the sun cannot be separated from its heat, are we therefore to say, that the earth is warmed by light and illumined by heat? Nothing can be more apposite to the matter in hand than this simile. The sun by its heat quickens and fertilizes the earth; by its rays enlightens and illumines it. Here is a mutual and undivided connection, and yet reason itself prohibits us from transferring the peculiar properties of the one to the other. In the confusion of a twofold grace, which Osiander obtrudes upon us, there is a similar absurdity. Because those whom God freely regards as righteous, he in fact renews to the cultivation of righteousness, Osiander confounds that free acceptance with this gift of regeneration, and contends that they are one and the same. But Scriptures while combining both, classes them separately, that it may the better display the manifold grace of God. Nor is Paul’s statement superfluous, that Christ is made unto us “righteousness and sanctification,” (1 Cor. 1:30). And whenever he argues from the salvation procured for us, from the paternal love of God and the grace of Christ, that we are called to purity and holiness, he plainly intimates, that to be justified is something else than to be made new creatures. Osiander on coming to Scripture corrupts every passage which he quotes. Thus when Paul says, “to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness,” he expounds justifying as making just. With the same rashness he perverts the whole of the fourth chapter to the Romans. He hesitates not to give a similar gloss to the passage which I lately quoted, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.” Here it is plain that guilt and acquittal simply are considered, and that the Apostle’s meaning depends on the antithesis. Therefore his futility is detected both in his argument and his quotations for support from Scripture. He is not a whit sounder in discussing the term righteousness, when it is said, that faith was imputed to Abraham for righteousness after he had embraced Christ (who is the righteousness of Gad and God himself) and was distinguished by excellent virtues. Hence it appears that two things which are perfect are viciously converted by him into one which is corrupt. For the righteousness which is there mentioned pertains not to the whole course of life; or rather, the Spirit testifies, that though Abraham greatly excelled in virtue, and by long perseverance in it had made so much progress, the only way in which he pleased God was by receiving the grace which was offered by the promise, in faith. From this it follows, that, as Paul justly maintains, there is no room for works in justification.

7. When he objects that the power of justifying exists not in faith, considered in itself, but only as receiving Christ, I willingly admit it. For did faith justify of itself, or (as it is expressed) by its own intrinsic virtue, as it is always weak and imperfect, its efficacy would be partial, and thus our righteousness being maimed would give us only a portion of salvation. We indeed imagine nothing of the kind, but say, that, properly speaking, God alone justifies. The same thing we likewise transfer to Christ, because he was given to us for righteousness; while we compare faith to a kind of vessel, because we are incapable of receiving Christ, unless we are emptied and come with open mouth to receive his grace. Hence it follows, that we do not withdraw the power of justifying from Christ, when we hold that, previous to his righteousness, he himself is received by faith. Still, however, I admit not the tortuous figure of the sophist, that faith is Christ; as if a vessel of clay were a treasure, because gold is deposited in it.41 10 410 French, “Quant à d’autres folies extravangantes d’Osiander, tout homme de sain jugement les rejettera; comme quand il dit que la foy est Jesus Christ, autant que s’il disoit, qu’un pot de terre est le thresor qui est caché dedans;”—As to the other extravagant follies of Osiander, every man of sound judgment will reject them; for instance, when he says that faith is Jesus Christ, as much as if he said, that an earthen pot is the treasure which is hidden in it. And yet this is no reason why faith, though in itself of no dignity or value, should not justify us by giving Christ; Just as such a vessel filled with coin may give wealth. I say, therefore, that faith, which is only the instrument for receiving justification, is ignorantly confounded with Christ, who is the material cause, as well as the author and minister of this great blessing. This disposes of the difficulty—viz. how the term faith is to be understood when treating of justification.

8. Osiander goes still farther in regard to the mode of receiving Christ, holding, that by the ministry of the external word the internal word is received; that he may thus lead us away from the priesthood of Christ, and his office of Mediator, to his eternal divinity.41 11 411 French, “Faisant samblant de les rauir à la divinité d’icelui;”—under pretence of leading them to his divinity. We, indeed, do not divide Christ, but hold that he who, reconciling us to God in his flesh, bestowed righteousness upon us, is the eternal Word of God; and that he could not perform the office of Mediator, nor acquire righteousness for us, if he were not the eternal God. Osiander will have it, that as Christ is God and man, he was made our righteousness in respect not of his human but of his divine nature. But if this is a peculiar property of the Godhead, it will not be peculiar to Christ, but common to him with the Father and the Spirit, since their righteousness is one and the same. Thus it would be incongruous to say, that that which existed naturally from eternity was made ours. But granting that God was made unto us righteousness, what are we to make of Paul’s interposed statement, that he was so made by God? This certainly is peculiar to the office of mediator, for although he contains in himself the divine nature, yet he receives his own proper title, that he may be distinguished from the Father and the Spirit. But he makes a ridiculous boast of a single passage of Jeremiah, in which it is said, that Jehovah will be our righteousness (Jer. 23:6; 33:16). But all he can extract from this is, that Christ, who is our righteousness, was God manifest in the flesh. We have elsewhere quoted from Paul’s discourse, that God purchased the Church with his own blood (Acts 20:28). Were any one to infer from this that the blood by which sins were expiated was divine, and of a divine nature, who could endure so foul a heresy? But Osiander, thinking that he has gained the whole cause by this childish cavil, swells, exults, and stuffs whole pages with his bombast, whereas the solution is simple and obvious—viz. that Jehovah, when made of the seed of David, was indeed to be the righteousness of believers, but in what sense Isaiah declares, “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many,” (Isa. 53:11). Let us observe that it is the Father who speaks. He attributes the office of justifying to the Son, and adds the reason,—because he is “righteous.” He places the method, or medium (as it is called), in the doctrine by which Christ is known. For the word (((

is more properly to be understood in a passive sense. Hence I infer, first, that Christ was made righteousness when he assumed the form of a servant; secondly, that he justified us by his obedience to the Father; and, accordingly that he does not perform this for us in respect of his divine nature, but according to the nature of the dispensation laid upon him. For though God alone is the fountain of righteousness, and the only way in which we are righteous is by participation with him, yet, as by our unhappy revolt we are alienated from his righteousness, it is necessary to descend to this lower remedy, that Christ may justify us by the power of his death and resurrection.

9. If he objects that this work by its excellence transcends human, and therefore can only be ascribed to the divine nature; I concede the former point, but maintain, that on the latter he is ignorantly deluded. For although Christ could neither purify our souls by his own blood, nor appease the Father by his sacrifice, nor acquit us from the charge of guilt, nor, in short, perform the office of priest, unless he had been very God, because no human ability was equal to such a burden, it is however certain, that he performed all these things in his human nature. If it is asked, in what way we are justified? Paul answers, by the obedience of Christ. Did he obey in any other way than by assuming the form of a servant? We infer, therefore, that righteousness was manifested to us in his flesh. In like manner, in another passage (which I greatly wonder that Osiander does not blush repeatedly to quote), he places the fountain of righteousness entirely in the incarnation of Christ, “He has made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” (2 Cor. 5:21). Osiander in turgid sentences lays hold of the expression, righteousness of God, and shouts victory! as if he had proved it to be his own phantom of essential righteousness,41 12 412 French, “Il magnifie la justice de Dieu tant et plus; mais c’est pour triompher comme s’il auoit gagné ce poinct, que la justice de Dieu nous est essencielle;”—He magnifies the righteousness of God above measure; but it is to triumph, as if he had gained this point, that the righteousness of God is essential to us. though the words have a very different meaning—viz. that we are justified through the expiation made by Christ. That the righteousness of God is used for the righteousness which is approved by God, should be known to mere tyros, as in John, the praise of God is contrasted with the praise of men41 13 413 The French adds “signifiant, que ceux desquels il parle ont nagé entre deux eaux; pource qu’ils aimoyent mieux garder leur bonne reputation au monde, qu d’etre priser devant Dieu;”—meaning, that those of whom he speaks were swimming between two streams; that they preferred keeping their good reputation in the world, to being prized in the sight of God. (John 12:43). I know that by the righteousness of God is sometimes meant that of which God is the author, and which he bestows upon us; but that here the only thing meant is, that being supported by the expiation of Christ, we are able to stand at the tribunal of God, sound readers perceive without any observation of mine. The word is not of so much importance, provided Osiander agrees with us in this, that we are justified by Christ in respect he was made an expiatory victim for us. This he could not be in his divine nature. For which reason also, when Christ would seal the righteousness and salvation which he brought to us, he holds forth the sure pledge of it in his flesh. He indeed calls himself “living bread,” but, in explanation of the mode, adds, “my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed,” (John 6:55). The same doctrine is clearly seen in the sacraments; which, though they direct our faith to the whole, not to a part of Christ, yet, at the same time, declare that the materials of righteousness and salvation reside in his flesh; not that the mere man of himself justifies or quickens, but that God was pleased, by means of a Mediator, to manifest his own hidden and incomprehensible nature. Hence I often repeat, that Christ has been in a manner set before us as a fountain, whence we may draw what would otherwise lie without use in that deep and hidden abyss which streams forth to us in the person of the Mediator.41 14 414 French, “Pour ceste cause j’ay accoustume de dire que Christ nous est comme une fontaine, dont chacun peut puiser et boire à son aise et à souhait; et que par son moyen les biens celestes sourdent et decoulent à nous, lesquels ne nous profiteroyent rien demeurans en la majesté de Dieu, qui est comme une source profonde;”—For this cause I am accustomed to say, that Christ is to us like a fountain, of which every man may draw and drink at his ease, and to the fill; and that by his means heavenly blessings rise and flow to us, which blessings would profit us nothing, remaining in the majesty of God, which is, as it were, a profound abyss. In this way, and in this meaning, I deny not that Christ, as he is God and man, justifies us; that this work is common also to the Father and the Holy Spirit; in fine, that the righteousness of which God makes us partakers is the eternal righteousness of the eternal God, provided effect is given to the clear and valid reasons to which I have adverted.

10. Moreover, lest by his cavils he deceive the unwary, I acknowledge that we are devoid of this incomparable gift until Christ become ours. Therefore, to that union of the head and members, the residence of Christ in our hearts, in fine, the mystical union, we assign the highest rank, Christ when he becomes ours making us partners with him in the gifts with which he was endued. Hence we do not view him as at a distance and without us, but as we have put him on, and been ingrafted into his body, he deigns to make us one with himself, and, therefore, we glory in having a fellowship of righteousness with him. This disposes of Osiander’s calumny, that we regard faith as righteousness; as if we were robbing Christ of his rights when we say, that, destitute in ourselves, we draw near to him by faith, to make way for his grace, that he alone may fill us. But Osiander, spurning this spiritual union, insists on a gross mixture of Christ with believers; and, accordingly, to excite prejudice, gives the name of Zuinglians41 15 415 The Latin, “ideo Zuinglianos odiose nominat;” is in the French simply, “condamne furieusement;”—furiously condemns. to all who subscribe not to his fanatical heresy of essential righteousness, because they do not hold that, in the supper, Christ is eaten substantially. For my part, I count it the highest honor to be thus assailed by a haughty man, devoted to his own impostures; though he assails not me only, but writers of known reputation throughout the world, and whom it became him modestly to venerate. This, however, does not concern me, as I plead not my own cause, and plead the more sincerely that I am free from every sinister feeling. In insisting so vehemently on essential righteousness, and an essential inhabitation of Christ within us, his meaning is, first, that God by a gross mixture41 16 416 Latin, “crassa mixtura;”—French, “mixtion telle que les viandes qu nous mangeons;”—mixture such as the victuals we eat. transfuses himself into us, as he pretends that there is a carnal eating in the supper; And, secondly that by instilling his own righteousness into us, he makes us really righteous with himself since, according to him, this righteousness is as well God himself as the probity, or holiness, or integrity of God. I will not spend much time in disposing of the passages of Scripture which he adduces, and which, though used in reference to the heavenly life, he wrests to our present state. Peter says, that through the knowledge of Christ “are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by them ye might be partakers of the divine nature,” (2 Pet. 1:4);41 17 417 The French adds, “Osiander tire de la que Dieu a meslée son essence avec la nostre;”—Osiander implies from this that God has mingled his essence with ours. as if we now were what the gospel promises we shall be at the final advent of Christ; nay, John reminds us, that “when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). I only wished to give my readers a slender specimen of Osiander, it being my intention to decline the discussion of his frivolities, not because there is any difficulty in disposing of them, but because I am unwilling to annoy the reader with superfluous labour.

11. But more poison lurks in the second branch, when he says that we are righteous together with God. I think I have already sufficiently proved, that although the dogma were not so pestiferous, yet because it is frigid and jejune, and falls by its own vanity, it must justly be disrelished by all sound and pious readers. But it is impossible to tolerate the impiety which, under the pretence of a twofold righteousness, undermines our assurance of salvation, and hurrying us into the clouds, tries to prevent us from embracing the gift of expiation in faith, and invoking God with quiet minds. Osiander derides us for teaching, that to be justified is a forensic term, because it behaves us to be in reality just: there is nothing also to which he is more opposed than the idea of our being justified by a free imputation. Say, then, if God does not justify us by acquitting and pardoning, what does Paul mean when he says “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them”? “He made him to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” (2 Cor. 5:19, 21). Here I learn, first, that those who are reconciled to God are regarded as righteous: then the method is stated, God justifies by pardoning; and hence, in another place, justification is opposed to accusation (Rom. 8:33); this antithesis clearly demonstrating that the mode of expression is derived from forensic use. And, indeed, no man, moderately verdant in the Hebrew tongue (provided he is also of sedate brain), is ignorant that this phrase thus took its rise, and thereafter derived its tendency and force. Now, then, when Paul says that David “describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven,” (Rom. 4:6, 7; Ps. 32:1), let Osiander say whether this is a complete or only a partial definition. He certainly does not adduce the Psalmist as a witness that pardon of sins is a part of righteousness, or concurs with something else in justifying, but he includes the whole of righteousness in gratuitous forgiveness, declaring those to be blessed “whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered,” and “to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” He estimates and judges of his happiness from this that in this way he is righteous not in reality, but by imputation.

Osiander objects that it would be insulting to God, and contrary to his nature, to justify those who still remain wicked. But it ought to be remembered, as I already observed, that the gift of justification is not separated from regeneration, though the two things are distinct. But as it is too well known by experience, that the remains of sin always exist in the righteous, it is necessary that justification should be something very different from reformation to newness of life. This latter God begins in his elect, and carries on during the whole course of life, gradually and sometimes slowly, so that if placed at his judgment-seat they would always deserve sentence of death. He justifies not partially, but freely, so that they can appear in the heavens as if clothed with the purity of Christ. No portion of righteousness could pacify the conscience. It must be decided that we are pleasing to God, as being without exception righteous in his sight. Hence it follows that the doctrine of justification is perverted and completely overthrown whenever doubt is instilled into the mind, confidence in salvation is shaken, and free and intrepid prayer is retarded; yea, whenever rest and tranquillity with spiritual joy are not established. Hence Paul argues against objectors, that “if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise,” (Gal. 3:18). that in this way faith would be made vain; for if respect be had to works it fails, the holiest of men in that case finding nothing in which they can confide. This distinction between justification and regeneration (Osiander confounding the two, calls them a twofold righteousness) is admirably expressed by Paul. Speaking of his real righteousness, or the integrity bestowed upon him (which Osiander terms his essential righteousness), he mournfully exclaims, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24); but retaking himself to the righteousness which is founded solely on the mercy of God, he breaks forth thus magnificently into the language of triumph: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.” “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Rom. 8:33, 35). He clearly declares that the only righteousness for him is that which alone suffices for complete salvation in the presence of God, so that that miserable bondage, the consciousness of which made him a little before lament his lot, derogates not from his confidence, and is no obstacle in his way. This diversity is well known, and indeed is familiar to all the saints who groan under the burden of sin, and yet with victorious assurance rise above all fears. Osiander’s objection as to its being inconsistent with the nature of God, falls back upon himself; for though he clothes the saints with a twofold righteousness as with a coat of skins, he is, however, forced to admit, that without forgiveness no man is pleasing to God. If this be so, let him at least admit, that with reference to what is called the proportion of imputation, those are regarded as righteous who are not so in reality. But how far shall the sinner extend this gratuitous acceptance, which is substituted in the room of righteousness? Will it amount to the whole pound, or will it be only an ounce? He will remain in doubt, vibrating to this side and to that, because he will be unable to assume to himself as much righteousness as will be necessary to give confidence. It is well that he who would prescribe a law to God is not the judge in this cause. But this saying will ever stand true, “That thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judges,” (Ps. 51:4). What arrogance to condemn the Supreme Judge when he acquits freely, and try to prevent the response from taking affect: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” And yet the intercession of Moses, which God calmed by this answer, was not for pardon to some individual, but to all alike, by wiping away the guilt to which all were liable. And we, indeed, say, that the lost are justified before God by the burial of their sins; for (as he hates sin) he can only love those whom he justifies. But herein is the wondrous method of justification, that, clothed with the righteousness of Christ, they dread not the judgment of which they are worthy, and while they justly condemn themselves, are yet deemed righteous out of themselves.

12. I must admonish the reader carefully to attend to the mystery which he boasts he is unwilling to conceal from them. For after contending with great prolixity that we do not obtain favor with God through the mere imputation of the righteousness of Christ, because (to use his own words) it were impossible for God to hold those as righteous who are not so, he at length concludes that Christ was given to us for righteousness, in respect not of his human, but of his divine nature; and though this can only be found in the person of the Mediator, it is, however, the righteousness not of man, but of God. He does not now twist his rope of two righteousnesses, but plainly deprives the human nature of Christ of the office of justifying. It is worth while to understand what the nature of his argument is. It is said in the same passage that Christ is made unto us wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30); but this is true only of the eternal Word, and, therefore, it is not the man Christ that is made righteousness. I answer, that the only begotten Son of God was indeed his eternal wisdom, but that this title is applied to him by Paul in a different way—viz. because “in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and righteousness,” (Col. 2:3). That, therefore, which he had with the Father he manifested to us; and thus Paul’s expression refers not to the essence of the Son of God, but to our use, and is fitly applied to the human nature of Christ; for although the light shone in darkness before he was clothed with flesh, yet he was a hidden light until he appeared in human nature as the Sun of Righteousness, and hence he calls himself the light of the world. It is also foolishly objected by Osiander, that justifying far transcends the power both of men and angels, since it depends not on the dignity of any creature, but on the ordination of God. Were angels to attempt to give satisfaction to God, they could have no success, because they are not appointed for this purpose, it being the peculiar office of Christ, who “has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us,” (Gal. 3:13). Those who deny that Christ is our righteousness, in respect of his divine nature, are wickedly charged by Osiander with leaving only a part of Christ, and (what is worse) with making two Gods; because, while admitting that God dwells in us, they still insist that we are not justified by the righteousness of God. For though we call Christ the author of life, inasmuch as he endured death that he might destroy him who had the power of death (Heb. 2:14), we do not thereby rob him of this honor, in his whole character as God manifested in the flesh. We only make a distinction as to the manner in which the righteousness of God comes to us, and is enjoyed by us,—a matter as to which Osiander shamefully erred. We deny not that that which was openly exhibited to us in Christ flowed from the secret grace and power of God; nor do we dispute that the righteousness which Christ confers upon us is the righteousness of God, and proceeds from him. What we constantly maintain is, that our righteousness and life are in the death and resurrection of Christ. I say nothing of that absurd accumulation of passages with which without selection or common understanding, he has loaded his readers, in endeavoring to show, that whenever mention is made of righteousness, this essential righteousness of his should be understood; as when David implores help from the righteousness of God. This David does more than a hundred times, and as often Osiander hesitates not to pervert his meaning. Not a whit more solid is his objection, that the name of righteousness is rightly and properly applied to that by which we are moved to act aright, but that it is God only that worketh in us both to will and to do (Phil. 2:13). For we deny not that God by his Spirit forms us anew to holiness and righteousness of life; but we must first see whether he does this of himself, immediately, or by the hand of his Son, with whom he has deposited all the fulness of the Holy Spirit, that out of his own abundance he may supply the wants of his members. When, although righteousness comes to us from the secret fountain of the Godhead, it does not follow that Christ, who sanctified himself in the flesh on our account, is our righteousness in respect of his divine nature (John 17:19). Not less frivolous is his observation, that the righteousness with which Christ himself was righteous was divine; for had not the will of the Father impelled him, he could not have fulfilled the office assigned him. For although it has been elsewhere said that all the merits of Christ flow from the mere good pleasure of God, this gives no countenance to the phantom by which Osiander fascinates both his own eyes and those of the simple. For who will allow him to infer, that because God is the source and commencement of our righteousness, we are essentially righteous, and the essence of the divine righteousness dwells in us? In redeeming us, says Isaiah, “he (God) put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head,” (Isaiah 59:17), was this to deprive Christ of the armour which he had given him, and prevent him from being a perfect Redeemer? All that the Prophet meant was, that God borrowed nothing from an external quarter, that in redeeming us he received no external aid. The same thing is briefly expressed by Paul in different terms, when he says that God set him forth “to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.” This is not the least repugnant to his doctrine: in another place, that “by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous,” (Rom. 5:19). In short, every one who, by the entanglement of a twofold righteousness, prevents miserable souls from resting entirely on the mere mercy of God, mocks Christ by putting on him a crown of plaited thorns.

13. But since a great part of mankind imagine a righteousness compounded of faith and works let us here show that there is so wide a difference between justification by faith and by works, that the establishment of the one necessarily overthrows the other. The Apostle says, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,” (Phil. 3:8, 9). You here see a comparison of contraries, and an intimation that every one who would obtain the righteousness of Christ must renounce his own. Hence he elsewhere declares the cause of the rejection of the Jews to have been, that “they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God,” (Rom. 10:3). If we destroy the righteousness of God by establishing our own righteousness, then, in order to obtain his righteousness, our own must be entirely abandoned. This also he shows, when he declares that boasting is not excluded by the Law, but by faith (Rom. 3:27). Hence it follows, that so long as the minutes portion of our own righteousness remains, we have still some ground for boasting. Now if faith utterly excludes boasting, the righteousness of works cannot in any way be associated with the righteousness of faith. This meaning is so clearly expressed in the fourth chapter to the Romans as to leave no room for cavil or evasion. “If Abraham were justified by works he has whereof to glory;” and then it is added, “but not before God,” (Rom. 4:2). The conclusion, therefore, is, that he was not justified by works. He then employs another argument from contraries—viz. when reward is paid to works, it is done of debt, not of grace; but the righteousness of faith is of grace: therefore it is not of the merit of works. Away, then, with the dream of those who invent a righteousness compounded of faith and works (see Calvin. ad Concilium Tridentinum).

14. The Sophists, who delight in sporting with Scripture and in empty cavils, think they have a subtle evasion when they expound works to mean, such as unregenerated men do literally, and by the effect of free will, without the grace of Christ, and deny that these have any reference to spiritual works.41 18 418 French, “Ainsi ils disent que cela n’appartient de rien aux bonnes œuvres des fideles qui se font par la vertu du Sainct Esprit;”—Thus they say that has no reference at all to the good works of believers, which are done by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus according to them, man is justified by faith as well as by works, provided these are not his own works, but gifts of Christ and fruits of regeneration; Paul’s only object in so expressing himself being to convince the Jews, that in trusting to their ohm strength they foolishly arrogated righteousness to themselves, whereas it is bestowed upon us by the Spirit of Christ alone, and not by studied efforts of our own nature. But they observe not that in the antithesis between Legal and Gospel righteousness, which Paul elsewhere introduces, all kinds of works, with whatever name adorned, are excluded (Gal. 3:11, 12). For he says that the righteousness of the Law consists in obtaining salvation by doing what the Law requires, but that the righteousness of faith consists in believing that Christ died and rose again (Rom. 10:5-9). Moreover, we shall afterwards see, at the proper place, that the blessings of sanctification and justification, which we derive from Christ, are different. Hence it follows, that not even spiritual works are taken into account when the power of justifying is ascribed to faith. And, indeed, the passage above quoted, in which Paul declares that Abraham had no ground of glorying before God, because he was not justified by works, ought not to be confined to a literal and external form of virtue, or to the effort of free will. The meaning is, that though the life of the Patriarch had been spiritual and almost angelic, yet he could not by the merit of works have procured justification before God.

15. The Schoolmen treat the matter somewhat more grossly by mingling their preparations with it; and yet the others instill into the simple and unwary a no less pernicious dogma, when, under cover of the Spirit and grace, they hide the divine mercy, which alone can give peace to the trembling soul. We, indeed, hold with Paul, that those who fulfill the Law are justified by God, but because we are all far from observing the Law, we infer that the works which should be most effectual to justification are of no avail to us, because we are destitute of them. In regard to vulgar Papists or Schoolmen, they are here doubly wrong, both in calling faith assurance of conscience while waiting to receive from God the reward of merits, and in interpreting divine grace to mean not the imputation of gratuitous righteousness, but the assistance of the Spirit in the study of holiness. They quote from an Apostle: “He that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” (Heb. 11:6). But they observe not what the method of seeking is. Then in regard to the term grace, it is plain from their writings that they labour under a delusion. For Lombard holds that justification is given to us by Christ in two ways. “First,” says he (Lombard, Sent. Lib. 3, Dist. 16, c. 11), “the death of Christ justifies us when by means of it the love by which we are made righteous is excited in our hearts; and, secondly, when by means of it sin is extinguished, sin by which the devil held us captive, but by which he cannot now procure our condemnation.” You see here that the chief office of divine grace in our justification he considers to be its directing us to good works by the agency of the Holy Spirit. He intended, no doubt, to follow the opinion of Augustine, but he follows it at a distance, and even wanders far from a true imitation of him both obscuring what was clearly stated by Augustine, and making what in him was less pure more corrupt. The Schools have always gone from worse to worse, until at length, in their downward path, they have degenerated into a kind of Pelagianism. Even the sentiment of Augustine, or at least his mode of expressing it, cannot be entirely approved of. For although he is admirable in stripping man of all merit of righteousness, and transferring the whole praise of it to God, yet he classes the grace by which we are regenerated to newness of life under the head of sanctification.

16. Scripture, when it treats of justification by faith, leads us in a very different direction. Turning away our view from our own works, it bids us look only to the mercy of God and the perfection of Christ. The order of justification which it sets before us is this: first, God of his mere gratuitous goodness is pleased to embrace the sinner, in whom he sees nothing that can move him to mercy but wretchedness, because he sees him altogether naked and destitute of good works. He, therefore, seeks the cause of kindness in himself, that thus he may affect the sinner by a sense of his goodness, and induce him, in distrust of his own works, to cast himself entirely upon his mercy for salvation. This is the meaning of faith by which the sinner comes into the possession of salvation, when, according to the doctrine of the Gospel, he perceives that he is reconciled by God; when, by the intercession of Christ, he obtains the pardon of his sins, and is justified; and, though renewed by the Spirit of God, considers that, instead of leaning on his own works, he must look solely to the righteousness which is treasured up for him in Christ. When these things are weighed separately, they will clearly explain our view, though they may be arranged in a better order than that in which they are here presented. But it is of little consequence, provided they are so connected with each other as to give us a full exposition and solid confirmation of the whole subject.

17. Here it is proper to remember the relation which we previously established between faith and the Gospel; faith being said to justify because it receives and embraces the righteousness offered in the Gospel. By the very fact of its being said to be offered by the Gospel, all consideration of works is excluded. This Paul repeatedly declares, and in two passages, in particular, most clearly demonstrates. In the Epistle to the Romans, comparing the Law and the Gospel, he says, “Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which does those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise,—If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved,” (Rom. 10:5, 6:9). Do you see how he makes the distinction between the Law and the Gospel to be, that the former gives justification to works, whereas the latter bestows it freely without any help from works? This is a notable passage, and may free us from many difficulties if we understand that the justification which is given us by the Gospel is free from any terms of Law. It is for this reason he more than once places the promise in diametrical opposition to the Law. “If the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise,” (Gal. 3:18). Expressions of similar import occur in the same chapter. Undoubtedly the Law also has its promises; and, therefore, between them and the Gospel promises there must be some distinction and difference, unless we are to hold that the comparison is inept. And in what can the difference consist unless in this that the promises of the Gospel are gratuitous, and founded on the mere mercy of God, whereas the promises of the Law depend on the condition of works? But let no pester here allege that only the righteousness which men would obtrude upon God of their own strength and free will is repudiated; since Paul declares, without exceptions that the Law gained nothing by its commands, being such as none, not only of mankind in general, but none even of the most perfect, are able to fulfill. Love assuredly is the chief commandment in the Law, and since the Spirit of God trains us to love, it cannot but be a cause of righteousness in us, though that righteousness even in the saints is defective, and therefore of no value as a ground of merit.

18. The second passage is, “That no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that does them shall live in them,” (Gal. 3:11, 12; Hab. 2:4). How could the argument hold unless it be true that works are not to be taken into account, but are to be altogether separated? The Law, he says, is different from faith. Why? Because to obtain justification by it, works are required; and hence it follows, that to obtain justification by the Gospel they are not required. From this statement, it appears that those who are justified by faith are justified independent of, nay, in the absence of, the merit of works, because faith receives that righteousness which the Gospel bestows. But the Gospel differs from the Law in this, that it does not confine justification to works, but places it entirely in the mercy of God. In like manner, Paul contends, in the Epistle to the Romans, that Abraham had no ground of glorying, because faith was imputed to him for righteousness (Rom. 4:2); and he adds in confirmation, that the proper place for justification by faith is where there are no works to which reward is due. “To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” What is given to faith is gratuitous, this being the force of the meaning of the words which he there employs. Shortly after he adds, “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace,” (Rom. 4:16); and hence infers that the inheritance is gratuitous because it is procured by faith. How so but just because faiths without the aid of works leans entirely on the mercy of God? And in the same sense, doubtless, he elsewhere teaches, that the righteousness of God without the Law was manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets (Rom. 3:21); for excluding the Law, he declares that it is not aided by worlds, that we do not obtain it by working, but are destitute when we draw near to receive it.

19. The reader now perceives with what fairness the Sophists of the present day cavil at our doctrine, when we say that a man is justified by faith alone (Rom. 4:2). They dare not deny that he is justified by faith, seeing Scripture so often declares it; but as the word alone is nowhere expressly used they will not tolerate its being added.41 19 419 French, “Mais pource que ce mot Seule, n’y est point exprimé, ils nous reprochent qu’il est adjousté du notre;”—but because this word Alone is not expressed, they upbraid us with having it added of our own accord. Is it so? What answer, then will they give to the words of Paul, when he contends that righteousness is not of faith unless it be gratuitous? How can it be gratuitous, and yet by works? By what cavils, moreover, will they evade his declaration in another place, that in the Gospel the righteousness of God is manifested? (Rom. 1:17). If righteousness is manifested in the Gospel, it is certainly not a partial or mutilated, but a full and perfect righteousness. The Law, therefore, has no part in its and their objection to the exclusive word alone is not only unfounded, but is obviously absurd. Does he not plainly enough attribute everything to faith alone when he disconnects it with works? What I would ask, is meant by the expressions, “The righteousness of God without the law is manifested;” “Being justified freely by his grace;” “Justified by faith without the deeds of the law?” (Rom. 3:21, 24, 28). Here they have an ingenious subterfuge, one which, though not of their own devising but taken from Origin and some ancient writers, is most childish. They pretend that the works excluded are ceremonial, not moral works. Such profit do they make by their constant wrangling, that they possess not even the first elements of logic. Do they think the Apostle was raving when he produced, in proof of his doctrine, these passages? “The man that does them shall live in them,” (Gal. 3:12). “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them,” (Gal. 3:10). Unless they are themselves raving, they will not say that life was promised to the observers of ceremonies, and the curse denounced only against the transgressors of them. If these passages are to be understood of the Moral Law, there cannot be a doubt that moral works also are excluded from the power of justifying. To the same effect are the arguments which he employs. “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin,” (Rom. 3:20). “The law worketh wrath,” (Rom. 4:15), and therefore not righteousness. “The law cannot pacify the conscience,” and therefore cannot confer righteousness. “Faith is imputed for righteousness,” and therefore righteousness is not the reward of works, but is given without being due. Because “we are justified by faith,” boasting is excluded. “Had there been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture has concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe,” (Gal. 3:21, 22). Let them maintain, if they dare, that these things apply to ceremonies, and not to morals, and the very children will laugh at their effrontery. The true conclusion, therefore, is, that the whole Law is spoken of when the power of justifying is denied to it.

20. Should any one wonder why the Apostle, not contented with having named works, employs this addition, the explanation is easy. However highly works may be estimated, they have their whole value more from the approbation of God than from their own dignity. For who will presume to plume himself before God on the righteousness of works, unless in so far as He approves of them? Who will presume to demand of Him a reward except in so far as He has promised it? It is owing entirely to the goodness of God that works are deemed worthy of the honor and reward of righteousness; and, therefore, their whole value consists in this, that by means of them we endeavor to manifest obedience to God. Wherefore, in another passage, the Apostle, to prove that Abraham could not be justified by works, declares, “that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect,” (Gal. 3:17). The unskillful would ridicule the argument that there could be righteous works before the promulgation of the Law, but the Apostle, knowing that works could derive this value solely from the testimony and honor conferred on them by God, takes it for granted that, previous to the Law, they had no power of justifying. We see why he expressly terms them works of Law when he would deny the power of justifying to theme—viz. because it was only with regard to such works that a question could be raised; although he sometimes, without addition, excepts all kinds of works whatever, as when on the testimony of David he speaks of the man to whom the Lord imputeth righteousness without works (Rom. 4:5, 6). No cavils, therefore, can enable them to prove that the exclusion of works is not general. In vain do they lay hold of the frivolous subtilty, that the faith alone, by which we are justified, “worketh by love,” and that love, therefore, is the foundation of justification. We, indeed, acknowledge with Paul, that the only faith which justifies is that which works by love (Gal. 3:6); but love does not give it its justifying power. Nay, its only means of justifying consists in its bringing us into communication with the righteousness of Christ. Otherwise the whole argument, on which the Apostle insists with so much earnestness, would fall. “To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Could he express more clearly than in this word, that there is justification in faith only where there are no works to which reward is due, and that faith is imputed for righteousness only when righteousness is conferred freely without merit?

21. Let us now consider the truth of what was said in the definition—viz. that justification by faith is reconciliation with God, and that this consists solely in the remission of sins. We must always return to the axioms that the wrath of God lies upon all men so long as they continue sinners. This is elegantly expressed by Isaiah in these words: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear,” (Isaiah 59:1, 2). We are here told that sin is a separation between God and man; that His countenance is turned away from the sinner; and that it cannot be otherwise, since, to have any intercourse with sin is repugnant to his righteousness. Hence the Apostle shows that man is at enmity with God until he is restored to favour by Christ (Rom. 5:8-10). When the Lord, therefore, admits him to union, he is said to justify him, because he can neither receive him into favor, nor unite him to himself, without changing his condition from that of a sinner into that of a righteous man. We adds that this is done by remission of sins. For if those whom the Lord has reconciled to himself are estimated by works, they will still prove to be in reality sinners, while they ought to be pure and free from sin. It is evident therefore, that the only way in which those whom God embraces are made righteous, is by having their pollutions wiped away by the remission of sins, so that this justification may be termed in one word the remission of sins.

22. Both of these become perfectly clear from the words of Paul: “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” He then subjoins the sum of his embassy: “He has made him to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” (2 Cor. 5:19-21). He here uses righteousness and reconciliation indiscriminately, to make us understand that the one includes the other. The mode of obtaining this righteousness he explains to be, that our sins are not imputed to us. Wherefore, you cannot henceforth doubt how God justifies us when you hear that he reconciles us to himself by not imputing our faults. In the same manner, in the Epistle to the Romans, he proves, by the testimony of David, that righteousness is imputed without works, because he declares the man to be blessed “whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered,” and “unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity,” (Rom. 4:6; Ps. 32:1, 2). There he undoubtedly uses blessedness for righteousness; and as he declares that it consists in forgiveness of sins, there is no reason why we should define it otherwise. Accordingly, Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, sings that the knowledge of salvation consists in the forgiveness of sins (Luke 1:77). The same course was followed by Paul when, in addressing the people of Antioch, he gave them a summary of salvation. Luke states that he concluded in this way: “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, and by him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses,” (Acts 13:38, 39). Thus the Apostle connects forgiveness of sins with justification in such a way as to show that they are altogether the same; and hence he properly argues that justification, which we owe to the indulgence of God, is gratuitous. Nor should it seem an unusual mode of expression to say that believers are justified before God not by works, but by gratuitous acceptance, seeing it is frequently used in Scripture, and sometimes also by ancient writers. Thus Augustine says: “The righteousness of the saints in this world consists more in the forgiveness of sins than the perfection of virtue,” (August. de Civitate Dei, lib. 19, cap. 27). To this corresponds the well-known sentiment of Bernard: “Not to sin is the righteousness of God, but the righteousness of man is the indulgence of God,” (Bernard, Serm. 22, 23 in Cant). He previously asserts that Christ is our righteousness in absolution, and, therefore, that those only are just who have obtained pardon through mercy.

23. Hence also it is proved, that it is entirely by the intervention of Christ’s righteousness that we obtain justification before God. This is equivalent to saying that man is not just in himself, but that the righteousness of Christ is communicated to him by imputation, while he is strictly deserving of punishment. Thus vanishes the absurd dogma, that man is justified by faith, inasmuch as it brings him under the influence of the Spirit of God by whom he is rendered righteous. This is so repugnant to the above doctrine that it never can be reconciled with it. There can be no doubt that he who is taught to seek righteousness out of himself does not previously possess it in himself.42 20 420 French, “Ceci est fort contraire a la doctrine ci dessus mise: car il n’y a nulle doute que celui qui doit cercher justice hors de soy-mesme, ne soit desnué de la sienne propre;”—This is quite contrary to the doctrine above laid down; for there is no doubt, that he who is to seek righteousness out of himself, is devoid of righteousness in himself. This is most clearly declared by the Apostle, when he says, that he who knew no sin was made an expiatory victim for sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21). You see that our righteousness is not in ourselves, but in Christ; that the only way in which we become possessed of it is by being made partakers with Christ, since with him we possess all riches. There is nothing repugnant to this in what he elsewhere says: “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,” (Rom. 8:3, 4). Here the only fulfillment to which he refers is that which we obtain by imputation. Our Lord Jesus Christ communicates his righteousness to us, and so by some wondrous ways in so far as pertains to the justice of Gods transfuses its power into us. That this was the Apostle’s view is abundantly clear from another sentiment which he had expressed a little before: “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous,” (Rom. 5:19). To declare that we are deemed righteous, solely because the obedience of Christ is imputed to us as if it where our own, is just to place our righteousness in the obedience of Christ. Wherefore, Ambrose appears to me to have most elegantly adverted to the blessing of Jacob as an illustration of this righteousness, when he says that as he who did not merit the birthright in himself personated his brother, put on his garments which gave forth a most pleasant odour, and thus introduced himself to his father that he might receive a blessing to his own advantage, though under the person of another, so we conceal ourselves under the precious purity42 21 421 French, “Sous la robbe;”—under the robe. of Christ, our first-born brother, that we may obtain an attestation of righteousness from the presence of God. The words of Ambrose are,—“Isaac’s smelling the odour of his garments, perhaps means that we are justified not by works, but by faith, since carnal infirmity is an impediment to works, but errors of conduct are covered by the brightness of faith, which merits the pardon of faults,” (Ambrose de Jacobo et Vita Beats, Lib. 2, c. 2). And so indeed it is; for in order to appear in the presence of God for salvation, we must send forth that fragrant odour, having our vices covered and buried by his perfection.