Setting forth divers distinctions, and Axioms to clear the Doctrine of good works.
EPHES. 2. 10.
GOod works (you have heard) are the inseparable and necessary fruit of this *New creature. It hath also been informed you, what a good work is. I shall at this time lay down some distinctions, or necessary Axioms to clear this Doctrine about Good works, and so proceed to application.
And first, This is worth your observation, That the Scripture speaketh some∣times in praise and worth of them, sometimes again by way of diminution, and debasing of them. When good works are compared with the righteousnesse of Christ, or have relation to justification, then they are rejected as unable for any such use. Thus the Prophet saith, Our righteousness is like a menstruous cloth, Isa. 30. 22. How loathsom is that? and so are our holy duties if God should enter into judgement with us. Justitia nostra est indulgentia tua Domine, O Lord, our righteousness is thy indul∣gence: Our justification consists in pardon; therefore we have no perfection to ju∣stifie us, but imperfection to be forgiven us. Thus the Apostle also, He doth account (and that is an act of judgement and deliberation) all things but dung and dross in comparison of the righteousness by faith in Christ, Phil. 3. 8. So then when the best works we do are considered in the Court of justification, there they are damnable, and have so much dross in them, that God doth reject them as insufficient. They are not good, but bad works in that sense. Therefore a man in justification is looked upon as a sinner, without a righteousness answering the Law, though at that time also he doth repent and believe. But then at other times the Scripture speaks of good works in respect of sanctification, and as they relate to the glory of God, and are an orna∣ment to our holy profession. And in this sense the word of God doth often commend them, and exhort to them. So that if thou hast got so much skill as to know in what sense the Scripture debaseth them, and in what sense it commends them, bless God for that knowledge, and look upon it as a star to guid thee. The Apostle in this Cha∣pter, attributing our whole salvation to grace, lest he should be thought therefore to exclude good works, and it were all one whether we were prophane or godly, he addeth, That we are created to good works. Take heed of Popery to make thy good works a ground of justification; take heed of Antinomianism, to deny the presence of them.
A second rule is, That good works are not to be limited to one kind, but are to be*extended as far as the Law of Gods commands. Thus the Obedience to the first com∣mandment is a good work, to the second, & so to every one; for the Law is a rule of good works, and as the Logicians say, There is no created being, but it is reduced into Page 303 one of the ten predicaments: So there is no duty or good work commanded of us, but it is contained in one of those Ten words, as Moses calls them: A word is there used for a Precept, as often in the Hebrew. This is good to be observed, that so we may be conscionable and abounding in every good work. Good works are works of piety, works of righteousness, works of charity: Every work that comes from a good cause, commanded by the rule of goodness, performed in a good manner, to a good end, is a good work, whether the object matter be God or man; and howsoever use hath almost appropriated the phrase Good works, to those of charity, yet the Scripture extendeth it to all the good fruits of a godly life: And in the Scripture sense, no man can do one good work, which hath not a principle to do all. Godly obedience is copulative, and he that doth a good work, because God com∣mands it, will do all because God commands it. This consideration would make us not like Herod, to do many things, but like Zachary and Elizabeth, To walk in all the commandments of God, Luke 1. 6. Thou prayest and hearest, because this good work God commandeth: Oh thou, fool, Doth not God also command thee to be chast, to be sober, to be heavenly minded? The graces of God are chained together; he that hath one, hath all: and therefore it is to be wondered at, to see what hypocrisie may be in a mans heart to be affected with some good works; he could have no peace in his conscience if he should omit them, and yet can totally neglect others without any remorse at all: If thou hadst committed murther, the guilt of blood would torment thy conscience, torture thy soul. Why should not uncleannesse, cursing, do the like? Doth not the same God that saith, Thou shalt not Kill, say also, Thou shalt not commit Adul∣tery?
Thirdly, Another rule about works is that of Austins, founded also upon the*Scripture, good works do not go before a justified person, but follow after, Bona ope∣ra non praecedunt justificationem, sed sequuntur. This Text doth clearly assert this Truth, We are saved of Grace, not by works, because we are Created to them, being his Workmanship. It is not in Divinity, as the Philosophers say in Mo∣rality, Bona agendo sumus boni, By doing good works, we are made good; No, we are by grace made good, then we do good: As the Fountain must be before the stream, and the root or tree before the fruit. Thus our Saviour, Make the tree good, and then the fruit will be good. Thus Abels person is first accepted, then his performances: This Truth is of great concernment, it being inbred in men to look more to an outward good work, then the goodnesse of their persons and natures. They do not imitate God, who is good in his nature, and then doth good in his Actions; so ought we to be good, and then to do good. Therefore by this rule thus setled upon Scripture, it is an undoubted Truth, That no man till justified and regenerated, is able to do any good work: He is a leper, all is un∣clean, and every thing he toucheth he maketh unclean to himself. This should make us sit down on the dunghill with Job, abhorring our selves, when there is none of all mankind of himself can do good, no, not one. What Doctrine may make us loath our selves, and seek out for a new creation, and ingraffing into Christ, if this doth not?
Fourthly, The next rule is, That then in Scripture things are said to be,*when they are made manifest, and apparent. And this rule will open the sense of all that discourse in the Apostle James, where he disputeth it by several argu∣ments, That we are justified by works. In so much that it hath much exercised the learned, how Paul and James are to be reconciled; For Paul, he expresly proveth that justification is without works; and that Abraham was justified by faith onely: and James he saith, Abraham was not justified by faith onely, but by works: Now two things reconcile these brethren that seem to differ. First Paul, He proveth that faith onely justifieth; and James, That this faith which ju∣stifieth is not alone, separated from Good works. Paul proveth what it is that justifieth, Uiz. Faith; and James, what kinde of Faith, Uiz. a working live∣ly Page 304 faith. Paul argueth against a Pharisee that thought his works would justifie him, and James against a Carnall Gospeller that thought faith alone, in the meer pro∣fession of it, was enough to save, without a godly life. And secondly, it may be thus composed; Paul speaks of the nature of justification in it self, and James of the manifestation of it. A thing in Scripture being said to be then done, when it is discovered to be so: And thus when you read in James in severall places, That a man is justified by Good works, that is, he is manifested to be so. As the Apostles similitude evinceth, when he saith, As the body with∣out the soul is dead, so is faith without works. Now as the body doth not give life to the soul, but fetcheth all from it, and doth outwardly declare what the soul doth; so doth a Godly life manifest and declare who are justified, and who not. So that it is in vain to pretend a good heart, where there is not a good life. And this is the reason why God in the Commandements requireth the out∣ward work, because that doth demonstrate to the world the frame of the heart.
Fifthly, We are alwaies to distinguish between good works, in the truth of*them, and in the perfection of them. The Godly are created to the Truth of Good works in this life, but to the perfection of them in the life to come. As he said, I believe, Lord help my unbelief: So it is true of every other Grace; Lord, I love thee, help my want of love: Lord, I am humble, help my want of humi∣lity. No man goeth beyond Paul, who when he would do good, found evil present with him. And the Apostle declareth a perpetual opposition and con∣flict between the flesh and the spirit: So that the Godly cannot do the good things they would; so that this Truth will direct two sorts of persons, First those that are ignorant, full of self-flattery, and self-righteousnesse; they are apt to take a shadow for the substance: every thing that glisters for Gold, whatsoever is good for the matter of it, to take it for good in all the circumstances of it. And then secondly, There are the Godly ones who are ready to conclude nothing is good in them, because not perfectly good. They think this action comes short of that perfect rule; and is not answerable to the glorious Majesty of God: and there∣fore they do not own that goodnesse in them which God owneth in them, and hereby walk not in that thankfulnesse, chearfulnesse, and exemplary joy as they ought to do.
Lastly, This is the true character of a new creature, That he is as zealous and di∣ligent*of good works, as if they were to save him, as if there were no Christ, no grace to rely upon: and yet on the other side he doth as fully and really rely upon Christ, and his grace, as if there were not the least spark of any goodnesse in him. This is a Scripture and admirable temperament, To joyn those places of Scripture together, Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; and yet when you have done all, say, Ye are unprofitable servants. When ye have done all, if that were possible, how much rather must we say so, when we come far short of all! That which doth so puzzle corrupt and erronious heads, he can practically recon∣cile, viz. Gods promise to give, and mans duty to do. He so believeth in Christ, that yet he is not barren of Godly and holy works; and he so practiseth these, that his faith is not taken off from making Christ all in all. To some men we may say that of Luther, Take heed not onely of thy evil works, but of thy good also, Uiz. do not trust in them, be not proud of them; To others, that of John Husse, Ubi opera non apparent ad extra, ibi non est fides ad intra, Where Godliness is not in the fruit, there faith is not in the root; where the body doth not move or stir, there is no soul within.
Now because I did not intend to dwell long on this part of the Text, and be∣cause the comfort and profit of a good work, lyeth not in the Doctrine and know∣ledge of it, but in the practice and exercise, I shall therefore be large in the Use, and so conclude this point.
Use. First, Is it a necessary fruit of a new creature to walk in good works? then Page 305 the evil and ungodly deeds of most in the Christian world, sheweth that they are in that old damnable condition they were born in. If we consider the general conversa∣tion of most men, What deeds of darknesse, and of sin and Satan may be found in them? That which Salvian complained of the lives of Christians in his daies, may not we also take up? Praeter paucissimos quosdam, quid est aliud omnis catus Christianorum, quam sentina vitiorum? Besides a very few that fly sins, and endeavour to keep themselves unspotted from the world, What is the whole company of Christians, but a sink of all vices? You may sooner finde men reos malorum omnium, quam non omnium, You may sooner finde men guilty of all sins, then of some onely, And Facilius majorum criminum, quam minorum, And sooner men guilty of the greater crimes, then of the lesse; yea, he addeth, almost all the whole Church is brought to such a reproach and scandal of manners, ut incuncto populo Chrrstiano genus quoddam sanctitatis sit, minus esse vitiosum, That in all the Christian world it is a kinde of holiness to be lesse vitious. Doth he not speak as if he lived in our times? For except some few in every Congregation, which are like the Glean∣ings to the harvest; are not people generally ignorant, prophane, ungodly, so that it is a kind of great holinesse to be lesse wicked then others? His Oaths not so dreadful, his malice not so rancorous, his drunkennesse not so beastly: If men be lesse wicked, we are apt to judge them virtuous men, such a deluge of sin doth o∣verflow: But oh the patience of God who beholds and seeth all this ingratitude, rebellion, and hostility against his Majesty, yet forbeareth to take present ven∣geance.
Now there are many arguments why you should take heed of these evill works.
First, Thy evil deeds of sin, brings Gods evil work of punishment. Is there evil * in the City, or in the Land, saith the godly Prophet, and I have not done it? Amos 3. 6. viz. an evil of punishment: But why? Because men have first done their evil works. Thou that thinkest Gods judgements of Plague, Famine, and the devouring sword to be very grievous and evil; Why dost thou not consider thy evil waies, which have procured these things? Your iniquities with-hold good things from you. And the Prophets are alwaies diligent in the middest of Gods judgements brought upon a people, still to remember them of those iniquities, which have been like the vapours mounted up to the heavens, and afterwards congealed, fall down in terrible Thunder and lightening: Oh therefore if thou findest not God so good to thee or the publick, as thou desirest, consider it is the evil of thy waies that brings all calamities.
Secondly, Therefore let thy life be free from all evil works, because thy profession of Christianity obligeth thee to it. How can an holy profession, and an unholy life * accord together? How can darkness and light be reconciled? When God whom thou servest is holy, Christ by whose name thou art called is holy, the Or∣dinances whereby thou drawest high him are holy; when all this is holy, How is thy conversation so wicked and unholy? For a prophane man full of evil deeds, to pray, and hear, is as loathsom as for the sow wallowing in its mire, to come and rowl it self in a pleasant garden. That place is observable, 2 Tim. 2. 19. where the Apostle having spoken of some wretched Apostates from the Truth of Christ, he ad∣deth, Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure. As men who build glori∣ous palaces lay a sure foundation, so God being to build an eternal City, he layeth a deep and firm foundation. Now as their custom was to write some short and se∣lect sentences upon their foundation stones, as appeareth out of Zachary; so saith he, God hath set two Sentences upon his foundation: The one is, The Lord know∣eth those that are his, i. e. he will effectually preserve them from falling away. And the other is, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity. Ob∣serve this, This sentence is one of the choice ones that God will have inscribed: Let every one that names Christ, takes his profession on him, depart from iniquity. Take heed then of being Thistles in Christs garden: of being Tares in his wheat: This Page 306 is to mingle heaven and earth, yea heaven and hell together: either therefore lay aside the name of a Christian, or the works of an Heathen, and one who knoweth not God. Quid in meo estis, non mei? What do you who are not Gods, in Gods vine-yard? Why are you that are Goats, among Christs sheep? Oh consider what re∣proach ye are to the holy name of Christ.
Thirdly, Consider the Titles which the Scripture giveth evil works, and those titles*wil demonstrate the nature of them. They are called The works of the Divel, What can be a more horrid aggravation then to say, Thy lusts, thy ungodlinesse, they are of thy self, and they are of the Divel too? It is the Divel in thee, and by thee, who provokes thee to such waies. Thus our Saviour bid Peter, Get thee behinde me Sa∣tan, get thee behinde me Divel, Mat. 16. 23. Why? was Peter a Divel? No, but because what he did came by the Divels instigation and temptation; therefore he useth that phrase. Thus Peter saith to Ananias and Saphira, Why hath Satan filled thy heart, to lye against the holy Ghost? Act. 5. 3. and the Jewes or Pharisees are said to be of their Father the Divel, for his works they do: and Christ is said to come into the world to destroy the works of the Divel. Oh then remember thy self, by whom, and from whom is it that thou art so prophane and ungodly? Is it not from the Divel? Doth not that unclean spirit ruling in thee, provoke thee to all uncleannesse? Thou wouldst judge it an uncharitable censure to be called as Simon Magus was, Thou child of the Divel; but yet every man living in that ungodly and unholy way, is so. Neither doth this excuse them, as if they were justified, and all the blame to be laid on the Divel, no, for he works upon thy corrupt disposition within. If thou wert not first tempted by thy own lust, the divel could not be a tempter to thee: If thou wert not stubble, his fiery darts would not enflame thee. Consider then all this, you who wallow in all mire and filth of sin. If the Divels were to act visibly up∣on the earth, and had bodily members to work withall, they would do as thou dost: And further also remember that he who thus enticeth thee to all sin, will be a tormenter afterwards unto thee, and will be an accuser unto God against thee, for that which he hath excused unto thee; throw them then away, they are the Di∣vels works.
Fourthly, Again they are the works of darkness, as good works are the works of the light. A wicked man is in darknesse, and knoweth not whither he goeth. They are*works of Darkness, Ephes. 5. 11. partly because it is for want of light and know∣ledge that they are committed. If thou didst know what the Scripture commands, if thou didst know the will of God, and the happinesse promised to the contrary thou dost, thou wouldst never live as thou livest. Again they are works of darkness, because committed without fear and shame, men do not think God seeth them, that the revengeful eye of God is upon them. Oh the horror and confusion that would be on their souls if this were attended to. And lastly they are works of darknesse, because they will be rewarded with utter darknesse. Thy sin and thy pu∣nishment will be proportionable. Thou lovedst darkenesse, and therefore thou shalt be thrown into utter darknesse. Oh that wicked and ungodly men should be no more amazed at their dreadfull estate. In the next place, they are called the works of the flesh, as good works the works of the spirit, Gal. 5. Of the flesh, because they come wholly from us corrupt and carnal; there is nothing of the Spirit of God in them: they are sparks from that fire and brimstone in thy bowels: they are so many drops of poyson vented from thy venemous nature: and as they are thus works of the flesh, so they work corruption as the flesh it self is corrupti∣ble. They that sow to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption, Gal. 6. 8. Again they are vain works, as the scripture calls them, 1 Pet. 1. 18. They are empty of that they promise: thou lookest for pleasure, profit, advantage by them, but they bring the clean contrary: they have a glistering skin, but a sting in the tail of them. With what curses & indignation wilt thou bid them be gone, which now thou dost so embrace? All that momentany pleasure, What is become of it? What is that drop of hony to that Ocean of Gall thou must for ever drink in hell?
Page 307Use 2. Are new Creatures created thus unto good works? then exercise thy self to them, be frequent in them. Is it good that I do? Is it according to Scripture that I live? Is my life good, according to the rule of goodnesse? and when you would make inquisition into your selves, and pronounce a sentence accordingly, take heed of self flattery, security and ease; but arraign thy self at Gods Tribunal; compare thy life and the word together: That sayeth, such a life is good, such actions are good: Is it thus with thee, or the clean contrary? Oh consider, That God judgeth not as man judgeth. He judgeth according to the inwards; he tryeth the heart and reins, and accordingly judgeth thy actions which come thence. All the Titles you have, Christians, Believers, Saints, Do not these engage to a godly life? These shew what you should be, else you are trees without fruit, and so to be cut down for the fire. Now be moved hereunto, First, because good works have a great deal of present comfort and ease with them. If thou dost well, there is joy and sweet∣ness in the conscience: But to evil deeds there is joyned a sting of the Conscience, horror of soul, fear of damnation; and though that may please for a while, yet all thy sins lie at the door like a band dog, ready to rise up and tear in pieces; whereas there is much joy and peace to him, that liveth a godly life.
2. Godly and holy works are a necessary effect of inward grace and a testimony of thy Predestination. In whose life you see nothing but wickednesse, there for the pre∣sent, till a change be, appeareth nothing but tokens of damnation: It is not being an Orthodox man, it is not being a sound Protestant, without a •ure and heavenly life, that doth avail to happinesse. Aristotle made happinesse to consist in action, and so doth the excellency and perfection of Christianity. Oh then see what evi∣dences, what marks there are in thy life for thy eternal blessedneste. This subject may be concluded with those two verses, Rom 2. 9, 10 that are like so much thunder and lightning from Paul tribulation and anguish (such as a man knoweth not what to do in) upon the soul (not body only) and upon every soul, no man by his greatnesse may look to escape that doth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile. We may say, of the Christian first, and then the Heathen, because the Christian sinneth against clearer knowledge and revelation of a command, and so doth not onely that which is malum, but also what is vetitum: but how precious is the 10. verse, to him that doth well.