A Defence of the Doctrine of Justification, by Faith in Jesus Christ
by John Bunyan
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[Fowler's false and dangerous conclusions.]

I come now to your conclusion. First, in p. 298 'You press men to betake themselves to find [that which you call] the design of Christianity, accomplished in their hearts and lives.'

Ans. Seeing that the holiness that your erroneous book has exalted, is none other but that which we have lost; yea, and again, seeing you have set this in the head of, and before the righteousness of Christ, I admonish my reader to tremble at the blasphemy of your book, and account the whole design therein, to be none other but that of an enemy to the Son of God, and salvation of the world. For that holiness as I have shewed, is none other but a shadowish, Christless, graceless holiness; and your so exalting of it, very blasphemy. You proceed, saying, 'Let us exercise ourselves unto real and substantial godliness; [still meaning your Adamitish holiness] let us study the gospel not to discourse, or only to believe, but also, and above all things, to do well.'

Ans. Herein still you manifest, either ignorance of, or malice against, the doctrine of faith; that doctrine, which above all doctrines, is the quintessence of the New Testament, because therein, and not principally, as you feign, by doing well, is the righteousness of God revealed, and that from faith to faith; not from faith to works, nor yet from works to faith. Besides, the gospel is preached in all nations, for the obedience of faith (Rom 16:26). Neither works, the law, the dictates of humanity, nor the first principles of morals, knowing what to do with the righteousness of the gospel, which is a righteousness imputed by God, not wrought by us; a righteousness given, not earned, a righteousness received by believing, not that which floweth from our obedience to laws, a righteousness which comes from God to us, not one that goeth from us to God. Besides, as I also have hinted before, the apostle and you are directly opposite. You cry, 'above all things, do well': that is, work and do the law; but he, 'above ALL, take the shield of faith, wherewith are quenched all the fiery darts of the wicked' (Eph 6:16).

But you add (p. 300), 'Let us do what lieth in us to convince our Atheists, that the religion of the blessed Jesus, is no trick or device; and our wanton and loose Christians, that it is no notional business, or speculative science.'

Ans. This you cannot do by your moral natural principles of humanity: For even some of your brave philosophers, whose godliness you have so much applauded, were even then in the midst of their, and your virtues, atheistically ignorant of the religion of Jesus. And as to the loose Christian; Christ neither hath need of, nor will he bless your blasphemous opinions, nor feigned godliness, but real ungodliness, to make them converts to his faith and grace, neither can it be expected it should, seeing you have not only dirty thoughts, but vilifying words, and sayings of his person, work, and righteousness. you have set your works before his (p. 223), calling them substantial, indispensable, and real; but coming to God by him, a thing in itself indifferent (p. 7-9). You go on, and say, 'Let us declare—that we are not barely reliers on Christ's righteousness, by being imitators of it' (p. 300). You cannot leave off to contemn and blaspheme the Son of God. Do you not yet know that the righteousness of Christ on which the sinner ought to rely for life, is such, as consisted in his standing to, and doing of the law, without a Mediator? And would you be doing this? What know you not, that an essential of the righteousness he accomplished for sinners when he was in the world; is, 'That he was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born without sin, did all things in the power of, and union with his own eternal Godhead.' And are you able thus to imitate him? Again, the righteousness on which we ought to rely for life, is that which hath in it the merit of blood: we are 'justified by his blood' through faith in his blood (Rom 5:9). Is this the righteousness you would imitate? Farther, the righteousness on which poor sinners should rely, is that, for the sake of which God forgiveth the sins of him that resteth by faith thereupon. But would you be imitating of, or accomplishing such a righteousness?

Your book, Sir, is begun in ignorance, managed with error, and ended in blasphemy.

Now the God of glory, if it may stand with his glory, give you a sight of your sins, against the Son of God, that you may, as Saul, lie trembling, and being astonished, cry out to be justified, with the righteousness of God without the law, even that which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all them that believe.

Many other gross absurdities, which I have omitted in your whole book, may perhaps, be more thoroughly gathered up, when you shall have taken the opportunity to reply. In the meantime I shall content myself with this.

'Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world' (John 1:29).

'Even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come' (1 Thess 1:10).

'Who when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high' (Heb 1:3).

'Christ died for our sins' (1 Cor 15:3).

'God hath made him to be sin for us' (2 Cor 5:21).

'Christ was made a curse for us' (Gal 3:13).

'He bare our sins in his own body on the tree' (1 Peter 2:24).

'He loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood' (Rev 1:5).

'God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you' (Eph 4:32).

'We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace' (Eph 1:7).

Now unto the King, eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour, and glory, for ever, and ever. Amen.


That my reader may farther perceive that Mr. Fowler, even by the chief of the articles of the church of England, is adjudged erroneous; and besides the very fundamentals of the doctrine of Jesus Christ, and that in those very principles that are in the main, I say, and that most immediately concern Christ, faith, and salvation, will be evident to them that compare his design of Christianity, with these articles hereunto recited.

The Article X concerning Free-will.

'The condition of man, after the fall of Adam, is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith, and calling upon God: wherefore we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing[37] us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.'

The Article [XI.] concerning Justification.

'We are accounted righteous before God, ONLY for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith; and not for our own works, or deservings. Wherefore that we are justified by faith ONLY, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort,' &c.

The Article [XIII.] of Works before Justification.

'Works done before the grace of Christ, and the inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God, for as much as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ,—or deserve grace of congruity: yea rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the NATURE of sin.'

These articles, because they respect the points in controversy betwixt Mr. Fowler, and myself; and because they be also fundamental truths of the christian religion, as I do heartily believe, let all men know that I quarrel not with him, about things wherein I dissent from the church of England, but do contend for the truth contained, even in these very articles of theirs, from which he hath so deeply revolted, that he clasheth with every one of them, as may farther be shewn when he shall take heart to reply.

But to wind up this unpleasant scribble, I shall have done when I have farther shewed, how he joineth with papist, and quaker, against these wholesome, and fundamental articles.

Mr. Fowler's Doctrine compared with Campian the Jesuit, upon that question whether Faith only justifieth: saith Campian,

1. Campian. 'We [Papists] say, that as grace is put into us in justification, so also our righteousness is enlarged through good works, and is inherent in us; therefore it is not true that God doth justify by faith ONLY.'

Fowler (p. 221), 'Justifying faith is such a belief of the truth of the gospel, as includes a sincere resolution of obedience unto all its precepts: and that it justifieth as it doth so.—In short, is it possible that faith in Christ's blood, for the forgiveness of sins, should be the only act which justifieth a sinner?' (p. 224).

2. Campian. 'So that faith is urged, but not faith ONLY; again, by faith is meant all Christianity, and the whole religion of Christians.'

Fowler (p. 222), 'For surely the faith which entitles the sinner to so high a privilege, as that of justification, must needs be such as complieth with all the purposes of Christ's coming into the world; especially with his grand purpose,—as Lord, and that it is no less necessary that it should justify as it doth this.'

3. Campian. 'Though works void of Christ are nothing; yet through grace they serve to justification.'

Fowler (p. 225,226), 'Of the imputation of Christ's righteousness,—this is the true explication; it consists in dealing with sincerely righteous persons: as if they were perfectly so, for the sake and upon the account of Christ's righteousness. The grand intent of the gospel being to make us partakers of an inward and real righteousness; and it being but a secondary one, that we should be accepted, and rewarded, as if we were completely righteous.'

4. Campian. 'Speaking of faith, hope, and charity, he confesseth; that faith in nature is before them, but it doth not justify before they come.'

Fowler (p. 223), 'What pretence can there be for thinking, that faith is the condition, or instrument of justification, as it complieth with only the precept of relying on Christ's merits, for the obtaining of it: especially when it is no less manifest than the sun at noon-day, that obedience to the other precepts, [or works of love,] must go before obedience to this' (p. 284).

5. Campian. 'I deny [that faith ONLY doth justify] for you have not in all the word of God, that faith only doth justify.'

Fowler (p. 225), 'And for my part, I must confess, that I would not willingly be he that should undertake to encounter one of the champions of that foul cause, with the admission of this principle, that faith justifieth, only as it apprehendeth [resteth or relieth on (p. 224)] the merits, and righteousness of Jesus Christ, I must certainly have great luck, or my adversary but little cunning, if I were not forced to repent me of such an engagement.'

6. Campian. 'Abraham being a just man, was made more just by a living faith.'

Fowler (p. 283), 'He only is a true child of Abraham, who in the purity of the heart obeyeth those substantial laws, that are imposed by God, upon him.'

7. Campian. 'I say that charity and good works, are not excluded [in the causes of our justification].'

Fowler (p. 214,215), 'For we have shewn, not only that reformation of life from the practice, and purification of heart from the liking of sin, are as plainly as can be asserted in the gospel to be absolutely necessary to give men a right to the promises of it, but also that its great salvation doth even consist in it.'

Mr. Fowler's Doctrine compared with William Penn the Quaker.

1. Penn's Sandy Foundation (p. 19 [p. 16 ed. 1684]), 'Life and salvation is to them that follow Christ the light, in all his righteousness, which every man comes only to experiment, as he walks in a holy subjection to that measure of light and grace, wherewith the fulness hath enlightened him.'

Fowler (p. 8), 'That is, those which are of an indispensable, and eternal obligation, which were first written in men's hearts, and originally dictates of human nature.'

2. Penn (p. 32 [p. 26 ed. 1684]), 'I really confess that Jesus Christ fulfilled the Father's will, and offered up a most satisfactory sacrifice, but not to pay God, or help him [as otherways being unable] to save men.'

Fowler (p. 85), 'Christ was set forth to be a propitiatory sacrifice for sin; I will not say that his Father [who is perfectly sui juris] might be put by this means into a capacity of forgiving it.'

3. Penn (p. 16 [p. 14 ed. 1684]), 'God's remission is grounded on man's repentance, not that it is impossible for God to pardon without a plenary satisfaction.'

Fowler (p. 84), 'There are many that do not question but that God could have pardoned sin, without any other satisfaction, than the repentance of the sinner,' &c.

4. Penn (p. 27 [p. 22 ed. 1684]), 'Justification doth not go before, but is subsequential to the mortification of lusts.'

Fowler (p. 14,15), 'This blessing of making men holy, was so much the design of Christ's coming, that he had his very name from it': observe the words are, 'He shall save his people from their sins'; not from the punishment of them. And that is the primary sense of them, which is most plainly expressed in them: 'That he shall save his people from the punishment of sin, is a true sense too; but it is secondary and implied only; as this latter is the never failing and necessary consequent of the former salvation.'

5. Penn (p. 25 [p. 21 ed. 1684]), 'Since therefore there can be no admittance had, without performing that righteous will, and doing those holy, and perfect sayings; alas! to what value will an imputative righteousness amount?' &c.

Fowler (p. 16), 'Christ shall bring in an inward substantial, and everlasting righteousness, and by abrogating the outward [ceremonial] and establishing ONLY this righteousness, he should enlarge the Jewish Church, an accession of the Gentiles, being by that means made unto it.'

6. Penn (p. 24,25 [p. 20 ed. 1684]), 'Since God has prescribed an inoffensive life, as that which only can give acceptance with him; and on the contrary hath determined never to justify the wicked, &c.—Will not the abomination appear greatest of all, where God shall be found condemning the just, on purpose to justify the wicked; and that he is thereto compelled, or else no salvation, which is the tendency of their doctrine, who imagine the righteous, and merciful God to condemn and punish his [innocent[38]] righteous Son, that he having satisfied for our sins, we might be justified [while unsanctified] by the imputation of his perfect righteousness. O why should this horrible thing be contended for by Christians!'

Fowler (p. 119), 'If it were possible [as it hath been proved it is not] that a wicked man should have God's pardon, it would not make him cease to be miserable.'

Fowler (p. 120), 'Were it possible that Christ's righteousness could be imputed to an unrighteous man, I dare boldly affirm it would signify as little to his happiness, as would a gorgeous and splendid garment, to one that is almost starved with hunger, or that lieth racked by the torturing diseases of the stone, or colic.'

Fowler (p. 130), 'To justify a wicked man, while he continueth so, if it were possible for God to do it, would far more disparage his justice, and holiness, than advance his grace and kindness.'

7. Penn (p. 26 [p. 22 ed. 1684]), 'Unless we be[come] doers of that law, which Christ came not to destroy, but as our example to fulfil, we can never be justified before God.'

Fowler (p. 296), 'It is impossible we should not have the design of Christianity accomplished in us, and therefore that we should be destitute of the power of it, if we make our Saviour's most excellent life, the pattern of our lives. Those that sincerely, and industriously endeavour to imitate the holy Jesus in his spirit and actions, can never be ignorant what it is to be truly Christians, nor can they fail to be so.'

8. Penn (p. 26), 'Nor let any fancy that Christ hath so fulfilled it for them, as to exclude their obedience, from being requisite to their acceptance, but only as their pattern.'

Fowler (p. 148), 'This Son of God taught men their duty, by his own example, and did himself perform among them, what he required of them. Now that he should tread before us EVERY step of that way, which he hath told us leadeth to eternal happiness, and commend those duties which are most ungrateful to our corrupt inclinations, by his own practice; our having so brave an example is no small encouragement, to a cheerful performance of all that is commanded.'

Understandest thou what thou readest?


1. Fowler's Design, p. 6.

2. Ibid.

3. Seeing, then, it is evident from scripture, how deeply and dreadfully man is fallen from God, what a folly it is to suppose, in such a depraved creature, conditions previous to his justification! They who talk at this rate, know not what they say, nor whereof they affirm. In a natural man there is no meetness, but a meetness to sin, and a meetness to be damned. They who know themselves, know this. And there are no pre-requisites to justification, but what God, by his Spirit, is pleased to work in men's hearts. None are meet to obey the gospel, till God implants in their souls a principle of faith and evangelical obedience. Before this is done, there is no meetness in the creature, no disposition to do anything spiritually good; neither are any of our works, till a change of nature takes place, acceptable and well-pleasing in the sight of Almighty God.—Mason and Ryland.

4. Fowler, p. 6.

5. Ibid.

6. Fowler, p. 6.

7. Ibid.

8. Man, in his first estate, was holy and righteous; and he continued to be possessed of this righteousness as long as he was obedient to his Creator; but as soon as he disobeyed the divine command, he lost all his holiness and righteousness at once; he emptied himself of every spark of goodness, and was full of all manner of wickedness; he forfeited all his primitive purity, and became a sinful, impure, and unrighteous creature. Hence, all mankind are destitute of original righteousness: there is none of the children of men righteous, 'no not one: there is none that doeth good, no not one' (Rom 3:10,12). What then becomes of the purity and dignity of human nature, so vainly boasted of? or how shall man be righteous before God? To this last question, we answer with Paul, in the above-quoted chapter (vv 21, 22), 'Now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe.' Without this righteousness, no soul ever was, no soul ever will be, justified before God.—Mason and Ryland.

9. Great will be the condemnation of all those who profess to know God, but in works deny him; who are abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate (Titus 1:16). A great profession, without a suitable life and conversation, will only procure a greater condemnation. Therefore, up, ye sleepy virgins; up, and be doing; shew your faith by your works. There is no true religion without good works, attended with a godly walk and behaviour. There may be works seemingly good, where there is no true religion. Good works are not the causes, but the fruits and effects of true religion, of justifying faith wrought in the soul by the Holy Ghost; and where true religion is, good works, of every divine kind and quality, will naturally follow, to the glory and praise of that grace which alone brings salvation to miserable ruined sinners.—Mason and Ryland.

10. Hierocles, the Greek philosopher.

11. Bunyan must have formed his opinions of the Quakers from some persons who passed as such. No form either of doctrine or discipline had appeared in 1672. As soon as their tenets were published, they professed, as they do to this day, entire dependence upon Jesus Christ for holiness.—Ed.

12. Mr. Fowler gives no reference to any of the works of these learned divines, nor could he!! He traduces these great reformers and the doctrines of his own church, and yet was soon after made a bishop!!!—Ed.

13. The saints of God experience a mystery of iniquity, a horrible depth of corruption in their own hearts, and groan under the plague and burden of it. If we rightly know ourselves, and behold our vileness, filthiness, and exceeding sinfulness, in their true colours, we shall be obliged to own that we are very wicked, unholy, ungodly, abominable; and that a principle and inclination to evil is so prevalent in the best of us, that were God to leave us to ourselves, we should greedily commit the most heinous sins. These truly humbled persons, and these alone, are made sensible of the want of the application of the precious atoning blood of Christ to cleanse them from the pollution of sin, and of the sanctifying grace of the Spirit to deliver them from the dominion and tyranny of it.—Mason and Ryland.

14. 'Rusheth the soul.' To rush is a neuter verb, here used in an active sense;—'precipitateth' gives the correct idea.—Ed.

15. 'So natural, and ignorant,' in distinction from that spiritual wisdom which is immortal and illuminating.—Ed.

16. Against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, such as disbelief, idolatry, adultery, &c. (p. 35).

17. How astonishing the mystery! how condescending the love! that the infinite Deity and finite flesh should meet in one person (Christ), in order to display to mankind the glory of God in that divine person! to bring hell-deserving mortals into a nearness, yea, into a oneness with his Creator, that they might be made partakers of his holiness, and adore and admire his perfections for ever! O Christians, know and prize your inestimable privileges, and be instant at the throne of grace, that your souls may be so far assimilated to the image of the ever-blessed and adorable Jesus, that you may be constantly looking and hastening to, and longing for that happy time, when, having dropt the dimming rages of mortality, the veil of sinful flesh, you shall be brought to 'know him even as you are known' of him, because you shall 'see him as he is.'—Ryland.

18. 'Common,' as the head of his church, in whom all his people have an equal or common right.—Ed.

19. 'And even that miracle which might seem the most inconsiderable, namely, his causing his disciple Peter to catch a fish with a small piece of money in its mouth, was also instructive of a duty; it being an instance of his loyalty to the supreme magistrate; for the money was expended in paying tribute, and taken out of the sea in that strange manner for no other purpose.'—Fowler's Design, &c. p. 72.

20. 'Lay you,' brings forth to yourself. 'Lay' is here used as in 'a hen lays eggs'; such an application to this proverb is a cutting satire.—Ed.

21. 'To possess them.' Possess was formerly used as an active verb, but now is only used as a neuter verb; the meaning is 'to fill them with the certainty of the knowledge.'

22. 'As in Adam all died,' were bereft of every good, and became obnoxious to wrath and endless misery, so 'IN Christ,' by virtue of his life, death, and resurrection, 'shall all be made alive'; they shall have that incorruptible seed implanted in their hearts, which liveth and abideth for ever. Every grace and blessing is derived to the renewed soul from its union to Christ, as its living head, through the eternal Spirit. Christ hath fulfilled all righteousness for us and in our stead, and this was the end and intent of his coming into the world; so that Christ is now become the righteousness of all them that do truly believe in him. 'Created IN Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them' (Eph 2:10).—Mason and Ryland.

23. Would to God this legal, self-exalting, Christ-dishonouring doctrine had been confined to the times in which our author wrote, or had been then banished to hell, from whence it came; but alas! it is but too prevalent in these degenerate times, in which Arianism, Arminianism, Socinianism, &c., &c., so dreadfully infect the multitude even of professors! In the national churches, what do we hear but Moses and the law, 'This do and live'; or, in other words, do your duty as well as you can, and Christ will do the rest: thus making the gospel the sacrifice of Christ, and the work of the Spirit, of no effect. Whereas, on the contrary, unregenerate, depraved, and sinful mortals 'have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God preventing [or going before] them, that they may have a good will; and working in and by them, when they have that good will'; which is perfectly agreeable to our Lord's declaration, (John 15:5) 'Without me, ye can do nothing.'—Mason and Ryland.

24. 'Sir Johns,' formerly the title given to the priests. It was succeeded by the title 'reverend.'—Ed.

25. Chap. 17: 'How fearfully the gospel is abused by the papists.' Chap. 18: 'Those sottish, who expect salvation without holiness; and those more so who encourage themselves by the grace of the gospel in unholiness.'—Heads of these Chapters.—Ed.

26. 'Would that man be accounted any better than a perfect idiot, who, being sorely hurt, should expect from his surgeon perfect ease, when he will not permit him to apply any plaister for the healing of his wound? Or that being deadly sick, should look that his physician should deliver him from his pain, when he will not take any course he prescribes for the removal of the distemper that is the cause of it?'—Fowler's Design, p. 216. How admirably does Bunyan detect and unravel this casuistic sophistry.—Ed.

27. 'The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith'; that is, from one degree of faith to another: therefore increase in faith; live nearer to Christ; and the nearer you live to the Saviour, the farther you will be from sin; yea, he will make you, by precious faith in him, more than conqueror over all your spiritual enemies: therefore venture wholly upon Christ, and see if he will cast you out: indeed, he never will. Trust in him, hope in him, believe in him, and you will never be disappointed. All our fitness is in Christ. Believe in him, and he is yours. In him dwells all fullness. Believe in Christ, and all that Christ has is yours: his blood is yours, his wisdom is yours, his righteousness, his sanctification is yours; yea, Christ Jesus himself is yours—he is yours in this world, and in the world to come; he is yours in time, and in eternity. Even so, Amen.—Mason and Ryland.

28. 'More groundedly,' with better foundation.

29. 'Take the way,' occupy the place.—Ed.

30. 'Doubtful opinions, modes and rites, eagerly opposed, is like the apes blowing at a glowworm, which affords neither light nor warmth' (p. 239).

31. These sentiments are the essential fundamentals of all state religions, be they heathen, christian, or mohamedan. This plain avowal of them might have been the cause why the author was soon after made a bishop of the Church of England.—Ed.

32. Like the vicar of Bray, near Maidenhead, who boasted of his consistency. He was under Henry VIII a papist, then a semi-protestant; under Edward, a protestant; under Mary, again a papist; and under Elizabeth, a protestant. Still he had never ceased to be vicar of Bray.—Ed.

33. 'Diggle together,' probably from 'degladiation,' a combat, quarrel, or contest; a fencing match between two friends.—Ed.

34. Fowler's picture of the want of uniformity in the preachers of his sect, all being under the 'Act of Uniformity,' is very amusing and instructive!!—Ed.

35. Undoubtedly so; because the good works of a man who is under the influence and power of divine grace, flow from the constraining love of a coveannt-reconciled God in Christ Jesus, whom the holy-making Spirit glorifies and renders precious to every true believer in him.—Mason and Ryland.

36. The Jews were divided into three sections: I. The descendants of Israel; II. Proselytes who conformed to all the Mosaic rites; and, III. Those who were bound to obey the seven precepts of Noah—and these, although they did not conform to the Jewish rites, yet were admitted to the worship of the true God and the hope of the life to come. According to the Talmud these precepts were—1. To renounce idols and all idolatrous worship. 2. To worship the true God, the creator of heaven and earth. 3. Bloodshed, to commit no murder. 4. Not to be defiled with fornication. 5. Rapine, against theft and robbery. 6. To administer justice. 7. Not eating flesh with the blood in it.—Ed.

37. 'To prevent,' from 'praevenio,' to go before; 'preventing us' was formerly used for 'preparing us.' It is now obsolete in this sense, but frequently occurs in the Bible.—Ed.

38. 'Innocent' instead of 'righteous,' ed. 1684.


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