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so are faith and love, from whence they spring; and there is indwelling sin, that hinders saints from doing the good they would, and in the manner they are desirous of, and which pollutes their best actions.
11. They are not meritorious of any thing at the hand of God; the requisites of merit are wanting in them. 1. To merit, they must be profitable to God; but such they are not; they are no gain to him: men, by their works, give him nothing, nor does he receive any thing from them, and therefore he is under no obligation to them for them, Job xxii. 2. and xxxv. 7. Psalm xvi. 2. -2. They are due to God; whereas they should not, if expected to merit by them; but in doing them men do but what is their duty; for the doing of which they are debtors, and under obligation to perform them. God has a prior right unto them; could these be given him first, a recompense might be expected; but this is not the case, Luke xvii. 10. 3. They must be done by men in their own strength, and not in the strength and by the assistance of God, of whom it is expected to merit; whereas without the grace and strength of Christ man can do nothing; but all things through him strengthening them: his strength is made perfect in their weakness, and by his grace they do what they do, and therefore can merit nothing. 4. There is no proportion between the works of men, and any mercy and favour of God; they are not worthy of the least of the temporal mercies they enjoy, and still less of spiritual ones, and especially of eternal life and happiness; between which, and the best works of men, there is no manner of proportion; there is between sin and the of wages it, death; but none between works of righteousness and eternal life; that is the free gift of God, Rom. vi, 23.
III. The subjects of them, in whom they are found, and by whom performed. Every man is not capable of performing good works; there is an inaptitude, and an impotence to that which is good; men are naturally to every good work reprobate or unfit; to do good they have no knowledge, and have no inclination nor disposition unto it; have neither will nor power; the bias of their minds is another way; they mind the things of the flesh, and their carnal minds are enmity to God, and to all that is good; and hence the truth of that observation, There is none doth good, no not one! Rom. iii. 12. Such only are capable of doing good works who,
1. Are made good men; Make the tree good, and its fruit will be good; a man be made a good man, and he will do good works; but it is God that must make him good, none else can; he cannot make himself good; the good work of grace must first be begun in him by the Spirit and grace of God; and then, and not before, will he perform good works; he must be made a new creature in Christ, in order to do good works, Eph. ii. 10. 2. They must be purified and sanctified: Christ gave himself, his life and blood, for the redemption of his people; That he might purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works, Tit. ii. 14, and a man must be sanctified by the Spirit
and grace of God, that he may be meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work, 2 Tim. ii. 21. ➡3. They must have the Spirit of Christ, and be strengthened by him, with all might in the inward man, in order to perform them; and for this end is he promised, Ezek. xxxvi. 27.4 They must have faith in God, and strength from Christ; they that have believed in God, in his Son, and in his promises, and in his covenant, ought to be careful to maintain good works; as they are the only persons capable of them, since faith is requisite to them; and such are under the greatest obligations to perform them; and strength from Christ is necessary; in whom are both righteousness to render them acceptable to God, and strength to perform duties incumbent on them, Tit. iii. 8. -5. The apostle says; Let ours learn to maintain good works, Tit. iii. 14. Such who are the chosen generation, a peculiar people, the redeemed of the Lord, and who have drank into the same Spirit, have obtained like precious faith, and are heirs together of the grace of life.
IV. The necessary uses for which good works are to be performed.
1. Not to procure salvation, in whole or in part; not to make peace with God, which they cannot effect; nor to make atonement for sin, for which they cannot answer one of a thousand; nor to obtain the pardon of it, which is only by the blood of Christ; nor to justify in the sight of God, tor by the deeds of the law no flesh living can be, justified, Rom. iii. 20, 28. the best works being impure and imperfect. Salvation in general is denied to be of works; this is the current language of scripture. They are not in any rank and class of causes respecting salvation; they are neither efficient, nor moving, nor meritorious, nor adjuvant causes of salvation; nor even conditions of it; they do not go before any part of salvation, but are fruits and effects of it; not of election, which was before the children had done either good or evil; nor of redemption, in consequence of which the redeemed are a peculiar people, zealous of good works; nor of vocation, works before calling are not good works, and those that follow after are fruits and effects of calling grace; Who hath saved us and called us, not according to our works, &c. 2 Tim. i. 9. nor do they go before, to make and prepare the way to consummate happiness, but they follow after, Rev. xiv. 13. Yet,
11. There are uses for which they are necessary. As, 1. With respect to God, they being of his ordination, that his people should walk in them, and according to his command and will, in obedience to which it is necessary to perform them, Eph. ii. 10. as well as to testify our gratitude for mercies temporal and spiritual we receive from him; and they are to be done with a view to his glory; for hereby is our heavenly Father glorified; and we not only glorify him ourselves, but are the means of others glorifying him also, John xv. 8.
2. With respect to ourselves; as for the ornament of ourselves, to adorn our profession, and the doctrine of God our Saviour, 1 Tim. ii. 9, 10. Tit. ii. 10. and to testify and shew forth our faith to others, and to make our cailing and election sure; not surer than they are in themselves, nor surer to ourselves,
being certified to us by the Spirit and grace of God; but sure to others, by our good works and holy conversation, as fruits of them; which is all the evidence we are capable of giving to the world, or they are capable of receiving from us. James ii. 18.3. With respect to others, to whom they are good and profitable, and therefore to be done, Ti. iii. 8. both by way of example, and by real benefit received through them, either in a temporal, or in a spiritual way; and because they serve to recommend religion to others; and may be, without the word, a means of winning them to a liking of it; or, however, may serve to stop the mouth of gainsayers, and make them ashamed who falsly accuse the good conversation of the saints, and so prevent any just offence being given to Jew or Gentile, or to the church of God.
A COMPENDIUM OR SUMMARY OF THE DECALOGUE.
THE Commandments of the law are reduced by Christ to two capital ones; Love to God, and love to the neighbour, Matt xxii. 36-40. and the apostle Paul says; All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thy self, Gal. v. 14. he means the commandments of the second table of the law; and, indeed, love, as it includes both branches of it, love to God and to men, briefly comprehends every other command; and therefore with propriety it is said by him, Love is the fulfilling of the law, Rom. xiii. 9, 10. and what may serve to epitomize the decalogue, and to sum up the contents of each command, is a rule or two that may be observed; as, that the prohibition of any sin includes in it a command of the contrary virtue or duty; and so vice versa; and that the prohibition of any sin, and the command of any duty, include in them all sins and duties of the same kind or kindred, with all causes, means, and occasions thereof, as may be exemplified in our Lord's exposition of the sixth and seventh commands, Matt. v. 21-28. by which it appears, that the law is spiritual, and reaches not only to external actions, done in the body, but to inward thoughts, affections, and lusts of the mind.
The preface to the decalogue, contains arguments or motives unto obedience to the commandments in it. As,
1. That it is the Lord Jehovah, the author of our beings, the God of our lives and mercies, the sovereign Lord and Governor of the world, who enjoins it; who has a right to command his creatures what he pleases, and it becomes them to obey him. 2. He that enjoins these precepts is the Lord thy God; not only thy Creator, thy Preserver, and Benefactor, but thy covenant-God; as he was peculiarly to the Jews in a national sense, which laid them under great obligation to him; and if he is our God in a special sense, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace, the obligation is still the greater. - 3. He is farther described, as he which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, which was only literally true of the people
of Israel; which shews that the decalogue, as to the form of it, and as delivered through the hand and ministry of Moses, only concerned that people, and was calculated for their use; though, as to the matter of it, and so far as it is of a moral nature, and agrees with the law and light of nature, it is equally binding on Gentiles; and if the redemption mentioned is considered as typical of spiritual and eternal redemption by Christ, from the bondage of sin, Satan, and the law, the obligation to serve the Lord, and obey him, is still more strong and forcible; see Tit. ii. 14. 1 Cor. vi. 20. The decalogue itself follows.
I. The First command is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me. The things required in this precept are, -1. That we should know, own, and acknowledge God, the one, only, true God, and none else, Mark xii. 29. 2. That we should worship him, and him only; not any creature with him; nor any more than he; nor, indeed, any besides him, Matt. iv. 10. Rom. i. 25. 3. That we should exercise faith and trust in him, hope in him, and love him, John xiv. I. The things forbidden by it are, 1. Atheism; denying there is a God, or any of the perfections essential to Deity, as his omniscience, omnipotence, &c. and his providence in, and government of the world. — 2. Polytheism, or the worshipping of many gods, or more than one; as the sun, moon, and stars, the host of heaven, and a multitude of things on earth; either by Jews or Gentiles, 1. Cor. viii. 5, 6.3. Whatever is trusted in, and loved as God, as wealth and riches, which to do is idolatry, Eph. v. 5. or fleshly lusts, as the epicure, whose god is his belly, Phil. iii. 19. or any other Just or idol set up in a man's heart, as self-righteousness, or be it what it may, Ezek. xiv. 4. and xxxvi. 25. The phrase before me, is not to be overlooked; which may either point at the omniscience of God, in whose sight such idolatry must be very displeasing; or the placing of any object of worship by him, which is setting up man's post by his, as Manasseh placed a graven image in the temple itself, 2 Kings xxi. 7. or it may be rendered, Besides me, and so excludes all other objects of worship, there being no God but him, Isai. xliv. 8. I would just propose it, whether the words by may not be rendered, Besides my persons, besides the Three persons in the Trinity, who are the one God; by frequently signifies besides, Gen, xxxi. 50. Lev. xviii. 18. Deut. xix. 9. and
may be interpreted, my faces, or persons.
II. The Second command is, Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, or any likeness-thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them, &c. which respects the mode of worship. And, 1. Requires, that it should be spiritual, suitable to the nature of God, without any carnal imaginations, and external representations of him, John iv. 23, 24. Phil. iii. 3. and that the parts of divine worship; as prayer, praise, preaching, hearing the word, and administration of ordinances; be observed just as delivered, without any addition to them, corruption and alteration of them, Deut. iv. 2. 1 Cor. xi. 2.- 2 lt forbids all superstition and will-worship, human traditions, precepts,
and ordinances of men; and the introduction of any thing into the worship of God, which he has not commanded, Isai. xxix. 13. Matt. xv. 8. Col. ii. 20, 22, 23. and all images, figures, and representations of the divine Being, and of any of the persons in the Godhead; and, indeed, inaking the likeness of any creature, in heaven, earth, or sea, in order to he worshipped, and used for that purpose, and not only images of heathen deities, which were to be broken and burnt, but those of Christ, as a man crucified, of the virgin Mary, of angels, and saints departed, worshipped by papists. Though all pictures, paintings, and sculptures, are not forbidden hereby, only such as are made for, and used in, divine worship; but not which are for ornament, or for the use of history; and to perpetuate to posterity the memory of men, and their actions; otherwise there were images of things, of lions, and oxen, and the cherubim, in the tabernacle and temple, by the express order of God, Exod. xxv. 18. 1. Kings vi. 32. and vii. 29.3. The motives inducing to obey this command, are taken from God's being a jealous God, who will not give his glory to another, nor his praise to graven images; and from his severe punishment of the breakers of it, and of their posterity, who tread in their steps; and from his mercy shewn to those who, from a principle of love to him, observe it.
III. The Third command is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Which,- 1. Requires an holy and reverend use of the name of God; of his titles, perfections, attributes, word, and works, even in common conversation, and especially in religious worship; expressed by walking in his 2. It forbids a vain name, invocation of his name, and giving thanks unto it, use of the name of God, and of any of his titles, in common conversation, using them in a light way and manner; all profane swearing and cursing by them, James iii. 9, 10. perjury, or swearing falsely by his name; for though an oath may be taken lawfully, and always by the name of God, and not a creature; yet never to be taken falsely. So likewise blaspheming the name of God is a breach of this precept, Lev. xxiv. 14.3. The argument moving to the observation of it, is taken from the guilt incurred by it, and the punishment inflicted for it; The Lord will not hold such guiltless, Zech. v. 4. Mal. iii. 5.
IV. The Fourth command respects the time of worship, the keeping a day holy to the Lord; and requires that it should be after six days labour, Exod. xx. 9. that it should be observed in religious exercises, Isai. Iviii. 13. Rom. xiv. 6. and as a rest from bodily labour, from all secular business and worldly employment, excepting works of necessity and mercy; the example urging to it is taken from God's resting from his works of creation.
V. The Fifth command requires honour, reverence, and obedience to be given by inferiors to superiors; as by children to parents, so by scholars to tvtors and preceptors, by servants to masters, and by subjects to magistrates; atd forbids all disrespect, contempt, irreverence, and disobedience of them; which also has been treated of in some former chapters.