On the Continuation of Justification

“Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?  It is God that justifieth.  Who is he that condemneth?  It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”

Rom. 8:33-34

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:  By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

Rom. 5:1-2

“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.  But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”

Heb. 10:38-39




Good Works: Necessary to Justification Consequently
Justification at Judgment Day



Order of Contents

Articles  8+
Quotes  4
Relation to Works  4
Daily Forgiveness  6+
Unity of Justification  1





Burroughs, Jeremiah –

Cotton, John – pp. 314 & 333-46  in treatise 3 on Gal. 2:20, ‘The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God’  in The Life of Faith  in The Way of Life, or, God’s Way & Course in Bringing the Soul into, Keeping it in & Carrying it on in the Ways of Life & Peace…  (London: 1641)

Goodwin, Thomas –  pp. 133-39  of section 5, ch. 3, ‘2nd Head: The Special, Peculiar Influence that Intercession has into our Salvation & Justification…’  in Christ set forth in his Death, Resurrection, Ascension, Sitting at God’s Right Hand, Intercession, as the Cause of Justification…  (London, 1642)

Cheynell, Francis – pp. 4 & 7-9  of An Account given to the Parliament by the Ministers sent by them to Oxford in which you have…  Diverse Questions concerning the Covenant of Grace, Justification, etc. are Briefly Stated…  (London, 1647)

Cheynell was a Westminster divine.

* Owen, John – pp. 143-52  in ch. 5, ‘The Continuation of Justification, whereon it does Depend’  in The Doctrine of Justification by Faith  in Works (d. 1683), vol. 5.  See especially pp. 147-52.

“And that the continuation of our justification depends solely on the same causes with our justi­fication itself shall be afterwards declared.” – p. 106

“Some say that on our part the continuation of this state of our justification depends on the condition of good works…  with this only proviso, that they be done in faith…  As faith alone is required unto the one [justification], so faith alone is required unto the other [continuation of justification], although its operations and effects in the discharge of its duty and office in justification, and the con­tinuation of it are diverse, nor can it otherwise be…

…the continuation of our Justification is the continuation of the imputation of righteousness and the pardon of sins.” – p. 147

Turretin, Francis – Institutes  ed. James Dennison, Jr.  (Presbyterian & Reformed), vol. 2

15th Topic, Calling & Faith

Question 16, ‘Whether the true believer can ever totally or finally fall from faith.  We deny against the Romanists, Socinians, Remonstrants and others who favor the apostasy of the siants.’, pp. 593-616

Question 17, ‘Whether the believer can and ought to be certain of his faith and justification by a divine and not merely conjectural certainty.  We affirm against the Romanists and Remonstrants.’, pp. 616-33

16th Topic, Justification

Question 10, ‘The unity, perfection and certainty of justification’, pp. 686-89

van Mastricht, Peter – Theoretical-Practical Theology  (RHB), vol. 5, bk. 6

ch. 6, ‘Justification’

section 13
section 18
section 22, point 7

ch. 8, ‘Sanctification,’ section 19



à Brakel, Wilhelmus – p. 378 & ‘Justification: a Daily Occurrence,’ pp. 381-91  in The Christian’s Reasonable Service, vols. 2  ed. Joel Beeke, trans. Bartel Elshout  (1700; RHB, 1992/1999)  See also the larger context on justification, pp. 341-413.

Neither everything à Brakel’s says, nor his paradigm, is wholly satisfactory.  Particularly, it may appear that his paradigm is contrary to WCF 11.5: “they [believers] can never fall from the state of justification (Lk. 22:32; Jn. 10:28; Heb. 10:14)…” insofar as he teaches that justification is not an abiding act (actio permanens), but an act crossing over [transiens], or intermittent.

Yet à Brakel’s manifest intentions, to affirm a real pardon for daily sins upon repentance, that such, in some manner, involves a declaration, and hence a kind of justification, by God, and à Brakel’s intention to preserve the unity of there being one justification, are pious.  The large substantial agreement à Brakel has with Owen (who is clearer and better), though articulated with a variety of categories and terminology, will be seen.

The Scriptures à Brakel cites on pp. 385-89 for a certain daily pardon of sins, when understood of God’s revealed fatherly displeasure for committed sins and its removal upon repentance and trust in God’s mercy through Christ (WCF 11.5), are very helpful.

Sins do not place them outside of the state of grace, as if their prior justification were thereby nullified; no, God is and remains reconciled with them in Christ.  God views them as His children, favorites, and heirs.” – p. 378

Aside from the Hebrews [a Christian sect], there are also some of Reformed persuasion who maintain that justification occurs only once and for all.” – p. 381

“Thirdly, one needs to make a distinction between reconciliation and justification.  God‟s justice has been satisfied in Christ; the elect, as enemies, have been reconciled with God by the death of His Son…  God from His side remains reconciled, even when believers fall into the deepest possible state of backsliding.  A renewed reconciliation and satisfaction are not necessary…  The indwelling of the Holy Spirit, spiritual life, and the propensity of faith remains.

…man, being yet without Christ, is then still incapable of being a suitable subject for justification.  When a truly converted and believing person is engaged in the practice of sin, God does not exercise the act of justification toward those who are in such a condition.  At that time they are also not suitable objects for this transaction, for they do not exercise faith whereby they are justified.  As far as their spiritual state is concerned, their reconciliation is a reality and remains in force, as well from God‟s side as from the side of the believer; however, justification is the declaration of a sentence.” – p. 382

“Sixthly, justification is not actio permanens, sed transiens [‘an abiding action, but a crossing-over action], that is, ‘a permanent act,’ which is effective from the very first moment of a believer‟s regeneration until their death, but rather ‘a transitory act,’ which ceases to render a pronouncement, and is therefore repeated each time again.  The first pronouncement to them is past, and there is each time a new pronouncement which is not of a different nature, but is identical in nature.  This is not to imply that the first act of justification is repeated, nor that God would direct a believer who prays for the forgiveness of sins to the first act of faith when He, at the outset of his conversion and faith, justified him—nor is it implied that the application of the first act of justification would be a daily occurrence…  Thus it is a daily and renewed pronouncement of the very same nature.” – p. 383

She [a Christian] prays that the guilt and punishment she has incurred by her currently committed sins would be removed on the basis of the merits of Christ, and that God by renewal would be pleased to pronounce the sentence of acquittal toward and upon her.” – p. 385






“God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified:[o] and although they can never fall from the state of justification,[p] 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.[q]

[o] Matt. 6:12. 1 John 1:7,9. 1 John 2:1,2
[p] Luke 22:32. John 10:28. Heb. 10:14
[q] Ps. 89:31-33. Ps. 51:7-12. Ps. 32:5. Matt. 26:75. 1 Cor. 11:30,32. Luke 1:20



“Nevertheless they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins;[g]…

[g] Matt. 26:70,72,74


Larger Catechism

Q. 79. “May not true believers, by reason of their imperfections, and the many temptations and sins they are overtaken with, fall away from the state of grace?

A. True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God,[f] and his decree and covenant to give them perseverance,[g] their inseparable union with Christ,[h] his continual intercession for them,[i] and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them,[k] can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace,[l] but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.[m]

[f] Jer. 31:3.
[g] 2 Tim. 2:19Heb. 13:20,212 Sam. 23:5.
[h] 1 Cor. 1:8,9.
[i] Heb. 7:25Luke 22:32.
[k] 1 John 3:91 John 2:27.
[l] Jer. 32:40John 10:28.
[m] 1 Pet. 1:5


Q. 194. “What do we pray for in the fifth petition?

A. In the fifth petition, (which is, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors)…  we pray for ourselves and others, that God of his free grace would, through the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, apprehended and applied by faith, acquit us both from the guilt and punishment of sin,[x] accept us in his Beloved;[y] continue his favour and grace to us,[z] pardon our daily failings,[a] and fill us with peace and joy, in giving us daily more and more assurance of forgiveness;[b] which we are the rather emboldened to ask, and encouraged to expect, when we have this testimony in ourselves, that we from the heart forgive others their offences.[c]

[x] Rom. 3:24-26Heb. 9:22.
[y] Eph. 1:6,7.
[z] 2 Pet. 1:2.
[a] Hos. 14:2Jer. 14:7.
[b] Rom. 15:13Ps. 51:7-10,12.
[c] Luke 11:4Matt. 6:14,15Matt. 18:35




George Downame

A Treatise of Justification  (London: 1633)

ch. 1, pp. 5-8

ҤVI. Thirdly, when we say it [justification] is an action of God imputing to a believing sinner, etc. we consider it not as a sudden and momentary action which is of no continuance, as if all our sins both past, present and to come are remitted in an instant, but as an act of God continued from our vocation [calling], wherein the grace of faith is begotten in us, to our glorification, which is the end of our faith.

For as this action of God is called the justification of a sinner, so while we continue sinners, we have still need to be justified.  And as we always have sin in this life, so that it may not be imputed, we have need, that Christ’s righteousness should be imputed unto us; and that as we sin daily, so Christ our advocate should continually make intercession for us: that notwithstanding our manifold slips, whereinto through human frailty we fall, and notwithstanding those manifold infirmities and corruptions which remain in us as the relics of original sin, we may be continued in the grace and favor of God by the continued imputation of Christ’s righteousness obtained by his continual intercession for us.  For therefore does he continue his intercession for us that our justification may be continued to us, and that as we sin daily, so we may daily seek and obtain pardon.

But if justification should so be wrought once and at once, as that after that act wrought in an instance, we should no more be justified, nor no more need remission of sin, then must we erroneously conceive that the sins which after the first moment of our justification we do commit, are actually remitted before they be committed; whereas God forgives only sins past, Rom. 3:25.  So shall we not only set open a gap to all licentiousness (for who will so fear to commit sin as he ought, or when he has committed it so sue for the pardon thereof who is persuaded beforehand that it is already remitted), but also shall open the mouths of our adversaries, who will be ready to say, that we Protestants ought not to pray for remission of sin, because in our opinion (as they say) we need it not: but to this calumniation of the Papist I have elsewhere answered.

§. VII. If it be said that it is a received opinion among many that justificatio simul et semel sit, that ‘justification is wrought at once, and but once,’ I answer that that assertion is not to be admitted without distinction, nor without good caution.  The distinction is this, that there is a justification of a sinner before God in foro coelesti, which properly is called justification, and is that which here I have defined: and there is a justification whereby a man already justified before God is justified in foro conscientiae, in the court of his own conscience: which is not properly justification itself, but the assurance of it.

To this latter that assertion of but once and at once cannot in any good sense be applied.  For neither is the full assurance of our justification attained at once, but by degrees, wherein we are to labor and to give diligence to make, as our election and calling, so also our justification more and more sure unto us.  Neither is it given but once.  For by committing of any crime or any grievous sin, by spiritual desertions, by the forcible temptations of Satan, this act of spiritual faith, which we call assurance, may be interrupted or lost for a time; and yet by repentance, by prayer and practice of piety it may be recovered again, and therefore not given but once.

To the former indeed it may be applied in both parts, but with a twofold caution: first, in respect of simul, at once, if it be understood as excluding degrees, and not continuance.  Namely, that we are not justified by degrees, and as it were by little and little, as though our justification were not perfect at the first.  For no sooner does a man truly believe in Christ, but the righteousness of Christ is imputed to him, and in and by that righteousness he stands righteous before God, as well at the first, as at the last; that righteousness of Christ by which he is justified, whether first or last, being most perfect.

Therefore the righteousness of justification cannot be increased, neither does our justification before God admit degrees, either in one and the same person, or yet in diverse men: howsoever the assurance of justification, and the work of sanctification, whereby we are to be renewed in the inner man day by day have degrees, according to the degrees of our faith, and according to the measure of grace received.

Secondly, when it is said that we are justified before God semel, but once, that also may be admitted, if by once be meant one continual act.  For as we are regenerated but once, because ut semel nascimur, ita semel renascimur, [‘as we have been born once, so we have been reborn once,’] so faith, which is wrought in our regeneration is given but once.  For that which saint Jude says, verse 3, of faith once given, is no less true of the habit [abiding principle] than of the doctrine of faith; which habit, being once had, is never utterly lost.  For all they who have true faith, are born of God, 1 Jn. 5:1; Jn. 1:12-13.  And those who are once born of God are never unborn again; but being made sons by faith, as all the faithful are, Gal. 3:26, they are also made heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, Rom. 8:17.  As faith therefore is never utterly lost, no more is justification.  For so long as we have faith, so long we are justified.  But the habit of faith we never lose, though perhaps some act of faith may sometimes be interrupted.  Therefore our justification is but one continued act, and in that sense we are justified but once.

§VIII.  Now whereas we have defined and defended according to the Scriptures that justification is an action of God, and such an action as is without us and a continued act: hence we may conclude against the Papists:

First, that neither their first, nor second justification is that justification which is taught in the Scriptures…  Not, that we deny, that inherent righteousness is by practice of good works increased; but that we hold that justification is not our own act, neither that we are justified by any righteousness inherent in ourselves, or performed by ourselves, nor that the righteousness of justification (which is indeed the righteousness of Christ) can be increased, and therefore no degrees of justification.

Thirdly, they do not hold justification to be one continued act from our vocation to our glorification, but such an act as may not only be interrupted oftentimes and lost for a time, as they say it is, by every mortal sin and again be renewed so oft as they go to shrift; but also that it may totally and finally be lost.  Which error I have confuted at large in my treatise of Perseverance.”


ch. 6, ‘Of the Object of Justifying Faith,’ pp. 363-64

“Again justification or imputation of righteousness is actus continuus [‘a continued act’], which is not to be restrained to the instant of our first conversion and justification, but continued to them that believe.  And therefore so long as they have faith, God imputes righteousness unto them.”


ch. 10, ‘Bellarmine’s Arguments…’, p. 391

“Neither does faith justify as the beginning of justification only: first, because there are no degrees of justification before God; for in the first act it is perfect: and to that act continued throughout this life, faith, as I showed before out of diverse of the Fathers, suffices.  I say, suffices to justification: and therefore is not the beginning only, but also the continuance and consummation thereof: for as in the first act it justifies, so also in the continuance of justification: for by it we stand, and by it we live, and so long as we have faith, it is imputed unto us for righteousness even from faith to faith, as it was to Abraham, after he had long continued in the faith.”


ch. 2, ‘That we are not justified by works’, pp. 446-47

“4. The Holy Ghost speaks generally of all men, whether regenerate or unregenerate, and of all works, whether going before faith or following it, that a man, that is, every one, who is justified, is justified by faith without the works of the law, Rom. 3:28, that a man is not justified (that is, that no man is justified) by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, for by the works of the Law no flesh, that is, as the Psalmist speaks, no man living shall be justified, Gal. 2:16.

For as in the first act of justification we are justified by faith without respect of works, so our justification is continued unto us without respect of our works.  And this appears most plainly in the examples of Abraham, of Job, of David, of Paul, etc. as I showed before, who, though they abounded with good works which they wrought by faith, yet were not justified by them, but by faith only.

For that which Chrysostom says of Abraham is also verified of all the godly: for, says he, that a man having not works should be justified by faith, it is no unlikely thing: [Greek], but this, that a man flourishing in good works, should not thereby be justified, but by faith, it was wonderful, and very much sets forth the force of faith.”


ch. 3, ‘Bellarmine’s answers…  refuted’, p. 451

“§IV.  For first, whereas justification before God is but one, wherein the Lord by imputation of Christ’s righteousness to a believing sinner does absolve him from his sins and also accepts of him as righteous in Christ, not only in the first moment of justification, wherein being a sinner in himself he was first constituted righteous in Christ: but also in the continuance of justification, wherein the believer being still a sinner in himself, is continued in the favor of God by the merits and intercession of Christ: and though a sinner in himself, yet believing in Him that justifies a sinner, is made the righteousness of God in Christ.”


John Ball

A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace…  (London: 1645), ch. 3, ‘Of the Covenant of Grace in General’, pp. 20-21

“Good works of all sorts are necessary to our continuance in the state of justification, and so to our final absolution, if God give opportunity: but they are not the cause of, but only a precedent qualification or condition to final forgiveness and eternal bliss.

If then, when we speak of the conditions of the Covenant of Grace, by condition we understand whatsoever is required on our part, as precedent, concomitant or subsequent to justification: repentance, faith and obedience are all conditions; but if by condition we understand what is required on our part as the cause of the good promised, though only instrumental, faith or belief in the promises of free mercy is the only condition…

Sincere, uniform and constant [obedience], though imperfect in measure and degree, and this is so necessary that without it there is no salvation to be expected.  The Covenant of Grace calls for perfection, accepts sincerity, God in mercy pardoning the imperfections of our best performances.  If perfection was rigidly exacted, no flesh could be saved: if not at all commanded, imperfection should not be sin, nor perfection to be labored after.  The faith that is lively to embrace mercy is ever conjoined with an unfeigned purpose to walk in all well-pleasing, and the sincere performance of all holy obedience, as opportunity is offered, does ever attend that faith whereby we continually lay hold upon the promises once embraced.

Actual good works of all sorts (though not perfect in degree) are necessary to the continuance of actual justification, because faith can no longer lay faithful claim to the promises of life, than it does virtually or actually lead us forward in the way to Heaven.  For:

‘If we say we have fellowship with God and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another,’ 1 Jn. 1:6-7.

This walking in the light as He is in the light is that qualification whereby we become immediately capable of Christ’s righteousness, or actual participants of his propitiation, which is the sole immediate cause of our justification, taken for remission of sins, or actual approbation with God.  The truth of which doctrine St. John likewise ratifies in terms equivalent, in the words presently following: ‘and the blood of Christ cleanseth us’ (walking in the light as God is in the light) ‘from all sin.’ [v. 7]”


Daniel Rogers

Collections, or Brief Notes gathered out of Mr. Daniel Rogers’s Practical Catechism for Private Use…  (London: 1648), pt. 2, article 2, 7th Branch, ‘Applying of Christ’s Merit’, p. 104

“The applying work of Christ’s merit is that solemn part of his mediation, for the sake whereof He forsook the earth, and was exalted…  and sits at the right hand of God his Father, that by his intercession always made for his Church, He might apply to all the members the power of this satisfaction, that it might work faith in those that want it, and confirm it in those that have it.

Therefore He is called advocate, that the Church may enjoy the fruit of his death continually.  And as the ends hereof are many, to wit…  keep them in his love, to cover their daily offences, and continue their justification and acceptance…”


Anthony Burgess

The True Doctrine of Justification…  (London, 1654),

sermon 13, n.p.

“…this is not to be conceived in the way of some transient actions that pass away and leave not so much as a relative change.  No, for when God does justify us at first, we are upon our believing put into a state and a fixed condition of peace with God.  Thus the Scripture speaks of it as a state, like that of sanctification and glorification; so that while we are sleeping we are justified, because put into that estate, although we do not then actually believe.

The first act therefore of faith receiving Christ, in whom we are justified, is like the putting of one into a state of marriage, or of magistracy: Though the first act pass away, yet the relative change it has made continues always; We are not justified by the habit of faith, but by the act, and yet after the first act we stand justified, though we are not all the day long actually believing.

Its true, many learned divines say justification is a continued action, and it may be granted in this sense, that God does daily justify believers, even as He constantly preserves them in their natural being; but it is not true in this sense, as if we were put into a new state of justification every day.  This is not only to make a first and a second justification, but a thousand justifications; remission of sins and imputation of Christ’s righteousness are reiterated; but justification besides these does connote a fixed estate of the justified person, which is but once, and the Mediator of the Covenant of grace does so firmly uphold this privilege, that there shall never be any total intercission of it, neither do ever any plenarily apostatize from this wonderful favor, that once received it.”


sermon 21, p. 204  on Gal. 3:11, ‘For the Just shall live by faith.’

“…the just man as long as he is in this world must live by faith, and that in the matter of justification as well as in other things.

A man in the progress of justification is justified still by faith as well as at first: Hence this text is again urged for continuance in justification, as well as the entrance thereunto, Rom. 1:17, where in the Gospel the righteousness of God is said to be revealed from faith to faith.”


John Owen

The Doctrine of the Saints’ Perseverance, Explained & Confirmed...  (London, 1654), ch. 5, pp. 118-120

“4. That the promises concerning perseverance (as has been often intimated) are of two sorts.  The first, of the continuance of the favor of God to us, which respects our justification.  The other, of the continuance of our obedience unto God, which respects our sanctification…

2. For those of the first sort, which I shall now handle…  I shall propose only some few things unto consideration…

2. That these promises of God do not properly, and as to their original rise, depend on any conditions in believers or by them to be fulfilled, but are the fountains and springs of all conditions whatever that are required to be in them or expected from them; though the grace and obedience of believers are often mentioned in them, as the means, whereby they are carried on according to the appointment of God unto the enjoyment (or continued in it) of what is promised.”


The Doctrine of Justification by Faith…  (London: Boulter, 1677), ch. 5, p. 208-10

“But if it be inquired what it is whereby we immediately concur in a way of duty unto the continuation of our justified estate, that is, the pardon of our sins and acceptance with God, we say it is such [faith] alone.  ‘For the just shall live by faith,’ Rom. 1.17. And as the apostle applies this divine testimo­ny to prove our first or absolute justification to be by faith alone, so does he also apply it unto the continuation of our justification, as that which is by the same means only, Heb. 10:38-39,

‘Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.  But we are not of them that draw back unto perdition: but of them that believe, unto the saving of the soul.’

The drawing back to perdition includes the loss of a justified estate really so or in profession.  In opposition thereunto the apostle places believing unto the saving of the soul; that is, unto the continuation of ju­stification unto the end.  And herein it is, that the just live by faith, and the loss of this life can only be by unbelief.

‘So the life which we now live in the flesh, is by the faith of the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us,’ Gal. 2:20.

The life which we now lead in the flesh is the continuation of our justification, a life of righteousness and acceptation with God, in opposition unto a life by the works of the Law, as the next words declare, v. 21,

‘I do not frustrate the Grace of God; for if righteousness came by the Law, then is Christ dead in vain; and this life is by faith in Christ as He loved us, and gave Himself for us, that is, as he was a propitiation for our sins.’

This then is the only way, means and cause on our part of the preservation of this life, of the continuance of our justification; and herein are we kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation [1 Pet. 1:5].

…the apostle gives us another account hereof; Rom. 5:1-3.  For he distinguishes three things: our access into the grace of God, (2) our standing in that grace, (3) our glorying in that station against all oppositi­on.  By the first he expresses our absolute justification.  By the second our continuation in the state whereinto we are ad­mitted thereby; and by the third, the assurance of that continuation, notwithstanding all the oppositions we meet with­al.  And all these he ascribes equally unto faith, without the intermixture of any other cause or condition. And other places express to the same purpose might be pleaded.

3. The examples of them that did believe and were justi­fied which are recorded in the Scripture, do all bear witness unto the same truth. The continuation of the justification of Abraham before God is declared to have been by faith only, Rom. 4:3.  For the instance of his justification given by the apostle from Gen. 15:6 was long after he was justi­fied absolutely.  And if our first justification and the con­tinuation of it, did not depend absolutely on the same cause, the instance of the one could not be produced for a proof, of the way and means of the other, as here they are.

And David when a justified believer, not only places the blessed­ness of man in the free remission of sins, in opposition unto his own works in general, Rom. 4:6-7, but in his own par­ticular case, ascribes the continuation of his justification and acceptation before God, unto grace, mercy, and forgiveness alone, which are no otherwise received but by faith, Ps. 130:3-5; 143:2.

All other works and duties of obedience do accompany faith in the continuation of our justified estate as necessary effects and fruits of it, but not as causes, means, or conditions whereon that effect is suspended.  It is patient waiting by faith, that brings in the full accom­plishment of the promises, Heb. 6:12, 16…  And the continuation of our justification depends solely on the same causes with our justi­fication itself.”



The Relation of the Continuance of Justification to Works



Davenant, John – section 6  in ch. 31, ‘Of the Necessity of Works to Salvation, or Justification’  in A Treatise on Justification: or The Disputatio de justitia habituali et actuali…, vol. 1  trans. Josiah Allport  (d. 1641; London: Hamilton, 1844/1846), pp. 300-2

Davenant argues that “Good works are necessary for retaining and preserving a state of justification, not as causes, which by themselves effect or merit this preservation, but as means or conditions…” though they may be:

“smothered and overlaid as it were, for a time… but these acts do not properly and of themselves preserve the life of grace by securing the effect itself of preservation; but indirectly and incidentally by excluding and removing the cause of destruction.”



Anthony Burgess

The True Doctrine of Justification Asserted & Vindicated…  (London, 1654)

sermon 12, p. 118

“For though holy works do not justify, yet by them a man is continued in a state and condition of justification: so that did not the Covenant of Grace interpose, gross and wicked ways would cut off our justification and put us in a state of condemnation.”


sermon 20, p. 191

“Hence the Scripture always attributes our justification to the free grace of God, diligently excluding any works we can do; and certainly if in the continuance of our justification, that be always retained by mere grace, so that no works of ours, though regenerated, and endowed with an heavenly principle within, are causal of it…”


sermon 24, p. 229-31

“A fifth argument is that which so much sounds in all books: If good works be the effect and fruit of our justification, then they cannot be conditions, or causa sine qua non [a cause without which: nothing] of our justification.

The consequence is clear, because such a supposed condition, or causa sine qua non, must be antecedent, and going before.  Now the Orthodox bring Augustine’s known position, which also may be made good out of Scripture, Bona opera non praecedunt justificandum, sed sequuntur justificatum [‘Good works do not precede being justified, but follow having been justified’]; and another to that sense is quoted out of Gregory: Non per opera venitur ad fidem, sed per fidem ad opera [‘not through works is one come to faith, but through faith to works’], faith must go before works.  Till we are justified, we are not able to do anything that is good…

Seeing therefore that justification is antecedent to a holy life, good works cannot be any condition of it; and by this we may see that more things are required to our salvation than to our justification; to the possession of heaven and [versus] the entitling us thereunto.  For justification does entitle and interest us in that eternal inheritance which is performed by faith; but to be made actual partakers of everlasting happiness, good works are the way to that Kingdom, not the cause of it.  Therefore none contend more then the Orthodox writers for the necessity of good works, and that in respect of salvation; yet in respect of our justification, then the Scripture calls them a menstruous rag and such as are utterly unworthy.

It’s true that justification cannot be continued in a man unless he continue in good works, yet for all that they are not conditions of his justification: they are qualifications and determinations of the subject who is justified, but no conditions of his justification.  As in the generation of man, though there be organical dispositions and qualifications for the soul, yet they have no causality upon the soul, but that is immediately infused by God.

Its a thousand times affirmed by our divines, many things are required to the constitution of some subject, which yet are not either causes or conditions of such and such an effect: Light is necessarily required and dryness as qualities in fire, yet it burns as it’s hot, not as light or dry. To the integral being of a man are required his head and shoulders, so that the eye could not see if not seated there; yet a man’s shoulders are not the causa sine qua non of his seeing.  Many things are necessarily conjoined together, and yet one is not the condition of the others’ effect.  So that this doctrine does not exclude, but [does] command holy works, only it gives faith and works their proper place.”


John Owen

The Doctrine of Justification by Faith…  (London: Boulter, 1677)

p. 34

“(2) Works required by the Law are either wrought before faith, without the aid of grace; or after believing, by the help of the Holy Ghost.  The former are excluded from our justification, but not the latter.

(3) Works of Obedience wrought after grace received, may be considered either as sincere only, or absolutely perfect according to what was originally required in the Covenant of Works.  Those of the latter sort are excluded from any place in our justifi­cation, but not those of the former.

(5) Justification may be considered either as to its beginning or as unto its continuation, and so it has diverse causes under these diverse respects.

(6) Works may be considered either as meritorious ex condigno, so as their merit should arise from their own intrinsic worth, or ex congruo only with respect unto the Covenant and promise of God.  Those of the first sort are excluded at least from the first justification; the lat­ter may have place both in the first and second.

(7) Moral causes may be of many sorts; preparatory, dispository, meri­torious, conditionally efficient, or only sine quibus non [without which nothing].  And we must diligently inquire in what sense, under the notion of what cause or causes, our works are excluded from our justification and under what notions they are necessary thereunto.  And there is no one of these distinctions but it needs many more to explain it, which accordingly are made use of by learned men.”


p. 198

“And it is inquired what it is whereon their continuation in this state does on their part depend; or what is required of them that they may be justified unto the end.  And this as some say is not faith alone, but also the works of sincere obedience.  And none can deny but that they are required of all them that are justified, whilst they continue in a state of justification on this side glory…

…that which was the necessity of owning a personal obedience in justified persons, is on all hands abso­lutely agreed…”


pp. 207-11

“There is no grace, no duty, for the sub­stance of them, nor for the manner of their performance, that are required either by the Law or the gospel, but they [justified persons] are obliged unto them.  Where they are omitted, we acknow­ledge that the guilt of sin is contracted, and that attended with such aggravations, as some will not own or allow to be confessed unto God Himself.

Hence in particular the faith and grace of believers, do constantly and deeply exercise themselves in godly sorrow, repentance, humiliation for sin, and confession of it before God, upon their apprehensions of its guilt.  And these duties are so far necessary unto the continuation of our justification as that a justified estate cannot consist with the sins and vices that are opposite unto them.  So the apostle affirms, that if we live after the flesh, we shall die, Rom. 8:13.

He that does not carefully avoid fal­ling into the fire or water, or other things immediately destructive of life natural, cannot live.  But these are not the things whereon life does depend.  Nor have the best of our duties any other respect unto the continuation of our justification, but only as in them we are preserved from those things which are contrary unto it, and destructive of it.

If this be that which is intended in this position, the continuation of our justification depends on our own obedience and good works, or that our own obedience and good works are the condition of the continuation of our justification, namely that God does indispensably require good works and obedience in all that are justified, so that a justified estate is inconsistent with the neglect of them, it is readily gran­ted, and I shall never contend with any about the way where­by they choose to express the conceptions of their minds.

All other works and duties of obedience do accompany faith in the continuation of our justified estate, as necessary effects and fruits of it, but not as causes, means, or conditions whereon that effect is suspended.  It is patient waiting by faith that brings in the full accom­plishment of the promises, Heb. 6:12, 16.”



On Daily Sin & Forgiveness upon Repentance

See also Westminster above.  See also the 5th Petition, ‘Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors’ in ‘Expositions of the Lord’s Prayer’.


Bible Verses

2 Sam. 12:13  “And David said unto Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’  And Nathan said unto David, ‘The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.'”

Ps. 32:5  “I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.

Ps. 51:1-2, 7, 14  “Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba…  wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.  Purge me with hyssop…  Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God.

Mt. 6:11-12, 14-15  “Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…  For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

1 Jn. 1:9  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness…  And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins;”




Burroughs, Jeremiah –

Rutherford, Samuel – A Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist: Opening the Secrets of Familism & Antinomianism…  (London: J.D., 1648), pt. 2

ch. 30, ‘The justified countable to God for sin’, p. 32
ch. 59, ‘How Justification is one indivisible act, not successive, as Sanctification, and yet God daily pardons sins’, pp. 104-6
ch. 60, ‘How sins are remitted before they be committed, how not, and the Antinomian error in this point’

Willard, Samuel – pp. 146-49, points 3-6  of pt. 2, doctrine 2, ‘Guilt apprehended, Distressing to God’s Children’  in The Truly Blessed Man, or the Way to be Happy here & forever, being the Substance of diverse Sermons preached on Psalm 32  (Boston, 1650)

Burgess, Anthony – Lecture 14  on Mt. 6:12  in The True Doctrine of Justification Asserted & Vindicated…  (London, 1651), pp. 110-19

This is full and good.

Witsius, Herman – Concilatory, or Irenical Animadversions on the Controversies Agitated in Britain under the Unhappy Names of Antinomians & Neonomians  trans. Thomas Bell  (Glasgow, 1807)

ch. 12, ‘The Explication of Certain Paradoxes’, pp. 122-28

ch. 13, ‘Our Judgment concerning these Paradoxes’, pp. 129-44  For the most relevant parts, see sections 13-21, but especially section 18.



à Brakel, Wilhelmus – ‘Justification: a Daily Occurrence,’ pp. 381-91  in The Christian’s Reasonable Service, vols. 2  ed. Joel Beeke, trans. Bartel Elshout  (1700; RHB, 1992/1999)  See also the larger context on justification, pp. 341-413.

à Brakel is not wholly recommended.  See the notes under his name in the Articles section above.



George Downame

The Covenant of Grace or an Exposition upon Luke 1:73-75  (Dublin, 1631), ch. 5, pp. 290-91

“…those [who err] who imagine that a faithful and regenerate man, by committing any crime or grievous sin, does for a sin loose his faith and justification.

And of this first assertion there seem also to be two degrees.  For when they say that a faithful man by committing a grievous sin does loose his faith, they mean either the act of faith only or the habit [the abiding principle of it] also.  If the act only, which is [for the person] to believe [the] remission of [his] sin, and namely of that crime which he has committed, and whereof he has not as yet repented, we acknowledge that that act of faith when a man is fallen into a great sin is interrupted, until he rise again by repentance.

But here is their error in that they think, because the act of faith is interrupted, that therefore there is an intercession of justification and reconciliation with God, and a falling from the state of grace and salvation, into the fearful state of damnation.  Unless for the qualifying of their opinion they shall say that they speak not of justification in foro caelesti, ‘in the court of heaven,’ but in foro conscientiae, ‘in the court of their conscience,’ and of falling for a time from the assurance of salvation into the guilt of damnation, which if they shall avouch, there shall not need to be any controversy betwixt us.

For we do confess that a man cannot be assured of the remission of any crime whilst he continues in it without repentance: and that howsoever there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus; yet a faithful man by committing any crime incurs the anger of God and provokes his judgments and not only deserves damnation, and is in himself guilty, or contracts the guilt of death, but many times also by the terror and trouble of his own conscience, aggravated partly by afflictions, partly by spiritual desertions and partly by the temptation of Satan, is, in his own opinion, in the state of damnation.

But if we will speak properly, justification is to be considered an act of God, for it is God that justifies, and such an act as depends upon his eternal counsel and proceed[s] from his grace given unto us in Christ before all secular times [before the foundation of the world].  For whom He elects, them He calls, and whom He calls according to his purpose, them and no other He justifies, and whom He justifies, them and all them He glorifies.  This act of God, which from our effectual vocation is continued to our glorification, is not interrupted, though the act of faith, which is the apprehension of it, be interrupted.”


Henry Scudder

A Key of Heaven the Lord’s Prayer Opened & so Applied…  (London, 1633), 5th Petition, pp. 424-32

“It must be diligently observed, that though justification be but one individual act in respect of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, in the first act of faith, and conversion of a sinner, whereby the person of a man stands justified before God, and shall, without intercision of justification and loss of this favor of God, stand before the barre of God’s tribunal, and is, and always shall be absolutely justified and acquitted from all sins past, present and to come, because all obligations and handwritings against him, are in that act cancelled and blotted out: he forgiving all trespasses, Col. 2:13-14.  Yet it must be known, that of this act there is (as it were) a double sentence: First, in court of heaven, at which time the elect in Christ have their names enrolled in the book of God’s effectual calling, and are numbered among the just, which sentence can never be revoked or blotted out: this is that which was passed with God (that I may so speak, after the manner of men) in the first act of conversion.

Secondly, this sentence of forgiveness is passed in the court of the con∣science of him that had the former sentence pronounced for him in heaven.  This sentence is the second act of the holy Ghost, wrought in this manner.  First, after that a sinner is cōvinced of his guiltiness of sin, and of his damnable condition because of his sin, then forgiveness is offered, and pronounced to the ear in that gracious promise of salvation to all that believe in Christ Jesus, which promise is proclaimed in the ministry of the Gospel, in which light of the Gospel, he shows unto a man possibility of salvation, setting before him (I speak of men of years and understanding) Christ the means of salvation; and by this means the Holy Ghost works faith in Christ; then confession and grief for sin; then prayer to ask forgiveness; and grace to live godly, and then does witness to his spirit that he is accepted of God.  Thus sentence is pronounced in the conscience: from whence arises sense of God’s love, which is called the shedding abroad of the love of God in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, Rom. 5:5, also sense of the loving countenance of God, which is the sign of his loving kindness, and is that speech of God, by which he does say to our souls, he is our salvation, and then arises in our hearts peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

This sentence of forgiveness unto the conscience has different degrees: it is sometimes more clear in the apprehension of the soul, sometimes more dim, yea sometimes quite blotted out in the counterpane of our release, or copy of our acquittance; as it was with David, Ps. 51, so that a person perfectly just before God, has sometime little or no sense or apprehension of it in his own conscience, but doubts whether he be in state of grace or no.  Which happens because of the stain and guilt of new sins, which guilt abides in the conscience, until a man do confess his sins, repent, and ask forgiveness, and, by a renewed faith, apply forgiveness: by which means the evidence of his pardon is again by the Holy Ghost exemplified, and sentence by this new application is again pronounced in his conscience; whence arises new assurance of salvation, and renewed joy in the Holy Ghost.

This is that justification, which for distinction sake, Di∣vines call justification by parts, or continued, or repeated justi∣fication, or new application of one and the same justification: which justification though in respect of the sentence pro∣nounced in heaven, is one individual act, whereby a man standeth alwayes just before God; yet in respect of the pro∣nouncing of that sentence to the heart, it is not actually applied; neither can a particular sinne be said to be everie way actually forgiven, until after it have beene committed, is con∣fessed, and repented of; nor un∣till forgivenesse be asked, and until the holy Ghost hath made new application thereof unto the conscience, through renewing of faith, by which a man doth again and again, as new sins are committed, apply the merits of the blood of Christ unto his soul.  Also it must be known that the sentence of pardon which is passed in heaven with God, is not fully executed until the last degree of it, when sentence of absolution shall be pronounced by Christ Jesus: Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, Matt. 25.34. It must moreover be conceived and held, that notwithstanding this distinction of justification between an absolute justification in respect of God, and a justification by parts in respect of application to mans conscience, there are not two kinds of justification, a first and a second, as the Papists hold: but one and the same justification, considered in different respects.  In respect of God’s actual acceptation of a man’s person, justification is absolute; but in respect of the actual application and manifestation of God’s acceptation unto a mans conscience, justification is by parts and degrees.  When a man already justified asks forgiveness, he doth not ask a new justification, but a second or new application of pardon unto the conscience of those particular sins which are daily committed, together with continuance of God’s favor, and more clear evidence that he is sealed up unto the day of redemption.

The third thing to be spoken of for the better understanding the word [forgive] concerns the effects following the apprehension thereof; these are peace of conscience, and joy in the holy Ghost.

These things touching justification and remission of sins being opened, we may under∣stand what is prayed for, when we say, Forgive sins. We pray…  Secondly, we pray that ourselves and others being justified and accepted into favor, it would please the Lord to continue this his favor, and that he would signify and make the same known to our hearts and consciences daily, by a new testification of the holy Ghost, accompanied with a new application of pardon for new sins daily committed, and that we may have more and more assurance of our perfect redemption at the day of judgment; and that we may have peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost, in the meantime.”


William Ames

The Marrow of Theology  (Baker, 1997), ch. 27, ‘Justification’, pp. 163-64

“20. Justification does not free from sin and death directly by taking away the blame or stain or all the effects of sin; rather it removes the guilty obligation to undergo eternal death.  Rom. 8:1, 33-34, ‘There is no condemnation…  Who shall lay anything to their charge?…  who shall condemn?

21. Nor does it take away guilt so that the deserving of punishment is removed from sin.  This cannot be taken away as long sin itself remains.  But justification does take away guilt so that its haunting or deadly effects vanish.

23. Not only are past sins of justified persons remitted but also those to come, Num. 23:25.  God sees no iniquity in Jacob or perverseness in Israel.  Justification has left no place for condemnation.  John 5:24, ‘He who believes has eternal life and shall not come into condemnation’ — justification gives eternal life surely and immediately.  It also makes the whole remission obtained for us in Christ actually ours.  Neither past or present sins can be altogether fully remitted unless sins to come are in some way remitted.

24. The difference is that past sins are remitted specifically and sins to come potentially.  Past sins are remitted in themselves, sins to come in the subject or the person sinning.

25. Yet those who are justified need daily the forgiveness of sins.  This is true because the continuance of grace is necessary to them; the consciousness and manifestation of forgiveness increases more and more as individual sins require it; and the execution of the sentence which is pronounced in justification may thus be carried out and completed.”


Thomas Warren

Unbelievers No Subjects of Justification, Nor of Mystical Union to Christ…  (London, 1654), ch. 11, pp. 250-51

“…upon the first moment that a man believes he is justified, and all his sins-past are actually pardoned, his sins to come virtually, so that no following sin shall unjustify him; though it may take away his aptitude for heaven, yet not his right: and though his sin may deserve damnation, and without actual repentance and faith he cannot be saved, yet grace shall be given to enable him to repent and believe, so that though there must be nova remissio [a new remission], yet there is not nova justificatio [a new justification]; though a new remission is needful, yet not a new justification; pardon of sin is a continued act, but our justification quoad statum [as far as the state] is done simul et semel, ‘once and for all’; this you know to be the Orthodox opinion…”


John Owen

The Doctrine of Justification by Faith…  (London: Boulter, 1677)

“The Discourse of Albertus Pighius…  shall be once again repeated, both for its Worth and Truth…:

‘…God therefore does justify us by his free grace or goodness wherewith he em­braces us in Christ Jesus, when he clothes us with his inno­cency and righteousness as we are ingrafted into Him; for as that alone is true and perfect which only can endure in the sight of God, so that alone ought to be presented and pleaded for us before the divine tribunal, as the advocate of, or plea in our cause; resting hereon, we here obtain the daily pardon of sin; with whose purity being covered, our filth and the uncleanness of our imperfections are not imputed unto us, but are covered as if they were buried, that they may not come into the Jugdment of God; until the old man being destroyed and slain in us, di­vine Goodness receives us into peace with the second Adam.'”


ch. 5, pp. 202-3

“Hence in the first justification of believing sinners, all fu­ture sins are remitted as unto any actual obligation unto the curse of the Law, unless they should fall into such sins as should ipso facto, forfeit their justified estate, and transfer them from the Covenant of Grace, into the Covenant of Works, which we believe that God in his Faithfulness will preserve them from.

And although sin cannot be actually pardoned before it be actually committed, yet may the obli­gation unto the curse of the Law be virtually taken away from such sins in justified persons as are consistent with a justi­fied estate, or the terms of the Covenant of Grace, antece­dently unto their actual commission.

God at once in this sense forgives all their iniquities, and heals all their diseases, redeems their life from destruction, and crowns them with loving kindness and mercies, Ps. 103:2-3. Future sins are not so pardoned as that when they are committed they should be no sins, which cannot be, unless the commanding power of the Law be abrogated.  But their respect unto the curse of the Law, or their power to oblige the justified person there­unto is taken away.

Still there abides the true nature of sin in every inconformity unto, or transgression of the Law in justified persons, which stands in need of daily actual pardon.  For there is no man that lives and sins not, and if we say that we have no sin, we do but deceive our selves.  None are more sensible of the guilt of sin, none are more troubled for it, none are more earnest in supplications for the pardon of it, than justi­fied persons.  For this is the effect of the sacrifice of Christ applied unto the souls of believers, as the apostle declares, Heb. 10:1-4, 10, 14, that it does take away conscience condemning the sinner for sin with respect unto the curse of the Law; but it does not take away conscience condemning sin in the sinner, which on all considerations of God and themselves, of the Law and the gospel, requires repentance on the part of the sinner, and actual pardon on the part of God.

…Now the first act of God in the imputation of righteousness cannot be repeated.  And the actual pardon of sin after justification is an effect and consequent of that im­putation of righteousness.  If any man sin, there is a pro­pitiation…  Wherefore unto this actual pardon there is nothing required but the application of that righteousness which is the cause of it, and this is done by faith only.

What it is that, when a justified person is guilty of sin (as guilty he is more or less every day) and his conscience is pressed with a sense thereof, as that only thing which can endanger or intercept his justified estate, his favor with God, and title unto glory, he betakes himself unto, or ought so to do, for the continuance of his state, and pardon of his sins, what he pleads unto that purpose, and what is available thereunto….

And is it not of faith alone, which is that grace whereby they apply themselves unto the mercy or grace of God through the mediation of Christ?  It is true that faith herein, works and acts itself in and by godly sorrow, repentance, hu­miliation, self-judging, and abhorrency, fervency in prayer and supplications with an humble waiting for an answer of peace from God, with engagements unto renewed obedience.  But it is faith alone that makes applications unto grace in the blood of Christ for the continuation of our justified estate…

The Scripture expressly does declare this to be the only way of the continuation of our justification, 1 Jn. 2:1-2, ‘These things write I unto you that you sin not.  And if any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righ­teous; and he is the propitiation for our sins.’  It is required of those that are justified that they sin not; it is their duty not to sin; but yet it is not so required of them as that if in anything they fail of their duty they should immediate­ly lose the privilege of their justification.  Wherefore on a supposition of sin, if any man sin, (as there is no man that lives and sins not) what way is prescribed for such per­sons to take, what are they to apply themselves unto, that their sin may be pardoned, and their acceptance with God continued; that is, for the continuation of their justificati­on?  The course in this case directed unto by the apostle is none other but the application of our souls by faith unto the Lord Christ, as our advocate with the Father, on the account of the propitiation that He has made for our sins.  Under the consideration of this double act of his sacerdotal office, his oblation and intercession, He is the object of our faith in our absolute justification, and so He is as unto the continuation of it.  So our whole progress in our justified estate in all the degrees of it is ascribed unto faith alone.”



Tuckney, Anthony – ch. 13, ‘Past & Future Sins are Not Simultaneously Remitted’  in Theological Lectures, even Determinations of Various Momentous Question...  (Amsterdam: Swart, 1679), pt. 2, p. 118-23

This section is commended by Witsius, Animadversions, pp. 136-37, section 12.



On the Oneness & Unity of Justification and its Aspects


William Ames

The Marrow of Theology  (Baker, 1997), ch. 27, ‘Justification’, p. 161

“5. The change, of course, has no degrees and is completed at one moment and in only one act.  Yet, in manifestation, consciousness and effects, it has many degrees; therein lie justification and adoption.”




“But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”

Lk. 22:32

“Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

Mt. 6:11-12

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness…  And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins;”

1 Jn. 1:9




Related Pages


Westminster Divines on Justification

Active Obedience of Christ

Eternal Justification

Works Against Bellarmine on Justification