By Rev. Michael Brown
This article was published in the Puritan Reformed Journal 3, no.1, Jan 2011. Used by permission.
During its so-called Counter-Reformation of the mid-sixteenth century, Rome sharply criticized the Protestant doctrine of justification for being a teaching that inevitably led to antinomianism, that is, a belief that rejects the moral law of God as the rule of life for believers in the new covenant. Understanding Protestants to teach that good works are an evidence but not the ground or instrument of one’s justification and that a sinner is justified “by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ” apart from all good works, Rome declared in its Council of Trent (1546) that anyone teaching such things was anathema. Their concern was that such a doctrine would result in moral laxity. Protestants, on the other hand, insisted that Rome’s fears were unfounded. As they codified their doctrine in confessions and catechisms, they contended that it did not make Christians careless and profane, for, as the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) states, “it is impossible that those who are implanted into Christ by true faith should not bring fruits of thankfulness.”
Rome’s denouncement of the Protestant doctrine of justification continued into the seventeenth century, spearheaded by Catholic apologists such as the Jesuit Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621). Yet, Rome was not the only critic of this doctrine. Arminians, such as Hugo Grotius (1583–1645) and Socinians, such as Jonas Schlichtingius (1592–1661), opposed it as well. For the heirs of Calvin, a defense of the Protestant doctrine of justification became significantly more complex than it had been for the early Reformers. Moreover, there arose an internal challenge for the Reformed orthodox, particularly those in Britain, in the teachings of Richard Baxter (1615–91), a minister in Kidderminster, England, who sought to revise the Protestant doctrine of justification.
In recent decades, scholars have assessed Baxter’s treatment of justification and come to different conclusions as to what Baxter taught. C. Fitzsimons Allison, for example, has argued that Baxter’s doctrine of justification is difficult to distinguish from that of the Council of Trent. Hans Boersma, on the other hand, has sought to exonerate Baxter of these charges and claims that Allison makes “an unfair criticism, based on a misunderstanding of what Baxter actually taught.” In his 1993 study, A Hot Pepper Corn: Richard Baxter’s Doctrine of Justification in Its Seventeenth-Century Context of Controversy, Boersma challenges Allison’s argument that Baxter substituted faith in place of Christ’s righteousness as the formal cause of justification.
Is Allison correct in his assessment of Baxter, or has he, as Boersma claims, made an unwarranted accusation about his teaching and unfairly painted him in Roman Catholic colors? The purpose of this paper is not to make or support any particular dogmatic construction concerning justification, whether Baxterian, Roman Catholic, antinomian, or that of the Reformed orthodox. Rather, it pursues the question of what Baxter believed with regard to the doctrine of justification in his historical context. It argues that Allison’s thesis holds up under Boersma’s criticism by showing that Baxter held a view of justification that was difficult to distinguish from that of the Council of Trent, and that he did so in order to safeguard against his perceived threat of antinomianism.
In order to prove this thesis, this study makes three observations. First, it deals with Baxter’s perceived threat of antinomianism; second, it considers briefly Rome’s doctrine of justification; third, it examines Baxter’s doctrine of justification.
Baxter’s Perceived Threat of Antinomianism
In the summer of 1645, during the struggle of the English Civil War, Baxter accepted an invitation to become a chaplain in the New Model Army of Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658). While his military service amounted to a stint of less than two years (his health failed in February 1647), it proved to be formative for his theology, especially his doctrine of justification. He became deeply disturbed by the antinomianism he saw amongst the soldiers in Cromwell’s army. That antinomianism, according to E. F. Kevan, had as its main object the glory of Christ; “but, failing to understand the true relation between ‘law’ and ‘grace’, they extolled the latter at the expense of the former.” For Baxter, antinomianism was more than a misunderstanding about the role of the law in the life of the believer; it amounted to a denial of the Gospel, “subverting the very substance of Christian religion…I think it fitter to call them Antigospellers, or Antichristian, or Libertines, than Antinomians.” According to Baxter, antinomianism was rife in the New Model Army, its soldiers “falling in with Saltmarsh, [who said] that Christ hath repented and believed for us, and that we must no more question our faith and Repentance than Christ.”
Baxter referred to John Saltmarsh (d.1647), a preacher, writer, and chaplain in General Fairfax’s army, who was accused of antinomianism by the staunch Presbyterian leader of the Scottish delegation to the Westminster Assembly, Samuel Rutherford (1600–61). In 1645, he published Free-Grace: or, the Flowings of Christs Blood Freely to Sinners, a book which Baxter believed was rapidly becoming popular in England yet was full of antinomian error.
Saltmarsh’s views on justification, which Baxter considered to be antinomian, can be summarized in the following points. First, he held to a view of “eternal justification,” that is, the idea that the elect were not only elect in eternity, but also justified in Christ in eternity. Chad Van Dixhoorn has rightly noted that the “idea of an eternal justification is the intellectual starting point for a number of key tenets of antinomianism.” Second, the difference between the old and new covenants is that under the old a believer obtained salvation upon performing certain conditions, but in the new, such conditions are abrogated by virtue of the finished work of Christ. Third, the new covenant is not, properly speaking, with the elect, but with Christ, who fulfilled the necessary conditions of the old covenant for the elect. The elect are in the new covenant in the sense that they are in Christ. Fourth, while the law continues to command obedience in the new covenant, and still reveals sin in the life of the believer, it “cannot tax him with damnation,” for it has been fully satisfied by Christ. “Christ hath believed perfectly, he hath repented perfectly, he hath sorrowed for sin perfectly, he hath obeyed perfectly…we are to believe that repentance true in him, who hath repented for us.” Fifth, a justified person may fall back into sin, but this does not change the justified person’s status with God. While Christians should flee from sin and continually repent of it, such sin, though it “grieves the Spirit of God…cannot alter the love of God” toward the justified.
Another writer charged with antinomianism by Rutherford and Baxter, as well as a petition sent to the House of Commons by the Westminster Assembly on August 10, 1643, was John Eaton (c.1575–1641). From his posthumous and highly influential Honey-combe of Free Justification by Christ Alone (1642), it is clear that his views on justification were similar to those of Saltmarsh. There were some additional points he emphasized, which Baxter also found objectionable. First, believers are perfect and sinless in God’s sight by virtue of Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed to them, even though, as justified sinners, they still feel the imperfections of their sanctification throughout their lives. This was similar to Luther’s dictum simul iustus et peccator (“at once righteous and a sinner”). Second, good works flow out and are the fruit of justification. It is therefore pointless to call people to good works without grounding them in justification. “If we call unto people for Sanctification, zeale and works, the fruits of the same, only with legal terrours, not putting under the fire of justification, we shall either but little move them, or else, with a constrained sanctity, make them worse hypocrites, twofold more the children of hell than they were before.” Third, the double imputation of the elect’s sin to Christ and Christ’s righteousness to the elect meant that, upon the cross, Christ was “made a sinner.” Likewise, the person in Christ is no longer “an idolater, a persecutor, a thief, a murderer, an adulterer, or a sinful person…you are all that he was, and he is all that you were.”
A third writer accused of antinomianism, and perhaps the most well known in the seventeenth century, was Tobias Crisp (1600–43). His collection of sermons, titled, Christ Alone Exalted, were reprinted in 1690 and sparked fierce debates. His views regarding justification were on many points similar to those of Saltmarsh and Eaton. Prominent in his thought are the following. First, Crisp firmly held to the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience to the believer. Believers are in Christ in such a way that God accounts them as being as perfectly obedient to the law as was Christ. While this view was not distinct to so-called antinomian teaching (e.g. HC 60), it was nevertheless a view Baxter associated with antinomianism, as we shall see below. Second, due to his belief in eternal justification, Crisp believed that justification precedes faith. This seems to be a position he held out of his concern to guard faith from being construed as a condition of the new covenant or, more specifically, a work.  This point in particular allegedly earned him the acrimonious title from Baxter, “Jezebel.” Third, sanctification, while inseparable from justification, is not guided by the law, but by Christ; he alone is the way to salvation. “There is never a School-Master in the World can teach the perfect Trade of walking Uprightly, but Christ alone.” Crisp was adamant that the only effective way to motivate people to holiness is by preaching the grace and forgiveness freely given in Christ.
It should be noted, however, that, whatever his views on justification, Crisp did in fact hold to the moral law as the Christian’s rule of life. He made this unequivocally clear in a sermon on John 8:36, “Christian Liberty no Licentious Doctrine.” After emphasizing that the believer is righteous before God only by virtue of the alien righteousness of Christ and not by any inherent righteousness in the believer himself, Crisp went on to explain that this did not preclude the believer’s obligation to obedience to God’s commands:
But this doth not take away our Obedience, nor our Services in respect of those ends for which such Services are now required of Believers. We have yet several ends for Duties and Obedience; namely, that our Services may glorifie God, and evidence our thankfulness; and that they may be profitable to Men, that they may be Ordinances wherein to meet with God, to made good what he hath promised; so far we are called out to Services, and walking Uprightly, Sincerely, Exactly, and Strictly.
Good works, according to Crisp, bring glory to God and evidence one’s justification.
To combat antinomianism, Baxter wrote on the doctrine of justification. His first work, Aphorismes of Justification with Their Explication Annexed (1649), revealed a significant revision of the Protestant doctrine of justification. As Allison notes, this book “elicited a storm of protest, and Baxter found himself involved for the rest of his life in controversies about justification.” As we will see below, Baxter modified his view of justification in order to refute antinomianism. Despite the controversies that resulted from his revisions, controversies primarily with the Reformed orthodox, he became convinced over time that his polemical writings on justification had successfully silenced antinomianism. By 1664, he concluded that this “Sect” had been extinct for many years.
It was therefore much to his vexation to discover almost thirty years later that antinomianism was still alive and kicking. In 1690, the sermons of Tobias Crisp were reprinted by Crisp’s son Samuel, indicating a rising interest in the teachings Baxter had spent most of his life refuting. What is more is that the preface to the published sermons contained a rebuttal of Baxter’s view of imputation. This was enough to move the aging Baxter to attack Crisp’s views in a lecture given in the joint Presbyterian-Congregationalist lectures at Pinner’s Hall, and to continue writing on the subject, even up to his death. In 1690 he published The Scripture Gospel defended, and Christ, Grace and Free Justification Vindicated Against the Libertines, Who use the names of Christ, Free Grace and Justification, to subvert the Gospel, and Christianity, etc., and in 1691 he published An End of Doctrinal Controversies Which have Lately Troubled the Churches by Reconciling Explication, without Much Disputing.
Antinomianism, as J.I. Packer put it, would be “Baxter’s lifelong bogey…he attacked their positions as bound to prove libertine in effect. This was the whole point and purpose of his onslaught.” Before examining Baxter’s view of justification, however, it is necessary for us to look at several features of Rome’s interpretation of the same doctrine.
Rome’s Doctrine of Justification
While it is beyond the scope of this essay to engage in a full-scale analysis of Rome’s doctrine of justification, we will focus briefly on three points within her doctrine as stated in the Council of Trent. The first is Rome’s denial of the imputed obedience of Christ as the ground of the believer’s justification. According to Trent, justification is not a one-time forensic act in which Christ’s obedience and righteousness is imputed to the believer (e.g. HC 60; BC 22; WCF 11.1; WLC 70-73), but a gradual process of moral change in the believer’s life, wrought by grace. This was a rejection of the sharp distinction Protestants made between justification and sanctification. Session 6, Chapter 7, states that justification “is not the remission of sins merely but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man, through the voluntary reception of the grace and of the gifts, whereby man of unjust becomes just, and of an enemy a friend, that so he may be an heir according to the hope of life everlasting.” Whereas the Reformed orthodox insisted that Christ’s righteousness is the formal cause of justification, Rome contended otherwise:
[T]he alone formal cause is the justice of God, not that whereby he himself is just, but that whereby he maketh us just, that, to wit, with which we, being endowed by him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and we are not only reputed, but are truly called, and are just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to every one as he wills, and according to each one’s proper disposition and co-opertation.
In other words, justification, for Rome is the Holy Spirit’s process of inward, moral renewal, since one is justified only if one is actually and truly just.
This ontological understanding of justification arose in large part from the distinction made by late medieval scholastic theologians between meritum de congruo and meritum de condigno. The former was a half-merit not truly deserving of God’s grace; it received grace proportionate to and congruent with a believer’s good works on the basis of divine generosity. The latter, on the other hand, was a full merit truly deserving of God’s grace. Connected to this was the Franciscan teaching that God’s covenant was facientibus quod in se est, Deus non denegat gratiam (“To those who do what is in them, God will not deny grace”). The Reformers and their orthodox heirs, on the other hand, rejected the medieval notion of congruent merit and instead embraced a doctrine of imputed condign merit – merit which the first Adam failed to achieve but which the second Adam attained through his active obedience – to the sinner who received it through faith alone.
Thus, for Rome, justification excluded the Protestant notion of the imputed obedience of Christ as the ground of justification. Righteousness is not imputed, but infused. “Whence man, through Jesus Christ, in whom he is ingrafted, receives, in the said justification, together with the remission of sins, all these [gifts] infused at once, faith hope, and charity.”Session 6, Canon 11, made this even more clear:
If anyone saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favor of God: let him be anathema.
Contrary to Protestant and Reformed orthodox thought, Rome’s denied the imputed obedience of Christ as the ground of the believer’s justification.
The second point we must consider in the Tridentine doctrine of justification is the matter of faith. Trent officially adopted the medieval understanding of faith taught clearly Thomas Aquinas (c.1224–74). Faith, for Aquinas, was first a habitus mentis, a habit of the mind, in which eternal life was begun, causing the intellect to assent to doctrinal truth. To this “unformed faith,” however, must be added hope and love, that is, acts of obedience, which causes the faith to be fides formata, “formed faith.” This was codified by Trent in Session 6, Canon 11, as quoted above, and in Canon 12, which declared: “If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified: let him be anathema.” For Rome, saving faith was not, as the Reformed held, notitia (“knowledge”), assensus (“assent”), and fiducia (“trust”) in the Gospel (e.g. HC 21), but a faith that obeys.
Rome viewed this obedience as possible for believers under the new covenant largely because of a distinction made by Aquinas between old law (lex vetus) and new law (lex nova). Under the new covenant and new law, which was inaugurated by Christ, more grace is available to the believer was previously available under the old covenant and old law.  It is important to understand that, for Rome, this obedience under the new covenant was not, as the Reformed had claimed, merely the fruit of justification, but actually part of the cause and increase of justification. “If anyone saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof: let him be anathema.”
Lastly, we must note that Rome formulated, at least implicitly, a type of “final justification” in Trent. In Session 6, Chapter 10, Trent declared that justification advances “from virtue to virtue…through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith co-operating with works” so that there is a gradual “increase in that justice which [believers] have received through the grace of Christ, and are still further justified.” In other words, complete justification is never attained in this life by a believer; it only comes at the conclusion of a lifetime of obedience and good works.
Having considered briefly Rome’s doctrine of justification, we are now prepared to look more closely at Baxter’s.
Baxter’s Doctrine of Justification
Baxter’s treatment of justification was vast and his works on the subject spanned more than four decades. As Packer has noted, “it was here [i.e. the doctrine of justification] that he supposed himself to be making his most valuable contribution to theology.” While a comprehensive study of Baxter’s doctrine of justification is beyond the scope of this paper, we will, for the purpose of defending our thesis, examine four aspects of his doctrine of justification.
The first is Baxter’s denial of the imputed obedience of Christ as the ground of justification. He admitted that for about ten years, he rejected the belief commonly held amongst the Reformed orthodox that both the active and passive obedience of Christ were imputed to the believer in favor of a view that held only Christ’s passive obedience to be imputed. This was a position similar to that of William Twisse (1578–1646) Thomas Gataker (1574–1654). After ten years, however, Baxter embraced a different view of imputation, one which adapted the legal views of Hugo Grotius and essentially made the traditional distinctions of Christ’s active and passive obedience unnecessary. Grotius outlined this view in his 1617 treatise, A Defence of the Catholic Faith concerning the Satisfaction of Christ against Faustus Socinus, in which he borrowed from Roman law a distinction between identical satisfaction (solutio eiusdem) and equivalent satisfaction (solutio tantidem) in order to combat the Socinian objection that the Protestant doctrine of a vicarious atonement makes salvation a matter of right and justice rather than forgiveness and mercy. Grotius, and subsequently Baxter, held the position that Christ’s death was not an identical satisfaction for sins, but an equivalent one.
According to Packer, Baxter’s study of Saltmarsh “revolutionized his own thought; for he began to see that Saltmarsh’s gospel was an inescapable deduction from two doctrines he held himself – limited atonement and justification before faith.” Adapting the Grotian position allowed Baxter to thwart the antinomian teaching of eternal justification. Carl Trueman offers this helpful summary of how this played out in Baxter’s thought:
[T]he Grotian distinction in this regard allows Baxter to avoid what he sees as the implication of eternal justification which the solutio eiusdem concept implies: if the actual sins of a particular sinner are really imputed to Christ and punished on the cross, then that sinner is, from that moment onwards, really justified, regardless of when they come to exercise faith. In other words, for Baxter the problem with Reformed Orthodox views of imputation is not simply that what is imputed to the believer subverts the need for good works; it is also that what is imputed to Christ subverts the need for good works as well.
Thus, Baxter, in his effort to refute antinomianism, rejected the Reformed orthodox teaching of double imputation, that is, the great exchange between the sins of the elect and the obedience of Christ by imputation (cf. HC 60; BC 22-23; WCF 11; WLC 70-73). “Take heed of the Errors of the Antinomians,” warned Baxter, “[errors which teach] that Christ’s satisfaction is ours…before the Application.”
What then, for Baxter, was the ground of justification if it was not the imputed obedience of Christ? He held that Christ’s righteousness caused a change in the demands of the law. Packer observes that the difference between orthodox Calvinism and Baxter has to with the law of God and how it is satisfied in Christ for the believer. “Where orthodox Calvinism taught that Christ satisfied the law in the sinner’s place, Baxter held that Christ satisfied the Lawgiver and so procured a change in the law. Here Baxter aligns himself with Arminian thought rather than with orthodox Calvinism.”
Yet, on this point, Baxter also appears to have aligned himself to some degree with Roman Catholic thought. Not only did he, like Rome, reject the imputation of Christ’s obedience as the ground of justification, but he also seems to have suggested a scheme similar to Rome’s old law/new law distinction: Christ’s work makes the terms of the new covenant more lenient than the old, procuring a change in the law that makes obedience possible.
This leads us to the second point we must consider in Baxter’s doctrine of justification, namely, his notion of a twofold righteousness. “[A]s there are two Covenants, with their distinct Conditions: so there is a twofold Righteousness, and both of them absolutely necessary to Salvation.” The first of these two is what he called legal righteousness, that is, the righteousness earned under the law of works. This righteousness is not personal to the believer, “for we never fulfilled, nor personally satisfied the law,” but is “wholly without us in Christ.” He claimed this to be the type of righteousness of which Paul spoke in Philippians 3, juxtaposing it to the righteousness that comes by faith in Christ.
The second type of righteousness, however, is evangelical righteousness, which, according to Baxter, does belong to the believer, and consists of the believer’s faith. Says Baxter, “faith is imputed for Righteousness…because it is an Act of Obedience to God…it is the performance of the Condition of the Justifying Covenant.” Allison seems correct in his charge that “Justifying faith, for Baxter, is that which is imputed and reckoned for righteousness as a condition of the new covenant.” Packer does not contest this point; he fully recognizes that, for Baxter, a believer’s faith “constitutes him righteous. This is evangelical righteousness.” He clearly believed that one’s faith, rather than the active and passive obedience of Christ, is the ground of and condition for one’s justification. As Allison summarizes,
Baxter takes the position that Christ himself fulfilled the conditions of the old covenant, and thereby purchased for us easier terms within the new covenant. On account of Christ’s righteousness, our own righteousness (faith and repentance) is accounted, or imputed, as acceptable righteousness. We are, in other words, justified by our own righteousness on account of the righteousness of Christ.
In other words, Christ’s righteousness makes justification by a believer’s righteousness (i.e. his faith) possible.
That the Reformed orthodox found this formulation upsetting comes as no surprise, for their confessional standards taught the very opposite about faith, namely, that it was not the ground of justification, but the instrument (i.e. HC 60-61; BC 22; WCF 11.1-2; WLC 70-73). Yet, what they found even more provocative in Baxter’s position was his insistence that justifying faith contained works, which is the third point we must consider in Baxter’s doctrine of justification.
For Baxter, faith itself is not the sole ground of a believer’s justification; rather, faith must be joined to works. “Both justifie in the same kinde of causality, viz. as Causae sine quibus non…Faith as the principal part; Obedience as the less principall. The like may be said of Love, which at least is a secondary part of the Condition.” The evangelical righteousness of which Baxter spoke, that is, the righteousness apart from which one cannot be justified, contained the believer’s obedience. Boersma does not dispute this point in Baxter’s thinking. He fully concedes that Baxter made evangelical obedience “a secondary part of the condition of the continuation of justification.” Using the analogy of a insignificant amount of rent paid by a tenant, rent costing only a “pepper corn,” Baxter said this is what the believer’s obedience contributes to salvation. Said Baxter:
A Tenant forfeiteth his Lease to his Landlord, by not paying his rent; he runs deep in debt to him, and is disabled to pay him any more rent for the future, whereupon he is put out of his house, and cast him into prison till he pay his debt. His Landlord’s son payeth it for him, taketh him out of prison, and putteth him in his house again, as his Tenant, having purchased house and all to himself; he maketh him a new Lease in this Tenor, that paying but a pepper corn yearly to him, he shall be acquit both from his debt, and from all other rent from the future, which by his old lease was to be paid; yet doth he not cancel the old Lease, but keepeth it in his hands to put in suite against the Tenant, if he should be so foolish as to deny the payment of the pepper corn. In this case the payment of the grain of pepper is imputed to the Tenant, as if he had paid the rent of the old Lease: Yet this imputation doth not extoll the pepper corn, nor vilifie the benefit of his Benefactor, who redeemed him: nor can it be said that the purchase did only serve to advance the value and efficacy of that grain of pepper. But thus; a personall rent must be paid for the testification of his homage.
In other words, Christ, like the landlord’s son in this analogy, has paid the cost (the lease) of what the sinner (the tenant) owed God (the landlord). The new covenant is like a new lease which only demands a small payment (a peppercorn), namely, obedient faith. For Baxter, a denial of this pepper corn of obedience contributed to salvation made one an antinomian. “The ignorant Antinomians think, it cannot be a Free Act of Grace, if there be any Condition on our part for enjoying it. As if…the Tenants redemption were the less free because his new Lease requires the Rent of a pepper corn in token of homage!”
The similarities of this point of Baxter’s to Rome’s doctrine are obvious. Whereas Trent requires obedience for justification, so too does Baxter, a point not lost on the Reformed orthodox. John Owen (1616–83), for example, responded to Baxter in his 1677 treatise on justification, The Doctrine of Justification by Faith though the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ; Explained, Confirmed, and Vindicated. While Owen wrote this treatise primarily against “the two grand parties by whom the doctrine of justification by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ is opposed; - namely the Papists and the Socinians,” he also aimed his guns at neonomians such as Johannes Piscator (1546-1625), Gataker, and Baxter, to whom he clearly refers as the “many interlopers, who, coming in on their hand, do make bold to borrow from both as they see occasion.” Preceding Owen was Samuel Petto (c.1624–1711), who, in his 1674 treatise on covenant theology, The Difference Between the Old and New Covenant, refuted Baxter’s analogy of a “peppercorn” payment of rent: “We claim Salvation not in the right of any act of ours, not upon the Rent of Faith (as men hold Tenements by the payment of a Penny, a Rose, or such like) no such thing here; all is paid to the utmost Farthing by our Surety, and we hold and claim upon the obedience of Jesus Christ alone.” For the Reformed orthodox, faith is a gift that bestows a title upon the believer because of the obedience of Christ alone.
Lastly, we must briefly consider Baxter’s view of “final justification.” For the pastor from Kidderminster, continuance of justification depends not on faith alone, but also upon the believer’s personal faithfulness and covenant-keeping:
In our first Believing we take Christ in the Relation of a Saviour, and Teacher, and Lord, to save us from all sin, and to lead us to glory. This therefore importeth that we accordingly submit unto him, in those his Relations, as a necessary means to the obtaining of the benefits of the Relations. Our first faith is our Contract with Christ…And all Contracts of such nature, do impose a necessity of performing what we consent to and promise, in order to the benefits…And in humane contracts it is so. Barely to take a Prince for her husband may entitle a woman to his honours and lands; But conjugal fidelity is also necessary for the continuance of them; for Adultery would cause a divorce…Covenant-making may admit you, but its the Covenant-keeping that must continue you in your priviledges.
In other words, a believer enters the salvific relationship with God by faith, but must remain in that relationship by his (the believer’s) faithfulness. Notice what Baxter says: “Our first faith is our Contract with Christ,” but, as in human contracts, in order to obtain the benefits of that contract, we must perform “what we consent to and promise.” Christ may be our faithful Husband, but we must be his faithful bride if want to continue in the privileges of salvation and reach final justification. “Faith, Repentance, Love, Thankfulness, sincere Obedience, together with finall Perseverance, do make up the Condition of our final Absolution in Iudgement, and our eternal Glorification.”
In one of his most lucid statements on this point, Baxter said:
And that the Law of Grace being that which we are to be judged by, we shall at the last Judgment also be judged (and so justified) thus far by or according to our sincere Love, Obedience, or Evangelical Works, as the Conditions of the Law or Covenant of free Grace, which justifieth and glorifieth freely in all that are thus Evangelically qualified, by and for the Merits, perfect Righteousness and Sacrifice of Christ, which procured the Covenant or free Gift of Universal Conditional Justification and Adoption, before and without any Works or Conditions done by Man Whatsoever. Reader forgive me this troublesome oft repeating of the state of the controversy; I meddle with no other. If this be Justification by Works, I am for it.
In other words, the “perfect righteousness and sacrifice of Christ” secured more lenient terms for believers than previously enjoyed under the old covenant so that a believer’s faith (which must include “sincere love, obedience, or evangelical works”) is imputed for righteousness “as the condition of the law.”
Because Baxter’s construction of justification bore striking similarities to the Roman Catholic position that Christ obeyed the law in order to make it possible for sinners to cooperate with grace toward future justification, it elicited intense responses from Reformed orthodox writers. John Owen, for example, wrote in 1677 The Doctrine of Justification by Faith through the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ. In it he lamented, “In my judgment Luther spake the truth when he said, ‘Amisso articulo justificationis, simul amissa est tota doctrina Christiana.’ And I wish he had not been a true prophet, when he foretold that in the following ages the doctrine hereof would be again obscured.”
Whether or not we agree with Baxter’s view of justification, we must conclude that, at least in three aspects, namely, a denial of the imputation of Christ’s obedience as the ground of justification, a faith that obeys as the ground of righteousness, and final justification, it is, as Allison rightly pointed out, “difficult to distinguish…from that of the Council of Trent.” Baxter’s views on justification accurately earn him the title, “neonomian,” for they restate the gospel as merely a “new law.”
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________. A Treatise of Justifying Righteousness, In Two Books. London, 1676.
________. An End of Doctrinal Controversies Which have Lately Troubled the Churches by Reconciling Explication, without Much Disputing. London, 1691.
________. Reliquiae Baxterianae: Or, Mr. Richard Baxter’s Narrative of The most Memorable Passages of His Life and Times. London, 1696.
________. Richard. Baxters Apology Against the Modest Exceptions of Mr. Thomas Blake. London, 1654.
________. Rich: Baxter’s Confession [sic] of his Fatih, Especially concerning the Interest of Repentance and sincere Obedience to Christ, in our Justification & Salvation. Written for the satisfaction of the misinformed, the conviction of Calumniators, and the Explication and Vindication of some weighty Truths. London, 1655.
Crisp, Tobias. Christ Alone Exalted: Being the Compleat Works of Tobias Crisp, D.D. containing XLII. Sermons. London, 1690.
________. Christ Made Sin: II Cor.V.xxi. Evinc’t from Scripture, Upon Occasion of An Exception taken at Pinners-Hall, 28 January, 1689, At Re-printing the Sermons of Dr. Tobias Crisp. London, 1691.
Owen, John. The Doctrine of Justification by Faith though the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ; Explained, Confirmed, and Vindicated (1677), in The Works of John Owen, vol. V. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, repr.1998.
Petto, Samuel. The Difference Between the Old and New Covenant Stated and Explained: With an Exposition of the Covenant of Grace in the Principal Concernments of It. London, 1674.
Rutherford, Samuel. A Survey of the Spirituall Antichrist, Part I and Part II. London, 1648.
__________. Letters of Samuel Rutherford (1664), ed. Andrew Bonar. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, repr.2006.
Saltmarsh, John. A peace but no pacification, or, An answer to that new designe of the oath of pacification and accommodation lately printed a subject for all that love true peace and liberty to consider. London, 1643.
________. Free-Grace: or, the Flowings of Christs Blood freely to Sinners. London, 1645.
Williams, Daniel. Gospel-Truth Stated and Vindicated, Wherein some of Dr. Crisp’s Opinions Are Considered; And The Opposite Truths Are Plainly Stated and Confirmed. London, 1692.
Witsius, Herman. Conciliatory, Or Irenical Animadversions on the Controversies Agitated in Britain Under the Unhappy Names of Antinomians and Neonomians (1696), trans. Thomas Bell. Glasgow, 1807.
________. The Economy of the Covenants Between God & Man (1677). Kingsburg: den Dulk Christian Foundation, repr. 1990.
Allison, C. FitzSimons. The Rise of Moralism: The Proclamation of the Gospel from Hooker to Baxter. London: SPCK, 1966.
Beeke, Joel R. and Pederson, Randall J., eds. Meet the Puritans. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006.
Boersma, Hans. A Hot Pepper Corn: Richard Baxter’s Doctrine of Justification in Its Seventeenth-Century Context of Controversy. Zoetermeer: Uitgevererij Boekencentrum, 1993.
Clark, R. Scott. “Do This and Live: Christ’s Active Obedience as the Ground of Justification,” in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry; Essays By the Faculty of Westminster Seminary California, R. Scott Clark, ed. Phillipsburg: P & R, 2007.
________ . “How We Got Here: The Roots of the Current Controversy over Justification,” in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry; Essays By the Faculty of Westminster Seminary California, R. Scott Clark, ed. Phillipsburg: P & R, 2007.
________. “Letter and Spirit: Law and Gospel in Reformed Preaching,” in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry; Essays By the Faculty of Westminster Seminary California, R. Scott Clark, ed. Phillipsburg: P & R, 2007.
Coffey, John. Politics, Religion and the British Revolutions: The Mind of Samuel Rutherford. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Fesko, J.V. Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine. Philipsburg: P & R, 2008.
Kevan, E.F. The Grace of Law: A Study of Puritan Theology. 1964, repr. Ligonier: Soli Deo Gloria, 1993.
Matthew, H.C.G., Harrison, Brian Howard, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: From the Earliest Times to the Year 2000. Oxford: OUP, 2004.
Muller, Richard. After Calvin: Studies in the Development of a Theological Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
________. Christ and the Decree: Christology and Predestination in Reformed Theology from Calvin to Perkins. 1986, Grand Rapids: Baker, rep.2008.
________. Post-Reformation Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725. Four vols. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003.
Packer, J.I. The Redemption & Restoration of Man in the Thought of Richard Baxter. Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2003.
Ramsey, D. Patrick. “Meet Me in the Middle: Herman Witsius and the English Dissenters.” Mid-America Journal of Theology 19 (2008), 143-64.
Schaff, Philip. ed., The Creeds of Christendom, 3 vols. (1931, Grand Rapids: Baker, repr.1998)
Trueman, Carl R. “A Small Step Towards Rationalism: The Impact of the Metaphysics of Tommaso Campanella on the Theology of Richard Baxter,” in Protestant Scholasticism: Essays in Reassessment. Trueman and R. Scott Clark, eds. Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 1999.
________. The Claims of Truth. Carlisle: Paternoster, 1998.
________. John Owen: Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man. Hampshire: Ashgate, 2007.
________. “Richard Baxter on Christian Unity: A Chapter in the Enlightening of English Reformed Orthodoxy,” Westminster Theological Journal 61 (1999), 53-71.
Van Dixhoorn, Chad. “Reforming the Reformation: Theological Debate at the Westminster Assembly 1643-1652,” 7 vols. PhD. dissertation. University of Cambridge, 2004.
Watts, Michael Watts. The Dissenters: From the Reformation to the French Revolution. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978, repr.1985.
Wedgwood, C.V. The King’s War 1641–1647. New York: MacMillan, 1959.
 From the Greek anti (“against”) and nomos (“law”).
 Council of Trent, session 6, canon 24, as quoted in Philip Schaff, ed., The Creeds of Christendom, 3 vols. (1931, Grand Rapids: Baker, repr.1998), 2:115. See also canon 11 in Schaff, 2:112-13.
 HC Q.64.
 See John Owen’s arguments against these thinkers in his The Doctrine of Justification by Faith though the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ; Explained, Confirmed, and Vindicated (1677), in The Works of John Owen, vol. 5 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, repr.1998), 5:183ff.
 On Reformed orthodoxy, see Richard Muller, After Calvin: Studies in the Development of a Theological Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003); idem, Christ and the Decree: Christology and Predestination in Reformed Theology from Calvin to Perkins (1986, Grand Rapids: Baker, rep.2008); idem, Post-Reformation Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003).
 See C.F. Allison, The Rise of Moralism: The Proclamation of the Gospel from Hooker to Baxter (London: SPCK, 1966), 154–77, esp.163.
 See Hans Boersma, A Hot Pepper Corn: Richard Baxter’s Doctrine of Justification in Its Seventeenth-Century Context of Controversy (Zoetermeer: Uitgevererij Boekencentrum, 1993); 15-16.
 R. Scott Clark briefly makes this same point in a footnote in his, “How We Got Here: The Roots of the Current Controversy over Justification,” in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry; Essays By the Faculty of Westminster Seminary California, R. Scott Clark, ed. (Phillipsburg: P & R, 2007), 15n27.
 See Boersma, A Hot Peppercorn, 31; and Watts, Dissenters, 106-11. On the English Civil War, see C.V. Wedgwood, The King’s War 1641–1647 (New York: MacMillan, 1959).
 E.F. Kevan, The Grace of Law: A Study of Puritan Theology (1964, repr. Ligonier: Soli Deo Gloria, 1993), 24.
 Richard Baxter, “Rich. Baxter’s Admonition to Mr William Eyre of Salisbury,”in Richard. Baxters Apology Against the Modest Exceptions of Mr. Thomas Blake (London, 1654), 6. See also Packer, Redemption, 352.
 Richard Baxter, A Treatise of Justifying Righteousness, (London, 1676), 1:22. See also his Boersma, A Hot Peppercorn, 32-33, 68-69; Watts, Dissenters, 109-10, 293-4; Allison, Rise of Moralism, 155-6; Carl Trueman, John Owen: Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man (Hampshire: Ashgate, 2007), 106-7, 11; J.I. Packer, The Redemption & Restoration of Man in the Thought of Richard Baxter (Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2003), 202-8.
 On Saltmarsh, see H.C.G. Matthew, Brian Howard Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: From the Earliest Times to the Year 2000 (Oxford: OUP, 2004), 770; Watts, Dissenters, 110, 112, 122, 181-83, 192; Boersma, A Hot Peppercorn, 26, 68-69, 119, 214; Kevan, The Grace of Law, 28; Packer, Redemption, 27, 202-5, 248-56, 274, 352-61; Allison, Rise of Moralism, 170-1.
 Samuel Rutherford, A Survey of the Spirituall Antichrist, Part I and Part II (London, 1648); 1:193. On Rutherford’s life and theology, see his Joshua Redivinus or Mr. Rutherfoord’s Letters (Rotterdam, 1664), reprinted as Letters of Samuel Rutherford (1664), ed. Andrew Bonar (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, repr.2006); and John Coffey, Politics, Religion and the British Revolutions: The Mind of Samuel Rutherford (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).
 See Richard Baxter, Rich: Baxter’s Confession [sic] of his Fatih, Especially concerning the Interest of Repentance and sincere Obedience to Christ, in our Justification & Salvation (London, 1655), preface.
 John Saltmarsh, Free-Grace: or, the Flowings of Christs Blood Freely to Sinners (London, 1645), 125.
 Chad Van Dixhoorn, “Reforming the Reformation: Theological Debate at the Westminster Assembly 1643-1652,” 7 vols. PhD. dissertation (University of Cambridge, 2004), 1:277.
 Saltmarsh, Free-Grace, 142-45.
 Saltmarsh, Free-Grace,161-3.
 Saltmarsh, Free-Grace, 143.
 Saltmarsh, Free-Grace, 84.
 Saltmarsh, Free-Grace, 145. Cf. 76.
 On John Eaton, see Watts, Dissenters, 180; Boersma, A Hot Peppercorn, 68; Kevan, The Grace of Law, 25-27; Packer, Redemption, 248-56, 352-63; Allison, Rise of Moralism, 169-70.
 John Eaton, Honey-Combe of Free Justification (London, 1642), 87.
 Eaton, Honey-combe, 476.
 Eaton, Honey-combe, 363.
 Eaton, Honey-combe, 273.
 On Tobias Crisp see Watts, Dissenters, 180-1, 293-5; Boersma, A Hot Peppercorn, 61-68, 214, 238, 255, 303, 329; Kevan, The Grace of Law, 25-27; Packer, Redemption, 248-50, 352-61, 409-13; Allison, Rise of Moralism, 171-2; Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson, eds., Meet the Puritans (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 164-68.
 See his sermon on Isaiah 53:6, “Sin Transacted Really Upon Christ” in Christ Alone Exalted, 178-310.
 See his sermon on Isaiah 42:6-7, “The New Covenant of Free Grace,” in Christ Alone Exalted, 74-92.
 As reported by Crisp’s son, Samuel, in the Preface to Tobias Crisp, Christ Made Sin (London, 1691).
 Christ Alone Exalted, 49. From his sermon on John 14:6, “Christ the Onely Way,” in Christ Alone Exalted, 14-58.
 See his sermon on Isaiah 43:25, “God Remembers Not Our Sins” in Christ Alone Exalted, 159-74.
 Christ Alone Exalted: Being the Compleat Works of Tobias Crisp, D.D. containing XLII. Sermons (London, 1690), 110-28.
 Christ Alone Exalted, 125-6. See also Crisp’s sermon on Isaiah 41:10, titled, “God’s Covenant with His People, The Ground of their Security,” in Christ Alone Exalted, 526-47.
 Allison, Rise of Moralism, 154.
 Richard Baxter, Reliquiae Baxterianae: Or, Mr. Richard Baxter’s Narrative of The most Memorable Passages of His Life and Times (London, 1696), 1:111.
 Baxter was not the only one involved in refuting antinomianism. Daniel Williams (c.1643–1715/6) took up Baxter’s mantle and wrote Gospel-Truth Stated and Vindicated, Wherein some of Dr. Crisp’s Opinions Are Considered; And The Opposite Truths Are Plainly Stated and Confirmed (London, 1692). Williams was opposed by Isaac Chauncey (1632–1712), who published, Neonomianism Unmask'd: Or, The Ancient Gospel Pleaded, Against the Other, Called a New Law Or Gospel (1692) in which he defended Crisp’s views. The debates between Williams and Chauncey led to some division between English Presbyterians and Congregationalists who had, for years, met at Pinners Hall for joint lectures and, since March of 1691, participated in the so-called Happy Union. Things turned unhappy, however, when Williams was ousted and a rival lectureship at Salter’s Hall was formed by disgruntled Presbyterians. These events led the divided Nonconformists to ask the Dutchman Herman Witsius (1636–1708) to mediate between the parties. Witsius agreed and subsequently produced his Conciliatory, or Irenical Animadversions on the Controversies Agitated in Britain, under the unhappy names of Antinomians and Neonomians (1696). For more on this, see Watts, Dissenters, 290-7; and D. Patrick Ramsey, “Meet Me in the Middle: Herman Witsius and the English Dissenters.” Mid-America Journal of Theology 19 (2008), 143-64.
 The title page of Scripture Gospel defended, notes the “sudden reviving of Antinomianism, which seemed almost extinct near Thirty four years.”
 Packer, Redemption, 351-2.
 Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 7, as quoted in Schaff, 2:94.
 Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 7, as quoted in Schaaf, 2:95.
 See Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985), 113, 191-2; Clark, “How We Got Here,” in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry, 12-13; and Fesko, Justification, 17-18.
 See, for example, Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants Between God & Man (1677) (Kingsburg: den Dulk Christian Foundation, repr. 1990), 1:90-92.
 Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 7, as quoted in Scaff, 2:96.
 Council of Trent, Session 6, Canon11, as quoted in Schaff, 2:112-13.
 See Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (Westminster: Christian Classics, 1989), II-II Q,4.1. See also W. Robert Godfrey, “Faith Formed by Love or Faith Alone?” in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry, 269-70.
 See Aquinas, Summa, I-II Q. 4.4.
 Council of Trent, Session 6, Canon12, as quoted in Schaff, 2:113.
 See Aquinas, Summa, I-II Q. 112.1; II-II Q.4.3. See Clark’s summary of Aquinas’ position and influence upon later Roman Catholic thought in “Letter and Spirit: Law and Gospel in Reformed Preaching,” in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry, 336-37.
 Session 6, Canon 24, as quoted in Schaff, 2:115.
 Session 6, Chapter 10, as quoted in Schaff, 2:99.
 Some of his most important works on justification from which we gain a clear picture of what he believed are: Aphorismes of Justification (London, 1649), Rich: Baxter’s Confession [sic] of his Faith, Especially concerning the Interest of Repentance and sincere Obedience to Christ, in our Justification & Salvation. Written for the satisfaction of the misinformed, the conviction of Calumniators, and the Explication and Vindication of some weighty Truths (London, 1655); Of Justification: Four Disputations Clearing and amicably Defending the Truth, against the unnecessary Oppositions of divers Learned and Reverend Brethren (London, 1658), A Treatise of Justifying Righteousness, In Two Books (London, 1676), and An End of Doctrinal Controversies Which have Lately Troubled the Churches by Reconciling Explication, without Much Disputing (London, 1691).
 Packer, Redemption, 241. For a fuller treatment of Baxter’s doctrine of justification, see Boersma’s dissertation, A Hot Pepper Corn, and Chapter 10 of Packer’s Redemption, 241-69.
 Baxter, Aphorismes, 44-54.
 See Baxter, Aphorismes, 44-52. On the views of Twisse and Gataker, see Chad Van Dixhoorn, “Reforming the Reformation: Theological Debate at the Westminster Assembly 1643-1652,” (PhD dissertation, University of Cambridge, 2004) 7 vols, vol 1, 324-330.
 Baxter, Aphorismes, 54.
 Hugo Grotius, A Defence of the Catholic Faith concerning the Satisfaction of Christ against Faustus Socinus (1617), trans. by Frank Hugh Foster (Warren F. Draper, 1889), 3:319-20. For an excellent summary of Baxter’s adaption of Grotius’ view, see Carl Trueman, The Claims of Truth The Claims of Truth (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1998), 210-11; and idem, John Owen: Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man (Hampshire: Ashgate, 2007), 106-7.
 Packer, Redemption, 204.
 Trueman, John Owen, 107.
 Baxter, Apology, 13.
 Packer, Redemption, 262.
 Baxter, Aphorismes, 102.
 Baxter, Aphorismes, 103.
 Baxter, Treatise, 178.
 Allison, Rise of Moralism, 156.
 See Packer, Redemption, 258.
 Allison, Rise of Moralism, 156-7.
 Baxter, Aphorismes, 290. See also his Confession, 297, and his Of Justification, 220.
 Boersma, A Hot Peppercorn, 167.
 Baxter, Aphorismes, 110; Boersma, A Hot Peppercorn, 24.
 Baxter, Aphorismes, 83-84.
 See Samuel Petto’s (c.1624–1711) rebuttal of this very point in his The Difference Between the Old and New Covenant Stated and Explained: With an Exposition of the Covenant of Grace in the Principal Concernments of It (London, 1674), 199-200.
 Baxter, Aphorismes, 109-10.
 John Owen, The Doctrine of Justification by Faith though the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ; Explained, Confirmed, and Vindicated (1677) in The Works of John Owen (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, repr.1998.), 5:165.
 Samuel Petto, The Difference Between the Old and New Covenants (London, 1674), 200. Interestingly, Owen wrote the forward to this book.
 See Packer, Redemption, 257ff.
 Baxter, Of Justification: Four Disputations Clearing and amicably Defending the Truth, against the unnecessary Oppositions of divers Learned and Reverend Brethren (London, 1658), 123-4. See also his End of Doctrinal Controversies, 252ff.
 Baxter, Confession, 56.
 Baxter, Treatise, 163.
 “When the article of justification is lost, at the same time the whole Christian doctrine is lost.” Owen, The Doctrine of Justification by Faith through the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ; Explained, Confirmed, and Vindicated,Works (1677) in Works, 5:67. For more on Owen’s doctrine of justification and the imputation of Christ’s active obedience, see Truman, John Owen, 101-21; R. Scott Clark, “Do This and Live: Christ’s Active Obedience as the Ground of Justification,” in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry, 236; and Michael Brown, “John Owen on the Imputation of Christ’s Active Obedience” in The Outlook, volume 58, issue 9, October 2008, 22-27.
 Allison, Rise of Moralism, 163.