We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Washed through his most precious blood

The righteousness wherewith we shall be clothed in the world to come is both perfect and inherent. That whereby we are justified is perfect, but not inherent. That whereby we are sanctified, inherent, but not perfect. This openeth a way to the plain understanding of that grand question, which hangeth yet in controversy between us and the Church of Rome, about the matter of justifying righteousness. -- Hooker, Learned Discourse

From Non Sermoni Res [notes omitted, refer to original]:

John Calvin was the first clearly to use the distinct terminology of justification and sanctification: “Why, then, are we justified by faith? Because by faith we grasp Christ’s righteousness, by which alone we are reconciled to God. Yet you could not grasp this without at the same time grasping sanctification also. . . . Therefore Christ justifies no one whom he does not at the same time sanctify.”

In Anglican circles, the distinction is evident in Thomas Cranmer’s use of the language of “lively faith.” On the one hand, Cranmer says that

we must renounce the merit of all our said virtues, of faith, hope, charity, and all other virtues and good deeds, which we either have done, shall do, or can do, as things that be far too weak and insufficient, and imperfect, to deserve remission of our sins, and our justification, and therefore we must trust only in God’s mercy, and that sacrifice which our high Priest and Savior Christ Jesus the son of God once offered for us upon the Crosse, to obtain thereby God’s grace, and remission, as well of our original sin in Baptism, as of all actual sin committed by us after our Baptism, if we truly repent, and turn unfeignedly to him again.

At the same time, says Cranmer, although justification by faith means that we renounce our own righteousness as being insufficient for justification, yet, the “lively faith” by which we are justified inevitably produces the fruit of holiness:

This is the true, lively, and unfeigned Christian faith, and is not in the mouth and outward profession only, but it liveth, and stirreth inwardly in the heart. And this faith is not without hope and trust in God, nor without the love of God and of our neighbours, nor without the fear of God, nor without the desire to hear God’s word, and to follow the same in eschewing evil and doing gladly all good works. . . . As the light cannot be hid, but will shew forth itself at one place or other; so a true faith cannot be kept secret, but, when occasion is offered, it will break out and shew itself by good works. And, as the living body of a man ever exerciseth such things as belongeth to a natural and living body for nourishment and preservation of the same, as it hath need, opportunity, and occasion; even so the soul that hath a lively faith in it will be doing alway some good work, which shall declare that it is living, and will not be unoccupied.

The distinction between justification and sanctification is spelled out clearly in Richard Hooker’s “Discourse on Justification”: “There is a glorifying righteousness of men in the World to come, and there is a justifying and a sanctifying righteousness here. The righteousness wherewith we shall be clothed in the World to come, is both perfect and inherent: that whereby here we are justefied is perfect but not inherent, that whereby we are sanctified, inherent but not perfect.” Hooker is willing to use the language of “infusion,” but in relation to sanctification, not justification.

The “Arminian” Anglican founder of Methodism, John Wesley, said: “[T]his [salvation] consists of two general parts: justification and sanctification. Justification is another word for pardon. It is the forgiveness of all our sins and, what is necessarily implied therein, our acceptance with God. . . . And at the same time that we are justified . . . sanctification begins. . . . There is a real as well as a relative change. We are inwardly renewed by the power of God.”

Despite this Reformation consensus, a reversion to the “Catholic” stance of Trent seems to reappear in Ango-Catholic John Henry Newman, who, while still an Anglican, wrote: “[J]ustification and sanctification [are] in fact substantially one and the same thing.”

In more recent Protestant discussions of justification by faith, there have been several moves that I find helpful. First, there is an emphasis on “union with Christ” and the significance of “in Christ” language in Paul. Both justification and sanctification are understood as consequences of this union. Reformed scholars note that “union with Christ” is a central theme in Calvin’s theology. Anglicans can look to Richard Hooker, whose sacramental theology centers on union with Christ, for a similar emphasis. Anglican Reformers like Thomas Cranmer and John Jewel closely link the sacrament of baptism with justification as the sacrament of new birth, and the Eucharist with sanctification as the sacrament of nourishment or “spiritual feeding” on Christ. Both sacraments are associated with union with Christ, baptism being the sacrament by which we are initially brought into union with Christ, the Eucharist the sacrament by which we are nourished by sharing in the risen humanity of his body and blood. Thomas Cranmer’s “Prayer of Humble Access” in the Communion Service of the Book of Common Prayer ties together well the mutually interrelated themes of justification by grace alone through faith alone, sanctification as genuine transformation, and union with Christ as the lynchpin that holds it all together:

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen. Book of Common Prayer, 1662.

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