Charles Hodge on Justification

Systematic Theology, 3 Volumes If you haven’t read Charles Hodge’s (d. 1878) explanation of justification in his Systematic Theology, I recommend you do so sooner than later.  You’re in for a real treat!  It’s not too tough to read (aside from the untranslated Latin), it’s well structured, and it is under 100 pages long.  Here are a few excerpts I’ve edited very slightly and put together.

“Justification is an act, and not, as sanctification, a continued and progressive work.  The two gifts (justification and sanctification), although inseparable, are distinct, and justification, instead of being an efficient act changing the inward character of the sinner, is a declarative act, announcing and determining his relation to the law and justice of God.  It is a declarative act in which God pronounces the sinner just or righteous, that is, declares that the claims of justice, so far as he is concerned, are satisfied, so that he cannot be justly condemned, but is in justice entitled to the reward promised or due to perfect righteousness.”

“According to the doctrine of the Lutherans and Reformed, the works excluded from the ground of our justification are not only ritual or ceremonial works, nor merely works done before regeneration, nor the perfect obedience required by the law given to Adam, but works of all kinds, everything done by us or wrought in us.  The declaration of Scripture is that we are not justified ‘by works.’  No specific kind of works is designated to the exclusion of all others.  But it is ‘works;’ what we do, anything and everything we do.”

“Grace of necessity excludes works of every kind, and more especially those of the highest kind, which might have some show of merit.  But merit of any degree is of necessity excluded, if our salvation be by grace (Rom. 4:4, 11:6).”

“The righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer for his justification.  It is not what we do or are, but solely what Christ is and has done that can avail for our justification before the bar of God.  Faith is never said to be the ground of justification.  We are saved simply ‘by’ faith, by receiving and resting upon Christ alone for salvation.  The thing received is out of ourselves.  It is Christ, his righteousness, his obedience, the merit of his blood or death.  We look to him.  We flee to him.  We lay hold on him.  We hide ourselves in him.  We are clothed in his righteousness.”

I could go on; Hodge certainly does.  Again, if you want a great Reformation discussion of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, read Charles Hodge’s section on justification in volume three of his Systematic TheologyAs many of you may know, the Kindle version is inexpensive and sometimes the hardcovers go on sale at CBD for under $20.  It is worth the time and money for sure.  Highly recommended!

shane lems
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)
hammond, wi

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