« PreviousContinue »
ty of spirit in lawful actions, which we observe in unfawful ones. The ways of honesty are plain, and require not so much pains in pursuing them ; but your thieves and cheats follow courses that are full of difficulties ; the turps and tricks which they require are innumerable: hence you find among such people the exercise of extraordinary subtilty : you find no such cunning and application any where else.
How emphatical then is it, to borrow from these, the colours of heavenly wisdom! What I aim at is this, Let us try to do good with as much application of mind, as wicked men employ in doing evil. When 6 wickedness proceeds from the wicked,” it is done 66 with both hands and greedily." Why then may not we proceed in our useful engagements 6+ with both hands," and “greedily” watching for opportunities? We have no occasion for any sinister arts in effecting our designs ; God forbid that we should ever attempt the union of such inconsistencies. But why cannot we prosecute our designs with as much deep and copious thought, as the men of evil arts ? And why may we not engage our minds with as transporting a vigour to do what is acceptable to God and profitable to men, as those wretcbes manifest, when they sweary themselves to commit iniquity ?" To reprove certain ecclesiastical drones, who had little inclination to do good, Father Latimer used a coarse expressioa to this effect : 66 If you will not learn of good men, for shame, learn of the devil; he is never idle.” Indeed, the indefatigable prosecution of their designs, who are styled "the children of the devil,” may put us to the blush. Our obligations to do good are infinite ; they do evil against all obligations. The compensation which will be made to them who do good is encouraging bcyond calculation : they who do evil will get nothing to boast of; but 6 evil pursueth the sinners.” If the deyil “ go about," and the people inspired by him “go about,” seeking what harm they may do ; why may not we go about, and think, and seek where and how we may do good? Verily, it were worthy of 2 good angel so to do! O thou child of God, and love er of all righteousness, how canst thou find in thy heart, at any time, to cease from doing all the good that can be done, in “ the right ways of the Lord ?" Methinks, that word of the Lord may be a burden to us, and if we have a sense of honour in us, will be so. “The children of this world are in, (and for) their generation, wiser than the children of light;yea, they pursue
the works of darkness" more vigorously than any of us “walk in that light” with which our great Saviour hath favoured us.
THE TRUE NATURE OF GOOD WORKS. To the title of Good Works belong those Essays to do Good, which we are now urging To produce them, the first thing, and indeed the one thing needful, is-A glorious work of grace on the soul, renewing and quickening it, furifying the sinner, and rendering him " zealous of good works ;"" "a workmanship of God” upon us, “creating us anew, by Jesus Christ, for good works :” and then, there is needful, what will necessarily follow such a work,-a disposition to perform good works, on true, genuine, generous, and evangelical principles. These principles must be stated before we proceed.
In the first place, it must be taken for granted, that the end for which we perform good works is not to provide the matter of our justification before God: indeed, no good works con be done till we are justified ; before a man is united to Christ, who is our life, he is a dead man, and what good works can be expected from him ? “ Severed from me,” saith our Lord, " ye can do nothing." The justification of a sinner by faith, before good works, and in order to them, is one of those doctrines which may say to the Popish innovations, “ With us are the grey-headed, and very aged men much elder than thy father.” It was an old maxim of the faithful, “ Good works follow justification ; they do not precede it."* It is
* Bona opera sequuntur justificatum, non præcedunt justificandum.
the righteousness of the good works done by our Saviour and surety, not our own, that justifies us before God, and answers the demands of his holy law upon
By faith we lay hold on those good works for our justifying righteousness, before we are able to perform our own. It is not our faith itself, either
as producing good works, or being itself one of them, Ni' which entitles us to the justifying righteousness of
our Saviour : but it is faith, only as renouncing our owo righteousness, and relying on that of Christ, provided for the chief of sinners, by which we are justified. All our attempts at good works will come to nothing, till a justifying faith in the Saviour shall carry us forth unto them. This was the divinity of the ancients. Jerom has well expressed it : “Without Christ all virtue is but vice.99*
Nevertheless, first, you are to look upon it as a glorious truth of the gospel, that the moral law (which prescribes good works) must, by every Christian
alive, be the rule of his life. 66 Do we make void the law through faith? God forbid : yea, we establish the law." The rule by which we are to glorify God is given us in that law of good works which we enjoy (I will so express it) in the ten commandments. oft is impossible for us to be released from all obligations to glorify God, by a conformity to this rule : sooner shall we cease to be creatures. The conformity to that rule, in the righteousness, which our Saviour by his obedience to it has brought in to justify us, has for ever “magnified the law and made it honourable.” Though our Savour has furnisbed us with a perfect and spotless righteousness, when his obedience to the law is placed to our account ; yet it is sinful in us to falt short in our personat obedience to the law. We must always judge and loathe ourselves for the sin. We are not under the law as a covenant of works : our own exactness in performing good works is not dow the condition of entering into life ; (wo be to us if it were) but still, the covenant of grace holds us to
it as our duty: and if we are in the covenant of grace, 3
* Sine Christo omnis virtus est in vitio.
we shall make it our study to perform those good works which were once the condition of entering into life. “Every law of religion still remains.*" That was the divinity of Tertullian's days ! Such must be the esteem for the law of good works forever retained in justified persons; a law never to be abrogated or abolished.
And then, secondly, though we are justified by + precious faith in the righteousness of God our Saviour," yet good works are required of us to justify our faith ; to demonstrate that it is indeed “ precious faith.” A justifying faith is a jewel which may be counterfeited: but the marks of a faith, which is not a counterfeit, are to be found in those good works to which a servant of God is, by his faith, inclined and assisted. It is by the regenerating power of thé Holy Spirit, that faith is wrought in the hearts of the chosen people : now the same grace which in regeneration disposes a person to fly by faith to the righteousness of Christ, will dispose him also to the good works of a Christian life : and the same faith which applies to the Saviour for an interest in his righteousness, will also apply to him for strength to perform the good works which are cordained that we should walk in them.” If our faith be not of this kind, it is a lifeless faith, and such as will not bring to life. A workless faith is a worthless faith.
Reader, suppose thyself standing before the judgment seat of Christ ! a necessary, a prudent supposition ; it ought to be a very frequent one. The Judge demands, 66 What hast thou to plead for a portion in the blessedness of the righteous ?” The plea must be, “O my glorious Judge, thou hast been my sacrifice. O thou Judge of all the earth, permit dust and ashes to say, my righteousness is on the bench. Surely, in the Lord have I righteousness. O my Saviour, I have received it, I have secured it on thy own gracious offer of it.” The Judge proceeds : 6 But what hast thou to plead that thy faith should not be rejected as the faith of the hypocrite ?"
* Manet lex tota pietatis.
Here the plea must be, “O Lord, my faith was thy work. It was a faith which disposed me to all the good works of thy holy religion. It sanctified me. It brought me to thee, my Saviour, for grace to perform the works of righteousness : itcmbraced thee for my Lord as well as Saviour: it caused me, with sincerity, to love and keep thy commandments, and with assiduity to serve the interests of thy kingdom in the world."
Thus you have Paul and James reconciled. Thus you have good works prorided for. The aphorism of the physicians, is, “ By a man's ontward acts of vigour, you judge of his internal health.9% The actions of men are more certain indications of what is within, than all their sayings.
But there is yet another consideration upon which you must be zealously affected to good works. You must consider them as a part of the great salvation which is purchased for you by Jesus Christ. Without a holy heart you cannot be fit for a holy heaven, * meet for the inheritance of the saints in that lig:it," which admits no works of darkness, where none but good works are done for eternal ages : But a holy heart will induce a man to do good with all his heart. The motto on the gates of the holy city is, “ None but the lovers of good works to enter here ;' it is implied in what we read, “ without holiness no man shall see the Lord :" yea to be saved without good works, were to be saved without salvation. Much of our salvation consists in doing good works. Heaven is begun upon earth when we are so engaged; and doubtless, no man will get to heaven who is not so persuaded.
I shall mention but one more of those principles from wbich good works proceed: it is that noble one of GRATITUDE. The believer cannot but inquire, “What shall I render to my Saviour ?"—the result of the inquiry will be, " with good works to glorify him." We read, that "faith worketh by love."
Our faith will discover the matchless and marvellous love
* Per brachium fit judicium de corde.