Owen vs. Baxter on Active and Passive Obedience in Justification

Owen vs. Baxter on Active and Passive Obedience in Justification

Richard Baxter, The Reasons of the Christian Religion
Richard Baxter:
“The Independents gathered a Synod at the Savoy, and there among their Doctrinals, or Articles of Faith, laid down two points Expressly contrary to Scripture: 1. That it is not Faith, but Christ’s Righteousness, that we are justified by; whereas it is both, and the Scripture often saith the contrary.”

John Owen, Excercitations Concerning the Name
John Owen:
“It is a strange thing that any man should take upon him such Magisterial Dictatorship in matters of Religion, to insinuate into Men’s Minds, and unjust accusations of others: For 1. When the Scripture speaks of Justification by Faith, doth any sound Divines or Christians understand it of the Act of believing, but that the object of Faith that Justifies, is the Righteousness of Faith, our own Righteousness, or Christ’s Righteousness; but this dispute is not our present Province. The Articles of the Savoy Confession saith, God freely justifieth us — not by imputing faith it self, the Act of believing, &c. Will you say, That God imputes the Act of believing for Righteousness, in Justification of a Sinner before God? If you will, there’s more good Protestants will condemn this as your Error, then will say there is any Error in that Article of the Savoy Confession; I am sure we have Scripture enough against you; but this is one of your Arminian Errors.”

Richard Baxter:
“That Christ’s Righteousness imputed is our sole Righteousness; whereas the Scripture doth name also our inherent and practical Righteousness.”

John Owen:
“Why do you not speak out now, but intimate an Error? Doth the Scripture name inherent Righteousness for Justification? I know what you would be at, you are for your Evangelical Works to come in Cheek by Jole with the imputed Righteousness of Christ for Justification; and you are inforced to it, because you will bring in the To Credere, one may as well come in as the other; And in this Doctrine I must tell you, you have laid the fairest Bridge for Popery to come in, that ever any Protestant Divine hath done this hundred years. And that’s your Popish Error.
I will rehearse the Savoy Confession in its own words, which is taken verbatim almost, if not quite, from the Assembly’s; so that you charge the latter, in charging the former.”

Savoy Confession of Justification, Chap. XI.

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 it self, the Act of Believing, or any other Evangelical Obedience to them, as their Righteousness, but by imputing Christ’s Active Obedience unto the whole Law, and Passive Obedience in his death, for their whole and sole Righteousness, they receiving and resting on him and his Righteousness, by Faith, which Faith they have not of themselves, it is the Gift of God.

“This Article we stand by, and will defend against all men that shall oppose it as erroneous.”

Isaac Chauncy, A Theological Dialogue, 48 Owen and Baxter

3 thoughts on “Owen vs. Baxter on Active and Passive Obedience in Justification

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