by Rev. Thomas Lye
So likewise ye, 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.—Luke 17:10.
THE truth that at this time lies before me, both to prove and improve, is this,—that there are not any works of super-erogation. On that account, I have pitched on the words read; which are an apodosis or epiphonema, the "inference" or "conclusion" which our Lord Jesus draws from his preceding parable.
The parable begins in verse 7: "Which of you, having a servant ploughing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? and will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken. Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall," &c. (Verses 8–10.)
Doth he thank that servant?—Τῳ δουλῳ εκεινῳ; or, if you will, "that captive slave,"* who is wholly at his foot and dispose; as if, forsooth, by his obedience he had done his master a free kindness and favour, to which he was not obliged? Hath that vassal in strictness of justice obliged his master? and is his master bound to look upon himself as obliged to return his vassal thanks, and to reward him, for doing the things that were commanded him?
I trow not—Ου δοκω, "I think, suppose, judge not." Neither the person nor the service do in truth deserve or merit any thing, no, not so much as thanks, nor can in justice claim it. The ransomed vassal's all,—his life, spirits, strength, service, all that he is, hath, can do, suffer,—are his master's, not his own; and therefore wholly and solely at his absolute dispose and command. "Doth he then thank that servant? I trow not." True, indeed, though the great God owes us no thanks, yet in infinite grace he is pleased so far to stoop beneath himself, as to give us thanks for our obedience, and to bespeak us in such a condescending language, as if indeed he were beholden to us: Τουτο χαρις, "This is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully;" (1 Peter 2:19;) that is, God accounts himself hereby gratified, as it were, and even beholden to such sufferers; this being the lowest subjection, and that being the highest honour, men can yield unto their Maker. God will thank such. Nay, more: look into that amazing scripture, Luke 12:36, 37, and read it, if you can, without an ecstasy. If a man serves, and his Lord comes and finds him watching too, and intent upon his work, what will his Lord do? "He will gird himself, and serve him." O stupenda condescensio! O stupenda dignatio!† says one on the place. But know, though these two parables seem parallel, their scope vastly differs. What a diligent servant may humbly expect from his bountiful Lord, is one thing; (namely, that his "labour shall not be in vain," or unprofitable, but plentifully rewarded; 1 Cor. 15:58;) that is the scope of Luke 12; and what the most diligent slave can justly challenge from his absolute Lord and Patron, is another; which is the grand scope of the text. Doth he deserve, or may he justly challenge, any the least reward, yea, but so much as bare thanks? "I trow not. So likewise ye," &c.
When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you—Ὁταν ῶοιησητε. The learned Glassius observes, that in these words our Saviour doth not insinuate that any man arrives at that sinless perfection in this life as to do all those things which God commands; for how much soever we have done, it will appear, upon a just balance of account, that we have done less than we ought, and are much short of our duty. But Christ speaks here conditionally, and supposes only what he doth not assert or grant:* as if he had said, "If it were possible" for them to do all things that were commanded by God in his holy word,† to do all that good that God requires, (Micah 6:8,) to walk exactly according to "that good, acceptable, and perfect will of God:" (Rom. 12:2; Heb. 13:21:) all those good things, I say, which God prescribes in his word, and not such as fond men devise, either out of blind zeal, or upon pretence of good intention, without the warrant of the word. (Matt. 15:9; Isai. 29:13; 1 Peter 1:18; Rom. 10:2; John 16:2; 1 Sam. 15:21–24.)
Supposing, then, that you "have done" all these things, ῶοιησητε,‡ and that with utmost art and industry, as a man would do a curious piece of work which he intends to expose as his masterpiece to the most curious view of all observers. "Well, and what then?" Then "say ye, We are unprofitable servants." When God looked back on the works of his hands, and saw every thing that he had made, he did, and might most justly, say, "Behold, it is very good." (Gen. 1:31.) But as for you, when ye have done your utmost, "say ye, We are unprofitable servants," "Yes," say the Papists, "say so indeed; but this is only out of humility and modesty; for ye are not really unprofitable." To whom we give this short reply. Christ doth not here teach his disciples the art of modest lying, and that to God himself;—to say one thing, and to think another. No; without question we are to say so, and that from the heart; and in saying so, we speak the truth, and nothing but the truth. "We are" indeed "unprofitable servants," such as cannot merit the least good at the hand of God by our best obedience.
Unprofitable—Αχρειοι.§ It is well observed by some critics, that this word is of the same import with that in Rom. 3:12: "They are become unprofitable," ηχρειωθησαν. So the Septuagint render Psalm 19:3; 53:3. The word in the original [is] נֶאֱלָחוּ* "They are become abominable," Putidi facti sunt; so far from being profitable, that they rather stink in God's nostrils. Nay, farther: it is the same word that is given to that wicked and slothful servant that was cast out into outer darkness: Τον αχρειον δουλον εκζαλλετε, "Cast out that unprofitable servant:" (Matt. 25:30:) to show us, saith one, what our merit is, if God should be severe. (Psalm 143:2.)
In the last place, our Saviour subjoins the reason why he would have us heartily to acknowledge ourselves unprofitable servants; and it is this, Because if we had, or could have, done all those things, &c., we had then done but that which we ought to do; that, and that only, that, and no more than, was our duty to do;† and on that account the Lord by a just right might exact and challenge it at our hands. We owe all obedience possible to God as our Creator. (Psalm 100:2, 3; 33:8, 9.) The highest obedience is our debt; and it is no matter of merit to pay a man's debts. How good soever any man is, he is no better than he should be; and what good soever any man hath done, he hath done no more than was his duty to do both to God and man. On this account, saith our Saviour, "If you could and should do all those things," &c.
From the words thus opened, I infer these two
I. They who in their obedience attain, to the greatest height which is possible in this life, fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do.
II. Were it possible for the best of men perfectly to keep the law of God, yet even these supposed perfect ones cannot in the least oblige God, or merit any thing from the hand of his justice.
These two propositions, solidly fixed and fitly discharged, may, through a smile from Heaven, prove effectual for the battering down of one of the topmost pinnacles of the Romish Babel; namely, their proud doctrine of super-erogation.
I. Of the first. They who in their obedience attain to the greatest height which is possible in this life, fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do.
(I.) QUESTION. "But what is every man in this life in duty bound to do?"
ANSWER. Every man in this life is bound to full conformity, in the whole man, to the righteous law of God, and to entire, exact, and perpetual obedience thereunto.—"The law of the Lord is perfect," (Psalm 19:7,) and requires the highest perfection both of parts and degrees: and that,
1. In the frame and disposition of the whole man, soul and body.—It reaches all the faculties, motions, and operations of the inward, as well as the words, works, and gestures of the outward. Man, as God's creature, is bound to love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, mind, might, and strength. (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37–40; Luke 10:26, 27.) The first bubblings of rash anger are no less forbidden by this "royal law" than cruel murder. (Matt. 5:21, 22.) A lust peeping out of the eye is no less a violation of this spiritual law than an unclean act. (Verses 27, 28.).
2. In the performance of all those duties of holiness and righteousness which he oweth to God and man.—Israel must hear all God's commandments, statutes, and judgments, that they might learn, and keep, and do them. (Deut. 5:1–3, 31, 33.) "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good," truly and acceptably good: "and what doth the Lord thy God require of thee?" Surely, something that, in the balance of the sanctuary, down-weighs "thousands of rams, and ten thousands of rivers of oil;" nay, is more acceptable than the idolatrous sacrificing of a firstborn son: namely, "To do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." (Micah 6:6–8.) Holy Paul writes after this copy; but could not reach it: it was his exercise and endeavour, though not his attainment, to get and keep a good "conscience void of offence," both "toward God and toward man." (Acts 24:16.)
3. In this universal performance of all obedience, the law requires the utmost perfection in every duty, and forbids the least degree of every sin.—"Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point," that is, willingly, constantly, and with allowance from conscience, though but in the least tittle, "he is guilty of all;" that is, is liable to the same punishment [as], stands upon no better terms of hope and acceptance with God than, if he had done nothing. (James 2:10.)
OBJECTION. "But what is all this to believers? They 'are not under the law, but under grace.' " (Rom. 6:14.)
ANSWER 1. True, believers are not under the law as a covenant of works, so as to be thereby either justified (Gal. 2:16; Acts 13:39) or condemned. (Rom. 8:1; Gal. 3:13.)
2. But yet they are under the conduct of the law, namely, as it is a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty; and doth at once direct and bind them to walk accordingly. See what high apprehensions Paul had of this law: "The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." (Rom. 7:12.) His dear affection to it: "I delight in the law of God after the inward man." (Verse 22.) His faithful observance of it: "With the mind I myself serve the law of God:" (verse 25:) [He] copies out a great part of it, and presents it as a rule to the Romans to walk by, (Rom. 13:7–9,) and to other churches. (1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:14; Eph. 6:2, 3.) James calls it "a royal law," the law of God, the King of kings, and Jesus Christ, the King of saints: (James 2:8:) it hath a kingly author, requires noble work, gives royal wages;—"a law of liberty," which if ye shall fulfil, if ye have respect to the whole duty and compass thereof, ye shall do well, and but well. (James 1:25.) Thus the beloved disciple backs the authority of the law. (1 John 2:3, 4, 7, 8.)
OBJECTION. "But hath not the Lord Jesus in the gospel dissolved this obligation?"
ANSWER. Yea, rather, so far is Christ in the gospel from dissolving, that he much ratifies and strengthens, this obligation: "I came not to destroy, but to fulfil;" (Matt. 5:17–19;) in this chapter clearly expounds it; elsewhere most strictly enjoins it. (Matt. 22:37–40; Luke 10:26, 27; Mark 12:33.) Paul goes deep in the case, and rejects the thought of it with the deepest aversation: "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law." (Rom. 3:31.)
Thus you have heard what every man in this life is in duty bound to do; namely, perfectly, entirely, exactly, perpetually, to keep the commandments of God: that is his duty. In the next place, let us speak to his ability, or rather utter impotency, to perform this duty.
(II.) They who in their obedience attain to the greatest height which is possible in this life, fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do.
Since the fall of the first Adam, our common head and representative, no mere man, descending from him by ordinary generation, in this life ever was, is, or shall be, able, either by himself, or by any strength of grace received, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed.
1. Since Adam's fall—True, indeed, the first Adam in his estate of innocency had a power personally and perfectly to keep the whole law of God; but not since, neither he, nor any that naturally spring from his loins. It was the dream of the old Pelagians, that man was so little bruised and impaired by Adam's fall, that even still by the mere power of nature he could perfectly keep the whole law. If so, what means the apostle in Rom. 5:12, 17–19; 1 Cor. 15:21, 22? By Adam's sin were all made unrighteous, subject to death, judgment, condemnation; and therefore such unrighteous, judged, condemned creatures as we are all by nature, can never perfectly fulfil a righteous law.
2. No mere man—None that is a man and no more. No man descending from Adam by ordinary generation—True, the only "Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus," (1 Tim. 2:5,) was able perfectly to keep the commandments of God; and did so. Conceived he was without sin, (Luke 1:35; Heb. 4:15,) anointed with the Holy Ghost above measure, (John 3:34,) "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners," (Heb. 7:26,) came on purpose "to fulfil the law," (Matt. 5:17,) and did perfectly fulfil it. (Psalm 40:7, 8; Heb. 10:5–11; Matt. 3:17; John 17:4.)
But then he was not a mere man; he was God as well as man, (Rom. 9:5; Col. 2:9,) God incarnate, the eternal "Word made flesh,"* (John 1:14,) "manifested in the flesh;" (1 Tim. 3:16;) but no mere man.
3. Not in this life—We grant, that when the soul comes to be enrolled, and admitted a free denizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, she shall sit down among "the spirits of just men made perfect;" (Heb. 12:23;) but not till then. When the saints "come to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;" (Eph. 4:13;) when they come to "see God as he is," and shall behold his face in light and glory; then, and not till then, they "shall be like him." (1 John 3:2.) Then indeed they shall see God "face to face;" but here only "through a glass darkly:" (1 Cor. 13:12:) then presented "a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle;" (Eph. 5:27;) but whilst here, like the moon at full, not without our spots.
4. Not able perfectly to keep the commandments of God—There is indeed a twofold perfection ascribed to saints in this life:—
First. A perfection of justification.—Saints are "complete in Christ," their head and surety. (Col. 2:10.) They are perfectly justified, never-more liable to condemnation. (Rom. 8:1, 33, 34; Heb. 10:14; John 5:24.)
Secondly. A perfection of holiness or sanctification.—And this so called,
(1.) In regard of its essential or integral parts.—Thus when we see an infant that hath all the parts of a man, soul, body, all its members, we say, "This is a perfect child." Saints even in this life have this begun perfection of holiness: they are begun to be sanctified in every part, in "soul, body, spirit," throughout, though every part be not throughout sanctified. (1 Thess. 5:23.)
(2.) In regard of desires, intendments, aims at and endeavours after gradual perfection.—They desire, study, labour to be perfect, as their Heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt. 5:48.) They "forget that which is behind, and press forward toward the mark." (Phil. 3:12–14.) Perfection, which will be their reward in heaven, is their aim on earth; and as God accepts the will for the deed, (2 Cor. 8:12,) so he expresseth the deed by the will, and candidly interprets him to be a perfect man who would be perfect, and desires to have all his imperfections cured.
(3.) In respect of others; comparatively perfect.—Thus, when one man is sickly and weak, and another man is very strong, we say the strong man hath perfect health compared with him that is sickly and weak; and yet the strong man hath not such perfect health, but [that] he hath also the principle of sickness in his body; and some time may be ill, and indisposed. Thus "Noah was perfect in his generation;" (Gen. 6:9;) Lot among the Sodomites; (2 Peter 2:7;) Job in the land of Uz. (Job 1:1.) Thus saints in scripture are said to be perfect, when compared with those that were openly wicked, or but openly holy; said to be men without spot, compared with those that were either all over spotted with filthiness, or only painted with godliness. Thus those that were stronger in knowledge and grace, laid in the scale with those that were weaker, men with babes, are said to be perfect. (1 Cor. 2:6; Phil. 3:15; Heb. 5:14.)
(4.) In respect of divine acceptation; an evangelical perfection, a perfection of sincerity and uprightness.—Such as "love our Lord Jesus in sincerity." (Eph. 6:24.) Such as are not gilded, but golden, Christians; not painted sepulchres, not whited walls; not men "of a heart and a heart." (Psalm 12:2.) Thus God to Abraham: "Walk before me, and be thou perfect," or "upright." (Gen. 17:1.) Aarons, indeed, in this,—that they carry "Urim and Thummim," "light and perfection," or "uprightness," engraven on their breasts; (Exod. 28:30;) on whose tombs you may, with God's approbation and testimonial, write an Asa's epitaph: "Nevertheless" (notwithstanding Asa's several slips, yet) "his heart was perfect with his God all his days." (1 Kings 15:14; 2 Chron. 15:17.)
(5.) In respect of degrees; to which nothing is wanting, nothing can be added, to make it more complete.—When the sun is not only risen, but got to its full meridian and zenith. Thus, when we see a child that was born perfect as to parts grown up to man's estate, so that he shall grow no taller, wax no stronger, this we call "perfection of degrees." And thus no saint in this life is or can be perfect, [so] as to include all the degrees of holiness, and to exclude all, even the least taint of, sin. And if there be but the least gradual defect, the law is not perfectly fulfilled.* Now that no man is in this life so perfect, &c., appears,
(i.) In this, that there is not one instance to be given of any one, even the most holy man that ever breathed on God's earth, that was so holy and perfect as to be freed from having sin in him.—O the blots that we find in the best of their escutcheons! Noah at once betrays his internal and external nakedness. Abraham, the father of the faithful, equivocates more than once. Moses, that conversed with God mouth to mouth, the great secretary of heaven, is guilty of unbelief, and speaks "unadvisedly with his lips." (Psalm 106:33.) What shall I speak of David, Hezekiah, Josiah, those stars of the highest magnitude? As for Paul, even after he had been rapt up into the third heavens, hear his groans, his heart-piercing groans: "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?" (Rom. 7:24;) and free confession of his imperfection: "Not that I have already attained, or were already perfect," &c. (Phil. 3:12–14.) As for Peter, concerning his perfection, (Gal. 2:11, 12,) read, but with fear and trembling, Matt. 26:69, to the end; and when thou hast mingled tears with him, draw a finger on his scar, and go, and ask his holy successor, that most humble servant of servants, the pope, whether he, or any of the scarlet robe under him, dare compare with those truly golden ones for holiness, notwithstanding all their dross: and if not, what becomes of their proud dream of gradual perfection?
(ii.) How many express scriptures are there, that prove, that no man is perfectly holy in this life!—Solomon gives us three: "There is no man that sinneth not." (1 Kings 8:46.) "There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not." (Eccles. 7:20.) As if he had said, "If you would look for a just one, that doeth good, and sinneth not, you must look for such an one in heaven, and not upon earth." The learned and judicious Dr. Manton hath an excellent note on this text; namely, "The wise man doth not say simply, 'That sinneth not,' but, 'That doeth good, and sinneth not;' that is, that sinneth not even whilst he is doing good."† Our very wine is mixed with water, our best silver with dross; our softest lawn hath its list, our sweetest honey, its wax and sting. Farther yet: he throws down his gauntlet, and proclaims a challenge to all the world to enter the lists with him: "Who can say, I have made my heart clean?" (Prov. 20:9.) "Who can?" Why, many can and do,—Pharisees, Papists, Quakers. True, many may say so boldly, proudly, falsely: but who can say so truly? (Rom. 3:9–21, 23;) "I am pure from my sin?" (Prov. 20:9.) "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." (1 John 1:8, 10.) The doctrine of the Catharists is a lying doctrine. Even from this scripture, it plainly appears, that that man is not perfect that saith he is perfect; forasmuch as it saith, that he that saith so is a liar, and one that is so far from growth and perfection, that "the truth" itself, the root of the matter, "is not in him." None in this life are absolutely freed and exempted from sinning: "In many things we offend all." (James 3:2.) All of us offend in many things; in some things, at best. The blessed Virgin herself had her slips; for which she is taxed by Christ himself. (Luke 2:49; John 2:3, 4.) We offend—"We" includes himself, though an apostle of such eminent holiness that he was called "the Just."* "How should man be just with God?" or, as Broughton reads the words, "How can man be just before the Omnipotent?" "Just;" that is, by an inherent righteousness before God. "If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand." (Job 9:2, 3, 20.) Man is not able to maintain his cause, and to hold his plea with a holy God. (Job 15:14, 15.) Hence it is that that man after God's own heart wholly waves God's tribunal of justice: "O enter not into judgment with thy servant, Lord." He doth not say, "with an enemy, a rebel, a traitor, an impenitent sinner;" but "with thy servant," one that is devoted to thy fear, one that is consecrated to thy service, one that is really and indeed quantus, quantus est, totus tuus.† (Psalm 143:2.) As if he had said, "Lord, if the holiest, purest, best of men should come and stand before thee in judgment, or plead with thee, they must needs be cast in their cause. 'If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities,' alas! 'O Lord, who shall stand?' " (Psalm 130:3.)
(iii.) It is utterly impossible in this life perfectly to keep the commandments of God, because the best of saints in this life are but imperfectly sanctified.—The principle of grace within them, which is the fountain, is but imperfect; and therefore the streams of obedience can never rise higher than the fountain. The root is tainted, and the sap and branch; therefore the fruit cannot be perfectly sound. While the tree is partly evil, the fruit cannot be wholly good. As to the great grace of faith, what great reason hath Christ to say to the best of saints, as more than once to his disciples, "O ye of little faith!" (Matt. 6:30; 8:26; 16:8.) Where is the man of so much brass and impudence, that dares avouch he loves God with that degree of intenseness that he ought to do? that he loves God here with as raised, transcendent, superlative flame of heart as ever he shall do, or can hope to do, in heaven? Love always attends on knowledge. I "cannot possibly love that which I do not know:" it is the eye that must affect the heart: Ignoti nulla cupido. Nor can the degree of my love exceed the degree of my knowledge. It may indeed sink beneath it, but never swells above it. Now our knowledge of God in this life is imperfect: "We know but in part;" "we see through a glass," and that "darkly;" (1 Cor. 13:9, 12;) and therefore cannot love with all the heart, soul, mind, strength.
More than this: there are remnants of sin abiding in every part of saints, and perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit, "so that they cannot do the things that they would;" (Gal. 5:17;) "a law in their members warring against the law of their minds," and leads them "captive to the law of sin." (Rom. 7:18, 23.) They have a clog at their heels, "sin that easily besets" them; (Heb. 12:1;) lusts within them, "that war against their souls." (1 Peter 2:11.) There is indeed in every man, even in the holiest living, a cursed "root of bitterness," (Heb. 12:15,) which God doth indeed more and more mortify, but not nullify, in this life.* This [is] like the ivy in the wall: cut off the stump, body, boughs, branches of it; yet some strings or other will sprout out again, till the wall be plucked down. This, this is that coloquintida, that death in the pot, that flyblows all their graces, leavens all their comforts, taints and blends all their duties. Hence proceed the iniquities of our holy things. (Exod. 28:38.) This is that that is able to turn the high priest's robes into rags, his incense into a stench. Hence came the humble but true complaint of the church: "All our righteousnesses," in themselves, as ours, "are as filthy rags." (Isai. 64:6.) Mark, we do not say, as the Papists falsely charge us, that all that a believer doeth is sin; but this we say: A believer sins, for the greatest part, in all he doeth. The work of God's Spirit upon us, and the motions of his grace within us, are pure and holy: but yet, as clean water passing through an unclean pipe receives a tincture of that uncleanness; so sinfulness cleaves to our holiest actions, we, the instruments, being sinful.† Needs must the music be inharmonious, when all the strings of the lute are out of tune.
Is this a truth? Is the moral law of God so perfect, spiritual, just, and good? Doth it indeed require and exact such personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience? Must good, only good, all good, and that in the most intense and highest degree, be done, and that from a divine principle,—the Spirit, faith, love; in a right manner,—according to the divine word and will; and to a divine end,—the glory of God? And was there never a saint yet in the world, that was mere man, that ever did or could exactly do what this law requires, but fell far short of their duty? See here, then, the certain downfall of Dagon before the ark. Behold here that arrogant Popish doctrine of super-erogation, bowing, stooping, falling at the foot of the truth and word of God. Let him that hath an ear, hear and judge. Tell me: if the best of God's saints, doing their best, fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do, is it possible for a Popish shaveling to super-erogate, that is, to do, yea, piously, acceptably, and preter-pluperfectly to do, far more than God requires? They are not ashamed to tell the world, that it is not only possible, but facile and easy, for a true believer exactly to keep the whole law of God, and not to fail a tittle, Alas! Paul was a man of low attainments, when he whines out his Ω ταλαιπωρος εγω ανθρωπος· "O wretched man that I am!" (Rom. 7:24;) and David a dwarf to these Goliaths. He indeed stands wondering and trembling on the shore of the ocean, and cries out, " 'I have seen an end of all perfection: but thy commandment is exceeding broad;' a great deep, an unsearchable gulf, an ocean without bank or bottom." (Psalm 119:96.) But as for them, with their very spoon they will lave it.* Alas! it is an easy leap into the chair of perfection; that is a mark and white for souls of a lower alloy. But greater souls are born for greater exploits. Such eagles as they scorn to catch at flies; but fly at stars. Nay, it is not heaven itself [that]—at least nothing less than the eleventh orb of the empyrean heavens—can give a proportionable treat to their aspiring souls. It is for poor, penitent publicans and sinners, to please themselves in doing, through Christ's strength, what the Lord requires; nothing becomes these worthies less than doing more than ever entered into God's heart to command them. O the stupendous pride of Lucifer, and of hearts possessed by him! Well, my brethren, I would not be thought to envy and pine at their triumphant honour; only give me leave to conclude this use with this epiphonema; namely, Those that will perform an obedience that God never commanded, what can they expect less than a heaven that God never created? But here the Papist acts the Parthian, and fights flying, namely, makes his objections.
OBJECTION I. "Doth God enjoin the creature that which is impossible? That were unjust, and would highly intrench on God's goodness."
SOLUTION. This arrow was long since taken out of Pelagius's quiver; to which we reply, as Austin did: What is simply and absolutely impossible in itself God doth not impose upon the creature; but what apostate man himself hath made impossible to himself, voluntarily, and merely by his own default, that the great Lawgiver may and doth justly impose. And this impossibility no way impeacheth God's goodness; because the sinner hath wilfully contracted and brought it on himself.
If a prodigal spendthrift hath, by his luxury and debauchery, utterly disabled himself to pay his debts, may not the wronged creditors demand their due, although the prodigal cannot pay? What, though the sinner hath lost his power? since this is done wilfully and wickedly, certainly God may justly demand his right!
OBJECTION II. "But did not Christ come in the flesh for this end, that we might be able fully to keep the law in our own persons, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us?"
SOLUTION. Mark: the scripture saith, "in us," not "by us." Christ came, "that the righteousness of the law should be fulfilled" for us, and "in us," that is, imputatively, but not by us personally. (Rom. 8:4.) The blessed Jesus, our Head and Representative and Surety, in his own person, whilst here on earth, did fully obey the law, perfectly conforming to it in all its holy commands. Now this his most perfect obedience is made over, reckoned, and imputed, to his members, (Rom. 5:19,) as if they themselves, in their own persons, had performed it. The law's righteousness is not fulfilled in them formally, subjectively, inherently, or personally, but legally and imputatively, they being in Christ as their Head and Surety; and so Christ's obedience becomes ours by imputation. (Rom. 10:4.)
OBJECTION III. "But we find divers saints in scripture recorded for perfect men: Noah, Job, Caleb," &c.
SOLUTION. But were they perfect with a sinless perfection? If you prove not that, you do but beat the air. We easily grant a perfection of parts; we utterly deny perfection of degrees, such as admits not the least taint of defect or sin. We say, that men may be very eminent in grace; but yet even then not exactly conformable to the law. An evangelical perfection we admit; it is no more than sincerity: a legal perfection we deny; that, in this life, is an impossibility.
OBJECTION. But the Romanists fly a higher pitch; and, not content with perfect performance of what is commanded, they tell us they can, and do, do more; crying up their "evangelical counsels," as they call them, for rare things indeed, and such as far transcend moral or evangelical precepts. He that gives ear to these counsels, and follows these, is a saint indeed, and doth indeed do more than God requires.
SOLUTION. But what are these evangelical counsels that are distinct from evangelical precepts?* Bellarmine, Alphonsus, and Platus, concur in their description of an evangelical counsel; and they thus decipher it: "It is Christ's commending only, but not commanding, a good work: which if not done, doth not at all expose to condemnation; but if done, merits a greater degree of glory, a coronet at least in heaven." A counsel differs from a precept in matter, subject, form, and end. The matter of a precept is more facile and easy, but that of a counsel more hard and difficult. Obedience to a precept springs from a principle of nature; but obedience, or listening, to a counsel owes itself to none but a supernatural principle. To obey a precept is good; but to conform to a counsel much better. But then for the subject. All are bound to obey evangelical precepts; but only some few choice, select privadoes of heaven are concerned with evangelical counsels. The form also differs. A precept obliges by its own proper power and authority to obedience; but a counsel leaves it in the breast and liberty of the person to whom it is given, whether he will follow it, yea, or no. Lastly: they differ no less in their end. The end or effect of a precept is a reward to him that obeys, punishment to him that doth not; but the end of a counsel is a greater reward to him that observes it, but not the least punishment or frown on him that neglects, and not observes it. But are there indeed any such evangelical counsels contradistinct from evangelical precepts? "Yes," say the Papists; and to that end charge us with these three texts, which, they say, do all prove that there are some evangelical counsels which fall not under a command.
OBJECTION I. "But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold." (Matt. 13:8.) Here, saith Bellarmine, the Lord compares the church to good ground, whereof one part brought forth a hundred, another sixty, another thirtyfold: and he allegeth the authority of Hieronymus, Cyprian, and Austin for this interpretation of this parable; namely, that Christ doth here distinguish between the different merit of chaste marriage, widowhood, and virginity; and that virginity is a greater good, and more meritorious in the sight of God, than either chaste widowhood, or conjugal chastity. But this, saith Bellarmine, is an evangelical counsel only, not a command; for what God commands not, and yet commends, and prefers it before other things, he doth, without all doubt, counsel only and advise.
SOLUTION 1. But what reasons do those fathers of the church give for this interpretation? Here Bellarmine is silent.
2. Let their own Maldonate answer for us and truth. A Christo tantùm propositum fuit, ut doceret omne semen, &c.: "Christ's intent here was only this,—to teach us that all seed which fell on good ground did so multiply, that that which brought forth the least increase produced thirtyfold, even so much as none but the best and most cultivated ground was wont to bring forth; that which brought forth most, a hundred; the middle good ground, sixty." And if this be the genuine sense of the text, what doth it make for Bellarmine in the least, seeing fruitfulness in hearing the word, and enjoying of ordinances, doth no less belong to precepts than counsels?
OBJECTION II. "Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me." (Matt. 19:21.) Here, saith Bellarmine, an evangelical counsel is plainly distinguished from a precept. The precept we have in His answer to the young man's question: "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" namely, "Keep the commandments." There is the precept; (verses 16, 17;) and to obey, that is sufficient for salvation. But then he subjoins: "If thou wilt be perfect;" that is, saith Bellarmine, "If thou art not contented with bare eternal life, but dost aspire unto and breathe after a more excellent degree in that eternal life, then 'go, sell all,' " &c. Here is the counsel.
SOLUTION. In these words Christ doth not give any evangelical counsel in the Papists' sense. For,
1. No greater reward than bare "eternal life" is proposed by Christ to him. Christ only saith to him, "Thou shalt have treasure in heaven;" which phrase is common to all those to whom the hope of eternal life is proposed: "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven." (Matt. 6:20.) Now a bare heaven, according to them, is not a sufficient reward for the obedience of an evangelical counsel.
2. We utterly deny Bellarmine's gloss on these words, "If thou wilt be perfect;" that is, "If thou aspire to an excellent degree in eternal life:" but rather thus: "If by the observation of the commandments here thou wouldest obtain life eternal hereafter, it is necessary that thou shouldest be perfect in thy observation of them. But thou art not perfect; and therefore, in that way, thou canst not hope to obtain eternal life. Wast thou perfect, thou wouldest 'go and sell all thou hast, and give to the poor;' but this thou wilt not do." The perfection, then, that our Saviour intends, is a perfection of grace in this life, not a higher degree of reward in the next. And that appears,
(1.) In our Saviour's answer to him: "One thing thou lackest." (Mark 10:21; Luke 18:22.) Here our Saviour gives check to his vain boasting.
(2.) When he was gone away sorrowful, mark what our Saviour adds: "A rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Verse 23.) He doth not say, "Shall not obtain a golden coronet, or a greater degree of glory;" but plainly, "He shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Whence it follows, that this young man, because he did not follow our Saviour's counsel, was in danger of losing eternal life. Now the Papists assert, that he that refuseth to hearken to an evangelical counsel shall incur no punishment; and let themselves be judges, whether exclusion from heaven be no punishment.
OBJECTION III. "Paul counsels, but doth not command, virginity and continency to the Corinthians." (1 Cor. 7:25, 26, &c.)
SOLUTION 1. It doth not follow that because Paul saith, "I give my judgment," therefore he doth not command. Compare this with 2 Cor. 8:10: "Herein I give my advice," Γνωμην εν τουτῳ διδωμι. This was concerning almsdeeds: and do any Papists number exhortations to them among evangelical counsels? Or will they admit marriage to be an evangelical counsel? And yet Paul adviseth to it: "To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife." (1 Cor. 7:2.)
2. Evangelical counsels have always a greater reward in heaven proposed to the observers of them. Read the whole chapter, and see whether Paul holds forth a more glorious crown to virginity; yea, whether he doth so much as barely promise eternal life to it.
3. Evangelical counsels are not backed with the intimations of temporal commodities, as these are here. (Verses 26, 28, 34.)
Let this suffice for the first conclusion. I proceed to the second.
II. Were it possible for the best of saints perfectly to keep the law of God, yet even these supposed perfect ones cannot in the least oblige God, or merit any thing from the hand of his justice.—"When we have done all those things which are commanded us, we are still unprofitable servants" to our Sovereign Lord: "we have done but that which was our duty to do." As to merit, properly and strictly so called, it is the just desert of a voluntary action, whereunto a proportionable reward is due out of justice; so that if it be not given, an injury is really committed, and he to whom retribution properly appertaineth, should be really unjust if he did not exactly compensate.* Some of the Papists soar very high in this point, and tell us roundly, that good works do not only merit in respect of God's gracious covenant, but in regard of the worthiness of the works themselves; and that God, for the greater honour of his children, would have them to get heaven by their merit, which is more honourable to them than to receive it by God's free gift. It is not for such high-born souls as theirs humbly to expect and obtain everlasting happiness, as a beggar doth his alms; but to attack heaven by storm, to enter upon and possess it as the just reward of their works, and to ride triumphantly through it as conquerors. Others of the Papists seem more modest;* and they tell us, that "the saints do merit indeed, but then their merits are subordinate to Christ's merits: nay," say they, "they are derived from them; for Christ hath merited for us the power and grace of meriting. And therefore this doctrine of merit is far enough from obscuring the glory of Christ's merits; it rather argues the wonderful efficacy of them. It is no blemish to the sun, that the moon and stars shine with a borrowed light from it. Fruitfulness of the branches is no disparagement to the vine. The dependent and subordinate efficacy of second causes is no detraction from the all-sufficiency and omnipotency of the First." But for all these sugared words and fair pretences, we shall endeavour to make it evident, that such a fancied merit of pardon of sin, and eternal life, even by our best works, is an "ungrounded, novel, unnecessary, impossible fiction."
1. Wholly ungrounded on the scriptures—That Christ's merit hath purchased for us grace for the performance of good works, we readily grant; but that he hath merited that we might merit, we utterly deny, as being a thing unheard of in the writings of the prophets and apostles.
2. Novel—"It is a new, upstart opinion:" so says that malleus Jesuitarum, ["mall of the Jesuits,"] the incomparable Usher. In former times of Popery, the ordinary instruction appointed to be given to men on their death-beds was, that they should look to come to glory, not by their own merits, but by the virtue and merits of Christ's passion; and place their whole confidence in his death only, and in no other thing; and interpose his death between God and their sins. This made William of Wickham, founder of New College, profess, he trusted in Christ alone for salvation; and Charles VIII. did the like when he came to die; and Bellarmine himself, when he was at the brink of eternity, to profess, Tutissimum est, &c.: "Give me a Christ, rather than all other pretended merits whatever."
3. An unnecessary fiction—Hath Christ a fulness of merit, and that of infinite value, to purchase reconciliation and acceptation both of our persons and services, together with an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven? Yea, or no? If it be denied, it is easily proved out of Dan. 9:24, 26; Col. 1:19, 20; John 17:2; Heb. 9:12, 15. If it be granted that the merit of Christ is of infinite value, and that by it he hath purchased in the behalf of his members a full right unto eternal life and happiness; if Christ hath merited for us perfection, and fulness of grace and glory; what necessity is there that we ourselves should do this again?†
4. It is impossible—We cannot possibly by our best works merit eternal life. We are saved by mercy, not merit; (Rom. 3:20; 4:2, 4, 6;) by grace, not of works; (Eph. 2:8, 9; Titus 3:5–7;) and if by grace, by grace alone, not by works, no blending of grace and works together. (Rom. 11:6.) To evidence this, let us but duly consider the necessary ingredients of merit, and apply them to the best works of the best of saints. To render a work properly and strictly meritorious of a reward, it is necessary,
(1.) That there should be some equality, proportion, and suitableness between the work and the reward.—But is there any equality betwixt the enjoyment of God in heaven, and our imperfect works on earth? If I present my prince with a horse or dog, and he requites me with a lordship, will any man say I have merited that lordship? Of all works none comparable to martyrdom; but yet what compare between a crown of thorns here, and a crown of glory hereafter? (2 Cor. 4:17;) not worthy to be named the same day. (Rom. 8:18.)
(2.) That the work done be profitable and advantageous to him of whom any thing is merited.—But "can a" sinful "man be profitable unto God?" (Job 22:2, 3; 35:7, 8.) "Can a man?" he doth not mean an ordinary, sickly, weak, frail man; but a man at his best, a man in the flower and perfection not only of his natural abilities, but in the richest furniture and array of his acquired and inspired perfections. Take this man, a man of these attainments and accomplishments; and "can he be profitable unto God?" Can he bring any advantage, gain, or profit unto God? Be he never so holy, never so righteous, doth the Lord receive any advantage by him, so as thereby God is his debtor, and become beholden to him? No, no. The best of men cannot oblige God. The great Jehovah is perfect in himself, and therefore cannot receive any addition; he is self-sufficient, and therefore needs no addition. Holy David humbly acknowledges this: "My goodness extendeth not to thee;" that is, "I am not able to do any good which reacheth to thy benefit, or increaseth thy happiness." (Psalm 16:2.)
OBJECTION. "But is not the church of the Jews called God's 'peculiar treasure?' And is there no profit in a treasure?" (Exod. 19:5; Deut. 32:9.)
SOLUTION. Yes. They are called his "treasure;" not because they profit him, but because he protects them, as a man would his treasure that is most dear to him.
OBJECTION. "But is not the glorifying of God an advantage to him?"
SOLUTION. Our glorifying of God adds no more to him than the reflecting glass doth to the most beautiful face. It only shows what God is; it doth not add to what God hath. Nay, at best, it is but a dusty, cracked glass. (Matt. 5:16.) A little taper adds more light to the sun, than all men do or can to God.
(3.) That it be a work that is not already due.—Doth any man deserve an estate for that money whereby he discharges an old debt? That which is our duty to do cannot possibly merit when it is done. We cannot oblige either God or man by performing our obligation. All the works we can do for God are deserved by him. Hath not he created us? Doth he not every moment uphold our souls in life? Hath he not redeemed us, and so is infinitely beforehand with us every way? Dare any say, that God doth not deserve that they should do the utmost they can for his service and glory? If he doth, is it not pride and impudence to pretend merit from God? Thus our Saviour argues in the text, where he proves, that, because the servant had done no more than was his duty to do, therefore he did not merit in doing it: "When ye have done all, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do." He that hath done all those things that are commanded him is a man indeed, a man of worth, a man of men: but where to be found on earth? But let it be granted that he hath reached to the utmost line of the command, he is yet "an unprofitable servant," he hath done but his duty. A man of worth he may be; a man of merit he is not, he cannot be. There neither is nor can be any good work acceptable to God which God hath not commanded. Of all other works whatever his query is, "Who hath required them at your hands?" (Isai. 1:12.) And if it be commanded, then it is due to God; and if so, then by giving that to God which is his due, we do not merit, no, not so much as thanks. (Luke 17:9, 10.) We are not our own; we are the Lord's. We are "bought with a price;" we owe our whole selves for our creation and redemption; and therefore we ought to glorify God in our bodies and souls, which are the Lord's. (1 Cor. 6:20.) If we ourselves, our bodies and spirits, are the Lord's, much more are all our services his. If the person be another's, all the work that is or can be done by him is his too.
(4.) That what good works we do be our own.—A man cannot merit by giving that to another which he had from him to whom he gave it. A king's almoner merits not by distributing his sovereign's alms. Now "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above." (James 1:17.) What hath or doeth the best of saints, that he hath not received? (1 Cor. 4:7.) Is it not the Lord that worketh in them "both to will and do?" (Phil. 2:12, 13.) Do not all works that are good, as they are good, proceed from his Spirit? Are they not the fruits that spring from that divine root? (Gal. 5:22.) Is not repentance his gift? (Acts 11:18; 5:31.) Is it not given to us both to believe and to suffer? (Phil. 1:29.) Without him, can we of ourselves do any thing? (John 15:5.) Nay, can we so much as think a good thought of ourselves? (2 Cor. 3:5.) Is it not he that works all our works for us and in us? (Isai. 26:12.) And therefore certainly by them God cannot be bound to bestow more upon us. Hence Durandus, to the great regret of merit-mongers, with much zeal and strength, impugns and contends against the merit of condignity.*
(5.) That it be not mixed and tainted with sin.—That action which needs a pardon cannot deserve a reward. Can that for which we deserve hell and eternal death, merit heaven and eternal life? Now as good works are wrought by us, they are defiled and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God's judgment. (Isai. 64:6; Gal. 5:17; Rom. 5:17, 18; Psalm 143:2; 130:3.) All our graces are imperfect, all our duties are polluted, and therefore stand in need of favour, grace, and acceptation: and where then is their merit?
OBJECTION I. "But is not eternal life called 'a reward?' And doth not that strongly prove merit? 'Great is your reward.' " (Matt. 5:12.)
SOLUTION 1. Compare scripture with scripture, and then judge. Is not eternal life said to be "the gift of God?" (Rom. 6:23.) Can a free gift be deserved or merited? Again: is not eternal life called "an inheritance?" (Rom. 8:17; Gal. 4:7; Eph. 1:14, 18; Col. 1:12.) Can the same estate be mine by inheritance, and by purchase?
"Yes," say the Papists; "the glory which Christ had was his by inheritance; for he was 'heir of all things.' (Heb. 1:2.) And yet it was his by purchase too: he dearly paid for it." (Phil. 2:7–10.)
True; but this was in diverse respects, because he had two natures: as he was the eternal Son of God, it was his inheritance, and belonged to the manhood only as united to the Godhead. As he was man, he might and did purchase it by what he did and suffered in the flesh. But in saints there are not two natures, nor any ground of pretence for purchase.
2. Doth not the scripture clearly speak of two kinds of rewards,—of grace, and of debt? and withal affirms, that the reward that God gives to good men is merely of grace, not of debt. (Rom. 4:4.)
Bellarmine tells us it may be of both.
No; the apostle utterly denies that: "If it be of grace, then it is no more of works." (Rom. 11:6; 4:4, 5.)
OBJECT. II. "But God gives this reward to men for working in his vineyard." (Matt. 20:8.)
SOLUTION. True. But still the reward appears to be of grace: else why should he that came in at the last hour receive as much as they that had "borne the heat and burden of the day?" (Verse 12.)
OBJECT. III. "But God is said to reward men 'according to their works;' according to, that is, according to the proportion of them; and that implies merit." (Rev. 20:13; 2 Cor. 11:15.)
SOLUTION. I must demur to this gloss on these texts; and that,
1. Because, since God is pleased to reward in us his own gifts and graces, not our merits, as Bernard speaks, "He may still keep a proportion; and to them to whom he gave more grace here, he may give more glory hereafter;" and yet there is no more merit in this additional reward than in the rest.
2. I may as well conclude, [that] the blind men merited their sight, because Christ saith, "Be it unto you according to your faith;" (Matt. 9:29;) as we may gather merit from this phrase, "according to your works."
OBJECT. IV. "Good works [are] mentioned as the causes for which God gives eternal life: 'Come, ye blessed,' &c.; 'for I was hungry, and ye gave me meat,' " &c. (Matt. 25:34–36.)
SOLUTION. Paul did not think this a good argument; for though he knew that it was said of Abraham, "Because thou hast done this thing, I will bless thee;" (Gen. 22:16, 17;) yet he flatly denies the merit of Abraham's works. (Rom. 4:2, 6; Gal. 3:6.) And when he says of himself, "I obtained, mercy, because I did it ignorantly," (1 Tim. 1:13,) who can imagine that he means that his ignorance merited mercy? The king said, "I forgave thee all thy debt, because thou desiredst me." (Matt. 18:32.) did his mere asking deserve it?
OBJECT. V. "Good men [are] owned by God as 'worthy of the kingdom of God.' " (2 Thess. 1:5; Rev. 3:4.)
SOLUTION. These are said to be worthy, not as "the labourer is worthy of his hire," (Matt. 10:10; Luke 10:7; 1 Tim. 5:17, 18,) but,
1. Comparatively, in respect of other men, that are most unworthy.
2. By God's gracious acceptation of them in and through Christ. (Acts 5:41; Matt. 22:8.)—But otherwise the holiest of saints have ever judged themselves most unworthy of the least of God's mercies; (Gen. 32:10; Matt. 8:8; Luke 7:6, 7;) so far have they been from proudly thinking themselves worthy of eternal life. A worthiness of fitness and meetness for heaven in saints we acknowledge, (2 Thess. 1:3–5; Phil. 1:27; Luke 21:36,) as the word αξιους· is rightly rendered in Matt. 3:8; and yet it is God's grace alone that gives the saints this fitness; it is God alone that makes us thus "meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." (Col. 1:12.) It is therefore no less than impudence to pretend to merit from God by it. And if yet any will be so audacious as to boast of their own worth and merit, let them be pleased to answer the apostle's close and cutting questions: "Who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" (1 Cor. 4:7.)
USE I. INFERENCE. If, then, legal, sinless perfection, and merit for ourselves by our best works, notwithstanding all its plausible pretexts, stands convicted and cast, what shall we think of works of super-erogation? What intolerable arrogance, boldly, and without a blush, to affirm, that "divers of the saints have not only merit enough to purchase eternal life for themselves, but a great deal to spare for the relief of others!" This self-advancing and heaven-daring doctrine of works of super-erogation, what self-searching soul is there that looks not on it as the highest strain, two or three notes at least above E-la,* indeed such a note as not the holiest teraphim, seraphim, archangel, durst ever yet pretend to reach to, no, not in their highest Hallelujahs? Super-erogation! both the word and thing point out to us the top round of the Popish arrogancy. Or, if you please, you may look upon it as the grand bellows of the pope's kitchen here, and of his comfortable importance, his most beneficial laboratory, namely, purgatory, hereafter.
The Papists jumble-in this doctrine among the crowd of several other ungrounded, unscriptural, novel, and absurd opinions. And, that you may see that it is much beneath these grand sophis, vel delirare, vel insanire, nisi cum ratione;† thus they erect their Babel, a landscape whereof is exactly drawn by the skilful pencil of the truly reverend and learned Davenant:—‡
I. First, then, they readily acknowledge and declare, that "God-man Christ Jesus did fully satisfy the justice of God by his offering up of himself a sacrifice for sin, and that by that sacrifice did fully expiate the sins of believers:" a truth this written with a sun-beam. But then with the text, you must take the Popish comment too. "This satisfaction and expiation," say they, "is to be understood only in respect of their guilt of mortal sins, and of their eternal punishment due thereupon; but not at all in respect of their temporal punishment." As for this, they are wholly left to themselves, either to sink or swim; and, notwithstanding all that Christ hath done, suffered, purchased, promised, believers are still liable to it; and that not only in the present world, but, for some time at least, in the next; that is, in purgatory.
To follow them κατα ῶοδας, "step by step:"—
1. As to that pretty, new-coined distinction between the full remission of the guilt of sin, and yet inflicting of the punishment after the pardon of the guilt. Tell me, what is guilt? Is it not a liableness and being bound over to punishment? Is it any thing more or less? Therefore "if the guilt be taken away, of necessity the punishment must be taken away also."* All punishment results from guilt, and from guilt alone; and therefore, if there be a full expiation of that, the punishment must needs cease, let the kind of it be what it will. If a sin be remitted, pardoned, forgiven, it cannot in equity be punished. All punishment in order to satisfaction of justice, is utterly inconsistent with the nature and tenor of remission of sin. It is a great and known maxim, In sublatâ culpâ tollitur et pœna;† and backed by the concurrent testimony of the ancients.‡ The truth is, to affirm the contrary, is to make remission of sin a mere bauble, or rather a taunting jeer, or stinging sarcasm. As if a creditor should say to his debtor, "Poor soul! I freely forgive thee all thou owest me: only I must throw thee into a dungeon full of scorpions and serpents, and these must sting and torment thee years without number. But, for thy comfort, know, that it is not for the millions, but mites, thou owest me." (Purgatory-fire is not for mortal but venial sins, little peccadillos.) Or as if a judge or king should cause an "O yes" to be made, and then proclaim a free and gracious pardon to a desperate malefactor, or rather to his own prodigal, rebellious son, thus: "Son, I do, before men and angels, and in the face of the whole world, freely forgive you all your debaucheries, rebellions, treasons; I frankly quit you from the guilt of all your bloody crimes: only I remember some little incogitancies, some slight slips of your youth; and these I must not, cannot pardon. For these therefore, such is my tender compassion, you shall only be stretched and held on a rack, thrown on a burning gridiron, feed on flames of sulphur, and have plentiful draughts of scalding lead." O brethren, what human ears could bear such stabbing language? Mutato nomine, de Papicolis narratur fabula.§
2. Hath not Christ by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself fully satisfied the justice of his Father, and purchased perfect reconciliation?|| "By the obedience of" that "one" man, the second Adam, "are" not "many," even all elected, converted, believing, penitent sinners, "made righteous" before God? (Rom. 5:19.) Hath not Christ, "by one offering, perfected for ever them that are sanctified?" (Heb. 10:14.) Doth not the "blood of Christ" thoroughly "purge our conscience from" the guilt of "dead works" as well as filth? (Heb. 9:14.) Hath not Christ "loved us, and given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour" to all gracious intents and purposes? (Eph. 5:2.) did not Christ by his death "finish the transgression, and make an end of sins?" Hath he not made perfect "reconciliation for iniquity, and brought-in everlasting righteousness?" (Dan. 9:24, 26; Col. 1:19, 20; Rom. 3:24–26.)
3. Where do we find in the whole scripture any the least hint of such a restriction or limitation,—that Christ hath satisfied for eternal and not for temporal punishment? did he not bear the one as well as the other? "Surely he hath borne all our griefs, carried all our sorrows, is wounded for all our transgressions, bruised for all our iniquities, the chastisement of our whole peace was upon him, and by his stripes only we are fully healed." (Isai. 53:4, 5.) The indefinites in the text clearly include an universal. Christ "his own self bare all our sins," that is, the guilt and punishment of them, "in his body on the tree;" and therefore doubtless takes off from the sinner what he bare in his own person. (1 Peter 2:24.)
4. But tell me, Papists, suppose you laid your ear close to that fiery dungeon of purgatory, and should there hear elected believers, such for whom Christ hath eternal love and particularly died, and such as are truly regenerated and adopted; (for none but such are there, according to yourselves;) suppose, I say, you heard an Asa, a Hezekiah, a Jehoshaphat, a Mary Magdalen, nay, one of your own most holy popes, (who all have had their little slips, venial sins at least,) yelling, howling, crying out with Dives, "Woe is us! woe is us! for we are tormented in this flame." And, though they cannot, dare not in the least murmur against or impatiently complain of God; (that were a mortal sin, not committable in purgatory;) yet might they not without offence complain to God in such language as this?—"Ah, dear Father, the Father of thy dearest Son, our only Surety and Saviour, who now sits at thy right hand, and where one day we shall sit near him, wert not thou he that didst most freely and faithfully promise us, when we were on earth, to 'blot out all our sins as a cloud, and our transgressions as a mist?' (Isai. 43:25; 44:22;) to cover them with the robes of thy Son's righteousness? (Psalm 32:1, 2;) to 'cast all our sins into the depth of the sea?' (Micah 7:18, 19;) 'not' to 'impute our trespasses?' (Rom. 4:8;) yea, though they were sought for, that they should not be found? (Jer. 50:20;) never to mention them more? (Ezek. 18:22;) nay, never to remember them more? (Jer. 31:34.) Ah, dear Father, were these indeed thy promises, and didst thou in our life-time, by thy Spirit, seal to our consciences the faithful performance of them? and is this thy performance of them? 'Is this thy kindness to thy friend?' (2 Sam. 16:17.) As once Rebekah: 'If it be so, why are we thus?' (Gen. 25:22.) Is all thy promised mercy come to this? O consider and 'see whether there be any sorrow greater than our sorrow, which is done unto us, wherewith the Lord' himself, our Father, and not the devil, 'hath afflicted us, in the day of his fierce anger.' (Lam. 1:12.) True, indeed, our mountains are buried in the depth of the sea; but our mole-hills sink us: all our talent-debts are paid; but we lie, and rot, and burn, and die, for some little fees."—Tell me, Papists, if you heard such a complaint as this, would it not make your bowels to wamble? would you not be apt to bid them hush and be still, for fear, lest it should be noised in Gath, and blabbed abroad in the streets of Askelon? (2 Sam. 1:20;) lest that on the other side of the wall, in hell, (which, you say, stands but the next wall to purgatory,) a damned caitiff should hear it, and say? "Aha! aha! thus would we have it; thus, O thus, let all those be served and saved, that, while they lived on earth, believed on and were obedient to a crucified Jesus." In one word: for God to elect, redeem, regenerate, justify, adopt, sanctify, accept, promise, swear, and to do yet much more for pardoned sinners on earth; and yet in a vindictive way, in order to the satisfaction of justice, thus to punish; what is it less than the highest contradiction?
OBJECTION I. But we must not think the learned Bellarmine will be so easily muzzled: bark he will and must, though bite he cannot. "If Christ," saith he, "satisfied for all the fault and punishment, why then do we suffer so many evils after the remission of guilt? Doth not God lay many evils on pardoned persons? Was not Moses pardoned as to his rash anger, but yet must die in Mount Nebo for his trespass? (Deut. 32:48, &c.) [Were not] the Israelites pardoned, but yet punished? (Num. 14:20–23.) [Was not] David pardoned, but yet the child must die, and the father [must be] stabbed through the child's loins?"* (2 Sam. 12:14.)
SOLUTION. These are not properly and strictly punishments. True, materially they look like such, and may be owned as such; but not formally. Fatherly chastisements they are; legal punishments they are not; medicinal, but not penal; rhubarb, not poison; lancets only, not stilettos; ligaments, not halters. They do not come from God's vindictive wrath, nor doth he in the least design them for the satisfaction of his justice; but they proceed from other causes, and are designed for other ends. They are the issues of his paternal love and tenderness, (Heb. 12:5, 6; Rev. 3:19,) to make them more sensible of the evil of sin, (Jer. 4:18,) to prove their graces, (Deut. 8:16,) to purge their consciences, (Isai. 27:9,) refine their spirits, (Zech. 13:9; 1 Peter 1:7,) and to save their souls. (1 Cor. 11:32; 2 Cor. 4:17.) For God thus to afflict and punish may very well stand with pardoning grace; but to punish under any notion of satisfaction, save only that of Christ, cannot.
OBJECTION II. " 'Death is the wages of sin;' (Rom. 6:23;) and yet the righteous, though all their sins are forgiven in Christ, are not delivered from death."
SOLUTION 1. At the last day they shall be delivered from death itself. (1 Cor. 15:26, 55.)
2. In death, [they] are delivered from the sting and curse of death. (1 Cor. 15:56; Heb. 2:15.)
3. In that they die, this is out of God's love; (Isai. 57:1, 2; 2 Kings 22:20;) and that because,
(1.) It frees them perfectly from sin and misery. (Eph. 5:26, 27; Rev. 14:13.)
(2.) It makes them capable of further communion with God in glory, which they then enter upon. (Luke 23:43; Phil. 1:23.)
Thus much as to their first assertion; we proceed to the second.
II. They tell us, that "for the preventing or removing of these temporal punishments, both here and in purgatory, notwithstanding the fulness of Christ's satisfaction and merit, there must be human satisfactions made to God by believers themselves, and that for themselves or others." At this hole creep-in a world of Popish vanities: hence severe penances, frequent fastings, late vigils, tedious pilgrimages, bloody corporal lashings, voluntary poverty,—all these are human satisfactions before death. After death, Masses, prayers, dirges, indulgences, pardons,—these for them that at their death are pinioned up, and carried bound to purgatory; and this only for venial sins, such as break no square at all betwixt God and souls; such as do not deserve the loss of God's favour, nor exclusion from heaven to purgatory;—I say, whose flames and exquisite torments differ nothing from those of hell but only in duration; the one being but for a time, the other everlasting.
As to this fine device of human satisfaction by believers for themselves or others, we demand,
(I.) In Christ's humiliation, was there a fulness, an all-fulness of satisfaction, to make an ample amends to God's enraged justice, yea, or no? If it be denied, doubted, or disputed, by the Socinian or Papist, we thus prove it. The fulness of Christ's satisfaction is,
1. Most clearly typified in the Old Testament.—In those three famous instances:—the burning of the sacrifices by fire from heaven, (Lev. 1:9; Judges 6:17, 21; 2 Chron. 7:1–3,) which made them ascend toward the place of God's glorious possession; the completeness of the daily bloody sacrifice; (Exod. 29:38–42;) and the sweetness of the things required in the meat and drink offerings. (Exod. 29:40, 41; Lev. 2:2, 15.) All these [are] types of the fulness of Christ's satisfaction.
2. Plainly asserted in the New Testament.—"Christ hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour." (Eph. 5:2.) Wherein observe these two things:—
(1.) The sufficiency.—"An offering and a sacrifice to God."
(2.) The fragrancy and acceptableness unto God of the offering and sacrifice of Christ.—Christ's offering and sacrifice of himself was as acceptable unto God, as the sweetest odours are unto men's sense of smelling.
3. Really evidenced by Christ's exaltation, as an evident sign or token thereof.—Christ was thrown into the prison of the grave, as our Surety, for our sins; and no possibility of delivery of him thence, but by paying the utmost farthing we owed unto God's justice. But now, as the prophet saith, "He was taken from prison and from judgment," (Isai. 53:8,) raised from the dead, taken up into heaven, placed at God's right hand, (1 Cor. 15:4; Mark 16:19,) there admitted into the glorious exercise of an authoritative intercession: (Heb. 7:25:) a most convincing argument that he hath paid off all our debt, given full recompence to God's displeased holiness, sufficient satisfaction to his justice provoked by our sins. Hereupon that of our Saviour: "The Comforter" will "convince the world of righteousness, because I go to my Father;" that is, the Spirit shall convince the world, not only that Christ was righteous, or innocent in his own person, and therefore unjustly numbered among transgressors; but that there was righteousness enough in him for the justification of the whole world of his elect. And the argument whereby he proves it, is, "Because I go to my Father." (John 16:8, 10.) Our sins and God's justice would have kept Christ still in his grave, and never admitted him into heaven, till he had fulfilled all righteousness; that is, till he had performed all the duties, and suffered the whole curse, of the law, as touching the substance thereof, for those for whom he lived and died a Surety. On this it is that Paul firmly grounds his triumphing confidence, and bids defiance to sin, law, death, and devils. (Rom. 8:33, 34; with Rom. 4:25.)
4. Plain from the infinite worthiness of his person.—And that whether you consider Christ's humiliation under the notion of a price, or sacrifice.
(1.) As a price which he paid for us, of great and inestimable value, by reason of the worthiness of his person.—"The precious blood of Christ;" (1 Peter 1:18, 19;) the blood of God; (Acts 20:28;) a full and sufficient price of ransom (Psalm 130:7, 8) from the guilt and dominion of sin, from the curse and rigour of the law, all steps and degrees of salvation, (from all sins, all evil that is in sin,) all the sad and miserable consequents and effects of sin; and a sufficient price of purchase to obtain love, kindness, life, righteousness, favour, and acceptance, together with all the gracious and glorious fruits thereof.
(2.) As a sacrifice, which he offered for us, an all-pleasing sacrifice, by reason of the infiniteness of his person.—"By one offering [he] for ever perfected those that are sanctified." (Heb. 10:14.) The great acceptableness of this sacrifice unto God proceeds from the dignity of the priest offering,—the eternal Son of God, in whom God was infinitely well pleased; (Matt. 3:17;) from the sacrifice offered,—the blood shed was the blood of God; (Acts 20:28;) from the altar on which it was offered,—the divine nature. (Heb. 9:14.)
(II.) Tell me, then, Is there in Christ's humiliation an all-fulness of satisfaction to divine justice, yea, or no? If so, what need then in the least of this fig-leaf of human satisfaction? To what purpose do we light up a dim taper and a smoky candle, when we have before us the clear and full light of a mid-day sun? If Christ's satisfaction be of infinite price, why may it not serve for the expiation of the guilt of temporal, as well as eternal, punishment? If there be an all-sufficiency in Christ's satisfaction, what need the supplement of ours?
OBJECTION I. "Did not Paul 'rejoice in his sufferings' for the church, 'and fill up that which was behind of the afflictions of Christ in his flesh, for his body's sake, which is the church?' " (Col. 1:24.)
SOLUTION. A great difference betwixt suffering for the good of others, and satisfying for the fault and guilt of others. A Paul may do the former; a Christ only can do the latter. And this was the sole cause of Paul's rejoicing,—the great benefit that accrued to the church by his suffering. True, indeed, Paul is said to "fill up," &c., not as if there were any thing lacking or defective in the sufferings of Christ; (Heb. 10:14; 7:25;) but by "the sufferings of Christ," our apostle means, not Christ personal, but Christ mystical, that is, the body Christ, or true believers, that is, Christ in his members, who are usually called Christ. (Acts 9:4; 2 Cor. 1:5; Heb. 11:25.) When Christ had done suffering in his person, he left it as a legacy to his members that they should suffer with him and for him. (Acts 9:16; 14:22; 2 Tim. 3:12.) Well, then, Paul suffers for the church. But how? so as to satisfy God's justice for them? O no. Paul rejects this sense with indignation: "Was Paul crucified for you?" (1 Cor. 1:13.) But as he is said sometimes to suffer for Christ, (2 Cor. 12:10,) not, surely, to satisfy for him, but to glorify him; so he suffers for the church's edification and establishment; and so he elsewhere explains himself. (Phil. 1:12; 2 Tim. 2:10.) Hence it is, that he is said to labour in the word "even unto bonds." (2 Tim. 2:9.) Nor doth Paul think by his sufferings to redeem others from their suffering; but by his example to excite them to the same constancy. Wherefore he saith, he suffered all things for the elect, not that they should expect satisfaction for their sins in the merit of his sufferings, but that they might obtain the salvation that is in Christ.
OBJECTION II. Here the Papists gravely reply upon us: "Not to supply the wants or defects of Christ's satisfaction; but to apply it unto us. It is one of the instruments ordained by God for the application of Christ's satisfaction to us, in the taking away of temporal punishment."
SOLUTION. Quid verba audiam?* Show us the least tittle of ground for this harangue in the book of God.
1. A new satisfaction [is] no more required to apply the satisfaction of Christ, than a new death, redemption, resurrection is, to apply the death, redemption, and resurrection of Christ.
2. [It is not required] by their own limitation and restriction of the use of Christ's satisfaction. They limit the use of Christ's satisfaction to the taking away of the fault only, and that of mortal sins alone, and eternal punishment due for them: and how then can human satisfaction apply the satisfaction of Christ for the taking away of temporal punishment?
3. These pretended human satisfactions are no instruments of application of Christ's satisfaction: for such instruments are all ordinances of God, branches of his worship; so are not the pains of purgatory. Besides, all means of applying the satisfaction of Christ proceed from the grace, mercy, and favour of God; pains of purgatory, from God's justice, and are of a destructive nature.
4. These pretended human satisfactions are very injurious unto and derogatory from Christ's satisfaction; in that,
(1.) They make Christ's satisfaction to be imperfect, in that it adds thereunto a supply of human satisfaction.
OBJECTION III. "So far from derogating from the dignity of Christ's satisfaction, that they rather make to the greater honour thereof, because it deriveth all our power of satisfying from Christ's satisfaction. It is no derogation from God's omnipotency, that he works by second causes; that in working the greatest miracles, he makes use of the meanest servants. No impeachment [of] but rather an honour to Christ's satisfaction to have it advanced so far, as that by virtue thereof the members of Christ are made in part satisfiers of divine justice."
SOLUTION. One tittle of scripture-proof for this, or else the Protestant's negation is as authentic as the Papist's assertion.
(2.) It communicates to man power of satisfying, which is the peculiar and incommunicative prerogative of Christ alone.—This appears from two grand fruits of Christ's satisfaction, proper and peculiar thereunto, namely, redemption and reconciliation.
(i.) Redemption.—Christ alone hath redeemed us. (Gal. 3:13.) Now if redemption be not communicated, ergò not satisfaction; for redemption is founded on satisfaction. Now Papists themselves acknowledge no mediator of redemption beside him. (Heb. 1:3; 9:15.)
(ii.) Full and perfect reconciliation with God. (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21, 22; 2 Cor. 5:19; Psalm 51:9; 103:12; Isai. 38:17; 1:18.)—These and like places [are] to be understood exclusively. "Reconciled to God," that is, only by Christ's blood and death. No chastisement whatever beside that of his can pacify God's wrath against us, or can procure our peace with him. (Isai. 53:5.) Papists acknowledge that nothing which sinful man can do or suffer is able to purchase the return of God's favour and friendship: so then if men's best works and greatest sufferings cannot reconcile us unto God, neither can they satisfy the justice of God, because reconciliation of God to man follows satisfaction to his justice; and if God be once fully and perfectly reconciled, [there is] no place for any other punishment, though but temporal, because the friends of God and members of Christ cannot be condemned.
OBJECTION IV. "But human satisfactions are to us very considerable." Bonus odor lucri, "The vast and sweet profits," the large incomes and revenues, which these bring to the dispensers of them! This fabula meritorum ["fable of merits"] (like that fabula Christi, ["fable of Christ,"] as one of their popes said, and he spake like himself) is not easily to be parted with. Methinks I hear their good brother Demetrius clapping them on the shoulder, and crying, Euge, macte! "Go on, noble souls; go on and prosper!" "Alas! silver shrines for the great Diana are in danger; yea, her Holiness herself is in danger; and not she, or not so much she, as we; 'our craft is in danger to be set at nought.' " (Acts 19:24, &c.)
SOLUTION. Pardon me, if here I make no reply; but ingenuously confess, with that learned and worthy brother,* in his late excellent and sinewy tract on Rom. 8, that I cannot answer it. But, this being taken away, "I assure myself," saith he, "this controversy would soon be at an end." It is the satisfying of corrupt men in their pride, and avarice, and filthy lucre, rather than the satisfying of a punishing God, that is at the bottom of this controversy.
Thus much as to the second Romish position.
III. "There have been," say the Papists, "now are, and still will be in the church some eminent and transcendent saints, such as the Virgin Mary, John Baptist, St. Peter, St. Paul, Ignatius Loyola, St. Dominic, St. Francis, and many signal martyrs and confessors, that, by the assisting grace of God vouchsafed to them in this life, and the wise improvement of their own free-will, have been enabled perfectly, and personally, and perpetually to keep the whole law of God; and by this have merited eternal life for themselves, and greater degrees of glory. Nay, more; not only so, not only done all the good which the Lord required, or only just so much as the law demanded; not only given the Lord 'good measure, pressed down, and shaken together,' but even 'running over;' (Luke 6:38;) that is, by lending an obedient ear to God's evangelical counsels," (which are things of greater moment by far with Papists than God's moral precepts,) "they have even done more than the law demands, more than was needful to be done by them for the obtaining of eternal salvation, and have suffered more grievous torments than their sin deserved; and by both, have most plentifully merited for others."*
The vanity and rottenness of this third suggestion I suppose I have sufficiently evidenced in the proof of my first and second proposition; and therefore hasten to the next assertion of the Papists, which is,
IV. "These redundant and overflowing meritorious actions and sufferings of eminent saints, being mixed and jumbled together with the superabundant satisfaction of Christ," (concerning which Clement VI. tells us, that one drop of Christ's blood was sufficient for the redemption of all mankind, as if all the rest might have been well spared,) "are," say they, "deposited in the church's hands as a common stock and treasury."
V. And lastly. "The key of this church-treasury is committed by God to the whole and sole care and dispose of his Holiness the pope himself, the whole treasury to be disposed of by him and his delegates, and to be applied to poor, penitent, and contrite sinners, that so by the pope's Bull and Indulgences they may enjoy the benefit of those merits, and be delivered either from church-censures on earth, or the pains of purgatory, next door to hell."
To both these I shall briefly say but this much: Et risum teneatis umici?† or rather, Quis talia fando temperet a lachrymis?‡ This, this was the thing that first raised the spirit of that German Elijah,§ to put his life into his hand, and in the strength of his God to go out against the Romish Goliath. Pope Leo had gratified his dear sister Magdalene with a large monopoly of German pardons. Aremboldus, her factor, was a little too covetous, and held the market too high. The height of his over-rated ware caused the chapmen, and, among the rest, Luther, a little more narrowly to inspect their worth; and they were soon found to be (what indeed they are) a novel and irrational vanity, an upstart opinion; not known, say Cornelius Agrippa, Polydore Virgil, and Machiavel, to the churches, till the year 1300, in Boniface VIII.'s days; who was the first that extended indulgences to purgatory, and the first that devised the jubilee, which is indeed the mart or market for the full uttering of them.
But, to let pass the novelty, do but seriously weigh the sinfulness, of this opinion. It is grounded on a supposed merit in saints. Now merit is that which purchaseth a thing de novo which he had not before, and to make that due which one had not before, but may now lay just claim to. If so, how deeply derogatory is this opinion to the fulness of Christ's merit to purchase all reconciliation and acceptation both of our persons and services, together with an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven! (Dan. 9:24–26; Col. 1:19, 20; John 17:2; Heb. 9:12, 15.) If the merit of Christ be of infinite value, and that by it he hath purchased in behalf of us, his members, a full right unto eternal life and happiness, then their good works do not make the same newly due. If they make it any way due, [it is] either in whole, or in part: if in whole, then Christ hath merited nothing for them; if in part, then something of eternal life there is which Christ hath not merited. Either way there is a manifest derogation from the merits of Christ.
As for that ignis fatuus of purgatory, I refer you to the learned labours of my reverend brother, that in this book professedly treats of that subject.
USE II. EXHORTATION. I have done with the self-advancing Papist, A few words more to the self-abhorring reformed Protestant, and I have done.
1. "Be" sincerely "careful to maintain" and practise "good works," and that with all your might, even to the end of your days. (Titus 3:8.)—Dorcas was "full of good works." (Acts 9:36.) Yea, "provoke one another to love and to good works." (Heb. 10:24.) Let not this thought—that you cannot, when you have done all, either merit, or super-erogate by them—tempt you to neglect the holy, faithful, humble, constant performance of them. Do them, then; but do them "for necessary uses," (Titus 3:14,) for the noble ends by God prescribed. Not for this end, as if by them to merit or super-erogate; leave that design to the Pharisaical Papist; but in all your obedience, active, passive, aim directly,
(1.) At the evidencing of the truth and liveliness of your faith;* to show your faith by your works. (James 2:18.)—Abraham's faith was made perfect by his works. (Verses 21, 22.) Not as if Abraham's faith received its worth, value, and perfection from his works; but "[was] made perfect," that is, made known and discovered, as God's strength is said to be perfected in our weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9.) Or thus: his faith, co-working with his obedience "was made perfect;" that is, bettered and improved, as the inward vigour of your spirits is increased by motion and exercise.
(2.) At the manifestation of your thankfulness.—Thus David: "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord." (Psalm 116:12, 13.) To "show forth the praises of Him, who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." (1 Peter 2:9; 1:5–11.)
(3.) At the strengthening of your assurances of God's special love toward you.—"Hereby ye shall know that you know him, if ye keep his commandments;" that in you "verily the love of God may be perfected," and that "hereby you may know that you are in him." (1 John 2:3, 5.)
(4.) At the edification of your brethren, that your zeal may provoke very many.—As that of the brethren of Achaia did those of Macedonia. (2 Cor. 9:2.) "Let your light so shine before men," not that they may magnify you, but "glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 5:16.)
(5.) At the adorning of your profession of the gospel, and stopping of the mouths of adversaries. (Titus 2:5–13; 1 Tim. 6:1; 1 Peter 2:15.)
(6.) Chiefly and principally at the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31.)—Let your conversation be so honest, that, whereas they speak against you as evil-doers, though their corruptions accuse you, their consciences may acquit you; "that they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation." (1 Peter 2:12; Phil. 1:11; John 15:8.) "Glorify God," I say, whose "workmanship you are, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God had before ordained that ye should walk in them," (Eph. 2:10,) that so, "having your fruit unto holiness, you may have the end," or consequent, not the merit, of your works, namely, "eternal life." (Rom. 6:22.)
2. As, when you have done all, you are but an "unprofitable servant," and therefore must not presume to come to God in the opinion of your own worthiness, yet be not afraid to come to God because of your unworthiness.—The worst of men should not keep off from God because they are unprofitable, since the best cannot profit him. If we have done much, it is nothing to the Lord; and if we have done nothing, it is no bar to the Lord's doing much for us. God will not turn us back because we bring him nothing; nay, he invites us to come without any thing, "without money," or money-worth. (Isai. 55:1.)
3. When you have done all, and are most fully laden with good works, beg earnestly of God to work and keep in you low and humble thoughts of yourself, of all you do or suffer for him.—They of whom God hath the highest thoughts, have the meanest thoughts of and put the lowest rate upon themselves. No man ever received a fairer certificate from God than Job did: "There is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man;" (Job 1:1, 8;) and yet no man could think or speak more humbly and undervaluingly of himself than Job did: he "abhors" himself, and "repents in dust and ashes." (Job 42:6.) And, "Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer, but I would make supplication to my Judge." (Job 9:15.) And, "Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise my life." (Verse 21.)
To make and keep thee humble under thy greatest attainments,
USE III. DIRECTION. 1. Often look up and consider the infinite purity and holiness of God.—The more we know God, the more humble we are before him. "Now mine eye hath seen thee," that is, "Having now a clearer and more glorious manifestation of thee to my soul than ever; I now, perceiving thy pure holiness, wisdom, faithfulness, goodness, as if they were corporeal objects and I saw them with mine eye, on this very score 'abhor myself in dust and ashes.' " (Job 42:5, 6.)
2. When thou hast done all, remember still, that thy ability to do good works is not at all from thyself, but from the Spirit of Christ. (John 15:4, 5; 2 Cor. 3:5; Ezek. 36:26, 27.)—A continual gale and influence of the Holy Spirit [is] necessary to bring thy richly-laden soul into its port. (Phil. 2:13; 4:13.)
3. When thou art at thy non ultra, "in thy very zenith" of attainable excellences here, remember that all thy acceptation at the hand of God, both as to person and performance, depends wholly and solely on the blessed Jesus, and thy peculiar interest in him. (Eph. 1:6; 1 Peter 2:5; Exod. 8:28; Gen. 4:4; Heb. 11:4; 13:20, 21; 2 Cor. 8:12; Heb. 6:10; Matt. 25:21, 23.)