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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism
of the Westminster Assembly
Explained and Proved
from Scripture

by
Thomas Vincent


XXXII. Ques. What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
Ans.
They that are effectually called, do in this life partake of justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.

XXXIII. Ques. What is justification?
Ans.
Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.

Q. 1. Wherein doth our justification consist?
A. Our justification doth consist in two things. 1. In the pardon of our sins. 2. In the acceptation of us as righteous.

Q. 2. Who is the author of our justification?
A. God is the author of our justification, whose act it is. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?
It is God that justifieth." Rom. 8:33.

Q. 3. Doth God justify us freely, or because of some merit in ourselves?
A. God doth justify us by an act of free grace. "Being justified freely by his grace." Rom. 3:24.

Q. 4. Through whose righteousness is it that we are justified?
A. We are justified through the righteousness of Christ. "Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption which is in Christ." Rom. 3:24.

Q. 5. How is the righteousness of Christ made ours?
A. The righteousness of Christ is made ours by imputation. "David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom the Lord imputeth righteousness without works." Rom. 4:6.

Q. 6. What is it for the righteousness of Christ to be imputed to us?
A. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, when, though it be subjectively in Christ, or the righteousness which he wrought, yet by God it is accounted ours, as if we wrought it ourselves in our own persons.

Q. 7. What is that righteousness of Christ which is imputed to us for our justification?
A. The righteousness of Christ, which is imputed to us for our justification, is his whole obedience to the law in our stead, and that both his passive obedience in all his sufferings, especially in his death, whereby we have the pardon of all our sins ("In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins;" Eph. 1:7); and his active obedience also, whereby we are accepted as righteous in God's sight: "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." Rom. 5:19.

Q. 8. Whereby do we receive and apply this righteousness of Christ?
A. We receive and apply this righteousness of Christ by faith. "Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe." Rom. 3:22.

Q. 9. Are we justified by faith only, and not by works, at least in part?
A. We are justified only by faith, and neither in whole nor in part by works. "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ: even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ." Gal. 2:16.

Q. 10. How is it then said, "Ye see, then, how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only?
" James 2:24. A. 1. The apostle Paul doth plainly and positively affirm, and by many arguments proves justification by faith without works, in his Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians; and be sure the apostle James, being inspired by the same Spirit in writing his Epistle, doth not really contradict this doctrine. 2. The apostle James doth not in this chapter treat of the justification of our faith in the sight of God, but of the justification of our faith in the sight of men; and thus he doth assert that justification is by works. I will show thee my faith by my works." Verse 18. Faith justifieth our persons, but works justify our faith, and declare us to be justified before men, who cannot see nor know our faith but by our works.

Q. 11. How do you prove that we are not justified by works?
A. 1. Because the whole world is guilty of sin, and those that are guilty of sin cannot have a perfect righteousness of works, and those that have not a perfect righteousness cannot be justified in the sight of God. Thus the apostle convicted both Jew and Gentile of sin in the 1st and 2d chapters to the Romans, and this "that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may become guilty before God" (chap. 3:19): and therefore inferreth, "By the deeds of the law no flesh living shall be justified." Verse 20. 2. Because, if we were justified by works, the reward would be of debt, and not of grace. "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt." Rom. 4:4. But the reward is not of debt, but of grace; and they that are justified, are not justified as righteous, with a righteousness of works, but as ungodly. "He justifieth the ungodly." Verse 5. 3. Because Abraham, the father of the faithful, though he had a righteousness of works, yea, works wrought in faith, yet he was not justified by his works; and if he were justified without his works, so are all others that are justified, justified without works. "For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory." Rom. 4:2. But Abraham had not whereof to glory before God, therefore he was not justified by works.

Q. 12. How do you prove that we are justified by faith only?
A. 1. It is positively asserted and concluded from several arguments by the apostle. "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law." Rom. 3:28. 2. There being such a thing as justification and justification cannot be by works, as hath been proved and there being no other way of justification but by faith, it must be by faith. 3. The righteousness of Christ is perfect, and sufficient for our justification; and by faith his righteousness is received and made ours in the account of God: therefore we are justified by faith. 4. Justification by faith doth give God all the glory, and excludeth all boasting in man; therefore it is by faith. "Where is boasting, then?
It is excluded. By what law t By the law of works?
Nay; but by the law of faith." Rom. 3:27. 5. Abraham was justified by faith, and all others are justified the same way.

Q. 13. How doth faith justify?
A. Faith doth not justify as a work in us, but as an instrument which applieth the perfect righteousness of Christ without us, whereby we are justified.

Q. 14. May we be justified by faith in Christ's righteousness without us, although we have no righteousness within us. A. We are justified only by faith in Christ's righteousness without us, but this justification is always accompanied with sanctification, in which a righteousness is wrought within us, without which our justification cannot be true. By the same faith whereby our persons are justified our hearts also are purified. "Purifying their hearts by faith." Acts 15:9.

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