Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
Signifies desert, or to earn: originally the word was applied to soldiers and other military persons, who, by their labours in the field, and by the various hardships they underwent during the course of a campaign, as also by other services they might occasionally render to the commonwealth, were said, merere stipendia, to merit, or earn their pay; which they might properly be said to do, because they yielded in real service an equivalent to the state for the stipend they received, which was therefore due to them in justice. Here, then, we come at the true meaning of the word merit; from which it is very clearly to be seen that there can be no such thing as merit in our best obedience. One man may merit of another, but all mankind together cannot merit from the hand of God. This evidently appears, if we consider the imperfections of all our services, and the express declaration of the divine word, Ephesians 2:8-9 . Romans 11:1-36 . Titus 3:5 . Romans 10:1; Romans 10:4 . The Doctrine of Merit stated, ser. 1: vol. 3: South's Sermons; Toplady's Works, p. 471, vol. 3: Hervey's Eleven Letters to Wesley; Robinson's Claude, vol. 2: p. 218.
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Merit'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/m/merit.html. 1802.