Justification by Faith
2 Timothy 2:17
And their word will eat as does a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;

This is a most striking and accurate description of the nature of heresy — it never remains inactive — it is sure to spread; an error in any essential point is sure, eventually, to corrupt the whole body of truth, just as a gangrene in the human body appearing, at first, as a small spot, gradually spreads, eating into the sound parts near it, and they, in their turn, infecting the rest, until the whole body is destroyed. The reason for this is very simple. The truths of religion are not a set of independent and unconnected notions bound up together in a creed, as men bind loose sticks into a bundle; they are closely connected parts of a great whole, arising one out of the other, so that you cannot deny one without denying or perverting a great many others; for once you admit a truth, you admit all its consequences; once you deny a truth, you must be prepared to deny, in like manner, all its consequences. God declares that false doctrine eats into the faith of the Church like a canker. Sacramental justification does this — therefore it is false. In order to show the injurious results of this false doctrine, we will take, for our example, that Church which most strongly holds it. The Church of Rome gives us the most awful instance of its effects. The Church of Rome holds that, at his baptism, every one is made perfectly holy; that if he remain in this state of grace, or if, after falling from it, he is restored to it again, so that he be in it at his death, then he is saved. Now let us suppose a church, as yet sound upon all other points, adopting this opinion. We shall see how it eats its way. And firstly, it must lead to the perversion of the doctrine of original sin. But further; every one knows that he is constantly committing little faults. "In many things we offend all." But Rome affirms that some sins are venial, while others are mortal. But the law of God commands as welt as forbids, and they must, by their good works, continue to deserve God's favour! Now, in such a system, every work must have its own proper value, it must be just so much merit towards justification: a man who works because he has been justified, does not stop to reckon or to price his good works; he works from love — he cannot do too much; but he who works that he may be justified, must keep count of his good deeds, and try to ascertain their value, that he may be sure he has really done enough to secure his justification. But this is not all. In such a system of external observances, it is clear that the man most remarkable for his lastings and his many prayers is the holiest man. But we may trace it further still. These holy men, who dwell apart from the common crowd, have clearly attained a degree of holiness greater than is necessary for their own salvation. May they not, then, bestow some of it on others? So far we have been tracing the effects of this false doctrine on those who believe that they are still in a state of justification because they have retained their baptismal purity. We have now to see its effects upon those who have reason to fear that they have lost their justification. Even when men have raised their own righteousness to the utmost, and lowered God's law to the lowest, still the uneasy doubt will intrude itself — What if, after all, I have not done enough? what if I have fallen into mortal sin? Now, in such a case, of whom would the anxious sinner seek advice and consolation? who shall decide for him each nice case of conscience, and say what is venial and what is mortal sin? what are good works and what are not? Who but his pastor, God's minister, whose province it is to study such matters? He wilt naturally ask him to decide for him what his state may be; but if so, he must confess all his sins to him: this spiritual physician must know all the symptoms of his case before he can give his opinion upon it; and, accordingly, the penitent will soon acquire the habit of auricular confession of all his sins to his priest. But what if this adviser, when consulted, shall decide that he has fallen from grace and is even in mortal sin? The priest cannot re-baptize him; how shall he regain his justification? This confessor has a right to declare God's forgiveness; he preaches remission of sins; what if he have a right to give it? it is but a step from saying "You are forgiven," to "I forgive you." The fears of the penitent, the ambition of the priest, soon take it; the inquisitor becomes a judge, the ambassador assumes the authority of the king, the minister of Christ attempts to give the sinner the peace he needs, by usurping the office of his Lord and Master, who alone tins power on earth to forgive sins. The canker eats its way! There may, however, be cases where time is too short for the performance of penance — death may be imminent. For such a state another provision must be made — it is ready. There is a scriptural and primitive custom, that the elders of the Church should pray over a sick man, "anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord." All that is necessary is, to make of this rite, a sacrament conveying to the insensible, sick man remission of sins, as baptism was supposed to have given it to the insensible infant; and then his salvation is secured. Mark, now, how the true doctrine of justification preserves from all this error. Being justified by faith "I have peace"; what need have I then to confess to man? I may come boldly into the holy of holies, through the new and living way; I need no man to tell me how great my sins may be; I can ask God to "pardon my iniquity, for it is great!" If I address myself to my fellow man, it is for counsel and consolation, not for pardon. I have no need of extreme unction, I have "an unction from the Holy One"; I have no need of purgatorial fire, for "the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin." "Being justified by faith I have peace with God."

(W.G. Magee.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;

WEB: and their word will consume like gangrene, of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;

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