By C. A. Stork, D. D.
IT is not necessary, in order to vindicate the excellence of the Augsburg Confession as a standard of Christian faith, that it should be shown to be a symmetrical system of doctrine. Enthusiasts have professed to find in it such a system. But the attempts to make this symmetry apparent have not persuaded the unbiased that it has any existence, outside the minds of indiscreet admirers. The Confession was not shaped under such circumstances, nor by such aims, as must conspire in order to elaborate completeness. Systems of speculative truth come to perfection, as the particles of matter organize into the flawless crystal, in a state of absolute quiescence. But the history of the Confession is the history of the resolution of two antagonistic forces. The Confession, as has been well said, was properly an apology. It represented the compromise — perhaps an unconscious compromise, yet still a compromise — made by those who stood between two mighty forces; on the one hand, the attracting power of the Romish Church, combining in itself all the subtle force of association, habit, traditionary reverence, and desire for peace, and, on the other, the repelling power of truth, simple and absolute, working through minds enlightened and constrained by the word of God. They who framed it had no mind to draw out a perfect scheme of Christian doctrine. They had in view a practical purpose. That purpose involved the harmony of two conflicting aims, viz: to bring into strong relief the cardinal truths of the Catholic faith, in which they were cordially at one with the Romish Church, and yet to emphasize the specially evangelical doctrines, wherein they felt themselves compelled to bear testimony to the unadulterated gospel of Christ, as against vital errors in that Church. These two points were to be kept in view, as the landmarks of the course down which they had to steer their difficult way.
The shaping of such a scheme of doctrine would naturally enough result in anything but a symmetrical standard of faith. It was an attempt to do that in the sphere of theology, which has been realized in the sphere of political science, in the growth of that anomalous but very useful thing, the English Constitution. Take away the history of the struggle that preceded and attended the formation of the Confession, and the first feature in it that will strike a candid mind, is its lack of symmetry. Read it in the light of the aims and hopes of its framers, and it is at once seen to be a work of matchless skill. As a purely logical statement of Christian doctrine, it is crude in form. As a practical testimony to the essential truths of the gospel, as over against the errors and perversions of Rome, it is a perfect organization. Read in this light, its abrupt transitions, as in the passage from the Article on Justification to that on the Ministry, are master-strokes of strategy; its redundancies, as in the case of Articles VI. and XX., are the necessary defences of the Reformed position. It is in this light continually that the connection of the several Articles, and the force of each separate Article, must be estimated.
There is, for instance, no logical connection, viewed purely in the light of theological science, between the Article on “The Ministerial Office” and that on “New Obedience.” But when we remember, that one of the strong fortresses of the Papal Church was the asserted power of the clergy to open and to shut the gate of heaven to men, and that linked to it in strategic order, stood that other dogmatic fortress of the fiction of the saints’ merits vested in the clergy, with full powers to bestow on others as part of the purchase of salvation, then the connection of the Article that strips the ministry of all powers of salvation, with that which relegates “good works” to their true position, as fruits of faith and not the price of salvation, is evident enough.
In this light of history, we shall attempt to open the meaning of this Sixth Article of the Augsburg Confession, “concerning New Obedience.”
The Article reads as follows:
“They likewise teach, that this faith must bring forth good fruits; and that it is our duty to perform those good works, which God has commanded, because it is his will, and not in the expectation of thereby meriting justification before him. For, remission of sins and justification are secured by faith; as the declaration of Christ testifies: ‘When ye shall have done all these things, say, we are unprofitable servants.’
” The same thing is taught by the ancient ecclesiastical writers: for Ambrose says, ‘ This has been ordained by God, that he who believes in Christ shall be saved without works, receiving remission of sins gratuitously through faith alone.'”
The doctrine of the Article is that of the vital connection of faith and holiness of life: it is a reaffirmation of that irrefragable chain which the apostle James forged out in his declaration that ” faith without works is dead.” In its connection, as part of the Confession, it grows logically out of Article IV. on Justification. In that Article was affirmed the Pauline doctrine, that the sinner is made just before God, and acknowledged as his child freely through faith, without reference either to his outward works or to his inward affections. On this, after the somewhat illogical interpolation of Article v., on the “Ministerial Office,” followed in most natural sequence the necessary complement and completion of the doctrine of faith, that it must be a living faith working by love and bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit. “They likewise teach that this faith must bring forth good fruits.” That sentence contains the logical kernel of the whole Article; the rest is but the expansion and adjustment of the central thought.
We will examine first this central truth, and then the qualifications by which it is defined and guarded. This order of discussion involves the consideration of the following points:
1. The Necessity of the New Obedience.
2. The Nature and Limitations of it.
3. The Grounds of its Obligation.
First, then, in order of importance we have to consider
I. THE NECESSITY OF THE NEW OBEDIENCE.
The really salient feature of this Article is the stress laid on the necessity of ” good works.” “This faith must bring forth good fruits;” “it is our duty to perform those good works which God has commanded.” This affirms the necessity of right living. It affirms, too, the necessity of right living as an essential constituent or outflow of true religion. It makes holiness of life, conformity to the law of rectitude, to be bound up in the .same necessity with the exercise of faith. It puts the obligation to good works into the same category with the obligation to worship and to trust in God. It unites what the common tendency of the religions of the world has almost uniformly separated, the religious sentiment, and the moral sense. The two may be, and are to be, distinguished, but not dissevered. We are under an obligation, felt by the rudest savage, to adore God. We are moved by a like potent sense of obligation to obey the law of right in the practice of life. But whilst neither is ever wholly extinguished, yet in the experience of the race there comes continually into view a rift between the two, tending ever to wider and wider division. In the pagan religions this is very marked. The code of religion there is one thing; the code of morals is altogether another. In the grosser forms of paganism they become directly antagonistic, as where the religious sentiment of the Hindu mother moves her to kill her child; as in the worship of the Grecian Aphrodite in Asia Minor, where a part of the cultus was the practice of unchastity. But as religion becomes purified by right reason, this chasm is made narrower, until in the revelation of truth given in Christianity, the separation is wholly lost, and the connection between religion and good morals, between faith and works, is made so close that they are bound up with the same cord of obligation. They are enclosed in the same necessity, and enforced by the same sanction of conscience and command. At last the religious sentiment and the moral sense merge wholly into each other, and become one in that peculiarly spiritual quality of the soul, for which pagan languages, indeed, furnish no adequate term, but which we know by the name of holiness. In that are blended and lost in one, the aspiration of the soul to the personal God, and the imperative of the conscience impelling to the right. It was to express this organic union, this vital integration of faith with good works, that this article was shaped.
I have said that this doctrine of the necessary union of holiness in practice with faith, lies at the very foundation of Christianity, and intimated that all false religions have failed in securing the connection. They have so failed practically, and, for the most part, even in idea. But yet this necessity of right living, as one of the vital organs of true religion, was not wholly unperceived even by the pagan world. The best minds of Greece and Rome felt, and more or less clearly taught, that there could be no true worship of God without the practice of goodness in the life. The whole scope of that most wonderful passage in all heathen literature, the Apology of Socrates, is to this effect: “If you release me, O Athenians,” says Socrates, in substance, “I shall only go back to tell the young men that there is nothing better than to cultivate justice and temperance and knowledge in the soul.” It is the final protest of the martyr-spirit against the divorce between religion and right-living, that was attempted to be made by the Sophists in Athens; an attempt that was only too effectually realized, in later times, by the Romish Church.
In the Second Alcibiades there is a discussion between Alcibiades and Socrates concerning the efficacy of prayer; and the conclusion is reached that no religious service, whether of prayer or sacrifice, is acceptable to God that is offered by a corrupt man. “It would be a dreadful tiling,” says Socrates, “if the gods looked to gifts and sacrifices, and not to the soul, if a person be holy and just. Justice and self control, it seems then, are honored above all things by the gods:” which sounds very much like the answer made by Samuel to Saul when he rebuked his sin of disobedience, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
Indeed, as soon as the mind of man begins to right itself, after the perturbations of the great storm of sin in the heart, and to take its bearings, it settles inevitably to the conviction that any true service or worship must go forth into obedience. Epictetus and Socrates, in their stammering and incoherent way, join their voices with that of the apostle James, saying, “Faith without works is dead.” “Be assured,” says Epictetus. “that the essence of piety toward God lies in this, to form right opinions concerning him, as existing, and as governing the universe justly and well. Fix yourself in this resolution to obey him, and yield to him, and willingly follow him amidst all events. When you have recourse to divination * * attend to the great diviner, the Pythian God, who once cast out of the temple him who neglected to save his friend.” So, according to the great Stoic moralist, to pray in the temple is of no avail, if one neglect to do his duty out of doors. This is only the concrete form of the abstract statement of our Article: ” This faith must bring forth good fruits * * it is our duty to perform those good works which God has commanded.”
With this writing of God in the natural conscience and heart, the revelation of God in his word is in full accord. If any one aim is clear in all God’s revealed plan, as the final end to be secured by the work of redemption, it is that men may be brought to the practice and enjoyment of holiness. If faith is a pre-eminent grace, it is so because it alone can open the way through Christ into the actual possession of this holiness. It is blessed, mainly, because it leads to that which is still more blessed. “Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Solomon was as near to a speculative philosopher as the Hebrew mind, with its intensely practical and spiritual bent, apparently could come; and he joins in the solemn verdict of the reason of the heathen world, “naturally Christian,” to the clear revelation of the Holy Ghost, when he sums up his speculations on life and religion in the close of Ecclesiastes: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.”
This is the end of ends. This is the ultimate goal of that whole vast sweep of catastrophe, development and deliverance wrought out in the history of redemption. As Paul expresses it, “our Saviour Jesus Christ gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
The Reformers felt this truth deeply. It is true, their controversy with Rome hinged on the doctrine of Justification by faith. But that which drove them to assert a free justification, without regard to works, was their recognition, that the righteousness demanded by God was too high for them, and yet only their just debt. Man must be justified gratuitously through faith, because he could never fulfil the requirements of a law that was holy and just and good. But, being justified, disencumbered of his load of past guilt, no pretence to religion could be allowed for a moment that did not acknowledge the claim of the law to a full obedience. No faith could be thought worthy the name that did not spontaneously work the works of holiness. The cry of the justified man is, ” Oh, how love I thy law.” Luther says, ” It is necessary that pious teachers should as diligently press the doctrine concerning good works as the doctrine concerning faith. . For Satan bitterly hates and resists both. Apart from the matter of justification, no one is able to commend the good works that are commanded by God highly enough.”
Through the twilight of moral consciousness in the Church, the Reformers groped their way to the fundamental truth of this Article. It was not seen so clearly then, as the Church is coming to see now, that the one final necessity in God’s government is habitual and actual goodness. But the Confession gives no uncertain sound on this vital point. It declares, with a sufficiency needing no fortification in these days of light and strength, “that this faith must bring forth good fruits; and that it is our duty to perform those good works which God has commanded.”
A truth so cardinal to Christianity, so imbedded in the whole texture of Scripture, so naturally apprehended by man’s innate sense of religion, could not have been wholly lost, even in the corruption of the Romish Church. In its formal affirmation, it never had been lost. The phrase “good works” had been blazoned on her banners, and sounded from her pulpits, until it had become nauseous to men. But, as disease changes the healthy functions of the body into sources of evil, so the pervading plague, in the life of that Church, had turned the truth, that holiness is necessary, into a moral poison. When the Reformers declared that “faith must bring forth good fruits, and that it is our duty to perform good works,” the whole Romish faculty could say. Amen. But the next step taken in this Article showed the gangrene which, under the name of “good works,” had eaten nearly all true holiness out of the heart of the Church. The first step, in the definition of the doctrine, was to determine what are the “good fruits,” “good works,” that constitute holiness.
II. THE NATURE AND LIMITATIONS OF THE NEW OBEDIENCE.
On this point the Confession is very explicit. It determines both by exclusion and inclusion, the scriptural character of that holiness which is required in believers. By declaring the rule of holiness, and its origin, it defined what was not, and what was, essential to the New Obedience.
a. By exclusion: “It is our duty to perform those good works which God has commanded.” The rule of “good works” is the express command of God. We are to do those things which God bids us, and no more. This one phrase, “which God has commanded,” struck a fatal blow. It was a two-edged argument. It not only sheared away the cunning web of works of supererogation, which Rome had used to catch souls in, as silly flies; but it also demolished the whole fabric of multiplied devotions, penances, ecclesiastical duties, fasts, pilgrimages, mortifications, which had grown to a yoke, like that complained of by Peter, “which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear.”
It had been taught that there were services of religion, and good works, not demanded by the law of God, and yet in themselves good, and therefore worthy of reward. By the performance of what were called “consilia evangelica,” fastings, pilgrimages, vows of monasticism, poverty, obedience, continence, and the like, it was held to be possible to lay up a treasure of merit above and beyond all that the strict law of God required. The logical outgrowth from this was the doctrine of the transfer of merit, the procuring of pardon and eternal life through the merits of the saints. Then followed, in train, the intercession of saints, the mechanical theory of holiness, by which righteousness was made something that could be put on and taken off, without any change in the inner man, until at last, the monstrous shock of the doctrine of Papal indulgence, according to which a man living in sin could, for money, purchase pardon and salvation of, the Holy Father who kept the treasury of the saints’ merits, roused the besotted nations to the protest of the Reformation.
This simple phrase of the Confession, “which God has commanded,” like the smiting of the sun on the rack of the morning mist, dissolved the whole cunning fabric of works of supererogation. That only is true obedience which can show for its sanction a “Thus saith the Lord.”
Luther says, in his Sermon concerning good works, “it is required of any work that professes to be a service of God, not only that it aim at the glory of God, but also that it be commanded by him.”
“Those good works are not truly good, which each one devises himself with a good intention, or which are performed according to human tradition, but those which God himself has prescribed and commanded in his word.”
Chemnitz in his chapter, “quae sint opera 1n qidbiis Dens vult renatos exercere obedientiam,” details at length the rule of new obedience:
1. Not what seems to us right.
2. Not what has been suggested by our good intent.
3. Not what has been handed down from our fathers.
4. But what God has positively commanded.
In another place, he condenses the scriptural argument against works of supererogation into a nutshell: “It is most true that the Holy Spirit renews the heart and makes it will and do obedience to God. Does God therefore wish that the renewed should, of their own motion and private counsel, or from traditions of men, choose the works wherein they shall glorify God? By no means: for Paul expressly condemns εθελοθρησκεια (self-imposed services) (Col. ii. 23). God wishes, therefore, the whole life of the regenerate to be ruled by his word, not only in faith, but also in good works. Charity, which is the root and sum of all good works, is said to be no more than the fulfilling of the law.”
The horns of the dilemma, on which the whole theory of “works” was impaled, were inevitable. If a work is commanded by God, then it is our duty to do it, and when it is done most perfectly, we have only performed our whole duty; if not commanded, it is no “good work.” “Who hath required this at your hand?” is the stern query with which all “evangelica consilia” and works of supererogation are met.
This was returning to the old landmarks. It was a reinstatement of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the only infallible rule of practice. It was not only a declaration of the necessity of holiness, but it was also a determination of the standard by which all goodness was to be measured and directed. It was not only pointing out the direction in which we must steer, but it was furnishing also the chart and compass by which to steer. The Reformers aimed primarily to correct the errors of the Roman apostasy. But their correction, like all true reform, reached farther than they could see:
—— “they builded better than they knew.”
They have furnished a permanent rule of true righteousness. What is the boundary of right? Where does the domain of absolute duty end, and the field of expedience, the weighing of means and ends, begin? How clear is the definition of the Confession: “those good works which God has commanded.”
We may test the universal application of this rule on some of the latest-born errors of our own times. Mr. J. S. Mill represents a movement in our day, to put aside the express command of God as a standard of right, on the ground that Christian morality is deficient in scope. “Many essential elements of the highest morality,” says this author in his work ” On Liberty,” “are among the things which are not provided for in the recorded deliverances of the Founder of Christianity. * * I believe that other ethics than any which can be evolved from exclusively Christian sources must exist side by side with Christian ethics, to produce the moral regeneration of mankind.” This has a very grand sound: the revelation that is heralded with such solemn trumpetings must be splendid, indeed. But when Mr. Mill descends from the sublimities of vague generalities, to specify the corrections he would graft on the moral code propounded in God’s word, we find that it is with his scheme, as with a great deal of modern philosophy, “ignotum pro magnifico est” Christian ethics are too narrow for modern expansion. Why? “Its ideal,” Mr. Mill answers, “is negative rather than positive; passive rather than active; innocence rather than nobleness; abstinence from evil rather than energetic pursuit of good. In its precepts (as has been well said), ‘Thou shalt not’ predominates unduly over ‘ Thou shalt.'” We have only to confront this (calling it by the mildest name) misrepresentation with the simple utterance of Christ to see its falsity: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” Add to this the elaborations of Christ’s command to be found in the twelfth chapter of Romans, the third and fourth of Philippians, and in the close of Paul’s epistles generally — and it must be a strange conscience that com- plains of this rule of the Confession as too circumscribed. “The good works which God has commanded” in the Old and New Testaments, open a field for the “energetic pursuit of good,” which the noblest men the world has ever held, have confessed themselves unable to fill up, or even to fully compass in their thoughts.
It is not strange that men disallowing the validity of the Scriptures as the revealed will of God, should disparage the ethics of the Bible. But something of this supercilious feeling of superiority to the plain rule of God’s word reveals itself in the new commandments promulgated touching good morals in many quarters professedly Christian. The so-called liberal and radical churches of our day are full of these maggots of a new and advanced morality, which are to hatch out into something that shall soar beyond the narrow pales of the written word. New virtues are invented, and new sins discovered every day. Yesterday a new commandment was proclaimed: “Thou shalt not drink wine.” To-day another precept is added: “Thou shalt give the ballot to woman.” All questions of expedience and means are attempted to be brought within the scope of a positive moral precept. And he who holds only by the Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount is in danger of being thought no better than a publican and sinner. To all such inventors of new virtues it may be commended as a wholesome exercise, to ponder the simple rule of the Confession, “it is our duty to perform those good works which God has commanded.” “Those,” says Prof. Alexander, “who undertake to be more righteous than God’s law, in any respect, will be sure to compensate their work of supererogation by greater license in some other form of sin. I once knew a candidate for the ministry who denounced as a sin eating meat and drinking tea and coffee, and, if I remember right, any violation of Prof Hitchcock’s prescription for avoiding dyspepsia. He ended with becoming the hierophant of a conventicle of free-love Perfectionists, and doing what he might to turn temples into brothels.”
b. By inclusion. The Confession not only excluded from the definition of “good works” the notions of men and the traditions of the Church. It included, also, within its scope that which practically Rome had cast out. The phrase “good works” had, under the manipulation of the ecclesiastical system, been emptied of nearly all spiritual meaning. To the Romish layman the term meant not love to God, love to men, purity of heart, “the fruits of the Spirit,” but the performance of innumerable external acts of devotion, penance, ritual correctness, and the like. Hence the tremendous recoil of Protestantism against these so-called “good works; ” a rebound so violent as to occasion the reproach of the Romish writers that the Reformers despised good works, and taught that there was no need of them. But the Confession is equally careful to assert the absolute necessity of the New Obedience, and to point out its origin and scope. They, and they only, are truly good works, which flow from a living faith in God. “This faith” (that described in Article IV.) ”must bring forth good fruits.” The New Obedience is to come forth, not on the mechanical compulsion of an ecclesiastical command, nor at the sheer impulse of hope and fear in an unrenewed heart, but from a faith that works by love.
“The first and chief work,” says Melanchthon, “is faith itself: God especially requires in his worshipers this faith, and this confidence produces the love of God.” This gives us the source and extent of the New Obedience. It begins in faith. It is fed at that deepest of all fountains in human nature, opened only by the divine hand, the trust of the soul in an invisible, but real and ever present God. The world, in its best moods, has conceived of high, ideals of virtue and rectitude, but it could never command the energy to make them actual. Men have dreamed beautifully of goodness but none have ever been able to put it into fact, nor even long to keep their dream before them clear in outline and fresh in color. There is no future for any rectitude that is not rooted in God. There is no summer flow for the streams that head short of the heart of the mountains. This unfailing spring the Confession finds in the faith that unites to God.
“With the reconciliation to God, that is effected by faith, comes also the gift of the Holy Spirit, which renews the heart and causes it to begin to love God, and delight in his law after the inner man: in this way come good works, and they are truly such which proceed from such a root.”
Thus the Confession supplies, in the strong throbbing heart of faith, an engine that can propel the whole machinery of right living. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” It is faith that unites to Christ, and so to God. It is faith that enables man to bring forth good fruits. Justification and sanctification are thus seen to be twin branches shooting, with their broad latitude of grateful shade and fruitage, from the one trunk of a living faith. We are saved by faith, and we are made clean and able to good works, holy living, by the same faith in God.
One point more, and we have done with this^side of our subject. What is the scope of this term, “good works?” What are the “good fruits” that “faith must bring forth,” the “good works” which “it is our duty to perform ?” The nature of the truth declared is disguised somewhat by the narrow and technical character of the terms used. The phrases “good fruits,” “good works,” meant to the ear of the world that had been so long filled with the teaching of Rome, only outward acts of morality, or even less than this, mere ritualistic observances and ecclesiastical duties. They were almost hopelessly infected with the plague of formalism and a technical holiness. They were but poorly fitted to carry the large meaning of the Reformers.
It is almost sad to see how the men who built the superstructure of the New Theology, labor to disentangle their deep scriptural views concerning holiness from the trammels of words which they felt, in a manner, compelled to use. They were not the first, nor the last, who gave birth to thoughts too great to be cradled in the language of their schools and times. They meant, in their struggling way, to declare that true religion must include right living, that holiness of life is eternally wedded to faith in God. But the words by which they affirm this are like the shield in the old story that showed red or white as it was seen from opposite sides: to the Roman antagonists they meant one thing; to us, who read them in the light of their whole theology, altogether another. Expand these words, “good fruits,” “good works,” to mean holiness of heart and life, and we have the doctrine the authors of the Confession intended to teach.
Chemnitz, in his chapter, “Quae opera facienda,” says: ” Not only is it our duty to perform the external works of the Decalogue, which even impious men can counterfeit, but also to originate an inward obedience. But these inner works are belief in God’s word, the fear of God, trust in God.”
“The first and chief grade of good works,” says Gerhard, “is inward obedience of the heart to God, of which the principal parts are the fear and love of God.” He then proceeds, in the order of their dignity, to specify five classes of good works, in the last of which he puts “the ceremonial duties of the first table;” meaning by these what may be called ritualistic or ecclesiastical observances. This was just reversing the old order. Rome had so long accustomed men to a mere mechanical performance of routine duties, that it was almost forgotten what holiness was. Her highest virtue was obedience to the Church. A spiritual, inward obedience, seemed something very petty. Her order of obligation was, first the Church, then man, then God. Baxter declares, in one of his characteristic passages, that after much horror of Rome, as corrupt in doctrine, he had, in his riper wisdom, come to see that her worst heresy was that of practice. “Ignorance and immorality in the people,” was her high crime. The substitution of artificial duties, pertaining to the outward life, for what the old writers love to call works of inward obedience, the inward motions of the Spirit, was a worse error, in reality, than Mariolatry, Purgatory, Intercession of Saints, or even Justification by Works. This error the authors of the Confession corrected, by restoring to their large, scriptural and spiritual sense, the terms, “good fruits,” “good works.” Good works were — Love to God, Trust in God, Love to men. Purity of heart and life — in fine, the “fruits of the Spirit,” described by the apostle. Thus the stream of a living faith was turned at last into that Augean stable, the Romish doctrine of “works.”
We come, in the course of our inquiry, to consider,
III. THE GROUNDS OF OBLIGATION TO THE NEW OBEDIENCE.
To the mind of the Reformers, this was the most important side of the whole doctrine. This is evident from the very structure of the Article. It has on it the smell of battle. It is framed, in this part of it, with a view to defence against the errors of Rome, rather than to a positive and purely dogmatic statement of the truth. Negatively, therefore, the ground of obligation is stated, and defended quite at length: “They teach that this faith must bring forth good fruits, etc., * * not in the expectation of thereby meriting justification before God. For, remission of sins, and Justification, are secured by faith; as the declaration of Christ testifies: ‘When ye shall have done all those things, say. We are unprofitable servants.’ The same thing is taught by the ancient ecclesiastical writers: for Ambrose says: ‘This has been ordained of God, that he who believes in Christ shall be saved without works, receiving remission of sins through faith alone.’” This was to meet the ground of obligation that logically correlated itself to the Romish theory of salvation. At Rome salvation had a definite price. Man, it was taught, could, and must, merit pardon and obtain eternal life, on the ground of just desert in return for his righteous obedience. He was to enter heaven because, in virtue of his good works, he had a claim to eternal life. Hence the necessity of good works. They were the price paid for salvation. I must do them because they arc the only coin current on the exchange of heaven.
Such a view of the necessity of good works was destructive of the very life of Christianity; and that in a two-fold way. It destroyed the character of grace, and changed God from a Father, freely pardoning his children, and preparing for them, out of his own resources, a way of redemption, to a .spiritual merchant, selling pardon and heaven for a sufficient quantity of righteousness. As Paul has put it: “If by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace.”
As a second and equally disastrous consequence, this view robbed the practice of goodness of its highest value. It degraded holy living from its high rank as the outflow of a spiritual faith in God, the outleap of the heart to the Father of grace and goodness, to be only the stipulated price of a bargained salvation. It has been charged on Christianity, as a grave defect, that it “holds out the hope of heaven and the threat of hell, as the appointed and appropriate motives to a virtuous life; in this falling far beyond the best of the ancients, and doing what lies in it to give to human morality an essentially selfish character.” The Romish ground of obligation to good works, goes far to justify whatever of truth there is in this charge. “Do good,” says the Romish theology, in substance, “that you may be safe.” Surely, any teaching that makes holiness, in its naked beauty, less beautiful and venerable in the eyes of men, must be contrary to the mind of God.
The guarded statement of Art. IV., “that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works; but that they are justified gratuitously, for Christ’s sake, through faith,” was sufficient refutation of the corrupt doctrine of Rome. But the Confessors, like men who having in trust a priceless treasure, make assurance doubly sure, and post triple lines of sentinels about the key of their position, guard against this error by the negative declaration of the doctrine of “good works.” Not content with their own decided declaration, they fortify their position with the testimony of Christ, and the authority of the Fathers. They felt themselves called to this apparently redundant defence, the more especially because it had been maintained that, however good works might be excluded from any share in meriting or procuring justification, they were yet necessary to obtaining the rewards of salvation, and for retaining salvation after it had been freely given. The controversies, that fought themselves out, died, and were renewed, about these fine distinctions, were interminable. We may sum up, in the blunt words of Chemnitz, the gist of the whole matter, and remark how the theologians of that period construed and defended the negative side of this Article.
“It is not true, as some pretend, that good works, although unnecessary to merit or obtain salvation, are necessary to retain, preserve, and complete our final safety. For the form of apostolic doctrine attributes the preservation and completion of salvation, its middle and end, as well as its beginning, to the grace of God alone, for Christ’s sake, without works; which grace is received, retained, and preserved through faith alone. ‘By faith we,’ not only ‘have access into this grace;’ but also by faith ‘we stand in this grace,’ and, by faith, ‘rejoice in hope of the glory of God.’ (Rom. v. 2).” This, with Quenstedt’s felicitous epigram, may suffice for the negative side of this part of our subject: “Good works are not the way to, but only ways in the kingdom.” To this add one, from Gerhard, even happier: “Good works do not make one good, they only show him to be so.”
We turn now to the positive side of the ground of obligation. If good works are not necessary to obtain pardon and salvation, on what ground are they necessary? The answer of the Confession to this is clear and final. Its authors do not, after the fashion of much modern reform in theology, demolish the ancient bulwarks of religion to leave those who had trusted in them naked and defenseless. The Romish ground of obligation to good works, viz.: that of their essential merit in the purchase of salvation, though utterly untenable and bad enough in its practical results, was yet better than no ground of obligation at all. It was better to be impelled to right living, with the hope of securing heaven thereby, than to have no impulse at all. It is better now for the millions of the Romish communion to believe that good works must be done to secure salvation, than to believe right living has no real ground of obligation outside of the fantasy and self-imposed yoke of one’s own sense of moral fitness. It is better to be an Austria, besotted, yet having some ground of obligation felt by its subjects, than a France, with the false ground removed, but none put in its place.
The Confessors were ready to replace the crazy bulwark which Rome had furnished. “This faith mu.st bring forth good fruits. * * It is our duty to do those good works which God has commanded, because it is his will.” The more we study this simple declaration, the more impregnable will appear their position, the more pregnant the words they use. Why must we do these good works? Because “it is our duty.” What obligation to the practice of a holy life? Because “it is the will of God.” It will be observed that there are two steps taken in the statement and unfolding of this ground of obligation.
a. “It is our duty.” The ground is that of moral right. The force of the original is, if anything, stronger: “debiat” “oporteat.” The appeal here is to the ultimate imperative of conscience. We must, because we ought. No idea in human consciousness is more unique than that expressed by the word “ought.” It carries us into a realm as new as that into which sight introduces us. Its deliverances are wholly untranslatable into other forms. It emerges into consciousness with a distinction like that of another sense. It makes its deliverances with an authority that, though often opposed, hated, derided, though often traversing the dearest schemes of man’s ambition and pleasure, yet has been felt by all men, in their highest moments, to be irresistible and full of the highest inspiration. It has been recognized, to use Lecky’s eloquent words, as “constituting at once the evidence of a Divine element within us, and the augury of the future that is before us.” But modern speculation has undertaken to resolve this idea into simpler elements. Under the analysis of the subtlest psychology the world has ever seen, the associational philosophy of Bain and Mill, this imperative of con- science resolves itself back into certain natural effects of association. Certain impulses of hope and fear, say these writers, become connected by association with certain prescribed courses of conduct. These associations are transmitted, in continually increasing strength, from generation to generation, till all traces of the connection by which they were formed are lost, and only the residuum of actual tendency is left. This tendency is what we call conscience. What we took for the voice of God is only the vibration of a nerve that goes on recording itself long after the blow that caused it is forgotten. What we respected as the imperative of a moral sense, final and authoritative, is only the recurrence of certain impulses, set in motion in our ancestors far beyond our knowledge.
This is very simple. But is it true? The philosophers seem to have analyzed all the authority of conscience away. But their analysis steers its airy way through the empty heaven of hypothesis. Their train of argument, like the gossamer thread of the spider that lets itself down out of the clear sky, has no perceptible holding-place. There is not, in all their fine fabric, so solid a fact as the simple testimony of conscience.
Two voices sound from the soul, which no philosophy has ever been able authoritatively to silence or to contradict: “I am,” and “I ought.” Huxley himself, fiercest and ablest, though frankest, of the materialist school, confesses reluctantly, that, for the first of these declarations, philosophy has no sufficient answer. The testimony of consciousness to its own free, self-determining nature, is final. So, too, the testimony of conscience, that we are under a solemn law of obligation to right, that consciousness expressed most tersely and vividly by “I ought,” is, at least tacitly, admitted to be irrefutable. In that famous definition, by this same author, of the “liberally educated man,” the last crowning touch of completeness is, that his “passions are trained to come to heel, by a vigorous will, the servant of a tender conscience.” What is this but an unconscious testimony to the authority of the moral sense? Mr. Lecky, who seems, in his “History of European Morals,” to make the laws of right as flexible and shifting as the currents of the summer wind, yet testifies, at last, that the “instinctive, or moral nature, is as truly a part of our being, as is our reason,” and “teaches us what reason could never teach, the supreme and transcendent excellence of moral good.” “In it” (our moral nature), “we have the common root of religion and of ethics; for the same consciousness that tells us that, even when it is in fact the weakest element of our constitution, it is, by right, supreme, commanding and authoritative, teaches us also that it is Divine.”
The very men who anatomize conscience, till there is no soul of force or right left in it, yet finally confess, by the very necessity of their nature, by their avowed indignations and enthusiasms, that the dethroned power, though they have proved it to be no rightful power, still holds a resistless sceptre.
The Confession thus bases the obligation to right living on a ground of sanction that is, our enemies themselves being judges, ultimate and immovable, as constituting a part of the fundamental law of our nature. “It is our duty to do those good works which God has commanded.” Of course, where the appeal is to a tribunal whose judgment cannot be re-argued, but is final, there need no links of reasoning to be forged and welded to enforce the authority of the judgment. When conscience speaks finally and decisively, the mind ceases from its quest after a ground of authority. As a matter of fact, the Confessors and the theologians of the formative period of our confessional theology, have practically left their case, so far as this ground of obligation is concerned, to rest here. After affirming that it is our duty to do “good works,” they cease from the attempt to show why duty is a sufficient ground of obligation, or to prove, with some modern philosophers, that it is necessary to do what we ought to do.
b. But there is yet another step in the process by which the Reformers established the ground of obligation to good works: “It is our duty to perform those good works which God has commanded, because it is his will.” They design by this sanction to point out the source of that moral imperative, which emerges into actual force in the voice of conscience. We are to do good works because it is our duty: “ought,” says the moral sense, and that is final. And that moral sense stands over the will and life, as their rightful ruler, whose command may be disobeyed, but never annulled, because it is so constituted by the will of God. The final reason of all right living is, “it is the will of God.”
The Reformers were not inclined to make the Confession a place for fine metaphysical disquisition. They had no mind to decide by the use of the term, “will of God,” what is the metaphysical ground of right. It is true, we may press their words to their strict logical import, and argue, with at least a verbal show of justice, that they expressed in this term, “because it is the will of God,” their settled belief that the ground of right is the ultimate, arbitrary determination of God. But in all fairness, that construction cannot be pressed. They meant, as it appears to me, to affirm only that, for us, the final ground and sanction of right is to be found in the discovered will of God. They leave undetermined the query, whether God wills the constitution and nature of right by a sheer exercise of his almighty and original fiat, or only declares a law already existent in the very nature of things. We come here to that threshing floor of metaphysical subtleties, where Lowell satirically affirms “theologians thresh their wheatless straw.”
The native moral sense does not delay its obedience for an answer to the question. Does God will right living because it is right, or is it right because God wills it? In every age of the world, a “Thus saith the Lord” has proved final, so far as the demands of the moral sense are concerned, and an end of all controversy. If there be any reason of right back of God’s will and pleasure, it is a reason that the conscience and heart of man, whatever the restless intellect, with its endless inquisition, may demand, never feel the need of
“The voice of duty is the voice of God.”
The elaboration of this simple and final ground of obligation, in the after controversies and dogmatic theologies of the Lutheran Church, adds nothing to its force. They rather weaken it, on the principle that one strong argument and half a dozen weak ones make a feebler impression than the single strong point left to stand alone. Or, rather, on the principle that all attempted proof of a self-evident truth obscures it. The ground of obligation defined in the article is self-evident. It commends itself, at once, to what is deepest and purest in man. “It is our duty:” Every conscience throbs to the call. “Because it is God’s will:” That sounds like a finality. It brings us before the high throne, where angels adore and receive the word of command. It fills and satisfies the highest spiritual sense as perfectly as the lowest. To base morality there, is to give it the solidest footing. To found holiness simply on that, is to make its foundation broad and deep as religion itself No sanction can be more awful than the shadowy and supernatural influences, which this reference to the unseen Lawgiver and Judge of all the earth, gather over the soul. No wooing to goodness can be sweeter than that couched in this simple declaration, ” it is the will of God.”
We give a few of the ramifications into which the theologians of the development period push out the simple ground of obligation to good works laid down in this Article.
Chemnitz, in answer to the question, “Propter quas causas facienda sint bona opera?” tabulates his elaborations as follows:
“I. With respect to God.
1. It is his command.
2. It is his wish.
3. That we may be obedient sons of our Father.
4. The Son of God redeemed us to be pure.
5. Good works are the fruits of the Spirit.
6. That God may be glorified through our good works.
7. That we may be imitators of God.
8. That we may walk worthy of God.
II. With respect to ourselves.
1. Because the renewed should be new creatures.
2. Because sons of light should not walk in darkness.
3. For a testimony of true faith.
4. That the difference between a dead and living faith may be marked.
5. Lest faith and the Spirit be lost.
6. To escape punishment of this life.
7. To obtain the promised reward.
III. With respect to our neighbor.
1. To help him.
2. That we may allure others to piety by our example.
3. That we may give no offence.
4. That by well-doing we may shut the mouths of gainsayers.”
These various divisions, which we have given only in brief, and condensed from their original form, are supported by copious proof-texts from the Scriptures.
Gerhard gives an amplification much after the same style, which he sums up after this fashion:
1. Necessity of command, because God in the Decalogue commands a zeal of good works.
2. Necessity of debt, arising from the former, because we owe to God, as our Creator, etc., filial obedience, to our neighbor a zeal of kindness and offices of love.
3. Necessity of order, because the order of justice remains perpetual, that the rational creature should obey the Creator.
4. Necessity of consequence, because good works continually accompany and follow faith.
5. Necessity of hypothesis, because, unless we would lose faith, the grace of God, etc., we must devote ourselves to good works.”
To this necessity, Melanchthon joined the worthiness and utility of good works where, by worthiness, is not to be understood any merit of divine grace, etc., nor any perfection of good works before the judgment of God, nor causality in the matter of justification; but a gratuitous acceptance by God, who considers the obedience of the renewed, that proceeds from faith, to be genuine and pleasing, and affixes to the same gratuitous rewards.
Hutter adds two classes, making five:
1. Necessity with respect to God.
2. Necessity with respect to angels.
3. Necessity with respect to our neighbors.
4. Necessity with respect to ourselves.
5. Necessity with respect to devils.
The pious Gerhard remarks naively that two of these classes are unnecessary, with which sentiment I think we can heartily agree.
All this elaboration is, practically, so much dead lumber, in any attempt to set this great truth on its firmest basis. The less there is of matter, intermediate to the direct impact of the will of God upon the conscience, the quicker and more tender is the moral sense. Thus we find, in seasons of revival, when the preaching is peculiarly theological (using this term in its technical sense), when less of the motives to duty, and the reasons for holiness, are professedly set forth, but God is held up, his character and will and positive law, the stronger the influence upon the consciences of men. The ideas of God and God’s command, laid on the mind, burn their way through to the very quick of conscience, and kindle the most ardent flame of holy practice.
We have to notice the corrective character of this ground of obligation in relation to errors that rose on this subject in later times. These errors we may trace all to a single root, an undervaluation of holiness, as an end in itself. Whatever leads men, theoretically or practically, to regard goodness as a means to an end, rather than an end sufficient in itself, is false to Scripture, and false to the necessities of man’s own nature. “This is the will of God, even your sanctification.” (i Thess. iv. 3). ” The end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” (i Tim. i. 5.) This has been effected in two quite opposite directions: by men very religious, and by men very irreligious.
In the terrible recoil from good works because of the taint they had got whilst serving in the mill at Rome, the Church was in danger of falling into an error quite as pernicious. When men recoil from a bad thing, they generally go into an opposite extreme very nearly as bad.
Accordingly we find, close on the crash of the Reformation, a heresy springing up in the new Church, out of the ashes of the corrupt doctrine of Justification by Works, as we see new growths of another species put forth from the ashes of a burned forest. John Agricola, an early helper of Luther, seized on some extravagant expressions of the great Reformer, with reference to the worthlessness of good works as of saving efficacy, and speedily brought forth, as a legitimate consequence of Justification by faith, the doctrine that believers are under no obligation to keep the law or do good works. When, in the “Instruction to the Pastors of the Saxon Electorate” (1527), it was enjoined that “all pastors must teach and enforce diligently the Ten Commandments, and not only the Commandments themselves, but also the penalties which God has affixed to the violation of them,” Agricola bitterly assailed Luther and Melanchthon as departing from the true faith of the Gospel, and declared that the Decalogue is not binding on Christians. He was followed later by Nicolas Amsdorf, and Otto of Nordhausen. Amsdorf, in opposing the errors of one George Major, Professor at Wittenberg, who taught the necessity of good works to salvation, declared that good works were pernicious to salvation. In a more extravagant form still, the Anabaptists, who plagued Luther more than the Papists, scouted the idea that it was wrong for those who believed to indulge their carnal desires, since those who were saved by grace were made free from the law.
In England, under the Protectorate of Cromwell, Antinomianism took a still more positive form, as a legitimate fruit of extreme Calvinism. It was taught by Saltmarsh, one of Cromwell’s chaplains, and by Dr. Crisp, an ultra-Calvinist, that “the law is tyrannical and cruel, requiring what is naturally impossible;” and that “repentance and confession of sin are not necessary to forgiveness.” The same errors manifested themselves again in the eighteenth century, about the time of the Wesleyan revival, when, both in the Established Church and in the Dissenting Churches, the doctrine that believers owe no duty of obedience to the law of God, was carried to its highest pitch of folly. Orme, in his “Life of Baxter,” pithily characterizes and condemns this fatal error: “So far from regarding the moral cure of human nature as the great object and design of the gospel, Antinomianism does not take it in at all, but as it exists in Christ, and becomes ours by a figure of speech. It regards the grace and the pardon as everything: the spiritual design, or effect, as nothing. Hence its opposition to progressive, and its zeal for imputed, sanctification: the former is intelligible and tangible, but the latter a mere figment of the imagination. * * * It boasts in the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, while it believes in no saint but one, that is Jesus, and neglects to persevere.” In short, it is the old folly, come to life again, that James once slew when he said, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”
A milder, but equally unscriptural and irrational error, was one that Chalmers felt keenly in his own ministry, viz.: that holiness is to be valued “chiefly as an evidence of justifying faith.” He says, in a strain the like of which brought the scourge of Scotch Orthodoxy upon his back with stinging force, “it is, in fact, chiefly valuable on its own account. It forms part, and an effective part, of salvation. Christ came to give us a justifying righteousness, and he also came to make us holy — not chiefly for the purpose of evidencing here our possession of a justifying righteousness — but for the purpose of forming and fitting us for a blessed eternity.” On the publication of his Kilmany Address, in which he exhorted his former parishioners to the practice of goodness, as in itself right and obligatory, because willed by God, he was denounced by the stiff orthodoxy as “a sinner yet to be brought to the knowledge of the truth.” This in 1815. So tenaciously has the horror of good works, that followed on the recoil from the errors of Rome, clung to the Reformed Churches.
The error of Antinomianism was, at root, the error of that from which it was the extreme recoil, the error of Rome, putting the matter of pardon and safety so much in the foreground, as to fill all the horizon of the gospel. “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments,” answered Rome, and so degraded holiness to be merchandise, a spiritual quid pro quo. “What must I do to be saved ?” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” for “we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law,” said Antinomianism, and so thrust practical holiness out of doors. But the truth is, good works have nothing to do with salvation, one way or the other. We are saved freely by grace, and the obligation to good works is not on the ground of price, but the necessity of right; what theologians call necessitas justitiae. And good works are good, not because they save, or evidence faith, or comfort the believer, or any such- thing; but simply because they are a part of the moral perfection of the universe, and according to God’s will. If the Antinomians had thought more of pleasing God, and less of saving their souls, they would never have fallen into the mire, on the opposite side of the road from the ditch where Rome lay.
The Confession cut the ground from under all this class of errorists, by conceding, at once, that those who are saved by grace are under no legal obligation to do good works, ” not in the expectation of thereby meriting justification before him,” and then setting forth into the light the incontrovertible truth, that we ought to do God’s will, whether we be saved or not. The law of right is eternal and immutable, in Heaven and Earth and Hell. “It is our duty to perform those good works which God has commanded,” whether we be elect or non-elect, saved or lost, simply “because it is his will.” This is the duty of angels, fiends, and men alike, and none the less a ground of obligation though we be no more debtors to the law for salvation. The law expressed in “it is God’s will,” is not statutory, but fundamental, the constitutional law of God’s kingdom, and not to be repealed or set aside.
This is set forth in the decisive testimony of this Article: “It is our duty, etc.” It is true there was a period, not yet wholly passed away in all parts of the Lutheran Church, in which a dead orthodoxy made null and void this fundamental teaching of the Confession. In the seventeenth century, when the power of the divine life was stifled and overwhelmed by ecclesiasticism, until it made its way to the light again, in the somewhat distorted but living form of Pietism, this Article was thrust into a corner. But it still stood on the record, a part of the common Confession. And it has not been the least of the fruits of the new development of our Church in this country, that the churches of the General Synod have declared, with a fresher and ever deepening emphasis, “This faith must bring forth good fruits, and that it is our duty to perform those good works which God has commanded, because it is his will.” The answer to all Antinomianism, theoretical or practical, is found in these strong words of the Confession, “it is God’s will.”
We turn to notice the perversion of the truth, concerning the obligation to right living, in another direction — a perversion made by men by no means famed for their religion. Mr. Matthew Arnold, a poet and critic of no mean order, has been preaching, for the last few years, a new gospel, the gospel of culture. ” The aim of culture,” to use another’s words, “is the perfection of our human nature on all its sides, in all its capacities.” And not only to secure this for our own individual human nature, but also for the sum-total of humanity wi.th which we stand inseparably connected. In words borrowed from Bishop Wilson, but made, by his felicitous choice and application, Mr. Arnold’s own, its purpose is ” to make reason and the kingdom of God prevail.” This aim seems coincident with that of religion. But Mr. Arnold and his following teach that religion is only one of many factors to be used in working out the processes of culture. To secure his aim, he would summon to his aid all the help that science, religion, poetry, philosophy and history can afford. Religion, then, is only one of the servants of this new goddess. We are to seek God, not for himself, but for ourselves; a position destructive to the very essence of religion. We are to follow holiness, and practice right living, not as ends of blessedness, and good sufficient in themselves, not “because it is the will of God;” but because we must practice good in order to secure perfection in ourselves. God and goodness are to serve as priests at this new altar of “human perfection.” Mr. Arnold and his school would land us, practically, not far from the communion of the Comtists, who are engaged, at present, in the “worship of humanity.”
Seek and practice the purest goodness, say the advocates of culture, for, in so doing, you will find an instrument for self-culture. Do good works, for so you will best secure the ends of personal elevation. But we are met here by that well-known law in ethics, which, from his happy expression of it, it has been proposed to call after Dr. Newman: “All virtue and goodness tend to make men powerful in this world; but they who aim at the power have not the virtue. Again: Virtue is its own reward, and brings with it the truest and highest pleasures: but they who cultivate it for the pleasure-sake, are selfish, not religious, and will never gain the pleasure, because they can never have the virtue.” Now what more, according to this law, is the ground of obligation to right living, set forth by the culturists, than a refined species of selfishness? If they are selfish, “who cultivate virtue for the pleasure-sake,” surely they are no less, who cultivate virtue because virtue brings elevation and breadth of life. If they “who cultivate virtue for the pleasure-sake * * will never gain the pleasure, because they can never have the virtue,” then surely they who perform good works for the culture-sake, will never have that fine, essential soul of unquestioning obedience to God, without which good works are not good, but bad.
Above all these subtle delusions and by-ways, through which men propose to allure their unwilling fellows to the practice of goodness, stands the firm unfailing pillar of obligation set up in this Article: “It is our duty to do those good works which God has commanded, because it is his will.”
We are to seek God for himself We are to seek goodness and practice holiness, for his sake, who is goodness itself. This imports into the practice of virtue the one element of life, lacking which all the noble moralities and aspirations of the pagan world withered and trailed fruitless in the dust, the sense of personal allegiance and loyalty to a superior. This makes the command of Christ a living word, springing up into unfailing streams of goodness in the life. It is the command of my Lord and Master. This satisfies not only the conscience clamoring for the right, not only the aspirations that look for a better, even a perfect way, but also the hunger of the heart that cries for love, and nourishes itself by the services of love. Nay, it goes deeper still; it fills and completes that spiritual desire after God, the Adorable, the Father of our spirits, which “thirsteth for God,” which “crieth out for the living God; * * when shall I come and appear before God?”
Thus, at last, doctrine fuses into doctrine, till the circle of the divine life is complete. Faith and works, instead of standing over against each other in irreconcilable contradiction, melt into each other and embrace. “This faith must bring forth good fruits.”
We have completed our imperfect survey of this cardinal truth. We have found the necessity of holy living to be a doctrine of natural reason, as well as of revealed truth. We have shown that New Obedience has its source in the spontaneous outflow of a living faith. We have seen that the true ground of obligation to right living is to be found in the imperative of conscience, not in the meritorious value of good works; and in the will of God, rather than in the excellent results of virtue. Lastly, we have noticed how this ground of obligation corrects the errors of a contemptuous disregard of the works of the law, and of a degradation of holy living to be only the means of self-culture.
The appeal made by this Article, is to the practical life of the believer. It is the Article of the market and the shop, the street and the home. It prescribes the dress that religion shall wear when she goes abroad among men. Faith is a sacred and hidden thing, not to be worn like a jewel on one’s cap, but treasured in seclusion. But “this faith must bring forth goodfruits,” and so “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.” It echoes the preaching of John: “Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance.” It reiterates the warning of James: “Faith without works is dead.”