Friday, June 25, 2010

John Ball on Justification

John Ball was an English Puritan who ministered in the early 17th Century. He wrote a stellar book I am now reading called "A Treatise on the Covenant of Grace". It is a riveting work I can't put down (literally, because I have to finish chapter summaries right quick). I'm not a big fan of the old English letter "S" being a "F" (See above), but oh well. Here's a rich statement by Ball (with the right kind of "S")-

"Faith alone is the cause of Justification and Salvation, on our part required. It is a penitent and petitioning faith, whereby we receive the promises of mercy, but we are not justified partly by prayer, partly by repentance, and partly by faith, but by that faith, which stirreth up godly sorrow for sin, and enforceth us to pray for pardon and salvation. Faith is a necessary and lively instrument of Justification...If it be demanded whose instrument is it (faith)? It is the instrument of the soul, wrought therein by the Holy Ghost, and is the free gift of God."


Woody Woodward said...

Wow! And I thought Louis Berkof’s “Systematic Theology” was a tough book to understand! I am afraid I couldn’t get through the first page of this ole’ style English treatise. Good thoughts on faith and justification, although I don’t understand much of what he was saying?

Reepicheep said...


Faith (in Christ, of course)is the instrument of our Justification (being right before God). Faith is the gift of God.

ALL praise is due unto God alone.

Jim said...

I might push just a "little" bit on the faith being "lively" part. The problem is that folks today often think of beliefs as chosen, as an exercise of will. An "I believe in spite of the facts" sort of thing.

As a result, the exercise of faith becomes a focus as opposed to the object of faith.

I like the word "trust" better than the English word "faith," at least as the latter is understood today.

When we "trust" a friend, it's not as though we self-consciously choose to put faith in him. Rather, he character calls forth our trust. Our trust is a response to his character, and is not something necessarily that we "choose" in any explicit way.

So I'm not sure that faith (or "trust") is something that is all that "active" on our part.

So, too, why do we trust God? We trust God because of his character, which he displayed superlatively on the Cross. I know from the Cross that God will not deny me any good thing. After all, he did not deny me when it cost him his own son's life on the Cross.

The sad irony, of course, is that unredeemed humanity does to recognize that God offers us a gift. As with our parents in the Garden, we think that God wants to deprive us of his good gifts. We think that the freedom that God offers us is slavery instead; we think the truth he offers us is falsehood instead.

We do not recognize that what God offers us is a gift until the Holy Spirit acts to open our hearts and eyes to recognize it as a true gift.

(Of course, I would say that we're not regenerated until baptism, but that's a difference in nomenclature. Whatever we call it, the Holy Spirit must act for us to trust God.)

The overall point is that, in justification, faith, or trust, only receives, it does not actively offer, and that by the Spirit.

I'm not trying to be overly quibbly, and you didn't write (or quote) anything different than that. But I find so many Christians today who think that "faith" is an active exercise of the will ("if I just believe hard enough, then God will . . . forgive me, answer my prayer, come to me in the Supper, heal me, etc.), as opposed to faith being that which receives from God based upon the character that he reveals to us, and that superlatively on the Cross.

Hmm. Sorry for being so long-winded this morning. Back to mowing . . .

PeterinScotland said...

But the esses are not effs! An eff has a cross stroke right across - the ess you are seeing does not, it is merely a printed form of an elongated ess - i.e. ∫

PeterinScotland said...

Also the copy you bought and pictured has a grey background to the text - this was one we sold off cheap - it wasn't meant to be like that, nor are the other ones we sell! :-)