Justification by Faith. The Name and Thing Defined
by John Calvin (abridged)1,2
1. Justification by faith has been discussed before this, but slightly, because it was necessary first to understand that the faith, by which alone we attain justification, is not unattended by good works. The subject of justification must now be fully discussed, with the recollection that it is the principal hinge by which religion is supported.
2. First let us explain the meaning of these expressions: To be justified in the sight of God, to be justified by faith or by works. To be justified in the sight of God means that a person is accepted, on account of his righteousness, before the Divine judgment; for iniquity is abominable to God, and no sinner can find favour in His sight. Thus he must be said to be justified by works, whose life shows such purity and holiness, as to deserve the character of righteousness before God. On the other hand, he will be justified by faith, who, being excluded from the righteousness of works, receives by faith the righteousness of Christ. Invested in Christ, he now appears in the sight of God, not as a sinner but as a righteous man. Thus we simply explain, that justification is God receiving us in His favour, esteeming us as righteous persons. This consists of the remission of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.