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Charles Hodge on Justification as a Forensic Act

10 December, 2009

In his book Justification by Faith Alone, Hodge (1797-1878) says the following,File:Charles Hodge.JPG

By this [doctrine of justification by faith alone] the Reformers intended, in the first place, to deny the Romish doctrine of subjective justification; that is, that justification consists in an act or agency of God making the sinner subjectively holy. Romanists confound or unite justification and sanctification. They define justification as “the remission of sin and infusion of new habits of grace.” By remission of sin they mean not simply pardon, but removal of everything of the nature of sin from the soul. Justification, therefore, with them, is purely subjective, consisting in the destruction of sin and the infusion of holiness. In opposition to this doctrine, the Reformers maintained that by justification the Scriptures mean something different from sanctification; that the two gifts, although inseparable, are distinct; and that justification, instead of being an efficient act changing the inward character of the sinner, is a declarative act announcing and determining his relation to the law and justice of God.

In the second place, the confessions of the Reformation no less explicitly teach that justification is not simply pardon and restoration. It includes pardon, but it also includes a declaration that the believer is just or righteous in the sight of the law. He has a right to plead a righteousness which completely satisfies its demands.

And therefore, in the third place, affirmatively, those confessions teach that justification is a judicial or forensic act, i.e., an act of God as judge proceeding according to law declaring that the sinner is just, i.e., that the law no longer condemns him, but acquits and pronounces him to be entitled to eternal life.


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