And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor?—Jeremiah 2.18.

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Justification by Faith Alone,

Proven from Holy Scripture & the Fathers,

With an Explanation of the Justification by Works asserted by James,

By John Welch of Air,

In Refutation of the Papist, Gilbert Brown.


Rom. 3.28: Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.


First Published 1602.

I OFFER me to prove that there be very few points of controversy betwixt the Roman Church and us, wherein we dissent, but I shall get testimonies of sundry Fathers of the first six hundred years against them, and proving the heads of Religion which we profess.  Let any man therefore set me down any weighty point of controversy, one, or mo[re], and he shall have the proof of this. {263}

SECTION XXI.

Concerning Justification by Faith.

Master Gilbert Brown.

WHom M. John calls Fathers here, I know not, except Simon Magus, Novatus, Arius, Jovinianus, Pelagius, Vigilantius, and such.  For indeed there is none of these, and many the like, but they were against us, and with them, in some heads.  But I am sure, S. Ireneus, S. Cyprian, S. Ambrose, S. Augustine, S. Jerome, S. Basile, S. Chrysostome, with the rest of the holy Fathers, is no way with them, and against us, as M. John will not be able to prove for all his offer.  As for example, it is a chief ground in their Religion, that only faith justifieth.  This, I say, can neither be proved by the Scriptures, nor ancient Fathers of the first six hundred years.  For why the contrary is expressly contained in the Word of God: Do ye see (saith S. James) that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only, James 2.24, with many other places that agrees with the same. Matth. 7.21, and 19.17, and 34.35. John 14.15,27. 1 John 2.3,4. Rom. 2.13. 1 Cor. 13.2, and 1.19. Gal. 5.6. Titus 1.16.  And S. Augustin saith himself, de fide & operibus, cap. 14, That this Justification by faith only, was an old heresy in the very time of the Apostles.

Maiſter John Welſch his Reply.

As for this calumny of yours, the trial of it will come in afterward: therefore I refer the answer of it to that place. And whereas you say, that you know not whom I call Fathers, either your malice makes you to dissemble your knowledge in this, or else palpable must your ignorance be.  And where you say, that Ireneus, Cyprian, &c. and the rest of the holy Fathers are no ways with us, against you; and that I will not be able to prove it: I have not only proved that already in sundry heads of our Religion, but also that sundry of your own Popes, Cardinals, Doctors {264} Bishops, Councils, and Canon Law have been with us in sundry points of our Religion which we profess, against that which ye profess.  And as for that example of justification by faith only, which ye cast in, which is one of the chief grounds of our Religion: This I will prove both by the Scripture, and by the testimonies of the Fathers of the first six hundred years.

Our doctrine then concerning Justification, is this: That as our sins was not inherent in Christ, but imputed to him, 2 Cor. 5.21, which was the cause of his death: so his righteousness whereby we are accounted righteous before God, is not inherent in us, but imputed to us: and therefore the Scripture saith, that he is made of God unto us righteousness, 1 Cor. 1.30.

Next, the only instrument that apprehends, and as it were, takes hold of this righteousness of Christ, is a lively Faith, which works by love, and brings forth good fruits: so that neither is Faith an efficient or meritorious cause of our salvation (for only Christ’s death and righteousness is that) but only an instrument to apprehend the same.  Neither is every Faith this instrument; but only that living Faith which I have spoken of: so that true Faith is never without the fruits of good works, no more than fire is without heat: and yet neither are our works, nor the work of Faith itself, the meritorious cause of our salvation; but only Christ’s death and righteousness: Neither are the fruits of this lively Faith, the instrument to apprehend and take hold of Christ’s righteousness, but only Faith itself.  This then is our doctrine, which is so plainly confirmed by the Scripture, that he must be exceeding blind that seeth it not.

The places to confirm the same, are these, Rom. 3.28, We conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the works of the lawRom. 4.2, If Abraham were justified by works, then {265} hath he wherein to rejoice, but not with GodEphes. 2.9, By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of your selves: for it is the gift of God: not by works, that none should boast.  And Phil. 3.9, I have counted all things loss, that I might win Christ and might be found in him, not having my own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God through faith. And again, Titus 3.5, Not by works of righteousness which we had done, but according to his mercy he saved us.  Seeing the Scripture so expressly removes all works both of nature and of grace, both going before Faith, and following after it (and therefore the Apostle saith, We are not saved by the works of righteousness which we had done) and of all men, even of those who were justified already and sanctified, as Abraham, Paul, and the Ephesians were, from our justification and salvation, as the causes thereof: therefore we are only justified and saved by a lively Faith, apprehending the righteousness of Christ.

Secondly, the Scripture not only removes works (as we have said,) from the cause of our Justification and salvation, but also ascribes it to Faith, as in these places: John 3.16, Whosoever believeth in him shall have eternal life. And Luke 8.48, Thy faith hath saved thee, &c.  And again, Ephes. 2.9, We are saved through faith. And Rom. 4.3,4,5, Man is justified by faith. And Rom. 3.26,28,30, God shall justify circumcision of faith, and incircumcision through faith.  And Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.  And lest ye should say, the Scripture hath not by Faith only, read the 8 [chapter] of Luke, and 50[th] verse, where our Savior saith to Jairus, μονον πιστευε, Only believe, and she shall be saved.  Therefore Faith is the only instrument to lay hold on the promise of God.  And lest ye should say, this was not a justifying Faith, I answer: This Faith which Jairus had, was that same Faith which the woman {266} with the bloody issue had: but her Faith not only healed her body, but her soul also, Luke 8.48, which Ballarmin grants, lib. 1. de justif. cap 17. pag. 84. & our Savior testifieth, saying, Thy faith hath saved thee, &c. therefore this is a justifying Faith also.  Secondly, seeing the Faith of miracles, & justifying Faith, is both one in substance with [according to] your Church, as Bellarmin c. 5. l. de justif. & the Rhemists annot. in 2 Cor. 12, say: & if it be a greater work to work miracles, as they say, than to be justified: therefore if only Faith suffice to obtain miracles, as Bellarmin grants, lib. 1. cap. 20. pag. 97, why should not Faith only be also sufficient to justify? For if it suffice for the greater work, much more for the less.

Thirdly, the Scripture ascribes our Justification to grace, and not to works, and so oppones [opposes] them, that the one cannot stand with the other in the matter of our Justification. We are justified (saith he) freely by grace, and not by works, Rom. 3.24. And to him that worketh the reward is imputed, not according to grace, but to debt: but to him who worketh not, but believeth in him who justifieth the ungodly, his faith is imputed to him for righteousness, Rom. 4.4.  And in another place, If it be of grace, it is no more of works, or else were grace no more grace: but if it be of works, it is no more grace, or else work were no more work, Rom. 11.6.  Seeing therefore our Justification is only of free grace, and grace (if the Apostle be true) cannot stand with works: therefore our Justification is not by works, or else it were not of grace: and so not at all: and so the foundation of our salvation were overturned.  I hope therefore this our doctrine of Justification is plainly warranted by the Scripture.  Now to the Fathers, because ye say it cannot be proved by them, they speak as plainly as we do.  Origin hath these words, in epist. ad Rom. cap. 3, And the Apostle saith, that the justification of faith only sufficeth (solius fidei) so that he that believeth only is justified, suppose no work be fulfilled {267} of himHilarius, Canon. 8, in Matth. saith, For only faith justifieth: fides enim sola justificat.  Basilius in homil. de humil. saith, this is a perfect rejoicing in God, when a man vaunts not himself of his own righteousness, but knows himself to be misterful [needy] of true righteousness, sola autem fide in Christum justificatum, and to be justified only by faith in ChristAmbrose in cap. 3 ad Rom. & cap. 4 & 9, saith, They are justified by faith only through the gift of God.  And in the 4[th] chapter he hath thrice, by faith only, sola fides.  And in the 9[th] chapter also, Sola fides polita est ad salutem: that is, only faith is appointed for salvationChrysostome in homil. de fide & lege naturæ. saith, The thief believed only and was justified.  And in homil. 3. ad Titus, If thou gives credit to thy faith, wherefore brings thou in other things, as though faith only were not sufficient to justify?  Augustin, it is a known saying of his, lib. 1, contra duas Epistolas Pelag. cap. 21, Works go not before justification, but follow him who is already justified.  And in another place, How virtuous soever ye report the ancient righteous to have been, yet their virtue saved them not, but the faith of the Mediator, August. de fide & operib. cap. 14.  Cyrillus Alexandrinus lib. 10. in Joan. cap. 18, saith, Man by faith only sticks in Christ, inhæret Christo.  Theophylactus in comment. ad Galat. cap. 3, saith, Only faith hath in its self the virtue of justifyingBernard, serm. 22. in Cantic. in the 1200 age [12th century], saith, Man being justified by faith only, shall have peace towards thee.  What more plain now could the Fathers speak of Justification by faith only, which you will not deny.  The Reader may learn how much credit is to be given to you who so boldly affirmed that neither Scriptures nor Fathers said with us against you.  I hope they will try you before they trust you in time to come.  For dare you say, M. Gilbert, that I have feigned here ought of these Fathers, and have not brought in their own words speaking? Deny it if ye dare. Be not so impudent and shameless, M. Gilbert, in your {268} untruths and lies again: for by this ye will both discredit your self and your Religion.

As for the 2 of James which ye quoted here, that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. I answer: This word to be justified, is taken in the Scripture two manner of ways.  First, to be accounted righteous before the tribunal of God: and in this sense, only a lively faith apprehending the death and righteousness of Christ justifies us: and of this is the controversy.  Next, it is taken for a declaration of one’s righteousness, as in the 3[rd chapter] of the Romans, verse 4, That thou may be justified in thy words, (that is, declared to be just) when thou judges.  And in this sense it is taken in this place.  So that this is the meaning of it: Ye see then, by works man is justified, that is, declared by his works to be just, and not by faith only, that is, by the profession of his faith in Christ. So then James speaks not of our Justification before God which is by faith only, but of the declaration of our righteousness before men, which he calls Justification: and that for these reasons:  1. Otherwise James should be contrary to Paul, who saith, That a man is justified by faith without works, which is blasphemous to think: therefore James speaks of our Justification before men, whereby our Justification before God is declared and made manifest.  2. The scope of the whole chapter, and whole Epistle, testifies the same.  For his purpose is to cast down the arrogancy and presumption of such, who bragged of their Faith, as though the bare profession, and they believed in Christ, were sufficient to save them, suppose they did not bring forth the fruits thereof. Therefore the Apostle takes this in hand to prove that they are not justified by a dead faith, but only by that faith which brings forth the effects thereof.  And therefore he saith in the 14[th] verse, What availeth it, my brethren, when a man saith he hath faith, when he hath no works? can that faith save him? And in the {269} 18[th] verse, Show me thy faith out of thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.  And because it may be ye say, this is my commentary, therefore hear how one of your own great and chief pillars, Thomas of Aquin in Jacob 2, expones the same, from whose judgment, I hope, ye will not appeal: Here he speaks, saith he, of works that follows faith, not according to that sense wherein Justification is said to be the infusion of righteousness, but according to that sense that Justification is called exercitatio justitiæ, the practice or declaration, and confirmation of righteousness. So if ye will believe him, Justification here is taken not for our justification before God, but for the declaration of our righteousness.  And so the ordinary Gloss [standardized commentary] in Jacob. 2, exponing that place, writes, Abraham was justified without works by faith only: but nevertheless the offering up of his son, was a testification of his faith and righteousness. What can be more clearly spoken by any? Would you have more than this? So then this place of James speaks not of our Justification before God, and therefore serves not to prove this your doctrine.  As to the 2[nd chapter] of the Romans, verse 13, It is true, it is not the hearers of the Law, but the doers of it which are justified, if there were any who had fulfilled it.  But the Apostle concludes in the 3[rd] chapter, all under sin, both Jew and Gentile: and therefore gathers that by the works of the Law no flesh is justified.  And so we will leave this to you to do, & that also in the 19[th chapter] of Matthew, spoken to the young man, Do the commands, &c.  And as for the rest of the testimonies, I wonder to what purpose ye have quoted them, except for to make a show of Scripture and testimonies. For they speak only of the necessity of good works, which as they cannot be separate from true faith, so no man can attain to salvation without them: because wherever Christ dwells by true Faith, not only he justifies them, but also sanctifies them, and makes them fruitful in good works. The which {270} we grant, and therefore do urge the same continually, knowing for a truth, that without holiness no man shall see God, Heb. 12.14; and that the ax is laid to the root of the tree, and that every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be hewn down, and cast in an unquenchable fire, Matth. 3.10.  They speak not therefore of the efficient or formal, or instrumental cause of our Justification, but of our sanctification with the fruits thereof, and therefore serves not to prove the controversy that is in hand.  As for Augustin his testimony, as you corrupt the Scriptures, so do ye his testimony also: for this was the opinion which was risen up in the Apostles days, as he testifies there: for these are his words: That some thought that faith only was sufficient to obtain salvation without works, neglecting to live well, and to hold the way of God by good works, and being secure of salvation which is in faith, had not a care to live well, as he saith.  And in the end of that chapter, he concludes the whole matter saying, How far therefore are they deceived, who promise to themselves everlasting life through a dead faith; The which error we condemn also with you: For we acknowledge the necessity of good works, as the fruits of a living Faith; but not as the efficient, formal, or instrumental cause of our justification.


The above author, Mr. John Welch of Air was a Scottish Presbyterian Covenanter who lived from about 1570 to 1622.  He was cruelly imprisoned and banished during the reign of James VI of Scotland, but remained steadfast in the Protestant faith while others conformed to the Episcopal religion.  On account of his steadfastness, James VI, (famous in relation to the “King James Bible,”) refused to grant the petition of Mrs. Welch that her husband be allowed to return to Scotland.  Mr. Welch’s sermons are among the very best, and were published with an account of his life.—JTKer.