Daily Justification - Wilhelmus A’ Brakel - ?

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G

Puritan Board Senior
In Brakel’s TCRS, he goes in to very detailed (and rather difficult) discussion on laying out his belief that Justification is actual a daily occurrence as we saints seek to exercise faith daily. He admits that even within the reformed some (pg. 381) maintain that Justification occurs “only once and for all” (no “all” as in all people mind you).

To be honest this struck me as odd and I assume it will spark some thread discussion. I have always been of the understanding that the act of Justification does occur in a single moment, namely at the point of reconcilation (or regeneration). Brakel does distinguish between Reconciliation and Justification and upholds that reconciliation is a “one time occurrence”.

Below are some quotes that help highlight his stance, which after reading the section I still don’t think I fully grasp. The full section is from pg. 381 - 391:

Pg. 383
Sixthly, justification is not actio permanens, sed transiens, 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. This initial act could have been either not so powerfully and sensibly experienced or could have been erased from one‟s memory. Thus it is a daily and renewed pronouncement of the very same nature.


Pg. 384
Eighthly, it is irrefutably true that an unconverted person must pray for justification as it takes place upon the first exercise of faith (even though we make no distinction between the first and the repeated exercises as far as the essence of the matter is concerned). It thus follows that all who are not assured of their regenerate state and of their faith, who fear they are not yet in this state, even though they may indeed be regenerated, must act according to their perception of their spiritual state. They must thus pray for forgiveness and justification as if this had never taken place yet; indeed, they cannot do otherwise. Since, however, the majority of the godly live without a clear knowledge and assurance of their spiritual state and repeatedly doubt what has previously taken place, this point of contention (see question on p. 381) would not pertain to the majority of the godly, but rather to the few who are currently assured.

Pg. 385
Tenthly, a distinction needs to be made between justification and being assured of this, that is, the sense of comfort, peace, and joy. The latter are fruits of the first. The first, justification, can be present without assurance and without a sense of comfort, peace, and joy. In his prayer, the believer, be it in the first exercise of faith or subsequently, has more than the pronouncement of the sentence in view, that is justification; his activity does not terminate here. He also has in view a comforting sense of forgiveness, as well as peace and joy. Yes, he cannot be at peace without obtaining forgiveness. It does not follow, however, that someone is not justified nor has obtained the forgiveness of sins if he is without peace or joy, and that only those obtain the forgiveness of sins who acquire a sense of comfort. For even the weakest in faith must believe, on the basis of the Word, that God, upon his prayer and with his eye upon Christ, forgives him his sins since He has promised to do so. Therefore the essence of justification does not consist in a comforting and sensible application of the sentence, but in its pronouncement. This pronouncement is not only made upon the first exercise of faith, but still occurs daily, whether or not the believer enjoys its comforting fruits. Having stated this by way of preface, we shall now proceed with the proof.



So what say you? Do you understand Justification be to daily or only once for the elect?

Was Brakel’s stance a majority position or an outlier?
 
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TheBruisedReed

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm going with outlier on this one. I believe justification to be a one-time event (declaration) and I think that this would be the majority position among reformed believers. Actually, I think this is the first time I've ever heard/read a protestant speak about justification as a continual process. Sounds extremely Roman Catholic.
 

G

Puritan Board Senior
I'm going with outlier on this one. I believe justification to be a one-time event (declaration) and I think that this would be the majority position among reformed believers. Actually, I think this is the first time I've ever heard/read a protestant speak about justification as a continual process. Sounds extremely Roman Catholic.
I agree. But, with Brakel I always like to really pause before I disagree because I know he is such a wise thinker. I am hesitant to to call it Roman Catholic, though that in itself is no reason to auto-reject, mainly because in context he spends so much time rejecting the two-fold justification view of the RC church.
 
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Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
He seems to be saying that this continued justification is more about our heartfelt appropriation or fuller acknowledgement of our it since he is dealing with: 1) the continual need to be forgiven as well as God's offer & application of forgiveness to the believer & 2) the assurance of justification itself. Thus (in the first paragraph) he uses the word "pronouncement" not imputation. Moreover, he explicitly says "This is not to imply that the first act of justification is repeated..."

By way of comparison to the Larger Catechism (Q&A 194): "We pray... 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, accept us in his Beloved; continue his favor and grace to us, pardon our daily failings, and fill us with peace and joy, in giving us daily more and more assurance of forgiveness..."
 
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Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Freshman
Anthony Burgess on continued justification:
It is true, There are indeed learned men, who think Justification may be reiterated, as you heard, Peter Mar∣tyr, and Bucer. Others call it a continued action, as conservati∣on. But although there is a continuance of Justification, and the godly are preserved in that estate, yet we cannot say, God doth renew Justification daily, as he doth pardon of sin. There are some that think the Scripture gives a ground for a second Justification, or the continuing and encreasing of it, and bring those places, Tit. 3.5, 6, 7. Rev. 22.11. The learned and excel∣lent Interpreter Ludovicus de Dieu, in Cap. 8. of the Romans, vers. 4. largely pleadeth for a two-fold Justification; The first he makes to be the imputing of Christs righteousness to us, re∣ceived by faith, which is altogether perfect, and is the cause of pardon of sins: The second he makes an effect of the former, whereby through the grace of God regenerating, we are con∣formable unto that love in part, and are day by day more and more justified, and shall be fully so when perfection comes: of which Justification he saith these texts speak, Jam. 2.21, 24. Revel. 22.11. Mat. 11.37. 1 King. 8.32. This two-fold Justifi∣cation he makes to differ toto coelo from the Papists, whose first is founded upon the merit of congruity, the second upon the merit of condignity. But the discussing of this will be more proper in the other part, viz. of imputed righteousness. Austin seemeth to hold Justification a frequent and continued act, lib. 2. contra Julianum, cap. 8. When we are heard in that prayer [For∣give us our sins] we need (saith he) such a remission daily, what progress soever we have made in our second Justification. He speaks Page 258 also of a Justification hujus vitae, which he cals minorem the les∣ser; and another plenam and perfectam, full and perfect, which belongs to the state of glory, Tract. 4. in Joannem lib. de spiritu & lit. cap. ultim. But the more exact handling of this will be in the place above-mentioned. It seemeth more consonant to Scri∣pture, if we say, That Justification is a state we were once put into, which is not repeated over and over, as often as sin is for∣given; neither can it admit of increase or decrease, so that a man should be more or less justified, for even David while he was in that state of suspension, was not less justified, though the effects of Justification were less upon him. It is true, in some sense learned men say, Justification may increase, viz. extensivè, not intensivè, as they express it, by way of extension, when more sins are pardoned, not intensively in its own nature. Even as the soul of a man in its information of the body, admits of no increase intensively, but it doth extensively, the more the parts of the body grow, the further doth its information extend. But of these things more in their proper place.
 

G

Puritan Board Senior
Anthony Burgess on continued justification:
It is true, There are indeed learned men, who think Justification may be reiterated, as you heard, Peter Mar∣tyr, and Bucer. Others call it a continued action, as conservati∣on. But although there is a continuance of Justification, and the godly are preserved in that estate, yet we cannot say, God doth renew Justification daily, as he doth pardon of sin. There are some that think the Scripture gives a ground for a second Justification, or the continuing and encreasing of it, and bring those places, Tit. 3.5, 6, 7. Rev. 22.11. The learned and excel∣lent Interpreter Ludovicus de Dieu, in Cap. 8. of the Romans, vers. 4. largely pleadeth for a two-fold Justification; The first he makes to be the imputing of Christs righteousness to us, re∣ceived by faith, which is altogether perfect, and is the cause of pardon of sins: The second he makes an effect of the former, whereby through the grace of God regenerating, we are con∣formable unto that love in part, and are day by day more and more justified, and shall be fully so when perfection comes: of which Justification he saith these texts speak, Jam. 2.21, 24. Revel. 22.11. Mat. 11.37. 1 King. 8.32. This two-fold Justifi∣cation he makes to differ toto coelo from the Papists, whose first is founded upon the merit of congruity, the second upon the merit of condignity. But the discussing of this will be more proper in the other part, viz. of imputed righteousness. Austin seemeth to hold Justification a frequent and continued act, lib. 2. contra Julianum, cap. 8. When we are heard in that prayer [For∣give us our sins] we need (saith he) such a remission daily, what progress soever we have made in our second Justification. He speaks Page 258 also of a Justification hujus vitae, which he cals minorem the les∣ser; and another plenam and perfectam, full and perfect, which belongs to the state of glory, Tract. 4. in Joannem lib. de spiritu & lit. cap. ultim. But the more exact handling of this will be in the place above-mentioned. It seemeth more consonant to Scri∣pture, if we say, That Justification is a state we were once put into, which is not repeated over and over, as often as sin is for∣given; neither can it admit of increase or decrease, so that a man should be more or less justified, for even David while he was in that state of suspension, was not less justified, though the effects of Justification were less upon him. It is true, in some sense learned men say, Justification may increase, viz. extensivè, not intensivè, as they express it, by way of extension, when more sins are pardoned, not intensively in its own nature. Even as the soul of a man in its information of the body, admits of no increase intensively, but it doth extensively, the more the parts of the body grow, the further doth its information extend. But of these things more in their proper place.
This is helpful. It lines up with what Brakel seems to hint at. Which seemed to be that aside from the RC erroneous view of Justificstion, there was even some in-house Reformed differences in word choice at least.
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
I have found this passage by Calvin on Genesis 15:6 immensely helpful about how justification is perpetual:

"We must now notice the circumstance of time. Abram was justified by faith many years after he had been called by God; after he had left his country a voluntary exile, rendering himself a remarkable example of patience and of continence; after he had entirely dedicated himself to sanctity and after he had, by exercising himself in the spiritual and external service of God, aspired to a life almost angelical. It therefore follows, that even to the end of life, we are led towards the eternal kingdom of God by the righteousness of faith. On which point many are too grossly deceived. For they grant, indeed, that the righteousness which is freely bestowed upon sinners and offered to the unworthy is received by faith alone; but they restrict this to a moment of time, so that he who at the first obtained justification by faith, may afterwards be justified by good works. By this method, faith is nothing else than the beginning of righteousness, whereas righteousness itself consists in a continual course of works. But they who thus trifle must be altogether insane. For if the angelical uprightness of Abram faithfully cultivated through so many years, in one uniform course, did not prevent him from fleeing to faith, for the sake of obtaining righteousness; where upon earth besides will such perfection be found, as may stand in God's sight? Therefore, by a consideration of the time in which this was said to Abram, we certainly gather, that the righteousness of works is not to be substituted for the righteousness of faith, in any such way, that one should perfect what the other has begun; but that holy men are only justified by faith, as long as they live in the world. If any one object, that Abram previously believed God, when he followed Him at His call, and committed himself to His direction and guardianship, the solution is ready; that we are not here told when Abram first began to be justified, or to believe in God; but that in this one place it is declared, or related, how he had been justified through his whole life. For if Moses had spoken thus immediately on Abram's first vocation, the cavil of which I have spoken would have been more specious; namely, that the righteousness of faith was only initial (so to speak) and not perpetual. But now since after such great progress, he is still said to be justified by faith, it thence easily appears that the saints are justified freely even unto death. I confess, indeed, that after the faithful are born again by the Spirit of God, the method of justifying differs, in some respect, from the former. For God reconciles to himself those who are born only of the flesh, and who are destitute of all good; and since he finds nothing in them except a dreadful mass of evils, he counts them just, by imputation. But those to whom he has imparted the Spirit of holiness and righteousness, he embraces with his gifts. Nevertheless, in order that their good works may please God, it is necessary that these works themselves should be justified by gratuitous imputation; but some evil is always inherent in them. Meanwhile, however, this is a settled point, that men are justified before God by believing not by working; while they obtain grace by faith, because they are unable to deserve a reward by works. Paul also, in hence contending, that Abram did not merit by works the righteousness which he had received before his circumcision, does not impugn the above doctrine. The argument of Paul is of this kind: The circumcision of Abram was posterior to his justification in the order of time, and therefore could not be its cause, for of necessity the cause precedes its effect. I also grant, that Paul, for this reason, contends that works are not meritorious, except under the covenant of the law, of which covenant, circumcision is put as the earnest and the symbol. But since Paul is not here defining the force and nature of circumcision, regarded as a pure and genuine institution of God, but is rather disputing on the sense attached to it, by those with whom he deals, he therefore does not allude to the covenant which God before had made with Abram, because the mention of it was unnecessary for the present purpose. Both arguments are therefore of force; first, that the righteousness of Abram cannot be ascribed to the covenant of the law, because it preceded his circumcision; and, secondly, that the righteousness even of the most perfect characters perpetually consists in faith; since Abram, with all the excellency of his virtues, after his daily and even remarkable service of God, was, nevertheless, justified by faith. For this also is, in the last place, worthy of observation, that what is here related concerning one man, is applicable to all the sons of God. For since he was called the father of the faithful, not without reason; and since further, there is but one method of obtaining salvation; Paul properly teaches, that a real and not personal righteousness is in this place described."
 

G

Puritan Board Senior
I have found this passage by Calvin on Genesis 15:6 immensely helpful about how justification is perpetual:

"We must now notice the circumstance of time. Abram was justified by faith many years after he had been called by God; after he had left his country a voluntary exile, rendering himself a remarkable example of patience and of continence; after he had entirely dedicated himself to sanctity and after he had, by exercising himself in the spiritual and external service of God, aspired to a life almost angelical. It therefore follows, that even to the end of life, we are led towards the eternal kingdom of God by the righteousness of faith. On which point many are too grossly deceived. For they grant, indeed, that the righteousness which is freely bestowed upon sinners and offered to the unworthy is received by faith alone; but they restrict this to a moment of time, so that he who at the first obtained justification by faith, may afterwards be justified by good works. By this method, faith is nothing else than the beginning of righteousness, whereas righteousness itself consists in a continual course of works. But they who thus trifle must be altogether insane. For if the angelical uprightness of Abram faithfully cultivated through so many years, in one uniform course, did not prevent him from fleeing to faith, for the sake of obtaining righteousness; where upon earth besides will such perfection be found, as may stand in God's sight? Therefore, by a consideration of the time in which this was said to Abram, we certainly gather, that the righteousness of works is not to be substituted for the righteousness of faith, in any such way, that one should perfect what the other has begun; but that holy men are only justified by faith, as long as they live in the world. If any one object, that Abram previously believed God, when he followed Him at His call, and committed himself to His direction and guardianship, the solution is ready; that we are not here told when Abram first began to be justified, or to believe in God; but that in this one place it is declared, or related, how he had been justified through his whole life. For if Moses had spoken thus immediately on Abram's first vocation, the cavil of which I have spoken would have been more specious; namely, that the righteousness of faith was only initial (so to speak) and not perpetual. But now since after such great progress, he is still said to be justified by faith, it thence easily appears that the saints are justified freely even unto death. I confess, indeed, that after the faithful are born again by the Spirit of God, the method of justifying differs, in some respect, from the former. For God reconciles to himself those who are born only of the flesh, and who are destitute of all good; and since he finds nothing in them except a dreadful mass of evils, he counts them just, by imputation. But those to whom he has imparted the Spirit of holiness and righteousness, he embraces with his gifts. Nevertheless, in order that their good works may please God, it is necessary that these works themselves should be justified by gratuitous imputation; but some evil is always inherent in them. Meanwhile, however, this is a settled point, that men are justified before God by believing not by working; while they obtain grace by faith, because they are unable to deserve a reward by works. Paul also, in hence contending, that Abram did not merit by works the righteousness which he had received before his circumcision, does not impugn the above doctrine. The argument of Paul is of this kind: The circumcision of Abram was posterior to his justification in the order of time, and therefore could not be its cause, for of necessity the cause precedes its effect. I also grant, that Paul, for this reason, contends that works are not meritorious, except under the covenant of the law, of which covenant, circumcision is put as the earnest and the symbol. But since Paul is not here defining the force and nature of circumcision, regarded as a pure and genuine institution of God, but is rather disputing on the sense attached to it, by those with whom he deals, he therefore does not allude to the covenant which God before had made with Abram, because the mention of it was unnecessary for the present purpose. Both arguments are therefore of force; first, that the righteousness of Abram cannot be ascribed to the covenant of the law, because it preceded his circumcision; and, secondly, that the righteousness even of the most perfect characters perpetually consists in faith; since Abram, with all the excellency of his virtues, after his daily and even remarkable service of God, was, nevertheless, justified by faith. For this also is, in the last place, worthy of observation, that what is here related concerning one man, is applicable to all the sons of God. For since he was called the father of the faithful, not without reason; and since further, there is but one method of obtaining salvation; Paul properly teaches, that a real and not personal righteousness is in this place described."
Thanks Tim. It would seem Calvin and Brakel would be in agreement. I enjoyed Calvin’s take as it further helped me understand Brakel. I also think the phrase “Perpetual Justification” in itself is helpful for the sake of clarity.
 

TheBruisedReed

Puritan Board Freshman
I am hesitant to to call it Roman Catholic, though that in itself is no reason to auto-reject, mainly because in context he spends so much time rejecting the two-fold justification view of the RC church.
Perhaps my comment was a bridge too far. Nevertheless, this is quite interesting.
 

G

Puritan Board Senior
Prior to this section Brakel provides some helpful clarity, and is also edifying to meditate on, pg. 378. I hope this give you good food for thought this Lord’s Day.

Sixthly, after the pronouncement of peace, believers do again return to foolishness, and daily they yet stumble in many things. These sins by their very nature are time and again worthy of temporal and eternal punishments. The Lord Jesus, however, as High Priest and Advocate, stands before the throne of grace and continually exhibits the efficacy of satisfaction for sins which are repeatedly committed. They are thus delivered from wrath by His life (Rom 3:9-10). 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. The justification which occurs upon the first act of faith, and which occurs time and again after that, each time includes the forgiveness of sins—sins to be committed subsequently virtualiter, that is, as far as virtue and efficacy are concerned; thus declaring that they would also each time be forgiven ctualiter, that is, actually. However, sins cannot be forgiven in actuality prior to being committed. We cannot speak of that which does not exist; whatever has not been committed cannot be forgiven. The godly also understand it to be thus when they perceive themselves to be justified by faith. They believe that God, in Christ, has forgiven them all their sins, has received them as children and heirs, and are assured that in the future they will remain reconciled and continue to be heirs. Therefore, when they fall, God will each time and repeatedly forgive them. We shall discuss this more comprehensively in answering the next question.

From what I gather here, the need for perpetual Justification is because sins cannot be forgiven “actually” until they have been committed in time, which Brakel places in harmony that upon initial Justification, ALL our sins are forgiven by the virtue and nature of what Christ accomplished.
 

Guido's Brother

Puritan Board Junior
I have encountered this view in some more recent authors from the Netherlands. I didn't realize it had this lengthy pedigree. Thanks for drawing our attention to it.
 
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