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BOOK II.
OF THE SERVICE OF GOD.

CHAPTER I.
OF GOOD WORKS.

THE subject of the first Book was Faith, or the Knowledge of God. The second treats of the Service or Love of God.[1]

The true service of God consists chiefly in the exercise of good works. Matt. xvi. 27. "then he shall reward every man according to his works." Rom. ii. 13. "not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified." Philipp. i. 11. "being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ." iv. 8. "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good <238> report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things: those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you." 2 Tim. iii. 17. "that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." Tit. ii. 11, 12. "the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world." iii. 8. "this is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God may be careful to maintain good works." James i. 22. "be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." 2 Pet. i. 5, &c. "besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge"..... &c. "for if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Good works are those which we perform by the Spirit of God working in us through true faith, to the glory of God, the assured hope of our own salvation, and the edification of our neighbour.

By the Spirit of God working in us. John iii. 21. "that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God." 1 Cor. xv. 10. "by the grace of God I am what I am; and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain, but I laboured more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." 2 Cor. iii. 5. "not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God." Gal. v. 22. <239> "the fruit of the Spirit is love... gentleness, goodness, faith." Eph. ii. 10. "we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath be foreordained that we should walk in them." v. 9. "the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth." Philipp. ii. 13. "it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."

Through faith. John xv. 5. "he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing." Heb. xi. 6. "without faith it is impossible to please him." James ii. 22. "seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?" that is, how faith (to use a logical expression) constitutes the form of the works, and endows them with the quality of goodness; and how it is itself consummated by the works, as by its end and natural product.

As to the position of divines, that the essential form of good works is their accordance with the decalogue, so far as they are there prescribed, it is not easy to discover how this can be the case under the gospel. Paul certainly teaches a different doctrine, throughout the whole of Romans and elsewhere; declaring explicitly, Rom. xiv. 23. "that whatsoever is not of faith is sin." He does not say whatsoever is not of the decalogue, is sin, but whatsoever is not of faith; it is therefore an accordance with faith, not with the decalogue, that ought to be considered as the essential form of good works. Hence, if I observe the sabbath in compliance with the decalogue, but contrary to dictates of my own faith, conformity with the delogue, however exact, becomes in my case sin, and a <240> violation of the law. For it is faith that justifies, not agreement with the decalogue; and that which justifies can alone render any work good; none therefore of our works can be good, but by faith; hence faith is the essential form of good works, the definition of form being, that by which a thing is what it is. With regard to the passages in which mention is made of keeping God's commandments, 1 John ii. 4. iii. 24. and elsewhere, it seems reasonable to understand this of the precepts of the gospel, in which faith is uniformly put before the works of the law. If then in the gospel faith be above the works of the law, it must be equally above its precepts; for works are the end and fulfilling of precepts. Since therefore under the gospel, although a man should observe the whole Mosaic law with the utmost punctuality, it would profit him nothing without faith,[2] it is evident that good works must be defined to be of faith, not of the decalogue; whence it follows that conformity, not with the written, but with the unwritten law, that is, with the law of the Spirit given by the Father to lead us into all truth, is to be accounted the true essential form of good works. For the works of believers are the works of the Spirit itself; and though such can never be in contradiction to the love of God and our neighbour, which is the sum of the law, they may occasionally deviate from the letter even of the gospel precepts, particularly of those which are merely special, through a predominating regard to the law of <241> love; as was shown by Christ himself in the abolition of sabbatical observances, as well as on several other occasions[3]. See Book I. chap, xxvii, on the gospel.

To the glory of God. Matt. v. 16. "let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." 1 Cor. x. 31. "do all to the glory of God." Philipp. i. 11. "being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God."

The assured hope of our own salvation. Gen. xv. 1. "thy exceeding great reward." Prov. x. 9. "he that walketh uprightly, walketh surely." v. 25. "the righteous is an everlasting foundation." v. 29. "the way of Jehovah is straight to the upright." xi. 18, 19. "to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward." xii. 3. "the root of the righteous shall not be moved." xiii. 21. "to the righteous good shall be repaid." xv. 24. "the way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath." xvi. 17. "he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul." xx. 7. "the just man walketh in his integrity; his children are blessed after him." Psal. xv. 1, 2. "Jehovah, who shall abide in thy tabernacle?" &c. Isai. xxxiii. 14, &c. "who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?..... he that walketh righteously." 2 Cor. vii. 1. "having therefore these promises, let us cleanse our selves —." Gal. vi. 8. "he that soweth to his flesh, shall of his flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." Philipp. iii. 14. "I press toward the mark for the prize <242> of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Heb. xi. 6. "he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." v. 26. "he had respect unto the recompense of the reward." xii. 2. "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross."

The edification of our neighbour. Hence we are admonished so to act, that we may become examples to others. 2 Sam. xxi. 11, 12. "it was told David what Rizpah had done," &c. 2 Cor. viii. 24. "wherefore show ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf." Rom. xii. 17. "provide things honest in the sight of all men." 1 Tim. iv. 12. "be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." Tit. ii. 4. "that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children." v. 7. "in all things showing thyself a pattern of good works." 1 Pet. ii. 12. "that whereas they speak against you as evil doers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation." For a virtuous example excites, in the virtuous, an emulation of that virtue; Rom. xi. 14. "if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them:" a vicious example, on the contrary, is productive of vicious emulation; Prov. xxiii. 17. "let not thine heart envy sinners;" xxiv. 7. "be not thou envious against wicked men;" as well as of offences, by which the strong are scandalized, and the weaker brethren, if not absolutely led into sin, rendered more remiss in the performance of good works." 1 Cor. x. 32, 33. "give none offence, neither <243> to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God; even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved." Matt. xviii. 6, 7. "whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him," &c. See also Mark ix. 42. Rom. xiv. 21. "it is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or offendeth, or is made weak." In this sense a man is said to be a stumbling-block to himself, when he indulges himself in any vice to which his nature inclines him. Matt. v. 29, 30. "if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out," &c. See also xviii. 7, 8.

Where however the offence does not proceed from any fault of ours, but from the frowardness or malignity of the other party, the guilt rests not with him who gives, but with him who takes the offence." Matt. xv. 12, 13. "knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended after they heard this saying? but he answered and said, Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up: let them alone, they be blind leaders of the blind." Thus Christ did not break off his intercourse with the publicans through fear of scandalizing the Pharisees, but contented himself with giving reasons for his conduct: Matt. ix. 10, &c. "they that be whole need not a physician —." Luke xix. 7. &c. "the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." xx. 18. "whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." See Book I. chap, xxvii. on Christian liberty.

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As to what the Papists call works of supererogation, whereby more is done than the law prescribes, insomuch that some of the saints, through the super abundance of their works, have been enabled to purchase eternal life not only for themselves, but for others, such works are clearly impossible. For since we are commanded, under the gospel as well as under the law, to love and serve God with all our strength and with all our mind, and our neighbour as our selves, and since, consequently, there can be no excess in piety and charity, it follows that no act which we are capable of performing can be of such excellence as to fulfil, still less to transcend the requisitions of duty. Lukexvii. 10. "when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants, we have done that which was our duty to do." Those counsels of the gospel, therefore, which the Papists affirm to be of a higher nature than its precepts, insomuch that if a man follow them, not being compelled so to do, he performs a work of supererogation, are not in reality counsels, as distinguished from precepts, nor of a higher nature than the latter; but are to be considered as particular precepts, given, not to all mankind, but to certain individuals, for special reasons and under special circumstances. Thus we are told, Matt. xix. 11. that it is good for those who have the gift of continence, and can receive the saying, not to marry, whenever by remaining single, they can more effectually promote the glory of God, and the good of the church. Again, v. 21. whether the words of Christ are to be considered as precept or as simple counsel, it is certain that, had the young man to whom they were addressed fulfilled them in <245> their utmost extent, he would have done nothing beyond what duty required, any more than Abraham when he led forth his son to sacrifice: for the commands of God, whether addressed to mankind in general, or to a particular class, or to an individual, are equally obligatory on the kind, or class, or individual to whom they are addressed. In the example just cited, obedience to the general precept of loving God above all things was singled out as an instance of duty to be required from the self-sufficient young man, for the purpose of exposing his folly and unfounded confidence, and of showing him how far he was from the perfection to which he pretended. For it was not the selling all he had, which has been done without charity, but the leaving his possessions and following Christ, which was to be the test of his perfection. With regard to the other instance of celibacy, 1 Cor. vii. this is neither made expressly a matter of precept nor of counsel, but is left free to the discretion of individuals, according to seasons and circumstances. To the above may be added, that, if there be any such works as are here described, those precepts must needs be imperfect, which require to be amended by supplementary admonitions. If, moreover, these latter are, as is alleged, of a higher order of excellence than the precepts themselves, who shall be sufficient to fulfil them? seeing that no one is able to perform entirely even the requisitions of the law. Not to mention, that the name of counsels is sometimes applied to precepts of universal application, and of the most imperative necessity; as Rev. iii. 18. "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire." Lastly, that prayer for forgiveness, which by Christ's <246> command we all daily offer, is utterly irreconcileable with the vain boasting of works implied in this doctrine.

It is true, that in matters of choice and Christian liberty, one work may be more perfect than another: 1 Cor. vii. 38. "he doeth well..... he doeth better."2 Cor. xi. 23. "are they ministers of Christ? I am more;" but it is not less the duty of every one to do whatever may most effectually promote the glory of God and the edification of his neighbour. Paul, had he so chosen, needed not have preached the gospel without charge, 1 Cor. ix. 7, &c. but believing, as he did, that a gratuitous service would be less open to suspicion, and tend more to the edification of the church, he did nothing more than his duty in preaching gratuitously. No work of supererogation was performed by Zaccheus, when he voluntarily gave half his goods to the poor, Luke xix. 8. nor by the poor widow, when she cast into the treasury all that she had, Mark xii. 42. nor by the disciples, when they sold their lands, and divided the produce among the brethren, Acts iv. 34; those who did such actions only proved that they loved their neighbours, and especially the believing part of them, as themselves. They were not however under any absolute obligation to give such extraordinary proofs of their love, Acts v. 4. for although perfection is proposed to all men as the end of their endeavours, it is not required of all.

Hence may be easily discerned the vanity of human merits; seeing that, in the first place, our good actions are not our own, but of God working in us; secondly, that, were they our own, they would still <247> be equally due; and, thirdly, that, in any point of view, there can be no proportion between our duty and the proposed reward. Rom. vi. 23. "the gift of God is eternal life." viii. 18. "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Hence although Hezekiah asserts his uprightness in the sight of God, Isai. xxxviii. 3. "remember now, O Jehovah, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, and have done that which was good in thy sight," he is so far from considering this as constituting any claim to reward, that he acknowledges himself indebted to the free mercy of God for the pardon of his sins: v. 17. "thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption, for thou hast cast all my sins behind my back." So likewise Nehemiah, xiii. 22. "remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy." The declarations of God himself, Exod. xx. 6, is to the same purpose. Lastly, that of which God stands in no need, can deserve nothing of him.[4] Job xxii. 2, &c. "can a man be profitable with God?" xxxv. 7. "if thou be righteous, what givest thou him?" Luke xvii. 10. "we are unprofitable servants." Rom. xi. 35. "who hath first given him —?" See Book I. ch. xxii. on Justification.

Opposed to good works are evil works; the vanity and bitterness of which are forcibly described by Isaiah. lix. 4, &c. "they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity; they hatch cocatrice' eggs —." Prov. <248> xi. 3. "the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them." v. 5. "the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness." xiii. 15. "the way of transgressors is hard." xxii. 5. "thorns and snares are in the way of the froward."

A good man is known by his works. Matt. xii. 35. "a good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things." 1 John iii. 7. "he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous." He is described Job xxix. 11-25. "when the ear heard me, then it blessed me," &c. and elsewhere.

Sometimes, however, certain temporary virtues, or semblances of virtues, are discernible even in the wicked; as in Saul, 1 Sam. xix, and in the Jews, Jer. xxxiv. An outward show of liberality, gratitude, and equity, with a regard for the interest of his subjects, are visible in the king of Sodom, Gen. xiv. 21. See also the instance of Eglon, Judges iii, and of Belshazzar, Dan. v. 29.

The wicked man is described Psal. x. 3, &c. "the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire," &c. xiv. 1, &c. "the fool hath said in his heart —." Prov. i. 11, &c. "if they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood —." iv. 14, &c. "enter not into the path of the wicked —." xxviii. 5, &c. "evil men understand not judgment."

[1]

'What evangelic religion is, is told in two words, Faith and Charity, or Belief and Practice.' Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes. Prose Works, III. 332.

[2]

..... His obedience

Imputed becomes theirs by faith, his merits

To save them, not their own, though legal works.

Paradise Lost, XII. 408.

[3]

See page 51, note.

[4]

..... God doth not need

Either man's work or his own gifts. Sonnet XIX. 9.

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Professor Rob Iliffe
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