Robert Rollock (c. 1555-1599) on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in the covenant of grace

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“IN the free Covenant of Grace, or of the gospel, the first ground is our Mediator Jesus Christ, crucified also, and dead; or, which is the same in effect, the blood of the Mediator, the virtue whereof is twofold. The first serves to satisfy the justice and wrath of God for our sins, for the breach of that covenant of works. The second is, to purchase and merit a new grace and mercy of God for us. And this grace or mercy of God, obtained by the blood of the Mediator, is the second ground of the Covenant of Grace, whereby we stand reconciled unto God, and in grace with him. Wherefore the first immediate ground of the Covenant of Grace is God’s free favour or mercy, (whereby man’s misery is presupposed,) and not nature, or any good thing in it, for that all our natural goodness, after the breach of that covenant of works, is quite vanished; that is to say, nature, as touching holiness, justice, and wisdom, is utterly lost. For we are not to approve their judgment which say, that the freedom of will, that is, the goodness and holiness of nature, is much worn and weakened, as they speak, in this corrupt nature…”

“The first and principal grace promised in this covenant is righteousness; which must necessarily here have the first place, for after the breach of the covenant of works, that one first original justice, as they call it, was quite lost, and injustice did succeed into the place thereof. And this justice, which is here promised in the Covenant of Grace, is no inherent righteousness, as that original justice was, but is the righteousness of our Mediator Jesus Christ, which is ours by faith, and by the imputation of God. For which cause the Apostle calls it the righteousness of God; for without this imputative justice we cannot possibly stand before the tribunal of God, and by the imputation of this righteousness are we said to be justified before God. Next after this kind of righteousness, which is by imputation, there is another kind of inherent justice promised in the Covenant of Grace, even such a sanctity and goodness of nature as was lost in the fall of man, and this is but begun in this life, but perfected in another. And this inherent justice is nothing else but life eternal in us, begun, I say, in earth, and perfected in heaven. And this heavenly and spiritual life doth proceed from that righteousness of Christ, which is imputed unto us by faith. For that righteousness of Christ is effectual in us unto eternal life by the Spirit of Christ, who sanctifieth and quickeneth us.”

- Robert Rollock (c. 1555-1599), A Treatise of our Effectual Calling, Chapter III

Francis Roberts (1609-1675) on how the sacraments confirm the New Covenant unto us

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How do the two sacraments – Baptism and the Lord’s Supper – confirm the New Covenant unto us? Francis Roberts (1609-1675) discusses this question in his work The Mysterie and Marrow of the Bible, Book IV, Chapter VII, showing in what sense the two sacraments are “signs” and “seals” of the New Covenant:

“Baptism and the Lords Supper confirm the New Covenant; Not Physically or Naturally by any Natural Quality, Property, vertue or operation thereof: But Sacramentally and Spiritually, as Sacramental Signs or Tokens, Seals and Instrumental means for Conveying Jesus Christ and the Benefits of the New Covenant to Gods Foederates, and all this by vertue of Christs Institution of these Ordinances to this end. More Particularly;

Baptism confirms the New Covenant;

I. As a Token or Sign of the New Covenant. That Baptism is a Token or Sign of the New Covenant, is plain: For, (1) It succeeds in the room and stead of Circumcision, and to all such Foederal uses and Purposes, Col.2. 10, 11, 12, &c. Now Circumcision in the Nature and use of it according to the first Institution thereof, was a Token of the Covenant. Therefore consequently, so is Baptism. (2) In Christs Commission, Baptism is annexed to the Doctrine of the New Covenant. (3) In Apostolical Practise, Baptism was still Administred to all that embraced the New Covenant and the Doctrine thereof: whereby as Foederates they were initiated and implanted into Christ, into his mystical body, &c. Now Baptism, As a Token or Sign, Confirms the New Covenant, divers wayes. viz.

1. As a Memorative Token; Being a notable Memorial of the actual Incarnation and exhibition of Jesus Christ to Israel. For John the Baptist therefore came Baptizing with water, that he might be made manifest to Israel. For, John knew him not, but he that sent him to baptize with water, the same said unto him, upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, the same is he that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And accordingly, when Jesus came to John to be baptized of him, He saw the Heavens opened, and the Spirit of God descending like a dove and resting upon him, and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. Now Jesus Christ, actually incarnate, being thus Manifest by Baptism to John; John bare record, that this is the Son of God: and pointed him out as with the finger behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the Sins of the world. Baptism therefore is a notable Memorial of Christs actual incarnation and Manifestation to Israel in our flesh in fulness of time; for establishment of his New Covenant.

2. As a Significative Token; Baptism signifying and assuring of those seven excellent fore-mentioned New Covenant Benefits, Implantation into, and union with Christ, Remission of Sins, &c.

3. As a Distinctive Token; Baptism distinguishing Baptized Christians from all Unbaptized Pagans, Jews, &c.

4. As an Instructing Sign; Discovering to us, (1) The Natural guilt, stain, foulness, and filthiness of sin, in us all, which stands need of washing, cleansing, purifying, &c. (2) The Spiritual and Supernatural Healing, Cleansing, purging away of all this guilt and filthiness by the Blood and Spirit of Christ, Col. 2. 11, 12, 13. 1 Pet. 3. 21. Tit. 3. 5. Which is a New Covenant benefit, Heb. 8. 12. 5. As an Obligatory Token or Sign; Obliging the Baptized, To put off the body of the Sins of the flesh, and die unto Sin: but to live unto God, and walk in newness of life, Col. 2. 11, 12, 13. Rom. 6. 3, 4, 5, 6.

II. As a Seal of the New Covenant. Circumcision was a Seal of the Covenant blessing, the righteousness of Faith, to Abraham; Consequently Baptism, suceeding Circumcision, is a seal of New-Covenant blessings. Baptism Seals what it signifies.

III. As an Instrumental Mean for Conveying of New-Covenant Benefits signified and Sealed, Gal.3. 26, 27. Rom. 6. 3, 4, 5, 6.

The Lords Supper Confirms the New Covenant also.

I. As A Sign and Token of the New Covenant in Christs blood; or as a Sign of Christs blood of the New Covenant, confirming and individually applying the New Testament, with all the promises, Benefits, Priviledges and comfort thereof to right Receivers, Luke 22. 20. 1 Cor. 11. 25. Mat. 26. 28. Mark 14. 24. Now the Lords Supper, as a Token or Sign Confirms the New Covenant several wayes, viz.

1. As a Memorative Sign, lively remembring, and bringing fresh into mind the Lord Jesus Christ, his Passion, Death, &c. for his elect, his infinite love, &c. in so dying. Do this in remembrance of me.——As oft as you eat this bread and drink this Cup, ye shew forth the Lords death till he come. This is a Monumental Memorial of Christ crucified to the worlds end. And by Christs Death the New Covenant was established, Heb.  14, 15, 16, 17.

2. As a Significative Sign or Token;The Lords Supper signifying; (1) Christs Body broken for us, and Christs blood of the New Covenant shed for us. (2) Our Communion with Christ crucified in all the Benefits of his Cross and Death. (3) Remission of sins in his blood, shed for that end. Mat. 26. 28. (4) Spiritual nourishment of Faith in Christ, and all Grace by this Lords Supper. (5) Sweet Union and Communion of the Saints one with another.

3. As an Instructive Sign; The Lords Supper instructs us in many things; as, (1) That, Christ Jesus is already actually betrayed, and put to Death for our sins, 1 Cor. 11. 23, 24, 25. (2) That, the Old Covenant and the Sacraments thereof are already abrogated, and the New Covenant actually established, by his Death, 1 Cor. 11. 25. Mat. 26. 28. (3) That, Jesus Christ already crucified is compleat New Covenant-Nourishment for us, 1 Cor. 11. 20, 24, 25. (4) That, The Contempt and abuse of the Lords Supper is an high contempt of Jesus Christ himself, of his Death, and of his New Covenant: and punished by God accordingly, 1 Cor. 11. 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 30. (5) That, therefore to come to the Lords Supper Ignorantly, Unbelievingly, Impenitently, Uncharitably, or any way unworthily, is a most dangerous Sin, 1 Cor. 11. 27, 28, 29. And to come to it in Knowledge, Faith, Repentance, &c. is a most necessary Duty. (6) That, the Lords Supper is no Propitiatory Sacrifice, but a Remembrance of Christs Propitiatory Sacrifice, 1 Cor. 11. 24, 25, 26. (7) That, The Lords Supper is to continue till Christ come, 1 Cor. 11. 26. and consequently the New Covenant is so long to continue also, and that in the present form of administration, Mat. 28. 19, 20. Heb. 13. 20.

4. As a Distinctive Token; Distinguishing New Covenant-Foederates, from all aliens to the New Covenant.

5. As an Obligatory Sign; Binding and Obliging all Communicants according to the Tenor of the New Covenant, Fitly to prepare for it, duly to use it, and afterwards to walk Sutably and answerably to it.

II. As a Seal of the New Covenant in Christs blood; Sealing all the Former matters and mysteries signified. Why shall one Sacrament be a Seal, and not every Sacrament?

III. As an instrumental Mean of ConveyanceIn the right use, according to Christs Institution, it so effectually conveyes Christ and New Covenant benefits to believers, by vertue of Sacramental union and divine benediction, that it is said;  This is my body, This is my blood, This is the New Testament in my blood.”

John Owen (1616-1683): Preaching from the heart

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“I think, truly, that no man preaches that sermon well to others that doth not first preach it to his own heart. He who doth not feed on, digest, and thrive by, what he prepares for his people, he may give them poison, as far as he knows; for, unless he find the power of it in his own heart, he cannot have any ground of confidence that it will have power in the heart of others. It is an easier thing to bring our heads to preach than our hearts to preach. To bring our heads to preach, is but to fill our minds and memories with some notions of truth, of our own or other men, and speak them out to give satisfaction to ourselves and others: this is very easy. But to bring our hearts to preach, is to be transformed into the power of these truths; or to find the power of them, both before, in fashioning our minds and hearts, and in delivering of them, that we may have benefit; and to be acted with zeal for God and compassion to the souls of men. A man may preach every day in the week and not have his heart engaged once. This hath lost us powerful preaching in the world, and set up, instead of it, quaint orations; for such men never seek after experience in their own hearts: and so it is come to pass, that some men’s preaching and some men’s not preaching, have lost us the power of what we call the ministry; that though there be twenty or thirty thousand in orders, yet the nations perishes for want of knowledge, and is overwhelmed in all manner of sins, and not delivered from them unto this day.”

- John Owen (1616-1683), “The Duty of a Pastor,” Works, 9:455

Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892): It is Christ who saves the sinner, not the sinner’s feelings

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“How many there are among God’s people, who say, ‘I know that Christ died for sinners, but I do not get any comfort from it because I do not feel as if I were saved.’ That is self-righteousness in a very deceitful form. You will not be saved by feeling that Christ died for you, but by his dying for you. If he died for you, you were saved when he died. If he took your sins, he took them in very deed, and they are not yours. If Christ was your substitute at all, then God can never punish two for one offence—first the substitute, and then the sinner himself. If Christ really died for you, then your sins are pardoned, whether you feel that they are pardoned or not. ‘Yes,’ one says, ‘but I want to realise that.’ It is a very blessed thing to realise it; but it is not the realising that saves. It is the death of Christ that saves, not your realising the death. If there is a lifeboat, and some poor man is about to drown, and some strong hand rescues him, when he comes to himself he realises that he is in the boat; but it is not the realising that he is in the boat that saves him; it is the lifeboat. So it is Christ who saves the sinner, not the sinner’s feelings.”

- Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), The Cleansing of the Leper, Sermon 353

John Preston (1587-1628): No man will repent and believe, unless the Holy Spirit enable him

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John Preston’s (1587-1628) work The Breastplate of Faith and Love consists of 18 sermons on Romans 1:17, 1 Thessalonians 1:3, and Galatians 5:6. The following is an excerpt from his second sermon on 1 Thessalonians 1:3, p. 48-55:

“[F]or [a man] to take CHRIST so as to deny himselfe for him, to take him so, as to mortify his lusts, so as to take up his crosse, so as to obey CHRIST, to follow him in all things, this is a thing that no man is able to do, unless GOD enable him to it, with his almighty power. For the heart of every man, by nature, is so shut up against CHRIST, that it will give no entrance to him, he may stand and knocke long enough; unless GOD himselfe shake off the bolts, and open the gates, and breake open these everlasting doores, that the King of Glory may come in, we will not admit him, but keepe him out.

Every man naturally hath a hard heart, that cannot repent, that cannot turne from sin, he will be content perhaps to take Christ for a Saviour, but to take him so as to obey him, and feare him, so as to love him: this no man will do, or can do, unless the Holy Ghost enable him.

But, you will aske, How doth the Holy Ghost do it?

The Holy Ghost doth it by these three acts. First, by putting an efficacy into the Law, and making that powerful, to work on the heart, to make a man poore in spirit, that so he may be fit to receive the Gospel. For the Law, though it be fit to humble a man, yet it is no worker of sanctification. If a man were able to do any thing, he were able to see the righteousness the Law requires, and how far he is from it, and to discerne the curse upon the not doing of it, and yet this he is not able to do, without the spirit of bondage: the spirit of bondage must make the Law effectual, as well as the spirit of Adoption doth the Gospel. That is, except the LORD himselfe press the Law on our hearts, so as to cause it to make sin appeare to us, we, that are the Ministers of GOD, may discover your sins, we may shew you the rectitude required in the Law, we may shew you the danger, yet all will be to no purpose, unless God awaken you: if he will set sin upon the conscience to worry a man, to plucke him downe, when GOD shall charge sin on him, that he shall feele the weight and burden of it, when he shall sharpen sin, and cause it to use its sting, this makes a man fit to receive CHRIST: otherwise, if the sons of Thunder should speake to men, if we should come in the spirit and power of Eliah, nay, if GOD himself should thunder from heaven, all would not move the heart of a man, all would not awaken him to see his sins, till God himselfe shake the heart.

To convert the Gaoler [Jailer], in Acts 16. the foundation of the Prison was shaken; which was a resemblance of the shaking of his heart: we may as well shake the Earth, as strike the heart of a sinner without the work of GOD. For, though the Law be a sword, yet unless GOD take that sword into his hand, and strike therewithall himselfe, it shall not be able to wound a sinner. Therefore the first work of the Holy Ghost is to awaken a sinner, to set sin upon him, that he may be fit to receive CHRIST.

Secondly, when this is done, that the heart is thus prepared by the Spirit, then the Holy Ghost shewes us what we have by CHRIST, he shewes the unsearchable riches of CHRIST, what is the hope of our calling, and the glorious inheritance prepared for the Saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power in them that believe. I say, we neede the Spirit to shew these things.

But, you will say, a man may see these things without the helpe of the Spirit.

It is true, in some manner you may, but not in such a manner as shall affect you. For there is a manner of seeing proper only to the Saints, and that is the proper work of the Spirit in them, when we shall so see them, as to be affected with them. Otherwise, you may reade the Scriptures a thousand times over, you may understand them, yet you shall not be affected with them, till the Holy Ghost shew them unto you. This is the secret of GOD, that he revealeth to those whom he meaneth to save; that is, when he presents these spiritual things prepared for us in Christ, in such a manner, as that we shall love them, and embrace them; when we shall not only see the truth of them, but the goodness of them; when GOD shall not only shew us the advantages we have by Christ, but the excellency of Christ, so that we shall be in love with his person, as well as to be ready to receive the priviledges with him.

Now this is done by the Spirit: 1. Cor. 2. 12. We have received the Spirit of GOD, by which we know the things that are given us of GOD, and they are revealed to us by the Spirit. They are two or three times repeated in that Chapter; as if he should have said, If you saw them no more than other men do, than natural men do, you would be no more affected with them, than they are: but when you have the Spirit of GOD to shew you the things that are given you of GOD, that is the thing that works upon you, and affects you. And so in Joh. 14. 21. saith CHRIST, I will come to him, and shew my selfe to him: When CHRIST sheweth himselfe to a man, it is another thing than when the Ministers shall shew him, or the Scriptures nakedly read do shew him: for when Christ shall shew himselfe by his Spirit, that shewing draweth a mans heart to long after him, otherwise we may preach long enough, and shew you that these spiritual things, these priviledges are prepared for you in Christ, but it is the Holy Ghost that must write them in your hearts; we can but write them in your heads: Therefore the Lord taketh that as peculiar to himselfe: I will write my Law in your hearts. That is, I will make you affected with the things that I shew you, and this is the teaching of GOD. There is a teaching by men, and a teaching by GOD, that is, when God shall enable a man to see things in good earnest; otherwise it will be but as a man that sees a thing, when his minde is upon another matter: so, we shall see, and not see: but when the Holy Ghost shall shew you these things, you shall see indeed, till then, you may heare oft enough of these things, but your hearts will be minding other matters; some about their profits, and some their pleasures, &c. but when the Holy Ghost shall shew you these things; that is, when he presents them to us, that draweth the heart from minding other things, to seeke after CHRIST, to long after him, and not to content your selves, till you be united to him.

But, besides this, there is a third act of the Holy Ghost, by which he works it, and maketh this faith effectual, and that is the testimony that the Spirit gives to our spirits, telling us that these things are ours: when the heart is prepared by the Law, and when these things are so shewed unto us, that we prize them, and long after them, yet there must be a third thing, that is, to take them to our selves, to believe that they be ours; and there needeth a work of the Spirit for this too: for, though the promises be never so cleare, yet, having nothing but the promises, you will finde that you will never be able to apply them to your selves: but when the Holy Ghost shall say, Christ is thine, and these things belong to thee, and GOD is thy Father; when the Spirit shall beare witness with our spirits, by an immediate work of his owne, then we shall believe. This is necessarily required, and without this we shall not believe. It is true, the holiest man doth it two wayes.

One is by clearing of the promises, shining into our hearts, by such a light as makes us able to discerne them, and to believe them, and to assent to them.

But besides that, he doth it by an immediate voice, by which he speaketh immediately to our spirits, that we can say, as they said, Joh. 16. Now thou speakest plainly, and speakest no parable, we understand thee fully: so, till the Holy Ghost speake to us, we are in a Cloud, GOD is hid from us, we cannot see him clearly, but when we have this Spirit of Adoption, to give us this witness, then we believe plainly indeed. Therefore in Isay 57. 19. saith the Lord, I create the fruit of the lips, Peace, &c. That is, the Ministers may speake peace to you, but unless I go and joine with the Minister, except I adde a power of mine owne; that is, such an almighty power as I used in the Creation, it shall never bring peace to you. I create the fruit of the lips; that is, the words of the Minister to be peace, otherwise they would be ineffectual. Therefore, I say, there must be a work of the Spirit to persuade a man in such a case. And you shall finde by experience, let a Minister come to them that are in despaire, they will not apprehend the promises, though we use never so cleare reasons, though we argue with them never so long, and never so strongly, we shall finde that all will do nothing, it will be but labour spent in vaine, till GOD himselfe open the Clouds, till he will smile on a man, and send his Spirit into the heart, to give a secret witness to him, till there be a work of his owne joining with the promises, we finde by experience that our labour is lost.

It is true, we ought to do this, and every man is bound to looke to the Word: for, faith cometh by hearing; and to hearken to the Ministery; for it is Gods ordinance to breed faith in the heart, but yet till there be a work of the Spirit, a man shall never be so persuaded, as to have any sure and sound comfort by it.”

William Perkins (1558–1602) on the efficacy of the Sacraments

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In his polemical work A Reformed Catholic, William Perkins (1558–1602) discusses the differences between Reformed and Roman Catholic theology, arguing that the Reformed are the “true catholics”. In the nineteenth chapter, he discusses the Reformed view of the efficacy of the sacraments:

THE NINETEENTH POINT: OF THE EFFICACY OF THE SACRAMENTS.

Our consent.

Conclus. I. We teach and believe that the sacraments are signes to represent Christ with his benefits unto us.

Conclus. II. We teach further, that the Sacraments are indeede instruments whereby God offereth & giveth the fore-said benefits unto us. Thus far we consent with the Romane Church.

The difference.

The difference betweene us stands in sundry points. First of all, the best learned among them teach, that Sacraments are physical instruments, that is, true and proper instrumental causes, having force and efficacy in them to produce and give grace. They use to express their meaning by their comparisons: When the scrivener takes the pen into his hand and writes, the action of writing comes from the pen, moved by the hand of the writer: and in cutting of wood or stone, the division comes from the sawe, moved by the hand of the work-man: even so the grace (say they) that is given by God, is conferred by the Sacrament it selfe. Now we for our parts hold, that Sacraments are not physical, but mere voluntary instruments. Voluntary, because it is the will and appointment of God, to use them as certaine outward means of grace. Instruments; because when we use them aright according to the institution, God them answerably confers grace from himselfe. In this respect only take we them for instruments and no otherwise.

The second difference is this: They teach that the very action of the minister dispensing the sacrament as it is the worke done, gives grace immediately, if the parties be prepared: as the very washing or sprinkling of water in baptisme, and the giving of bread in the Lords Supper: even as the orderly moving of the pen upon the paper by the hand of the writer causeth writing. We hold the contrary: namely, that no action in the dispensation of a Sacrament conferreth grace as it is a worke done, that is, by the efficacy and force of the very sacramental action it selfe, though ordained of GOD: but for two other ways. First, by the signification thereof. For God testifies unto us his will and good pleasure partly by the word of promise, and partly by the sacrament: the signes representing to the eyes that which the word doth to the eares: being also types and certaine images of the very same things, that are promised in the word, and no other. Yea, the elements are not general and confused, but particular signes to the several communicants, and by the virtue of the institution: for when the faithful receive the signes from God by the hands of the Minister, it is as much as if God himselfe with his own mouth should speak unto them severally, and by name promise to them remission of sins. And things said to men particularly, do more affect, and more take away doubting, than if they were generally spoken of an whole company. Therefore signes of grace are as it were an applying and binding of the promise of salvation to every particular believer: and by this meanes, the oftner they are received, the more they helpe our infirmity, & confirme our assurance of mercy.

Againe, the Sacrament confers grace, in that the signe thereof confirmes faith as a pledge, by reason it hath a promise annexed to it. For when God commands us to receive the signes in faith, & withal promiseth to the receivers to give the thing signified, he bindes himselfe, as it were in bond unto us to stand to his owne word; even as men bind themselves in obligations, putting to their hand and seales, so as they cannot go backe. And when the signes are thus used as pledges, & that often, they greatly increase the grace of God; as a token sent from one friend to another, renewes and confirmes the persuasion of love.

These are two principal ways whereby the Sacraments are said to confer grace, namely, in respect of their signification, and as they are pledges of Gods favour unto us. And the very point here to be considered is, in what order and manner they confirme. And the manner is this: The signes and visible elements affect the senses outward and inward: the senses convey their object to the minde, the minde directed by the holy Ghost reasoneth on this manner, out of the promise annexed to the sacrament: He that useth the elements aright, shall receive grace thereby: but I use the elements aright in faith & repentance, saith the mind of the believer: therefore shall I receive from God increase of grace. Thus then, faith is confirmed not by the worke done, but by a kind of reasoning caused in the minde, the argument or proofe whereof is borrowed from the elements, being signes and pledges of Gods mercy.

The third difference. The Papists teach that in the Sacrament by the worke done, the very grace of justification is conferred. We say no: because a man of yeares must first believe and be justified; before he can be a meete partaker of any sacrament. And the grace that is conferred, is only the increase of our faith, hope, sanctification, &c.

Our reasons.

Reason I. The word preached and the sacraments differ in the manner of giving Christ and his benefits unto us: because in the word the spirit of God teacheth us by a voice conveyed to the minde by the bodily eares: but in the sacraments annexed to the word, by certaine sensible and bodily signes viewed by the eye. Sacraments are nothing but visible words and promises. Otherwise for the giving it selfe they differ not. Christ himselfe saith, that in the very word, is eaten his owne flesh, which he was to give for the life of the world: and what can be said more of the Lords supper? Augustine saith, that believers are partakers of the body & blood of Christ in baptisme: and Hierome to Edibia, that in baptisme we eate and drinke the body and blood of Christ. If thus much may be said of baptisme, why may it not also be said of the word preached? Againe, Hierome upon Ecclesiastes saith, It is profitable to be filled with the body of Christ, and drinke his blood, not only in mystery but in knowledge of holy Scripture. Now upon this it followes, that seeing the worke done in the word preached, confers not grace, neither doth the worke done in the sacrament confer any grace.

Reason II. Matth. 3. 11. I baptize you with water to repentance: but he that commeth after me is stronger than I—, he shall baptize you with the holy Ghost and with fire. Hence it is manifest that grace in the sacrament proceedes not from any action in the sacrament: for John though he do not disjoine himselfe and his action from Christ and the action of his spirit, yet doth he distinguish them plainely in number, persons, and effect. To this purpose Paul, who had said of the Galathians, that he travelled of them and begat them by the Gospel, saith of himselfe, that he is not any thing, not only as he was a man, but as he was a faithful Apostle: thereby excluding the whole Evangelical ministery, whereof the Sacrament is a part, from the least part of divine operation, or efficacy in conferring of grace.

Reason III. The blessed Angels, nay the very flesh of the Son of God hath not any quickening virtue from it selfe; but all this efficacy or virtue is in and from the Godhead of the Son: who by meanes of the flesh apprehended by faith, deriveth heavenly and spiritual life from himselfe to the members. Now if there he no efficacy in the flesh of Christ, but by reason of the hypostatical union: how shall bodily actions about bodily elements confer grace immediately?

Reason IV. Paul, Rom. 4. stands much upon this, to prove that justification by faith is not conferred by the sacraments. And from the circumstance of time he gathereth that Abraham was first justified, & then afterward received circumcision, the signe and the seale of his righteousness. Now we know, that the general condition of all sacraments is one & the same, and that baptisme succeeded circumcision. And what can be more plaine than the example of Cornelius, Act. 10. who before Peter came unto him, had the commendation of the feare of God, and was indued with the spirit of prayer: and afterward when Peter by preaching opened more fully the way of the Lord, he & the rest received the holy Ghost? And after all this they were baptized. Now if they received the holy Ghost before baptisme, then they received remission of sins, and were justified before baptisme.

Reason V. The judgement of the ancient Church. Basil, If there be any grace in the water, it is not from the nature of the water, but from the presence of the Spirit. Hierome saith, Man gives water, but God gives the holy Ghost. August. saith, Water toucheth the body, and washeth the heart: but he shows his meaning else-where. There is one water (saith he) of the sacrament, another of the spirit: the water of the Sacrament is visible, the water of the spirit invisible. That washeth the body, and signifieth what is done in the soule; By this the soule is purged and healed.

Object.Remission of sins, regeneration, and salvation, is ascribed to the sacrament of baptisme, Act. 16. Eph. 5. 26. Gal. 3. 27. Tit. 3. 5Ans. Salvation and remission of sins is ascribed to baptisme and the Lords supper, as to the word; which is the power of God to salvation to all that believe: & that, as they are instruments of the holy Ghost to signify, seale, and exhibite to the believing minde the foresaid benefits: but indeede the proper instrument whereby salvation is apprehended, is faith, & sacraments are but props of faith furthering salvation two ways: first, because by their signification they helpe to nourish and preserve faith: secondly, because they seale grace and salvation to us: yea God gives grace and salvation when we use them well: so be it we believe the word of promise made to the sacrament, whereof also they are seales. And thus we keepe the middle way, neither giving too much, nor too little to the Sacrament.

Augustin Marlorat (1506-1562) on John 8:11, “Go, and sin no more”

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When the scribes and Pharisees had brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, he said to them in John 8:7,

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

I am sure you have seen people use these words of Christ, ripped out of their context, as an escape from reproof and accountability.  Of course, Christ was not speaking here against all forms of reproof and punishment, but rather was exposing the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. As the Huguenot Augustin Marlorat (1506-1562) says on this text in his A Catholic and Ecclesiastical Exposition of the Gospel of John:

“This is not a precise and simple interdict and prohibition by which Christ forbiddeth sinners to do their office in correcting and punishing other mens offences, but he only reprehendeth hypocrites, who being too severe and cruel Judges of other men, do quietly passover their own sins. No mans sins therefore shall be a lette unto them, but that he may correct other mens faltes, and punish them also so often as nede shall require, so that he hateth as well in him self as in another, that thing which is to be condemned. Yea every man ought to beginne here, and to aske his conscience, and to be a witness and Judge against him self, before he come to other men.

And so it shall come to pass that we shall warre against sins withoute hatred against any man. In these words therefore due correction and the autority of the sword against offenders is not taken away; only the mallice of the Pharisees and Elders, is reproved, and restrained.”

Grace and forgiveness is not a license to continue in sin. After Christ had rebuked the scribes and Pharisees and they had left, he turned to the woman caught in adultery and said (John 8:10-11):

“Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” [emphasis added]

Marlorat comments:

“Notwithstanding least any man should think that the same free remission of sins, was a giving of liberty to sin, he [Christ] by and by addeth a restraint from sin. Hereby we gather what is the end of the grace of Christ: namely, that the sinner, being reconsiled to God, may worshippe and serve the aucthour of his salvation in innocensy and holiness of life.

For the Gospel remitteth sins, not because it is lawful to sin, but to the end we might repent and walke in neweness of life. For by the same word of GOD, when pardon is offered unto us, we are called to repentance.

They therefore which are receyved into the grace and favour of GOD, and whose sins are forgiven them must take heede that they take not unto them selves liberty: and being taken out of the handes of their enemies, let them see that they serve GOD their deliverer, in holiness and righteousness before him all the dayes of their life.

And in that, that Christ sayeth not, Gooe thy way, and committe no more Adultery, but, Go thy way and sin no more, we are taught how necessary, Innocency, Righteousness, and holiness, is to those that repent: in so muche that we should not only abstaine from sins, but also from all show of evel.”

In short, justification is to be followed by sanctification. The Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 32 summarizes this well:

Question 86. Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we still do good works?

Answer: Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit, after his own image; that so we may testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for his blessings, and that he may be praised by us; also, that every one may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof; and that, by our godly conversation others may be gained to Christ.

Question 87. Cannot they then be saved, who, continuing in their wicked and ungrateful lives, are not converted to God?

Answer: By no means; for the holy scripture declares that no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or any such like, shall inherit the kingdom of God.