The Imputation of the Lord's Merit is nothing
L 18. It is believed in the church that the Lord was sent by the Father to make an atonement for the human race, and that this was effected by His fulfilling the law, and by the passion of the cross; and that in this way He took away condemnation, and made satisfaction; and that without this expiation, satisfaction, and propitiation, the human race would have perished in eternal death, and this on account of justice which by some is called vengeful justice. It is true that without the Lord‘s advent all in the world would have perished; but how it is to be understood that the Lord fulfilled all things of the law, and why He suffered the cross, may be seen above, in chapters 2 and 3, which show that it was not on account of any vengeful justice, because this is not a Divine attribute. Divine attributes are justice, love, mercy, and good; and God is justice itself, love itself, mercy itself, and good itself; and where these are, there is not anything of vengeance, and therefore no vengeful justice.
 As the fulfilling of the law, and the passion of the cross, have hitherto been understood by many to mean that by these two things the Lord made satisfaction for mankind, and took away the condemnation that had been foreseen or appointed, there has followed from the connection, and also from the principle that man is saved by mere faith that it is so, the dogma of the imputation of the Lord’s merit by our receiving, as for satisfaction, these two things that belong to His merit. But this dogma is refuted by what has been said about the fulfilling of the law by the Lord, and about His passion of the cross. At the same time we can see that the imputation of merit is a phrase destitute of meaning, unless there is meant by it the remission of sins after repentance. For nothing of the Lord can be imputed to man; but salvation can be awarded him by the Lord after he has performed repentance, that is, after he has seen and acknowledged his sins, and has then desisted from them, and this from the Lord. Then is salvation awarded him: not that he is saved by his own merit or righteousness, but by the Lord, who alone has fought and conquered the hells, and who alone still fights for man, and conquers the hells for him.
 These things are the Lord‘s merit and righteousness, and they never can be imputed to man; for if they were, the Lord’s merit and righteousness would be imputed to man as if they were his; and this is never done, nor can be done. If imputation were possible, an impenitent and wicked man could impute the Lord‘s merit to himself, and so think himself justified, and yet this would be to defile what is holy with things profane, and to profane the Lord’s name; for it would be to keep the thought fixed on the Lord, and the will in hell, and yet the will is the whole man. There is a faith of God, and a faith of man; those have the faith of God who perform repentance; and those the faith of man who do not perform repentance, and yet think of imputation; and the faith of God is a living faith, and the faith of man is a dead faith.
 That the Lord Himself, and His disciples, preached repentance and the remission of sins, is evident from the following passages:--
Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand (Matt. 4:17).
John said, Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance and now is the axe laid to the root of the trees; every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire (Luke 3:8, 9).
Jesus said, Except ye repent, ye shall all perish (Luke 13:3, 5).
Jesus, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God, said, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:14, 15).
Jesus sent out the disciples, who went forth and preached that men should repent (Mark 6:12).
Jesus said to the apostles that they must preach in His name repentance and the remission of sins among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).
John preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Luke 3:3; Mark 1:4).
By "baptism" is meant spiritual washing, which is a washing from sins, and is called regeneration.
 Repentance and the remission of sins are thus described by the Lord in John:--
He came unto His own, but His own received Him not; but to as many as received Him to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in His name who were born, not of bloods, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:11-13).
By "His own," are meant those who were then of the church, where was the Word; by "the sons of God," and "those who believe in His name," are meant those who believe in the Lord, and who believe the Word; by "bloods," are meant falsifications of the Word, and confirmations of falsity thereby; "the will of the flesh," is man‘s Own pertaining to the will, which in itself is evil; "the will of man," is man’s Own pertaining to the understanding, which in itself is falsity; those "born of God," are those who have been regenerated by the Lord. From these things it is evident that those are saved who are in the good of love and in the truths of faith from the Lord, and not those who are in what is their own.