The common Doctrine of Imputation


The common Doctrine of Imputation

THE imputation which is a part of the faith of the present day is twofold, one of the merit of Christ, and the other of salvation thereby. It is taught in the whole Christian church that justification, and therefore salvation, is effected by God the Father through the imputation of the merit of Christ His Son; and that imputation is of grace, when and where He will, thus arbitrary; and that they to whom the merit of Christ is imputed are adopted into the number of the children of God. And because the leaders of the church have not moved a step beyond that imputation, or elevated their minds above it,—owing to their having decreed that God’s election is merely arbitrary,—they have fallen into enormous and fanatical errors, and at length into the detestable error of predestination; and also into this abominable error,–that God does not heed the doings of a man’s life, but only the faith inscribed on the interiors of his mind. Wherefore unless the error concerning imputation were abolished atheism would invade all Christendom, and then the king of the abyss would reign over them, “whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek hath the name Apollyon” (Rev. ix. 11). By Abaddon and Apollyon is signified a destroyer of the church by falsities; and by the abyss is signified the abode of those falsities. See The Apocalypse Revealed, n. 421, 440, 442, where it is made manifest that this falsity, and the falsities following from this, in an extended series, are the things over which that destroyer reigns; for, as was said above, the whole theological system of the present day depends on this imputation, as a long chain on a fixed hook, and as man with all his members on the head. And because that imputation everywhere reigns it is, as says Isaiah: “Jehovah will cut of from Israel head and tail; … the honourable he is the head, and the teacher of lies is the tail” (ix. 14, 15). (TCR n. 628)

As regards the first part of this twofold imputation concerning the salvation of man, which is the arbitrary imputation of Christ’s merit and the imputation of salvation thereby, the dogmatists differ; some teach that this imputation is absolute, of free power, and is offered to those whose external or internal form is well-pleasing; others that the imputation is from foreknowledge to those into whom grace is infused, and to whom this faith can be applied. But yet these two opinions aim at one point, and are like two eyes which have for their object one stone, or two ears which have for their object one song. At first sight it appears as if they went away from each other, but in the end they unite and play together. For since on both sides entire impotence in spiritual things is taught, and everything of man is excluded from faith, it follows that this grace receptive of faith, being infused arbitrarily or of foreknowledge, is a similar election; for if that grace which is called preventive grace were universal, man’s application of it from some power of his own would occur, which however is rejected as a leprosy. Hence it is that no one knows any more than a stock or a stone,—such as he was when it was infused,—whether that faith of grace has been given to him or not; for there is no sign testifying it, when charity, piety, the desire of a new life, and the free faculty of doing good as well as evil, are denied to man. The signs which are said to testify to that faith in man are -all ludicrous, and are not different from the auguries of the ancients by the flight of birds, or the prognostications of astrologers by the stars, or of players by dice. Things of this kind, and still more ludicrous, follow from the dogma of the imputed righteousness of the Lord, which,—together with the faith which is called that righteousness,—is communicated to the man who is elect. (ibid. n. 631)