Why do people give Baxter a Hard Time on Justification?

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Formal Cause of Justification

Owen was aware of diverse opinions, but he taught that the formal cause of justification was the imputation of the righteousness of Christ that includes “his whole obedience unto God.”63 Owen’s most famous theological opponent, Richard Baxter (1615–1691), in his Aphorisms of Justification, argued that the formal cause of justification was the faith of the believing individual, imputed or reputed as righteousness on account of the righteousness of Christ.64 Behind this doctrine, Baxter made a distinction between the old and new covenants. By this distinction he meant, essentially, the difference between the Old and New Testaments. This distinction is based upon Christ fulfilling the old covenant and therefore making it possible for a man to be justified on the basis of the more lenient terms of the “new law” of the gospel, hence the term “neonomianism.” In Baxter’s theology, the righteousness of Christ in fulfilling the old covenant becomes the meritorious cause of justification, which in turn allows the faith of the believer to be the formal cause of justification under the new covenant. Referring, it seems, to Baxter’s neonomianism, Owen dismisses the view that there can be a “relaxation of the law … for if there be, it respects the whole being of the law, and consists either in the suspension of its whole obligation, at least for a season, or the substitution of another person to answer its demands, who was not in the original obligation, in the room of them that were.”65

Imputation as the formal cause of justification is crucial to Owen’s argument as a whole. For a sinner to stand before God, two things are required: first, his iniquities must be forgiven; and second, he must possess a righteousness that will meet the requirements of God’s justice. Our own inherent righteousness at best is imperfect and cannot meet the demands of God’s law. In his doctrine of sanctification, Owen does speak of an “inherent righteousness.” However, this righteousness must not be confused with the righteousness that is from God, the righteousness that is imputed, received by faith alone, and peculiar to justification. Owen says, the “Scripture plainly affirms that there is such an inherent righteousness in all that believe.… [However], that it is the condition of our justification, and so antecedent unto it, is expressly contrary unto that of the apostle.… Nor is it the condition of the covenant itself.”66 The condition of justification is not our personal righteousness, and neither is our righteousness the condition of the covenant itself. Rather, the covenant is inseparable from righteousness in Christ because both justification and sanctification are by grace alone. The distinction, then, between our personal righteousness, which does not justify, and the righteousness of Christ, which does justify, is an all-important distinction made by Owen.

63 Owen, Justification, in Works, 5:209.
64 Richard Baxter, A Treatise of Justifying Righteousness in Two Books (London: for Nevil Simons and Jonathan Robinson, 1676), 29, 88, 129–30. On Baxter’s doctrine of justification, see Hans Boersma, A Hot Pepper Corn: Richard Baxter’s Doctrine of Justification in Its Seventeenth-Century Context of Controversy (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 2003).
65 Owen, Justification, in Works, 5:248.
66 Owen, Justification, in Works, 5:232.
Although Baxter was a Puritan, it does not follow that he was orthodox with respect to a Westminsterean view on justification. Others have noted he was a neonomian as described in my post quoting Beeke and Jones.

The Westminister view doesn't leave a justified sinner with the idea that he can say he has faith and then live as he wants. This would be antinomianism, which was also condemned along with its variants.

A person outside of Christ is both guilty of Adam's sin and enslaved to sin (corrupt). In the Gospel, the sinner is called, regenerated, and exercises faith as a gift. This faith, alone, unites Him with Christ, and He is positionally in Christ and reckoned righteous. He is not, however, personally righteous and the corruption of his flesh still remains. He is no longer in bondage to his corruption but is made holy by Christ. At any point in his ongoing sanctification, accomplished by the Spirit in Christ, the person can never be said to be justified as a result of his actual righteousness. His sanctification is an evangelical grace progressively wrought by Christ where righteousness is infused by Christ as sin is put to death in his members. He has no warrant, ever, to say that he is free to sin as it is against who is now is in Christ. He strives for holiness as a result of being in Christ always.

The "problem" with Baxter is not the insistence that the Christian must strive for holiness but that his standing with respect to justification is never bound to his actual righteousness. It confuses sanctification with justification.
When I read Owen on justification, and when I read Rich Lusk, I don't get the impression they have the same view. Lusk told me in person in 2005-2006 that imputation was a legal fiction.

When I read Wilson on justification, I have no idea what he is saying. Basically yes and no at the same time.
Pertaining to Wilson, the frustration is that the “Yes and No” nature of his explanation is very intentional.
How does using this term differ from ‘imparted’?
Chapter XI - Justification
[qutoe]I. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.[/quote]
A man is not justified by an infusion of righteousness. He is not justified by anything wrought in him. This is what sanctification is.
From the WLC
Q. 75. What is sanctification?
A. Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby they whom God hath, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit314 applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them,315 renewed in their whole man after the image of God;316 having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts,317 and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened,318 as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.319

Q. 77. Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?
A. Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification,330 yet they differ, in that God in justification imputeth the righteousness of Christ;331 in sanctification of his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof;332 in the former, sin is pardoned;333 in the other, it is subdued:334 the one doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation335 the other is neither equal in all,336 nor in this life perfect in any,337 but growing up to perfection.338

The best PUritan analogy I've heard is that humanity can be considered as hooked to the belt of two different men.

Those on the belt of Adam are guilty of Adam's sin (the Confession states that his sin is imputed to us). Those hooked to Adam's belt are also corrupt in their members (sinners), from which arises all actual sins.

When Christ redeems a sinner, the Spirit regenerates, and the sinner reaches out to Christ. Christ hooks the sinner to His belt. He is now united to Christ. In Christ, the sinner is now reckoned righteous (Christ's righteousness is imputed to him). He is justified.

But what of his corruption? Well, in Christ, the dominion of sin has been broken in that man is no longer a slave to sin, but he is still corrupt. Christ unites sinners to Himself and not the righteous. In one sense, we are called the righteous as we are in Christ. In another sense, however, we are still corrupt, and the corruption needs to be put to death. This is sanctification, where sin is more and more killed, and grace is infused by the Spirit to make us more and more willing to obey.

The ground of our justification is the imputation of Christ's righteousness.
The means of our sanctification is the infusion of grace by the Spirit.
@Semper Fidelis I meant more specifically, the use of the term ‘infused’ vs the term ‘imparted’ when speaking of sanctification, and the grace given there. Is there any difference in between these terms or are they basically synonyms?

If memory serves me, Wesley was attached to the term imparted when discussion his (errant) view of sanctification.

But, thank you for that edifying explanation, a great reminder we all need in days such as these.
@Semper Fidelis I meant more specifically, the use of the term ‘infused’ vs the term ‘imparted’ when speaking of sanctification, and the grace given there. Is there any difference in between these terms or are they basically synonyms?

If memory serves me, Wesley was attached to the term imparted when discussion his (errant) view of sanctification.

But, thank you for that edifying explanation, a great reminder we all need in days such as these.
I see very poorly and saw that you wrote "imparted" only after I wrote the above and didn't want to go back and fix everything. I figured if you follow up I would answer.

There is a "whole man" aspect to corruption where we are corrupt throughout. Infusion has that quality as well where the whole of our person is progressively sanctified.

Methodism, I think, has more of a "healing" aspect of sin where perfection is possible. Sin is not so much mortified as something that we can have "replaced" in their system and imparted would make sense for them. Pentecostalism tends to follow in the Wesleyan tradition and this is why many don't really understand why, if they are Christians, they keep sinning or desiring evil things. It's why, in Charismatic circles, people are constantly looking for a place where they can "surrender" sufficiently to the Spirit to be delivered fully from sin.
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