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For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.—Eph. II. 10.
WE come now to the end why we are brought into this estate, created unto good works, &c. The end is not to live idly or walk loosely, but holily, according to the will of God.
In this latter clause, ‘Created unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them,’ observe:—
1. The object: good works; that is, works becoming the new creature: in short, we should live Christianly.
2. God’s act about it: οἷς προητοίμασεν ὁ Θεός, which God hath before ordained. The word signifies both prepared and ordained. (1.) God hath prepared these works for us. (2.) God hath prepared us for them. He hath prepared them for us either by his decree or precept. If you understand it in the first sense, God, that hath ordained the end, hath also appointed means, as Acts xxvii. 31 , compared with 24; or else appointed by his precept and express will, Micah vi. 8; and he hath prepared us for them by his Spirit, making our hearts fit for our work, Heb. viii. 10, enlightening the mind, inclining the will. The first showeth the necessity of them, the second the easiness of them. God hath accommodated all things to that end, enabling us to know our duty and to do it.
3. Our duty: that we should walk in them. Walking noteth both a way and an action.
[1.] It implieth a way, that good works are the way to obtain salvation, purchased and granted to us by Jesus Christ. Unless we walk in the path of good works we cannot come to eternal life.
[2.] An action. Walking notes:—
(1.1 Spontaneity in the principle: not drawn or driven, but walk, set ourselves a-going.
(2.) Progress in the motion. He that walketh sets himself forward and gets ground; he doth not stand still or lie down, but goeth on still.398
Doct. That new creatures are both obliged and fitted, or prepared for good works.
I. What is meant by good works?
II. What obligation lieth on the new creature to make conscience of them?
III. How they are fitted and prepared by that new nature which is bestowed upon them by and through Christ?
I. What is meant by good works?
1. The kinds.
2. The requisites.
First, The kinds—all acts of obedience: more particularly they are divided and distributed into five sorts or ranks.
1. Opera cultus: acts of God’s immediate worship, both internal and external. The internal acts are faith and love, trust, delight, reverence. The children of God are often described by these—by believing in his name, John i. 12; love to God and delight in him; Ps. xcvii. 10, ‘Ye that love the Lord, hate evil;’ Ps. xxxvii. 4, ‘Delight thyself also in the Lord;’ trust: Ps. lxii. 8, ‘Trust in him at all times, ye people;’ fear or reverence: Ps. cxxx. 4, ‘There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayst be feared.’ External, as to pray, read, hear, to be much in communion with God in all the parts of his worship. Without works of piety we are practical atheists, Ps. xxxvi. 1, and Ps. xiv. 1, 2, 4. God’s people do certainly make conscience of these: the internal acts are the life of their souls; the external are their solace, strength, and support, their songs in the house of their pilgrimage, their refreshing by the way. Cornelius, Acts x. 2,. feared and prayed to God alway; Daniel would not omit prayer one day though in danger of death, .Dan. vi. 10, 11. There is little zeal in them that are not frequent with God, but forget him days without number, Jer. ii. 32.
2. Opera vocationis: every man must labour in the work to which he is called. God is pleased to appoint and accept the duties of our callings as a good work. Are they never so mean, yet servants may honour God by diligence in their duties: Titus ii. 9, 10, ‘Exhort servants to be obedient to their masters, &c., that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.’ To be profitable to human society in your place is good; the new nature helpeth us so to be: Philem. 11, Onesimus ‘in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and me.’ All have their work, from the Mediator to the poorest creature in the world; John xvii. 4, ‘I have glorified thee on earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.’ So Titus iii. 14, ‘Let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.’ When John’s hearers came to know what they should do, he referreth every one to their callings, Luke iii. 10-12; walk conscionably therein, glorify God, soldiers, publicans, &c. Without these good works we are drones in the common hive, yea, burdens upon the earth.
3. Opera justitiae: works of righteousness and justice, to hurt none, to give every one his due, to use fidelity in our relations, Acts xxiv. 16. The credit of religion is much concerned in the just dealing of them that profess it. God will have the world to know that religion is a good friend to human society: Neh. v. 9, ‘Ought ye not to walk in 399the fear of our God, because of the reproach of the heathen, our enemies?’ This was the primitive glory of Christianity, Dent exercitum talem, tales exactores fisci, &c. Some carry it so that they deal with God’s commandments as Hanun with David’s messengers, as if they had cut off the whole second table, and so prove a stain and blot to religion. In short, they that do not make conscience of paying their debts, and using justice, equity, and honesty in all their dealings, are robbers, thieves, and enemies to human society.
4. Opera charitatis et misericordiae: as to relieve the poor, to be good to all, to help others by our counsel or admonition. We are often called upon for these; thus, Acts ix. 36, Dorcas is said to be ‘full of good works and alms-deeds which she did.’ So 1 Tim. vi. 18, ‘Charge them to be rich in good works.’ It is not left arbitrary to yon. but laid upon you as part of your charge and duty, a debt we owe to God. Now, if you do not mind this kind of good works, you are unfaithful stewards in the good things committed to your trust. You must not deny God his own when he or any of his have need of it.
5. I think there is another sort of good works which concern ourselves, and that is, sobriety, watchfulness, mortification, self-denial. A man oweth duty to himself: Titus ii. 12, ‘Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly,’ &c. These conduce to our safety: 1 Peter v. 8, ‘Be sober, be vigilant; for your adversary the devil, like a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour;’ and belong to our fidelity to Christ: Gal. v. 24, ‘They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts thereof.’ Therefore take in these also, and call them opera militiae Christianae, the works of our spiritual warfare, by which we guard ourselves from the enemies of our salvation, that our hands be not weakened and enfeebled in God’s work, that we may carry it on with out unevenness and interruption.
Secondly, The requisites to a good work are:—
1. That the person be in a good state: Mat. vii. 17, ‘A good tree bringeth forth good fruit,’ Married to Christ: Rom. vii. 4, ‘Where fore ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.’ A believer: Titus iii. 8, ‘Let them which believe in God be careful to maintain good works,’ A carnal, unregenerate man may do that which is for the matter good; but till he be changed in his heart and state, his works are not acceptable to God.
2. The principles of operation must be faith, love, and obedience. Faith, owning God’s authority: Ps. cxix. 66, ‘Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I have believed thy commandment.’ Love, inclining the heart: 2 Cor. v. 14, ‘The love of Christ constraineth me.’ Obedience, swaying the conscience: 1 Thes. iv. 3, ‘This is the will of God, your sanctification;’ 1 Tim. i. 5, ‘The end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart and good conscience, and faith unfeigned.’ There we have the pedigree of good works; faith unfeigned begets a good conscience, and that a pure heart, and that love to God, and then all particular duties succeed.
3. A due regard of circumstances, that it may be not only good, 400but done well, Luke viii. 15,—with that diligence, reverence, seriousness, alacrity, which the nature of the work doth require.
4. The end, that it be for God’s glory: Phil. i. 11, ‘Filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Christ Jesus to the praise and glory of God.’
II. How new creatures are obliged to these good works.
1. With respect to God, he hath ordained that we should walk in them. If you refer to his decree, he will have his elect people distinguished from others by the good they do in the world, that they may be known to be followers of a good God, as the children of the devil are by their mischief. His eternal decree is made evident to us by our making conscience of good works, and so we ‘make our calling and election sure,’ 2 Peter i. 10. If you take it for his precept and command, surely we should make conscience of what our father giveth us in charge. He hath appointed us to do so, sent us into the vineyard to work, and shall we say, I will not? Mat. xxi. 29, 30; or loiter and neglect when we have given our consent? or pretend to go, and never set about it? To a gracious heart the signification of God’s will is instead of all reasons: 1 Thes. v. 18, ‘In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God concerning you;’ 1 Peter ii. 15, ‘For this is the will of God, that with well-doing you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.’
2. With respect to Christ, who died to restore us to a capacity and ability to perform these good works: Titus ii. 14, ‘Who gave himself for us, to redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works;’ not only to do them, but do them with alacrity and zeal. As Christ came to raise the comfort of the creature to the highest, so also the duty of the creature to the highest, that his people might be eminent in holiness, justice, goodness, and truth, above all others.
3. With respect to the Spirit, who reneweth us for this end; we are new made, that we may look upon doing good as our calling and only business. All other things are valuable according to the use for which they serve; the sun was made to give light and heat to inferior creatures, and we are enlightened by grace, and inclined by grace, that our light may shine before men, Mat. v. 16.
4. With respect to heaven and eternal happiness, they are the way to heaven. We discontinue or break off our walk when we cease to do good; but the more we mind good works the more we proceed in our way: Phil. iii. 14, ‘Pressing onward’ to our final reward, and at length our entrance is more full, and with greater peace, 2 Peter i. 11.
III. How are they fitted and prepared by this new nature that is put into them for good works?
Ans. There is a remote preparation, and a near preparation.
1. The remote preparation is an inclination and propensity to all the acts of the holy and heavenly life. All creatures have an inclination to their proper operations, so the new creature. As the sparks fly up and the stones downward by an inclination of nature, so are their hearts bent to please and serve God. The inclination is natural, the acts are voluntary, because it is an inclination of a free agent: ‘The 401law of God is in their hearts,’ Ps. xl. 8; Ps. xxxvii. 31. Others force themselves, but here there is an affinity between the work and the vital principle which is in us, so that we need not much enforcement: 1 Thes. iv. 9, ‘As touching brotherly love, I need not write unto you, for you are taught of God to love one another.’ Now, God’s teaching is not by expression, but by impression; he hath inclined, suited our hearts to it: as there need not many arguments to move the mother to give suck to her tender infant; nature hath taught her, left such an instinct and inclination upon her, which doth sufficiently excite her to do it.
2. The near preparation is called promptitude and readiness for every good work, or a ‘ready obedience to every good work.’ Titus iii. 1. So 1 Tim. vi. 18, ‘Ready to distribute;’ Heb. xiii. 16, ‘Ready to communicate.’ So Paul, ἑτόιμως ἔχω, Acts xxi. 13. This is beyond inclination. The fire hath an inclination to ascend upwards, yet something may violently keep it down; so a Christian may have a will to good, a strong, not a remiss will, but yet there are some impediments, Rom. vii. 18. Inclination implieth a remote power, but readiness the next and immediate power; therefore a Christian ought to keep himself in a readiness or fitness of disposition for his duty, whether it concerneth God, ourselves, or others. This is seen in zeal, that beareth down all impediments. All graces are operative, and zeal is that earnest impulsion and activity of every grace where it is in strength and vigour. Faith worketh, Gal. v. 6. Love constraineth, 2 Cor. v. 14. Hope quickeneth, 1 Peter i. 3, ‘a lively hope.’ This proceedeth from the new nature when it is in right frame and strength. We need not only make conscience of our duty, or have some mind to it, but our hearts will not let us have any quiet and rest without it: 2 Peter i. 8, ‘They make you that you shall be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Christians must be ‘zealous of good works.’ Titus ii. 14. Paul was ‘pressed in spirit.’ Acts xvii. 16; Acts xviii. 5.
The benefits that come by it are:—
1. We do good works more easily, as being inclined thereunto: Exod. xxxv. 29, ‘The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the Lord;’ Ps. cx. 3, ‘Thy people shall be willing in the clay of thy power.’ There is a great deal of difference between doing things by compulsion and doing things from an inclination; between Israel’s making brick in Egypt and building the wall in Nehemiah’s time, Neh. iv. 6.
2. With more delight and alacrity: 1 John v. 3, ‘His commandments are not grievous;’ Ps. cxii. 1, ‘Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.’ It is a pleasure to them to do a good work; to others, a toil.
3. With constancy. That which is forced lasts not long; upon the first occasion we break out, cast off the burden which pincheth and galleth us. A man is never constant to his duty till he be held to it by his heart; and the bias of the heart is not fear, but love. You cannot easily persuade him against his love and inclination, though you may overcome his fears: Cant. viii. 6, 7, ‘Set me as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave. 402Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.’
The uses are:—
1. For reproof of many professing Christians, who are not more prepared for the Lord, and made ready for every good .work. Alas! some are ‘to every good work reprobate,’ Titus i. 16, unfit for any Christian practice. In others, all their holiness standeth in being less vicious or wicked than others. If. they avoid the greater crimes, though they freely practise the less, they are accounted good men. Some talk, but do nothing, like cypress trees, tall and beautiful, but unfruitful; or the carbuncle, afar off seeming all on fire, but the touch discovers it to be key-cold: their zeal is more in their tongues than their actions. Others are very unready, arguing for a mediocrity, disputing every inch with God, beating down the price of religion as low as they can, as little worship and charity as may be, and will do no more than needeth, and it is well if they do that. True goodness, like live honey, droppeth of its own accord, 2 Cor. viii. 2; and is always desirous to do more for God: Ps. lxxi. 14, ‘I will praise thee more and more;’ Phil. i. 9, ‘I pray that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;’ 1 Thes. iv. 1, ‘Furthermore, we exhort you, brethren, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk, and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.’ But little of this temper is to be found.
The second use, of information.
First, Observe the deduction of good works from their proper causes, viz., the will of God requiring, our regeneration fitting: the one determineth our duty, the other maketh us ready to perform it. While carnal, that which we do is but the image of a good work, not really and spiritually good.
Secondly, The necessity of good works.
1. Necessitate consequentis, as the fruit and end of regeneration. All things are valued by their use. What doth the new creature serve for but that we may walk in newness of life? otherwise it is but a notion. It is not given us to lie hid in the heart, as a sluggish, idle quality, but that we may act by it, and improve it for God. The Lord made no creature in vain. Indeed, all that we have from God, both in nature and grace, was that we might be fruitful in holiness. In nature we have life, health, and parts for nothing else, but that by our present duty we may prepare ourselves for everlasting joys. All God’s mercies bind us to diligence, all his ordinances are means to help us, all his graces are power to enable us; and there is, over and above, the Holy Spirit to excite and quicken that power, John iv. 10; Ezek. xxxvi. 27.
2. Necessitate praecepti. God hath required them at our hands. Now we must make conscience of what God hath required, especially when all ‘his commandments are holy, just, and good’ If some greater thing were required, ought we not to have done it? 2 Kings v. 13. But when he hath required such noble work, shall we refuse? There is nothing in his law but what becometh his nature, preserveth and makes happy ours.403
3. Necessitate medii, as the way to heaven. Good works are indispensably required of grown persons if they mean to be saved: Heb. xii. 14, ‘Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see God.’ A Christian shall be judged at the last day by what he hath done: Rev. xx. 12, ‘I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened, and another book was opened, which was the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things that were written in the books, according to their works;’ 1 Peter i. 17, ‘If ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth every man according to his work,’ Profession will not carry it, but our works come into the judgment. So Rev. xiv. 13, ‘Their works follow them;’ that is, they have the fruit and comfort of them in another world, and without them we cannot be saved.
4. Necessitate signi, as evidences of our right to salvation, both to others and ourselves. Works or external acts are more sensible and visible, and also liable to the notice of our own consciences; and it is more hard to judge of the internal grace than the external fruits.
[1.] As to others. God seeth what is in our hearts, but men see it not until the effects manifest it. When John suspected the pharisees, he said to them, Mat. iii. 8, ‘Bring ye forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.’ The fear of God is more known by the external act than by the internal habit; therefore that description is given, Prov. viii. 13, ‘The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate;’ and Job xxviii. 28, ‘The fear, of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.’ The current of a man’s life and actions doth best expound and interpret his heart. Thus the psalmist discovered the wicked: Ps. xxxvi. 1, ‘The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.’
[2.] To ourselves, holy conversation and godliness is the surest note of our regeneration. We judge others by external works alone, ‘For the tree is known by its fruit,’ Mat. vii. 16. Charity forbids us to pry any further; but we judge ourselves by internal and external works together. If within we have faith in Christ, a love to God, and hatred of evil, a delight in holiness, a deep sense of the world to come, all which graces make up the new nature, then these things issue out into a holy conversation. This breedeth joy and, peace of conscience: 2 Cor. i. 12, ‘This is our rejoicing, 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 would;’ 1 John iii. 18, 19, ‘Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.’
[3.] That good works must not be opposed to God’s mercy and free grace, or Christ’s satisfaction, merit, and righteousness, either in the matter of justification or salvation, but kept in a due subordination to God’s grace and Christ’s merits. This is the business of this context, to reconcile the grace of God with the necessity of good works, et e contra; and very well it may be, for they are part of the grace obtained. He is most beholden to God, and indebted to grace, who is enabled to do most good, for all is from him: Phil. ii. 13, ‘He worketh in us 404 both to will and to do, of his own good pleasure;’ so that our very doing is receiving. But because there are a sort of men that may be called justiciaries, who trust, and teach others to trust, to their own virtues and works, without a Saviour, or ascribe the part of a Saviour to them; and on the other side, the libertines, who teach men not to look at anything in themselves at all, not as an evidence, condition, or means, but to trust to Christ’s blood to be instead of faith, repentance, and obedience, which is their duty to be performed by them, therefore it will be necessary to be well acquainted with what is truly the part and office of Christ, what is truly the office of faith and repentance, what of works, that you may be sure to give everything its due, and may wholly trust Christ for his part, and not join faith, or any of your works and duties, in the least degree, of that trust and honour which belongeth to our Saviour, but regard them according to that use for which they are commanded in the gospel.
First, Our works, whatever they are, either duties to God or man, are not the first moving cause or inducement to incline God to show us favour, or to bring about our salvation. No; this honour must be reserved for the grace of God, which moveth and stirreth all in the business of our salvation. It was his grace to provide us a Saviour: John iii. 16, ‘God so loveth the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ And the giving of faith or converting grace to some before others, is the mere effect of his mercy and good pleasure: Eph. ii. 4, 5, ‘God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he hath loved us, when we were dead in trespasses and sins, hath quickened us together with Christ: by grace ye are saved.’ Then the benefits consequent upon conversion are from God’s love and mercy. As justification: Rom. iii. 24, ‘Justified freely by his grace;’ not only by his grace, but freely; that is, not excited by our works, but acting freely of its own accord. Then for eternal life, we have it from the grace of God and the mercy of our Redeemer: Jude 21, ‘Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.’ So that grace is the first mover and principle in the whole business of our salvation; it is originally from grace, and all along by grace.
Secondly, Our works before or after conversion are not that righteousness, not any part of that meritorious righteousness, by virtue of which sins are expiated, the wrath of God appeased, all blessings of heaven purchased, and we reconciled to God. For this is only to be ascribed to the merit and satisfaction of our Lord Jesus Christ. ‘When we were enemies, we were reconciled by his death, and are saved by his’ life,’ Rom. v. 10. He is our propitiation; we live by him: 1 John iv. 9, 10, ‘In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’ It is Christ’s office and honour to be a sacrifice for sin and a propitiation for us, and a perfect Saviour and intercessor; to obtain the Spirit, to fit us for our present duty and future happiness. We are his workmanship in Christ.
Thirdly, Our works or duties which we perform in obedience to 405God, are not the first means to apply the grace of the Redeemer, or the condition of our first entrance into the evangelical estate. No; that is proper to repentance and faith: Rom. iii. 22, ‘The righteousness of God is by faith unto all and upon all them that believe.’ And repentance is frequently required also to receive pardon and the gift of the Holy Ghost: Acts ii. 38, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost;’ Acts iii. 19, ‘Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.’ It is the penitent believing sinner that is qualified for these privileges; or he that thankfully and humbly accepts of the offered Saviour, and consents to the covenant made with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; he is washed from his sins in the blood of Christ, reconciled, adopted into God’s family, and made ‘an heir according to the hope of eternal life,’ Titus iii. 7. This first faith, by which we believe and consent to the covenant, implieth both a dependence on God’s mercy and Christ’s merits, and also a consent of obedience or hearty subjection to God.
Fourthly, When we have consented to accept Christ and his benefits, and do give ourselves to him, then works or new obedience follow, as necessary to continue our right to pardon and life. For none have benefit by God’s covenant but those that keep his covenant as well as make it; and without this we cannot have communion with God: 1 John i. 7, ‘If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another;’—nor evidence the reality of our faith and repentance. St Paul was sent to preach to the Gentiles, ‘That they should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance,’ Acts xxvi. 20. Besides, we cannot preserve our claim and right, if we do not still go on to do good: 1 Tim. vi. 18; Ezek. xviii. 24, ‘When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, shall he live? all his righteousness shall not be mentioned; in his trespasses that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.’ It is true of the hypocrite without scruple, and of the real righteous man; if you suppose the one you may suppose the other. Well, these things must not be confounded or opposed: not confounded, but we must distinctly consider what is proper to the grace of God, proper to the merit of Christ, proper to faith, proper to works; not opposed, so as to make the one exclude the other: as the grace of God to exclude the merit of Christ, or serve instead of it; nor the merit of Christ, his blood and righteousness, to exclude faith and repentance, or be instead of them; nor faith to exclude good works,
Fifthly, All the applying grace is from first to last wrought in us by the Spirit. He doth renew and heal our natures, as coming to us from the grace of God and merits of Christ: Titus iii. 5, 6, ‘According to his mercy he saveth us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.’ By the Holy Spirit working in us habitual grace and exciting it, we believe, repent, obey, do whatever is necessary to be done to obtain eternal life; therefore this must not be omitted, but acknowledged as a great part of this grace.406
Third use. To exhort us, if we would show ourselves to be new creatures indeed, to be full of good works. The arguments to move us are:—
1. It is a necessary fruit of inward grace, and so doth plainly show that you are partakers of heavenly wisdom: James iii. 17, ‘The wisdom which is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits.’ The carnal worldling, all his wisdom is to grow rich to himself, which indeed is but folly, Luke xii. 21. His business is to live to the flesh, Gal. vi. 8. He layeth out all his strength, time, and care, and wealth for the feeding his own carnal desires; but the other soweth to the Spirit, layeth out himself in works of piety and charity.
2. External acts, which flow from an internal principle, increase the habit; the more you do good, the more you are enabled to do good, as bodily strength is increased by exercise. Why is the right hand more agile, stronger, and bigger than the left? It is oftener exercised, and so fuller of blood and spirits. So in grace, the more you act faith, the more is faith increased. Love groweth more fervent, being kept in a constant exercise, and hope more lively and effective. Always actions increase the principles which did produce them: partly of their own nature: 1 John ii. 5, ‘Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected.’ The more acts of love he puts forth towards God, the more doth his love increase in him: partly by divine reward: Heb. vi. 10, ‘He is not unrighteous to forget your labour of love, which ye have showed towards his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister,’ God rewards them temporally: 2 Cor. ix. 8, ‘God is able to make all grace abound towards you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work;’ that is, to give you to be liberal at all times. And when he saith God is able, it not only implieth that God is the fountain of all plenty, and sovereign disposer of it, and so hath power to make you the richer rather than the poorer by your liberality, to make every alms you give like the oil in the cruse, to multiply as you pour it out, that there shall be enough for every object and every occasion, but also he is sure to make it good, for he quotes it again in the next verse, ‘As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness remaineth for ever.’ It is taken out of Psalm cxii., where there are signal promises of wealth and riches in the house of the liberal almsgiver. God rewards them eternally: 2 Cor. ix. 6, ‘He which soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly, and he which soweth bountifully shall reap bountifully.’ Now is the seed-time, hereafter is our harvest and crop; we shall have a liberal reward from God in the general resurrection. God also rewards his obedient servants spiritually, internally; and that not only with more comfort and peace, but by increasing the grace itself.; for God, that punishes sin with sin, doth reward grace with grace. Wells are sweeter for draining; on the other side, a key that is seldom turned rusts in the lock. An intermission of good works makes us more unable and unready for them.
3. It is a greater honour to God: John xv. 8, ‘Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit;’ Phil. i. 11, ‘Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and 407praise of God;’ 2 Thes. i. 11, 12, ‘Wherefore we pray for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in him.’ Christ’s religion is not a barren religion, but full of good works. It is a mighty credit to religion in you that profess it, when goodness is the constitution of your hearts, to do good the business of your lives.
4. It edifieth others, and provoketh an holy emulation: Heb. x. 24, ‘Let us consider one another, to provoke unto love and to good works.’ We provoke them most by our example when they are cold, negligent, and backward to works of piety and mercy. In all things we should be an instance of divine virtues.
5. This is the fruit which God expecteth from us, that the trees of righteousness should bear the fruits of righteousness. If we frustrate his expectation, he will hew us down and cast us into the fire, Mat. iii. 10. Therefore good works are not needless things.
The means to enable us are:—
1. Be sure that you are renewed. The dead cannot do the works of the living, ‘Neither do men gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles,’ Mat. vii. 16. Our first business is to look to our conversion to God. All outward duties begin in the heart; they are valued no farther than they come from it sanctified.
2. Keep your hearts under a sense of God’s authority, that you may feel something in your own bosoms that may tell you you are bound to obey him, and may plead God’s right with you. This is done by a frequent meditation upon your creation and redemption: your creation giveth God a full right to you, and redemption maketh it comfortable; by both you see you are his: Acts xxvii. 23, ‘There stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve.’
3. You are intrusted with his talents, and of their improvement you must give an account: Mat. xxv. 14, A lord called his servants, and delivered to them his goods, in order to improvement.
4. What encouragement we have from a gracious God and covenant, which takes not advantage of involuntary weaknesses, but accepteth their endeavours who sincerely do their best: Mal. iii. 17, ‘I will spare him, as a man spareth his son that serveth him.’
5. Remember often your great obligation to God; you can never do so much for him as he deserveth of you: Ps. cxvi. 12, ‘What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits towards me?’
6. Do all as in God’s eye, and with a constant dependence upon him: Ps. xvi. 8, ‘I have set the Lord always before me.’ Make him your paymaster, governor, and judge, and it will not only keep you sincere, but diligent in good works. The work is not sincerely done when you look to man, nor thoroughly done. Such have their reward only here, Mat. vi.
7. Love your work. A little thing will stop him that doth it unwillingly: Ps. cxix. 47, 48, ‘I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved;’ and ‘I will lift up my hands unto thy commandments, which I have loved.’
8. Account yourselves much beholden to God, that he will employ you in any service for his glory.408409
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