« PreviousContinue »
that your works will not sanctify your heart, your affections, or conversation; when you have done all you can, that you must rely wholly upon the Lord Jesus Christ; and that you may rely confidently upon him, to fulfil the good pleasure of his goodness in your soul; and carry you on from grace to grace, and from strength to strength, till you come to the measure of the stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus. Thus I have shown you negatively, in some instances, to what purposes our good works are not necessary, and in what respects they may not be depended upon.
I proceed, in the next place, to show you affirmatively, in what respects they are of necessity; and to what purposes they must be done, by all those who would approve themselves Christians indeed.
1. Then good works are necessary, as being one design of our election, redemption, and effectual vocation. They are one end of our election. “God hath chosen us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love." And it is by a life of good works, and a progress in holiness, that we are to make it evident to ourselves, that we “ chosen unto salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth.” And accordingly we are exhorted, in this way, " to give diligence to make our calling and election sure." Good works are likewise one end and design of our redemption in Christ.
He "gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” And they who are indeed interested
in this redemption, who indeed have believed in God our Saviour, who sincerely trust in Christ for needed supplies, will feel the power of his grace quickening their souls, and exciting in them a zealous carefulness to maintain good works: and therefore such have no grounds to conclude upon their interest in Christ, who live careless sensual lives, in the neglect of duty to God, of righteousness or charity to men, or in a willing indulgence of any way of sinning. I may add, good works are also the end of our vocation : “ God hath called us unto holiness."
We are accordingly instructed, that “6 as he which hath called us is holy, so we should be holy in all manner of conversation." None, therefore, have any grounds to flatter themselves with the dream of a regenerate state, while they indulge themselves in any sinful way, or live in the neglect of good works, whatever experiences they may pretend to, or whatever joys and comforts they
This we are to affirm constantly, that they who believe in God, must be and will be careful to maintain good works. Though good works are not the fountain and foundation of a renewed nature, they are always the streams that flow from that fountain, and the superstructure upon that foundation. Though they do not sanctify us, they are the natural and necessary actings and operations of a sanctified heart.
An unholy life gives the lie to our profession of a holy state, and confers on us the just denomination of liars. It defeats all pretensions to effectual calling; it contradicts the very end of conversion, and is contrary to the unalterable tendency of the new nature. Grace is given for
exercise, and is a vital, operative principle. We shall therefore receive the grace of God in vain, if the principle be not exerted in agreeable practice.
2. Good works are necessary, as they belong to the way leading to heaven, and preparative for the possession of it. They are necessary in this respect, that it is certain that no man who has the opportunity, after his conversion, for a life of good works, will ever get to heaven in any other way. “ Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” We must not only enter in at the strait gate, but walk in the narrow way which leadeth unto life. Christ is the supreme and comprehensive way; but holiness is a subordinate and subservient way. Neither do any walk in Christ, unless they walk before him in true holiness. They who would hope for heaven hereafter, must have it begun in their souls here. Their hearts must be, in some measure, conformed to the divine nature and will, that they may be attempered and qualified for the enjoyment and employments of the heavenly world. How could such men find comfort and pleasure in the eternal service of God, to whom his service here is ungrateful and burdensome? None, therefore, are in the way to heaven, but they who, by a life of holiness, are preparing and labouring after a “meetness to be partakers of an inheritance among the saints in light.” There is nothing more certain than that a life of sin and impiety, sloth and irreligion, leads down to the chambers of death; and it is therefore equally certain, that Christ Jesus leads none to heaven in that road. It is true, indeed, that we may be in the way to heaven, while compassed with many in
firmities, while groaning under much deadness and formality in duty, while liable to many involuntary surprises into sin, while greatly defective in our religious attainments, and in our conduct both towards God
But they have not this hope who live in the wilful neglect of known duty, who deliberately indulge themselves in known ways of sinning against God, who roll any iniquity as a sweet morsel under their tongue, or live in an allowed violation of the laws of righteousness, charity, and peace towards
“ If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” And if any man have the Spirit of Christ, “the fruit of the Spirit in him will be love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance ;” and “they who live in the Spirit, will also walk in the Spirit.” We must, “ by a patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, honour, and immortality,” if we would inherit "eternal life.”
3. Good works are necessary as acts of obedience to God's commands, and a just acknowledgment of his dominion over us. By right of creation, the blessed God has an unalienable claim to homage and honour from us. By the immutable laws of our very being and nature, as his creatures and dependents, we are under bonds of subjection and obedience to him. The grace of the Gospel does not cancel those natural obligations, or lessen the force of them. Christ came not to destroy the law; nor do we make void the law through faith, but rather establish it. The great God has not laid down his right of sovereignty and dominion over. us, by affording us a medium of reconciliation to him
self, and a title to eternal happiness ; but rather has that way laid us under further and stronger obligations to obedience. Our freedom from the curses and severe demands of the moral law, as a covenant of life, is so far from freeing us of our duty towards it as a rule of practice, or excusing us from a careful observance of its precepts, that the glorious liberty we are made partakers of are given us for this very end, “ that we may serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our lives.” Though the moral law be presented to us now under some different respects and considerations from what it was originally, yet the same law remains the rule of obedience, confirmed and enforced (as such) by the Gospel itself. Whence it follows, that to live a careless, sinful, sensual, worldly life, in the neglect of our duty towards God, and our neighbour, and ourselves, is more aggravated rebellion against God, than the same life of impiety would have been under the covenant of works. For now, a life of impiety is not only a violation of the precepts of the law, but of the Gospel too; and the greater discoveries God has been pleased to make of his glorious perfections, the greater manifestations he has made of his goodness and mercy, the greater are our obligations to obedience, and consequently the greater will be our rebellion, as well as ingratitude, if we continue disobedient. We are therefore to consider, that instead of God's suspending his right of dominion, or abating our obligations to obedience, under the present dispensation of Gospel light and love; be requires and expects of us greater watchfulness and care to please and honour him,