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#48380 Thu Apr 26, 2012 6:39 PM
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Annie Oakley
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Annie Oakley
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Q 88: Of how many parts does the true conversion of man consist?

: Of two parts; of the mortification of the old, and the quickening of the new man. (a)

(a) Rom.6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

Rom.6:4-6 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

Eph.4:22-4 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Col.3:5-10 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
1 Cor.5:7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
2 Cor.7:10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

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Annie Oakley
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Annie Oakley
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Q 89: What is the mortification of the old man?

It is a sincere sorrow of heart, that we have provoked God by our sins; and more and more to hate and flee from them. (a)

(a) Rom.8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

Joel 2:13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.

Hos.6:1 Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.

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Annie Oakley
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Annie Oakley
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Q 90: What is the quickening of the new man?

It is a sincere joy of heart in God, through Christ, (a) and with love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works. (b)

(a) Rom.5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

Rom.14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Isa.57:15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

(b) Rom.6:10,11 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Gal.2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

chestnutmare #48383 Thu Apr 26, 2012 6:47 PM
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Annie Oakley
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Annie Oakley
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The doctrine touching man’s conversion to God now claims our attention, concernmg which we must inquire:
Is conversion necessary?
What is it?
Of how many parts does it consist?
What are the causes of it?
What are the effects of it?
Is it perfect in this life?
In what does the conversion of the godly differ from the repentance of the wicked?

I. Is the conversion of man to God necessary?
Man’s conversion in this life is so necessary, that without it no one can obtain everlasting life in the world to come, according to what the Scriptures teach: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” “Except ye repent, ye shall all like wise perish.” “They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” “If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked” (John 3:5. Luke 13:3. 1 Cor. 6:9. 2 Cor. 5:3.) The example of the foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1-10) who were excluded from the marriage, because they had not their lamps burning and filled with oil, is here in point. We may also here cite the following declarations of Christ: “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning.” “Be ye ready also; for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” “The Lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.” (Luke 12:35, 40, 46.) We may here also quote the notable saying of Cyprian against! Demetrius: “When we have once departed this life, there is no more room for repentance, or work of satisfaction. Here life is either lost or gained: here we secure our eternal salvation by the worship of God and the fruit of faith. Nor let anyone be hindered, either by sin or external opposition, from coming to obtain salvation. No repentance is too late for any one still remaining in the world” &c. From this it appears how necessary conversion is for those who are to be saved. Hence all our exhortations to repentance must be based upon the absolute necessity of conversion to God, in all those who are to be justified.

II. What is man’s conversion to God?
The Hebrew expresses the idea of conversion by the word Teschubah; the Greek by metanoia. and metamelia. There are some who affirm that these Greek words differ from each other in this: that the former is used only in reference to the repentance of the godly, whilst the latter is used also in reference to the repentance of the ungodly. Of Judas it is said, that he repented himself (Matt. 27:3), where the word metauelhqeij is used. Of Esau it is said, he found no place of repentance (metanoiaj). (Heb. 12: I7.) Of God it is said (Rom. 11:29), the gifts of God are without repentance, where the word, ametamelhta is used; that is, they are of such a kind that he himself cannot repent of them. The Septuagint, in speaking of God, uses both words without making any distinction. It repents me (metameloma) that I have set up Saul to be King. (I Sam. 15:11.) The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent (ou metauohsei). The difference, therefore, is either very small, or none at all, unless that the former Greek word above mentioned properly signifies a change of the mind, whilst the latter expresses a change of the will or purpose. In conversion, however, there is a change both of the understanding and the will. The Latins have a number of words by which they express the same thing. They call it regeneratio, renovatio, resipiscentia, conversio, poenitentia. Resipiscentia seems properly to correspond with the Greek metanoia; for as resipiscentia is derived from resipisco, which means to become wise after having done a thing; so metanoia is from metanoew, which means to become wise after having committed something wrong; to change the mind, and to alter the purpose. Paenitenia is said to be derived either from paenitet or from paena, because the sorrow which is in repentance is as it were, a punishment. Or else as Erasmus supposes, it is from ponetenendo, as if to repent were to lay hold of a later purpose, or to under stand a thing after it is done. But whatever may be the derivation of the word paenitentia or repentance, it is more obscure than the term conversion. For repentance does not comprehend the whole extent of the subject it does not express from what, and to what we are changed, but merely signifies the sorrow which is felt after the commission of some sin. Conversion on the other hand, embraces the whole as it adds that which is the beginning of a new life by faith.

The term repentance is, moreover, of a broader signification than conversion: for conversion is spoken of only in reference to the godly, who alone are converted to God. The same thing may be said of metanoia and resipiscentia, that they refer merely to the godly; for by these three terms the new life of the godly is signified. But paenitentia is spoken of the ungodly also, as of Judas, who did indeed repent of his wicked deed, but was not converted; because the ungodly, when they sorrow, are not converted or reformed. Thus far we have spoken of the terms which have reference to this subject; we must now proceed to inquire into the thing itself.

A definition, with respect to the parts of conversion, may be obtained from the 88th Question of the Catechism, where it is defined to be the mortification of the old, and the quickening of the new man. It is more fully expressed in the following definition: Man’s conversion to God consists in a change of the corrupt mind and will into that which is good, produced by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the law and the gospel, which is followed by a sincere desire to produce the fruits of repentance, and a conformity of the life to all the commands of God. This definition is confirmed by the following passages of Scripture: “If thou wilt return, return unto me.” “Wash you, make you clean.” “But ye are washed; but ye are sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” “Depart from evil, and do good.” (Jer. 4:1. Is. 1:16. 1 Cor. 6:11. Ps. 34:14.) The whole definition is expressed in Acts 26:18, 20: “I send thee to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” “But shewed that they should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.”

III. Of how many parts does conversion consist?
Conversion consists of two parts: the mortification of the old man and the quickening of the new man. We speak more properly in this way, using the language of Paul, than if we were, as some do, to make conversion consist in contrition and faith. By contrition they understand mortification; and by faith the joy which follows the desire of righteousness and new obedience, which are indeed effects of faith, but not faith itself. Contrition also precedes conversion, but is not conversion itself, nor any part of it, being only a preparation, or that which leads to conversion; and that only in the elect. The old man which is mortified is the sinner only, or the corrupt nature of man. The new man which is quickened is he who begins to depart from sin, or it is the nature of man as regenerated. The mortification of the old man, or of the flesh, consists in the laying off and subduing of the corruption of our nature, and includes,
1. A knowledge of sin, and of the wrath of God.
2. Sorrow for sin, and on account of having offended God.
3. Hatred of sin, and an earnest desire to avoid it.

The Scriptures speak of this mortification of sin in the following places: “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” “Rend your hearts, and not your garments.” “Come and let us return unto the Lord; for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.” (Rom. 8:13. Joel 2:13. Hosea 6:1.) From this it appears that mortification, or conversion, is very improperly attributed to the wicked, in whom there is no hatred or shunning of sin, nor sorrow for sin, all of which is embraced in the mortification of the old man. A knowledge of sin precedes sorrow because the affections of the heart follow knowledge. Sorrow may follow a knowledge of sin on the part of the ungodly, from a sense of present, and from a fear of future evil, viz: of temporal and eternal punishment; yet this sorrow is not properly a part of conversion, nor a preparation to it; but rather a flight and turning away from God, and a rushing into desperation, as in the case of Cain, Saul, Judas, &c. It is called a sorrow, not unto salvation the sorrow of the world, working death a sorrow not after a godly sort, &c. In the godly, however, this sorrow arises from a sense of the displeasure of God, which they sincerely acknowledge and lament, and is connected with a hatred and abhorrence of all past sins, and with a shunning or turning away from all present and future sin. This sorrow is a part of conversion, or at least a preparation to it, and is called a sorrow unto salvation a sorrow which is after a godly sort working repentance unto salvation. The knowledge of sin sorrow for sin, and a flying from it, differ in their subject, or as it respects that part of our being in which they have their proper seat. The knowledge of sin is in the mind, sorrow for sin in the heart, and fleeing from it in the will. The turning, which is included in conversion, is in the heart and will, and is a turning from one thing to another from evil to good, according to what the Psalmist says: “Depart from evil and do good.” (Ps. 34:14.)

It is called in Scripture mortification, 1. Because, as one that is dead cannot perform the actions of a living man, so our nature, when its corruption is once removed, no more performs the actions peculiar to it in its corrupt state; that is, it does not produce actual sin when original sin is once circumscribed and kept under proper restraint. “For he that is dead is freed from sin.” (Rom. 6:7.) 2. Because, this mortification is not without wrestling and pain: “for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:17.) It is for this reason that this mortification is called a crucifixion of the flesh. “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Gal. 5:24.) 3. Because, it is a ceasing from sin. It is, moreover, not simply called mortification, but the mortification of the old man, because, by it not the substance of man, but sin in man, is destroyed. The expression, old man, is also added for the purpose of distinguishing between the repentance of the godly and ungodly; for in the godly, not the man, but the old man is destroyed, whilst in the ungodly it is not the old man, but the man.

The quickening of the new man is a true joy and delight in God, through Christ, and an earnest and sincere desire to regulate the life according to the will of God, and to perform all good works. It embraces three things which are different from what is included in mortification: 1. A knowledge of the mercy of God, and an application of it in Christ. 2. Joy and delight arising from the fact that God is reconciled to us through Christ, and that obedience is begun in us and shall be perfected. 3. An ardent desire to perform new obedience, or to sin no more, but to render gratitude to God during our whole life, and to retain his love, which desire is itself new obedience according to the following declarations of Scripture: “Being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” “The kingdom of God is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” “I dwell in the high and holy place; with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” “Likewise, reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” “Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Rom. 5:1; 14:17. Is. 57:15. Rom. 6:11. Gal. 2:20.)

This part of conversion is called quickening,
1. Because, as a living man performs the actions of one that is alive, so this quickening includes the kindling of new light in the understanding, and the producing of new qualities and activities in the will and heart, from which a new life and new works proceed.

2. Because, it includes on the part of those who are converted, joy and delight in God, which affords great comfort and consolation. It is added through Christ, because we cannot rejoice in God, unless he be reconciled unto us It is now only through Christ that God is reconciled unto us. Hence, we only rejoice in God through Christ. These two parts of conversion spring from faith. The reason is, because no one can hate sin and draw nigh to God, unless he loves God. But no one loves God who is not possessed of faith. Hence, although there is no express mention made of faith in either part of conversion, this is done, not because faith is excluded from conversion, but because the whole doctrine of conversion and thankfulness presupposes it, as a cause is presupposed from the presence of its own peculiar effect.

Obj.. But faith produces joy. Therefore, it does not produce grief and mortification.

Ans. It is not absurd to affirm that the same cause produces different effects by a different kind of operation and in different respects. So faith produces grief, not of itself, but by an accident, which is sin, by which we offend God our kind and gracious father. Of itself it produces joy, because it assures us of God's fatherly will towards us, by and for the sake of Christ. Reply. The preaching of the law precedes faith, since the preaching of repentance commences with the law. But the preaching of the law works sorrow and wrath. Therefore, there is a certain sorrow before faith. Ans. We grant that there is a certain sorrow before faith, but not such as constitutes a part of conversion; for the sorrow of the ungodly which is before and without faith, is rather a turning away from God, than a return to him, which being contrary, cannot agree neither wholly nor in part. But the contrition and sorrow which the elect experience is a certain preparation, leading to conversion, as we have already shown.

IV. What are the causes of conversion?
The Holy Spirit, or God himself, is the chief efficient cause of our conversion. Hence, it is that the saints pray that God would convert them, and that repentance is frequently called in the Scriptures the gift of God. “Turn thou me and I shall be turned, for thou art the Lord my God.” “Turn thou us unto thee, Lord, and we shall be turned.” “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins;” from which we may draw a most forcible argument in proof of the Divinity of Christ, inasmuch as it is peculiar to God alone to grant repentance and forgiveness of sins. “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” “If God, peradventure, will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil,” &c. (Jer. 81:18. Lam. 5:21. Acts 5:81; 11:18. 2 Tim. 2:25.)

The means or instrumental causes of conversion are the law the gospel, and again, the doctrine of the law after that of the gospel. For the preaching of the law goes before, preparing and leading us to a knowledge of the gospel: “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:20.) Hence, there can be no sorrow for sin without the law. After the sinner has once been led to a knowledge of sin, then the preaching of the gospel follows, encouraging contrite hearts by the assurance of the mercy of God through Christ. Without this preaching there is no faith, and without faith there is no love to God, and hence no conversion to him. After the preaching of the gospel, the preaching of the law again follows, that it may be the rule of our thankfulness and of our life. The law therefore, precedes, and follows conversion. It precedes that it may lead to a knowledge and sorrow for sin; it follows that it may serve as a rule of life to the converted. It is for this reason that the prophets first charge sin upon the ungodly, threaten punishment, and exhort to repentance; then comfort and promise pardon and forgiveness; and lastly, again exhort and prescribe the duties of piety and godliness. Such was, also, the character of the preaching of John the Baptist. It is in this way, that the preaching of repentance comprehends the law and the gospel, although in effecting conversion each has a part to perform peculiar to itself.

The next instrumental and internal cause of conversion is faith. Without faith there is no love to God, and unless we know what the will of God towards us is; viz., that he will remit unto us our sins by and for the sake of Christ, conversion will never be begun in us, neither as its respects the mortification of the old man, nor as it respects the quickening of the new: for by faith the heart is purified. (Acts 15:9.) Without faith we can have no true joy or delight in God; without faith we cannot love God; and whatsoever is not of faith, is sin. (Rom. 14:23.) All good works proceed from faith, as their fountain. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:1.) The causes which contribute to our conversion are the cross, with the chastisements inflicted upon ourselves and others; also the benefits, punishments and example of others, &c. “Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke.” “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes.” “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Jer. 31:18. Ps. 119:71. Matt. 5:16.) The subject, or matter in which conversion is grounded, is the understanding, the will, the heart, and all the affections of man in which a change is produced.

The form of conversion is the turning itself with all the circumstances that are connected with it, which includes,
1. As it respects the mind and understanding, a correct judgment of God, together with his will and works.
2. As it respects the will, a sincere and earnest desire to avoid those falls and things which offend God, with a steady purpose to obey him, according to all his commandments.
3. As it respects the heart, new and holy desires and affections in accordance with the divine law.
4. As it respects the external actions and life, rectitude and obedience begun, according to the law of God.

The object of conversion is,

1. Sin, or disobedience, which is the thing from which we are converted.

2. Righteousness, or new obedience, which is the thing to which we are converted. The chief end of conversion is the glory of God; the next end, which is subordinate to the glory of God, is our good, which consists in our blessedness and enjoyment of eternal life. The conversion of others is another end, still less principal, than those just mentioned. “And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Luke 22:32. Matt. 5:16.)

The Questions respecting Pelagianism are here properly in place; Whether a man can convert himself without the grace of the Holy Spirit: and, Whether a man can, by the exercise of his free power of choice, prepare himself for the reception of divine grace. Pelagius maintained the first, in opposition to what the Scriptures most plainly affirm. “Turn thou me, and I shall be turned.” “It is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure.” “A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit.” (Jer. 31:18. Phil. 2:13. Matt. 7:18.) The Schoolmen and Papists at this day defend the last proposition respecting Pelagianism, in opposition to the explicit declarations of the word of God just cited, and also in contradiction to what Christ himself affirms, when he says, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” (John 6:44.) Thomas Aquinas attributes a certain preparation to the free-will of man, but not conversion. He speaks however of this preparation, as though it contributed to the grace of conversion, which it does by the gracious aid of God, moving us inwardly. Vide sum. theol. partis primae, parte secunda, quaest. 109, ad 6.

V. What are the effects of conversion?

The effects of conversion are, 1. A true and ardent love to God, and our neighbor. 2. An earnest desire to obey God, without any exception, according to all his commandments. 3. All good works, or new obedience itself. 4. A desire to convert others, and bring them in the way of salvation. In a word, the fruits of true repentance are the duties of piety towards God, and of charity towards our neighbor.

VI. Is conversion perfect in this life?

Our conversion to God is not perfect in this life, but is here continually advancing, until it reaches the perfection which is proposed in the life to come. “We know in part.” (1 Cor. 13:9.) All the complaints and prayers of the saints are confirmations of this truth. “Cleanse thou me from secret faults.” “wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death.” (Ps. 19:13. Rom. 7:24.) The conflict which is continually going on in those who are converted, bears testimony to the same truth. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh,” &c. (Gal. 5:17.) The same thing may be said of the exhortations of the prophets and apostles, in which they exhort those who are converted to turn more fully unto God. “He that is righteous, let him be righteous still, and he that is holy, let him be holy still.” (Rev. 22:11.) We may also establish the same thing in the following manner: Neither the mortification of the flesh, nor the quickening of the Spirit, is absolute or perfect in the saints in this life. Therefore, neither is conversion, which consists of these two parts, perfect. As it respects the mortification of the old man, the case is clear, and does not admit of doubt that it is not perfect in this life; because the saints do not only continually strive against the lust of the flesh, but they also often for a time yield, and give over in this conflict often do they sin, fall and offend God, although they do not defend their sins, but detest, deplore, and endeavor to avoid them. As it regards the imperfection of the quickening of the new man, the same conflict is a sufficient testimony; and surely as our knowledge i now only in part, the renovation of the will and heart must also be imperfect: for the will follows the knowledge which we have.

There are two plain reasons why the will, in the case of those who are converted, tends imperfectly to the good in this life:
1. Because the renovation of our nature is never made perfect in this life, neither as it respects, our knowledge of God, nor the inclination which we have to obey him. The single complaint and acknowledgment which the apostle Paul made is a sufficient proof of what we have just said. “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh dwelleth no good thing,” &c. (Rom. 7:18, 19.)
2. Because those who are converted are not always governed by the Holy Spirit, but are sometimes for a season deserted by God, either for the purpose of trying, or chastising, or humbling them; yet they are nevertheless brought to repentance, so as not to perish. “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24.)

But why does God not perfect conversion in the case of his people in this life, seeing that he is able to effect it? The reasons are,

1. That the saints may be humbled and exercised in faith, patience, prayer and wrest ling against the flesh, and that they may not boast of their perfection, thinking of themselves more highly than they ought, but daily pray; “Enter not into judgment with thy servant.” “Forgive us our sins.” (Ps. 143:2. Matt. 6:12.)

2. That they may press forward more and more unto perfection, and desire it more earnestly. That, trampling the world under their feet, they may run with greater alacrity in the Christian course, and aspire after those joys that are laid up in heaven, knowing that it will not be until then that they shall fully enjoy their promised inheritance. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” “Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth.” “It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him.” (Col. 3:2, 3, 5. John 3:2.)

Concerning this imperfection Calvin writes in the following expressive language: “This restoration is not accomplished in a single moment, or day, or year; but by continual, and sometimes even slow advances, the Lord destroys the carnal corruptions of his chosen, purifies them from all pollution, and consecrates them as temples to himself; renewing all their senses to real purity, that they may employ their whole life in the exercise of repentance, and know that this warfare will be terminated only in death.” Inst. lib. 3. cap. 3. sec. 9. The sections following the one from which we have quoted, down to the fifteenth, may also be read to advantage, in which there is a disputation learnedly set forth against the Cathari and Anabaptists, in reference to the remains of sin which cleave to the godly as long as they remain in the flesh.

VII. In what does the conversion of the godly differ from the repentance of the ungodly?

The term repentance is used in reference to the ungodly as well as to the godly, because there are certain things in which they agree, as in a knowledge of sin, and sorrow on account of it. As it respects other things however, there is a wide difference. They differ,

1. In the moving cause of repentance, or in the sorrow which is felt. The wicked are sorrowful, not on account of having offended God, but merely because of the punishment which they have brought upon themselves, and which necessarily attaches itself to the violation of God's law. If it were not for this, they would never manifest any sorrow for sin. So Cain was sorrowful merely on account of the punishment which God inflicted upon him for his sin. “My iniquity” (that is the punishment of my iniquity) “is greater than I can bear. Behold thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth,” &c. The godly however do indeed dread the punishment of sin, but they are pained and grieved more particularly on account of sin itself, and the offence which they have committed against God. So it was in the case of David: “Against thee, thee only have I sinned: my sin is ever before me.” (Ps. 51:3, 4.) So it was also in the case of Peter, who wept bitterly on account of having offended Christ. The sorrow of Judas, however, did not arise on account of the evil of sin, but merely on account of the punishment which followed his crime. Horace expresses this distinction in the following language: (lib. 1. epist. 16.)

Oderunt peccare boni, virtutis amore,
Tu nihil admittes in te, formidine paenae.

2. The repentance of the godly differs from that of the ungodly as it respects the efficient came of it. The repentance of the ungodly proceeds from distrust and despair, so that their despair, disquietude and hatred to God increases. The repentance of the godly, however, proceeds from faith, or the confidence which they have in the mercy of God, and in a gracious reconciliation with him by and for the sake of Christ.

3. They differ in form. The repentance of the godly is a turning to God from the devil, sin and their old nature; because they do not only sorrow, but also encourage themselves by exercising confidence in the mediator they confide in Christ, rejoice in God, and trust in him saying with David, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.” (Ps. 51:7.) The repentance of the ungodly is a turning away from God to the devil, to hatred and repining against God, and to despair.

4. They differ in their effects. The repentance of the godly is followed by new obedience; and in proportion to the depth of their repentance is the old man mortified in them, and the desire of righteousness increased. But the repentance of the ungodly is not followed by new obedience; but they continue in sin and return to their vomit, although for a time they feigned to repent of their sins, as Ahab did. They are indeed mortified, and destroyed, but the corruption of their nature is not subdued: yea, by how much the more they repent, by so much the more is hatred, distrust, and aversion to God increased in them, so that they are continually being brought more and more under the power and dominion of Satan.

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Annie Oakley
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Question 91. But what are good works?

Only those which proceed from a true faith, (a) are performed according to the law of God, (b) and to his glory; (c) and not such as are founded on our imaginations, or the institutions of men. (d)

(a) Rom.14:23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

(b) Lev.18:4 Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God.
1 Sam.15:22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
Eph.2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

(c) 1 Cor.10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

(d) Deut.12:32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
Ezek.20:18,19 But I said unto their children in the wilderness, Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols: I am the LORD your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them;
Isa.29:13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
Matt.15:7-9 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

chestnutmare #48385 Thu Apr 26, 2012 6:49 PM
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Annie Oakley
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Annie Oakley
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The doctrine concerning good works belongs properly to this Question of the Catechism, concerning which we must enquire particularly:
What are good works?
How may they be performed?
Are the works of the saints pure and perfectly good?
How can our works please God since they are only imperfectly good?
Why must we perform good works?
Do your good works merit any thing in the sight of God?

I. What are good works?
Good works are such as are performed according to the law of God, such as proceed from a true faith, and are directed to the glory of God. Three things, therefore, claim our attention in the exposition of this question:

1. The conditions necessary to constitute a work good in the sight of God.

2. The difference between the works of the regenerate and the unregenerate.

3. In what respect, or how far the moral works of the ungodly are sins.

First, that a work may be good and pleasing in the sight of God these three conditions are necessary:

1. It must be commanded by God. No creature has the right, or power to institute the worship of God. But good works (we speak of moral good) and the worship of God are the same. Moral good differs widely from natural good, inasmuch as all actions, in as far as they are actions, including even those of the wicked, are naturally good; but all actions are not morally good, or in accordance with the justice of God. This condition excludes all will-worship, as well as the figment of good intentions, as when men do evil that good may come, or when they perform works founded upon their own imaginations, which they endeavor to thrust upon God in the place of worship, which, indeed, are not evil in themselves, but yet are not commanded by God. It is not sufficient for the worship of God, that a work be not evil, or not prohibited: it must also be commanded by God, according to what the Scriptures declare, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” “Walk in my statutes.” “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (1 Sam. 15:22. Ez. 20:19. Matt. 15:9.)

But some one may object and say, that works of indifference, such as may be done, or left undone, are not commanded by God, and yet many of them are pleasing to him; to which we reply that they are not pleasing to God in themselves, but by an accident, in as far as they partake of the general nature of love, and in as far as they are performed for the purpose of avoiding offence, and for the sake of contributing to the salvation of our fellow men. In this respect they are commanded by God in general, although not specially.

2. That a work may be good it must proceed from a true faith, which rests upon the merit and intercession of Christ, and from which we may know that we, together with our works, are acceptable to God for the sake of the mediator. To do any thing from a true faith is,

1. To believe that we are acceptable to God for the sake of the satisfaction of Christ.

2. That our obedience itself is pleasing to God, both because it is commanded by him, and because the imperfection which attaches itself to it is made acceptable to God for the sake of the same satisfaction of Christ on account of which God is well pleased with us. Without faith it is impossible for any one to please God. Nor is the faith, by which any one may assure him self, that God wills and commands any particular work sufficient; for if this were all that is necessary, then the wicked, who know and do what God wills, would also act from faith. To act from a true faith, however, includes much more than this, because it includes in itself historical faith, and what is the most important of all, it applies unto itself the promise of .the gospel. The Scriptures speak of this true faith in the following references: “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Rom. 14:23. Heb. 11:6.) Nor is it difficult to perceive the reason and force of what is here affirmed; because without faith there is no love to God, and consequently no love to our neighbor.

Every work now that does not proceed from love to God is hypocrisy, yea a reproach and contempt of God; for he who has the presumption to do any thing, whether it be pleasing to God or not, despises God, and casts a reproach upon him. Nor is it possible for us to have a good conscience without faith; and what is not done with a good conscience cannot please God.

3. That a work may be good, it must be referred principally to the honor and glory of God. Honor embraces love, reverence, obedience and gratitude. Hence, to do any thing to the honor of God, is to do it, that we may testify our love, reverence and obedience to God, and that for the sake of showing our thankfulness for the benefits which we have received. There is a necessity that our works, in order that they may be good and acceptable to God, should be referred to the divine glory, and not to our own praise or advantage; otherwise they will not proceed from the love of God, but from a desire to advance our own selfish interests, and will thus be mere hypocrisy. God must, therefore, be respected first whenever we do any thing: nor must we care what men may say, whether they praise or reproach us, if we have the assurance that we please God in what we do, according to what the Apostle says, “Do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31.) Yet we may at the same time lawfully and profitably desire and seek true glory, according as it is written, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16.)

Briefly, faith is required in good works, because if we are not firmly persuaded that our works are pleasing to God, they proceed from contempt of God. The divine command is necessary, because faith has respect to the word of God. Inasmuch, therefore, as there cannot be any faith apart from the word, there can likewise be no good works independent of it. Finally, it is necessary that whatever we do, be referred to the glory of God, because, if we seek our own praise, or advantage in what we do, our works cannot please God.

By these conditions we exclude from the category of good works all those works,

1. Which are sins in themselves, being contrary to the divine law, and the will of God as revealed in his word.

2. Also those which are not opposed to the divine law, which in themselves are neither good nor evil, being actions of indifference, but which may, nevertheless, become evil by an accident. For works which are not opposed to the divine law, and which are not commanded by God, but by men, become evil and sinful when they are done with the conceit and expectation of worshipping God, or with offence and injury to our neighbor. Works of this character are deficient as it respects the first two conditions which we have specified as being indispensably necessary to constitute an action good in the sight of God.

3. Those works which are good in themselves, and which are commanded by God; but which, nevertheless, become sins by accident, in that they are not performed lawfully, not being done in the manner, nor with the design which God requires; that is, they do not proceed from a true faith, and are not done with the end that God may be glorified thereby. Works of this character are deficient in the last two conditions specified as necessary in order that our action may be pleasing to God.

Secondly, the works of the regenerate and the unregenerate differ in this, that the good works of the regenerate are done according to the conditions which we have here specified; whilst those of the unregenerate, although God may have commanded them do nevertheless, not proceed from faith, and are not joined with internal obedience; but are done with out sincerity, and are, therefore, works of hypocrisy: and, as they do not spring from a right cause, which is faith, so they are nor directed to the glory of God which is the chief end to which all our actions ought to be referred. The actions of the unregenerate do not therefore, deserve to be called good works.

Thirdly, the difference which exists between the works of the righteous and the wicked, goes to prove that the moral works of the wicked are sins, but yet not such sins as those which are in their own nature op posed to the law of God: for these are sins in themselves, and according to their very nature, whilst the moral works of the wicked are sins merely by an accident; viz., on account of some defect, either because they do not proceed from a true faith, or are not done to the glory of God. This consequence, therefore, is of no force: The good works of the heathen and such as are unregenerate, are sins. Therefore they are all to be avoided and condemned: this consequence, we say, is not legitimate, because it is only the defects which attach themselves to these works, that are to be avoided and guarded against, as we have shown, in the former part of this work, when treating the subject of sin.

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Annie Oakley
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II. How may good works be performed?

The explanation of this question is necessary on account of the Pelagians, who affirm that the unregenerate may also, as well as the regenerate, perform good works; and also on account of the Papists and semi- Pelagians who imagine certain preparatory works of free-will. Good works are possible only by the grace and assistance of the Holy Spirit, and that by the regenerate alone, whose hearts have been truly regenerated by the Spirit of God, through the preaching of the gospel, and that not only in their first conversion and regeneration, but also by the perpetual and constant influence and direction of the same Spirit, who works in them a knowledge of sin, faith and a desire of new obedience, and also daily increases and confirms more and more the same gifts in them. St. Jerome endorses this doctrine when he says, “Let him be accursed, who says that it is possible to render obedience to the law, without the grace of the Holy Spirit” Without the grace and continual direction of the Holy Spirit, even the most holy persons on earth can do nothing but sin, as is evident from the examples of David, Peter, and others. Yea, without regeneration no part of any work that is good in the sight of God, can ever be begun, inasmuch as we are all by nature evil and dead in sin. (Matt. 7:11. Eph. 2:1.) “All our righteousnesses,” says the prophet Isaiah, in which declaration he comprehends both himself and the most holy amongst men, “are as filthy rags.” (Is. 64:6.) Now if nothing but sin is found before God in the saints, what will that be which is found in those who are unregenerated? What good these are able to perform, the apostle Paul describes in a most graphic manner, in the first and second chapters of his Epistle to the Romans. That the unregenerate are unable to perform such works as are acceptable to God, is also taught in the following passages of Scripture: “A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit.” “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” “Without me ye can do nothing.” “It is God, which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Matt. 7:18. Jer. 13:23. John, 15:5. Phil. 2:13.) Without the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us, we are altogether unclean and abominable in the sight of God, and all our works are as dung. But the righteousness of Christ is not imputed unto us before our conversion. It is impossible therefore, either that we or our works should be pleasing to God before our conversion. Faith is the cause of good works. Faith comes from God: Therefore good works which are the fruits of faith, are from God; neither can they be before faith and conversion, or else the effect would be before its cause. It is asked by some, in connection with this subject, are there not works that are preparatory to conversion? To which we reply, that if by preparatory works are meant such as are the occasion of repentance, or which God uses for the purpose of effecting repentance in us, which may be said to be true of the outward deportment and discipline of the life, in as far as it is in accordance with the divine law; hearing, reading and meditating upon the word of God; also the cross, and adverse circumstances; if such works as these are meant, we may admit that there are such works as are preparatory. But if by preparatory works are meant works which are performed according to the law before conversion, by which, as by men s good efforts, God is enticed and moved to grant true conversion, as well as his other gifts, to those who do these things, we deny that there are any such works; because, according to the declaration of the Apostle Paul, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Rom. 14:23.) The Papists call such works merits of congruity, as if they would say that they are indeed such as are imperfect in themselves and deserve nothing, but on ac count of which it may seem proper for the mercy of God to grant unto men conversion and eternal life. But God hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and not upon those who deserve mercy. (Rom. 9:18.) No one deserves anything of God, but punishment, and banishment from his presence. “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; for we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10.)

III. Are the works of the regenerate perfectly good?

The works of the saints are not perfectly good or pure in this life:

1. Because even those who are regenerated do many things which are evil, which are sins in themselves, on account of which they are guilty in the sight of God, and deserve to be cast into everlasting punishment. Thus, Peter denied Christ thrice; David committed adultery, slew Uriah, at tempted to conceal his wickedness, numbered the children of Israel, &c. The law now declares, “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them.” (Deut. 27:26.).

2. Because they omit doing many good things which they ought to do according to the law.

3. Because the good works which they perform are not so perfectly good and pure as the law requires; for they are always marred with defects, and polluted with sins. The perfect righteousness which the law requires is wanting, even in the best works of the saints. The reason of this is easily understood, inasmuch as faith, regeneration, and the love of God and our neighbor, from which good works proceed, continue imperfect in us in this life. As the cause is, therefore, imperfect, it is impossible that the effects which flow from this cause should be perfect. “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind.” (Rom. 7:23.) This is the reason why the works of the godly cannot stand in the judgment of God. “Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them.” (Ps. 143:2. Deut. 27:26.) Inasmuch, there fore, as all our works are imperfect, it becomes us to acknowledge and lament our sinfulness and infirmity, and press forward so much the more towards perfection.

From what has now been said, it is evident that the figment, or conceit of the Monks in reference to works of supererogation by which they understand such works as are done over and above what God and the law require from them, is full of impiety; for it makes God a debtor to man. Yea, it is a blasphemous doctrine; for Christ himself has said: “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; for we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10.)

Obj. 1. But it is said, Luke 10:35: “Whatsoever thou spendest more, when I came again I will repay thee. 1 Therefore there are at least some works of supererogation.

Ans. It is a sufficient reply to this objection to remark, that in the interpretation of parables we must be careful not to press every minute circumstance too closely: for that which is similar is not altogether the same. The Samaritan says, Whatsoever thou, spendest more, not in reference to God, but to the man that was bruised and. wounded.

Obj. 2. Paul says, 1 Cor. 7:25: “Concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord, yet I give my judgment” Therefore judgment or advice may be given concerning things not commanded or required.

Ans. But Paul s meaning is, I give my advice, that it is suitable and profitable for this life, but not that it merits eternal life.

Obj. 3. But Christ said, Matt. 19:21: “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell what thou hast,” &c. Therefore there are certain directions, which, being followed, make those who comply therewith perfect.

Ans. This is a special command, by which Christ designed to call this proud young man to humility, to the love of his neighbor, and to the office of an apostle in Judea. We may also remark, that Christ did not require from him supererogation, but perfection; which requirement he made in order that he might bring him to see his great deficiency.

IV. How can our good works please God since they are only imperfectly good?

If our works were not pleasing to God, they would be performed to no purpose. We must, therefore, know in what way it is that they please God. As they are imperfect in themselves and defiled in many respects, they cannot of themselves please God, on account of his extreme justice and rectitude. Yet they are, nevertheless, acceptable to God in Christ the Mediator, through faith, or on account of the merit and satisfaction of Christ imputed unto us by faith, and on account of his intercession with the Father in our behalf. For just as we ourselves do not please God in ourselves, but in his Son, so our works being imperfect and unholy in themselves, are acceptable to God on account of the righteousness of Christ, which covers all their imperfection or impurity, so that it does not appear before God. It is necessary that the person who performs good works should be acceptable to God; then the works of the person are also accepted; otherwise, when the person is without faith, the best works are but an abomination before God, inasmuch as they are altogether hypocritical. As now the person is acceptable to God, so are the works. But the person is acceptable to God on account of the Mediator; that is, by the imputation of the merit and righteousness of Christ, with which the person is covered as with a garment in the presence of God. Hence the works of the person are also pleasing to God, for the sake of the Mediator. God does not look upon and examine our righteousness and imperfect works as they are in themselves, according to the rigor of his law in respect to which he would rather condemn them; but he beholds and considers them in his Son. It is for this reason that God is said to have had respect to Abel and his offering, viz: in his Son, in whom Abel believed; for it was by faith that he presented his sacrifice. (Gen. 4:4. Heb. 11:4.) So Christ is also called our High Priest, by whom our works are offered unto God. He is also called the altar, on which our prayers and works being placed, they are acceptable unto God, which otherwise would be detestable in his sight. It follows, therefore, that every defect and every imperfection respecting ourselves and our works is covered, and, as it were, repaired in the judgment of God, by the perfect satisfaction of Christ. It is in view .of this that Paul says, “That I may be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” (Phil. 3:9.)

V. Why good works are to be done or why are they necessary?

We have already under the 86th question, enumerated certain moving causes of good works which properly belong here; such as the connection which holds necessarily between regeneration and justification, the glory of God, the proof of our faith and election, and a good example by which others are won to Christ. These causes may be very appropriately dwelt upon to a much greater extent, if, having reduced them to three principal heads, we say that good works are to be performed by us for the sake of God, ourselves and our neighbor.
1. Good works are to be done in respect to God, 1. That the glory of God our heavenly Father, may be manifested. The manifestation of the glory of God is the chief end why God commands and wills that good works should be performed by us, that we may honor him by our good works, and that others seeing them may glorify our Father which is in heaven, as it is said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16.)

2. That we may render unto God the obedience which he requires, or on account of the command of God. God requires the commencement of obedience in this life, and the perfection of it in the life to come. “This is my commandment, That ye love one another.” “This is the will of God even your sanctification.” “Being then made free from sin, ye be came the servants of righteousness.” “Yield your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” (John 15:12” 1 Thes. 4:3. Rom. 6:18, 13.)

3. That we may thus render unto God the gratitude which we owe unto him. It is just and proper that we should love, worship and reverence him by whom we have been redeemed, and from whom we have received the greatest benefits, and that we should declare our love and gratitude by our obedience and good works. God deserves our obedience and worship on account of the benefits which he confers upon us. We do not merit his benefits by anything that we do. Hence our gratitude, which shows itself by our obedience and good works, is due unto God for his great benefits. “I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” “Ye are an holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (Rom. 12:1. Pet. 2:5,9, 20.)

II. Good works are to be done on our own account,

1. That we may thereby testify our faith, and be assured of its existence in us by the fruits which we produce in our lives. “Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit.” “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, unto the praise and glory of God.” “Faith without works is dead.” (Matt. 7:17. Phil. 1:11. James 2:17.) It is by our good works, therefore, that we know that we possess true faith, because the effect is not without its own proper cause, which is always known by its effect; so that if we are destitute of good works and new obedience, we are hypocrites, and have an evil conscience instead of true faith; for true faith (which is never wanting in all the fruits which are peculiar to it,) as a fruitful tree produces good works, obedience and repentance; which fruits distinguish true faith from that faith which is merely historical and temporary, as well as from hypocrisy itself.

2. That we may be assured of the fact that we have obtained the forgiveness of sins through Christ, and that we are justified for his sake. Justification and regeneration are benefits which are connected and knit together in such a way as never to be separated from each other. Christ obtained both for us at the same time, viz: the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit, who through faith excites in us the desire of good works and new obedience.

3. That we may be assured of our election and salvation. “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” (2 Pet. 1:10.) This cause naturally grows out of the preceding one; for God out of his mercy chose from everlasting only those who are justified on account of the merit of his Son. “Whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified.” (Rom. 8:30.) We are, therefore, assured of our election by our justification; and that we are justified in Christ, (which benefit is never granted unto the elect without sanctification,) we know from faith; of which we are, again, assured by the fruits of faith, which are good works, new obedience and true repentance.

4. That our faith may be exercised, nourished, strengthened and in creased by good works. Those who indulge in unclean lusts and desires against their consciences cannot have faith, and so are destitute of a good conscience and of confidence in God as reconciled and gracious; for it is only by faith that we obtain a sense of the divine favor towards us and a good conscience. “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.” “I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee.” (Rom. 8:13. 2 Tim. 1:6.)

5. That we may adorn and commend our profession, life and calling by our good works. “I beseech you, that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” (Eph. 4:1.)

6. That we may escape temporal and eternal punishment. “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.” “If ye live after the flesh ye shall die.” “Thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity.” (Matt. 7:19. Rom. 8:13. Ps. 39:11.)

7. That we may obtain from God those temporal and spiritual rewards, which, according to the divine promise, accompany good works both in this and in a future life. “Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” (1 Tim. 4:8.) And if God did not desire that the hope of reward, and the fear of punishment should be moving causes of good works, he would not use them as arguments in the promises and threatenings which he addresses unto us in his word.

III. Good works are to be done for the sake of our neighbor,

1. That we may be profitable unto our neighbor, and edify him by our example and godly conversation. “All things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might, through the thanksgiving of many, redound to the glory of God,” &c. “Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” (2 Cor. 4:15. Phil. 1:24.)

2. That we may not be the occasion of offences and scandal to the cause of Christ. “Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.” “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.” (Matt. 18:7. Rom. 2:24.)

3. That we may win the unbelieving to Christ. “And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32.)
The question, whether good works are necessary to salvation, belongs properly to this place. There have been some who have maintained simply and positively, that good works are necessary to salvation, whilst others, again, have held that they are pernicious and injurious to salvation. Both forms of speech are ambiguous and inappropriate, especially the latter; because it seems not only to condemn confidence, but also the desire of performing good works. It is, therefore, to be rejected. The former ex pression must be explained in this way; that good works are necessary to salvation, not as a cause to an effect, or as if they merited a reward, but as a part of salvation itself, or as an antecedent to a consequent, or as a means without which we cannot obtain the end. In the same way we may also say, that good works are necessary to righteousness or justification, or in them that are to be justified, viz: as a consequence of justification, with which regeneration is inseparably connected. But yet we would prefer not to use these forms of speech, 1. Because they are ambiguous. 2. Because they breed contentions, and give our enemies room for caviling. 3. Because these expressions are not used in the Scriptures with which our forms of speech should conform as nearly as possible. We may more safely and correctly say, That good works are necessary in them that are justified, and that are to be saved. To say that good works are necessary in them that are to be justified, is to speak ambiguously, because it may be so understood as if they were required before justification, and so become a cause of our justification. Augustin has correctly said: “Good works do not precede them that are to be justified , but follow them that are justified” We may, therefore, easily return an answer to the following objection:

That is necessary to salvation without which no one can be saved. But no one who is destitute of good works can be saved, as it is said in the 87th question. Therefore, good works are necessary to salvation. We reply to the major proposition, by making the following distinction: That without which no one can be saved is necessary to salvation, viz: as a part of salvation, or as a certain antecedent necessary to salvation, in which sense we admit the conclusion; but not as a cause, or as a merit of salvation. We, therefore, grant the conclusion of the major proposition if understood in the sense in which we have just explained it. For good works are necessary to salvation, or, to speak more properly, in them that are to be saved (for it is better thus to speak for the sake of avoiding ambiguity,) as a part of salvation itself; or, as an antecedent of salvation, but not as a cause or merit of salvation.

VI. Do our good works merit anything in the sight of God?

This question naturally grows out of the preceding one, as the fourth grew out of the third. For when we say that we obtain rewards from God by our own good works, men immediately conclude that our good works must merit something at the hands of God. We must know, therefore, that our good works are necessary, and that they are also to be done for the rewards which are consequent thereon; but that they are, nevertheless, not meritorious, by which we mean that they deserve nothing from God, not even the smallest particle of spiritual or temporal blessings. The reasons of this are most true and evident.

1. Our works are imperfect, both in respect to their parts and degrees. As it respects the parts of our works, they are imperfect, for the reason that we omit many good things which the law prescribes, and do many evil things which the law prohibits; and always mingle much that is evil with the good we do, as both Scripture and experience testify. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary, the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Gal. 5:17.) Works, now, that are imperfect not only merit nothing, but are even condemned in the judgment of God. “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. (Deut. 27:26.) Our works are also imperfect in degree, because the best works of the saints are unclean and defiled in the sight of God, not being performed by those who are perfectly regenerated, nor with that love to God and our neighbor which the law requires. The prophet Isaiah declares even in reference to good works, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” (Is. 64:6.) So the apostle Paul passes the same judgment in regard to his own works, saying, “I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things; and do count them but dung that I may win Christ.” (Phil. 3:8.) It is in this way, now, that all the saints speak and judge concerning their own righteousness and merits.

2. No creature, performing even the best works, can merit any thing at the hand of God, or bind him to give any thing as though it were due from him, and according to the order of divine justice. The Apostle assigns the reason of this when he says, “Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again.” “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own.” (Rom. 11:35. Matt. 20:15. We deserve our preservation no more than we did our creation. God was not bound to create us; nor is he bound to preserve those whom he has created. But he did, and does, both of his own free-will and good pleasure. God receives no benefit from us, nor can we confer any thing upon our Creator. Now, where there is no benefit, there is no merit; for merit presupposes some benefit received.
3. Our works are all due unto God; for all creatures are bound to render worship and gratitude to the Creator, so that if we were even never to sin, yet we could not render unto God the worship and gratitude which is due from us. “When ye have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10.)
4. If we do any works which are good, these works are not ours, but God s, who produces them in us by his Holy Spirit. “It is God which work- eth in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure.” “What hast thou, that thou didst not receive?” (Phil. 2:13. 1 Cor. 4:7.) We are by nature the children of wrath dead in trespasses and sins evil trees, which cannot produce good fruit. (Eph. 2:1, 3. Matt. 7:18.) If we are by nature evil trees, God must by his grace make us good trees, and produce good fruit in us, as it is said; “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10.) Hence, if we perform any thing that is good, it is the gift of God, and not any merit on our part. It would, in deed, be foolish on the part of any one, if, when he were to receive a hundred florins as a present from a rich man, he should think he deserved a thousand for receiving the hundred, seeing that he is under obligations to the rich man for the gift which he has received, and not the rich man to him.

5. There is no proportion between our works, which are altogether im perfect, and those exceedingly great benefits which the Father freely grants unto us in his Son.
6. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:31.) But if we deserve the remission of our sins by our good works, we should then have something whereof to glory; nor should we attribute the glory of our salvation to God, as it is said, “If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God.” (Rom. 4:2.)

7. We are justified before we perform good works. “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her, the elder shall serve the younger: As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” (Rom. 9:11-14.) We are, therefore, not justified before God at the time when we do good works, but we perform good works when we are justified.

8. The conceit of merit and justification by our good works is calculated to shake true Christian consolation, to disturb the conscience and lead men to doubt and despair in reference to their salvation. For when they hear the denunciation of the law, cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them, and consider their own imperfection, their conscience tells them that they can never perform all these things, so that they are continually led to cherish doubts, and to live in dread of the curse of the law. Faith, however, imparts sure and solid comfort to the conscience, because it grounds itself in the promise of God, which cannot disappoint the soul. “The inheritance is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed.” (Rom. 4:16.)

9. If we were to obtain righteousness by our own works, the promise would then be made of none effect, and Christ would have died in vain.

10. If the conceit concerning the merit of good works be admitted, then there would not be one and the same method of salvation. Abraham and the Thief on the cross would have been justified differently, which might also be said of us. But there is only one way of salvation: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” “There is one Mediator between God and men.” “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.” “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (John 14:6. 1 Tim. 2:5. Eph. 4:5. Heb. 13:8. Acts 4:12.)

11. Christ would not accomplish the whole of our salvation, and thus would not be a perfect Saviour if any thing were to be added by us to our righteousness by way of merit; for there would be as much detracted from his merit as would be added thereto from our merit. But Christ is our perfect Saviour, as the Scriptures sufficiently testify. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” “By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.” “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” “Neither is there salvation in any other.” (Eph. 1:7; 2:8, 9. 1 John 1:7. Acts 4:12.)

Obj. Reward presupposes merit. God also calls those good things “which he promises, and grants unto them that perform good works, rewards. Therefore good works presuppose merit, and are meritorious in the sight of God.

Ans. The major proposition, sometimes, holds true among men, but never with God; because no creature can merit any thing at the hands of God, seeing that he is indebted to no one. Yet they are, nevertheless, called the rewards of our good works in respect to God, because he, out of his mere grace, recompenses them. This recompense, however, is not due; for we can add nothing to God, neither does he stand in need of our works. Yea, something is rather added unto us by our good works; be cause they are a conformity of ourselves with God, and his benefits, by which we are bound to render gratitude to God, and not God to us. It is, therefore, not less absurd to say that we merit salvation at the hands of God, than if a certain one should say, Thou hast given me one hundred florins. Therefore thou oughtest to give me a thousand florins. Yet God commands us to perform good works, and promises a gracious reward to those who do them, as a father promises rewards to his children.

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