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Faith Alone Cannot Render Us Secure of Justice, Perseverance, or Eternal Life

37. It was one of Luther’s doctrines, in which he was closely followed by Calvin, that man, after being once justified by Faith, should no longer have either fear or doubt, but that all his sins were forgiven him, and hence he says(l): "Believe firmly that you are absolved, and you will be so, no matter what contrition you may have;" and he props up this opinion by a text of St. Paul: " Try your ownselves if you be in the faith: prove ye yourselves. Know you not your ownselves, that Christ Jesus is in you, unless perhaps you be reprobated?" (II. Cor. xiii, 6). From this text Luther deduces that a man may be certain of his Faith, and hence he concludes, that being certain of his Faith, he is also certain of the remission of sins. But what sort of conclusion is this? A man is certain of his Faith; but when he knows, at the same time, that he is a sinner, how can he be certain of pardon, unless he is also certain of contrition? Luther himself had previously said (2): " No one can be sure of the truth of his contrition, and much less of pardon." This is the way with all heretics; they are continually contradicting themselves. Besides, in this passage the Apostle is not speaking of justification, but of the miracles which the Corinthians should believe were wrought by God. (1) Luther, Serm. de Indulg. t. 1, p. 59.  

38. The Council of Trent (Sess. vi, cap. 9), teaches, that although every one ought to be certain of the Divine Mercy, of the merits of Christ, and of the power of the Sacraments, still no one can be certain of the remission of his sins as a matter of Faith, and in the 13th Canon condemns all who assert the contrary: " Si quis dixerit, omni homini ad remissionem peccatorum assequendam necessarium esse, ut credat certo, et absque ulla haisitatione propriæ intirmitatis, et indispositionis peccata sibi esse remissa: anathema sit." And this is proved by the Scriptures likewise: " Man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred, but all things are kept uncertain for the time to come" (Eccles. ix, 1, 2). Calvin (3) objects that this text does not allude to the state of a soul in grace or anger with God, but to the prosperous or adverse circumstances which happen in this life, as by those temporal accidents we cannot know whether God loves or hates us, since prosperity and adversity are the portions of good and bad alike; but, on the other hand, he says man can very well know whether he is just or unjust, if he knows that he has or has not Faith. But we answer, that this text does not speak of temporal things, but of the love or hatred with which God looks on the state of the soul, and, therefore, it says, "all things are kept uncertain for the time to come." If, therefore, in this life all things are " kept uncertain," then what our adversaries say cannot be the fact, that man, by the knowledge of his Faith, can be certain that he is in a state of Grace.  

39. God, besides, admonishes us that we should be afraid even of the sin forgiven already: "Bo not without fear about sin forgiven" (Eccles. v, 5). The Innovators quote the Greek text here, which says not forgiven, but forgiveness, and that, they say, means that we should not presume that the sins not yet committed will be forgiven. This interpretation, however, is false, because the Greek expression comprehends both past and future sins, and the Greek text is explained in the Latin translation by past sins. St. Paul surely had a knowledge of his Faith, and although he did not feel his conscience laden with any sin, and saw himself favoured by God with revelations and extraordinary gifts, still he did not consider himself with certainty justified. God alone, he says, knew in truth whether he was or not: " I am not conscious to myself of anything, yet I am not hereby justified, but he that judgeth me is the Lord" (I. Cor, iv, 4). (2) Luther Serm. de Indulg. t. 1, p. 30. (3) Calvin, Instit, l. 3, c. 2, s. 38.  

40. Our adversaries object, that the Apostle says: " The Spirit himself giveth testimony of our Spirit, that we are the sons of God" (Rom. viii, 16). Hence Calvin concludes that it is Faith which assures us of being the children of God. We answer that, although the testimony of the Holy Ghost is infallible in itself, still as we are concerned, and know anything about it, we can only have a conjectural certainty of being in a state of Grace, but never can be infallibly certain of it, unless by a special revelation from God. And, moreover, as far as our knowledge goes, we cannot know if that Spirit be surely from God, for many times the angel of darkness transforms himself into an angel of light, to deceive us.  

41. Luther said, that a faithful man, by means of justifying Faith, though he may be in sin at the time, ought to believe with an infallible certainty, that he is justified by reason of the justice of Christ, imputed to him; but he afterwards said that this justice might be lost by any new sin. Calvin (4), on the contrary, made an addition to this heresy, for he insisted on the inadmissibility of this imputative justice. If we could suppose Luther’s false principle of justifying Faith to be true, we should admit that Calvin had more reason at his side than he. He said, if any one of the Faithful is sure of his justification, when he prays for it, and believes with confidence that God, by the merits of Christ, justifies him, this petition then, and this certainty of Faith, regard no less the remission of sins committed, than the future perseverance in Grace, and, consequently, eternal salvation. Calvin adds (5), that when the faithful man relapses into sin, though his justifying Faith is oppressed by it, it is not, however, lost, for the soul always would have retained possession of it. (4) Bossuet, Var. t. 3, I. 14, n. 16. (5) Calv. Ant. ad Con. Trid. s. 6, c. 13.  Such were the specious doctrines of Calvin, and this was the doctrine professed by the Elector Count Palatine, in his Confession of Faith: "I believe," said he, " that I am a living member of the Catholic Church for evermore, since God, appeased by the satisfaction of Jesus Christ, will not remember either the past or future sins of my life" (6).  

42. The whole gist of the matter is this, that the principle of Luther, as we have already seen, is false, in the first place, for, in order to obtain justification, it is not enough to have Faith alone that we are justified by the merits of Christ; but it is necessary, also, that the sinner should have contrition for his faults, so as to dispose himself to receive the remission which God grants him, according to the promise he has made, to pardon those who repent, through the merits of Jesus Christ. Hence, if the justified man relapses into sin, he again loses Grace.  

43. If the doctrine of Luther, regarding the certainty of justification, is false, the doctrine of Calvin, regarding the certainty of perseverance and eternal salvation, is equally so. St. Paul tells us: " Wherefore he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall" (I. Cor. x, 12). And, again, he tells us: " With fear and trembling, work out your salvation" (Phil. ii, 12). How, then, can Calvin say that it is a temptation of the devil, to have any fear about our perseverance? When St. Paul, then, tells us to live in fear, does he mean that we should second the temptations of the devil? But, say they, what is the use of this fear? If what Calvin asserts was true, that having once received justice and the Holy Ghost, we can never lose them, because, according to him, justifying Faith is never lost, and to him who has Faith, God does not impute his sins if all this, I say, were true, then, indeed, it would be useless to dread the loss of Divine Grace. But can any one imagine that God will give his friendship and eternal glory to one who tramples on the Divine Law, and commits all sorts of wickedness; and all this because he believes, forsooth, that through the merits of Jesus Christ, the crimes he commits will not be imputed to him? (6) Recuil. de Genevre, part 2, p . 169.  Such, then, is the gratitude these Reformers show to Jesus Christ. They avail themselves for the death he suffered for love of us, to involve themselves more and more in crime, trusting that, through his merits, God will not impute their sins to them. So Jesus Christ, then, has died, that men may have leave to do whatever they please, without fear of punishment. If such, however, was the fact, why did God promulgate his laws make so many promises to those who observe them and threaten those who violate them? God, however, never deceives us when he speaks to us; he wishes that the commandments he imposes on us should be exactly observed " Thou hast commanded thy commandments to be kept most diligently" (Psalm cxviii, 4) and condemns those who offend against his laws " Thou hast despised all those that fall off from thy judgments (Psalm cxviii, 118). It is thus that fear is useful: the fear of losing the Divine Grace, which makes us cautiously avoid the occasions of sin, and adopt the means of perseverance in a good life, such as frequenting the Sacraments, and praying continually.  

44. Calvin says that, according to St. Paul, the gifts of God are irrevocable, and given to us without penance: " The gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Romans, xi, 29). Whosoever, therefore, he says, has received the Faith, and, with the Faith, Grace, to which eternal salvation is united, as these are perpetual gifts, they never can be lost; and thus the faithful man, though he may fall into sin, will always be in possession of that justice, which is given him by Faith. Here, however, we ask a question. David, surely, had Faith he fell into the sins of murder and adultery; now, I ask, when David was in sin, before his repentance, was he a sinner or a just man? if he died in that state would he be damned or not? No one, I believe, will be bold enough to assert, that he could be saved in that state. In that state, then, he was no longer just, as he himself, after his conversion, confessed " I know my iniquity;" and, therefore, he prayed to God, to cancel his sins " Blot out my iniquity" (Psalm 1, 2). It will not do to say that he who is predestined may consider himself just in the meantime, since he will do penance for his sins before he dies; that will not do, I assert, because future penance cannot make the sinner just, when he is in a state of sin at the time. Bossuet (7) says that the difficulty of accounting for this, according to Calvin’s doctrine, caused many of his followers to return to the bosom of the Church.  

45. Before we conclude this subject, we may as well review the Scripture texts on which Calvin founds his doctrine. The Apostle St. James, he says, tells us that we should pray to God for Graces and that of perseverance is the principal of all others without having any doubt of obtaining them: " Let him ask in Faith, nothing wavering" (James, i, 6); and our Lord himself says: "All things whatsoever you ask when ye pray, believe that you shall receive; and they shall come unto you" (Mark, xi, 24). Therefore, says Calvin, whosoever seeks perseverance from God, and believes that he obtains it, never can want it, as we have the Divine promise for it. We answer that, although the promise of God, to hear him who prays to him, can never fail, still that is to be understood, when we pray for Grace, with all the requisite conditions, and one of the conditions of beseeching prayer is perseverance; but if we cannot be certain that in future we will persevere in prayer, how can we be sure at the present time that we will persevere in Grace? Calvin, besides, objects that St. Paul says: " I am sure that neither death nor life, &c., shall be able to separate us from the love of God" (Rom. viii, 38, 39). But we reply to this, that the Apostle does not here speak of an infallible certainty of Faith, but only of a simple moral certainty, founded on the Divine Mercy, and on that goodwill which God gave him, to suffer every thing, sooner than be separated from his love.  

46. Leave Calvin aside, and hear what the Council of Trent teaches, concerning perseverance and predestination. Speaking of perseverance, it says: "Si quis magnum illud usque in finem perseverantiæ donum se certo habiturum, absoluta et infallibili certitudine dixerit, nisi hoc ex speciali revelatione didicerit: anathema sit" (Sess. vi, can. 16). And, regarding predestination: " Si quis dixerit, hominem renatum, et justificatum teneri ex fide ad credendum, se certo esse in numero prædestinatorum: anathema sit" (Sees, vi, can. 15). Behold, then, how clearly and distinctly the Council defines all the dogmas of Faith, opposed to the errors of modern innovators. I make this remark for the instruction of those who assert that the Council gave only ambiguous decisions in their controversies, and that it only increased disputes, instead of putting an end to them. The Fathers of the Council said over and over, that it was never their intention to give any decision regarding the questions debated in Catholic schools, but solely to define matters of Faith, and condemn the errors of the pretended Reformers, who were endeavouring, not to reform morals, but to subvert the ancient and true doctrines of the Catholic Church. The Council, therefore, speaks ambiguously of scholastic questions, and gives no decision on them; but in matters of Faith, contested by Protestants, it always speaks with the greatest clearness, and without any ambiguity. Those alone find the definitions of the Council doubtful who refuse to yield obedience to them. To come back to the subject. The Council teaches that no one can be sure that he is predestined; and, in fact, how can any one be sure of predestination, when he is not sure that he will persevere in goodness. But, says Calvin, St. John teaches that " You have eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God" (I. John, v, 13). Therefore, says he, whoever has faith in Jesus Christ has eternal life. We answer, he who believes in Jesus Christ with true Faith, enlivened by Charity, has eternal life, not in possession, but in hope, as St. Paul says: " For we are saved by hope" (Rom. viii, 24). Perseverance is necessary to obtain eternal life " He that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved" (Matt, x, 22) but as long as we are uncertain of perseverance, we are never sure of eternal life. (7) Bossuet, Variat. t. 3, l. 14, n. 16.  

47. The sectarians object that the uncertainty of eternal salvation makes us doubt of the Divine promises, to be saved by the merits of Jesus Christ. We answer that the Divine promises never can fail, so, on God’s part, we never can doubt that he will be wanting, by denying what he promised us. The doubt and fear is on our side, for we may be found wanting, by transgressing his Divine commandments, and thus losing his Grace. God in that case is not obliged to fulfil the promises made to us, but rather punish our infidelity; and, therefore, St, Paul exhorts us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil, ii, 12). We are, therefore, certain of salvation, if we remain faithful to God; but, on the other hand, should dread our perdition, if we are unfaithful. But, they add, this fear and uncertainty destroys peace of conscience. We answer, that peace of conscience in this life does not consist in a certain belief that we will be saved, for this is not what God promises us, but it consists in the hope that he will save us, through the merits of Jesus Christ, if we strive to live well, and endeavour, by prayer, to obtain the Divine assistance to persevere in a holy life. This it is which is so hurtful to these heretics; for, trusting to this Faith alone for salvation, they pay little attention to the observance of the Divine commandments, and much less to prayer, and, not praying, they are deprived of the Divine assistance necessary for a good life, and thus they are lost. Surrounded as we are by dangers and temptations, we have need of a continual assistance from Grace, which, without prayer, we cannot obtain; and, for that reason, God tells us we should pray continually: " We ought always to pray, and not to faint" (Luke, xviii, 1). He, however, who believes that he is sure of salvation, and believes that prayer is not necessary for this object, scarcely prays at all, and then is lost. He, on the contrary, who is not sure of his salvation, and fears to fall into sin, and be lost, will surely pray continually to God to succour him, and thus hopes to obtain perseverance and salvation, and this is the only peace of conscience we can have in the present life. No matter how the Calvinists may strive to obtain perfect peace, by believing their salvation certain, they never can accomplish it in this way; and we even see the Synod of Dort, the great exponent of their doctrine (Art. 12), declare that the gift of Faith (which, according to them, includes past and future justification) is not granted by God unless to his elect alone. How, then, can a Calvinist be sure that he is among the number of the elect, when he knows nothing about his election? This alone would, we think, be sufficient to show them that they cannot be certain of their salvation.

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