A decade after Barnes' execution by Henry VIII for promulgating Protestantism which defied orthodoxy as defined by the Church of England, the Church of Rome convened the Council of Trent for the express purpose of defending their faith against the unswerving, relentless attacks of such heretical Protestants. Of the first items on their agenda was the defense of their errant doctrine on Justification. Paragraph 16, item 9 states:
"Whoever shall affirm that the ungodly is justified by faith alone, so that it is to be understood that nothing else is to be required to cooperate therewith in order to obtain justification; so that it is to be understood that nothing else is to be required, to cooperate therewith in order to obtain justification; and that it is on no account necessary that he should prepare and dispose himself by the effect of his own will: let him be accursed."
Furthermore, items 11 and 12 elaborate:
"Whoever shall affirm that men are justified solely by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, or the remission of sin, to the exclusion of grace and charity, which is shed abroad in their hearts and adheres in them; or that the grace by which we are justified is only the favor of God: let him be accursed.
"Whoever shall affirm that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in the divine mercy by which sins are forgiven for Christ's sake; or that it is confidence only by which we are justified: let him be accursed."
Here we have before us the essential question of how one is justified before God. Protestants aver the Gospel of justification by faith alone in the merits of Christ alone, of which faith is the alone gift of God by grace. Romanists and heretical Evangelicals add their works to their justification, thereby diminishing God's glory and Christ's sacrifice, while increasing their own glory and worthiness. Theirs is a false Gospel which God has cursed. Robert Barnes met the challenge of answering the false Gospel of faith + works so prevalent in his day. Due to the difficulties arising from understanding a theological work written hundreds of years ago (unless the reader was sufficiently experienced in reading such ancient works), this present writer has taken the liberty to paraphrase and summarize portions in modern-day English, without destroying the underlying truths brought forth by Dr. Barnes. Below is an excerpt of the first portion of his treatise.
FAITH ALONE JUSTIFIETH BEFORE GOD
(Addressed to King Henry): Your grace, please do not heed your bishops' cries of, 'heresy, heresy, a heretic, a heretic, who ought not to be heard,' before you have fully considered this disputation which is grounded in holy scripture alone. Surely the bishops have not a greater authority than Christ, His word and Holy Spirit. Thus, if they will not hear me, let them hear these.
CHRIST ALONE OUR HOPE
In holy scripture, Christ alone is our Savior, Redeemer, Justifier, and perfect peacemaker between God and man. He saves His people from their sins, is made our righteousness, our satisfaction and our redemption. So, if we truthfully confess Christ then we must admit that He is all our justice, all our redemption, all our wisdom, all alone purchaser of our grace, alone the peacemaker between God and man. All goodness we have is of Him, by Him, and for His sake only. We have no need of anything besides Christ for our salvation. We should desire no other Savior or means of satisfaction, nor any help from any creature, either heavenly or earthly, but of Him alone. St. Peter testifies as much when he saith, There is no other name given unto men wherein they must be saved. St. John concurs, He it is that hath obtained grace for our sins; He sent His Son to make agreement for our sins.
ANTICHRIST ROBS GLORY FROM CHRIST
The Bishops are antichrists
He that denies any part of the truths of Christ's merits aforementioned, or takes any of them upon himself or gives them to another, the same man robs Christ of His honor and denies Christ, and is very antichrist. Do you bishops deny the attributes and offices of Christ? If you grant them then we should be in complete agreement. For they prove that faith in Jesus Christ alone justifieth before God. If, on the other hand, you deny this truth, as I am sure you will, (for you would rather deny your creed than admit it), how then can you avoid the fact of your being the very antichrists of whom St. John speaks? Having tried your spirits finding they be not of God because you deny Christ by denying His attributes, offices and work. Though you grant His name, you deny the virtue. If the truth be told, you deny your own creed, [The Apostles Creed]. You grant he descended from heaven, but deny the efficaciousness of it. You deny His alone salvation, yet it is your creed. You grant that He was born, but you deny the purpose. You grant that He arose from the dead, but you deny the efficacy, for he arose to justify us. You grant that He is a Savior, but you deny that He alone is the Savior. Was Christ's purpose to partially fulfill the requirements for our salvation, so that we can complete what is lacking on His part? Say what you will, if you give not all, and fully, and alone to one Christ, then you deny Christ, and the Holy Ghost. Wherefore St. John declares you to be contrary to Christ.
THE REVELATION TEACHES CHRIST ALONE REDEEMS
How do my lords explain the 5th chapter of the Revelation wherein no angel or man was found who was able to open the book, but the Lamb alone was worthy, having been killed, redeeming us by His blood. Will you bishops find another which the heavenly host could not find? Will you bring forward a helper for Christ, though He is set alone? I pray you tell us what this shall be. All the world knoweth, of course, that they are good works.
The Bishops add men's good works to the alone merits of Christ in attaining salvation
What good works, pray tell, have you found which escape notice of the angels and elders in God's throne room? What are they which you will join with the Lamb in opening the Book? The elders claim the Lamb alone was worthy to open the book because He was slain, having redeemed them with His precious blood. Now what good works do you claim? The Lamb hath alone died for us. The Lamb only hath shed His blood for us. The Lamb only hath redeemed us. Therefore, if these things are sufficient for our salvation, then He alone hath made satisfaction, and is alone worthy to be our Redeemer and justifier.
Now either the Lamb alone is worthy to redeem them or He is not. If your good works are needed to redeem, then the elders lied. The Lamb alone is not worthy to do so. Let us examine Paul on this point, though without the Spirit of God it is impossible for the naysayers to understand. Nevertheless, we will do our best to confound the crooked enemies of Christ's blood, shaming them for the dishonor they cause Christ.
PAUL ON JUSTIFICATION: FAITH ALONE JUSTIFIES
St. Paul saith all men are sinners and lack the glory of God, but they are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. If sinners are justified freely how can good works also justify? How do you interpret, by His grace? If it be any part of works, then it is not of grace. As St. Paul saith, then grace were not grace. The words are plain. The truth cannot be evaded. By adding works to grace you destroy Paul's whole disputation. For he contends against works, and clearly excludes works in justification. We have nothing to boast if our salvation is not in part due to our good works, keeping the law. Nay, we keep the law of faith because a man is justified by faith without the works of the law. Are you so blind to not see this foundational truth?
Is not Paul's proposition which he so ably proves, faith alone justifies? And if you think for one moment that Paul only condemned the works of the old law under the Old Covenant for aiding in your salvation, and not the works you have invented under the new, think again! How is it possible Paul condemned salvation by works given from the mouth of God - the best works of all - and does not condemn your man-made inventions? You admit the Ten Commandments - the most perfect law of the Old Testament - do not justify. Please list your invented laws which surpass those of the Lord.
Do not plead the 5th chapter of Matthew to enhance your argument. Christ taught no new laws or works. Instead, the Lord rebuked the Pharisees and scribes' false interpretations of that which was given by Moses. Let us always differentiate between Christ, the giver of grace and mercy, and Moses, the giver of the Law. To purchase us God's favor, Christ died on the cross, which Moses did not. Christ saith, Depend thou on my finished work, and believe thou what I have done for you, not what you have done for me.
The religious Jews thought that by their outward, superficial performance of the Law they were justified. This false doctrine was exposed by our Master, who explained that a clean, pure heart was necessary to the perfect fulfillment of the Law. Even blessed Paul disputed against those who were baptized, having had both works of the old law and the new, yet to them Paul taught Christ alone was their justifier. Mark well his argument: if righteousness cometh of the law , then is Christ dead in vain. Christ needs no helper. In like manner, if by your new works they do help to justify, then is Christ dead in vain. But Christ is not dead in vain. Therefore, new works do not help to justify.
ABRAHAM JUSTIFIED BEFORE THE LAW WAS INSTITUTED
Therefore, works of the law do not justify
Paul uses the example of Abraham to prove justification by faith. For hundreds of years before Moses, men were justified freely by faith alone apart from the works of the Law. Therefore, any works invented now do not justify. All the Patriarchs and prophets were justified apart from keeping your newly invented works. By necessity, the same holds true today. Men were justified by faith alone under the Old Testament, as they are today under the New Testament. Even the Church Fathers, such as Ambrose and Origen, agree with Paul and myself on this matter. Origen uses the thief on the cross to prove justification by faith alone apart from works. What works could the thief do on the cross to please the Lord?! Who can have less good works, past and present, than a thief, who is neither good before man or God? Also, in the 9th chapter of Romans Paul uses the example of the Gentiles who knew not God, nor done any meritorious good works, instead blaspheming the Lord and His name, being idolaters, the enemies of holiness. Their faith justified, whereas the Jews, who were zealous toward God and the keeping of the Law, were not justified because they sought it not by faith. The Gentiles obtained righteousness by faith alone, while the Jews sought to obtain righteousness by following the Law. Are not Paul's words plain enough on the matter?
Perhaps you Bishops may reply that had the Jews combined faith with their works, they would, indeed, have been justified. But this is a false premise because their works could never aided in their justification. For St. Paul clearly proves that the good works of the Jews did nothing to justify, while evil works of the Gentiles did not hinder their justification which came by faith. Wherefore, no manner of works, whether they are in faith or out of faith, can help to justify. Nevertheless, works do have their glory and reward. But the glory and praise of justification belongeth to Christ alone. Again, Paul's teaching leaves no place for works in justification: to him that worketh is reward deserved and not of grace, but to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the wicked man, is faith counted for righteousness.
 Writings of Tindal, Frith and Barnes [London: Religious Tract Society, reprinted in the early 19th Century]; originally published 1573. This tract has been edited for length.
Written by the editor, Rand Winburn.