Cleaning out some paperwork in my office reminded me that, after three years, I should get back to this series and finish it at some point. Lo these many months ago I started a new translation of Cardinal Gasparo Contarini’s treatise De iustificatione, “On Justification.” I was not quite halfway through it when last I paused, so I’d like to bring it through to the end.
When I first began in 2014, I introduced the text briefly as follows:
In 1541, Gasparo Contarini, a cardinal in the Church of Rome, wrote a short but fascinating treatise on justification in which he espouses a position that is neither quite the pure Protestant doctrine nor the later Tridentine doctrine.
Since I still think it useful, when it is finished I still intend to put the whole thing together somewhere where it may be easily accessible. To find all previous installments, enter “Contarini on Justification” in the search bar.
I’ve included the text from part 13 below for context. I would probably revise some things from that previous draft now, but, as Contarini says below, that will have to wait for another time.
The promise of God, moreover, which it [i.e., faith] firmly believes–and for that reason conceives trust [fiduciam]–is (as blessed Thomas says in the First Part of the Second Part), that God remits sins and justifies the wicked through the mystery of Christ. For He Himself became the author of salvation for all those who believe in Him. 1 Therefore this motion of faith, after the renunciation of sin, raises the mind to God and turns [convertit] the soul [animum] to Him. When [the soul] has been turned, God, pouring his own Spirit [into it], heals, sanctifies, justifies, adopts it for a son through the Spirit of his own Son, through whom, when He has been poured into our hearts, we cry, “Abba, Father.” 2 In addition, he grants to us, together with the Spirit of Christ, Christ Himself; and all his justice–for free [gratis], out of his own mercy–he makes ours, he imputes [imputat] to us who have put on Christ.
Meanwhile, however, while the soul is thus being prepared 3 by the Lord and prepares itself, since this preparation does not come about in a moment of time, except in the case of a miracle, as happened to the Apostle Paul, if the opportunity should be present he who is being turned [converted] does good works and refrains from evil. Nevertheless, justification and sanctification is not rendered 4 for works–as Paul says, as blessed Augustine says in countless passages, and as Thomas [says] expressly in the First Part of the Second Part–but is owed to faith, 5 not because we merit justification by faith and because we believe, but because we receive it 6 by faith; for thus the Apostle says in the Letter to the Galatians: “receiving the promise of the Spirit by faith.” Likewise in the Letter to the Romans: “through whom we have access into this grace by faith.” In the Letter to the Hebrews: “It is necessary that the one approaching God believe,” because by believing do we approach this access. That which the Apostle calls “receiving” blessed Thomas in the Third Part names “application,” 7 saying that the passion of Christ is, as it were, a common 8 medicine, which each one applies to himself by faith and the sacraments 9 of faith
These Protestants name [it] “apprehension”–not with the meaning that you suppose in the letter given to me, which obviously pertains to the knowledge of the intellect, but with the meaning set out above: obviously, by that meaning [of the term] we say that we “apprehend” that thing at which we arrive and which we reach 10 after our movement. 11
We reach, moreover, a twofold justice: the one inherent in us, by which we begin to be just, and are made partakers of the divine nature, and have charity poured out in our hearts; the other, however, not inherent, but bestowed 12 on us together with Christ–I mean the justice of Christ, and all his merit. Each one is bestowed on us at the same time, and we reach each through faith.[new translation begins here]
But which one is prior by nature pertains to scholastic disputations rather than to the business of faith I am treating of. For that reason, I shall put it off for another time, just as I also put off another controversial topic which someone could raise as a question for me–namely, whether the remission of sins and reconciliation with God are prior by nature, or the infusion of grace. If ever I meet with a more convenient opportunity, I shall say what I think in each case, but at the moment each should be passed. However, as to the fact that God has given us Christ and all things together with him, the text of the the Apostle in the letter to the Romans is clear: “He who did not spare his own Son, has he not given us all things together with him?” 13 Likewise, “a Son has been born to us, and a Son has been given to us.” 14 In the Mass, when we offer Christ to God, do we not say in the canon, “We offer to you, from your own presents and gifts, a holy victim, an immaculate victim”? The blessed father Augustine speaks of this in many places, but one now comes to mind (I do not know whether it is in the Soliloquies or the Meditations). 15 “Whatever I am lacking,” says the good father, “I take to myself from the heart 16 of my Lord.” 17 (De iustificatione, pp. 590-1)
The Calvinist International is a forum for research, resourcement, and renewal of Christian wisdom.