Anathema! The Council of Trent on Justification (Part 2)

Following the deep division in the church which had resulted from the Protestant Reformation, there was a widespread desire, which grew stronger and was expressed in a variety of ways, for an ecumenical council. Its aim would be to reject errors against faith, add strength to the official teaching, restore the unity of the church, and reform the standards of the Roman curia and of church discipline.1

SIXTH SESSION, held January 13, 1547.

Decree on Justification2

CANON 18. If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep: let him be anathema.

CANON 19. If any one saith, that nothing besides faith is commanded in the Gospel; that other things are indifferent, neither commanded nor prohibited, but free; or, that the ten commandments nowise appertain to Christians: let him be anathema.

CANON 20. If any one saith, that the man who is justified and how perfect soever, is not bound to observe the commandments of God and of the Church, but only to believe; as if indeed the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life, without the condition of observing the commandments: let him be anathema.

CANON 21. If any one saith, that Christ Jesus was given of God to men, as a redeemer in whom to trust, and not also as a legislator whom to obey: let him be anathema.

CANON 22. If any one saith, that the justified, either is able to persevere, without the special help of God, in the justice received; or that, with that help, he is not able: let him be anathema.

CANON 23. If any one saith, that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or, on the other hand, that he is able, during his whole life, to avoid all sins, even those that are venial,—except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds in regard of the Blessed Virgin: let him be anathema.

CANON 24. If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof: let him be anathema.

CANON 25. If any one saith, that, in every good work, the just sins venially at least, or—which is more intolerable still—mortally, and consequently deserves eternal punishments; and that for this cause only he is not damned, that God does not impute those works unto damnation: let him be anathema.

CANON 26. If any one saith, that the just ought not, for their good works done in God, to expect and hope for an eternal recompense from God, through his mercy and the merit of Jesus Christ, if so be that they persevere to the end in well doing and in keeping the divine commandments: let him be anathema.

CANON 27. If any one saith, that there is no mortal sin but that of infidelity; or, that grace once received is not lost by any other sin, however grievous and enormous, save by that of infidelity: let him be anathema.

CANON 28. If any one saith, that, grace being lost through sin, faith also is always lost with it; or, that the faith which remains, though it be not a lively faith, is not a true faith; or, that he who has faith without charity is not a Christian: let him be anathema.

CANON 29. If any one saith, that he who has fallen after baptism is not able by the grace of God to rise again; or, that he is able indeed to recover the justice which he has lost, but by faith alone without the sacrament of Penance, contrary to what the holy Roman and universal Church—instructed by Christ and his Apostles—has hitherto professed, observed, and taught: let him be anathema.

CANON 30. If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened [to him]: let him be anathema.

CANON 31. If any one saith, that the justified sins when he performs good works with a view to an eternal recompense: let him be anathema.

CANON 32. If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,—if so be, however, that he depart in grace,—and also an increase of glory: let him be anathema.

CANON 33. If any one saith, that, by the Catholic doctrine touching Justification, by this holy Synod set forth in this present decree, the glory of God, or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ are in any way derogated from, and not rather that the truth of our faith, and the glory in fine of God and of Jesus Christ are rendered [more] illustrious: let him be anathema.

Notes

1 This short introduction is an excerpt from Norman P. Tanner, S.J. (ed.), Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, 2 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1990), 2:657. 

2 This text is from Philip Schaff, “The Council of Trent,” in The Creeds of Christendom, 3 vols. (New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1890), 2:110-118.

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Bert Perry's picture

.....than our traditional summary of Trent as "grace plus works", I dare say, but yet....consistent with that on the whole.   It's a vivid picture of how people used to write, too.  Had a heck of a time reading through Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion (in translation) for the same reason.  Good exercise, though.

TylerR's picture

This is Schaff's translation, which is clearly from the 19th century. There is a good modern translation in the 2-vol. set Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, but I don't have that electronically, and wasn't willing to type it all out! Smile

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

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