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CHAPTER II.
OF THE PROXIMATE CAUSES OF GOOD WORKS.

THE primary, efficient cause of good works, as has been stated above, is God.

The proximate causes of good works are naturally, in ordinary cases at least, good habits, or, as they are called,virtues; in which is comprised the whole of our duty towards God and man. Philipp. iv. 8. "if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise." 2 Pet. i. 5. "add to your faith virtue." These are partly general, or such as pertain to the whole duty of man; and partly special, or such as apply to the particular branches of that duty.

The general virtues belong partly to the understanding, and partly to the will.

Those which belong to the understanding are wisdom and prudence.

Wisdom is that whereby we earnestly search after the will of God, learn it with all diligence, and govern all our actions according to its rule.

The will of God. Deut. iv. 6. "keep therefore and do them, for this is your wisdom —." Psal. cxix. 66. "teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I have <250> believed thy commandments." v. 98-100. "thou through thy commandments, hast made me wiser than mine enemies... than my teachers... than the ancients." Prov. xxviii. 5. "they that seek Jehovah understand all things." xxx. 5, 6. "every work of God is pure... add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." Rom. xii. 2. "be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." xvi. 19. "I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil." Ephes. v. 15. "see that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise." James iii. 13. "who is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom." v. 17. "the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." 1 John ii. 3. "hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments." Hence the fear of the Lord is called wisdom, Job xxviii. 28. Psal. xxv. 14. "the secret of Jehovah is with them that fear him." cxi. 10. "the fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom." See also Prov. i. 7. Eccles. xii. 15. "let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter," &c. So also Christ, 1 Cor. i. 30. "is made unto us wisdom." Col. ii. 3. "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom."

Earnestly search. Prov. ii. 4, &c. "if thou seekest her as silver —." James i. 5. "if any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given <251> him." Wisdom is readily found of such as seek her, and discloses herself to them of her own accord. Prov. i. 20, &c. "wisdom crieth without, she uttereth her voice in the streets." See also viii. 1, &c.

Wisdom is praised, Job xxviii. 15, &c. "it cannot be gotten for gold —." Prov. iii. 13, &c. "happy is, the man that findeth wisdom." iv. 5, &c. "get wisdom —." viii. 6, &c. "hear, for I will speak of excellent things," Eccles. ix. 18. "wisdom is better than weapons of war."

The treasures of wisdom are not to be rashly lavished on such as are incapable of appreciating them. Prov. xxiii. 9. "speak not in the ears of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of thy words." Matt. vii. 6. "give not that which is holy unto the dogs." Mark iv. 34. "without a parable spake he not unto them." 1 Cor. ii. 6. "howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect; yet not the wisdom of this world."

To wisdom is opposed folly; which consists, first and chiefly, in an ignorance of the will of God. Isai. i. 3. "the ox knoweth its owner." v. 13. "therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge." Jer. v. 4. "they are foolish, for they know not the way of Jehovah, nor the judgment of their God." viii. 7, &c. "yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times —." John xvi. 2, 3. "the time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service: and these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me." xii. 10. "the chief priests consulted that they might put. Lazarus also to death." <252> Eph. iv, 17, 18. "being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them." v. 17. "be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is." 1 Cor. ii. 8. "had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." 1 Tim. i. 13. "I did it ignorantly in unbelief."

Secondly, in a false conceit of wisdom. Numb. xv. 39. "that ye seek not after your own heart." 1 Kings xviii. 17. "art thou he that troubleth Israel?" Prov. iii. 7. "be not wise in thine own eyes; fear Jehovah." xiv 6. "a scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not." v. 12. "there is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." xxi. 2. "every way of a man is right in his own eyes; but Jehovah pondereth the hearts." xxvi. 12. "seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him." xxviii. 26. "he that trusteth in his own way is a fool; but whoso walketh wisely he shall be delivered." Isai. v. 21. "woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes." John ix. 39. "that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind." Rom. i. 22. "professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." 1 Cor. viii. 2. "if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know." Yet folly cries aloud, and invites mankind to her instructions, as if she were the sole depositary of wisdom. Prov. ix. 16. "whoso is simple, let him turn in hither."

Thirdly, in a prying into hidden things, after the example of our first parents, who sought after the knowledge of good and evil contrary to the command <253> of God;[1] and of Lot's wife, Gen. xix. 26. xxxii. 29, "wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name?" Exod. xix. 23. "set bounds about the mount —." Deut. xxix. 29. "the secret things belong unto Jehovah our God." 1 Sam. vi. 19. "he smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of Jehovah." Acts i. 7. "it is not for you to know the times or the seasons." xix. 19. "many of them also which used curious arts, brought their books together." Rom. xii. 3. "not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every men the measure of faith."

Fourthly, in human or carnal wisdom. Job v. 12. "he disappointeth the devices of the crafty." xii. 24 "he taketh away the heart of the chief of the people of the earth." xxviii. 13, 14. "man knoweth not the price thereof... the depth saith, It is not in me —." Eccles. i. 17. "I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly; I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit." vii. 29. "they have found out many inventions." xii. 12. "of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh." Isai. xix. 11, &c. "the princes of Zoan are fools..... how say ye unto Pharaoh, I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings?" xxix. 14. "the wisdom of their wise men shall perish." xxxiii. 11. "ye shall bring forth stubble." lix. 15. "he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey." <254> Mark iii. 21. "when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him; for they said, He is beside himself." John x. 20. "he hath a devil, and is mad." Acts xvii. 18. "certain philosophers of the Epicureans... encountered him; and some said, What will this babbler say?" v. 32. "when they heard of the resurrection from the dead, some mocked." xxvi. 24. "Paul, thou art beside thyself." 1 Cor. i. 19, 20. "it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise." v. 23. "we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called," &c. iii. 19. "the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." vi. 4. "if then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church." Col. ii. 8. "beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy." Luke xii. 56, 57. "ye can discern the face of the sky, and of the earth... and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?" Hence we are frequently permitted to be deceived with false shows of human wisdom, in requital for our contempt of that which is true and divine. Psal. lxxxi. 11-13. "my people would not hearken to my voice... so I gave them up unto their own heart's lusts, and they walked in their own counsels."

Prudence is that virtue by which we discern what is proper to be done under the various circumstances of time and place. Prov. xxix. 11. "a fool uttereth all his mind; but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards." Eccles. iii. 1. "to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." v. 11. "he hath made every thing beautiful in his time." Matt. x. 16, 17. "behold, I send you forth as <255> sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves: but beware of men —." Philipp. i. 9, 10. "that your love may abound yet more and more, in knowledge and in all judgment, that ye may approve things that are excellent." Heb. v. 14. "strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." This quality is an indispensable seasoning to every virtue, as salt was to the ancient sacrifices. Mark ix. 49. "every one shall be salted with fire; and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt."

Hence the maxim, "of the evils of sin choose none, of those of punishment the least." If this be true with regard to the evils of sin, it is obvious how preposterously, they interpret the law, who hold that usury, divorce, polygamy, and the like, were conceded to the hard-heartedness of the Jews as venial infirmities, or as evils which were to be abated or regulated by law; whereas the law can no more concede or tolerate the smallest degree of moral evil, than a good man can voluntarily choose it.

Thus much of the general virtues which belong to the understanding; those which belong to the will are sincerity, promptitude, and constancy.

Sincerity, which is also called integrity, and a good conscience, consists in acting rightly on all occasions, with a sincere desire and a hearty mental determination. Gen. xvii. 1. "walk before me, and be thou perfect." Deut. xviii. 13. "thou shalt be perfect with Jehovah thy God." Job xxvii. 5, 6. "till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me." Psal. xxvi. 1. "judge me, O Jehovah, for I have walked in mine <256> integrity." Prov. iv. 23. "keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." Matt. xii. 35. "a good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things —." Acts xxiii. 1. "I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day." xxiv. 16. "to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men." 2 Tim. i. 3. "I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience." 1 Cor. iv. 4. "I know nothing of myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord." Philipp. ii. 15. "that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation." Col. iii. 23. "whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men." 1 Tim. i. 19. "holding faith, and a good conscience, which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck." 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8. "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course." Heb. xiii. 18. "we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly." 1 John iii. 19. "hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him." v. 21. "if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God." Properly speaking, how ever, a good conscience is not in itself sincerity, but rather an approving judgment of the mind respecting its own actions, formed according to the light which we have received either from nature or from grace, whereby we are satisfied of our inward sincerity. Rom. ii. 15. "which show the work of the law written in their hearts," &c. This feeling is described Job xiii. 15, &c. "I will maintain mine own ways before him," xxiii. 3, &c. "O that I knew where I <257> might find him —!" xxxi. 6. "let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity." v. 35. "O that one would hear me!" 2 Cor. i. 12. "our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world."

The opposite to this is an evil conscience;[2] that is to say (allowing some latitude of signification to the word) the judgment of each individual mind concerning its own bad actions, and its consequent disapproval of them, according to the light enjoyed from nature or grace; which may be more properly called a consciousness of evil. Gen. xlii. 21. "we are verily guilty concerning our brother... therefore is this distress come upon us." Hos. x. 8. "they shall say to the mountains, Cover us, and to the hills, Fall on us," compared with Rev. vi. 16. "they said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb." Luke xx. 5, 6. "they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven, he will say, Why then believed ye him not?" Acts xxiv. 25. "as he reasoned of righteousness...Felix trembled." Rom. ii. 15. "their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another." Heb. x. 22. "having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience." John viii. 9. "being convicted by their own conscience." <258> strictly speaking, however, an evil conscience is one which judges erroneously or with a wrong bias, and not according to the light derived from nature or grace." 1 Cor. viii. 7. "their conscience being weak, is defiled." 1 Tim. iv. 2. "having their conscience seared with a hot iron." Tit. i. 15. "even their mind and conscience is defiled."

Contrary to sincerity are, first, evil thoughts. Matt. v. 28. "he hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." xv. 18, 19. "those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart, and they defile the man; for out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders —." Secondly, hypocrisy; the deeds of which, though plausible, are not good, or if good, are not done with a good design. Matt. vi. 1, &c. "take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them, otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven." xxiii. 25, 26. "woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess."

Promptitude or alacrity is that which excites us to act with a ready and willing spirit. Psal. i. 2. "whose delight is in the law of Jehovah." xl. 8. "I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart." cx. 3. "thy people shall be willing." Prov. xxi. 15. "it is joy to the just to do judgment." 2 Cor. viii. 12. "if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath —." ix. 7. "God loveth a cheerful giver."

Its opposites are, first, precipitancy. Matt. viii. 19. "I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest."

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Secondly, a forced and not spontaneous discharge of duty. Deut. xxviii. 47. "because thou servedst not Jehovah thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart." 2 Cor. ix. 7. "not grudgingly, or of necessity." Gal. vi. 9. "let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." 2 Thess. iii. 13. "be not weary in well doing." Heb. v. 11. "ye are dull of hearing." xii. 3. "consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds." v. 12. "lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees." 1 Pet. v. 2. "not by constraint, but willingly."

Constancy is that virtue whereby we persevere in a determination to do right, from which nothing can divert us. Psal. cxix. 44, 45. "I shall keep thy law continually for ever and ever; and I will walk at liberty." v. 51. "the proud have had me greatly in derision, yet have I not declined from thy law." v. 61. "the bands of the wicked have robbed me, but I have not forgotten thy law." v. 95. "the wicked have waited for me to destroy me, but I will consider thy testimonies." v. 110. "the wicked have laid a snare for me, yet I erred not from thy precepts." v. 112. "I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end." v. 157. "many are my persecutors and mine enemies; yet do I not decline from thy testimonies." Eccles. vii. 14. "in the day of prosperity be joyful; but in the day of adversity consider." Matt. xxiv. 13. "he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved." 2 Cor. vi. 4, &c. "in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, <260> in necessities, in distresses-." viii. 11. "now therefore perform the doing of it, that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have."

The opposites of this are, first, inconstancy. Jer. xxxiv. 8, &c. "after that the king Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people... to proclaim liberty unto them... afterward they turned and caused the servants and the handmaids whom they had let go free to return." v. 15, 16. "ye were now turned and had done right in my sight but ye turned and polluted

my name. Luke ix. 62. "no man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." Matt. xiii. 20-22. "he heareth the word... yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended... he heareth the word, and the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word."

Secondly, obstinacy in error, or in a wrong purpose. Psal. xix. 13. "keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me; then shall I be upright, and 1 shall be innocent from the great transgression." Jer. ii. 35. "behold, I will plead with thee, because thou sayest, I have not sinned." Acts vii. 51. "ye stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost."

[1]

..... Have my fill

Of knowledge, what this vessel can contain;

Beyond which was my folly to aspire. Paradise Lost, XII. 558.

See also VII. 120. VIII. 172.

[2]

'I will begin somewhat higher, and speak of punishment; which as it is an evil, I esteem to be of two sorts, or rather two degrees only; a reprobate conscience in this life, and hell in the other world.' Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty. Prose Works, 1. 132.

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