I uploaded this from the following link: https://www.catholicfidelity.com/church-fathers-on-sola-fide-by-matt1618-part-2/.
- F) St. John Chrysostom [344-407]
John Chrysostom, Hom. in Ep. ad Titum 3.3 (PG 62.679 [not in Greek text]).
In this paper, we will extensively study this particular Saint, and we will show that St. Chrysostom is hardly a candidate to be a ‘Sola Fide’ Father.
Chrysostom (349-407): The patriarch Abraham himself before receiving circumcision had been declared righteous on the score of faith alone: before circumcision, the text says, “Abraham believed God, and credit for it brought him to righteousness.” Fathers of the Church, Vol. 82, Homilies on Genesis 18-45, 27.7 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1990), p. 167.
I can not see the context, given that I do not have access to this specific book. King gives no context at all. We know that Paul is pitting faith only against ‘works of the law’, not works done in grace. The Judaizers were saying that circumcision was necessary, and Paul emphasized that is part of the works of the law that does not justify. Of course we know that when St. Chrysostom says ‘faith only’ he does not mean ‘trust in faith only’, as in his commentary on Romans 2, he specifically excludes (as we will see) trusting in ‘faith only’ for justification. He is only excluding circumcision here, which is part of the non-justifying works of the law. Of course faith is foundational to the works that must be done.
Now, before we go into the next quote of King, we see his comments on Romans 3:24-25, on Christians being declared righteous. Justification in the Protestant sense is a declaration of us being covered with Christ’s righteousness, with the essence of justification being forensic, and legal. This is often a Scriptural passage used by Sola Fideists to imply a forensic justification. First, I will quote the St. John Chrysostom take on that passage (Rom. 324-25):
“To declare His righteousness.” What is declaring of righteousness? Like the declaring of His riches, not only for Him to be rich Himself, but also to make others rich, or of life, not only that He is Himself living, but also that He makes the dead to live; and of His power, not only that He is Himself powerful, but also that He makes the feeble powerful. So also is the declaring of His righteousness not only that He is Himself righteous, but that He doth also make them that are filled with the putrefying sores (katasapentaj) of sin suddenly righteous. Homily 7, Rom. 3:24-25, NPNF1, Vol. 11, p. 378
This passage in Romans, often used by Protestants to say that this is forensic, is shown to be interpreted by Chrysostom, not in a forensic manner, but shows justification is seen intrinsically as making one righteous. Thus, in justification Christ’s righteousness is not ‘imputed’ to us, but is a making of us righteous. That is a purely Catholic look at justification. There is no doubt that Protestants will say that they do not deny that in justification one is made righteous, but this making righteous is not the cause of one’s justification, but is an important byproduct of justification. However, St. Chrysostom sees that this is the definition of justification, being made righteous. Now, St. Chrysostom will go on to say that our own works don’t make us righteous, per se, but it is God who makes us so. It is his grace that makes us righteous, but that is intrinsic to justification. That is a far cry from making justification a forensic exchange. Thus, any actions on our part to make ourselves unrighteous, through mortal sin, will cut off our justification. We will see this later in St. Chrysostom’s commentary on Romans. In fact the quote I just gave directly precedes the next quote that King tries to highlight, to give us context and perspective on King’s next attempted quote.
Chrysostom (349-407): For if even before this, the circumcision was made uncircumcision, much rather was it now, since it is cast out from both periods. But after saying that “it was excluded,” he shows also, how. How then does he say it was excluded? “By what law? of works? Nay, but by the law of faith.” See he calls the faith also a law delighting to keep to the names, and so allay the seeming novelty. But what is the “law of faith?” It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only. Vol. XI, Homilies on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, Homily 7, Rom. 3:27 NPNF1, Vol. 11, p. 378:
How about the continuing of the passage so Chrysostom can speak for himself as to what he sees the purpose of, here? This homily is actually on Rom. 3:27, where Paul is specifically excluding works of the law as salvific, and those works which lead to boasting:
And in saying this he attempts to bring the Jew who has believed to act with moderation, and to calm him that hath not believed, in such way as to draw him on to his own view. For he that has been saved, if he be high-minded in that he abides by the Law, will be told that he himself has stopped his own mouth, himself has accused himself, himself has renounced claims to his own salvation, and has excluded boasting. But he that hath not believed again, being humbled by these same means, will be capable of being brought over to the faith. Do you see how great faith’s preeminence is? How it hath removed us from the former things, not even allowing us to boast of them? Homily 7, vs. 27. . NPNF1: Vol. XIII, p. 379.
Here Paul is dealing specifically with the Judaizers. His purpose is to correct the Jews, and their false view on justification. Paul excluded boasting. He notes that again here, in the portion that King quoted, it is speaking of faith being prior to ‘circumcision’. So the context, from which we approach this passage from St. Chrysostom’s perspective, is that faith was prior to circumcision. What is being excluded? Faith that works in love? According to St. Chrysostom, circumcision as grounds of salvation is the ‘works’ he is speaking of and excluding as being salvific. Circumcision is the specific point of works being denied as grounds of justification, which is part of the works of the law scenario that St. Chrysostom refers us to. Also, in the continuing of the passage, we see that he is condemning those who are ‘high-minded’ about themselves. St. Chrysostom notes Paul condemning ‘boasting’. Works of the law thus are those works that lead to boasting and leads one to pride, which reflected the Judaizers perspective on circumcision. In fact, our salvation only comes when we through God’s grace work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12-13), where God is at work within you. Circumcision would lead some to boast in themselves. So, works of the law is intertwined, according to St. Chrysostom’s analysis of Paul, not only to circumcision and the like, but the boasting in them. In God’s grace, true faith does not leave to boasting in ourselves but God, who is the one who enables us (Phil. 2:13). St. Chrysostom does not say that grace empowered works are not necessary for salvation, but relying on circumcision and boasting in such works, which Catholicism also condemns.
In the same homily, he writes in his commentary on v. 31, what the object of the law was:
For here he shows that the faith, so far from doing any disparagement to the “Law,” even assists it, as it on the other hand paved the way for the faith. For as the Law itself before bore witness to it (for he saith, “being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets”), so here this establisheth that, now that it is unnerved. And how did it establish? he would say. What was the object of the Law and what the scope of all its enactments? Why, to make man righteous. But this it had no power to do. “For all,” it says, “have sinned:” but faith when it came accomplished it. For when a man is once a believer, he is straightway justified. The intention then of the Law it did establish, and what all its enactments aim after, this hath it brought to a consummation. Consequently it has not disannulled, but perfected it. Here then three points he has demonstrated; first, that without the Law it is possible to be justified; next, that this the Law could not effect; and, that faith is not opposed to the Law.. For since the chief cause of perplexity to the Jews was this, that the faith seemed to be in opposition to it, he shows more than the Jew wishes, that so far from being contrary,it is even in close alliance and coöperation with it, which was what they especially longed to hear proved.
But since after this grace, whereby we were justified, there is need also of a life suited to it, let us show an earnestness worthy the gift. And show it we shall, if we keep with earnestness charity, the mother of good deeds. Now charity is not bare words, or mere ways of speaking (prosrhseij) to men, but a taking care (prostasia) of them, and a putting forth of itself by works, as, for instance, by relieving poverty, lending one’s aid to the sick, rescuing from dangers, to stand by them that be in difficulties, to weep with them that weep, and to rejoice with them that rejoice. (Rom. xii. 15.) Homily 7, Commentary on Rom. 3:31. NPNF1: Vol. X, p. 380.
Now, the Law’s purpose was to make us righteous. Luther’s idea is that it’s only goal was to show us how we are unable to keep it. Now, St. Chrysostom shows that yes the Law does not enable us to keep it, or to make us righteous. He shows that faith is not opposed to the law, but establishes the law. Also, it is not either faith or the law, but the faith cooperates with the law, in justification!!! The grace that is given must bear out in good deeds. He refers to charity as the ‘mother’ of good deeds. Now, he does not say that good deeds are extrinsic to one’s justification, but are necessary for this justification. So for St. Chrysostom, the Law, be it merely circumcision as Chrysostom shows that Paul is focusing on here in verses 28 & 29, or it is works of the moral law which does not justify the Gentiles (see his commentary on Rom. 3:20) and only makes them aware of the moral Law, does not justify in and of itself. Grace given by God gives us the power to be made righteous. However, when grace comes, the law can be fulfilled by us. And good works spring from faith and we must put forth works!!! The Law does not justify, but St. Chrysostom recognizes that is because the Law does not provide the grace necessary to keep the law. Grace through faith provides the power needed. Thus, Chrysostom at the same time denying that the Law actually justifies in and of itself, specifically teaches through grace, good works must be put forth. And he specifically makes the distinction between works that do not justify (works of the law) from those works that must be done in God’s good grace as necessary. He never puts grace empowered works as part of ‘works of the law’. But works and the law is still necessary, but it must be under the auspices of God’s grace, or it won’t be salvific.
Chrysostom (349-407): “Now since the Jews kept turning over and over the fact, that the Patriarch, and friend of God, was the first to receive circumcision, he wishes to show, that it was by faith that he too was justified. And this was quite a vantage ground to insist upon. For a person who had no works, to be justified by faith, was nothing unlikely. But for a person richly adorned with good deeds, not to be made just from hence, but from faith, this is the thing to cause wonder, and to set the power of faith in a strong light” (Saint John Chrysostom The Homilies on the Epistle of St. Paul The Apostle to the Romans, Homily 8). Commentary on Rom. 3:31. NPNF1: Vol. X, p. 380.
Here, we see that St. Chrysostom is speaking of the fact that it is God who gives us the ability to do works. It is not works from our own power. Faith is the grounds of the works that we do. We don’t make us righteous by our own good deeds apart from faith in Christ. The good deeds we do only come through faith in God and the grace he gives us. Thus, it is a misreading of the above to think that he means justification is not identified by us being made righteous, which apparently King was attempting to use St. Chrysostom for. We do not make ourselves righteous, it is God who makes us righteous in cooperation with him. On this same passage, we see St. Chrysostom’s comment here:
For he glorieth at conceiving great things concerning Him, which redound to His glory. And this is why he speaks of having whereof to glory before God. And not for this only, but also for another reason: for he who is a believer glorieth again, not only because he loveth God in sincerity, but also because he hath enjoyed great honor and love from him. For as be shows his love to Him by having great thoughts about Him, (for this is a proof of love), so doth God also love him, though deserving to suffer for countless sins, not in freeing him from punishment only, but even by making him righteous. He then hath whereof to glory, as having been counted worthy of mighty love. NPNF1: Vol. XI, Homilies on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, Homily 8, Rom. 4:1, 2., p. 386
In speaking of this glory, it does not mean that when we do stuff, we glory in ourselves. That is how earlier he said in justification one is not made righteous. By our power alone we are not made righteous. When we are justified, we are made righteous, through faith. What we do is a gift from God. What Christ does indeed is make us righteous, and we show our appreciation by having love for him. We don’t glory in ourselves, we glory that God made us righteous.
Let us look at his Commentary on Romans 4:4-5, a passage often cited by Protestants as a passage showing Sola Fide:
Ver. 4. “For to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.”
Then is not this last the greatest? he means. By no means: for it is to the believer that it is reckoned. But it would not have been reckoned, unless there were something that he contributed himself. And so he too hath God for his debtor, and debtor too for no common things, but great and high ones. For to show his high-mindedness and spiritual understanding, he does not say “to him that believeth” merely, but
Ver. 5. “To him that believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly.”
For reflect how great a thing it is to be persuaded and have full confidence that God is able on a sudden not to free a man who has lived in impiety from punishment only, but even to make him just,and to count him worthy of those immortal honors. NPNF1: Vol. XI, Homilies on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans,Homily 8, Rom. 4:1, 2., p. 386
Thus, St. Chrysostom even sees God as a debtor. The gift that he gives us is a just reward for our works. We contribute ourselves to our own justification. Those who use Roman 4 to teach that works do not contribute to our own justification are at odds with St. Chrysostom. Part of justification is him making us righteous. That is his definition of justification:
Chrysostom (349-407): That those who were enemies, and sinners, neither justified by the law, nor by works, should immediately through faith alone be advanced to the highest favor. Upon this head accordingly Paul has discoursed at length in his Epistle to the Romans, and here again at length. “This is a faithful saying,” he says, “and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” As the Jews were chiefly attracted by this, he persuades them not to give heed to the law, since they could not attain salvation by it without faith. Against this he contends; for it seemed to them incredible, that a man who had misspent all his former life in vain and wicked actions, should afterwards be saved by his faith alone. On this account he says, “It is a saying to be believed.” But some not only disbelieved but even objected, as the Greeks do now. “Let us then do evil, that good may come.” This was the consequence they drew in derision of our faith, from his words, “Where sin abounded grace did much more abound.” (Rom. 3:8, and 5:20) ( HOMILY IV. Saint John Chrysostom 1 Timothy 1:15, 16)
He says that you can not be saved by law without faith. Of course, the Catholic Church does not teach that one is saved by law alone. The law, in and of itself is unable to save one. He says: “since they could not attain salvation by it without faith”. In addition, he is dealing with Judaizers, as can be seen from his statement, ‘As the Jews’, and ‘against this’. Notice that he does not say that law is divorced from salvation. He says just that without faith, the law will not save. Thus, faith must be in cooperation with the law in order for one to be saved. We see this in his commentary on Romans 8. However, even in the more immediate context of his statement here on 1 Tim. 1:15, 16, we see what is the means of getting this remission of sins. What is this faith ‘alone’ pointing to in the remission of sins? In the very paragraph, King points us to, St. Chrysostom writes, immediately following the above quote that King tries to show faith alone excluding the sacraments, still Homily on 1 Tim. 1:15:16::
So when we discourse to them of Hell they say, How can this be worthy of God? When man has found his servant offending, he forgives it, and thinks him worthy of pardon and does God punish eternally? And when we speak of the Laver, and of the remission of sins through it, this too they say is unworthy of God, that he who has committed offenses without number should have his sins remitted. What perverseness of mind is this, what a spirit of contention does it manifest! NPNF1: Vol. XIII, p. 420.
Thus, the faith ‘alone’ that he speaks of, is only efficient for the remission of sins, through the laver. What is the laver, but baptism? As this is in the very same paragraph that King points us to, he is either being sloppy or misleading when he forgets to mention that ‘faith alone’ only justifies when it is through the Laver, or baptism for the remission of sins. He further shows us that Paul’s contention is with the Judaizers. How do we get remission of sins? King leaves the answer out of his selective citation of Chrysostom in the very paragraph he points us to!!!!
In this very homily of St. Chrysostom, he points us to the works that we do, and the honor we do in our works honor God. And that we must not commit mortal sins, as they will separate us from God. How does one attain salvation? St. Chrysostom answers in the very passage that King points us to, in Homily 4, on 1 Tim. 1:15, 16 (Here commenting on v. 17):
In honoring Him, therefore, we do honor to ourselves. He who opens his eyes to gaze on the light of the sun, receives delight himself, as he admires the beauty of the star, but does no favor to that luminary, nor increases its splendor, for it continues what it was; much more is this true with respect to God. He who admires and honors God does so to his own salvation, and highest benefit; and how? Because he follows after virtue, and is honored by Him. For “them that honor Me,” He says, “I will honor.”…. (1 Sam. iv. 30) How then is He honored, if He enjoys no advantage from our honor?… But how may we glorify Him in the body and in the spirit? He glorifies Him in the body, who does not commit adultery or fornication, who avoids gluttony and drunkenness, who does not affect a showy exterior, who makes such provision for himself as is sufficient for health only NPNF1: Vol. XIII, p. 421.
Here he speaks of honoring God, by following after virtue, for his own salvation. Only if one has virtue, will he get the end of salvation. Thus, the work of virtue is necessary for salvation. Not as mere evidence. It is for one who does not commit adultery, etc. After all that is mortal sin that separates us from Christ. That is something quite different from Luther who said one could commit murder and fornication a thousand times a day and that will not separate us from Christ. The Calvinist does not even admit that there are any mortal sins.
Chrysostom (349-407): Attend to this, ye who come to baptism at the close of life, for we indeed pray that after baptism ye may have also this deportment, but thou art seeking and doing thy utmost to depart without it. For, what though thou be justified: yet is it of faith only. But we pray that thou shouldest have as well the confidence that cometh of good works. (Saint John Chrysostom, On the Second Epistle of St. Paul The Apostle to the Corinthians, Homily 2).
Here he is only speaking about those who would seek to delay their baptism, they must put their faith into action and get baptized for the remission of sins. This is not faith alone to the exclusion of sacraments or good works that follow. In fact, in this same homily, on the Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, St. Chrysostom writes, when he is speaking of what Paul is saying, in 2 Cor. 1:6, 7, <I<>Homily 2 says: :
For what he saith is this, “Your salvation is not our work alone, but your own as well;for both we in preaching to you the word endure affliction, and ye in receiving it endure the very same; we to impart to you that which we received, ye to receive what is imparted and not to let it go.” Now what humility can compare with this, seeing that those who fell so far short of him he raiseth to the same dignity of endurance? for he saith, “Which worked in the enduring of the same sufferings;” for not through believing only cometh your salvation, but also through the suffering and enduring the same things with us. NPNF1: Vol. XII, p. 277.
In the very same homily in his commentary on the same passage in 2nd Corinthians, he specifically says that salvation is not through belief only, and works are instrumental to salvation. One must suffer and endure to achieve salvation. Cooperation, or synergism, is essential for salvation. Thus, faith alone according to Chrysostom, does not mean belief only. It explicitly means faith plus endurance in works, and suffering. This is hardly Sola Fide.
St. Chrysostom also writes on the passage in 1 Cor. 9:27 which says: ‘I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.” He writes in Homily XXIII:
For, “think not,” saith he, “because ye have believed, that this is sufficient for your salvation: since if to me neither preaching nor teaching nor bringing over innumerable persons, is enough for salvation unless I exhibit my own conduct also unblameable, much less to you,.” NPNF1: Vol. XII, p. 133
He says the exact same thing here that belief is insuffficient for salvation. One must exhibit good conduct in order attain salvation. If one is blameable, it is not enough for salvation. Well, the Sola Fide way, it is not possible to be blameable because one has Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed to one’s account.
In this very book that King refers us to, St. Chrysostom’s commentary on 1 Corinthians, we see that sins are blotted out in the sacrifice of the Eucharist, in Homily XXVII::
Consider the time in which thou didst draw near and set forth a material table, raise thy mind to that Table, to the Supper of the Lord, to the vigil of the disciples, in that night, that holy night…. It is the season of prayers, not of drunkenness; ever indeed, but especially during a festival. For a festival is therefore appointed, not that we may behave ourselves unseemly, not that we may accumulate sins, but rather that we may blot out those which exist.NPNF1: Vol. XII, p. 162
This is just a sampling of what the Saint speaks of, in reference to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Eucharist helps us to blot out our sins. Not an imputation of an alien righteousness through faith alone.
Chrysostom (349-407): “For it is most of all apparent among the Gentiles, as he also says elsewhere, ‘And that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.’ (Romans 15:9.) For the great glory of this mystery is apparent among others also, but much more among these. For, on a sudden, to have brought men more senseless than stones to the dignity of Angels, simply through bare words, and faith alone, without any laboriousness, is indeed glory and riches of mystery: just as if one were to take a dog, quite consumed with hunger and the mange, foul, and loathsome to see, and not so much as able to move, but lying cast out, and make him all at once into a man, and to display him upon the royal throne” (Saint John Chrysostom on Colossians, Homily 5).
Here he is speaking about initial justification. One does not ‘work’ one’s way into initial justification. He is not speaking about faith being the only instrument of salvation so this does not help King. It is through baptism, as he says ‘this mystery, refers to baptism. We know that he is speaking about baptism here because in his very commentary in Colossians 2:11, Homily V he writes:
See how near he is come to the thing. He saith, “In the putting” quite away, not putting off merely. “The body of sins.” He means, “the old life.” He is continually adverting to this in different ways, as he said above, “Who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and reconciled us who were alienated,” that we should be “holy and without blemish.” (Col. i. 13, 21.) No longer, he saith, is the circumcision with the knife, but in Christ Himself; for no hand imparts this circumcision, as is the case there, but the Spirit. It circumciseth not a part, but the whole man. It is the body both in the one and the other case, but in the one it is carnally, in the other it is spiritually circumcised; but not as the Jews, for ye have not put off flesh, but sins. When and where? In Baptism. And what he calls circumcision, he again calls burial. NPNFI, Vol. XIII, p. 285.
Thus, it is clear that what puts off the body of sins is baptism. Baptism is the new circumcision which accomplishes much more than circumcision of the Old Covenant. It wipes out (not covers) sin, through faith. Baptism makes us holy.
Chrysostom (349-407): “For he makes a wide distinction between ‘commandments’ and ‘ordinances.’ He either then means ‘faith,’ calling that an ‘ordinance,’ (for by faith alone He saved us,) or he means ‘precept,’ such as Christ gave, when He said, ‘But I say unto you, that ye are not to be angry at all.’ (Matthew 5:22.) That is to say, ‘If thou shalt believe that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.’ (Romans 10:6-9.) And again, ‘The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thine heart. Say not, Who shall ascend into heaven, or who shall descend into the abyss?’ or, who hath ‘brought. Him again from the dead?’ Instead of a certain manner of life, He brought in faith. For that He might not save us to no purpose, He both Himself underwent the penalty, and also required of men the faith that is by doctrines” (Saint John Chrysostom on Ephesians, Homily 5).
Here he refers to Matthew 5:22. Here he is speaking about baptismal faith as opposed to the certain manner of life, the old ordinances that did not make one righteous. He is not saying works and obedience are not salvific, because in the prior homily on Ephesians, Homily 4 he writes, in fact on the very same verse on Matt. 5:22 that one can lose their salvation, through mortal sins. Homily 4, commentary in fact on Eph. 2:10:
Again, if we do all things ever so rightly, and yet do our neighbor no service, neither in that case shall we enter into the kingdom. Whence is this evident? From the parable of the servants entrusted with the talents. For, in that instance, the man’s virtue was in every point unimpaired, and there had been nothing lacking, but forasmuch as he was slothful in his business, he was rightly cast out. Nay, it is possible, even by railing only, to fall into Hell. “For whosoever” saith Christ, “shall say to his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the hell of fire.” (Matt. v: 22.) And if a man be ever so right in all things, and yet be injurious, he shall not enter. NPNF1: Vol. XIII, p. 68.
In order to enter the kingdom, we must have virtue. Virtue, is a cause. Just being slothful can cut us off from entering the kingdom. He uses the passage (Mt. 5:22) that King used to say that St. Chrysostom taught faith alone, to show that with merely being angry one can wipe out one’s good works and salvation, just as Jesus specifically said.
We know this truth from Scripture and Jesus’ words, but Chrysostom points this out just one paragraph later:
And let no one impute cruelty to God, in that he excludes those who fail in this matter, from the kingdom of Heaven. For even with men, if any one do any thing whatsoever contrary to the law, he is banished from the king’s presence. And if he transgresses so much as one of the established laws, if he lays a false accusation against another, he forfeits his office. And if he commits adultery, and is detected, he is disgraced, and even though he have done ten thousand right acts, he is undone; and if he commits murder, and is convicted, this again is enough to destroy him. Now if the laws of men are so carefully guarded, how much more should those of God be.
One can be undone by one act of sin. Also, since works have meritorious consequences, mortal sin, does not wipe out the actions of faith alone that puts one into grace, but wipes out works which had kept one in the state of grace. Compare that to Sola Fide’s founder, Martin Luther who says not only that works are not meritorious before God, but that if he murders 1000 times a day and commits adultery 1000 times a day, he still would be saved. Again, here is Luther’s wisdom on there being no eternal consequence for sin by Christians:
If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly–you too are a mighty sinner.
Thus, St. Chrysostom very apparently teaches mortal sin and that is totally opposite of what Luther (and Calvin) wrote.
St. Chrysostom also concludes in Ephesians in this very Homily on Ephesians 2:10 (Homily IV), that good works are a cause of one’s salvation (as long as one does not commit mortal sin, to wipe it out):
Let us not then vainly flatter our own souls with speeches like these; no, let us take heed, let us have a regard for our own salvation, let us make virtue our care, let us rouse ourselves to the practice of good works, that we may be counted worthy to attain to this exceeding glory, in Jesus Christ our Lord with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit be glory, might, honor, now and ever, and for ages of ages. Amen. NPNF1: Vol. XIII, p. 68
Thus, good works do not merely demonstrate that we are already saved, but we must have virtue and good works, just so we can be counted worthy to attain the glory of being with Jesus Christ our Lord. There is no such thing that one is counted worthy only by an imputed, alien righteousness of Christ. For St. Chrysostom, you do not have good works, you are not worthy. So much for Sola Fide.
Chrysostom (349-407): “They said that he who kept not the Law was cursed, but he proves that he who kept it was cursed, and he who kept it not, blessed. Again, they said that he who adhered to Faith alone was cursed, but he shows that he who adhered to Faith alone, is blessed. And how does he prove all this? for it is no common thing which we have promised; wherefore it is necessary to give close attention to what follows. He had already shown this, by referring to the words spoken to the Patriarch, ‘In thee shall all nations be blessed,’ (Genesis 12:4.) at a time, that is, when Faith existed, not the Law” (Saint John Chrysostom on Galatians, Chapter 3).
In reading St. Chrysostom’s commentary on Galatians, one will see that at times he will point to ‘the law’ as referring to ceremonial laws as being insufficient to save. Other times, he refers to the law as being a reference to the commandments, including even the moral commandments as being insufficient to save, outside grace. In this portion here, we see the reference to Abraham, who had faith, prior to his circumcision. Here he sees the law as referring to circumcision, and points out that Abraham had faith prior to the circumcision and was so justified. Thus, ‘faith alone’ is being contrasted to the rite of circumcision, as part of the ‘law’ that did not justify. He is not contrasting that to works done in God’s grace.
We see this elsewhere in his commentary on Galatians 5 (chapter 5 on his commentary on Galatians 5:4-6):
Ver 4. “Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the Law; ye are fallen away from grace.”
Having established his point, he at length declares their danger of the severest punishment. When a man recurs to the Law, which cannot save him, and falls from grace, what remains but an inexorable retribution, the Law being powerless, and grace rejecting him? Thus having aggravated their alarm, and disquieted their mind, and shown them all the shipwreck they were about to suffer, he opens to them the haven of grace which was near at hand. This is ever his wont, and he shows that in this quarter salvation is easy and secure, sub-joining the words,
Ver 5. “For we through the Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness.” We need none of those legal observances, he says; faith suffices to obtain for us the Spirit, and by Him righteousness, and many and great benefits…
Ver 6. “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith working through love.”
What is the meaning of “working through love?” Here he gives them a hard blow, by showing that this error had crept in because the love of Christ had not been rooted within them. For to believe is not all that is required, but also to abide in love. NPNF1: Vol. XIII, p. 37
St. Chrysostom shows that the legal observances of the law are not sufficient to save. Now, notice that when he mentions faith alone, he yet again specifically repudiates the idea of belief alone as justifying. He also mentions that the Law gives us commandments that we can not keep outside of grace. That is what grace is for, to enable to keep his commandments. He specifically says that to believe is not all that is required, for one’s justification. What is required is works that are done in love. Thus, in justification, he recognizes that works are a requirement for salvation, just that it must be within God’s grace. The saint shows the necessity of works in salvation. In his commentary on Gal. 6:9 which notes that those who sow to the flesh will reap eternal punishment, he goes on to comment on what awaits those who sow to the flesh. He goes on to elaborate further in Galatians 6, also chapter 6 of his work on Galatians:
But the fruit of the Spirit is of a nature not similar but contrary in all respects to these. For consider; hast thou sown alms-giving? the treasures of heaven and eternal glory await thee: hast thou sown temperance? honor and reward, and the applause of Angels, and a crown from the Judge await thee. NPNF1: Vol. XIII, p. 45
If you sow good fruit, you get heaven. Doing almsgiving gives the byproduct of heaven. If you do not sow good fruit, you do not get to heaven. St. Chrysostom thus shows works are meritorious.
Chrysostom (349-407): “Everywhere he puts the Gentiles upon a thorough equality. ‘And put no difference between us and them, having purified their hearts by faith.’ (v. 9.) From faith alone, he says, they obtained the same gifts. This is also meant as a lesson to those (objectors); this is able to teach even them that faith only is needed, not works nor circumcision” (Saint John Chrysostom, A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Homily 32).
This section is St. Chrysostom’s commentary on Acts 15. (I wonder if Mr. King actually studied where this is from). Thus, the context here is on the unnecessity of Mosaic laws. The Judaizers were trying to impose those who came to faith in Christ the system of laws that could not provide grace. St. Chrysostom notes that in Christ the Gentiles have access to the same God the Jews did. St. Chrysostom correctly notes that Paul and Peter in Acts 15 were opposing these people who were trying to say that in order to be justified they would have to keep circumcision and all the laws involved in that system. The Judaizers were not attempting to say ‘Well, you need to have good works done in God’s grace, in order to be saved’ and then Peter and Paul opposing them in that, but only in reference to imposing circumcision and the laws that came with them were they then opposing them. Thus, the reference to works involved those works involved with the legal observances such as circumcision. In Acts 15 of course, the issue is circumcision and that is what St. Chrysostom is speaking to. A look at Homily 32 in the NPNF1 series, Vol. 11, pp. 201-205 shows that this is what Chrysostom is dealing with. It does not involve excluding works of love for salvation.
Next look at his commentary on Acts 10, in Homily 23:
For beforetime likewise it was just the same: “Every one,” as he saith, “that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, would be acceptable to Him.” As when Paul saith, “For when the Gentiles which have not the Law, do by nature the things of the Law.” (Rom. ii. 14.) “That feareth God and worketh righteousness:” he assumes. both doctrine and manner of life: is “accepted with Him;” for, if He did not overlook the Magi, nor the Ethiopian, nor the thief, nor the harlot, much more them that work righteousness, and are willing, shall He in anywise not overlook…
But besides the likely person he here speaks of is not this sort of man, but the man “that worketh righteousness:” that is, the man who in all points is virtuous and irreproachable, when he has the fear of God as he ought to have it. NPNF1: Vol. XI, p. 151
Thus, the man who can do the law (in grace) (as noted in Romans 2), and work righteousness is he who avails before God. The man must personally be virtuous and irreproachable in order to be just before God. Absolutely no hint of an imputed righteousness or anything of the sort. Let us look at his commentary on Romans 14:10-14, in Homily XXV:
For why, pray, dost thou not deem it right thou shouldest be punished for sinning? Hath He not told thee all beforehand? Hath He not threatened thee? not come to thy aid? 19 not done things even without number for thy salvation’s sake? Gave He thee not the laver of Regeneration, and forgave He not all thy former sins? Hath He not after this forgiveness, and the laver, also given thee the succor of repentance if thou sin? Hath He not made the way to forgiveness of sins, even after all this, easy to thee? Hear then what He hath enjoined: “If thou forgive thy neighbor, I also will forgive thee” (ib. vi. 14), He says. What hardship is there in this? “If ye judge the cause of the fatherless, and see that the widow have right, come and let us converse together,” He saith, “and if your sins be as purple, I will make them white as snow.” (Is. i. 17, 18.) What labor is there here? “Tell thy sins, that thou mayest be justified.” (Is. xliii. 26 LXX.) What hardship is there in this? “Redeem thy sins with alms.” (Dan. iv. 24.) What toilsomeness is there in this? The Publican said, “Be merciful to me a sinner,” and “went down home justified.” (Luke xviii. 13, 14.) What labor is it to imitate the Publican? And wilt thou not be persuaded even after this that there is punishment and vengeance? At that rate thou wilt deny that even the devil is punished For, “Depart,” He says, “into the fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matt. xxv. 41.) Now if there be no hell, then neither is he punished. But if he is punished, it is plain that we shall also. NPNP1, Vol. 11, p. 527
The Protestant Sola Fideist argues that one does not have to account for their sins if they are in God’s grace because God looks not at our sins, but Christ’s perfect righteousness. Of course St. Chrysostom says that we do face God’s judgment for our sins, including eternal punishment if we sin gravely. Next, we see that the laver of Regeneration is how all his former sins are forgiven. That of course is a reference to baptism as wiping out all past sins, as we saw earlier in another passage. However, Sola Fide supposedly wipes out all past & future sins. St. Chrysostom however indicates that if one sins in the future after baptism, those sins can only be wiped out by repentance, or penance. (Although he doesn’t go into details here on the issue, he preaches on the necessity of confession, which is assumed here) He even says ‘redeem thy sins with alms’, quoting Dan. 4:24 (in the Septuagint). Neither Luther or Calvin taught ‘redeem thy sins with alms.’ We shall be punished for our sins eternally if we sever our relationship with Christ through mortal sin, and he uses Matthew 25:41, which is the judgment scene of Jesus separating the sheep and the goats, as an indication of that truth.
Now that we have seen that in the very books and homilies that Chrysostom gave that King attempted to use of St. Chrysostom as an advocate of Sola Fide, we see that not only does he not teach Sola Fide, but gives views totally contrary to that view. I will show in other areas that he teaches explicitly doctrines totally incompatible with Sola Fide.
On the Priesthood, Book III, 5:
For if any one will consider how great a thing it is for one, being a man, and compassed with flesh and blood, to be enabled to draw nigh to that blessed and pure nature, he will then clearly see what great honor the grace of the Spirit has vouchsafed to priests; since by their agency these rites are celebrated, and others nowise inferior to these both in respect of our dignity and our salvation. For they who inhabit the earth and make their abode there are entrusted with the administration of things which are in Heaven, and have received an authority which God has not given to angels or archangels. For it has not been said to them, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.” (Mt. 18:18) They who rule on earth have indeed authority to bind, but only the body: whereas this binding lays hold of the soul and penetrates the heavens; and what priests do here below God ratifies above, and the Master confirms the sentence of his servants. For indeed what is it but all manner of heavenly authority which He has given them when He says, “Whose sins ye remit they are remitted, and whose sins ye retain they are retained?” (Jn 20:23) What authority could be greater than this? “The Father hath committed all judgment to the Son?” But I see it all put into the hands of these men by the Son.
…but he who has received from God an authority as much greater as heaven is more precious than earth, and souls more precious than bodies, seems to some to have received so small an honor that they are actually able to imagine that one of those who have been entrusted with these things will despise the gift. Away with such madness! For transparent madness it is to despise so great a dignity, without which it is not possible to obtain either our own salvation, or the good things which have been promised to us. For if no one can enter into the kingdom of Heaven except he be regenerate through water and the Spirit, and he who does not eat the flesh of the Lord and drink His blood is excluded from eternal life, and if all these things are accomplished only by means of those holy hands, I mean the hands of the priest, how will any one, without these, be able to escape the fire of hell, or to win those crowns which are reserved for the victorious? NPNF1: Vol. IX, p. 48.
Here St. Chrysostom notes that priests are God’s agents of salvation. One is normally baptized by a priest, in which one is regenerated in baptism. It is through the priest’s hands that that one receives the salvific graces of baptism, according to the saint. And he points to the great honor the priest has of remitting sins through confession. This is a great honor. He even says that one is excluded from eternal life in one does not eat the flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, in this one passage three sacraments are said to be salvific, King would recognize none of them as salvific, and the third one (confession) as not even a sacrament. Thus, Christ works through his priests in achieving salvation for Christians.
Homilies on the Statues, Homily VI, 19:
Your good reputation is a sufficient reward for my labours; and if I see you living in piety, I have all I wish. Do, then, what yesterday I recommended, and to-day will repeat, and will not cease to say it. Fix a penalty for those who swear; a penalty which is a gain, and not a loss; and prepare yourselves henceforth so as you may give us a proof of success. For I shall endeavour to hold a long conversation with each of you, when this assembly is dismissed; in order that in the continuance of discourse I may discover the persons who have been acting rightly, and those who have not. And if I find any one still swearing, I shall make him manifest to all who are amended, that by reproving, rebuking, and correcting, we may quickly deliver him from this evil habit. For better it is that he should amend through being reproached here, than that he should be put to shame, and punished, in the presence of the whole assembled universe, on that Day, when our sins shall be revealed to the eyes of all men! But God forbid that any in this fair assembly should appear there suffering such things! but by the prayers of the holy fathers, correcting all our offences, and having shown forth the abundant fruit of virtue, may we depart hence with much confidence, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom, and with whom, be glory to the Father together with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen. NPNF1: Vol. IX, p. 389.
Sola Fide says that those in his grace will never have his sins looked at, because God looks at Christ’s righteousness being imputed to one’s account. He does not look at our sins. If we get reproached here, we will be corrected here, so we don’t have to face the consequences of our sins in the future (except perhaps loss of rewards in heaven). St. John Chrysostom says otherwise. He writes that we either will be condemned eternally for mortal sins, or suffer temporal punishment if we stay in his grace, implying purgatory. Also, what helps us to depart with confidence? What helps us is the prayer of the holy fathers, the departed saints, who can pray for us. Their prayers assist us, there exists a treasury of saints that is efficacious for us. And this will make our works to help us depart in confidence with God. And yet these prayers, are only done through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the grace and lovingkindness of Jesus Christ is given through not only through the prayers of the saints, but abundant fruits that we do through God’s grace.
Let us look at St. Chrysostom’s Homily on Philippians. (Commentary on Phil. 1:24), Homily IV:
Not in vain did the Apostles order that remembrance should be made of the dead in the dreadful Mysteries. They know that great gain resulteth to them, great benefit; for when the whole people stands with uplifted hands, a priestly assembly, and that awful Sacrifice lies displayed, how shall we not prevail with God by our entreaties for them? And this we do for those who have departed in faith, whilst the catechumens are not thought worthy even of this consolation, but are deprived of all means of help save one. NPNF1: Vol. XIII, p. 196.
St. Chrysostom himself mentions that the apostles themselves mandated that we should pray for the dead. The sacrifice of the Mass, gives efficacious grace, not only for us, but for those who died in God’s grace. If we die in God’s grace, but still have sins on our soul, we still need cleansing afterward to be made worthy of God’s presence. Apparently, Chrysostom has no concept of Sola Fide, where after one dies, no cleansing is necessary, because Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to one’s account. He again makes the almost same reference in his Homily on 1 Corinthians, on 1 Cor. 15:46, Homily XLI, he speaks of the necessity of praying for the dead through the divine mysteries (the Eucharist) to profit them, NPNF1: Vol. XII, p. 253.
Now, on to Romans 2:6-8, let us look at what he says in Homily V, and to his commentary on this portion of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans:
Ver. 6, 7. “Who will render to every man according to his deeds, to them who by patient continuance in well doing,” etc.
Since he had become awestriking and harsh by discoursing of the judgment and of the punishment that shall be, he does not forthwith, as one might expect, enter upon the vengeance, but turns his discourse to what was sweeter, to the recompense of good actions, saying as follows, Ver. 7. “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.”
Here also he awakens those who had drawn back during the trials, and shows that it is not right to trust in faith only. For it is deeds also into which that tribunal will enquire. But observe, how when he is discoursing about the things to come, he is unable to tell clearly the blessings, but speaketh of glory and honor. For in that they transcend all that man hath, he hath no image of them taken from this to show, but by those things which have a semblance of brightness among us, even by them he sets them before us as far as may be, by glory, by honor, by life. For these be what men earnestly strive after, yet are those things not these, but much better than these, inasmuch as they are incorruptible and immortal. See how he has opened to us the doors toward the resurrection of the body by speaking of incorruptibility. For incorruptibility belongs to the corruptible body. Then, since this sufficed not, he added glory and honor. For all of us are to rise incorruptible, but not all to glory, but some to punishment, and some to life. NPNF1: Vol. XI, p. 362.
Notice that he says he is not to trust in faith only. So just believing and trusting is not enough. Our actions determine whether we get punishment or eternal life. Thus, whatever he meant in Romans 4, he did not mean that justification is by faith only. Protestant Sola Fideists point to Romans 2 as saying that all will fail, in attempting to do the law, even in grace. Sola Fideists say that we cannot be doers of the law. When Romans 2:13 speaks of one being a doer of the law before God to be justified, that this is only hypothetical, and can never truly be accomplished in justification. Or that if one is a Christian, one will attempt to do the law, but it would not be the grounds of one’s justification. Catholics will say that within grace, one can do the law. The law per se is not salvific, but when seen through the eyes of grace (or the law of the Spirit, Gal. 6:2), one can accomplish the law to one’s justification. Law per se does not save, but through grace, one can and must do the law to achieve ultimate salvation. The Protestant Sola Fideist will deny that this can be any of the grounds of justification before God. Well, what does St. John Chrysostom say on this? The Epistle to the Romans, Homily V
Ver. 12. “For as many,” he says, “as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.”
…. …See how much greater is the necessity which he lays upon the Jews of a speedy recourse to grace! For in that they said, they needed not grace, being justified by the Law, he shows that they need it more than the Gentiles, considering they are liable to be punished more. Then he adds another reason again, and so farther contends for what has been said. Ver 13. “For not the hearers of the law are just before God.”
Well doth he add “before God;” for haply before men they may be able to appear dignified and to vaunt great things, but before God it is quite otherwise-the doers of the Law alone are justified. You see with what advantage he combats, by turning what they said to an opposite bearing. For if it is by the Law you claim to be saved, in this respect, saith he, the Gentile will stand before you, when seen to be a doer of what is written in the Law. And how is it possible (one may say) for one who hath not heard to be a doer? Not this only, he says, is possible, but what is much more even than this. For not only is it possible without hearing to be a doer, but even with hearing not to be so. Which last thing he makes plainer, and that with a greater advantage over them, when he says, “Thou that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?” (Rom. ii. 21.) But here he is still making the former point good. NPNF1: Vol. XI, p. 364.
St. Chrysostom sees Paul as pointing out to the Jews that first, although the law does not save by itself, one needs to have recourse to grace, thus be in his grace, and then one can be a doer of the law. One does not even have to have heard it. The Gentiles can even be doers of the law. That is because they are within grace. Grace is of necessity. The Jews can not be doers of the law without grace. St. Chrysostom thus sees that it is not only possible, but absolutely necessary to be a doer of the law within grace to achieve salvation.
Thus, any idea of St. Chrysostom, who holds to not only baptismal regeneration (which admittedly Lutherans hold to as well and do believe in Sola Fide but not Calvinists such as King), the salvific grace of the Eucharist, but also confession as the ordinary means to forgive sins, that works are meritorious and essential in salvation, that the priest has the power to forgive sins, and the Eucharistic sacrifice forgives sins are opposed to Sola Fide as preached by either Luther or Calvin and their followers. Works are of absolute necessity. Mortal sins cuts one off from God’s grace. These are all written by the saint within the very same commentaries that King attempts to use to show that he believed in Sola Fide. Any attempt to say that he was a forefather in faith for either Luther or Calvin is belied by these facts.
G) Ambrosiaster [672/673-735]
Ambrosiaster, In Ep. ad Romanos 3.24 (CSEL 81.1.119):
“sola fide justificati sunt dono Dei,” through faith alone they have been justified by a gift of God; 4.5 (CSEL 81.1.130).
Now with Ambrosiaster there is a dearth of writings that are available. The quotes which King provide, are at least not readily available in English. The Schaff series, with 38 volumes of writings, which would include the era of Ambrosiaster, does not have his writings. William Jurgens, who has 3 volumes of writings of many of the Fathers, has none of his writings. Going to two different libraries, I could find none that has writings in English. Therefore, I am unable to document the quotes, let alone the context of the quotes that were given by King. In the 4 volume series by Quasten, Patrology, the fourth series is edited by Angelo Di Berardino, he does refer to Ambrosiaster’s approach on the issue of justification. We will see this after the quotes that King gives, to help us put these quotes in perspective:
Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), wrote while commenting upon 1 Cor. 1:4b: God has decreed that a person who believes in Christ can be saved without works. By faith alone he receives the forgiveness of sins. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VII: 1-2 Corinthians (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 6. Migne’s Latin: Datam dicit gratiam a Deo in Christo Jesu, quae gratia sic data est in Christo Jesu; quia hoc constitutum est a Deo, ut qui credit in Christum, salvus sit sine opere: sola fide gratis accipit remissionem peccatorum. In Epistolam B. Pauli Ad Corinthios Primam, PL 17:185.
Remember, faith alone, according to the Scholars who have studied him, does not exclude the sacraments. The sacraments are never seen to be opposed to ‘faith alone’, but a necessary supplement to it.
Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 1:11: For the mercy of God had been given for this reason, that they should cease from the works of the law, as I have often said, because God, taking pity on our weaknesses, decreed that the human race would be saved by faith alone, along with the natural law. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 23. Migne’s latin: Nam misericordia Dei ad hoc data est, ut Lex cessaret, quod saepe jam dixi; quia Deus consulens infirmitati humanae, sola fide addita legi naturali, hominum genus salvare decrevit. In Epistolam Ad Romanos, PL 17:53.
He says ‘works of the law’ do not justify. Any Catholic would agree to that. In fact he specifically says faith alone, along with the natural law. Thus, when he uses the term faith alone, he only terms it as salvific only when it is in conjunction with the natural law. I see no commentary from Protestant Sola Fideists that say, ‘faith alone, plus natural law’. This in fact points us back similarly to St. Chrysostom’s commentary on Romans 2, where we saw that he says the doer of the law within grace will be justified. Ambrosiaster here does not deny that works empowered by grace are salvific.
Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 2:12: For if the law is given not for the righteous but for the unrighteous, whoever does not sin is a friend of the law. For him faith alone is the way by which he is made perfect. For others mere avoidance of evil will not gain them any advantage with God unless they also believe in God, so that they may be righteous on both counts. For the one righteousness is temporal; the other is eternal. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian
Remember, when the Fathers say ‘faith alone’ it does not exclude, and even points to the sacraments. We have seen this with numerous Fathers.
Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 65. Migne’s latin: Si enim justo non est lex posita, sed injustis; qui non peccat, amicus legis est. Huic sola fides deest, per quam fiat perfectus quia nihil illi proderit apud Deum abstinere a contrariis, nisi fidem in Deum acceperit, ut sit justus per utraque; quia illa temporis justitia est, haec aeternitatis. In Epistolam Ad Romanos, PL 17:67.
Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 3:24: They are justified freely because they have not done anything nor given anything in return, but by faith alone they have been made holy by the gift of God. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 101. Migne’s latin: Justificati gratis per gratiam ipsius. Justificati sunt gratis, quia nihil operantes, neque vicem reddentes, sola fide justificati sunt dono Dei. In Epistolam Ad Romanos, PL 17:79.
Read the above.
Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 3:27: Paul tells those who live under the law that they have no reason to boast basing themselves on the law and claiming to be of the race of Abraham, seeing that no one is justified before God except by faith. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 103. Migne’s latin: Ubi est ergo gloriatio tua? Exclusa est. Per quam legem? factorum? Non, sed per legem fidei. Reddita ratione, ad eos loquitur, qui agunt sub lege, quod sine causa glorientur, blandientes sibi de lege, et propter quod genus sint Abrahae, videntes non justificari hominem apud Deum, nisi per fidem. In Epistolam Ad Romanos, PL 17:80.
The law does not justify. Doing works on one’s own power does not justify. Faith in fact points towards the sacraments. This is a response to Judaizers.
Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 4:5: How then can the Jews think that they have been justified by the works of the law in the same way as Abraham, when they see that Abraham was not justified by the works of the law but by faith alone? Therefore there is no need of the law when the ungodly is justified before God by faith alone. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 112. Migne’s latin: Hoc dicit, quia sine operibus legis credenti impio, id est gentili, in Christum, reputatur fides ejus ad justitiam, sicut et Abrahae. Quomodo ergo Judaei per opera legis justificari se putant justificatione Abrahae; [censored] videant Abraham non per opera legis, sed sola fide justificatum? Non ergo opus est lex, quando impius per solam fidem justificatur apud Deum. In Epistolam Ad Romanos, PL 17:82-83.
The law, in and of itself does not justify one before God. Grace does. Now grace does not justify unless it is in cooperation with works, but the law does not have the power to justify, in and of itself. That is pure Catholic teaching.
Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366-384), on Rom. 4:6, ‘righteousness apart from works’: Paul backs this up by the example of the prophet David, who says that those are blessed of whom God has decreed that, without work or any keeping of the law, they are justified before God by faith alone. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 113. Migne’s latin: Hoc ipsum munit exemplo prophetae. Beatitudinem hominis, cui Deus accepto fert justitiam sine operibus. Beatos dicit de quibus hoc sanxit Deus, ut sine labore et aliqua observatione, sola fide justificentur apud Deum. In Epistolam Ad Romanos, PL 17:83.
Remember that we have seen that the way the Fathers use the term faith alone is very different from how Sola Fide advocates see. They never use it against works done in grace, or sacraments. It is often used in terms of being in conjunction with them, not as opposed to them.
There is very little writing available in the normal process from Ambrosiaster. So I am unable to look at the context of the quotes, like I have been able to do elsewhere with other Fathers.
I give credit to Joe Gallegos who discovered a quote from Ambrosiaster which shows that belief only does not suffice in salvation.
Commentary on the Pauline Epistles
Ambrosiaster – Therefore, those who seek eternal life are not merely those who believe correctly but those who live correctly as well.
This shows that whatever he means by faith alone, does not mean that trust, and belief only are sufficient grounds to justify. One must live correctly to attain eternal life. In the context of the Church that existed at the time, to live correctly meant getting regenerated by baptism to be put into Christ, going to Mass and partaking of the Eucharist, avoiding mortal sins and if one did commit those sins, had to go to confession to get those sins forgiven, etc.
Here are some more quotes from Ambrosiaster found elsewhere: Commentary on Titus 3:7
God by his mercy has saved us through Christ. By his grace, we born again, have received abundantly of his Holy Spirit, so that relying on good works, with him helping us in all things, we might be able thus to lay hold of the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven. Robert B. Eno “Some Patristic Views on the Relationship of Faith and Works in Justification” Justification By Faith: Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, page 115
What we see here is that Ambrosiaster is relying on his good works, born through the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, so that he can lay hold of the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven.
Commentary on Galatians 5:6
For justification, faith alone in love is necessary. For faith must be fortified with brotherly love for the perfection of the believer.” — (Ambrosiaster, ibid. 116)
Thus, faith with love is necessary for our justification. It must be fortified with love to achieve the end of salvation.
For a normal reader, the books that Ambrosiaster wrote are not just available in English. Here I can only go by what others have said. However, for those scholars who have looked at what Ambrosiaster means when he uses the terms ’faith alone’, it is good to look at the comments of Alister McGrath, a “Reformed” scholar who acknowledges that there are no Fathers who teach Sola Fide, as mentioned before:
Like many of his contemporaries, for example, he appears to be obsessed with the idea that man can acquire merit before God, and the associated idea that certain labours are necessary to attin this. Alister McGrath, IUSTITIA DEI, pg. 22 his reference is to the Souter’s The Earliest Latin Commentaries on the Epistles of St. Paul (Oxford, 1927) pgs. 65, 72-73, 80.
Let us also look at the four volume study by Johannes Quasten, Patrology:
The problem of justification is fundamental for Ambrosiaster. Leaving aside the law, justification is obtained solely by means of faith in Christ: sola fide, sine operibus legis. By such an expression, Ambrosiaster intends only the ritual practices of the Law (the Sabbath circumcision, new moons, dietary laws, etc.), for only the ritual aspect of the Law has been superseded by the coming of Christ. The other part of the Law, that regarding God and morality, retains all of its value also in Christianity. The Pauline concept of justification by faith, prescinding from the Law, is therefore explained in Ambrosiaster by means of a distinction between the diverse parts or aspects of the Mosaic Law.
Furthermore, for Ambrosiaster, faith, not the Law, constitutes merit in the sight of God and brings about the claim to an eternal reward. Ambrosiaster assigns a considerable value to man’s self-determination and his free will, and makes him the author of his own destiny. God aids the efforts of man and calls to salvation those whom He knows by His foreknowledge will obey and be saved. Ed. Angelo Di Berardino, Patrology, trans. by Rev. Placid Siolari, O.S.B, Vol. IV, The Golden Age of Latin Patristic Literature, Christian Classics, Inc. Westminster, Maryland, 1992, pp. 188-189.
Thus, for scholars who have studied Ambrosiaster before we approach these quotes, we realize that what he means by faith alone is not to exclusion of works done in charity, but to the exclusion of the circumcision, dietary laws, and the ritual aspect of the Old Law. Thus, the sacraments and grace empowered works and obedience are indeed salvific, and are not to be excluded from his use of the term ‘faith alone’. Thus, it is a mistake to see these quotes from a perspective of a Sola Fideist.
Besides this, others have said his outlook coincided with Augustine. This obviously would include an outlook on justification which would include baptismal regeneration, the Eucharist not only consisting of Christ’s true Body and Blood, but also as offered in sacrifice to forgive the sins, as we have seen St. Chrysostom say, not only for believers, but for those who died in God’s grace. Thus, St. Augustine recognized purgatory. St. Augustine also recognized that mortal sins can only be forgiven through the priest in confession (we will look at St. Augustine down below). The priest is the one who Jesus uses to forgive sins and offer the sacrifice of the Mass, showing another sacrament that King would deny (Holy Orders). Now, if Ambrosiaster believed in all these things as St. Augustine, how can he be used as a Sola Fide advocate? None of the quotes King gives us show us a denial of the salvific efficacy of the sacraments, (and the fact that there are many more sacraments than two), nor a denial of the salvific efficacy of good works done in God’s grace.
Oecumenius (6th century), commenting on James 2:23: Abraham is the image of someone who is justified by faith alone, since what he believed was credited to him as righteousness. But he is also approved because of his works, since he offered up his son Isaac on the altar. Of course he did not do this work by itself; in doing it, he remained firmly anchored in his faith, believing that through Isaac his seed would be multiplied until it was as numerous as the stars. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 33. See PG 119:481.
As we have seen so far, King has been unable to show any Fathers teach anything approaching Sola Fide. Despite his numerous citations, these same Fathers teach the necessity of the sacraments as efficient causes of justification. Works within grace are a cause of one’s justification after initial justification. Now, King is so desperate in his search that he actually has to resort to giving us fictitious quotes. As Joe Gallegos has pointed out to me, Oecumenius did not give the above quote. The above quote is supposedly Oecumenius’ commentary on the Catholic Epistles (James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, etc.). However, this is in fact a spurious citation!!!
“Oecumenius(6th c). Named the Rhetor or the Philosopher. O wrote the earliest extant Greek commentary on Revelation …. He mentions NO earlier commentaries…”Everett Ferguson ed. ,Encyclopedia of Early Christianity,(New York:Garland,1990) 658.
“In the first half of the sixth century he wrote a commentary on the Apocalypse …. Other commentaries on … the Pauline and Catholic epistles … under his name are SPURIOUS.” Altaner, Patrology (New York:Herder, 1960), p.625
“Oecumenius (c 600) …. wrote a commentary … on the Apocalypse.” Tixeront-Ramers, Handbook of Patrology (St. Louis:Herder, 1951) p. 301.
I) St. Bede (672/673-735)
Bede – commenting on Paul and James: Although the apostle Paul preached that we are justified by faith without works, those who understand by this that it does not matter whether they live evil lives or do wicked and terrible things, as long as they believe in Christ, because salvation is through faith, have made a great mistake. James here expounds how Paul’s words ought to be understood. This is why he uses the example of Abraham, whom Paul also used as an example of faith, to show that the patriarch also performed good works in the light of his faith. It is therefore wrong to interpret Paul in such a way as to suggest that it did not matter whether Abraham put his faith into practice or not. What Paul meant was that no one obtains the gift of justification on the basis of merits derived from works performed beforehand, because the gift of justification comes only from faith. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament XI: James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 31. Quoniam Paulus apostolus praedicans justificari hominem per fidem sine operibus, non bene intellectus est ab eis qui sic dictum acceperunt, ut putarent, [censored] semel in Christum credidissent, etiam si male operarentur, et facinorose flagitioseque viverent, salvos se esse per fidem: locus iste hujus epistolae eumdem sensum Pauli apostoli quomodo sit intelligendus exponit. Ideoque magis Abrahae exemplo utitur, vacuam esse fidem si non bene operetur, quoniam Abrahae exemplo etiam Paulus usus est, ut probaret justificari hominem sine operibus posse. [censored] enim bona opera commemorat Abrahae, quae ejus fidem comitata sunt, satis ostendit apostolum Paulum, non ita per Abraham docere justificari hominem per fidem sine operibus, ut si quis crediderit, non ad eum pertineat bene operari, sed ad hoc potius, ut nemo arbitretur meritis priorum bonorum operum se pervenisse ad donum justificationis quae est in fide. Super Divi Jacobi Epistolam, Caput II, PL 93:22.
This does not help the Sola Fide side at all. All he is saying is that good works that are meritorious must be performed based on faith. Those performed beforehand are not salvific. That is what any Catholic would say. In fact, he implies that those performed afterward, based on faith, are meritorious. Those good works that are not done in faith, are not meritorious, and are not justifying. However, they are justifying if they are done in cooperation with faith. Notice that he says that the only works that are not justifying are those works done before they are in God’s grace. In fact he is saying that works are salvific in this very passage he gives us!!! Now, Mr. King leaves out St. Bede’s conclusion. Although I could not find the very book that King referred us to, I did see this very same commentary in another book. Either King is giving us a half quote of Bede’s comments which don’t prove his point anyway, or the book he got the quote from only gives us a share of what he wrote. In this very same commentary on James 2, he writes:
Hence the apostle Paul says that a man can be made righteous by faith without works, but he means previous works. For how is the person made righteous by faith able to act, if not righteously? When therefore James says, ‘Was not our father Abraham made righteous from works, offering his son Isaac upon the altar?, he intentionally advised that an example of good work was to be learned from the patriarch himself, challenging those among the Jews who had believed they like good offspring, were following the actions of their first and most outstanding ancestor….
Indeed in one and the same action of blessed Abraham James has praised the outstanding quality of his works, Paul the constancy of his faith; and nevertheless Paul has brought forward a statement not dissimilar and different from James. For they both knew that Abraham was perfect both in faith and works, and therefore each of them has emphasized in preaching on him the virtue which he perceived his hearers needed more. Bede the Venerable, On the Seven Catholic Epistles, Commentary on James 2, Cistercian Publications, Kalamazoo, Mi, 1985, pp. 30-31
Thus, St. Bede shows us that Paul and James taught that both faith and works are both necessary in justification. Works are not merely outward evidence of justification, but is a direct cause of it. He does warn however, that the works that do not justify are those that are prior to that justification. After one is justified, however, those works are meritorious. In fact a little later on, he comments on the example of Rahab, that James refers us to in James 2:25 to show that works are salvific.
Yet she, by works of mercy showing hospitality to the servants of God even at risk to her life, deserved to be made righteous from sins, to be enrolled as a member of the people of Israel, to be counted on the list of their royal lineage, to mingle with the families of Our Lord and Savior himself (Mt. 1:5) which have descended from the patriarchs, to be plucked from the devastation of the vanishing fatherland, whose perfidy she rejected. By these examples, therefore, of a woman turned towards better things, he persuades his listeners to avoid the ruing of a vanishing fatherland and to remember to sever themselves as well by fruitful works from this land from whose heinous deeds they had withdrawn by believing, since they deserve to be joined to the ranks of the saints and to belong to the community of their Redeemer. ibid., Commentary on James 2, p. 34.
Note, that his declaration of what justification is, is in Rahab being made righteous (or justified). But also notice that she is justified by her works of mercy.
Next, in his commentary on James 5, after commenting on James 5:14, and how it speaks of the sacrament of anointing (Sola Fideists deny that this is a sacrament, or that it forgives sins), which says And let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person” he writes:
We read in the Gospel that the apostles also did this (Mk. 6:13). And now the custom of the Church holds that those who are sick be anointed with consecrated oil by the presbyters, with the prayer that goes with this, that they may be cured…ibid., Commentary on James 5, p. 61.
After talking more of the sacrament, and quoting James 5:15, which says “And if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven” he writes:
If therefore the sick [have committed] sins and have confessed them to the presbyters of the Church and have sincerely tried to leave them behind and to amend, these will be forgiven them. But sins cannot be forgiven without a firm promise of amendment. Hence properly there is added: 5:16-17
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for each other, that you may be saved. However, in this statement there ought to be this distinction, that we confess our daily and minor sins to one another as peers and believe that we are saved by their daily prayer; in turn according to the law (Lv. 13:49, 14:2-3) let us make known the uncleanness of more serious leprosy to the priest and take care to be purified in the manner and for the length of time his judgment has decreed. Ibid., p. 62.
Notice the Catholicity of this statement. First, this passage shows that sins are forgiven in the sacrament of confession. (Now this is not to deny that Protestants will say that they should be sorry and repent from their sins, but since their theory is that God does not look at their sins, but Christ’s perfect righteousness, ultimately before God, for justification, those sins do not have to be forgiven in any sacrament at all). St. Bede acknowledges that James 5:16 speaks to the need for individual Christians to ask for forgiveness from each other, but also notes that with the passage in James 5:14, it shows that the priests (or presbyters) are needed to forgive more serious sins. This reflects Catholic tradition which teaches that major sins must be confessed to the priest. The passage also shows that in order to be saved, those sins must be confessed to that priest. Penance is given by the priest, hardly a Sola Fideist tradition. And one must make a pledge a firm purpose of amendment in order for those sins to be forgiven. True sorrow must be expressed in the sacrament in order for those sins to be forgiven before God. Also, St. Bede sees the anointing of the sick as forgiving sins and providing grace. All of this is totally foreign to any idea of Sola Fide.
One is made righteous by our confession of sins, according to St. Bede:
Our righteousness now comes from faith. Perfect righteousness exists only in the angels, and scarcely in the angels, if they are compared to God…..Hence the psalmist says, Make a beginning, for the Lord by confessing (Ps. 147:7). Make a beginning, he says. The beginning of our righteousness is the confession of our sins. have begun not to defend your sin, you have already started [on the path] towards righteousness. It will be perfected in you, however, when it will delight you to do nothing else, when death will be swallowed up in victory (1 Cor. 15:54) where no concupiscence will appeal to you, when there will be no struggle against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12), when there will be the crown of victory and triumph over the enemy, then there will be perfect righteousness. ibid, Commentary on James 5, p. 62.
The Sola Fideist believes that the justified person has Jesus’ perfect righteousness attributed to one’s account, legally. It is not a process, at least before God. However, St. Bede, shows that the righteousness that comes from faith must grow, and grace must increase before God. One step in the justification process is shown to be confession of sins, which he sees as only the beginning of the process. Righteousness is only perfected after a process in which one perseveres.
St. Bede writes:
EDWIN was so zealous for the worship of truth, that he likewise persuaded Eorpwald, king of the East Saxons, and son of Redwald, to abandon his idolatrous superstitions, and with his whole province to receive the faith and sacraments of Christ. And indeed his father Redwald had long before been admitted to the sacrament of the Christian faith in Kent, but in vain; for on his return home, he was seduced by his wife and certain perverse teachers, and turned back from the sincerity of the faith; and thus his latter state was worse than the former; so that, like the ancient Samaritans, he seemed at the same time to serve Christ and the gods whom he had served before; and in the same temple he had an altar to sacrifice to Christ, and another small one to offer victims to devils; which temple, Aldwulf, king of that same province, who lived in our time testifies had stood until his time, and that he had seen it when he was a boy. The aforesaid King Redwald was noble by birth, though ignoble in his actions, being the son of Tytilus, whose father was Uuffa, from whom the kings of the East Angles are called Uuffings. Eorpwald was, not long after he had embraced the Christian faith, slain by one Richbert, a pagan; and from the time the province was under error for three years, till the crown came into the possession of Sigebert, brother to the same Eorpwald, a most Christian and learned man, who was banished, and went to live in France during his brother’s life, and was there admitted to the sacraments of the faith, whereof he made it his business to cause all his province to partake as soon as he came to the throne. His exertions were much promoted by the Bishop Felix, who coming to Honorius, the archbishop, from Burgundy, where he had been born and ordained, and having told him what he desired, he sent him to preach the word of life to the aforesaid nation of the Angles. Nor were his good wishes in vain; for the pious husbandman reaped therein a large harvest of believers, delivering all that province (according to the signification of his name, Felix) from long iniquity and infelicity, and bringing it to the faith and works of righteousness, and the gifts of everlasting happiness. He had the see of his bishopric appointed him in the city Dommoc, and having presided over the same province with pontifical authority seventeen years, he ended his days there in peace. Ecclesiastical History 15
When St. Bede mentions the transformation of those who practice idolatry it brings him to faith. However, when that faith is mentioned, it is mentioned in the context of the sacraments. Thus, faith can not be divorced from the sacraments in their justifying power. Notice that the gift of everlasting life is only given when faith is included with works of righteousness. Thus, the reward of salvation is a reward for acts of righteousness, but those acts of righteousness are a gift from God to us.
St. Bede also writes:
Only through receiving the sacraments of Christ … can we come to share in the lot of the Elect and in eternal life Sermon 16
Only through the sacraments can we come to share in everlasting light. Faith is not a sacrament. So thus, justification is not via faith alone.
Or see the translation in Aquinas, Thomas. Catena Aurea: A Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected out of the Works of the Fathers, 4 Volumes. Translated and edited by John Henry Cardinal Newman (London: The Saint Austin Press, reprinted 1997), which reads: “the sins of his soul which the Law could not remit are remitted him; for faith only justifies. Migne latin: Et remissum est ab eo, quod lex laxare non poterat; fides enim sola justificat. Commentarius in Evangelium Matthaei, Caput VIII, PL 9:961
Jerome (347-420) on Romans 10:3:
God justifies alone by faith. Ignorantes enim justitiam Dei, et suam quaerentes statuere: justitiae Dei non sunt subjecti. Ignorantes quod ***Deus ex sola fide justificat***: et justos se ex legis operibus, quam non custodierunt, esse putantes: noluerunt se remissioni subjicere peccatorum, ne peccatores fuisse viderentur, sicut scriptum est: Pharisaei autem spernentes consilium Dei in semetipsis, noluerunt baptizari baptismo Joannis. Item quia sacrificia legis, et caetera, quae umbra erant veritatis, quae per Christum perfici habebant, praesentia Christi cessaverunt: cui credere noluerunt: In Epistolam Ad Romanos, Caput X, v. 3, PL 30:692D.
St. Jerome does not believe in justification by faith alone. I have documented this in the url I have referred to earlier: here https://matt1618.freeyellow.com/page5.html Go there and click on the section on St. Jerome.
J) St. Thomas Aquinas [1225/27-1274]
The sacraments of the New Law however,although they are material elements, are not needy elements; hence they can justify. Again, if there were any in the Old Law who were just, they were not made just by the works of the Law but only by the faith of Christ “Whom God hath proposed to be a propitiation through faith,” as is said in Romans (3:25). Hence the sacraments of the Old Law were certain protestations of the faith of Christ, just as our sacraments are, but not in the same way, because those sacraments were configured to the grace of Christ as to something that lay in the future; our sacraments, however, testify as things containing a grace that is present. Therefore, he says significantly, that it is not by the works of the law that we are justified, but by the faith of Christ, because, although some who observed the works of the Law in times past were made just, nevertheless, this was effected only by the faith of Jesus Christ. St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, trans. F. R. Larcher, O.P. (Albany: Magi Books, Inc., 1966), Chapter 2, Lecture 4, (Gal. 2:15-16), pp. 54-55.
St. Thomas Aquinas is not a proto-Protestant, and I am shocked that someone who has studied anything would even put that forward as a theory. The above statement says that the sacraments in fact justify. The works of the law are the works that do not justify. That is the works that are done outside grace. The New sacramental system testify of things concerning grace. Faith in Christ is born out by the justifying sacraments. How in the world this speaks to faith alone is beyond me. The old sacraments of the Old covenant, did not justify, but the sacraments of the new covenant do justify. The sacraments testify to grace that is present. To say that this teaches a imputation of righteousness apart from the sacraments is belied by the fact that the sacraments testify to the faith of Jesus Christ. He links the sacraments to faith. Not faith instead of the sacraments as King proposes.
Thomas Aquinas says in his Catechism on the seventh article, ‘From thence He shall come to the living and the dead’:
Others shall both be saved and judged, that is, they who die in a state of righteousness. For although they departed this life in justice, nevertheless they fell somewhat amiss in the business of temporal matters, and hence shall be judged but saved. The judgment will be upon all their deeds good and bad: “Walk in the ways of thy heart, . . . and know that for all these God will bring thee into judgment.”[Eccles., xi. 9. ] “And all things that are done, God will bring into judgment for every error, whether it be good or evil.”[Eccles. xii. 14.] Even idle words shall be judged: “But I say to you that every idle word hat men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment.”[ Matt., xii. 36] And thoughts also: “For inquisition shall be made into the thought of the ungodly.”[ Wis., i. 9.] Thus, the form of the judgment is clear
THE FEAR OF THE JUDGMENT
The judgment ought indeed to be feared. (a) Because of the wisdom of the Judge. God knows all things, our thoughts, words and deeds, and “all things are naked and open to his eyes.[ Heb., iv. 13.] “All the ways of men are open to His eyes.”[Prov., xvi. 2.] He knows our words: “The ear of jealousy heareth all things.”[ Wis., i. 10.] Also our thoughts: “The heart is perverse above all things and unsearchable. Who can know it? I am the Lord, who search the heart and prove the reins; who give to every one according to his way and according to the fruit of his devices.”[ Jerem. xvii. 9-10] There will be infallible witnesses– men’s own consciences: “Who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them; and their thoughts between themselves accusing or also defending one another, in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men.”[ Rom., ii. 15-16]
On the tenth article ‘On the forgiveness of sins’, he writes:
By these seven Sacraments we receive the remission of sins, and so in the Creed there follows immediately: “the forgiveness of sins.” The power was given to the Apostles to forgive sins. We must believe that the ministers of the Church receive this power from the Apostles; and the Apostles received it from Christ; and thus the priests have the power of binding and loosing. Moreover, we believe that there is the full power of forgiving sins in the Church, although it operates from the highest to the lowest, i.e., from the Pope down through the prelates.
The seven sacraments are the means of getting the remission of sins. The Faith alone idea put forth by King excludes the sacraments as the means of getting the remission of sins. Aricle 5 of St. Thomas’comments can be found here: https://www.cin.org/users/james/ebooks/master/aquinas/acreed05htm . Article 10 can be found here: https://www.cin.org/users/james/ebooks/master/aquinas/acreed10htm
The Sola Fide view absolutely will not allow purgatory in any fashion. There is no suffering, or cleansing necessary. Someone supposedly has already the imputed, perfect righteousness of Christ, so before God, he is already perfected. Sola Fideists see purgatory as a denial of the perfect work of Jesus. An advocate of Sola Fide surely would not teach that. Let us see what St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Catechism, on the fifth article, (the same link as referred to above) ‘he descended into hell’ says:
There comes to us in this an example of love. Christ descended into hell in order to deliver His own; and so we should go down there to rescue our own. They cannot help themselves. Therefore, let us deliver those who are in purgatory. He would be very hard-hearted who does not come to the aid of a relative who is detained in an earthly prison; but much more cruel is he who will not assist a friend who is in purgatory, for there is no comparison between the pains of this world and of that: “Have pity on me, have pity on me, at least you my friends, because the hand of the Lord hath touched me.”[Job 19:21 ] “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins.” [2 Macc. 12:46] . We may assist these souls in three ways as St. Augustine tells us, viz., through Masses, prayers, and almsgiving. St. Gregory adds a fourth, that is, fasting. All this is not so amazing, for even in this world a friend can pay a debt for his friend; but this applies only to those who are in purgatory.
St. Thomas terms Protestants such as King as both hardhearted and ‘cruel’ if he does not pray for those souls in purgatory. As King’s system does not allow that, and forbids prayers for the dead, as they are not necessary, he is termed cruel and hardhearted. So much for St. Thomas advocating King’s position on justification.
St. Thomas is one who speaks to the fact that in God’s grace, one can merit from God. Catholicism teaches that one’s works are meritorious. St. Thomas speaks quite a bit on merit, at the Summa Theologica. Now for example, on whether man can merit from God, one of the objections to it sounds like a Protestant objection. We then see St. Thomas’ response. Now, Catholicism teaches that one can merit eternal life, condignly. For example, a Catholic Encyclopedia, dated 1991, says this about condign merit:
A grace or favor bestowed by God upon a person who has done a morally good action. In effect, condign merit is the right in justice that a person has to receive a supernatural benefit from God, due to the execution of a supernatural act. God rewards the person who performed the act. In order to merit condignly, the living person must be in the state of grace while freely performing a morally good action directed to God. The reward for a good action is in keeping with God’s revealed and is equal or proportionate to the act. When a person merits a grace, he is cooperating with the meritorious act of our redemption wrought by Christ. Ed. Reverend Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Encyclopedia, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, Indiana, 1991, pp. 243-244..
Now, Catholicism teaches that one can condignly merit eternal life. He rewards based on the promise God has himself made for actions we perform. The Protestant Sola Fideist would argue only that even in a state of grace, one can not merit eternal life. Jesus ‘paid’ for our salvation, so whatever we do can not merit eternal life.
St. Thomas says this about it: (I italicize the objection that he is responding to, and the response follows unitalicized, starting with ‘On the Contrary’ Summa Theologica, Question 114, Article Three :
Objection 1. . It would seem that a man in grace cannot merit eternal life condignly, for the Apostle says (Rm. 8:18): “The sufferings of this time are not worthy [condignae] to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us.” But of all meritorious works, the sufferings of the saints would seem the most meritorious. Therefore no works of men are meritorious of eternal life condignly.
On the contrary, What is granted in accordance with a fair judgment, would seem a condign reward. But life everlasting is granted by God, in accordance with the judgment of justice, according to 2 Tim. 4:8: “As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just judge, will render to me in that day.” Therefore man merits everlasting life condignly.
I answer that, Man’s meritorious work may be considered in two ways: first, as it proceeds from free-will; secondly, as it proceeds from the grace of the Holy Ghost. If it is considered as regards the substance of the work, and inasmuch as it springs from the free-will, there can be no condignity because of the very great inequality. But there is congruity, on account of an equality of proportion: for it would seem congruous that, if a man does what he can, God should reward him according to the excellence of his power.
If, however, we speak of a meritorious work, inasmuch as it proceeds from the grace of the Holy Ghost moving us to life everlasting, it is meritorious of life everlasting condignly. For thus the value of its merit depends upon the power of the Holy Ghost moving us to life everlasting according to Jn. 4:14: “Shall become in him a fount of water springing up into life everlasting.” And the worth of the work depends on the dignity of grace, whereby a man, being made a partaker of the Divine Nature, is adopted as a son of God, to whom the inheritance is due by right of adoption, according to Rm. 8:17: “If sons, heirs also.”
Reply to Objection 1. The Apostle is speaking of the substance of these sufferings.
Thus, St. Thomas, the one who came up with the term ‘condign’ merit, argues that one can merit eternal life, based on God’s promises. Those works inside grace indeed merit eternal life.
To see more on St. Thomas’ discussion of merit, see the following: https://www.newadvent.org/summa/211400.htm
Thomas Aquinas, Expositio in Ep. I ad Timotheum cap. 1, lect. 3 (Parma ed., 13.588): “Non est ergo in eis [moralibus et caeremonialibus legis] spes iustificationis, sed in sola fide, Rom. 3:28: Arbitramur justificari hominem per fidem, sine operibus legis” (Therefore the hope of justification is not found in them [the moral and ceremonial requirements of the law], but in faith alone, Rom 3:28: We consider a human being to be justified by faith, without the works of the law). Cf. In ep. ad Romanos 4.1 (Parma ed., 13.42a): “reputabitur fides eius, scilicet sola sine operibus exterioribus, ad iustitiam”; In ep. ad Galatas 2.4 (Parma ed., 13.397b): “solum ex fide Christi” [Opera 20.437, b41]).
K) Augustine [354-430]
De fide et operibus, 22.40 (CSEL 41.84-85): “licet recte dici possit ad solam fidem pertinere dei mandata, si non mortua, sed viva illa intellegatur fides, quae per dilectionem operatur” (Although it can be said that God’s commandments pertain to faith alone, if it is not dead [faith], but rather understood as that live faith, which works through love”) *********************************
The faith that is salvific, or ‘alone’ is that which works through love. The commandments can only be kept if the works are based on faith, is what Augustine is pointing us to. Not that faith is the alone instrument of justification and good works necessarily follow but are not a cause of one’s justification. In fact, he says the direct opposite of what King says as we will see further down below. Once we are within God’s grace, we can then merit eternal life.
King attempts to quote Augustine again:
Are all those who are called justified? Many are called but few are chosen. But since the elect have certainly been called, it is obvious that they have not been justified without being called. But not everyone is called to justification; only those who are called according to his purpose. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p. 237. This is taken directed from his commentary on Romans according to the editor.
This has nothing to do with Sola Fide. All this says is that the justified are called and chosen. This also says that some are not. This says nothing about faith being the alone instrument of salvation.
Of course, Augustine teaches that we merit heaven by our works. Various Questions to Simplician 1:2:21 [A.D. 396]):
We are commanded to live righteously, and the reward is set before us of our meriting to live happily in eternity. But who is able to live righteously and do good works unless he has been justified by faith? Jurgens, Vol. 3, #1575, p. 49.(
Not only are we commanded to live righteously, but the reward for obeying that command to live righteously is the meriting of eternal life. Not faith alone. Again, those good works can only come if one is grounded in faith.
“He bestowed forgiveness; the crown he will pay out. Of forgiveness he is the donor; of the crown, he is the debtor. Why debtor? Did he receive something? . . . The Lord made himself a debtor not by receiving something but by promising something. One does not say to him, ‘Pay for what you received,’ but ‘Pay what you promised’” (Explanations of the Psalms 83:16 [A.D. 405]).
St. Augustine shows that God made himself a debtor, not in the sense that he owes us because of his works, but because of faithfulness to his own promise. He grants the forgiveness because of his mercy, and he rewards eternal life as he keeps to his promise.
What merits of his own has the saved to boast of when, if he were dealt with according to his merits, he would be nothing if not damned? Have the just then no merits at all? Of course they do, for they are the just. But they had no merits by which they were made just. (Letters 194:3:6 [A.D. 412]).
God does reward us according to merit. However, if the merits were only our own, we would only earn damnation. However, the merits we have are gratuitously from him.
What merit, then, does a man have before grace, by which he might receive grace, when our every good merit is produced in us only by grace and when God, crowning our merits, crowns nothing else but his own gifts to us? (ibid., 194:5:19).
Grace again is a gift from God. The merit we have is rewarded with salvation by God. God crowns our merits, but these merits are God’s own gift to us. This is Catholic teaching par excellence.
On Grace and Free Will, 20 (426-427):
This question, then, seems to me to be by no means capable of solution, unless we understand that even those good works of ours, which are recompensed with eternal life, belong to the grace of God, because of what is said by the Lord Jesus: “Without me ye can do nothing.” Jn. 15:5…
We are framed, therefore, that is, formed and created, “in the good works which” we have not ourselves prepared, but “God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” It follows, then, dearly beloved, beyond all doubt, that as your good life is nothing else than God’s grace, so also the eternal life which is the recompense of a good life is the grace of God; moreover it is given gratuitously, even as that is given gratuitously to which it is given. But that to which it is given is solely and simply grace; this therefore is also that which is given to it, because it is its reward;-grace is for grace, as if remuneration for righteousness; in order that it may be true, because it is true, that God “shall reward every man according to his works.”(Mt. 16:27). NPNF1, vol. 5, pp. 451-2.
Notice that St. Augustine says that with the good works that we do, which is part of the grace of God, we are ‘recompensed with eternal life.’ Again he repeats that eternal life is a recompense for those works. Purely Catholic. Then he quotes John 15 to prove it. A good life is nothing else but God’s life, and again eternal life is a ‘recompense’, showing the meritoriousness of grace empowered works for salvation. He drives the point home by pointing to Matthew 16:27, which says God will render to every man according to his works.
On Grace and Free Will, 15:
It is His own gifts that God crowns, not your merits,-if, at least, your merits are of your own self, not of Him. If, indeed, they are such, they are evil; and God does not crown them; but if they are good, they are God’s gifts, because, as the Apostle James says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.” (Jam. 1:17) In accordance with which John also, the Lord’s forerunner, declares: “A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven”( Jn. 3:27) -from heaven, of course, because from thence came also the Holy Ghost, when Jesus ascended up on high, led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men. Eph. 4:8). If, then, your good merits are God’s gifts, God does not crown your merits as your merits, but as His own gifts. NPNF1, vol. 5, p. 450.
The claim that Protestants sometimes makes of Catholicism is that it teaches that one gets salvation by one’s own power. Or if they admit that Catholicism teaches that works are grace empowered, those works are not meritorious in justification before God. St. Augustine, however teaches the Catholic view on merit and grace. As Augustine points out, if it is by one’s own power and merit, one will not achieve salvation. However, if those works are done in God’s grace, if one’s merits are derived from God himself, then God rewards us and those merits with salvation. Our merits are God’s gift to us. The end of that gift is our salvation.
We see St. Augustine speak clearly on the need for a purgatorial cleansing after death, and that process is aided by the Sacrifice of the Mass, Sermon 172, 2, :
But by the prayers of the Holy Church, and by the salvific sacrifice, and by the alms which are given for their spirits, there is no doubt that the dead are aided, that the Lord might deal more mercifully with them than their sins would deserve. For the whole Church observes this practice which was handed down by the Fathers: that it prays for those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, when they are commemorated in their own place in the sacrifice itself; and the sacrifice is offered also in memory of them, on their behalf. If then, works of mercy are celebrated for the sake of those who are being remembered, who would hesitate to recommend them, on whose behalf prayers to God are not offered in vain? St. Augustine, Jurgens, Vol. 3, #1516, p. 29.
Prayers offered over the true Body and Blood of Christ, offered up to God, which is a sacrifice, and it aids those who in grace need to be aided by this sacrifice: That is those who died in God’s grace but needed cleansing. Of course, this doctrine is anathema to anyone who believes in Sola Fide. To even mention St. Augustine’s name in any fashion as a predecessor, or as one who laid a foundation that would later be developed by Calvin and Luther, for Sola Fide is either knowingly selective, ignorant, and/or dishonest. Any belief in purgatory tells you that you can’t use him as a predecessor for Sola Fide.
L) Westminster Confession of Faith, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, and Conclusion
Now, after looking over these Father’s writings, let us look at what the doctrine of justification by faith alone means for the Protestant from an official proclamation of Sola Fide as stated by the Westminster Confession of Faith. This is what King says has precedent in the Fathers. Thus, the main categories in the definition of Sola Fide that King holds to, should have some foundation in the Father’s writings. If these Fathers do not hold at least in some fashion to the fundamental doctrine of the Protestant faith, they can not possibly be held to be examples of forefathers of Sola Fide advocates in any fashion. I take these quotes from https://www.pcanet.org/general/cof_contents.htm, which gives us the Westminster Confession of Faith (Hereafter termed as WCF).
CHAP. XI. – Of Justification.
- Those whom God effectually calleth, He also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.
- Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.
Here is the foundational aspect of Sola Fide as propounded by King: Christ’s righteousness is imputed to one’s account. Infusion of grace is not the basis for justification. Nothing that one does, has any basis for their own justification. Of course, we have seen that in fact that the Fathers have said that in fact their own holiness, and works done in grace, and their own obedience, were a necessary cause of justification. In fact, each of the Fathers we have looked at showed that the works that they do are meritorious in justification, from Sts. Hilary, Cyril of Alexandria, Augustine, Bernard, Thomas Aquinas, etc., plus the numerous Fathers I quoted in the first piece, that King had claimed for himself. Thus, the things that were wrought in them did merit salvation. In fact if those works are not done, they will no longer be justified. And we have also seen that not one of the Fathers ever ventured that Christ’s obedience and satisfaction becomes our obedience and satisfaction in justification. Imputation of Christ‘s righteousness to our account, which is the whole basis for works not being a necessary cause of justification, is totally absent from all the Fathers King has given us, including the very quotes.
In addition, absolutely none of the Fathers make the distinction that the Westminster Confession of Faith does in justification: That faith is the alone instrument in justification while works, sacraments, etc. are only effects of one’s justification, and not causes. These same Fathers saw that obedience and the sacraments were essential causes in justification. Thus, these same Fathers prove that there are other instruments besides faith, even if faith is still a primary instrument in such justification.
- God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and, although they can never fall from the state of justification,yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.
Now it is true that the WCF does say that we should confess our sins (although they reject the need for sacramental confession, which these Fathers said were necessary to get sins forgiven by God) to God, but one’s justification does not depend on that confession, as one can never fall from justification. We have seen these very same Fathers say that sins that we commit not only bring us some displeasure from God, but actually will condemn us to hell. For example, we saw that St. Cyril of Alexandria, a supposedly Sola Fide Father, say that even a lack of good works would bring one from a state of grace unto to a terrible condemnation. That is totally different from they can never fall from the state of justification. Of course all these supposedly Sola Fide (in fact we have seen that they are not) Fathers taught that sin can cut one off from justification.
Chapter XVI. Of Good works
- We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins, but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from His Spirit; and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment.
Although elsewhere in this chapter of the WCF, we do see it is explicit in stating that good works are important, they can not merit eternal life. That is because our nature is so overcome with sin, that even good things we do are soiled with it. That is the reason why an imputed righteousness is necessary for justification. However, as we have seen from each of the Fathers that we have been able to examine, that King has pointed us to, good works do merit eternal life. In fact, if there are still venial sins on our soul at the time that we die, purification is still necessary. We have seen if one commits mortal sins, the Fathers point to the Church itself, through priests as mediators, who forgive sins through the sacrament of confession. This sacrament is supposedly not necessary, according to Sola Fide as King sees it. In addition, as we have seen, these same Fathers point us to the doctrine of purgatory, totally incompatible with any concept of Sola Fide. In fact, even if all these other quotes that show the necessity of works and sacraments, and so forth did not exist, these same Fathers pointing to the necessity of a purgatorial cleansing after death in and of itself, renders any attempt to use these Fathers as Sola Fideists, as invalid. Whenever these Fathers used the term faith, and even faith alone in justification, they were consistent in their own theology when they spoke of the need for purification after death.
CHAP. XVIII. – Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation.
- Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God, and estate of salvation (which hope of theirs shall perish): yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.
This reiterates that one who is in a state of grace can not lose salvation. Thus, one who truly believes in Jesus is assured of his salvation, according to the WCF. However, we have seen that these Fathers see that sins can mortally cut off our relationship with the Father, and our actions can cause our eternal damnation.
CHAP. XXVII. – Of the Sacraments.
- There be only two sacraments ordained by Christ our Lord in the Gospel; that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord: neither of which may be dispensed by any, but by a minister of the Word lawfully ordained.
The WCF teaches that there are only two sacraments. We have seen not only a vast difference between what the Fathers and the WCF teach on the number of sacraments, but what these two sacraments do. The Fathers who speak on the issue, unanimously teach baptismal regeneration, something the WCF does not teach and explicitly teaches against, see Chapter XXVIII, section 5. We have also seen these supposedly ‘Sola Fide’ Fathers prove King’s version of Sola Fide wrong in the fact that there are more than two sacraments, and these sacraments contribute to our salvation. We have seen the Fathers show, from Scripture that other sacraments are salvific and necessary. For example, we have seen not only St. Chrysostom, but others show that the priest is a mediator established by Christ (John 20:23) to forgive sins, and offer up the sacrifice of the Mass, which contributes to our salvation. Thus, the office of holy orders, is established by Christ, and shows the validity of a sacrament that King does not recognize. Also, the ministry they hold offers the sacrament of confession, something that is necessary for sins to get forgiven, so we can be put back in God’s grace if we commit a sin that puts us outside his grace. We have also seen these same supposedly Sola Fideistic Fathers, teach that the sacrament of the anointing of the sick also forgives sins. Although I have not focused on the sacrament of confirmation during this examination, many of these same Fathers, point to its validity and its contribution to the spiritual life which also has salvific implications.
CHAP. XXIX. – Of the Lord’s Supper
- In this sacrament, Christ is not offered up to His Father; nor any real sacrifice made at all, for remission of sins of the quick or dead; but only a commemoration of that one offering up of Himself, by Himself, upon the cross, once for all: and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God, for the same: so that the popish sacrifice of the mass (as they call it) is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one, only sacrifice, the only propitiation for all the sins of His elect.
- The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to Him crucified, as that, truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before.
We have seen that each of the Fathers that have spoken on the issue show that the sacrament of the Eucharist is truly Christ’s true Body and true Blood. In fact we have seen Fathers even say that if we don’t eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ, which the Fathers I have quoted show that they understand Jesus to be speaking about the Eucharist, we have no life in him. Thus, the salvific implications are plain. Compare that to this statement of the WCF. Also, we have seen through St. Chrysostom and others that the offering up of Christ in the Eucharist is a true sacrifice that propitiates sins. This again, in and of itself totally invalidates any idea of Sola Fide, not only for the Sola Fide brand that King believes in, but even the Lutheran view which recognizes a true presence of some kind, but denies vigorously that the Eucharist is a true propitiatory sacrifice that forgives sins. In our studies we have seen St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and St. Bernard speak of how the Eucharist is efficacious towards eternal life. Of course these Fathers saw the Holy Eucharist as truly the flesh and blood of Christ, but for our focus on justification, we see that its importance was so high, that Cyril for example said that if one does not partake of the Eucharist, one has no share in life with Christ. This attack on the ‘popish sacrifice of the Mass’ is an attack on these very Fathers that King tries to use as advocates of Sola Fide theology! The attack on the Eucharist sacrifice is termed ‘popish’ and a blasphemy by the WCF. St. Augustine, who clearly teaches that the Mass is a propitiatory sacrifice speaks of the types (he is responding to the errors of the Manichaeans) who treat lightly of the sacraments. He says in Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, 19, 11:
There can be no religious society, whether the religion be true or false, without some sacrament or visible symbol to serve as a bond of union. The importance of these sacraments cannot be overstated, and only scoffers will treat them lightly. For if piety requires them, it must be impiety to neglect them. NPNF1, vol. 4, p. 253.
In the midst of defending the absolute necessity of sacraments such as baptism and the Eucharist, St. Augustine writes that those who scoff at the necessity of the sacraments (and he very clearly sees the Eucharist as a sacrifice, unlike the WCF’s scoffing as ‘popish’) and an abomination show impiety and are thus impious. King’s view is thus impious, according to St. Augustine. The WCF definition of ‘the Lord’s Supper’ is clearly foreign to the Fathers, especially St. Augustine, who writes the following:
The Hebrews, again, in their animal sacrifices, which they offered to God in many varied forms, suitably to the significance of the institution, typified the sacrifice offered by Christ. This sacrifice is also commemorated by Christians, in the sacred offering and participation of the body and blood of Christ. The Manichaeans understand neither the sinfulness of the Gentile sacrifices, nor the importance of the Hebrew sacrifices, nor the use of the ordinance of the Christian sacrifice. St. Augustine, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, 20, 18, NPNF1, vol. 4, p. 261.
King’s view of the Eucharist (with its salvific implications), is what St. Augustine teaches on the Eucharist is blasphemous. St. Augustine would term King’s view as impious. Yet King appeals to St. Augustine? For a look at St. Augustine’s outlook on the Eucharist, on both the true presence of Christ and the fact that it is a true sacrifice (which the WCF calls a blasphemy), see this: https://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/num30.htm.
CHAP. I. – Of the Holy Scripture.
- The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed. 7. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all:yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.
This is the WCF understanding of Sola Scriptura: It admits that in some areas Scripture can be misunderstood. However, in the area of salvation, Scripture clearly teaches that in the same confession the propositions given above on justification. Now, we have just saw some of the main points on how the WCF teaches on justification:
1) In justification, we get an imputation of Christ’s righteousness to our account.
2) Good works, although a necessary byproduct of being justified, are never any of the grounds of justification.
3) If one is truly saved, one can not lose their justification. That is because Christ’s perfect righteousness becomes theirs, no matter what they do. Of course one will persevere if one is saved, but no sin, can cut off one from God’s grace. (As mentioned earlier, Luther basically holds to the same thing, as things such as adultery and murder is not considered a mortal sin, only unbelief can make one become unjustified).
4) There are only two sacraments, and neither one of them can be any of the grounds of justification. Of the two sacraments that the WCF does recognize, they are symbols and representations, although it says that they are important, they are not salvific. Baptism does not regenerate, and the Eucharist contributes nothing towards salvation or the forgiveness of sins. In addition, there are no sacraments that contribute to salvation such as confession, a priesthood through which Christ works to give grace unto salvation, or an anointing of the sick, or the sacrament of confirmation. As these sacraments do not exist, obviously they can not contribute to one‘s salvation.
None of the Fathers that King points us to, in the quotes that he gives us, believe any of the 4 above points, each of which are foundational to the Sola Fide position espoused by the WCF. Of course the Lutheran version of Sola Fide differs slightly in some of the above aspects from the WCF, but by King pointing us to Sola Fide, I must compare what the Fathers believe, to what he believes Scripture teaches on Sola Fide. Even if they held to one or two of the above points, it would not be sufficient as all of these aspects are foundational to the WCF. They are spelled out in this confession as to signify their importance. The fact is, with the evidence I have given (and there is much more that can be given, I am only giving limited extracts from these Fathers on these subjects), it is absolutely impossible to be honest and say that these Fathers taught anything remotely resembling Sola Fide as they do not hold in any fashion to any of the four points spelled out in the WCF. Any attempt to hijack these Fathers as predecessors of Calvin or Luther on these issues is false.
The WCF definition of Sola Scriptura says that Scripture clearly teaches on justification that works are not a cause of justification. Scripture supposedly clearly teaches there are only two sacraments, and one gets an imputation of Christ’s righteousness when one is justified and that is the grounds of justification. That sins such as adultery can not cut one off from Christ. This clearly shows that these Fathers do not believe in any version of Sola Scriptura either, because they clearly do not teach Sola Fide. The WCF confession perspicuously teaches that justification is clearly taught in Scripture to be by faith alone. However, the fact that none of the Fathers taught justification in the manner that the WCF teaches, shows that no matter what they taught on the authority of the Church, tradition, and the Bible, they did not believe in Sola Fide, thus disproving the definition of Sola Scriptura that they give us. None of the Fathers thought that James 2:24 (One is justified by works, not by faith alone) clearly teaches that one is justified by faith alone. None of the Fathers taught that 1 Pet. 3:21 (Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you) means that baptism does not save us. Nor do we find any of the Fathers writing that If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained (John 20:23) means that the apostles nor their successors can not forgive sins. Thus, these passages which clearly teach on salvation, were not clearly seen by the Fathers to teach the exact opposite of what they say, which is the position of the WCF, the position espoused by King.
Thus, this shows that none of the Fathers taught Sola Scriptura or Sola Fide. Now as to what these Fathers specifically taught on the authority of the Church, Scripture and tradition, I highly recommend going to Joe Gallegos site on the issue here: https://www.cin.org/users/jgallegos/rule.htm However, what I have shown not only shows that the Fathers did not teach Sola Fide, but they did not teach Sola Scriptura, because of the definition as given by the WCF teaching is that the doctrine on justification is clearly taught in Scripture. Just on that basis alone, then, the Fathers teaching on the issue, even before getting to what they taught on authority and tradition and Scripture, disproves not only Sola Fide because no one taught it, but it shows that Scripture does not clearly teach Sola Fide, thus disproving Sola Scriptura, as taught by the WCF. If Scripture clearly taught imputation of an alien righteousness, only two sacraments which are not necessary for salvation, that one can not lose salvation through mortal sins (even with the Lutheran exception of unbelief), and that works are not meritorious in justification (and not one of these items, but all of them together as being foundational to Sola Fide), then none of the Fathers for 1500 years got it. In fact, as Alister McGrath, a Protestant scholar recognizes, unlike King and others such as him, that:
The essential feature of the Reformation doctrines of justification is that a deliberate and systematic distinction is made between justification and regeneration. Although it must be emphasized that this distinction is purely notional, in that it is impossible to separate the two within the context of the ordo sautis, THE ESSENTIAL POINT IS THAT A NOTIONAL DISTINCTION IS MADE WHERE NONE HAD BEEN ACKNOWLEDGED BEFORE IN THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE. A FUNDAMENTAL DISCONTINUITY WAS INTRODUCED INTO THE WESTERN THEOLOGICAL TRADITION WHERE NONE HAD EVER EXISTED, OR EVER BEEN CONTEMPLATED BEFORE. The Reformation understanding of the nature of justification – as opposed to its mode – must be regarded as a genuine theological novum. Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei : A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, p. 186.
There are more quotes from McGrath documenting this at this page: https://matt1618.freeyellow.com/page5.html. Thus, our examination of these Sola Fide Fathers only proves that McGrath was right. There were no Fathers who laid any foundation for the principle belief of Sola Fide as expressed by either Luther or Calvin or any of their followers. This examination of the Fathers that King points us to, including the quotes he gives show that these Fathers, on the issue of justification are indeed Catholic Fathers.
St. Bede the Venerable, On the Seven Catholic Epistles, Commentary on James 2, Cistercian Publications, Kalamazoo, Mi, 1985.
Di Berardino, Angelo, ed. Patrology, trans. by Rev. Placid Siolari, O.S.B, Vol. IV, The Golden Age of Latin Patristic Literature, Christian Classics, Inc. Westminster, Maryland, 1992.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, The Works of Bernard of Clairvaus: On Loving God, #13B, trans. by Robert Walton, Treatises II, Vol. 5, Cistercian Publicans, Consortioum Press, Washington DC, 1974.
St. Cyril of Alexandria, The Early Church Fathers, Commentary on John, Routledge, London; New York, 2000.
Jurgens, William The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. 1-3, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1978.
Schaff, Philip, and Wace, Henry, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts, 1995. Ante-Nicene Fathers, (ANF), vol. 1-10. of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (NPNF1), first Series, vol. 1-14; Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, second Series (NPNF2), vol. 1-14.
Stravinskas, Peter M. J., Rev. Ed. Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Encyclopedia, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, Indiana, 1991.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Catechetical Instructions of St. Thomas Aquinas https://www.cin.org/users/james/ebooks/master/aquinas/aindex.htm.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, https://www.newadvent.org/summa/211400.htm , Question 114, Article Three.
Westminster Confession of Faith, 1689, available at https://www.pcanet.org/general/cof_contents.htm.