Penington on justification: adapted from his "Addition" to


(Adapted by George Amoss Jr.)

Penington here offers his Quaker perspective on the Pauline teaching of justification. Warning the reader against the view, prevalent today, that Paul teaches that one is "justified" without being freed from sin by believing a statement such as "Jesus is Lord," Penington asserts the core Quaker belief that to be justified is to be made just, here and now in this life, by entering into the divine life of Love through faith in the inner working of the Spirit of Christ. Note the key reference to Romans 3:22: "Even the righteousness of God [which is] by the faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference...." For Penington, "nothing can justify but the righteousness of God" becoming the real righteousness of a human being who "partakes of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4) through living by faith in the Light of Christ in his or her heart. Theologically speaking, human "Adamic" nature is unjust while the divine Christ nature alone is just: all who are joined to Christ through spiritual baptism, who have become "members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones" (Eph. 5:30), have thereby been made just (justified) and will act accordingly. -- G. Amoss

The apostle Paul ... affirms that justification is not "by the deeds of the law" (Rom.3:20). If a man could say with the young man, "All these things have I done from my youth"; or, as Paul, that he was as touching the law blameless; yet could he not be justified thereby.

And the apostle gives a mighty reason: "for by the law is the knowledge of sin." Now justification is [accomplished] not by the making of sin known, but by that which saves and delivers from it. The knowledge of sin may put a man upon seeking out for justification; but it cannot justify him, but rather condemn him; but that which delivers him from the sin which the law makes known, that justifies him.

[Paul] affirms that "the righteousness of God" (which is the justification) "is manifested without the law" (v. 21). The law makes sin known, and shows the sinner the need of justification; but the justification itself is not [accomplished] thereby, but is manifested without it [i.e., outside of the law]. The law commands the nature to act that pertains to similitudes, figures, types, and shadows, to the obedience of them; but the seed [of Christ] takes away the nature that pertains to similitudes and shadows and the works of the law. So to the obedience of those things the law commands, there is justification by the law in the obedience to the works it commands; but the justification, Christ, removes the nature that pertains to those things the law commands; so that justification, the law, ends in Christ.

[T]his righteousness or justification is "witnessed by the law and the prophets" (v. 21). The law, though it is not the justification, nor can the justification be by obedience to it, or by the deeds of it; yet it gives testimony to the justification: for the substance of what the law and all the prophets witness is that nothing can justify but the righteousness of God.

[T]his righteousness or justification is "by the faith of Christ" (v. 22), by believing or [i.e., "in other words": see following] entering into that which justifies. As condemnation was by unbelief, by joining unto, and entering into, the spirit of enmity; so justification is by joining unto, and entering into, the Spirit of love, by true union with Christ in the Spirit; which union is by the faith which comes from Christ.


"Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness" (Rom. 4:3). God promised him a seed; he believed God. God bid him sacrifice this type [see second paragraph, above]; he believed. This was it which was imputed unto him for righteousness. Now if he had not believed; if he had not received the gift, or not exercised the gift, could he have been righteous? So that Abraham was not justified by any work he did, or could do; but by receiving and exercising the faith in the seed: by going out of his country, kindred, and father's house, not of himself, but by faith, and by living to God, and obeying [God's] voice in that land to which he was led; not in his own will or power, but in the faith. And by hearing the call of God, and receiving the faith, and living out[side] of self, out[side] of a man's own understanding, will, and power, in the faith and living power and wisdom of God, is the justification now: and they that do thus are children of Abraham, born of the free woman; when as they who take up practices from the letter, without being ingrafted into the life, are but children of the bond-woman ... and cannot inherit that promise which belongs to the spiritual seed while they live in that state.


O Christians, Christians! do not imagine yourselves covered from sin; but know it, feel it; never rest till ye are so made partakers of the true righteousness, that, by its virtue [i.e., power] in you, ye may be past all doubt that it is it. Believing from the letter without [i.e., outside] you that ye are justified may easily deceive you; but if once you come truly to feel in yourselves the thing which justifies, and so find the power and life of it in you, above the power of all that which condemns, casting out the condemned thing, and the condemner, with all his works, out of your hearts; this cannot deceive. The virtue of life was lost in the apostasy; ... but now the apostasy draws towards an end, and the virtue begins to shoot up again; and he that will be a Christian now, must be so, not by retaining his old notions, but by feeling this new virtue, and by growing up in this new-sprung life and power of the Lord, whose appearance is new to us who have not been acquainted with it but have been brought up in the darkness of the apostasy, and lived in the waters where the great leviathan ruled.... But he that seeketh, is joined with, and keepeth to that power which drieth up the waters and putteth an hook into the nostrils of the leviathan; [he] shall find the world, with the whole course of it, ending in himself, and the beginning and growth of an endless life....

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