Of good works; What to be created unto good works implies, and what works are good.
EPHES. 2. 10.
THe next thing in Order considerable in this Text, is the meritorious cause of this spiritual workmanship, and that is Christ Jesus. But this particu∣lar I shall pass by, as a subject requiring a more large and distinct discourse of it self. I proceed therefore to the final cause of this spiritual creation, and that is, To good works: In the Greek it is Created in good works. The final cause (saith Erasmus) is not here signified, but the effect of grace creating: so that in his sense the Holy Ghost should not intend the end of creating us anew, but the effect of his grace, as if that did work all the good in us; and which is a wonder, Estius a Papist goeth this way, quoting Isa 26. that place, O God thou hast wrought all our works in us: It is much for him to do so, for this seemeth greatly to exclude the power of free will: But I rather take it for the final cause, and commend our tran∣slators who render it, unto good works; and it is an Hebraism to use the Prepositi∣on in, for unto, although the Grecians also do so, as 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, for gains sake, for a rewards sake. There 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 denoteth a final cause, though indeed this is so the final cause, as that it is also the effect.
Obs. That all those who are new creatures, are created unto good works; so that a*godly life is a necessary fruit of their renovation. This new creature can be no more without an external godly conversation, then fire without heat, or hony without sweetness. In some sense it is more then the fruit of a tree; for a tree may live and grow, and yet bear no fruit; but this new creature cannot be, unless there be also those good and holy works which God requireth of us. This point is of great con∣cernment when so many satisfie themselves with hopes of this glorious estate, & yet their works are the works of the flesh, and of darkness: As Christ said of the false Prophets, By their fruit you may know them; so it is also true of false Christians, by their fruit you may judge what they are.
For the understanding of this point, let us consider what the phrase implieth, Created to good works; and that comprehends,
First, An inclination and propensity to a godly life. For as God created all crea∣tures with an inclination to their proper operations, thus this spiritual man is en∣dued * with a willing tendency unto those actions that are heavenly. Thus as the sparks flie upward, and the stone falls downward from an inward inclination of nature, so they are carried out to faith, repentance, holiness, from a free principle within. Aristotle defineth that to be the nature of every thing, which is the prin∣ciple Page 297 of its motion, for its self sake, and not by accident: And thus natural moti∣ons differ from violent, which are from a principle without, and by accident. Oh its a matter worthy of all your consideration, to attend to the principle of your motions in holy things, whether it be natural or violent. You may read of Ahabs good works in some sense, he prayed, and humbled himself, but he was not created to them, because they were from a violent principle without, the judgements of God; not a natural principle within, which is a sanctified and renewed heart: Yea, if you look upon Judas, you may see in some respects also his good works: there was his contrition, his confession, and his satisfaction, but he was not created to these good works, because extracted by slavish horror of conscience, not sweetly enclined thereunto by faith in God, and love of him. There is a great difference be∣tween the nurses care of the child, and the mothers: The former doth it because hired, and betrusted with it, but the latter from an inward storgy, and maternal bowels: So then is it thus with thee? dost thou pray, hear, live in all Godliness, as one that is created thereunto? One who hath a free voluntary inclination? in which respect the law of God is said to be written in their in ward parts.
Secondly, To be created to good works, implyeth not onely an inclination, but a*readiness, or preparedness, which is a further qualification. The fire hath an inclination to ascend upwards, but yet something may violently keep it down, that it cannot ascend actually: Inclination to good works implieth the remote power, but rea∣diness supposeth the proxime and immediate power. Gods own people who have the seed of Grace in them, yet how unprepared, and unready many times to that which is good! Therefore to watch and to be ready, is a duty so often pressed; Be ready to every good work, and prepared to every good work: To this is opposite, dulness, sluggishness, listlesnesse, and all kind of wearisomness in the service of God. But this should quicken us up, That we are created to Godliness: There∣fore the heart should alwaies be swept and ready dressed for Christ to lodge in: you must have lamps and oyl; commonly sin surpriseth us, because we are not pre∣pared for Godliness: Thus Christ knocked, desirous to come in, but the Church was unwilling, and so deprived her self of much comfort. Prayer is the Key of heaven, but if rusty it will not open; and thus it is of all duties, if thy heart be not prepa∣red for them.
Thirdly, The phrase, created to good works, doth denote them to be the principal and*main end. God hath appointed every thing to an end, which holds not onely in mo∣ral agents, but also natural: Hence is that rule, Opera naturae sunt opera intelligen∣tiae, The works of nature are the works of reason and understanding, because it ordereth, and wisely directeth them to an end. Now as other creatures have their ends, so this new creature hath its, which is to be wholly imployed in those works that are godly. This is his errand, his business and employment. The Apostles ex∣pression is remarkable, Tit. 3. 8, 9. This is a faithful saying, and which thou art to affirm constantly, What is that? That those who believe be careful to maintain good works: Two Greek words are observable 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that it be their care and study, and all their wisedome, and then 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, to maintain, or rather to be an example, and a president. The Apostle his scope is, that all Christians should make their houses and families a school-house, as it were, of a godly life, that there should be no prophaneness, no filthy lusts, no scandals. That which the Apostle speaks to Timothy, belongs to all, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, to exercise himself unto Godliness; as he that is to run in a race, giveth himselfe wholly to that: so that hell is not more opposite to heaven, then their lives are to this new creature, who live in a constant way of im∣piety and manifest wickedness. The fruits of the flesh are manifest, saith the Apostle, Every man that liveth in obedience thereunto, may presently discern he is not a new creature. Oh then, when thou art overtaken with any evil ungodly way, say, Is this the good work God created me unto? Is this the Godly action he made me for? God did not make thee to eat and drink, much lesse to riot and revel it, but to walk holily, righteously, and soberly; and let the Godly when at any time unwilling, Page 298 and indisposed to that which is good, stir up themselves to all chearfulness, saying, For this end God created me anew; for this end I came into the world, How can I neglect the main business I have to do?
Fourthly, It implieth constancie and perpetuity. That which we are created unto, is not once or twice to be thought on, or practised; but it is the constant imploy∣ment of a man. All natural actions are constant; The fire doth alwaies ascend, the stone doth alwaies descend: and thus he that is righteous, doth righteousness, 1 John 2. 29. saith the Apostle: This discovereth the hypocrisie of those who are uncer∣tain, and in some fits onely for good actions. In time of fear and danger, then they will do good, bewail their sins, promise reformation; but this bulrush that hangs down its head for a while, because of some storm falling upon it, after a fair day doth presently perk up again, Gal. 6. 9. Let us not be weary in well doing; let us not faint or swound by any discouragements or oppositions, but remember a good action will alwaies meet with a good reward, which grace will Crown it with. How many are almost perswaded to take up a godly and holy life, but present∣ly return to their vomit again!
Fifthly, Here is universality of good works. The Apostle speaks indefinitely, created to good works, and that is equivalent to an universal where the matter is necessary: He doth not say, created to some good works, or this and that good work, but good works in the general. If a man be studious for all the good works of the second Table that relate to man, as the works of righteousness, liberality, hu∣mility, and love, &c. if negligent in the good works that relate to the first Table, of piety, worship of God in Truth and sincerity, keeping his Sabbath, zealous for his glory, fearing an Oath; this man is but for some good works, and so not created by God, which is universal. Again, if a man be zealous for the works of piety and religion, but carelesse in the duties of justice, equity, truth to men, of brotherly love and liberality to those that are in necessities, as far as it is his duty, he also is to doubt whether he be created to good works; for Gods grace createth to one as well as to another.
Sixthly, It doth not onely suppose us inclining and ready to them, but zealously to pursue them. Thus they are called a peculiar people, zealous of good works; zeal is an hot burning affection, compounded partly of grief, because we are hindered in what we would do; partly of anger against that which opposeth us; and partly of vehement love, which carrieth us out to that we desire. Thus the godly are greatly grieved, because of that relique and remainder of corruption which makes them not to do the good they would, as Paul bitterly complaineth. They are also angry at those lusts which have the greatest power over them: And lastly, hot burning love to the glory of God, whom they do honour, and desire to exalt continually. And as zeal breeds jealousie, so it doth also in the godly breast: Their zeal to that which is holy makes them jealous, lest at any time sin should deceive them, or Sa∣tan seduce them. Thus Job made a covenant with his eyes, and David set a watch before his mouth, and Paul kept down his body, and all out of a godly jealousie, lest though they had gone so far in the way of holiness, their feet at last should be turn∣ed out of the way.
Having thus explained the phrase, Created to good works, let us consider what they are; For there is a wo to him that calls evil good, and good evil. Jonah thought he did well to be angry: it is a great degree to do good works, when we know what they are: And
First, Those onely are good works which are commanded by God, and conformable*to the rule laid down in the Scripture. So that as the definition of sin is, That it is the transgression of the law, thus the definition of a good work is, That it is a conformi∣ty to the law of God. The word of God is the Rule, the Canon; and as the Artificer can draw no good line which is not commensurate to the rule, so whatsoever thou dost which is not agreeable to Scripture, which is not answerable to that pattern, it is not good a work how glorious soever it be. This is an excellent truth to be insist∣ed Page 299 on: As that onely is true Doctrine which is agreeable to the Scriptures, so that onely is a good work which is answerable to the same rule. The Scriptures are a rule of faith, and of manners also: and as we say in matters of religion, Non credo, quia non lego, I do not believe it, because I do not read it in Gods word, so Non ago, quia non lego praeceptum, I do it not, because not commanded. And this cuts off most of those works from being good works, which are so magnified in popery. what are their good works, for which they call a man a religious man, a spirituall man, a perfect man? Are they not vowed poverty, chastity, and blind obedience, with many other superstitious usages? Now as the Pharisees thought their wash∣ings, and humane commandments in religion good and glorious works, when yet our Saviour disdaineth them upon this reason, Who hath required these things at your hands? Even so all those good works of superstition, will-worship, traditional customes, though dignified with the title of good works, yet are to be rejected, be∣cause not required: So that as counterfeit coyn is so far from being owned as cur∣rant mony, that he who is found guilty of the making of it, is adjudged to death. So all counterfeit worship and service of God which hath not the stamp of the Word upon it, is so far from being acceptable with God, that such without repen∣tance and reformation are condemned to eternal death. Herein certainly people fouly mistake; they judge things to be good by the custome of them, by the plea∣sure and profit of them, and not by the rule of goodness. How could vain, and prophane sports be accounted good works, if men did look into the Scripture for their goodnesse? Thou sayest, It is good for me to do thus, to live thus, to take up such a course of life, but doth the Scripture say, it is also good? Thus as for want of this rule we take up many things for good, which are not good; so again, we reject ma∣ny good works as folly, needlesse, not requisite, because we do not study herein. To live strictly, to be singular to the common waies of the world; to keep up holy family-duties, these things we look not upon as good works, because they are con∣trary to our corrupt affections and lusts: Especially how hardly can we be perswa∣ded that it is a good work to confesse Christ in the midst of a crooked Generation; that it is good for us to love Christ more then Father, or Mother, or life it self, that it is good to take up the Crosse and follow him. How hardly do we perswade our selves these are good works? That may be a good work which is grievous and evil to flesh and blood: In matters to be done, How often do we judge the good∣nesse of them, by the safety and advantage? If Paul had thus consulted with flesh and blood, he would not have thought it a good work to preach up that to his great danger, which once he so vehemently opposed.
Secondly, Good works are such actions as we are enabled to by the grace of God.* God is said to be the Author of every good, and perfect gift, James 1. No man unlesse enabled and sanctified by the spirit of God can do the least good work; as a beast is not able to act the things of reason: For the imaginations of a mans heart are onely evil, and that continually, Gen. 6. so that there is not room for the least good therein. How then must man plunged in sinne say, he is not good, nei∣ther can do good? The tree must be good, else the fruit cannot be good; and thus a man must be ingraffed in Christ, and partake of his fatnesse, else all is but a wilde Olive, and wilde Grapes. And upon this ground it is, that the Orthodox maintain that position against Papists, That all the works of unregenerate men are sins, as they come from them. Though Amasiah and Jehu do those things which are right in Gods eyes for the matter of them, yet in respect of circumstances, they exceeding∣ly fail, and so they are made sins to them. Whereupon is that necessary distinction, That an action may be said to be good materially for the matter of it: Thus when a wicked man prayeth, heareth, he doth that which is good for the matter; or for∣mally, that is, when they are done upon such principles, in such a manner, and to such an end as God requireth: So that to do a good work there is requisite the help of Gods spirit to lift us up. As Zacheus was too low of himself to see Jesus, he was fain to go up into a tree; so we are too too short to reach unto any good work; it is Page 300 above our reach till the spirit of God lift us up. Oh that unregenerate men did re∣ceive this Truth as ingraffed in their souls; I have lived thus long and have not done one good work, yet I have been without Christ, destitute of his spirit, & so a branch separated from the vine: Oh how little, or no hope at all have I! What shall I do? Have pity upon me all ye that know me, and pray for me: not one good work in all my life time! but a continual sinning hath run through my conversati∣on. And this every unregenerate man must say, though not prophane, but very ci∣vil and ingenuous, yet if not a new creature, he is not created to any good work. We are created to it: our free will or moral education cannot prepare us for them; so that though the name of good works be often in our mouths, yet the a∣ctions themselves are rarely performed, because few are endued with the spirit of God. Hence that is called the holy Spirit, because without it there is no holiness; as there is no light from the heavens but by the sun, the stars shining, as they say, by its light.
Thirdly, Good works are such which have the concurrence of all circumstances:* There must be a good cause, a good manner, a good end, and if any one of these be wanting, it is not a good work. Bonum est ex integrâ causâ: Uzzah did not a good work, for God was so displeased, that he struck him dead suddenly for it, though he had a very good intention, and all because the manner was not good. Cains Sacrifice was not doing well, for then he had been accepted, as God told him, because his person was not good: So that it is easie to commit evil, but diffi∣cult to do that which is good, because a man must every time hit the mark; if he fails in one circumstance, if one string be broken, the musical harmony is spoiled. Oh what a rousing Truth is this? How should this chase away all security, all trust∣ing in thy good heart, and good works? For where are they? God indeed looked on all he did, and saw they were exceeding good; but mayst not thou look over all thou didst ever since thou wast born, and see all exceeding evil? You think you do good works, but it is ignorance; you know not how many things are requi∣red to a good action, and one dead fly spoileth the whole box of oyntment. This bitter herb makes death in the duty, which otherwise would bring life. This made the Psalmist pronounce of every man by nature, There is none that doth good, no not one. What an uncharitable censure doth this seem to be in humane reason? *None doth good, not one in all mankinde till quickened and enlivened by grace. I beseech you lay this deep in your hearts; I am good for no good work: I am wholly evil, and all that I do is wholly evil. Paul that had some good in him, because of the mixture of evil, cryed out, O miserable man that I am, Who will deliver me? how much rather have I cause to bid all comforts stand aloof off, and to be alone, crying out, Who will deliver me? seeing I am nothing but evil, nothing but ulcers and sores all over me. There is nothing will sooner drive you out of self-love, make you amazed at your selves, and cause you to cry out, Help Lord, else we perish, as to think, not one good work hath ever been done by us yet.
Fourthly, Good works must flow from a good heart within. From a purified Fountain * and sweet, do issue sweet streams: When Moses vehemently required of the people of Israel, to obey the commands of God, which was nothing but to do good works; the people presently made a ready promise, that they would do all: But mark what Moses replyeth, Oh that there were such an heart in them; this is all: It is not for thee to say and promise, I will set upon a good life, I will be diligent in good duties: But oh that there were such an heart in you. Hence our Saviour compareth the good heart of a man to a good treasure from whence all things flow. Thus that great promise of regeneration first begins with the heart, I will take away the heart of stone and give an heart of flesh; and I will write my law in the inward parts, Ezek. 36. and what then? Then I will make them to walk in my commandments: Thus also the commandment, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and soul, &c. As the wickednesse of an evil man lyeth most in his heart, so the goodnesse of a good man is most in the heart. Now this particular also is not attended to; men Page 301 never looking any further then the work they do, Is that a Duty? Is that com∣manded? but not attend to, with what inward rectitude and purity of spirit they do these things. The difference of the third and fourth hearers, lay not in externals at first, but that one had a good and honest heart, which the other wanted; & although men look to the outward good works, yet God looketh most to the inward good heart: Therefore the hypocrite doth no good work, though he seemeth to the world full of good works, because his heart is not good. Our Saviour instanced in this, and pressed it much upon the Pharisees, saying, They were wolves within, and noisome sepulchers within, though painted without. Think therefore thou hearest God speaking unto thee that of Solomon, My son, give me thy heart, Prov. 23. 26. thy good heart, else those good works are but a blaze, there is no good foundation.
Fifthly, Good works are those, and those onely which are done for the glory of God.* Let any action be in it self never so necessary, so glorious, so profitable to others, yet if it be not for Gods glory, there is a wo to such good works instead of an Euge, or well done. The Pharisees prayers, fastings, and alms, have a wo and threatning an∣nexed to them in stead of a promise. Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God: now vain glory and self-applause, is a worm that quickly breeds in the best fruit, in the choycest actions: The godly at the day of judgement do not know the good works they did; as the silk-worm hideth it self within the curious silk it works, whence was that Motto upon it, Operitur dum operatur, She is all over covered whilst she works: The same ought we to be in all the holy duties, and most heavenly actions we perform; Operimur dum operamur: upon this reason Austin said, All the glori∣ous actions of the heathens were but splendida peccata, glistring sins, because they cor∣rupted their love to their countrey by vain glory, and so they did, as he said, Unam cupiditatem aliâ sanare, Heal one sin by another.
Use of Exhortation, To take up that of the Apostle, Let every man try his own*work. The word signifieth such a tryal as the Goldsmith useth about his Gold, whether it be right or no: He hath his Touch-stone to discover it. Let this be your care; thousands and millions of works you have done in your life time, bring them all to the Touch-stone, the Scripture, the rule of goodness. It is not an easie matter to be found doing but one good work: Inform and instruct your self better about the Doctrine of a good work, how much the Scripture requireth; and certainly if there be any sparklings of conscience, it will make thee fear all the works thou hast done. For what? dost thou call thy ungodlinesse, thy prophane courses, good works? Doth Gods word command these? Doth Gods Spirit enable thee to do these? Oh blind man, hood winked by the divel, that dost not see thy self all over plunged into evil! But it may be thou thinkest thy prayers, thy duties, thy civility, thy charity, good works, and indeed these are good for the matter of them, but as thou dost them who art not regenerated, who hast not the spirit of Christ dwelling in thee, who hast corrupt and sinful ends, they all are thy evil works, and come in the catalogue of thy other sins. Thy duties not done by a gracious heart, through gra∣cious power, to a gracious end, in a gracious manner, are sins to thee as well as thy other ungodly waies. I know the proud and self-flattering heart of man loveth not to hear this, cannot endure that all its gold should be discovered to be dross. But it is not what thou thinkst, and what others think about thy good works, but what Gods spirit pronounceth in his word: how great wil thy confusion be, if that which thou callest a good heart, a good life, and good works, all good, God shall discover to be an evil heart, an evil life, all evil! God cannot be deceived, but thou art easily.