The Necessity of Good Works

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Eph. 2:10

“Follow…  holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”

Heb. 12:14

“Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

Titus 2:14

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Order of Contents

Introduction
On Good Works Generally  3
The Necessity of
.      Articles  20+
.             Latin
.                     Early Church  3
.                     Reformed  20+
.                     Lutheran  10+
.      Westminster
.       Other Confessions & Documents  6+
.      Quotes  8+
.      Romanist  1
Distinctions
.        Holiness is the Way to Eternal Life  6+
.        Right to Life vs. the Possession of Life  8+
.        Necessary to Justification Consequently  6
.        Necessary to Eternal Life Antecedently  4+
.        As Preparatory & Dispositional to Glory  4
.        As Inferior Causes  6
.        As an Instrumental Means to Possession  3
.        A Faith without Works does not Justify  3

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Introduction

The reformers cried out that Justification is by faith alone (Gal. 2:16), though faith is never alone (James 2:20,26).  Saving faith, of its nature, always produces good works in capable adults (Gal. 5:6; Rom. 6:22).†  A man or woman being born again of God is given a new heart (Eze. 36:26), a root of holiness, which inclines in its circumstances to living by the faith that inevitably flows out of it (Acts 16:14; Rom. 6:4), this being manifested in the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) and good works (James 2:18).  Hence the tree is known by its fruit (Lk. 6:43-33).

† Elect infants are excepted (Rom. 9:10-11), as well as elect mentally handicapped persons who may (or may not) be capable of an adequate comprehension and trust in the Savior (WCF 10.3), the fruit of which holiness may not be clearly observed by men in good works.  Persons saved by faith alone on their death-bed in their last moments are also a qualification to this statement, though note that even the dying thief on the cross gave public witness to his trust in Christ, submitted to his punishment, rebuked the mocking malefactor next to him and justified Christ (Lk. 23:39-43).

The terms ‘salvation’ and being ‘saved’ are often used in Scripture with respect to the first moment of our conversion in Justification (Eph. 2:8-9; Acts 2:40,47; 16:30-31; etc.), wherein we are found legally righteous in Christ for no works of our own, but only for his righteousness imputed to us though faith.

However, ‘salvation’ (and related terms) also refer in Scripture to our whole salvation, from beginning to end (Phil. 2:12-13; 2 Cor. 2:15-17 NKJV; 2 Sam. 23:5; Titus 2:11), including our future deliverance from this world (Gen. 49:18; Rom. 8:23-24; 2 Cor. 1:6; Phil. 1:28; 1 Pet. 1:9Rev. 12:10), our deliverance from our sinful flesh (Rom. 7:24) and of our inheritance into future glory (Rom. 13:11; Phil. 1:19; 1 Thess. 5:9; 2 Tim. 2:10; Heb. 1:14WLC 154).  As salvation encompasses our sanctification (1 Tim. 2:15; 2 Thess. 2:13), or our being made holy, it would be wrong to exclude the necessity of good works from the total picture of a person’s salvation.

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Historical & Biblical Distinctions

From the inception of the Reformation, the Lutherans, especially coming from a context dominated by Romanism, tended to be conflicted about whether it was appropriate to say that good works are necessary to salvation.  Many did not have a problem with the concept itself, but thought that the unqualified stating of such in their context was too easily misunderstood or liable to being twisted from the truth.  Other Lutherans, while urging the necessity of good works for numerous reasons, did not hold that they were necessary for salvation.  That is, while the presence of good works, and their witnessing and confirming character were necessary in the life of the justified person, they did not effect, cause or contribute to one’s salvation.

The Reformed, who also strongly held to Justification by faith alone, typically had less qualms about forthrightly asserting that works were necessary for salvation.  The first distinctively reformed confession that came out of the Reformation, the German Tetrapolitan Confession of 1530, written primarily by Martin Bucer, said (ch. 5):

“…we are so far from rejecting good works that we utterly deny that any one can be saved unless by Christ’s Spirit he be brought thus far, that there by in him no lack of good works, for which God has created him…”

While the Westminster standards (produced a century later) do not use the explicit language of the necessity of good works for salvation, the concept is resident in them in numerous places (see below).

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(Reformed Books Online has zero sympathy for the heresies of the Federal Vision, Norman Shepherdism, the New Perspective on Paul and Neonomianism.  The only thing you will find below next to the Scriptures are historic, orthodox, reformed theologians.)

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Works as a Condition of Salvation

As is implicitly seen in the Tetrapolitan Confession above, the Reformed were generally willing to say that good works were a necessary condition to receiving eternal life, reflecting Heb. 12:14, which starkly says, “Follow… holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”  Hence derives the common historically reformed term antecedent condition, which means that works are a condition which must precede entering into glory.

The condition of good works was understood, in consistency with Justification by faith alone, to be non-meritorious: they are not the grounds upon which our salvation stands or depends (eternal salvation is not able to be lost, nor will Christ let his sheep perish).  Yet, works are genuinely a cause sine qua non, ‘without which: nothing’; without which, there is no salvation.

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Works as Positively Contributing to the Possession of Salvation

As all theology ought to be descriptive of what is taught in Scripture, does Scripture only speak of works as being necessarily present in a believer’s life, or does it suggest more, that works positively contribute to attaining eternal life?

Much or most of the Reformed theologians of the Reformed Orthodox period were willing to say the latter, distinguishing between the right of salvation and the way of possessing salvation.  Works contribute nothing to the former, but do provide a basis for the latter.  Later reformed divines, such as Goodwin, Rutherford, Veal, Mastricht, Turretin, Witsius and many others, followed Jerome Zanchi in this, who prominently taught in the late-1500’s (following Calvin) that:

“Good works are an instrumental cause of the possession of life eternal, for by these as by media and by the legitimate path God leads us into the possession of eternal life…”

– Zanchi, p. 670 of ‘Whether Good Works are the Cause of Eternal Salvation?’  in Of the Nature of God, or of the Divine Attributes (Neustadt, 1593), Book 5, ch. 2, after Of Predestination in General, Question 6, Other Part, Of the Predestination of the Saints, Question 3, after the Thesis

This rather common and even standard reformed teaching was based in part on the causal nature and language of such Scriptures as these:

“…he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”  Gal. 6:8

“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat…'”  Mt. 25:34-35

“And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him;”  Heb. 5:9

“…he said to me, ‘These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in his temple:” Rev. 7:14-15

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Works as a Means & Instrument of Salvation

If good works are something that the children of God walk through in order to progress in the Christian life, the end of which is possessing eternal glory, then good works must function as more than present signs of the Christian life.  The common Reformed Orthodox teaching that God has predestined saints to walk in good works and that they are therefore an ordained means by which we enter into eternal life (as Calvin taught; compare WLC #154), derives from such Scriptures as:

“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:”  Eph. 1:4

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  Eph. 2:10

Rutherford, a spokesman for the Second Reformation in Scotland, went further, as did many of the Reformed Orthodox generally, and argued that because good works are a means of salvation, that therefore they may be called an instrument of salvation:

“Assertion 5: Good works are understood to have a causative power for eternal life in three ways…  2. That they might have an inferior and causal instrumental power conferred upon them by the grace of God, as Gisbertus Voetius says in Thersite Heautontemerumeno, section. 1, ch. 2, just as running is a cause of the crown which is received, contending a cause of the victory, and diet a cause of health [Note that these are Biblical analogies: 1 Cor. 9:24-25; Heb. 12:1; see Voet, Ibid., p. 157 & 159].

Neither may one be said to distinguish accurately here between a means and a cause, or between a way and a cause: for while good works are means, they are not passive, but active: a means here is an inferior cause…

It therefore follows that, in this question, the following are not necessary: not 1. A distinction between presence and causality, or between presence and efficiency;  nor 2. That distinction between a cause and a sign; nor 3. That distinction between a means, or a way, and a cause;

pp. 532-533  of ’10. Whether good works are necessary as causes of justification, and therefore also of salvation?  in Ch. 12, ‘On the Justification of Sinners’  in Examination of Arminianism (Utrecht, 1668)

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How Works are not a Means & Instrument of Salvation

The differences between faith being the alone instrument for justification and good works being an instrument for one’s whole salvation must be kept firmly in mind:

Faith alone has the nature and character of being able to trust in the salvation of Christ, and in being receptive, and in some distinct ways passive, in the human spirit receiving Christ spiritually entering into one’s heart (Rev. 3:20; Jn. 14:17-18).  Works, by their nature, are not suited or capable of this.§

§ Turretin: “…in the latter sense [‘strictly and properly’], faith is the sole condition of the covenant because…  there is no other which could perform that office because there is no other which is receptive of Christ and capable of applying his righteousness.” – Institutes, 2.189

It is faith receiving and trusting in Christ’s merit and works to save oneself that wholly excludes, and is able to wholly exclude, all of our works, past, present and future.

No works done by ourselves can prepare us in any meritorious or efficient way for the ability, in part of ourselves apart from the regenerating grace of God, to be able to choose and come to Christ in salvation and be justified.

Hence, works are not, and cannot be, a co-instrument in justification.

In addition to this, works are not an instrument in the Christian life which ground, by a relative merit or otherwise, our remaining and continuing in Justification or the Covenant of Grace with God.

If works are not the ground of our Justification or entering into the Covenant of Grace to begin with (Isa. 55:1-3; Dt. 9:4-5), and one may enter (Acts 2:36-38; 16:30-31) and be in the Covenant by faith with no good works whatsoever to commend themselves to God (Lev. 26:40-45), then good works cannot be a relative meritorious ground of continuing in Justification or the Covenant with God.  Rather, John Owen explains:

“Some say that on our part the continuation of this state of our Justification depends on the condition of good works…  with this only proviso, that they be done in faith…

[Rather…] the continuation of our Justification is the continuation of the imputation of [Christ’s] righteousness and the pardon of sins.”

p. 147  of Ch. 5, ‘The Continuation of Justification, whereon it does Depend’  in The Doctrine of Justification by Faith.

While the phrase used by some, that “faith and works are co-instruments of salvation” may be verbally true (if intended to bear an orthodox meaning), yet because the phrase appears to place both faith and works as being instruments of salvation in the same way and on the same level (without defining precisely how works are an instrument of salvation, in opposition to errors), this phrase may be very misleading.

To be very clear about how faith and works operate differently as instruments in our salvation:

Faith, and that only, is an instrument that definitively receives the meritorious grounds of our salvation (Christ and his righteousness) in our Justification; and through sanctification faith drives good works (1 Pet. 1:5).

Hence, faith and works do not act parallel to each other in progressing in salvation and attaining the fullness of it in eternity.  Rather, works flow out of faith, faith being their impelling and leading cause.  Works are subordinate to faith, are its fruit, and visibly demonstrate the presence of that invisible grace.

Works are an instrument of salvation (as numerous of the reformed orthodox quoted on this webpage taught, not to mention many more linked herein), not in anyway providing a basis for the merit or ultimate grounds by which we must be saved, but in that:

(1) they are the way and path ordained of God unto possessing salvation,
(2) they bring about in us a more holy character and disposition fitted unto our eternal heavenly abode, and in that
(3) they will be graciously rewarded in eternity, and are therefore necessary antecedents to receiving the fullness thereof.

When put this way, as is clearly seen, there is nothing novel being taught or hidden in the phrase: “faith and works are co-instruments of salvation”.  The phrase, however, is still not recommended to be used and it does not appear (to this webmaster’s knowledge) in any of the historic reformed resources below.

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The Good Works of Believers at the Final Judgment

Hence, while at Judgment Day the works of believers will be in view‡ with regards to God’s declaration of their righteousness and acceptance into their eternal reward (Mt. 25:19-29; 25:34-46; Rev. 20:12-13; WCF 33.1), those works will form no basis as to the merit by which they enter into that heavenly reward (as that has been merited by Christ alone).

‡ John Owen:  “…we do freely grant: (1) that God doth indispensably require personal obedience of him, which may be called his evangelical righteousness…  (5) That upon it, we shall be declared Righteous at the Last Day, and without it none shall so be.” – The Doctrine of Justification by Faith… (London, 1677), Ch. 6, ‘Evangelical Personal Righteousness’, p. 222

Rather the believer’s good works will be evidence and a demonstration of their having real righteousness, and their being righteous, this giving certain witness to their sincere faith and that they are Christ’s people, by which they will be saved on account of Christ their Savior.  This is seen in that God’s welcome into glory for his saints is “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” (Mt. 25:21)  There is no strict or relative merit in earning Heaven here, only the plain demonstration by the servant’s actions (Mt. 25:20) that he manifestly is good, and has been generally faithful in service to his Lord.

For an orthodox exposition of how believers will be ‘justified’ in light of their works at the Final Judgment, see:

Owen, John – ‘Sentential Justification at the Day of Judgment’  †1683  3 pp.  in The Doctrine of Justification by Faith, ch. 6, in Works, 5:160-162  (‘Sentential’ = relating to a sentence)

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Good Works as Preparatory & Qualifying Dispositions to Eternal Life

But how are works suited to being an instrument of our whole salvation?  In that they fit our souls to having an internal disposition of holiness, fit and proportioned (in some respect) to the eternal inheritance that we are purposed to attain and enjoy.

As grace is glory begun and glory is grace consummated (as Francis Turretin said), so there is a continuum between this life and the next: Christ says that believers are now in possession of eternal life, in that knowing Him is truly eternal life begun (Jn. 5:25; 17:3).

The English puritan, Edward Veal, shows that the teaching of the usefulness and necessity of the exercise of good works (impelled by a living faith) in disposing our hearts in real righteousness, fitting and qualifying us for receiving and experiencing our eternal reward, is Scriptural.  Veal is arguing against the Papists’ notion of good works being meritorious:

“Objection II [of the papists].  Several places they allege where the scripture speaks of believers as worthy of the reward: [Greek text]  “That ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God.” (2 Thess. 1:5)  [Greek text]  “They shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.” (Rev. 3:4)  Much stress they lay upon the word ‘worthy’; and so argue the saints to merit eternal life, because they are said to be worthy of it.

Answer.  The worthiness spoken of in such places is plainly the saints’ fitness for, and suitableness to, the reward of glory; that disposition which God works in those whom he intends to glorify; of which the apostle in Col. 1:12: “Who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:”…  the Greek ikanosanti signify no more than (as we translate it) ‘making meet,’ or ‘fit.’  And in how many other places is the same word used for fitness, or suitableness!  ‘Bring forth fruits meet for repentance;” (Mt. 3:8)…

…because though in strict justice, they do not merit life, yet they are qualified for it, and suited to it, by having those holy dispositions wrought in them which God intended to furnish them with, in order to the enjoyment of so glorious a recompence as He hath designed for them.”

– ‘Whether the Good Works of Believers be Meritorious of Salvation:  Negatum Est [It is Denied]’, pp. 206-207  in Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 6

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Inferior Causes of Salvation

As good works positively contribute to our coming into the possession of our future salvation, many Reformed Orthodox theologians, following Calvin, were comfortable with speaking of works as inferior causes of salvation.

Our modern, normal definition of cause is something that produces, of itself, the effect.  That is not how ’cause’ has often been defined in history, nor how it was usually used by the Post-Reformation divines.  For a helpful introduction to how reformed theologians variously used the term ’cause’ in that era (largely following Aristotle), see Paul Barth, ‘Causality: Five Metaphysical Distinctions’ (2016).

Hence, the reformed, Scottish divine, William Forbes (1585-1634), was not shy to teach that many Scriptures:

“…most clearly demonstrate that in adult persons good works have to salvation not merely the relation ‘of order’ (as besides others, [David] Paraeus frigidly answers)…  but also a causal relation, such as is the relation of a cause…  aiding, after its own manner and place, to its effect.” – Justification, p. 309

The reason why good works can only be inferior causes of salvation is because they are dependent on and produced by the prime cause, the grace of God, as “it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13)  God qualifies and suits the heirs of salvation in order to attain the salvation that He has purposed for them.

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Good Works: an Active Cause of Salvation

The Reformed typically denied that good works were an efficient cause of salvation (as Papists and Arminians taught), though Piscator, Perkins (on Gal. 6:8, p. 568) and Forbes affirmed this terminology.

Are works an efficient cause of salvation or not?  Who was right?

That depends largely on what an ‘efficient cause’ is, or how one defines it.  Voet discusses this issue in weighing out its factors (in Latin) on pp. 160-161 ff. of Thersites Heautontimorumenos (Utrecht, 1635), ch. 2, ‘Of Good Works, the Causes of Life Eternal’, section 2.  He concludes:

“Works are a cause of salvation: certainly [the term] ‘instrumental’ is more to be preferred than ‘efficient’.” (p. 168)

Some of the strongest language on the subject of good works being necessary to salvation came from the staunchly orthodox Westminster divine, Samuel Rutherford.  While he denied that works are an efficient cause of salvation, yet he makes a Scriptural case here and elsewhere that good works are an active, instrumental cause of our salvation:

“…while good works are means, they are not passive, but active: a means here is an inferior cause.  Therefore it is said, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” [2 Cor. 4:17].  Κατεργάζεται ἡμῖν, they work; they are causing for us, as the Holy Spirit speaks, 2 Cor. 4:17.

Neither can we distinguish here between causes and signs, for mere signs have no causality; neither is the dawn in any way a cause of the day [it is rather a sign of the day], nor is smoke a cause, even an inferior one, of fire.  Our running by good works, though, has an active causality unto the actual possession of eternal life [says Scripture: 1 Cor. 9:24-25; Heb. 12:1].

p. 532  of ’10. Whether good works are necessary as causes of justification, and therefore also of salvation?’  in Ch. 12, ‘On the Justification of Sinners’  in Examination of Arminianism (Utrecht, 1668)

Other Scriptures that appear to teach that the good works of the saints are active, inferior causes are:

“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation…”  2 Cor. 7:10

“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”  Phil. 2:12-13

“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:”  Col. 1:24

“Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.  For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.”  1 Cor. 3:8-9

“We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.”  2 Cor. 6:1

“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”  2 Cor. 7:10

“But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.”  1 Thess. 5:8

Give some time to meditating over these Scriptures, reading orthodox commentaries on them, and pondering whether Calvin was right when he said, “…we deny not that the integrity of believers, though partial and imperfect, is a step toward immortality” (Institutes, trans. Beveridge, 3.17.15).

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Good Works as Required, Consequent Conditions in the Covenant of Grace

While faith has traditionally been termed the instrumental ‘condition’ of the Covenant of Grace (Westminster Larger Catechism #32), for entering therein and receiving Christ’s righteousness through it (his righteousness given to us being the sole meritorious grounds of the Covenant), historic reformed theologians have also spoken of good works in the Covenant of Grace as lesser or inferior conditions.

Geerhardus Vos observed that this was a distinctive of reformed theology in contrast to Lutheranism:

“With respect to the covenant of grace, the distinctively Lutheran view comes out in the fact that nothing but faith was recognized as the condition of the covenant (stipulatio foederis).  Reformed theologians also add to this, without hesitation, new obedience, and say that justification is by faith alone but that the covenant is much broader.”

– “The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology,” in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation (ed. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr.; Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980), 234, fn. 1.  Cross reference WLC #76 & #171.

Thus, the Scottish covenanter, David Dickson, taught in a seminal work:

“As for the third, the condition required of the man now entered in the Covenant, for evidencing the truth and sincerity of the faith, which the covenanter professeth, it is the taking on him the yoke of Christ, which He layeth on his confederate people; or, this condition is the covenanter’s up-giving of himself to Christ’s government and obedience of His commands: and all these three [conditions: faith, Christ and his righteousness, and good works] are expressed by Christ, Mt. 11:28-29.”

– Therapeutica Sacra (Edinburgh, 1664), Book 1, ch. 6, p. 144

In the quote above Dickson defined how works are conditions of the Covenant of Grace, namely that they are ‘for evidencing the truth and sincerity of the faith’.  Francis Turretin, a standard of high orthodoxy, similarly so defined works’ necessity as a stipulation in the Covenant of Grace in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology (P&R, 1994), vol 2, 17th Topic, Third Question: ‘The Necessity of Good Works…’, section 7, p. 703.

John Ball, in his Treatise on the Covenant of Grace (1645), which was probably the single most influential work on the Westminster Assembly regarding Covenant theology, delineates how obedience to God’s commands is a consequent, demonstrative condition of God’s promises as required in the Covenant in Ch. 8, ‘A Particular Explication of the Covenant that God made with Israel, and what Moses brought to the further expressure of the Covenant of Grace’, pp. 133-137.  God works grace in his elect to fulfill this condition of subsequent good works through the outworking of their faith, and as Ball further explains, the imperfect obedience of God’s saints meets this condition as it is graciously accepted by the Lord through the forgiveness in Christ for believers walking in his Covenant.†

† As Ball also explains, such imperfect obedience is not graciously accepted by the Lord for those walking in his Covenant without the righteousness of Christ imputed to them through faith; such persons rather are held to the full measure of the Law of God that the Covenant requires.

The reformed Huguenot professor and theologian, Daniel Chamier (d. 1621), explained consequent conditions by this analogy:

“But the consequent conditions are added to the antecedent, as following from them: which indeed are mutual between the parties, but oblige the one only: so that the other is bound to do no more on their account: As if one having given or sold a plot of ground, should assign an annuity to be laid out upon the poor.¹

¹ [The person who buys the land would be contracted to use the profit made from using the land to give a yearly donation [good works] to the poor.]

Now conditions of that kind, when not performed, usually disannul the contract: and yet they do not constitute it.  Nay, there would be no annuity, except the sale were already full and complete.”

Book 15, ‘Of the Necessity of Works’  in Panstratiae Catholicae  (Geneva, 1626), vol. 3, place 3, question 3, pp. 509-522  as trans. and approved by Herman Witsius, Animadversions (Glasgow, 1807), p. 150

The difference between the teaching of the Reformed Orthodox on the good works of believers being inferior conditions required in the Covenant† (and graciously accepted by Him therein for the forgiveness found in Christ), versus that of the numerous modern errors, is that these good works are not meritorious, even relatively, and they are simply the way in which we are to walk in the Covenant with God as a path unto possessing our eternal salvation;º our right and title to the Covenant are in no way dependent on such works in the Covenant, but only on the righteousness of Christ imputed to us through faith.

† Thomas Watson:  “Question: But are not works required in the Covenant of Grace?  Answer:  Yes; Titus 3:8…  Question: What is the condition of the Covenant of Grace?  Answer:  The main condition is faith.  Question:  But why is faith more the condition of the new covenant than any other grace?…”  – Body of Divinity, ‘Of the Covenant of Grace’, p. 106  in The Select Works of the Rev. Thomas Watson… (New York, 1855)

º Turretin: “…the condition is either antecedent… or subsequent (holding relation of means and the way by which we go forward to its consumation)…  holiness and obedience can have the relation of a condition because they are the mean and the way by which we arrive at the full possession of the blessings of the covenant.  If they do not have causality either with respect to justification (or eternal life flowing from it), still in other respects they pertain to this covenant both as inseparable attendants of true and sincere faith…  as the qualities of those to be saved…  as fruits of the Spirit in Christ…  as proofs of our gratitude toward God…  as testimonies of our sonship…  and as duties which the rational creature owes to God (Lk. 17:10).”  Institutes 2.189

Hence one can never be kicked out of the spiritual substance of the Covenant of Grace in foro Dei, in the sight of God, due to a perceived dearth of the presence of such works in the Covenant (though one might undergo the fatherly discipline of God for it).  However, one may be kicked out from the earthly administration of the Covenant in foro ecclesiae, in the sight of the Church, not for not meeting a bar of works, but for one’s works fundamentally overturning, in the sight of the Church, any credible profession of faith that person might lay claim to (as it is by faith that we are in the Covenant, it being the instrumental condition thereof, WLC #32).

Hence faith and works are not co-ordinate as to remaining in the Covenant, as ancient and modern heresies teach, but faith (which is the enduring gift of God) is primary, good works following simply serving as the fruit and demonstration of it.

Thus, properly speaking, Rutherford could say with respect to the grounds of the Covenant, or holding the title to it, that “nor are they [good works] the conditions of the Covenant of Grace: they are the conditions of covenanted ones, not of the Covenant.” (Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist, London, 1648, Part 2, ch. 48, p. 63)  That is, the Covenant of Grace is not itself inherently conditional in respect that it hangs on our works, it being so gained or lost and decided therefrom (as some teach); rather, the Covenant requires the condition of good works to be in us.  As this inferior condition is either in us or not, so is manifested whether we have a title to the Covenant by the works and merit of Christ alone, apprehended by faith alone, or not.º

º How then may the scandalous lose their standing in the Covenant through excommunication?  Rutherford distinguishes for those who have a profession of faith, but do not have saving faith, that while the Church ministry has a right to administer the Covenant to them, by the command of God and as the ministry acts according to the sight of the Church, yet hypocrites themselves have no right or title to the Covenant itself.  Hence they may lose their standing in the Covenant in the sight of the Church, and they will certainly lose such on the Day of Judgment.

If works are necessary conditions in the Christian life and to attaining future salvation, then by definition they are required necessary conditions in the Covenant of Grace, as inferior causes, as defined by the Reformed Orthodox theologians above and below.ª

ª Turretin: “There is not the same relation of justification and of the covenant through all things.  To the former, faith alone concurs, but to the observance of the latter other virtues also are required besides faith.  These conduce not only to the acceptance of the covenant, but also to its observance.  For these two things ought always to be connected–the acceptance of the covenant and the keeping of it when accepted.  Faith accepts by a reception of the promises; obedience keeps by a fulfillment of the commands.  ‘Be ye holy, for I am holy.’  And yet in this way legal and evangelical obedience are not confounded because the legal is prescribed for the meriting of life, the evangelical, however, only for the possession of it.  The former precedes as the cause of life (‘Do this and thou shalt live’); the latter follows as its fruit, not that you may live but because you live.  The former is not admitted unless it is perfect and absolute; the latter is admitted even if imperfect, provided it be sincere.  That is only commanded as man’s duty; this is also promised and given as the gift of God.”  Institutes, vol. 2, 12th Topic, ‘The Covenant of Grace…’, Question 3, ‘Is the covenant of grace conditional and what are its conditions?’, section XVII, p. 189

For more references on holiness, obedience and good works being required and necessary subsequent conditions of the Covenant of Grace, see Polyander, Thysius, Rivet, Walaeus, Synopsis of Pure Theology (1625; ed. H. Bavinck, Leiden, 1881), Disputation 23, theses 27-29, pp. 218-219; Johannes Cloppenburg, Eleven Theological Disputations on the Covenant of God… (Hardervig, 1643), Disputation 4, ‘Of the Testament of the New Covenant’, theses 26-27 (the page with theses 22-26 is missing) as translated by Herman Witsius, Oeconomy of the Covenants (New York, 1798), vol. 1, book 3, ch. 1, section 15, pp. 405-406; John Ball, Treatise of the Covenant of Grace (London, 1645), pp. 19-20; Stephen Marshall, A Sermon of the Baptizing of Infants (London: Stephen Bowtell, 1645), p. 11, bottom, appended to his A Defence of Infant-Baptism in Answer to Two Treatises (London, 1646); Francis Roberts, Mysterium & Medulla Bibliorum, the Mysterie and Marrow of the Bible (London, 1657), book 2, ch. 2, Aphorism 2, Section 5, Corollary 4, the Conditionality of the Covenant of Faith, pp. 115-117; John Craile, Modest Vindication of the Doctrine of Conditions in the Covenant of Grace (see Flavel’s recommendation of this work on p. 530 of his next cited work); John Flavel, Works, vol. 3, Appendix, Vindicarum Vindex, pp. 526-527 ff.; Patrick Gillespie, Ark of the Testament Opened… in a Treatise on the Covenant of Grace (London, 1661) part 1, ch. 6, section 9, ‘Differ in respect of conditions’, pp. 256-264; Ark of the Covenant Opened, or a Treatise of the Covenant of Redemption (London, 1677), ch. 5, ‘8. Commands & Conditions are Different’, pp. 121-122; Samuel Annesley, ‘The Covenant of Grace’, p. 182 & John Gibbon, ‘Nature of Justification Opened’, p. 316 in Morning Exercises at Cripplegate… vol. 5 (London, 1845); the diary of James Wodrow in Robert Wodrow, Life of James Wodrow (Edinburgh, 1828), pp. 36-38 footnote; on John Willison and his difference from, and criticism of, the Marrow Men on this point of terminology, see Ian Macleod, The Sacramental Theology & Practice of the Reverend John Willison (PhD dissertation, Univ. of Glasgow, 1994), ch. 2, pp. 47-59, especially p. 50, bottom; Daniel Wyttenbach, An Essay of Dogmatic Theology Methodically and Scientifically Handled, vol. 2 (Frankfurt, 1747-9), ch. 9, ‘Of the Benefits of the Covenant of Grace’, section 998, p. 818; see Wyttenbach translated and summarized in Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics (Wipf & Stock, 2007), ch. 16, ‘Covenant of Grace’, section 5, p. 375.

For a profession of a commitment to new, sincere obedience by the Lord’s grace in entering the Covenant and as a stipulation thereof, besides Dickson above, see Peter Martyr Vermigli, Common Places (1583), Part 2, Ch. 16, Section 1, end; John Ball, Treatise of the Covenant of Grace (London, 1645), p. 18; Francis Roberts, Mysterium & Medulla Bibliorum, the Mysterie and Marrow of the Bible (London, 1657), book 2, ch. 2, Aphorism 2, Section 5, corollary 4, the Conditionality of the Covenant of Faith, p. 111; Marcus Wendelin, Christian Theology in Two Books (Amsterdam, 1657), book 1, ch. 19, thesis 9, pp. 324-325; Thomas Blake, A Treatise of the Covenant of God (London, 1658) ch. 25, ‘What Degree of Obedience the Covenant of Grace Calls for from Christians’, end, pp. 159-160; Patrick Gillespie, Ark of the Testament Opened… in a Treatise on the Covenant of Grace (London, 1661) part 1, ch. 10, Assertion 3, p. 312; Turretin, Institutes, vol. 2, 12th Topic, ‘The Covenant of Grace’, Question 2, ‘The Nature of the Covenant of Grace’, section, 5, p. 175; John Willison, A Sacramental Catechism…  Plainly unfolding the Nature of the Covenant of Grace…  (Glasgow, 1794), p. 47, bottom half & 161.

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The Good Uses, Functions & Blessings of Good Works as Instruments

There is great blessing to be had in the Christian life only through obedience and good works.  The English puritan Francis Roberts said:

“God entered into Covenant with Israel as their Law-giver, and digested his laws into this Evangelical Covenant…  5. To show them that the Covenant of Faith [Grace] in Jesus Christ required all sincere obedience…  And this as an expression of thankfulness for Christ and happiness by Him; as a proper fruit and evidence of true faith in Christ; and as God’s beaten path towards the attainment of the blessings covenanted and promised.”

The Mystery & Marrow of the Bible (London, 1657), p. 795

Veal, the puritan, in what makes for very encouraging and spiritual reading, lists these principles (amongst others) for how good works are a means by which we attain greater Christ-likeness and comforts in the Christian life, and that in the Covenant:

– Good works are the way in which God has appointed us to walk in order to our obtaining eternal life.

– The practice of good works is a special means to strengthen and increase good habits in us.

– Good works fit us for the reward.

– Good works bear witness to the goodness of our faith.

– Hereby they further our assurance and help-on our comforts.

– We are bound to the practice of good works. that so we may be conformed to God and Christ.

pp. 213-217 of ‘Whether the Good Works of Believers be Meritorious of Salvation:  Negatum Est [It is Denied]’  in Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 6

It is in this way that Rom. 8:13 may be understood: “…but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”  That the good work of putting to death the deeds of the body through the Spirit is fueled and empowered by faith (and not a works righteousness through our own power), consider Hugh Binning’s Scripture saturated preaching of this passage in The Sinner’s Sanctuary, sermons 34-35.

For a further elaboration and illustration of the advantages of holiness and good works, see the James Fraser, A Treatise of Sanctification, Appendix, Section II, ‘Showing the advantage, with regard to holiness, that ariseth from persons being under grace’, p. 401 ff..

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Good Works Rewarded

Below, Perkins on Gal. 6:8 and Veal’s sermon are immensely profitable treatises on how good works are not meritorious (even relatively), contra the claims of Romanism (and numerous modern heresies).

Yet, the Lord promises in Scripture to be pleased to graciously reward our good works in eternal glory, the saints attaining different degrees of reward therein.  See the many Bible verses that teach this on our webpage, ‘Differing Levels of Reward in Heaven’.  For a very helpful exposition of this Biblical teaching, see Perkins on Gal. 6:8.  This doctrine was also taught by many early reformed confessions (which may be found in Dennison’s four volumes referenced below).

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Conclusion

Turretin summarizes the different ways in which our works are involved in salvation:

“Works can be considered three ways: either with reference to justification or sanctification or glorification.  They are related to justification not antecedently, efficiently and meritoriously, but consequently and declaratively.  They are related to sanctification constitutively because they constitute and promote it.  They are related to glorification antecedently and ordinatively because they are related to it as the means to the end; yea, as the beginning to the complement because grace is glory begun, as glory is grace consummated.”

– ‘The Necessity of Good Works:  Are good works necessary to salvation?  We affrim.’  in Institutes, vol. 2, 17th Topic, ‘Sanctification and Good Works’, Question 3, Section 14, p. 705

How precisely do good works function as a means to the end of salvation and promote it, as Turretin said?  Johannes Piscator, using what became a familiar reformed analogy, distilled how good works are a necessary, instrumental, active cause in salvation in this way:

“As if a treasure hid at the top of a mountain were given to some one, but on this condition, that if he wished to possess it, he must ascend the mountain and dig it out; here certainly the climbing the mountain and digging up the treasure have the nature of an efficient cause in respect of the possession and enjoyment of the treasure; but they have not the nature of merit, inasmuch as the treasure had been freely given to him.”

– Analysis on Matthew, p. 609, on Mt. 25:35, as trans. in Forbes, Justification, p. 313.  Perkins, Veal and numerous others use this same analogy.

Lest there creep into our minds the shadow of legal servitude unto works for believers attaining salvation, be it remembered that the saints’ focus on their pathway to Heaven is taking hope in the person of Christ and seeking to please Him out of love (Jn. 14:15) and gratitude for the salvation He has already given to us and further promises to us.  Our strength unto obeying Christ comes not of our own natural sufficiency, but through relying on Him for grace to fulfill his precepts, knowing that He, the Mediator of the Covenant of Grace will certainly strengthen by his grace all of his elect-believing people unto good works befitting their salvation, that they might fulfill the consequent conditions of entering into the Covenant with Him, unto the salvation that He promises and purposes for them.

The Lord accepts our sincere,‡ though imperfect, evangelical good works (being full of faith) as sufficient and pleasing to Him through the propitiation and mercy of our Savior.  We, believers, shall be made holy; we shall see the Lord, and Christ will be seen to be all in all.

‡ Thomas Blake, Covenant of God, ch. 25, pp. 157-159.

Is this subject of good works in relation to salvation dispensable?  Is it simply an ancillary matter of nuance in Christian theology?  How does it practically and pastorally bear more particularly upon saints making their way to Heaven?  For why the high view of the puritans on good works is practically important for the Christian life, see the excellent, short piece by D. Patrick Ramsey, ‘The Wherefore and the Why’ (2016, 7 paragraphs).

To further grow in one’s understanding of these things, we recommend a modern, synthetic article by the same author, ‘Joined at the Hip: Good Works and Salvation in the Reformed Tradition’ (2007).  Besides going into further depth into the historical and Biblical distinctions on this topic, the article touches on important ancillary issues such as good works being inferior, demonstrative causes in the Covenant, that the administration of the Mosaic Covenant was one of the Covenant of Grace, and how good works by believers are graciously rewarded in eternity.

May the resources below be a rich treasure for you in further seeking into that ‘everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure’ (2 Sam. 23:5) which the Lord has made with us, and may we be ‘zealous of good works’ (Tit. 2:14), reaping the blessings found by the doers of the Word (Ps. 1:1-3) in both this life and the Next.

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On Good Works Generally

The Westminster Confession of Faith  1645

Ch. 16, ‘Of Good Works’

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Commentaries on the Westminster Confession of Faith

1800’s

Shaw, Robert – Exposition of Ch. 16, ‘Of Good Works’  in An Exposition of the Confession of Faith of the Westminster Assembly of Divines (London & Edinburgh: Johnstone & Hunter, 1850)  See especially pp. 164-165 on ‘the important uses of good works’.

Shaw was a Scottish Secession minister who came into the Free Church of Scotland.

Hodge, A.A. – Commentary on Ch. 16, ‘Of Good Works’  in A Commentary on the Confession of Faith: with questions for theological students and Bible classes (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1901), pp. 298-313

Hodge was an old Princeton professor, son of Charles Hodge.


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Articles on the Necessity of Good Works

1500’s

Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord – Ch. 4, ‘Good Works’  1577

This section of Lutheran commentary on the Formula of Concord is very helpful both theologically and historically, though, while the piece delineates the necessity of good works in numerous respects, it stops short of saying, and prohibits saying that good works are necessary to salvation.  For background, see Wikipedia, ‘Formula of Concord’.

Ursinus, Zacharias – ‘Why Good Works are to be Done, or why they are Necessary?’  being section 5 of Question 91 of the Heidelberg Catechism  in The Commentary of Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism (Cincinnati, 1851), pp. 482-485  d. 1583

Ursinus (1534-1583) includes in his exposition: 

“6. That we may escape temporal and eternal punishment.  ‘Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.’  ‘If ye live after the flesh ye shall die.’  ‘Thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity.’  (Mt. 7:19; Rom. 8:13; Ps. 39:11)

7. That we may obtain from God those temporal and spiritual rewards, which, according to the divine promise, accompany good works both in this and in a future life.  ‘Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.’ (1 Tim. 4:8)  And if God did not desire that the hope of reward, and the fear of punishment should be moving causes of good works, He would not use them as arguments in the promises and threatenings which He addresses unto us in his Word.” – p. 484

Smith, Henry – ‘Good Works are the Way to Heaven’  in The Lawyer’s Question: In Three Sermons (1595) in The Works of Henry Smith; Including Sermons, Treatises, Prayers, and Poems, ed. Thomas Fuller (2 vols, Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1866), 2: 107-09

Smith (ca. 1560 – 1591?) was an English clergyman, widely regarded as “the most popular Puritan preacher of Elizabethan London.”  His sermons at St. Clement Danes drew enormous crowds, and earned him a reputation as “Silver Tongued” Smith.

“Titus 3:.  Therefore to the obtaining of eternal life two things are necessary.  the first is to believe well; the second is, to live well.  By the first we are justified in the sight of God, for he respects our faith; by the second we are justified in the sight of men, for they regard our works.  And thus are the apostles Paul and James reconciled.” – pp. 110-111

Rollock, Robert – pp. 41-45 of ch. 3 of A Treatise of our Effectual Calling  in Select Works of Robert Rollock, vol. 1 (Wodrow Society, 1844)

Rollock (1555-1599) was the first professor of theology at the University of Edinburgh, whose influence as a primary fountain of the ensuing Scottish theology can hardly be overestimated.

“I grant that the works of regeneration are necessary unto eternal life promised in the gospel, but not as merits or meritorious causes, but as the means and way wherein we are to proceed on from justification and regeneration unto glory and life eternal.  They may also be said to be causes, after a sort, for they please God in Christ, and in some respects move Him, but not as merits, but as effects of the only merit of Jesus Christ, whereof they testify.”

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1600’s

Perkins, William – On, Gal. 6:8, pp. 568-569571 & 574-575  of A Commentary Or Exposition, upon the Five First Chapters of the Epistle to the Galatians (Cambridge, 1604)

Perkins’ whole commentary on Gal. 6:8, ‘but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting,’ concerns refuting the Romanist interpretation of this verse as giving credence to works having merit.  Instead he gives a very helpful protestant exposition of how works are rewarded according to grace.

In the section on good works being a legitimate, inferior cause of eternal life, Perkins gives the same analogy of climbing and digging into a mountain for treasure as did Johannes Piscator in the first edition of his commentary on Matthew in 1594.  Perkins also quotes Bernard (below) approvingly.

Taylor, Thomas – Ch. 5, 6th Error, ‘That our Preachers teach Popery in Persuading Good Works to Further Men’s Own Salvation’  in Regula Vitæ: the Rule of the Law under the Gospel. Containing a discovery of the pestiferous sect of Libertines, Antinomians, and sons of Belial, lately sprung up both to destroy the law, and disturb the faith of the Gospel: wherein is manifestly proved, that God sees sin in justified persons  (1631), pp. 78-84

Downame, George

A Treatise of Justification  (London, 1633)  Book 7, ‘Concerning Good Works’

Ch. 1 – To avoid Popish calumniations, it is shewed, that we doe hold the necessity of good works, and do urge the same by better arguments than the Popish religion doth afford.

“Answer 2.  Necessary, though not necessitate efficientiae as causes; yet necessitate presentiae, as necessary consequents of justification, and as ne­cessary antecedents of glorification.  They are necessary, I say, by a necessity not only privative (if I may so speak) but also positive…

Answer 3.  They are necessary also by a positive necessity, and that ma­nifold.  As first by the necessity of infallibility, in respect of God’s decree, Word, oath.

Answer 6.  Secondly, they are necessary necessitate pracepti, imposing a necessity of duty, towards God, our neighbor, ourselves.

Argument 8.  Thirdly, they are necessary, necessitate signi, as necessary signs and evidences, whereby we are to gather assurance to ourselves of our justification, whereby our faith is to be demonstrated, whereby we are to make our calling, and our election sure.

Argument 9.  Lastly, they are necessary necessitate medii, and as that, which, though it be no cause, is called causa sine qua non.  And thus they are necessary:

First, as the way, which leadeth to life eternal, via qua nos perdu­cturus est ad finem itsum quem promisit (Aug. in Ps. 109), the way by which He will bring us unto that end which He hath promised, saith Augustine.  For those that are justified, and by justification entitled to the Kingdom of Hea­ven, they are to go in the way of sanctification towards their glorifica­tion, Eph. 2:10; good works therefore, though they be not the cause of reigning yet they are the way to the Kingdom.

Secondly, as necessary fruits of our election, for we are elected to that end that we should be holy, Eph. 1:4, as neces­sary fruits of faith, without which it is judged to be dead, James 2:26, as unseparable consequents of our redemption and justification, Luk. 1:74.  And as they are necessary consequents of our justification, so they are necessary forerunners of salvation, by which we are fitted for God’s Kingdom, because no unclean thing can enter into the Kingdom of heaven, Apoc. 21:27, and finally so necessary is a godly life that with­out it no man shall see God, Heb. 12:14.

I conclude with Bernard (De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio) that good works are… of our secret predestination, presages of our future happiness, the way to the Kingdom, but not the cause of our obtaining that Kingdom.  For howsoever good works are neces­sary in many respects, as I have showed, necessitate presentiae; yet they are not necessary necessitate efficientiae, as causes of our justification.”

Ch. 4 – Bellarmine’s arguments proving the necessity of good works: and first, from the difference between the Law and the Gospel: Secondly, from the Doctrine of Christian liberty.

Ch. 5 – That good works are not necessary by necessity of efficacy.

Downame (c.1563-1634) was a doctor of divinity, Lord Bishop of Derry, chaplain to James I and King James VI, and a brother of John Downame.

pp. 80-83 of The Christian’s Freedom, Wherein is fully expressed the Doctrine of Christian Liberty  (Oxford, 1635)

“For the Papists charge us, that we place Christian liberty in this, that we are subject to no law in our conscience, and before God; and that we are free from all necessity of doing good works…

We profess that good works are necessary to salvation, though not necessitate efficientiae, as causing it as the Papists teach; yet necessita­te praesentiae, as necessary fruits of our faith, whereby we are to glorify God, and to testify our thankfulness, to do good to our brethren, and to make sure our election, calling and justification unto ourselves; as necessary forerunners of salvation, being the undoubted bad­ges of them that shall bee saved; being the way wherein we are to walk to everlasting life, being the evidence acc­ording to which God will judge us at the last day.  And lastly, that as by justi­fication God doth entitle us unto his kingdom; so by sanctification He doth sit and prepare us thereto.”

Thomas Taylor quotes this section from Downame in Regula Vitae, p. 213.

Forbes, William – Book 4, ‘Of the Justice of Works’, ch. 1, ‘Of the Necessity of Good Works to Salvation, and the Coincident Questions…’  in A Fair & Calm Consideration of the Modern Controversy Concerning Justification, as it is Explained in the Five Books of Cardinal Bellarmine  in Modest & Pacifying Considerations of Controversies, vol. 1 (Oxford, 1850), pp. 300-319

Forbes (1585-1634) was a reformed bishop in the Church of Scotland and one of the most important theologians of his day.  Forbes’ order through the book is to follow and give commentary on the Romanist, Bellarmine’s volumes.

Forbes gives a historical discussion of the issue, especially with regard to the Lutherans.  He quotes and/or gives references for the following reformed writers that held to the necessity of good works: Bucer, Calvin, Zanchi, Piscator, Martinius, Alsted, Rollock, Ames, Paraeus & Davenant.

Ames, William – Theses 30-31, 33, 38-39 of Book 2, ch.1, ‘Of Observance in General’  in The Marrow of Sacred Divinity (1639)

Ames (1576-1633) was an English Protestant divine, philosopher, and controversialist. He spent much time in the Netherlands, and is noted for his involvement in the controversy between the Reformed and the Arminians.

Davenant, John

A Treatise on Justification: or The Disputatio de Justitia Habituali et Actuali, vol. 1 (London, 1844), Part 2, ‘Of Actual Righteousness, or the Righteousness of Works’, Section 1, ‘Of the Necessity of Good Works’  d. 1641

Ch. 30, ‘Of the Necessity of Good Works: the Author’s opinion is partly explained in this proposition: Good works are necessary in all believers who have the use of reason, and are of an age to practice them’, p. 273 ff.

Ch. 31, ‘The Question whether Good Works can be said to be necessary to salvation or justification’, p. 294 ff.

Davenant (1572-1641) gives 7 propositions.

Ch. 32, ‘Bellarmine’s objections answered’, p. 303 ff.

Burgess, Anthony – Lectures 3 & 4, on 1 Tim. 8-9  of Vindiciae Legis, or, A vindication of the moral law and the covenants, from the errors of Papists, Arminians, Socinians, and more especially, Antinomians in 30 Lectures  (London, 1647)

Rutherford, Samuel

A Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist, opening the secrets of Familism and Antinomianism (London, 1648), Part 2

Ch. 37, ‘How Good Works are Necessary’

“…it is true, they are not the meritorious, the efficient cause or way, nor the formal covenant-condition; but a way they are, as sowing is to harvest, running to the garland, wrestling to the victory.” – p. 39

Sections 4-5 & 6 Objections Answered in Ch. 48, ‘Antinomians hold that the believer cannot sin against God…’, pp. 61-65

“It followeth not, that they [good works] are con-causes, or joint-causes with Christ, but only conditions; just as a man’s journeying on foot or horse, to a city, or a kingdom to inherit it, is the way, condition, of his entering the city; But it is not his charter, or law-title, or right to enjoy the crown, as his inheritance; any effective influence to the title of the crown of Heaven, I dare not ascribe to any works in us, or to any but to Christ; but undeniably, good works are not so much as conditions of justification, they follow a man justified, but go not before justification; no more then the apple goeth before the tree, or the cistern before the fountain; nor are they the conditions of the Covenant of Grace: they are the conditions of covenanted ones, not of the Covenant.” – pp. 62-63

Ch. 70, ‘Faith is not the only work of the Gospel, as Antinomians say’

Ch. 73, ‘Sanctification concurs as well as Justification to make Saints’

“But take Sanctification for holy walking in the strength of the grace of justification, and grace inherent in us; so we say, Justification and Sanctification ought not to be separated, but both concur to make us saints; the one as the cause, the other as the unseparable effect…  for so Antinomians make Sanctification nothing but a poor shadow, like an ivy bush, that is no cause of wine, but a mere sign to declare and shew in this, there is wine [Lutherans have often historically preferred the same language].” – p. 155

pp. 154-156 ff. & 176-180  of The Covenant of Life Opened (Edinburgh, 1655)

“…the necessity of good works…  These distinctions are necessary.

1. There is a jus and right to Gospel life eternal. And 2. there is actual possession of life eternal.

2. There is a twofold jus, One by the purchase of merit, and the paid ransom of blood; There is a right secondary by promise; every promise giveth a right in a manner, but its unproper.

3. There is promise of life formally federal. 2. There is a promise of life consequenter federal.

4. There is an order of things, one going before the other as the antecedent and the consequent, and in order of cause and effect.

5. Law-obedience doth much differ from Gospel-obedience, as Law-commands from Gospel-commands.

6. God sent his Son to justify persons, but not to justify works, not to make inherent obedience perfect or our righteousness before God.”

Polhill, Edward – Ch. 11, pp. 383-387, ‘How or in what Respect Obedience or Good Works are Necessary unto Justification’  in Speculum Theologiae Christo, or a View of Some Divine Truths (London, 1678)

Polhill (c.1622-c.1694) was a reformed puritan, albeit a hypothetical universalist.  He elaborates on three points, the last of which is his answer, following Davenant.

Owen, John – Book 5, ‘The Necessity of Holiness’  in Pneumatologia, or a Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit in Works, vol. 3 (New York: Robert Carter, 1852), pp. 566-651

Veal, Edward – ‘Whether the Good Works of Believers be Meritorious of Salvation:  Negatum Est [It is Denied]’  in Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 6, pp. 183-221  See especially pp. 213-217.

Veal was an English puritan.  The excellent sermon is mainly concerned to show that our good works are not meritorious of salvation (per papists), and yet how they are graciously rewarded by God.  As to the necessity of good works, see quotes from this sermon below on this webpage.

Marshall, Walter

The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification  (New York, 1859)  d. 1680

Direction VI, ‘Those that endeavor to perform sincere obedience to all the commands of Christ, as the condition whereby they are to procure for themselves a right and title to salvation, and a good ground to trust on Him for the same, do seek their salvation by the works of the law, and no by the faith of Christ…  they shall never be able to perform sincere and true holy obedience by all such endeavors’, pp. 94-121

Direction VIII, ‘Be sure to seek for Holiness of Heart and Life on it is due order…  and in that order, seek it earnestly by Faith, as a very necessary part of your salvation.’ pp. 134-140

Brooks, Thomas – ‘The Necessity of Holiness’, pp. 151-153  of The Crown of Glory of Christianity: the Necessity, Excellency, Rarity and Beauty of Holiness on Heb. 12:14  being the whole of Works, vol. 4

“By all which you may clearly see that food is not more necessary for the preservation of natural life, than holiness is necessary for the preservation and salvation of the soul.” – p. 153

Baxter, Richard – ‘The Spiritual and Carnal Man Compared and Contrasted; or, The Absolute Necessity and Excellency of Holiness’  in The Select Practical Works of Richard Baxter (Glasgow: Blackie & Son, 1840), pp. 115-291

Turretin, Francis

Institutes of Elenctic Theology (P&R, 1994), vol. 2

‘Is the covenant of grace conditional and what are its conditions?’  in the 12th Topic, ‘The Covenant of Grace…’, Question 3, pp. 184-189

“Unless it [the Covenant of Grace] was conditional, there would be no place for threatenings in the gospel (which could not be denounced except against those who had neglected the prescribed condition)–for the neglect of faith and obedience cannot be culpable, if not required.” – p. 185

‘The Necessity of Good Works:  Are good works necessary to salvation?  We affrim.’  in the 17th Topic, ‘Sanctification and Good Works’, Question 3, pp. 702-706

“XIV.  Works can be considered three ways: either with reference to justification or sanctification or glorification.  They are related to justification not antecedently, efficiently and meritoriously, but consequently and declaratively.  They are related to sanctification constitutively because they constitute and promote it.  They are related to glorification antecedently and ordinatively because they are related to it as the means to the end; yea, as the beginning to the complement because grace is glory begun, as glory is grace consummated.” – p. 705

Hopkins, Ezekiel – pp. 209-210 & 213-217  of The Doctrine of the Two Covenants in Works (Philadelphia, 1863) vol. 2  d. 1690

Williams, Daniel – Ch. 13, ‘Of the Necessity & Benefit of Holiness, Obedience & Good Works, with Perseverance Therein’  in Gospel-Truth Stated and Vindicated : wherein some of Dr. Crisp’s opinions are considered, and the opposite truths are plainly stated and confirmed (London, 1692), pp. 102-129

Williams (1643-1716) was a British benefactor, presbyterian minister and theologian.  Tobias Crisp (1600–1643) was a notorious Antinomian.

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1800’s

Colquhoun, John – Section 2, ‘Of the Necessity of Good Works’  in Ch. 12, ‘Of the Nature, Necessity and Desert of Good Works’, in A Treatise on the Law and the Gospel  (Edinburgh, 1819), pp. 317-332

Colquhoun was an evangelical and faithful minister in the Church of Scotland before the Disruption.

Simeon, Charles – 2099, ‘Salvation by Grace not Hostile to Good Works’  on Eph. 2:8-10  in Horae Homileticae: Or Discourses (principally in the Form of Skeletons) Now First Digested Into One Continued Series, and Forming a Commentary Upon Every Book of the Old and New Testament…  in 21 vols., vol. 17  (London, 1833), pp. 297-302  in Entire Works… Prepared by Thomas Hartwell Horne

Hodge, Charles – ‘Necessity of Good Works’  in Ch. 18, ‘Sanctification’, section 5  in Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (New York, 1873), pp. 238-245

Hodge has a good discussion of the historical Lutheran controversy, though strangely omits reformed history on the issue.  His analysis is good and helpful.

Shedd, W.G.T. – Sermon 19, ‘Connection Between Faith & Works’  in Sermons to the Spiritual Man (New York, 1884), pp. 286-301

This sermon is good, positing as the connection that faith produces works as its fruit.

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2000’s

Ramsey, D. Patrick – ‘Joined at the Hip: Good Works and Salvation in the Reformed Tradition’  2007  45 paragraphs


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Latin:  Early Church

De Moor:  “The Fathers are everywhere with us in urging the utility and necessity of works.” – 5.838

Forbes:  “This [the causal necessity of good works unto salvation] was always the opinion of the Fathers, the most of whom it is well known have also used the word ‘merit’ to signify this efficiency, though not, as we shall hereafter show, in that sense, in which it is now understood and used by many Romanists.” – Justification, p. 309

.

Clement of Rome – 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, chs. 33-34  in ed. Migne, Patrologiae Graeca, vol. 1, cols. 273-278

Clement (d. 99) is listed by Irenaeus and Tertullian as Bishop of Rome, holding office from 88 to his death in 99.  He is considered to be the first early Church father, one of the three chief ones, together with Polycarp and Ignatius of Antioch.

Epiphanius – To Physiologum, ch. 9  in ed. Migne, Patrologiae Graeca, vol. 43, cols. 525-526  Epiphanius in this work expounds spiritual analogies from nature.

Epiphanius of Salamis (c. 310–320 – 403) was the bishop of Salamis, Cyprus at the end of the 4th century.

Cyril of Alexandria – Of Worship in Spirit & in Truth, books 2-4  in Migne, Patrologiae Graeca, vol. 68, cols. 211-558

Cyril (c. 376 – 444) was the Patriarch of Alexandria from 412 to 444.


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Latin:  Reformed

1500’s

Bucer – Ch. 4, pp. 87-104 & Ch. 6, p. 569  of  The Disputings of Ratisbonne in another Colloquium, 1546, and Responses of the Discussions of the Augsburg Confession which were there commenced and filled out on Justification and all the places of Evangelical Doctrines, which doctrine of Justification is embraced…  (1548)

This work is Bucer’s compiled account of the Colloquium at Ratisbonne, Germany in 1546, discussing the teaching of the Augsburg Confession (1530).

“They [good works] truly have four attributes; they are: First, that to salvation they are necessary, because from God they are commanded, and they necessarily flow before [salvation] out of faith in Christ.” – p. 98

Margin note p. 569:  “‘and light affliction works an eternal weight of glory’ 2 Cor. 4”

“This indeed is being said, the momentary, healthy and light affliction is said to be a cause, not sSeu de Divini: apud o much efficiently, but yet by preparation [conficiens, or by accomplishment or fulfillment], of an eternal weight of heavenly glory…  the good works of the saints are yet causes in some way of eternal reward…” – p. 569

Rutherford approvingly quotes the last part of the above quote in his 4th Assertion in his linked treatment from his Examination.

Zanchi, Jerome – ‘Whether Good Works are the Cause of Eternal Salvation?’  in Of the Nature of God, or of the Divine Attributes (Neustadt, 1593), Book 5, ch. 2, after Of Predestination in General, Question 6, Other Part, Of the Predestination of the Saints, Question 3, after the Thesis, pp. 670-671, begins bottom of left column on p. 670

“We do not absolutely deny, that good works are a cause of salvation, viz., an instrumental rather than an efficient one…  and as the cause which is called a sine qua non [without which: none]…  Good works are an instrumental cause of the possession of life eternal, for by these as by media and by the legitimate path God leads us into the possession of eternal life…  The same truly are rightly able to be said to be an instrumental cause of eternal life, insofar as God leads us by them into eternal life.” – p. 670

Kimedoncius, Jacob – Theses on the Necessity & Definition of Good Works (Heidelberg, 1593)  9 pp.

Kimedoncius (c.1550-1596) was a professor of theology at Heidelberg, Germany.

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1600’s

Martinius, Mathew – pp. 435-436  in Notes to ch. 5, ‘Of the Fulfillment of the Covenant Respecting the Means’  in ‘Notes to the Method’  in A Sum of the Chapters of Christian Doctrine which are Contained in the Apostles’ Creed, the Decalogue, the Lord’s Prayer, the Institution of Church Discipline, of Holy Baptism & of the Holy Supper, Briefly, Clearly, Popularly & Distinctly Explained, even a Method of Holy Theology in Four Books Distributed…  (Herborn, 1603)

Martinius (1572-1630)  was a German, reformed theologian and educator.

“Observe this yet, that more is required to salvation and eternal life than to justification.  We are justified, that is we are absolved from sins, insofar as by it we are not condemned; not therefore because we give anything to God, but because from it is given righteousness, an acquisition we receive by the death of his son.

Eternal life, truly, requires good works before it.  By life eternal we mean the joy of conscience and glory; that good works confers something to those both is most plain.  Nor therefore is it posited that a meritorious cause is in any way due to them, for the term ’cause’ broadly connotes something of merit.  So the use of the sacraments, the study of the divine Word, the holy ministry are something of organic causes of salvation, even efficiently: yet not according to a principle of merit…” – pp. 435-436

Piscator, Johannes

Locus 10, ‘Of the Necessity of Good Works’  in Theological Theses…  to this volume is inserted his places of two theological disputations, one of Justification against Bellarmine, the other of Predestination contra Schaafmann, vol. 2 (Herborne, 1607), pp. 132-134

on Mt. 25:35  in A Logical Analysis of the Gospel According to Matthew, 3rd ed. (Herborne, 1606), pp. 609-610

‘For I was an hungered…’  “Next, be it, that here the cause is defined: yet it does not follow from thence, that the merit or the meritorious cause is defined, for the word cause extends more widely than merely to merit, and certainly good works with respect to eternal life, have the nature of an efficient cause, not as merits…  but as the way or walking by which from the ordination of God we attain to eternal life.

This thing may here be illustrate by an analogy; As if a treasure hid at the top of a mountain were given to some one, but on this condition, that if he wished to possess it, he must ascend the mountain and dig it out; here certainly the climbing the mountain and digging up the treasure have the nature of an efficient cause in respect of the possession and enjoyment of the treasure; but they have not the nature of merit, inasmuch as the treasure had been freely given to him.” – p. 609, as trans. in Forbes, Justification, p. 313

Perkins used the same analogy of climbing a mountain and digging into it in his commentary on Gal. 6:8 in 1604 (linked above).

Aphorism 32 on Justification  in Exegesis or Explication of Aphorisms of Christian Doctrine (Herborn, 1650), pp. 335-337

on Titus 3:5  in Logical Analysis of the Five Following Epistles of Paul… (Herborn, 1603), pp. 143-144

Of the Justification of Man Before God, Contra Robert Bellarmine (1599), Book 2, ch. 3, at the end, pp. 79-80, ‘Second Member’

Polanus, Amandus – Period 1, Disputation 38, ‘Of the Necessity of Good Works & of Christian Liberty’, Thesis 1  in A Collection of Three Whole Periods of Private Disputations Against Bellarmine (Basil, 1613), pp. 101-108

“Evangelicals are falsely accused by Bellarmine as denying that good works are necessary.  For although good works are to be denied as causes of salvation, yet the same are not to be denied as necessary to demonstrating living faith, by which we are saved.” – p. 101

Polanus’s main concern is to clear Luther (as a spokesman for Protestants), and interpret him rightly against Bellarmine’s asserted claims of what Luther said and/or implied in his writings. 

Hommius, Festus – Disputation 67, ‘Of Good Works’, ‘Whether Good Works are Necessary to Salvation?’  in  70 Theological Disputations Against Papists…  in a Collection Against Bellarmine (Leiden, 1614), pp. 454-455

Hommius (1576-1642) was a reformed, Dutch theologian.

“Wherefore good works are necessary to salvation, certainly not as an efficient or meritorious cause, by an efficient principle; yet they are necessary by a principle of being present, and so a testimony of our living faith, without which faith is dead; and they are required to salvation, not as a cause of ruling, but as a way to the kingdom.” – pp. 454-455

Pareus, David – Book 4, ch. 7, ‘Proofs of Bellarmine out of the Scripture for the Necessity of Works Acting Efficiently unto Salvation, Refuted’  in Of Robert Bellarmine’s of the Justification of the Ungodly, Explicated & Castigated in Five Books (Heidelberg, 1615), pp. 1027-1040

Pareus (1548-1622) was a German Reformed Protestant theologian and reformer.  A quote is below on the webpage.

Alsted, Henry – Controversy 10, ‘Whether Good Works are Necessary?’  in ‘Of Justification & of Good Works in General’  in Part 4, Controversies with the Papists  in Polemical Theology… in Seven Parts (Hanau, Germany, 1620), p. 496

“Bellarmine:  Good works are necessary not only by a necessity of presence, but also by efficiency, so Scripture, the Fathers and sane reason teaches.

The Orthodox:  Good works do not precede one justified, but necessarily follow one justified and precede unto salvation.  They are yet ordinarily necessary by adults out of the supposition or necessity: 1. Of presence, as signs and effects of true faith.  2. Of divine command.  3. of a means, so far as they are the way of salvation, a condition and cause sine qua non [without which there is nothing].

If therefore by the term ‘efficiency’ Bellarmine does not mean some form of merit, or properly the virtue and worth of them in comparison to salvation, that saying is able to be admitted.  Good works certainly work unto eternal life following, but not by meriting.” – p. 496

Chamier, Daniel

Panstratiae Catholicae  (Geneva, 1626), vol. 3, place 3, question 3

Book 12, chs. 10-16, ‘Of the Tie of Faith & Works’, pp. 388-399

Book 15, chs. 1-5, ‘Of the Necessity of Works’, pp. 509-522

Chamier (1565-1621) was a Huguenot minister in France, founder of the Academy of Montpellier and author.

“But the consequent conditions are added to the antecedent, as following from them: which indeed are mutual between the parties, but oblige the one only: so that the other is bound to do no more on their account: As if one having given or sold a plot of ground, should assign an annuity to be laid out upon the poor.

Now conditions of that kind, when not performed, usually disannul the contract: and yet they do not constitute it.  Nay, there would be no annuity, except the sale were already full and complete.” – as trans. by Herman Witsius, Animadversions, p. 150

Witsius:  “viz. that, by virtue of the life already given through faith, works are necessary, so that he who shows no works, falls from every right which he had, or rather seemed to have, on account of his external vocation; although otherwise, works are not the causes of the life to be given.  Thus far Chamier.” – Animadversions, p. 151

Ames, William – ‘Of the Necessity of Works unto Salvation’  in Bellarmine Enervated, or Anti-Bellarmine Disputations, vol. 4 (London, 1632), pp. 367-369

Ames (1576-1633) was an English Protestant divine, philosopher, and controversialist. He spent much time in the Netherlands, and is noted for his involvement in the controversy between the Reformed and the Arminians.

“Bellarmine:  1. The adversaries in this bring things together so that good works are not necessary to salvation, except for a necessity of presence, so that they do not have any relation to salvation as they are merits, causes, conditions, etc.  We speak against them that just good works are necessary to salvation, even as an efficient principle, even as they bring about [efficiunt] salvation.

Protestants: We do not deny that good works have some relation to salvation, namely that they have a relation of being joined as a consequence, as a fitting effect to salvation (so to speak), being joined as an antecedent, namely as a fitting disposition unto salvation, and also as an argument confirming trust and hope in salvation; but we deny that our works are able to be some meritorious cause of justification and salvation.” – p. 367

Alting, Henry

Problem 54: ‘Whether Good Works are rightly spoken of as Necessary to Salvation?’  in The Scriptural Theology of Heidelberg, vol. 2, containing Theological, Theoretical & Practical Problems (Amsterdam, 1646) pp. 206-212

‘First: Whether it is rightly said: Good Works are Necessary to Salvation?’  in Place 18, ‘On Sanctification’  in A New Elenctic Theology (Amsterdam, 1654), p. 779

Alting (1583-1644) was a professor of theology at Heidelberg and of historical theology at Groningen.

Trigland, Jacob – ‘What then is the Necessity of Obedience & Good Works?’  in  ch. 22, ‘Of the Definition of Justification…’  in Against the Defense, or an Examinatory Refutation of the Whole Defense of the Remonstrants (Amsterdam, 1664), p. 332

Trigland (1583-1654) was a professor of theology at Leiden.

Rutherford, Samuel –  ’10. Whether good works are necessary as causes of justification, and therefore also of salvation? We deny against the Remonstrants and Papists.’, pp. 530-535  in Ch. 12, ‘On the Justification of Sinners’  in Examination of Arminianism (Utrecht, 1668)

“Mt. 3:10

‘Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.’

Hence of good works, if we desire to be saved, it is necessary that these are added.  But:

It is asked whether good works are necessary as a cause of justification, and therefore to salvation?  The Arminians Affirm; we deny.  But to clearer determination of the question, these three things are distinguished:  1. A right to life eternal; 2. the application of that particular right to determined and certain persons; 3. the actual possession of life eternal.” – p. 530

Rutherford also speaks of good works as inferior causes of salvation, reflecting the terminology of Calvin (on this webpage).  Rutherford approvingly cites Zanchi calling good works ‘an instrumental cause’ of the possession of salvation (p. 532).

Cocceius, Johannes – Ch. 88, ‘Of the Necessity & Consequence of Good Works from Faith’  in Place 30, ‘Christian Conservation’ in A Sum of Theology Rehearsed out of the Scriptures  (Geneva, 1665), pp. 889-905

Cocceius  (1603-69)

Voet, Gisbert

43rd Categorical: ‘Of Good Works being Causes of Life Eternal’  in Of Some Select Problems, Part 10  in Select Theological Disputations (Utrecht, 1669), vol. 5, pp. 675-686

“We respond:  Our corollary in the disputation of 1634 set forth that this holds:  Good works from the use of Scripture are in some way able to be called the cause of life eternal (2 Cor. 4:17; Phil. 2:12) and nonetheless they are certainly not hence an appearance or a shade of argument for the merit of papists.” – pp. 675-676

Rutherford says the same thing, reflecting the previous language of Calvin (below) calling good works ‘inferior causes’ of salvation.  Specifically, according to Bavinck (below), Voet calls good works a ‘preparatory’ & ‘dispositional’ cause of salvation.

Section 2, ch. 2, ‘Of Good Works, the Causes of Life Eternal’, pp. 154-169  of Thersites heautontimorumenos hoc est, Remonstrantium hyperaspistes, catechesi, et litvrgiæ Germanicæ, Gallicæ, & Belgicæ denuo insultans, retusus (Utrecht, 1635)

Voet quotes Calvin (quoted in English below on this webpage) approvingly on p. 166, that works are inferior causes of salvation.  He then quotes to the same effect ministers of Hanau, Germany, Bucer (quoted in English below on this webpage), Davenant (linked above on this webpage), John Cameron (on Phil. 2:12, which was approved by deputies of the French Church and the professors at Salmur), Ames’s Marrow of Theology and Zanchi (Of the Nature of God, Book 2, ch. 5, that which follows Predestination of the Saints, Question 3).

“Works are a cause of salvation: certainly [the term] ‘instrumental’ is more to be preferred than ‘efficient’.” – p. 168, see also p. 159, section 4

Burman, Francis – Locus 39, Ch. 8, ‘Of Good Works, & the Necessity & Merit of them’, pp. 235-246  in A Synopsis of Theology, and especially of the Economy of the Covenant of God, from the beginning of ages to the consummation of all things, vol. 2  (Utrecht, 1671)

Burman (1628-79)

Rissen, Leonard – ‘Controversy 5: Whether True Faith is Able to be Without Charity & Good Works?  We deny against the Papists.’  in ch. 13, ‘Of Conversion & Faith’  in A Sum of Didactic and Elenctic Theology, out of Our Theologians, especially out of Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Theology, so augmented & Illustrated  (Bern, 1676; 1690), pp. 404-405

Braun, Johannes – Sections 14-16  of ch. 11, ‘Of Good Works’  in Locus 12, ‘Of Sanctification’ in Part 3, ‘Of the Covenants Themselves’  in The Doctrine of the Covenants, or A System of Didactic and Elenctic Theology  (Amsterdam, 1691)

Braun (1628-1708)

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1700’s

Heidegger, Johann Heinrich – Sections 60-66  in Place 23, ‘Of the Grace of Sanctification’  in A Body of Christian Theology, Exhibiting True Doctrine, which is according to godliness, vol. 2  (Tigur, 1700/1732), pp. 332-334

Heidegger (1633-1698)

Section 62: “The Helvetic Confession ch. 16 denies that good works are so necessary to salvation, that apart from them no one has ever been saved.  And yet both infants are saved without good works and adults dying amid the actual beginnings of regeneration may be robbed of the time and occasion, at lest as regards the outward act, of emitting good works; for them the grace of God suffices.

As to the great agreement otherwise we teach that for all adults who receive time and opportunity for it good works are so necessary, that those who despise them, turn up their noses and plainly and wantonly neglect them, have no hope of salvation…  good works are necessary for obtaining salvation through grace and faith, a phrase applied to this controversy by the most learned Horneius.” – trans. Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics (Wipf & Stock, 2007), ch. 22, ‘Sanctification’, section 27, p. 580

Holtzfus, Barthold – A Theological Dissertation on the Necessity of Good Works  (Frankfurt, 1701)

Holtzfus (1659-1717) was a reformed professor of philosophy and theology at Frankfurt, Germany.

van Mastricht, Peter – ‘It is asked thirdly whether the endeavoring unto good works is necessary to salvation?’  in Theoretical and Practical Theology  (Utrecht, 1724), Book 6, ch. 8, section 27, pp. 844-845

“The Reformed–deny the necessity of good works for obtaining the right to eternal life.  Indeed if done with this intention they say that in consequence they are actually evil and pernicious.  But they declare that they are necessary by divine prescript for receiving possession of life, as conditions without which God refuses to bestow salvation upon us.”  – trans. Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics (Wipf & Stock, 2007), ch. 22, ‘Sanctification’, section 27, p. 580

Vitringa, Sr., Campegius – ‘Of the Necessity of Good Works’, theses 20-24, pp. 358-373  in Ch. 17, ‘Of Sanctification, Good Works & the Perseverance of the Saints’ in The Doctrine of the Christian Religion, Summarily Described through Aphorisms, vol. 3   d. 1722

Vitringa, Sr. (1659-1722) was a professor in Franeker and a Hebraist.  “…Vitringa…  maintained a fairly centrist Reformed position…  Vitringa and De Moor serve as codifiers and bibliographers of the earlier tradition…”

“Admirable text-book, full of quotations.” – Howard Malcom

De Moor, Bernard – Ch. 25, ‘Of Sanctification’, Sections 19-20  in A Continuous Commentary on John Marck’s Compendium of Didactic and Elenctic Christian Theology, vol 5  (Leiden, 1761-71)  Ch. 20 deals with how and why good works are not necessary for the elect dying in infancy.

De Moor (1709-1780) “maintained the fundamental line of confessional orthodoxy without drawing heavily on any of the newer philosophies…  [and he] maintained a fairly centrist Reformed position… Vitringa and De Moor served as codifiers and bibliographers of the earlier tradition…” – Richard Muller

For Moor’s view, see especially the first full paragraph on p. 834.  On p. 836 lists five ‘horrid’ teachings of the antinomians which teach directly contrary to what the reformed teach on this subject.  On the same page and following Moor lists and expounds at some length three reformed distinctions on the topic.


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Latin:  Lutheran

On this doctrine in Lutheranism, see Forbes, Justification, pp. 301-305 and the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, Ch. 4, ‘Good Works’ (1577).  Vitringa (above) gives an extensive bibliographic history of this doctrine in post-Reformation Lutheranism.

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1500’s

Wigand, Johann – Arguments for the Necessity of Good Works unto Salvation, out of the authors themselves and their defenses of the dogma, piously and studiously collected and clearly refuted (Magdeburg, 1555)

Wigand (1523-1587) was a professor of theology at Konigsberg and Jena, Germany.

This work is primarily directed against the Romanist doctrine of salvation.

Praetorius, Abdias

Of the Necessity of New Obedience and Good Works by Obadiah Praetorius and Some Others: a Summary Explanation containing the continuous sentiment and doctrine of him…  (Frankfurt, 1561)  This work is different from the one below.

Of the Necessity of Good Works & New Obedience, out of the Sacred Letters, Luther, Melancthon, Confessions, Fathers, Recent Writings, & some other Recent Items  (Frankfurt, German, 1562)

Praetorius (1524-1573) was a Lutheran, German, theologian and reformer.

Solid Declaration, Article 4, ‘Good Works’ (tr. Theodore Tappert, 1959)

“A few theologians [of the Augsburg Confession] also maintained that good works are not necessary but spontaneous, since they are not extorted by fear and punishment of the law but flow from a spontaneous spirit and joyful heart.  Another party took the contrary view that good works are necessary.  At first this latter controversy arose about the words ‘necessary’ and ‘free’, especially the word ‘necessary’.  This word may refer to the immutable order which obligates and binds all men to be obedient to God, but at times it implies the coercion with which the law forces men to do good works.  In the course of time, however, the issue ceased to be only a semantic problem and became a vehemently argued theological controversy when some contended that, because of the divine order referred to above, new obedience is not necessary in the regenerated.¹

¹ The so-called Second Antinomian Controversy, chiefly between Andrew Musculus [who denied the ‘necessity’ of good works] and Obadiah Praetorius [who upheld the ‘necessity’ of good works]…”

[Here is a response of Andrew Musculus to Praetorius: First Response to the Five Libels… of Obadiah Praetorius on the Necessity of Good Works (1563)]

Menius, Eusebius & Justus Menius – Oration on the Life of Jacob Milich… adjoined to which is an Inquiry on the Necessity of New Obedience, or of Good Works  (Wittenberg, 1562)

Justus Menius (1499-1558)

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1600’s

Balduin, Friedrich – An Ordinary Disputation on the Necessity of Good Works, Opposite the Nine First Chapters of Book 4 on Justification by Robert Bellarmine  (Wittenburg, 1612)

Balduin was a Lutheran was a Lutheran professor of theology at Wittenburg.

Weinrich, Georg – An Explanation of the Controversy of the Necessity of Good Works…  (Leipzig, 1615)

Weinrich (1554-1617) was a professor of theology at Leipzig.

Fabricius, Johann J.F. – A Dissertation on the Necessity of Good Works unto Salvation (Helmstadt, 1710)  Edited by the author’s son, Johann Fabricius (1668?-1736?).

Fabricius the elder was a pastor at Nuremberg around 1650 and a professor of theology.

Calov, Abraham – A Theological Disputation on the Essence of Good Works & of their Necessity, Succinctly Explained  (Wittenburg, 1653)

Rappolt, Friedrich – A Theological Disputation on the Necessity of Good Works, Opposite Papists  (Leipzig, 1670)

Rappolt (1615-1676) was a professor of poetry and theology at Leipzig, Germany.

Maresius, Samuel

Place 12, sections 11-13  of A Theological System (Groningen, 1673), pp. 664-667

Maresius (1599-1673) was a professor of theology at Sedan, France and Groningen, Netherlands.

Anti-Tirino., vol. 2, Controversy 15, number 23, p. 335 ff. & in the Addendum, p. 1062

This work is referenced in Vitringa, p. 361.

Section 19 of ‘A Truly Small Bundle of Other Paradoxes’, part 2  in Paradoxical Theology Laid Open and Refuted  in A Small Bundle of Myrrh (Groningen, 1660), pp. 127-128

Schmidt, Sebastian – A Theological Disputation on the Necessity of Good Works, on the 4th Article of the Formula of Concord  (Argentorat, 1689)

Schmidt (1617-1696) was a Lutheran professor of theology at Strassburg.  See the 4th chapter, ‘Good Works’ of the Lutheran Formula of Concord (1577).  See also the 4th chapter of the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord.

Wegner, Gottfried – A Theological Disputation on the Necessity of Good Works (Konigsberg, Germany, 1694)

Wegner (1644-1709) was a professor of theology at Konigsberg, Germany.

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Dutch

Voet, Gisbert – ‘Van de Goede Wercken’, p. 607  in Catechisatie over den Heidelbergschen Catechismus : naar Poudroyen’s editie van 1662 op nieuw uitgegeven, bij ons publiek ingeleid, en met enkele aanteekeningen voorzien, vol. 1 (Rotterdam: Gebroeders Huge, 1891)


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Westminster

Westminster Confession of Faith:

Ch. 14, ‘Of Saving Faith’

“II. By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the word…  and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands,[f]…

[f] Rom. 16:26.”

Ch. 15, ‘Of Repentance unto Life’

“II. By it a sinner, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God…  so grieves for and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God,[c] purposing and endeavouring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments.[d]

[c] Ezek. 18:30,31Ezek. 36:31Isa. 30:22Ps. 51:4Jer. 31:18,19Joel 2:12,13Amos 5:15Ps. 119:1282 Cor. 7:11.
[d] Ps. 119:6,59,106Luke 1:62 Kings 23:25.”

Ch. 16, ‘Of Good Works’

“II. These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith:[c] and by them believers…  having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end eternal life.[l]

[l] Rom. 6:22.”

Ch. 33, ‘Of the Last Judgment’

“I. God hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ,[a] to whom all power and judgment is given of the Father.[b] In which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged,[c] but likewise all persons that have lived upon earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds, and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil.[d]

[a] Acts 17:31.
[b] John 5:22,27.
[c] 1 Cor. 6:3Jude 62 Pet. 2:4.
[d] 2 Cor. 5:10Eccl. 12:14Rom. 2:16Rom. 14:10,12Matt. 12:36,37.”

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Westminster Larger Catechism

“Q. 32.  How is the grace of God manifested in the second covenant?

A.  The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provideth and offereth to sinners a Mediator,[1] and life and salvation by him;[2] and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in him, promiseth and giveth his Holy Spirit [3] to all his elect, to work in them that faith,[4] with all other saving graces;[5] and to enable them unto all holy obedience,[5] as the evidence of the truth of their faith [6] and thankfulness to God,[7] and as the way which he hath appointed them to salvation.[8]

1. Gen. 3:15Isa. 42:6John 6:27
2. I John 5:11-12
3. John 1:123:16
4. Prov. 1:23
5. II Cor. 4:13
6. Gal. 5:22-23
7. Ezek. 36:27
8. James 2:1822
9. II Cor. 5:14-15
10. Eph. 2:18

“Q. 90. What shall be done to the righteous at the day of judgment?

A. At the day of judgment, the righteous, being caught up to Christ in the clouds,[e] shall be set on his right hand, and there openly acknowledged and acquitted,[f] shall join with him in the judging of reprobate angels and men,[g] and shall be received into heaven,[h] where they shall be fully and for ever freed from all sin and misery;[i] filled with inconceivable joys,[k]…

[e] 1 Thess. 4:17.
[f] Matt. 25:33Matt. 10:32.
[g] 1 Cor. 6:2,3.
[h] Matt. 25:34,46.
[i] Eph. 5:27Rev. 14:13.
[k] Ps. 16:11.”

“Q. 153. What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us by reason of the transgression of the law?

A. That we may escape the wrath and curse of God due to us by reason of the transgression of the law, he requireth of us repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,[i] and the diligent use of the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation.[k]

[i] Acts 20:21. Matt. 3:7,8. Luke 13:3,5. Acts 16:30,31. John 3:16,18.
[k] Prov. 2:1-5. Prov. 8:33-36.

Q. 154. What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation?

A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation, are all his ordinances; especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation.[l]

[l] Matt. 28:19,20Acts 2:42,46,47.”


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Other Confessions & Documents

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The Tetrapolitan Confession  1530

Reformed Confessions of the 16th & 17th Centuries in English Translation, vol. 1 (1523-1552)  ed. James T. Dennison, Jr.  (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2014), pp. 144-145

The Tetrapolitan Confession is considered to be the first Reformed confession.  Its name signifies that it is the confession of the four German cities of Strasbourg, Constance, Memmingen and Lindau.  The primary author of it was Martin Bucer, aided by Capito and Heido.  It was a response, amongst other things, to the Lutheran Augsburg Confession (1530).

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“Chapter V

To Whom Good Works are to be Ascribed, and How They are Necessary

…He does not compel us, but leads us, being willing, working in us both to will and to do (Phil. 2:13).  Hence Augustine writes wisely that God rewards his own works in us.  By this we are so far from rejecting good works that we utterly deny that any one can be saved unless by Christ’s Spirit he be brought thus far, that there by in him no lack of good works, for which God has created him….”

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The Belgic Confession  1561

Ch. 24, Of Man’s Sanctification and Good Works

“Therefore it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man: for we do not speak of a vain faith, but of such a faith, which is called in Scripture, a faith that worketh by love, which excites man to the practice of those works, which God has commended in his Word…  howbeit they are of no account towards our justification…

Therefore we do good works, but not to merit by them, (for what can we merit?) nay, we are beholden to God for the good works we do, and not He to us, since it is he that works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure…

In the meantime, we not deny that God rewards our good works, but it is through his grace that he crowns his gifts.  Moreover, though we do good works, we do not found our salvation upon them…

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The Confession of Tarcal (1562) and Torda (1563)

Reformed Confessions of the 16th & 17th Centuries in English Translation, vol. 2 (1552-1566)  ed. James T. Dennison, Jr.  (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2014), pp. 684-686

This confession was one of churches in Transylvania.  It also had influence in Hungary.  It was written by the ‘apostle of Reformed theology in Hungary and Transylvania’, Peter Melius Juhasz (c. 1536-1572), who loosely followed Theodore Beza’s Confession of the Christian Faith (1560).

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“Article XVII.
The Second Matter in Question Concerning Good Works,
Which is the Question of Their Beginning and Origin


Further, we must add that wen our liberated will wishes to do good and perseveres in that course, we must attribute that entirely to the grace of God.

Finally, when, having been liberated from sin, we begin to do good, we say that we must not seek for any merit in this, but that the reward promised by grace will be given by grace (1 Cor. 4:7; Rom. 4:16).

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Article XVIII.
Of the Third Matter in Question Concerning Good Works,
Namely, ‘What is their Use?’


Therefore, we abhor the word ‘merit,’…

It is a certain thing that good works spring from Christ who lives in us, trusting in whose power and effectiveness, we begin to will and to do good…

For it is necessary that we possess Christ, who makes us good trees before we can produce any good fruit…  Also the efficient cause necessarily precedes the effect…

…To sum up all of this in a few words, we acknowledge that eternal life is promised to no one, but those who strive for the works of righteousness…

Article XIX.
For What End are Good Works Useful before God and Men?


2.) Second, by good works we become more certain of our salvation, not indeed as originating causes (as we have said above), but as witnesses and effects of the instrumental causes, through which we reach salvation, namely by faith…

3.) Third, it is necessary that we confess that there is a certain relationship between water and the source from which it springs…”

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Heidelberg Catechism  1563

63. Q. But do our good works earn nothing, even though God promises to reward them in this life and the next?

A. This reward is not earned[1]; it is a gift of grace.[2]

[1] Matt. 5:12; Heb. 11:6. [2] Luke 17:10; II Tim. 4:7, 8.

86. Q. Since we have been delivered from our misery by grace alone through Christ, without any merit of our own, why must we yet do good works?

A. Because Christ, having redeemed us by His blood, also renews us by His Holy Spirit to be His image, so that with our whole life we may show ourselves thankful to God for His benefits,[1] and He may be praised by us.[2] Further, that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by its fruits,[3] and that by our godly walk of life we may win our neighbours for Christ.[4]

[1] Rom. 6:13; 12:1, 2; I Pet. 2:5-10. [2] Matt. 5:16; I Cor. 6:19, 20. [3] Matt. 7:17, 18; Gal. 5:22-24; II Pet. 1:10, 11. [4] Matt. 5:14-16; Rom. 14:17-19; I Pet. 2:12; 3:1, 2.

90. Q. What is the coming to life of the new nature?

A. It is a heartfelt joy in God through Christ,[1] and a love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works.[2]

[1] Ps. 51:8, 12; Is. 57:15; Rom. 5:1; 14:17. [2] Rom. 6:10, 11; Gal. 2:20.

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The Sandomierz Consensus  1570

Reformed Confessions of the 16th & 17th Centuries in English Translation, vol. 3 (1567-1599)  ed. James T. Dennison, Jr.  (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2014), pp. 215-215

This consensus was a product of the Polish evangelical Church.  After the Reformation Polish protestants found themselves segregated into Lutherans, Zwinglians/Reformed and Czech/Bohemian Brethren, defending their distinctives.  This Consensus was an attempt to unite closer under the pressures of anti-Trinitarian defections and the Romanist counter-reformation.

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“XVI. On Faith and on Good Works
and Their Reward, and the Merit of a Believer


Therefore, although we believe according to Scripture that a sinful person receives the forgiveness of sin and his own justification only by faith in Christ apart from any merit, yet we do not therefore reject or slight good deeds, and indeed we diligently lead the common people to all godliness because we know well that human beings were created by God, and then again regenerated through faith, not so that they would be idle, but so that they would constantly walk and work according to the Lord’s will and commandment…

Thus we rebuke all who forsake all good deeds and with their hypocritical talk slight due Christian piety, as though it were not very necessary for believers.  Yet, as we said earlier, we do not understand or claim that we are saved by good deeds, nor do we maintain that God cannot save us without our works…  Yet good works must always grow out of faith like sure fruit.  Therefore, whenever salvation is ascribed to good deeds, it is not done because of their worth, but because of the relationship that good works indivisibly have to saving faith.”

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The Scottish Confession  1616

Reformed Confessions of the 16th & 17th Centuries in English Translation, vol. 4 (1600-1693)  ed. James T. Dennison, Jr.  (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2014), p. 113.

Robert Howie (1568-c. 1646), at the hand of James VI, became the principal of St. Mary’s College, St. Andrews, replacing Andrew Melville.  Howie began to preach and teach episcopacy from his university office (and was censored by his presbytery for it).  “Howie…  is regarded as the primary (if not exclusive) author of the confession…”

“We believe that albeit we are not justified by good works before God, and can merit nothing at God’s hand, yet they are the way to the kingdom of God, and are of necessity to be done for obedience to God, for glorifying of his name, for confirming ourselves anent our election, and for a good example to others; and constantly we affirm, that faith which brings not forth good works is dead, and avails nothing to justification or sanctification.”

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The Waldensian Confessions of 1655 & 1662

Reformed Confessions of the 16th & 17th Centuries in English Translation, vol. 4 (1600-1693)  ed. James T. Dennison, Jr.  (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2014), pp. 440-441 & 443-444.  For the Waldensian Confession of 1662, repeating much the same material, though somewhat different, see pp. 506-507 & 515.

The Waldensian Confession of 1655

“Good Works.  20.  That as God has promised us regeneration in Jesus Christ, those who are united to Him by a living faith ought to devote themselves, and do devote themselves in effect, to good works.

Their Necessity.  21.  That good works are so necessary to believers that they cannot reach the kingdom of heaven without doing them, seeing that truly God has prepared them in order that we should walk in them, that thus we should avoid vices, and devote ourselves to Christian virtues, employing fasting and all other means which may conduce to so holy a thing.

Their Fruits.  2.  That our good works are not able to merit anything, yet our Lord does not abandon the recompense of life eternal by a compassionate continuation of His grace, and in virtue of the constant immutability of the promises which He has made to us.

Additions to the Confession above

A brief justification touching the points, or article of faith which the doctors of Rome impute to us in common with all the Reformed churches.  Accusing us of believing:

5.  That the efficacy of predestination, is of no consequence whether one does good or evil.

6.  That good works are not necessary to salvation.

But all of these articles which are so maliciously imputed to us, far from believing or teaching them, we hold to be heretical and damnable, and denounce from all our heart anathema against whoever would maintain them.


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Quotes on the Necessity of Good Works

1600’s

Johannes Wolleb

Abridgment of Christian Divinity (London, 1660), Book 2, ‘Concerning the Worship of God’, Ch. 1, ‘Of the Nature of Good Works’, sections 12 & 15, pp. 315-317

“XII.  The Adjuncts of good works are, their imperfection and their necessity nevertheless.

XV.  Good works are necessary by the necessity of precept and of the means, but not by the necessity of the cause or merit.

By the necessity of precept they are necessary, because the study of good works through all the Scriptures is most severely enjoined to us:  They are necessary in regard of the means, because they are sure marks of Vocation, Election, and true Faith; and because they are the way and means to attain heavenly bliss:  As if a man should make a journey from York to London to obtain an inheritance, the way or journey is them medium or means, but not the meriting cause or the inheritance; even so it is in this matter.”

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Thomas Watson

Body of Divinity, Question 20, ‘Of the Covenant of Grace’, p. 106  in The Select Works of the Rev. Thomas Watson… (New York, 1855)  See also Question 22, ‘Of the Covenant of Works’, p. 90

“But are not works required in the covenant of grace?

Yes. “This is a faithful saying, that those who believe in God, should be careful to maintain good works.”  But the covenant of grace does not require works in the same manner as the covenant of works did.

  In the first covenant, works were required as the condition of life; in the second covenant, they are required only as the signs of life. In the first covenant, works were required as grounds of salvation; in the new covenant, they are required as evidences of our love to God.  In the first covenant, they were required to the justification of our persons; in the new covenant, to the manifestation of our grace.”

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Ezekiel Hopkins

p. 209 of The Doctrine of the Two Covenants in Works (Philadelphia, 1863) vol. 2  d. 1690

“And, therefore, I take it for granted, that obedience is required under the Covenant of Grace as strictly as ever it was under the Covenant of Works; and required, not only to show our gratitude and thankfulness, but necessarily and indispensably in order to the obtaining of heaven and eternal life.”

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Johannes Braun

Section 14 of ch. 11, ‘Of Good Works’  in Locus 12, ‘Of Sanctification’ in Part 3, ‘Of the Covenants Themselves’  in The Doctrine of the Covenants, or A System of Didactic and Elenctic Theology  (Amsterdam, 1691) as translated by Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics (Wipf & Stock, 2007), ch. 22, ‘Sanctification’, section 25, p. 579

“That works are alike profitable and necessary for believers is proved by many reasons:

(1) because they are commanded by God…
(2) because they are necessarily conjoined with faith…
(3) because by good works God is glorified and our neighbor edified;
(4) because He [they?] bears witness that we are justified by faith;
(5) we ought to witness to God a grateful mind, which cannot be done otherwise than by good works;
(6) they confirm our calling and surrender…
(7) they are our roads of approach to the eternal inheritance…”

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William Bates

The Harmony of the Divine Attributes (New York, 1831) ch. 19, section II, p. 278

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1700’s

Vanderkemp, John – Top paragraph, p. 179  in Lord’s Day 33, Questions 88-91  in The Christian entirely the property of Christ in life and death; exhibited in fifty-three sermons on the Heidelberg Catechism, vol. 2  1718

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Thomas Boston

In The Marrow of Modern Divinity… with Notes by Rev. Thomas Boston (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publications, n.d.), p. 165

“…putting his own holiness and obedience in the room of Christ’s imputed obedience…  But that the excluding of our holiness, good-works, and keeping of the commandments, from any part in this matter, militates nothing against the absolute necessity of holiness in its proper place, (without which, in men’s own persons, no man shall see the Lord) is a point too clear among sound Protestant divines, to be here insisted upon.”

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James Fraser of Alness

A Treatise on Sanctification (1774; ed. London, 1898), Appendix, wherein the Apostle’s Doctrine, Principles, and Reasoning, are Applied to the Purpose of Holy Practice…, Section I, p. 400

“14. Christians having sorrow or serious regret for sin in them, and being in earnest conflict with the law in their members, with the lusts, and irregular passions, and inordinate affections of the flesh, their way of walking cannot (as to their ordinary and habitual course) be after the flesh; nor can they be the slaves of sin; but being made free from sin, and become servants to God ([Rom.] ch. 6:22), they walk after the Spirit, have their fruit unto holiness (which is the necessary and certain characteristic of the true Christian), and the end everlasting life; to which end and final issue holiness is indispensably necessary–though, however necessary, yet eternal life is not proper wages which men win by their holiness, but is the gift of God through Jesus Christ.”

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1800’s

Robert Shaw

An Exposition of the Confession of Faith of the Westminster Assembly of Divines (London & Edinburgh: Johnstone & Hunter, 1850), p. 165

“Good works are essentially prerequisite to an admission into heaven. Though they do not merit everlasting life, yet they are indispensably necessary in all who are ‘heirs of the grace of life.’  Believers, ‘being made free from sin, have their fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.’ – Rom. 6:22”

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James Buchanan

The Doctrine of Justification (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1955), pp. 363-364

“When the doctrine of the Reformers began to be abused by the Antinomians, the Puritans were raised up, in the good providence of God, to give the same prominence to Sanctification as Luther had given to Justification; to insist as as strenuously on the the work of the Spirit in applying salvation as he had done on the work of Christ in procuring it:  for though both doctrines were taught at an earlier period…  it was reserved for their successors, when controversy arose, to expound them more fully in their necessary connection and mutual relations.

Such writers as Owen, and Goodwin, and Charnock, and Howe, and Trail adhered firmly to the doctrine of Justification as proclaimed by Luther and Calvin, while they checked every tendency to Antinomian licence by the firm assertion of the indispensable necessity of personal holiness as one of the essential parts of the great salvation…

Considered as fruits of our sanctification, and as evidences of our ‘MEETNESS for the inheritance of the saints in light,’ they cannot be too highly commended; but considered as the ground of our Justification, or as forming any part of our TITLE to that inheritance, they are to be utterly rejected, and treated as ‘dung’ and ‘filthy rags’ with reference to that end.”

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A. A. Hodge

Commentary on Ch. 16, ‘Of Good Works’, p. 301  in A Commentary on the Confession of Faith: with questions for theological students and Bible classes (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1901)

“(6) They [good works] are necessary to the attainment of salvation, not in any sense as a prerequisite to justification, nor in any stage of the believer’s progress meriting the divine favor, but as essential elements of that salvation, the consubstantial fruits and means of sanctification and glorification.

A saved soul is a holy soul, and a holy soul is one whose faculties are all engaged in works of loving obedience. Grace in the heart cannot exist without good works as their consequent. Good works cannot exist without the increase of the graces which are exercised in them. Heaven could not exist except as a society of holy souls mutually obeying the law of love in all the good works that law requires. Eph. v. 25 — 27; 1 Thess. iv. 6, 7; Rev. xxi. 27.”


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Romanist

Latin

Bellarmine, Robert – Of Justification, Book 4, ‘The Righteousness of Works’, ‘Heretics of these Times deny the Necessity of Works’  in The Third Controversy, ‘Of Reparation by Grace’  in The Disputations of Robert Bellarmine on Controversies of the Christian Faith Against the Heretics of these Times (Paris, 1603), vol. 4, pp. 231-243  Table of contents  Bellarmines Disputations have been translated into English:  Buy

Forbes:  “That conclusion therefore which Bellarmine lays down,

‘That good works are necessary to salvation, not only by way of presence, but also of some sort of efficiency, and that works not less not less than faith conduce to salvation, each after their own manner’

is admitted to be most true by many and very learned Protestants, as we have seen; and we deem this dispute between the parties to be altogether vain and useless, nay in great measure a mere contest about words” – Justification, pp. 317-319


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Distinctions

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Holiness is the Way to Eternal Life

Bernard of Clairvaux

William Forbes:  “This [that good works are necessary for salvation] was always the opinion of the Fathers, the most of whom it is well known have also used the word ‘merit’ to signify this efficiency, though not, as we shall hereafter show, in that sense, in which it is now understood and use by many Romanists…  St. Bernard [below] merely denies that works are a cause which is meritorious of the heavenly kingdom, properly, or fo condignity, as is clear from his very words…  but affirms that they are the way, and therefore after some manner the cause of attaining to the kingdom; for a way when it is walked in, or rather the walking in the way (as we are said to walk in good works) is in truth a cause of arriving at the goal.” – Justification, p. 309

Rutherford quotes the following passage of Bernard approvingly (Examination, p 531).  Perkins quotes this passage of Bernard approving in his commentary on Gal. 6:8 (linked above).

Bernard

A Tract on Grace & Free-will  in The Genuine Works of St. Bernard, vol. 2 (Paris, 1856), Ch. 14, section 51, p. 37

“Good works are the way to the kingdom, not the cause of reigning,”

“Otherwise if what we call our merits are properly so named…  they are the way to the kingdom,” [but] “not the cause of our reigning,”

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Henry Smith

In ‘Good Works are the Way to Heaven’  in The Lawyer’s Question: In Three Sermons (1595) in The Works of Henry Smith; Including Sermons, Treatises, Prayers, and Poems, ed. Thomas Fuller (2 vols, Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1866), 2: 108

“In respect of God, our election standeth certain from all eternity…  But in respect of ourselves it is uncertain, and therefore we must ‘strive to make the same sure’ by good works, 2 Peter 1:10.

These are the ways to come to heaven, though they be not the cause why we should come to heaven; therefore we must keep the way, if ever we mean to come to heaven; for as we are ordained to the end, so are we ordained to the means which bring us to that end.”

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John Davenant

Justification, 1:302-303, on Mt. 7:14

“Hence it is plain, that a certain sure way is laid down to the kingdom of heaven by God himself, and that the same is a narrow way, namely, that of virtue and holiness: not the broad way of iniquity and lust.  As therefore, if there is a certain, only, and prescribed way, which leads to any city, it is necessary to all who wish to enter that city, to take this way; so, since by the Divine appointment the way of good works leads to the goal of eternal glory, he must inevitably enter upon and hold this way, who desires to arrive thither,”

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John Ball

A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace  (London, 1645), p. 26

“In the Covenant of Nature obedience and works were commanded as the cause of life and justification: in the Covenant of Grace, Faith is required as the instrumental cause of Remission and Salvation, obedience as the qualification of the party justified, and the way leading to everlasting blessedness.”

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Samuel Rutherford

A Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist, opening the secrets of Familism and Antinomianism (London, 1648), Part 2, Ch. 37, ‘How Good Works are Necessary’, pp. 37-39

“”Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”  And lest we should think the commands are all but one only precept of believing, he addeth “for without are dogs and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, etc.”  “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me, and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

All these evidence to us, that holy walking is a way to heaven, as sowing is to harvest, and that Christ maketh a promise of life eternal to him that doth his commandments: only the question is, in what terms the promise is made to the doer of God’s will, as a doer, or as a believer, whose faith is fruitful, and with child of evangelic doing…

…it is true, they [good works] are not the meritorious, the efficient cause or way, nor the formal covenant-condition; but a way they are, as sowing is to harvest, running to the garland, wrestling to the victory.

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Thomas Brooks

Brooks, Thomas – p. 151 of The Crown of Glory of Christianity: the Necessity, Excellency, Rarity and Beauty of Holiness on Heb. 12:14  in Works, vol. 4  d. 1680

“…but certainly the way of holiness is the good old way, Jer. 6:16; it is the King of kings’ highway to heaven and happiness: Isa. 35:8, ‘And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called, The Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it;”

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John Sheffield

Puritan Sermons, vol. 5, p. 436

“The way of holiness is the King’s highway to heaven.  Read that notable place: ‘And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called, The Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it…’ (Isa. 35:8)”

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Thomas Boston

Works, vol. 4, Sermons on the Most Important & Interesting Subjects…, Sermon 29, ‘Believers Laboring for their Reward’, on Heb. 4:11, p. 281

“They that would enter heaven, but not by the way of obedience, must resolve to get in over the walls, but come not in by the door; that is, they shall never see it; ‘for without holiness no man shall see the Lord.’  We must follow the footsteps of our blessed Lord and the flock, who all entered heaven this way; though in different respects, he by, and they in, obedience.”

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Thomas Ridgley

A Body of Divinity…  being the Substance of Several Lectures on the Assembly’s Larger Catechism  (New York, 1855), vol. 1, on Question 32, ‘The Display of Grace in the Covenant’, p. 457

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Samuel Davies

Sermons (Philadelphia, 1864), vol. 1, Sermon 9, ‘The Connection Between Present Holiness and Future Felicity’, on Heb. 12:14, pp. 277-278

“So a holy person rejoiceth that the way of holiness is the appointed way to Heaven…  he delights in the Gospel-constitution, because it requires universal holiness…

This is solid rational religion, fit to be depended upon, in opposition to the antinomian licentiousness, the freaks of enthusiasm, and the irrational flights of passion and imagination on the one hand; and in opposition to formality, mere morality, and the self-sprung religion of nature on the other…  Men are naturally averse to this Gospel method of salvation…  they will endeavor to widen the way to Heaven, and persuade themselves they shall attain it, notwithstanding their continuance in some known iniquity, and though their hearts have never been thoroughly sanctified…  How many give up their hopes of Heaven rather than part with sin…  and must not such degenerate creatures be renewed ere they can be holy, or see the Lord!”

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John Colquhoun

p. 327 of Section 2, ‘Of the Necessity of Good Works’  in Ch. 12, ‘Of the Nature, Necessity and Desert of Good Works’, in A Treatise on the Law and the Gospel  (Edinburgh, 1819)

“5. Good works are no less necessary as they are our walking in the way
which leads to heaven.  Jesus Christ is the way (John 14:6).  Faith and
holiness are our walking in Him as the way.  This way, accordingly, is
called “the way of holiness,” or “the holy way” (Isaiah 35:8), inasmuch as
none can walk in Christ other than by faith, and by that holiness of heart
and life which is “the obedience of faith.”

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Good Works are not part of the Right to Life, but are Necessary for the Possession of Life

Calvin

Institutes, Book 3, ch. 14, section 21  tr. Beveridge

“Moreover, when Scripture intimates that the good works of believers are causes why the Lord does them good, we must still understand the meaning so as to hold unshaken what has previously been said—viz. that the efficient cause of our salvation is placed in the love of God the Father; the material cause in the obedience of the Son; the instrumental cause in the illumination of the Spirit, that is, in faith; and the final cause in the praise of the divine goodness.

In this, however, there is nothing to prevent the Lord from embracing works as inferior causes.  But how so?  In this way: Those whom in mercy he has destined for the inheritance of eternal life, he, in his ordinary administration, introduces to the possession of it by means of good works. What precedes in the order of administration is called the cause of what follows.  For this reason, he sometimes makes eternal life a consequent of works; not because it is to be ascribed to them, but because those whom he has elected he justifies, that he may at length glorify (Rom. 8:30); he makes the prior grace to be a kind of cause, because it is a kind of step to that which follows.  But whenever the true cause is to be assigned, he enjoins us not to take refuge in works, but to keep our thoughts entirely fixed on the mercy of God…”

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Zanchi

p. 670 of ‘Whether Good Works are the Cause of Eternal Salvation?’  in Of the Nature of God, or of the Divine Attributes (Neustadt, 1593), Book 5, ch. 2, after Of Predestination in General, Question 6, Other Part, Of the Predestination of the Saints, Question 3, after the Thesis

“Good works are an instrumental cause of the possession of life eternal, for by these as by media and by the legitimate path God leads us into the possession of eternal life…  The same truly are rightly able to be said to be an instrumental cause of eternal life, insofar as God leads us by them into eternal life.” – p. 670

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Thomas Goodwin

On Eph. 2:8-10  in An Exposition of the Second Chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, Verses 1-11 in Works, vol. 2, p. 336

“Upon believing, or with believing (I shall explain it by and by) the whole right of salvation is given us; but all the holiness and works we have do not serve for the right, but only we are led through them to the possession of it.  You have it said in 2 Thess. 2:13 that we are saved through faith and sanctification.  But the Apostle here [in Eph. 2:8-10] orders them, how through faith, and how through sanctification.  He speaks in common of both there; here, so through faith as not through sanctification.  ‘Not of works,’ saith he.  How shall we solve that?

This is the clear distinction of it.  We are saved through faith, as that which gives us the present right, or that which God doth then give as a judge, when we believe, before faith hath done a whit of work else; but we are led through sanctification and good works to the possession of salvation.  Distinguish the right and the possession, and you have clearly the Apostle’s meaning; for, saith he, ‘he hath ordained good works, that we should walk in them,’ as being already ‘saved through faith,’ which he speaks before that.”

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Samuel Rutherford

p. 531 of ’10. Whether good works are necessary as causes of justification, and therefore also of salvation?’  in Ch. 12, ‘On the Justification of Sinners’  in Examination of Arminianism (Utrecht, 1668)

“Assertion 4.  Nothing keeps us from calling good works an inferior cause of the actual possession of eternal life.  Thus says our Calvin Institutes, book 3, ch. 14, section 21. 

‘In this, however, there is nothing to prevent the Lord from embracing works as inferior causes.  But how so?  In this way:  Those whom in mercy he has destined for the inheritance of eternal life, he, in his ordinary administration, introduces to the possession of it by means of good works.'”

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Edward Veal

‘Whether the Good Works of Believers be Meritorious of Salvation:  Negatum Est [It is Denied]’, pp. 213-214  in Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 6

“2. Good works are the way in which God hath appointed us to walk in order to our obtaining eternal life.–They are via ad regnum [the way to the kingdom], the path of life, ‘the way to God’s kingdom,’ the work we are to do ere we receive our reward, the race we are to run ere we be crowned [following Voet & Rutherford, 1 Cor. 9:24-25; Heb. 12:1].  Though God save us not for them as meritorious causes of his saving us, yet those that are capable of doing them he doth not ordinarily save without them: [quotes Eph. 2:10 & Heb. 12:14]

Though eternal glory be not, as hath been proved, properly a reward, nor God’s giving it an act of strict justice; yet God hath, we acknowledge, determined to give it, per modum praemii, ‘after the manner of a reward;’ in that he will not give men the glory he intends them till they have done him some service; not treat them as conquerers who never fought his battle; not respect them as faithful servants who have been sluggards or loiterers.  The ‘sanctification of the Spirit,’ as well as the ‘belief of the truth,’ must go before salvation, ‘because God hath from the beginning chosen us to salvation’ by the one as well as the other. (2 Thess. 2:13)”

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Petrus van Mastricht

Theoretical and Practical Theology  (Utrecht, 1724), Book 6, ch. 8, section 27, pp. 844-845  as translated by Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics (Wipf & Stock, 2007), ch. 22, ‘Sanctification’, section 27, p. 580

“The Reformed–deny the necessity of good works for obtaining the right to eternal life.  Indeed if done with this intention they say that in consequence they are actually evil and pernicious.  But they declare that they are necessary by divine prescript for receiving possession of life, as conditions without which God refuses to bestow salvation upon us.”

As given in Mark Jones, Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest (P&R, 2013)

“From this come three periods of justification that should be diligently observed here, namely

1: The period of establishment, by which man is first justified: in this occasion not only is efficacy of works excluded for acquiring justification, but so is the very presence of these works in so far as God justifies the sinner and the wicked.

2: The period of continuation: in this occasion, although no efficacy of good works is granted for justification, the presence of these same works, nevertheless, is required. And it is probably in this sense that James denies that we are justified by faith along but he requires works in addition. And lastly

3: The period of consummation in which the right unto eternal life, granted under the first period and continued under the second, is advanced even to the possession of eternal life: in this occasion not only is the presence of good works required, but also, in a certain sense, their efficacy, in so far as God, whose law we attain just now through the merit alone of Christ, does not want to grant possession of eternal life, unless [it is] beyond faith with good works previously performed. We received once before the right unto eternal life through the merit of Christ alone.  But God does not want to grant possession of eternal life, unless there are, next to faith, also good works which precede this possession.”

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Francis Turretin

Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol 2, 17th Topic, Third Question: ‘The Necessity of Good Works; Are good works necessary to salvation? We affirm.’, p. 703

“II. There are three principal opinions about the necessity of good works…; The third is that of those who (holding the middle ground between these two extremes) neither simply deny, nor simply assert; yet they recognize a certain necessity for them against the Libertines, but uniformly reject the necessity of merit against the Romanists. This is the opinion of the orthodox.

III. Hence it is evident that the question here does not concern the necessity of merit, causality, and efficiency—whether good works are necessary to effect salvation or to acquire it by right. (For this belongs to another controversy, of which hereafter). Rather the question concerns the necessity of means, of presence and of connection or order—Are they required as the means and way for possessing salvation? This we hold.

IV. Although the proposition concerning the necessity of good works to salvation (which was thrust forward in a former century by the Romanists under the show of a reconciliation in the Intermistic formula, but really that imperceptibly the purity of the doctrine concerning justification might be corrupted) was rejected by various Lutheran theologians as less suitable and dangerous; nay, even by some of our theologians; still we think with others that it can be retained without danger if properly explained. We also hold that it should be pressed against the license of the Epicureans so that although works may be said to contribute nothing to the acquisition of our salvation, still they should be considered necessary to the obtainment of it, so that no one can be saved without them–that thus our religion may be freed from those most foul calumnies everywhere cast mot unjustly upon it by the Romanists (as if it were the mistress of impiety and the cushion of carnal licentiousness and security)…

VII. And as to the covenant, everyone knows that it consists of two parts: on the one hand the promise on the part of God; on the other the stipulation of obedience on the part of man…”

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Various – The Eleventh Error, pp. 58-59  of A Declaration of the Congregational Ministers, in and about London, against Antinomian Errors, and ignorant and scandalous persons intruding themselves into the ministry (1699)

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Herman Witsius

Conciliatory or Irenical Animadversions on the Controversies Agitated in Britain: under the unhappy names of Antinomians and Neonomians (Glasgow, 1807), pp. 161-163

We must accurately distinguish between a right to life, and the possession of life.  The former must so be assigned to the obedience of Christ, that all the value of our holiness may be entirely excluded.  But certainly our works, or rather these, which the Spirit of Christ worketh in us, and by us, contribute something to the latter…

III.  1st, Scripture teacheth that man must do something, that he may obtain the possession of the salvation purchased by Christ.  “Labour, (said he) for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life,” which indeed he interprets afterwards of faith, but so, that there he plainly reduces it to the catalogue of works; for justification is not the subject, John 6:27-29.  And Paul expressly says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” Phil. 2:12.  And again, “Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Cor. 15:58

IV.  Neither because Christ is the way to life, is the practice of Christian piety therefore not the way to life.  Christ is the way to life, because he purchased us a right to life.  The practice of Christian piety is the way to life, because thereby we go to the possession of the right obtained by Christ.  For it is more than a hundred times designed by the name of life: again the way of righteousness, the good way, the way of peace; yea, that nothing might be wanting, it is called the way of life and salvation.  Prov. 6:23, “The commandment is a lamp, and the law is light, and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.”  And 10:17, “He is in the way unto life who keepeth instruction.”  15:24, “The way of life is above to the wise.”  Ps. 50:23, “Whoso ordereth his way, I will cause him to enjoy the salvation of God.”  And what does Christ himself understand by that narrow way which leadeth unto life, Mt. 7:14, but the strict practice of Christian religion?  which is called the way of salvation, Acts 16:17.”

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Heinrich Heppe

Reformed Dogmatics (Wipf & Stock, 2007), ch. 22, ‘Sanctification’, section 27, p. 580

“But of course good works are necessary as the God-appointed road, on which by grace we are to attain to the possession of eternal life.  This naturally can hold not for those elect who die at an age of minority or at the beginning of their rebirth, but only for those who have time and opportunity for good works.”


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Good Works are Necessary to Justification Consequently

This is to say that good works necessarily follow Justification by consequence, and therefore are necessary to it, broadly speaking.

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Ursinus, Zacharias

‘Why Good Works are to be Done, or why they are Necessary?’, p. 485  in section 5 of Question 91 of the Heidelberg Catechism  in The Commentary of Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism (Cincinnati, 1851)

“…Good works are necessary to salvation, not as a cause to an effect, or as if they merited a reward, but as a part of salvation itself, or as an antecedent to a consequent, or as a means without which we cannot obtain the end.

In the same way we may also say, that good works are necessary to righteousness or justification, or in them that are to be justified, viz.: as a consequence of justification, with which regeneration is inseparably connected….

We may more safely and correctly say, That good works are necessary in them that are justified, and that are to be saved….  Augustine has correctly said:  Good works do not precede them that are to be justified, but follow them that are justified.”

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Alsted, Henry

Controversy 10, ‘Whether Good Works are Necessary?’  in ‘Of Justification & of Good Works in General’  in Part 4, Controversies with the Papists  in Polemical Theology… in Seven Parts (Hanau, Germany, 1620), p. 496

“The Orthodox:  Good works do not precede one justified, but necessarily follow one justified and precede unto salvation.  They are yet ordinarily necessary by adults out of the supposition or necessity:

1. Of presence, as signs and effects of true faith.
2. Of divine command.
3. of a means, so far as they are the way of salvation, a condition and cause sine qua non [without which there is nothing].”

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Chamier, Daniel & Herman Witsius

Chamier, Daniel – Book 15, ‘Of the Necessity of Works’, 5 chapters  in Panstratiae Catholicae  (Geneva, 1626), vol. 3, place 3, question 3, pp. 509-522  as trans. by Herman Witsius, Animadversions, p. 150

“But the consequent conditions are added to the antecedent, as following from them: which indeed are mutual between the parties, but oblige the one only so that the other is bound to do no more on their account: As if one having given or sold a plot of ground, should assign an annuity to be laid out upon the poor.

Now conditions of that kind, when not performed, usually disannul the contract: and yet they do not constitute it.  Nay, there would be no annuity, except the sale were already full and complete.”

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Witsius, Herman, on the above quote

“viz. that, by virtue of the life already given through faith, works are necessary, so that he who shows no works, falls from every right which he had, or rather seemed to have, on account of his external vocation; although otherwise, works are not the causes of the life to be given.  Thus far Chamier.” – Animadversions, p. 151

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Downame, George

A Treatise on Justification  (London, 1633), Book 7, ‘Concerning Good Works’, ch. 1, Answer IX, p. 438

“Secondly, as necessary fruits of our election, for we are elected to that end that we should be holy, Eph. 1:4, as neces­sary fruits of faith, without which it is judged to be dead, James 2:26, as unseparable consequents of our redemption and justification, Luk. 1:74.

And as they are necessary consequents of our justification, so they are necessary forerunners of salvation, by which we are fitted for God’s Kingdom, because no unclean thing can enter into the Kingdom of heaven, Apoc. 21:27, and finally so necessary is a godly life that with­out it no man shall see God, Heb. 12:14.”

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Francis Roberts

Mysterium & Medulla Bibliorum, the Mysterie and Marrow of the Bible  (London, 1657), book 3, ch. 4, aphorism 2, p. 788

“3. The stream of the Sinai-Covenant runs much upon doing, and perfection of doing…  partly to instruct them, that though God intended not their works and obedience as an antecedent condition requisite to their justification; yet He intended them as a consequent condition and qualification in justified persons, as fruits of true faith, and the way towards the attainment of the promises.”

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Grew, Obadiah – A Sinner’s Justification, or the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord our Righteousness…  (London, 1670), pp. 210-211

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Turretin, Francis – ‘The Necessity of Good Works:  Are good works necessary to salvation?  We affrim.’  in Institutes, vol. 2, 17th Topic, ‘Sanctification and Good Works’, Question 3, pp. 702-706

“XIV.  Works…  are related to justification not antecedently, efficiently and meritoriously, but consequently and declaratively.


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Good Works are Necessary to Salvation (the attaining of Eternal Life) Antecedently

Ursinus, Zacharias

‘Why Good Works are to be Done, or why they are Necessary?’, p. 485  in section 5 of Question 91 of the Heidelberg Catechism  in The Commentary of Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism (Cincinnati, 1851)

“…Good works are necessary to salvation, not as a cause to an effect, or as if they merited a reward, but as a part of salvation itself, or as an antecedent to a consequent, or as a means without which we cannot obtain the end.

In the same way we may also say, that good works are necessary to righteousness or justification, or in them that are to be justified, viz.: as a consequence of justification, with which regeneration is inseparably connected….

We may more safely and correctly say, That good works are necessary in them that are justified, and that are to be saved….  Augustine has correctly said:  Good works do not precede them that are to be justified, but follow them that are justified.

We may, therefore, easily return an answer to the following objection:  That is necessary to salvation without which no one can be saved.  But no one who is destitute of good works can be saved, as it is said in the 87th Question [of the Heidelberg Catechism].  Therefore, good works are necessary to salvation, viz: as a part of salvation, or as a certain antecedent necessary to salvation, in which sense we admit the conclusion; but not as a cause, or as a merit of salvation.”

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Pareus, David

p. 1029 of Book 4, ch. 7, ‘Proofs of Bellarmine out of the Scripture for the Necessity of Works Acting Efficiently unto Salvation, Refuted’  in Of Robert Bellarmine’s of the Justification of the Ungodly, Explicated & Castigated in Five Books (Heidelberg, 1615) as translated in William Forbes, Justification, p. 309

“…of order such as the middle has to the end, the antecedent to the consequent, the necessary condition to the effect, of which condition the presence indeed does not effect, but the absence can hinder, salvation;”

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Maccovius, Johannes

ed. van Asselt, Bell, Brink, Ferwerda – Scholastic Discourse: Johannes Maccovius (1588–1644) on Theological and Philosophical Distinctions and Rules (Apeldoorn) Ch. 16, ‘On Good Works’, p. 136

“3. Good works are necessary as a consequent that follows from its antecedent, not as an effect that follows from its cause.

The Holy Spirit teaches this everywhere, because He denies that eternal life is attained by means of our good works. At the same time, He also teaches that it is impossible to see God without holiness, Heb. 12,14.

4. Eternal life will be given to those who are performing good works, but it is not given unto them because of their good works.

This is evident from Mt 25,35, where it is said: ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food’ etc.”

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Veal, Edward

‘Whether the Good Works of Believers be Meritorious of Salvation:  Negatum Est [It is Denied]’, p. 193  in Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 6

“We acknowledge that obedience is required in a son before he come to possess his inheritance; yet that obedience, though antecedent to his possessing that inheritance, is only the way in which he is to come to it, and the means whereby he is to be fitted for it; but is not meritorious of it.  There is no right to the inheritance acquired by his obedience which before he had not; though farther fitness for, and suitableness to, it there may be.  The Israelites were to fight, and subdue their enemies, ere they possessed the promised land; but their right to the possession of it they had before by the promise.  And who can say that they were worthy of it merely because they fought for it?”

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Leonard Rissen

As translated by Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics (Wipf & Stock, 2007), ch. 22, ‘Sanctification’, section 27, p. 580.  Heppe gives as the reference in Rissen: XV, 8, 1, but we have not been able to find it there.

“We agree that good works are pleasing to God, that we may work with the thought of profit…  that works have some relation of order and connection with eternal life, as between means and ends, the relation of way to goal, of competition to prize, of antecedent to consequent.”


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Good Works are Preparatory, Disposing & Dispositional Antecedents to Glory

Martin Bucer

Disputata Ratisbonae, in altero colloqui, Anno XLVI. Et Collocutorum Augustanae Confessionis Responsa … De Justificatione, et locis doctrinae Euangelicae omnibus, quos doctrina de Iustificatione complectitur…  (1548)  as translated in Forbes, Justification, p. 311.  Rutherford quotes from this work of Bucer to the same effect as below approvingly in his Examination, pp. 531-531.

p. 94

“Of what then does our Lord in this place [Mt. 25:35,42] say that the god works of the holy are the cause; for they are added with the causal conjunction ‘for I was an hungered.’ etc.?  They are the cause of the full attainment to and enjoyment of this kingdom, not of the right to it…

God therefore makes the good works of those who are His, causes both of increasing and daily perfecting their salvation, and at length of fully enjoying it also.”

p. 569

“But who of our Divines has ever denied that even the good works of the holy are in some way causes of their eternal reward?  for it is not about this that we strive, but as to the source from which they have this power…”

p. 99, also 100-101 ff.

“…good works are causes of the favors of God and of eternal salvation, and that this cannot be denied, since God witnesses it everywhere in the Scripture, but that they are not the primary causes, nor are they causes in themselves, but the secondary causes and that too only from the spontaneous benevolence of God…”

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William Twisse

A Discovery of Dr. Jackson’s Vanity (1631)

pp. 502-503

“But consider the Article itself, They which are endued with so excellent a benefit (to wit, as election and predestination is) are called according to God’s purpose by his spirit, working in due season; they through grace obey their calling, they be justified freely…  walk religiously in good works, and at length by God’s mercy they attain to everlast­ing felicity.  Whereby it appears, that election and predestina­tion is made the fountain and cause of obedience, and perse­verance therein even unto everlasting life…

pp. 573-574

“And if you please further to infer that, because perseverance in sin of infidelity and impenitency, as they are the meri­torious causes of damnation so they are the meritorious causes of the decree of damnation also: I think I may with as good reason take liberty to infer from the former, that seeing faith and repentance, yea and good works also are the disposing causes of salvation, therefore they are to be ac­counted the disposing causes of the decree of salvation, that is of our election also: And so your opinion shall appear at full and to life in his proper colors, not an hair’s breadth different, either from the Arminian heresy of late, or from the Pelagian heresy of old.”

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The Doctrine of the Synod of Dort and Arles, reduced to the Practice (1631)

p. 42

“for as much as fi­nal infidelity and impenitency are the meritorious causes of damnation; but faith, repentance and good works are but the disposing causes of salvation.

Yet like as God inflicts not damnation but by way of punishment, so he doth not bestow salvation, on any of ripe years, but by way of reward.  Yet here also is a difference; for damnation is inflicted by way of punishment for the evil works’ sake which are committed: but salvation is not conferred by way of reward for the good works’ sake which are performed, but merely for Christ’s sake.”

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Samuel Rutherford

A Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist, opening the secrets of Familism and Antinomianism (London, 1648), Part 2, Ch. 48, ‘Antinomians hold that the believer cannot sin against God…’, pp. 64-65

“Now this object of his [Paul’s] praying, and praising [in Col. 1:12], was not for their justification only, but verse 10, their walking worthy of the Lord unto all well-pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, verse 11, strengthened unto all patience.

This was a part of their fitness, and that holy walking conferreth a fitness and disposition for salvation to me is clear, because no unclean thing can enter within the gates of that higher City, and because that love which we have here in our way, being the same in nature, though not in degree, with that which in our country shall remain, as a part of our garland, and crown, the one must be a fit disposition to the other; and when the apostle saith “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.””

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Edward Veal

‘Whether the Good Works of Believers be Meritorious of Salvation:  Negatum Est [It is Denied]’, pp. 206-207  in Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, vol. 6

“Objection II [of the papists].  Several places they allege where the scripture speaks of believers as worthy of the reward: [Greek text]  “That ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God.” (2 Thess. 1:5)  [Greek text]  “They shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.” (Rev. 3:4)  Much stress they lay upon the word ‘worthy’; and so argue the saints to merit eternal life, because they are said to be worthy of it.

Answer.  The worthiness spoken of in such places is plainly the saints’ fitness for, and suitableness to, the reward of glory; that disposition which God works in those whom he intends to glorify; of which the apostle in Col. 1:12: “Who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:”…  the Greek ikanosanti signify no more than (as we translate it) ‘making meet,’ or ‘fit.’  And in how many other places is the same word used for fitness, or suitableness!  ‘Bring forth fruits meet for repentance;” (Mt. 3:8)…

…because though in strict justice, they do not merit life, yet they are qualified for it, and suited to it, by having those holy dispositions wrought in them which God intended to furnish them with, in order to the enjoyment of so glorious a recompence as He hath designed for them.”

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Thomas Watson

Body of Divinity, ‘Of Sanctification’, p. 166  in The Select Works of the Rev. Thomas Watson… (New York, 1855)

“(7.) Sanctification fits for heaven: ‘Who hath called us to glory and virtue.’ 2 Pet i 3. Glory is the throne, and sanctification is the step by which we ascend to it. As you first cleanse the vessel, and then pour in the wine; so God first cleanses us by sanctification, and then pours in the wine of glory. Solomon was first anointed with oil, and then was a king. 1 Kings i 39. First God anoints us with the holy oil of his Spirit, and then sets the crown of happiness upon our head. Pureness of heart and seeing God are linked together. Matt v 8.”

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John Colquhoun

p. 327 of Section 2, ‘Of the Necessity of Good Works’  in Ch. 12, ‘Of the Nature, Necessity and Desert of Good Works’, in A Treatise on the Law and the Gospel  (Edinburgh, 1819)

“None is in the way to heaven but he who, by a life of faith and the practice of those good works which are the fruits of faith, is advancing toward perfection of holiness.  It is the order immutably fixed in the everlasting covenant that a man be made holy in heart and in life before he is admitted to see and enjoy God in His holy place on high.

The love and practice of good works, then, in one who has an opportunity of performing them, are necessary as appointed means of disposing or preparing him for the holy enjoyments and employments of the heavenly sanctuary.”

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Herman Bavinck

Reformed Dogmatics (Baker, 2008), vol. 4, Part 1, ch. 4, ‘Passive and Active Sanctification’, pp. 254-256  Some footnotes have been omitted.

“On the one hand, it was stated that grace only serves to restore human willpower for good and to put humans themselves to work.  Good works, in that case, were definitely necessary for salvation, whether by a necessity of merit (Rome) or by a necessity of causality and effectiveness (Remonstrants).  And from the antinomian side it was said objectively that the righteousness and holiness of Christ remained completely external to a person, not only in justification but also in sanctification, so that repentance, conversion, prayer for forgiveness, and good works were totally unnecessary, bore a legalistic character, and failed to do justice to the perfect sacrifice of Christ.

Lutherans tried to avoid both extremes and conducted a long-lasting and vehement debate on the appropriateness or inappropriateness of the proposition ‘Good works are necessary to salvation.’…

The Reformed were more moderate in their judgment, regarded the Lutheran debate as a dispute over words, and could not see the big difference between the rejected formula ‘Good works are necessary to salvation’ and another that some Lutherans (like Quenstedt and Buddeus) had approved: ‘It is impossible to be saved without good works.’  They had no objection to calling good works necessary to salvation provided this did not imply a ‘necessity of causality or merit or effectiveness’ but implied a necessity of presence of the means and ways to obtain eternal salvation.  Voetius even believed that in a sense good works can be called ‘the cause of eternal life,’ that is, not a ‘meritorious’ but a ‘preparatory’ and ‘dispositional’ cause. (G. Voetius, Select Disputations, vol 5, 675 ff.)

Speaking along these lines, they undoubtedly had Scripture on their side…

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Good Works

Sanctification manifests itself in good works, which according to the Heidelberg Catechism arise from the principle of a true faith, conform to the law of God, and are done for his glory.”


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Good Works as Inferior Causes to Salvation (as defined above)

Calvin

Institutes, Book 3, ch. 14, section 21  tr. Beveridge

“Moreover, when Scripture intimates that the good works of believers are causes why the Lord does them good, we must still understand the meaning so as to hold unshaken what has previously been said—viz. that the efficient cause of our salvation is placed in the love of God the Father; the material cause in the obedience of the Son; the instrumental cause in the illumination of the Spirit, that is, in faith; and the final cause in the praise of the divine goodness.

In this, however, there is nothing to prevent the Lord from embracing works as inferior causes.  But how so?  In this way: Those whom in mercy he has destined for the inheritance of eternal life, he, in his ordinary administration, introduces to the possession of it by means of good works. What precedes in the order of administration is called the cause of what follows.  For this reason, he sometimes makes eternal life a consequent of works; not because it is to be ascribed to them, but because those whom he has elected he justifies, that he may at length glorify (Rom. 8:30); he makes the prior grace to be a kind of cause, because it is a kind of step to that which follows.  But whenever the true cause is to be assigned, he enjoins us not to take refuge in works, but to keep our thoughts entirely fixed on the mercy of God…”

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Zanchi

Of the Nature of God, book 5, Of the Providence of God, ch. 2, question 3, ‘Of Reprobation’, part 4, p. 730-731

“Id circo Apostolus aperte ait, vitam aeternam esse donum Dei.  Praeterea, etiam si detur, bona opera aliquo modo causas esse, propter quas recipiamur in possessionem aeternae vitae ex Dei liberalitate, quatenus scilicet unum Dei donum causa est alterius, praecedens insequentis (quemadmodum alias declarauimus) ut vocatio iustificationis, iustificatio glorificationis: tamen nullo modo dici possunt causa electionis ac praedestinationis ad aeternam vita: cum sint eius effecta, et cum nullam posterius causa esse possit efficiens prioris.”

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Piscator, Johannes

On Eph. 1:4 in A Logical Analysis of the Six Epistles of Paul, with Scholia and Observations on Places of Doctrine (Siegen, Germany: 1596), p. 88

“But this our sanctification (whereby we live holily) is itself the act of God whereby, among other things, He leads us to salvation, and therefore it has in some sense the nature of an efficient cause.” – trans. in Forbes, Justification, p. 313-315

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Similar statements of Piscator may be found in his:

Analysis on Rom. 6:23

Exegesis or Explication of Aphorisms of Christian Doctrine (Herborn, 1650), pp. 336-337

Analysis on Titus 3:5

Of the Justification of Man Before God, Contra Robert Bellarmine (1599), Book 2, ch. 3, at the end, pp. 79-80

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William Forbes

p. 309 of Book 4, ‘Of the Justice of Works’, ch. 1, ‘Of the Necessity of Good Works to Salvation, and the Coincident Questions…’  in A Fair & Calm Consideration of the Modern Controversy Concerning Justification, as it is Explained in the Five Books of Cardinal Bellarmine  in Modest & Pacifying Considerations of Controversies, vol. 1 (Oxford, 1850)

“Very many passages of Holy Scriptures (of which some are adduced by Bellarmine; but almost numberless  others might be added to them, Heb. 10:36; 1 Tim. 2:15; Phil. 2:12…  2 Cor. 7:10 & 4:17…  Rom. 8:13,17 & 10:10; Mt. 25:34-35…  and in verse 21 of the same chapter according to the vulgate translation…  James 1:25 & 2:14; Gal. 6:8…  Rev. 7:14-15…  most clearly demonstrate that in adult persons good works have to salvation not merely the relation ‘of order’ (as besides others, Paraeus frigidly answers)…  but also a causal relation, such as is the relation of a cause efficient or aiding, after its own manner and place, to its effect.”

[Forbes goes on to define this ‘efficient or aiding’ ‘causal relation’ in the same way as many quotes on this webpage.’]

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Rutherford, Samuel – p. 530-531 ff. of ’10. Whether good works are necessary as causes of justification, and therefore also of salvation? We deny against the Remonstrants and Papists.’  in Ch. 12, ‘On the Justification of Sinners’  in Examination of Arminianism (Utrecht, 1668)

Rutherford explicitly references Calvin for his approving language of ‘inferior cause’.  See especially Assertions 4-5.  Rutherford quotes Bernard (above) approvingly.  He says that good works are not ‘passive’, but are ‘active means’, ‘so says the Holy Spirit, 2 Cor. 4:17’, and that ‘a means is an inferior cause’.  Rutherford paraphrases Voet approvingly also calling good works a cause of salvation “just as running is a cause of apprehending a crown; contending, of a victory; a diet, of health. [1 Cor. 9:24-25; Heb. 12:1]” (see Voet, Thersites, p. 157 & 159)

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Voet, Gisbert – 43rd Categorical: ‘Of Good Works being Causes of Life Eternal’  in Of Some Select Problems, Part 10  in Select Theological Disputations (Utrecht, 1669), vol. 5, pp. 675-686

“We respond:  Our corollary in the disputation of 1634 set forth that this holds:  Good works from the use of Scripture are in some way able to be called the cause of life eternal (2 Cor. 4:17; Phil. 2:12) and nonetheless they are certainly not hence an appearance or a shade of argument for the merit of papists.” – pp. 675-676

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Good Works as an Instrument and Means to the Possession of Salvation  (Not to the title of it)

1500’s

Zanchi, Jerome

p. 670 of ‘Whether Good Works are the Cause of Eternal Salvation?’  in Of the Nature of God, or of the Divine Attributes (Neustadt, 1593), Book 5, ch. 2, after Of Predestination in General, Question 6, Other Part, Of the Predestination of the Saints, Question 3, after the Thesis, pp. 670-671

“We do not absolutely deny, that good works are a cause of salvation, viz., an instrumental rather than an efficient one…  Good works are an instrumental cause of the possession of life eternal, for by these as by media and by the legitimate path God leads us into the possession of eternal life…  The same truly are rightly able to be said to be an instrumental cause of eternal life, insofar as God leads us by them into eternal life.”

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1600’s

Rutherford, Samuel

p. 532  of ’10. Whether good works are necessary as causes of justification, and therefore also of salvation?  in Ch. 12, ‘On the Justification of Sinners’ in Examination of Arminianism (Utrecht, 1668)

“Assertion 5: Good works are understood to have a causative power for eternal life in three ways. 

1. As strictly meritorious, which we reject against the papists as blasphemous, as we proved in another place. 

2. That they may have an inferior and causal instrumental power conferred upon them by the grace of God, as Gisbertus Voetius says in Thersite Heautontemerumeno, section. 1, ch. 2, just as running is the cause of the attaining of a crown which is received, contending the cause of the victory, and diet is a cause of health [1 Cor. 9:24-25; Heb. 12:1]. 

Neither may one be said to distinguish accurately here between a means and a cause, or between a way and a cause: for while good works are means, they are not passive, but active: a means here is an inferior cause.  Therefore it is said, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”.  Κατεργάζεται ἡμῖν, they work, they bring about a cause for us, as the Holy Spirit speaks, 2 Cor. 4:17.”

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Voet, Gisbert

p. 168  of Section 2, ch. 2, ‘Of Good Works, the Causes of Life Eternal’  of Thersites Heautontimorumenos, hoc est, Remonstrantium Hyperaspistes, Catechesi, et Litvrgiæ Germanicæ, Gallicæ, & Belgicæ Denuo Insultans, Retusus (Utrecht, 1635)

“Works are a cause of salvation: certainly [the term] ‘instrumental’ is more to be preferred than ‘efficient’.”


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A Faith without Works is not Saving & does not Justify

“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”

James 2:17

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John Calvin

Richard B. Gaffin:  “A passage from Calvin’s commentary on Ezekiel 18:14-17 has the distinction of being among the last, perhaps the last, of his comments on the relationship among justification, faith and works (progressive sanctification), having apparently been written shortly before his death in 1564. Also, it is perhaps as pointed as any of his comments on their interrelationship and so, highly instructive concerning his matured understanding.” – ‘Gaffin on Calvin on Ezekiel’

Calvin on Eze. 18:14-17  in Commentaries on the Prophet Ezekiel, Vol. II (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), p. 238

“When therefore, we say that the faithful are esteemed just even in their deeds this is not stated as a cause of their salvation, and we must diligently notice that the cause of salvation is excluded from this doctrine; for, when we discuss the cause, we must look nowhere else but to the mercy of God, and there we must stop.

But although works tend in no way to the cause of justification, yet, when the elect sons of God were justified freely by faith, at the same time their works are esteemed righteous by the same gratuitous liberality. Thus it still remains true, that faith without works justifies, although this needs prudence and a sound interpretation; for this proposition, that faith without works justifies is true and yet false, according to the different senses which it bears.

The proposition, that faith without works justifies by itself, is false, because faith without works is void. But if the clause “without works” is joined with the word “justifies,” the proposition will be true.

Therefore faith cannot justify when it is without works, because it is dead, and a mere fiction. He who is born of God is just, as John says. (1 John v. 18.) Thus faith can be no more separated from works than the sun from his heat: yet faith justifies without works, because works form no reason for our justification; but faith alone reconciles us to God, and causes him to love us, not in ourselves, but in his only-begotten Son.”

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Samuel Rutherford

A Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist, opening the secrets of Familism and Antinomianism (London, 1648), Part 2

Ch. 21, ‘We mix not works and grace in the matter of justification’

Ch. 69, ‘The Dead and Bastard Faith of Antinomians’

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John Owen

Justification by Faith, ch. 2, ‘The Nature of Justifying Faith’, pp. 103-105  in Works, vol. 5

“Concerning this faith and trust, it is earnestly pleaded by many that obedience is included in it [such as Socinians and Papists]…

But to suppose that a dead faith, or that faith which is dead, is that faith which is required of us in the gospel in the way of duty, is a monstrous imagination…  For how impossible it is, according unto their principles who believe justification by faith alone, that justifying faith should be without a sincere purpose of heart to obey God in all things, I shall briefly declare.  For,

First…  to suppose such a grace dead, inactive, unfruitful, not operative unto the great end of the glory of God, and the transforming of the souls of them that receive it into his image, is a reflection on the wisdom, goodness, and love of God Himself.

Secondly, That this grace is in them a principle of spiritual life, which in the habit of it, as resident in the heart, is not really distinguished from that of all other grace whereby we live to God.  So, that there should be faith habitually in the heart,–I mean that evangelical faith we inquire after,–or actually exercised, where there is not a habit of all other graces, is utterly impossible.  Neither is it possible that there should be any exercise of this faith unto justification, but where the mind is prepared, disposed, and determined unto universal obedience.  And therefore,

Thirdly, It is denied that any faith, trust, or confidence, which may be imagined, so as to be absolutely separable from, and have its whole nature consistent with, the absence of all other graces, is that faith which is the especial gift of God, and which in the gospel is required of us in a way of duty…

Wherefore we say, the faith whereby we are justified, is such as it not found in any but those who are made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and by him united unto Christ; whose nature is renewed, and in whom there is a principle of all grace, and purpose of obedience.  Only we say, it is not any other grace, as charity and the like, nor any obedience, that gives life and form unto this faith; but it is this faith that gives life and efficacy unto all other graces, and form unto all evangelical obedience.  Neither doth any thing hence accrue unto our adversaries, who would have all those graces which are, in their root and principle, at least, present in all that are to be justified, to have the same influence unto our justification as faith hath…  the nature of no other grace is capable of that office which is assigned unto faith in our justification, nor can be assumed into a society in operation with it,–namely, to receive Christ, and the promises of life by him, and to give glory unto God on their account…

And this, in particular, is to be affirmed of repentance; concerning which it is most vehemently urged, that it is of the same necessity unto our justification as faith is.  For this they say is easily proved, from testimonies of Scripture innumerable, which call all men to repentance that will be saved…  But that which they have to prove is not that it is of the same necessity with faith unto them that are to be justified, but that it is of the same use with faith in their justification.”

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“Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.  Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.”

1 Tim. 5:24-25

“But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.”

Rom. 6:22

“God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”

2 Thess. 2:13

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;”

2 Cor. 4:17

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Related Pages

The Gospel

Justification

Sanctification

Covenant of Grace

The Active Obedience of Christ

Differing Levels of Reward in Heaven

Antinomianism

Covenant of Works

Mosaic Covenant

Regeneration

Perseverance of the Saints