He will perhaps say to this: “It was not because of his works, but in consequence of his faith, that I said the apostle was worthy of having all those great graces bestowed upon him. His faith deserved this distinction, but not his works, which were not previously good.” Well, then, are we to suppose that faith does not work? Surely faith does work in a very real way, for it “worketh by love.” 1706 Preach up, however, as much as you like, the works of unbelieving men, we still know how true and invincible is the statement of this same apostle: “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” 1707 The very reason, indeed, why he so often declares that righteousness is imputed to us, not out of our works, but our faith, whereas faith rather works through love, is that no man should think that he arrives at faith itself through the merit of his works; for it is faith which is the beginning whence good works first proceed; since (as has already been stated) whatsoever comes not p. 199 from faith is sin. Accordingly, it is said to the Church, in the Song of Songs: “Thou shalt come and pass by from the beginning of faith.” 1708 Although, therefore, faith procures the grace of producing good works, we certainly do not deserve by any faith that we should have faith itself; but, in its bestowal upon us, in order that we may follow the Lord by its help, “His mercy has prevented us.” 1709 Was it we ourselves that gave it to us? Did we ourselves make ourselves faithful? I must by all means say here, emphatically: “It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves.” 1710 And indeed nothing else than this is pressed upon us in the apostles teaching, when he says: “For I declare, through the grace that is given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” 1711 Whence, too, arises the well-known challenge: “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?” 1712 inasmuch as we have received even that which is the spring from which everything we have of good in our actions takes its beginning.
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