by John Bunyan
AN EXHORTATION TO CHRISTIANS TO BE HOLY
Holiness becometh thine house, O Lord, for ever.'—[Psalm 93:5]
When I write of justification before God from the dreadful curse of the law; then I must speak of nothing but grace, Christ, the promise, and faith. But when I speak of our justification before men then I must join to these good works. For grace, Christ, and faith, are things invisible, and so not to be seen by another, otherwise than through a life that becomes so blessed a gospel as has declared unto us the remission of our sins for the sake of Jesus Christ. He then that would have forgiveness of sins, and so be delivered from the curse of God, must believe in the righteousness and blood of Christ: but he that would shew to his neighbours that he hath truly received this mercy of God, must do it by good works; for all things else to them is but talk: as for example, a tree is known to be what it is, to wit, whether of this or that kind, by its fruit. A tree it is, without fruit, but as long as it so abideth, there is ministered occasion to doubt what manner of tree it is.
A professor is a professor, though he hath no good works; but that, as such, he is truly godly, he is foolish that so concludeth. (Matt. 7:17, 18; James 2:18) Not that works makes a man good; for the fruit maketh not a good tree, it is the principle, to wit, Faith, that makes a man good, and his works that shew him to be so. (Matt. 7:16; Luke 6:44)
What then? why all professors that have not good works flowing from their faith are naught; are bramble bushes; are 'nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned.' (Heb. 6:8) For professors by their fruitlessness declare that they are not of the planting of God, nor the wheat, 'but tares and children of the wicked one.' (Matt. 13:37, 38)
Not that faith needeth good works as an help to justification before God. For in this matter faith will be ignorant of all good works, except those done by the person of Christ. Here, then, the good man 'worketh not, but believeth.' (Rom. 4:5). For he is not now to carry to God, but to receive at his hand the matter of his justification by faith; nor is the matter of his justification before God ought else but the good deeds of another man, to wit, Christ Jesus.
But is there, therefore, no need at all of good works, because a man is justified before God without them? or can that be called a justifying faith, that has not for its fruit good works? (Job 22:3; James 2:20, 26) Verily good works are necessary, though God need them not; nor is that faith, as to justification with God, worth a rush, that abideth alone, or without them.
There is, therefore, a twofold faith of Christ in the world, and as to the notion of, justifying righteousness, they both concur and agree, but as to the manner of application, there they vastly differ. The one, to wit, the non-saving faith, standeth in speculation and naked knowledge of Christ, and so abideth idle: but the other truly seeth and receives him, and so becometh fruitful. (John 1:12; Heb. 11:13; Rom. 10:16) And hence the true justifying faith is said to receive, to embrace, to obey the Son of God, as tendered in the gospel: by which expression is shewed both the nature of justifying faith, in its actings in point of justification, and also the cause of its being full of good works in the world. A gift is not made mine by my seeing of it, or because I know the nature of the thing so given; but then it is mine if I receive and embrace it, yea, and as to the point in hand, if I yield myself up to stand and fall by it. Now, he that shall not only see, but receive, not only know, but embrace the Son of God, to be justified by him, cannot but bring forth good works, because Christ who is now received and embraced by faith, leavens and seasons the spirit of this sinner, through his faith, to the making of him capable so to be [justified]. (Acts 15:9; Gen. 18:19; Heb. 11:11) Faith made Sarah receive strength to conceive seed, and we are sanctified through faith, which is in Christ. For faith hath joined Christ and the soul together, and being so joined, the soul is one spirit with him; not essentially, but in agreement and oneness of design. Besides, when Christ is truly received and embraced to the justifying of the sinner, in that man's heart he dwells by his word and Spirit, through the same faith also. Now Christ by his Spirit and word must needs season the soul he thus dwells in: so then the soul being seasoned, it seasoneth the body; and body and soul, the life and conversation.
We know it is not the seeing, but taking of a potion, that maketh it work as it should, nor is the blood of Christ a purge to this or that conscience, except received by faith. (Heb. 9:14)
Shall that then be counted right believing in Christ unto justification, that amounts to no more than to an idle speculation, or naked knowledge of him? shall that knowledge of him, I say, be counted such, as only causes the soul to behold, but moveth it not to good works? No, verily. For the true beholding of Jesus to justification and life, changes from glory to glory. (2 Cor. 3:18)
Nor can that man that hath so believed, as that by his faith he hath received and embraced Christ for life before God, be destitute of good works: for, as I said, the word and Spirit comes also by this faith, and dwells in the heart and conscience. Now, shall a soul where the word and Spirit of Christ dwells, be a soul without good works? Yea, shall a soul that has received the love, the mercy, the kindness, grace and salvation of God through the sorrows, tears, groans, cross, and cruel death of Christ, be yet a fruitless tree! God forbid. This faith is as the salt which the prophet cast into the spring of bitter water, it makes the soul good and serviceable for ever. (2 Kings 2:19–22)
If the receiving of a temporal gift naturally tends to the making of us to move our cap and knee, and binds us to be the servant of the giver, shall we think that faith will leave him who by it has received Christ, to be as unconcerned as a stock or stone, or that its utmost excellency is to provoke the soul to a lip-labour, and to give Christ a few fair words for his pains and grace, and so wrap up the business? No, no; 'the love of Christ constraineth us' thus to judge that it is but reasonable, since he gave his all for us, that we should give our some for him. (2 Cor. 5:14, 15)
Let no man, then, deceive himself, as he may and will if he takes not heed with true notions, but examine himself concerning his faith, to wit; Whether he hath any? and if some, Whether of that kind that will turn to account in the day when God shall judge the world.
I told you before that there is a twofold faith, and now I will tell you that there are two sorts of good works; and a man may be shrewdly guessed at with reference to his faith, even by the works that he chooseth to be conversant in.
There are works that cost nothing, and works that are chargeable. And observe it, the unsound faith will choose to itself the most easy works it can find. For example, there is reading, praying, hearing of sermons, baptism, breaking of bread, church fellowship, preaching, and the like; and there is mortification of lusts, charity, simplicity, open-heartedness, with a liberal hand to the poor, and their like also. Now the unsound faith picks and chooses, and takes and leaves, but the true faith does not so.
There are a great many professors now in England that have nothing to distinguish them from the worst of men, but their praying, reading, hearing of sermons, baptism, church-fellowship, and breaking of bread. Separate them but from these, and everywhere else they are as black as others, even in their whole life and conversation. Thus they have chosen to them the most easy things to do them, but love not to be conscionably found in the practice of the other; a certain sign their faith is nought, and that these things, even the things they are conversant in, are things attended to of them, not for the ends for which God has appointed them, but to beguile and undo themselves withal.
Praying, hearing, reading; for what are these things ordained, but that we might by the godly use of them attain to more of the knowledge of God, and be strengthened by his grace to serve him better according to his moral law? Baptism, fellowship, and the Lord's supper, are ordained for these ends also. But there is a vast difference between using of these things, and a using of them for these ends. A man may pray, yea pray for such things, had he them, as would make him better in morals, without desire to be better in morals, or love to the things he prays for. A man may read and hear, not to learn to do, though to know; yea he may be dead to doing moral goodness, and yet be great for reading and hearing all his days. The people then among all professors that are zealous of good works are the peculiar ones to Christ. (Titus 2:14) What has a man done that is baptized, if he pursues not the ends for which that appointment was ordained. The like I say of fellowship, of breaking of bread, etc. For all these things we should use to support our faith, to mortify the flesh, and strengthen us to walk in newness of life by the rule of the moral law. Nor can that man be esteemed holy whose life is tainted with immoralities, let him be what he can in all things else. I am of that man's mind as to practical righteousness, who said to Christ upon this very question, "Well, master, thou hast said the truth;—for to love the Lord our God with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.' (Mark 12:28–33) To love my neighbour as myself, to do as I would be done unto, this is the law and the prophets. And he that is altogether a stranger to these things, how dwelleth the love of God in him; or how will he manifest to another that his faith will save him?
Satan is afraid that men should hear of justification by Christ, lest they should embrace it. But yet, if he can prevail with them to keep fingers off, though they do hear and look on, and practise lesser things, he can the better bear it; yea, he will labour to make such professors bold to conclude they shall by that kind of faith enjoy him, though by that they cannot embrace him, nor lay hold of him. For he knows that how far soever a man engages in a profession of Christ with a faith that looks on, but cannot receive nor embrace him, that faith will leave him to nothing but mistaken and disappointments at last.
The gospel comes to some in word only, and the faith of such stands but in a verbal sound; but the apostle was resolved not to know or take notice of such a faith. (1 Thess. 1:4, 5) 'For the kingdom of God, saith he, 'is not in word, but in power.' (1 Cor. 1:18–20)' He whose faith stands only in a saying, I believe, has his works in bare words also, and as virtual is the one as the other, and both insignificant enough. 'If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone.' (James 2:15–17) This faith, therefore, Satan can allow, because it is somewhat of kin to his own. (vs. 10)
Besides, what greater contempt can be cast upon Christ than by such wordy professors is cast upon him? These are the men that by practice say, the gospel is but an empty sound. Yet, the more they profess, the louder they proclaim it thus to be, to his disgrace, while they, not withstanding their profession of faith, hold and maintain their league with the devil and sin. The Son of God was manifest that he might destroy the works of the devil, but these men profess his faith and keep these works alive in the world. (1 John 3) Shall these pass for such as believe to the saving of the soul? For a man to be content with this kind of faith, and to look to go to salvation by it, what to God is a greater provocation?
The devil laugheth here, for he knows he has not lost his vassal by such a faith as this, but that rather he hath made use of the gospel, that glorious word of life, to secure his captive, through, his presumption of the right faith, the faster in his shackles.
It is marvellous to me to see sin so high amidst the swarms of professors that are found in every corner of this land. Nor can any other reason be given for it, but because the gospel has lost its wonted virtue, or because professors want faith therein. But do you think it is because of the first? no, the word of our God shall stand in its strength for ever; the faith of such therefore is not right; they have for shields of gold, made themselves shields of brass; or instead of the primitive faith, which was of the operation of God, they have got to themselves a faith that stands by the power, and in the wisdom of man. (2 Chron. 12:9, 10; Col. 2:12; 1 Cor. 2:4, 5) And, to say no more to this, for what is God so angry with this land, but for the sin of the professors that dwell therein, while they have polluted his name with their gifts, and with their idols? God, I say, has been provoked most bitterly by us, while we have profaned his name, making use of his name, his word, and ordinances, to serve ourselves, 'O Lord, what wilt thou do to this land.' We are every one looking for something; even for something that carrieth terror and dread in the sound of its wings as it comes, though we know not the form nor visage thereof. One cries out, another has his hands upon his loins, and a third is made mad with the sight of his eyes, and with what his ears do hear. And as their faith hath served them about justification, so it now serves them about repentance and reformation: it can do nothing here neither; for though, as was said, men cry out, and are with their hands upon their loins for fear; yet, where is the church, the house, the man that stands in the gap for the land, to turn away this wrath by repentance, and amendment of life? Behold the Lord cometh forth out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the places of the earth, and the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place. But what is the cause of all this?—For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. (Micah 1:5)
It is that that is observed by them that can make observation, that all that God has done to us already has been ineffectual as to cause that humility and reformation, by which his judgments must be turned away. Repentance is rare this day, and yet without doubt, that without which, things will grow worse and worse. As for them that hope that God will save his people, though but from temporal judgments, whether they repent and reform, or do otherwise, I must leave them and their opinions together: this I have found, that sometimes the repentance, even of the godly, has come too late to divert such judgments. And, how some of the godly should be so indulged as to be saved from punishment without repentance, when the true and unfeigned repentance of others will not deliver them, leaves me, I confess, in a wilderness! But that which is most of all to be lamented is, that sin, through custom, is become no sin. The superfluity of naughtiness is at this day become no sin with many. Surely this was the case with Israel, else how could they say when the prophets so bitterly denounced God's judgments against them, 'Because we are innocent, surely his anger shall turn from us.' (Jer. 2:35) When custom or bad example has taken away the conscience of sin, it is a sign that [that] soul is in a dangerous lethargy; and yet this is the condition of the most that profess amongst us this day. But to leave this and to proceed.
As there is a twofold faith, two sorts of good works, and the like, so there is also a twofold love to Christ; the one standing, or stopping, in some passions of the mind and affections; the other is that which breaks through all difficulties to the holy commandment to do it. Of both these there is mention made in the scripture; and though all true love begins at the heart, yet that love is but little set by that breaks not through to practice. How many are there in the world that seem to have the first, but how few shew the second. The young man in the gospel, (Mark 10:17) did by his running, kneeling, crying, inquiring, and entreating of Christ, to shew him the way to life, shew that he had inward love to Christ and his own salvation; but yet it was not a love that was 'strong as death,' 'cruel as the grave,' and hotter than the coals of juniper. (Song 8:6) It was a love that stopped in mind and affection, but could not break out into practice. This kind of love, if it be let alone, and not pressed to proceed till it comes into a labouring practising of the commandment, will love as long as you will, to wit, as long as mouth and tongue can wag; but yet you shall not, by all your skill drive this love farther than the mouth; 'for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.' (Ezek. 33:31)
Nor may this love be counted for that of the right kind, because it is in the heart, for the heart knows how to dissemble about love, as much as about other matters. This is feigned love, or love that pretends to dear affections for Christ, but can bestow no cost upon him. Of this kind of love the world is full at this day, especially the professors of this age; but as I said, of this the Lord Jesus makes little or no account, for that it hath in it an essential defectiveness. Thus, therefore, Christ and his servants describe the love that is true and of the right kind, and that with reference to himself and church.
First, with reference to himself. 'If a man love me,' saith he, 'he will keep my words.' (John 14:23) And again, 'He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.' And, 'He that loveth me not, keepeth not my sayings.' 'And the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.' Behold you now where Christ placeth a sign of love, it is not in word nor in tongue, not in great and seemingly affectionate gestures, but in a practical walking in the law of the Lord. Hence such, and such only, are called the undefiled in the way. You know who says, 'I am the way.' 'Blessed,' saith David, 'are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.' (Ps. 119:1)
But here again the hypocrite will give us the slip by betaking himself to exterior matters, as to his 'mint and anise and cummin.' (Matt. 23:23) Still neglecting the more weighty matters of the law, to wit, judgment, mercy, faith; or else to the significative ordinances, still neglecting to do to all men as he would they should do to him. But let such know that God never ordained significative ordinances, such as baptism, the Lord's supper, or the like, for the sake of water, or of bread and wine; nor yet because he takes any delight that we are dipped in water, or eat that bread; but they were ordained to minister to us by the aptness of the elements, through our sincere partaking of them, further knowledge of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and of our death and resurrection by him to newness of life. Wherefore, he that eateth and believeth not, and he that is baptized, and is not dead to sin, and walketh not in newness of life, neither keepeth these ordinances nor pleaseth God. Now to be dead to sin, is to be dead to those things forbidden in the moral law. For sin is the transgression of that, and it availeth not to vaunt that I am a saint and under this or that significative ordinance, if I live in' the transgression of the law.' (1 John 3:4) For I am convicted of the law as a transgressor, and so concluded to be one that loveth not Christ, though I make a noise of my obedience to Christ, and of my partaking of his significative ordinances. The Jews of old made a great noise with their significative ordinances, while they lived in the breach of the moral law, but their practice of significative ordinances could not save them from the judgment and displeasure of their God. They could frequent the temple, keep their feasts, slay their sacrifices, and be mighty apt about all their significative things. But they loved idols, and lived in the breach of the second table of the law: wherefore God cast them out of his presence: hark what the prophet saith of them, (Amos 4:4) 'Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years: and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free-will offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord God.' Thus, as I said, the hypocrite gives us the slip; for when he heareth that love is in the keeping of the commandments of God, then he betakes him to the more external parts of worship, and neglecteth the more weighty matters to the provoking of the God of Israel.
Second, As love to God is shewed by keeping of his commandments; so love to my neighbour, is the keeping of the commandments of God likewise. 'By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God,'—in us, both to God and man, 'that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.' (1 John 5:2, 3) He that keepeth not God's commandments, loves neither God nor men.
Thus then we must learn to love one another. He that keepeth God's commandment, doth to his brother what is right, for that is God's commandment. He that keeps God's commandment, doth to his brother even as he would be done unto himself, for that is God's commandment. He that keeps God's commandment, shutteth not up his bowels of compassion from him, for the contrary is his commandment. Further, he that keepeth God's commandment sheweth his brother what he must do to honour the Christ that he professeth, aright: therefore, he that keeps the commandment, loves his brother. Yea, the keeping of the commandment is loving the brethren.
But if all love, which we pretend to have one to another, were tried by this one text, how much of that that we call so, would be found to be nothing less? Preposterous are our spirits in all things, nor can they be guided right, but by the word and Spirit of God; the which, the good Lord grant unto us plentifully, that we may do that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Yea, and that there may, by them, be wrought sound repentance in us for all that hath been done by us amiss, lest he give 'Jacob to the spoil, and Israel to the robbers;' for that they have sinned against him by not walking in his ways, and by not being obedient to his law. (Isa. 42:24)
Let me add, lest God doth not only punish us in the sight, and by the hand of the wicked; but embolden them to say, it was God that set them on; yea, lest they make those sins of ours, which we have not repented of, not only their bye-word against us to after generations, but the argument, one to another, of their justification for all the evil that they shall be suffered to do unto us: saying, when men shall ask them, 'Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?' (Deut. 29:24; 1 Kings 9:8; Jer. 22:8) 'Even because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, and walked not in his ways.'
Table of Contents
The Editor's Advertisement
A Holy Life the Beauty of Christianity
First, the Exhortation - That Men Depart from Iniquity
Second, the Extension of the Exhortation - to Every One that Nameth the Name of Christ
What Iniquity they Must Depart from that Religiously Name the Name of Christ