Page images

these kind of licentious doctrines very frequently reflected on, and reproved by the Apostles in their epiltles, and especially by St. Paul. The false Apostles made the Christian religion a matter of mere speculation and dispute, but laid no weight upon the virtues of a good life. And therefore St. Paul, after he had charged Titus to inculcate upon Christians the necessity of gond works, immediately adds, But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain; intimating that the false Apostles, instead of pressing the neceslity of a good lise, did amuse people with these idle notions and disputes.

But to return to my text. This is a faithful saying. This kind of preface the Apostle useth several times, but always when he is speaking of something that is of great weight and concernment to us, and which deserves our serious attention and regard; as in 1 Tint. i. 15. This is a faithful faying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save fin. rers, 1 Tim. iv. 8, Godliness is profitable unto all things; having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying. And 2 Tim. ii. 11. 12. This is a faithful saying ; if we be dend with him, we shall also live with him ; if we suffer, we full also reign with him: if we deny him, he also wilt deny us. And fo likewise here in the text, This is a faithful Saying, that they which have believed in God, lhould be careful to maintain good works. By which you see, that it is not a form which the Apostle useth of course, and applies to any thing, but only to things of more than ordinary consideration and regard, such as are of the essence of Christianity, and fundamental to the belief and practice of it.

This is a faithful saying, trisés acq ou, a credible saying, that which every man that truly understands the nature and design of religion will readily affent to.

And this I will that thou affirm conftantly. He chargetla him to preach this upon all occasions, lest the doctrine of justification by faith and: by grace, without any

works of righteousness preceding, should be turned into licentie ouliness, as it had been by some, and men should fallly.con-.


[ocr errors]

D 3

clude, that because works of righteousness were not necessary before justification, and to bring men into that state, they were not necessary neither afterwards to our continuance in that state.

The Apostle indeed did teach that God did justify the ungodly, by the grace of the gospel, and faith in Chrift, that is, that those who did sincerely believe and embrace the gospel, though they had been never so great {inners before, were justified upon that faith ; that is, all their former fins were forgiven, and they were received into the favour of God. But though works of righteousness were not necessary before their justification, yet they are necessary afterwards, because the faith of the gospel, and the embracing of Christianity, doth imply a stipulation and engagement on our part, to live according to the laws and rules of the gospel, which do strictly enjoin all kind of virtue and goodness. The covenant of baptism, by which we are entered into Christianity; doth contain on our part not only a profession of faith in Christ, but a folemn promise to deny ungodliness and worldly lufts, and to live føberly, and righteously, and godly in this present world. So that it is the greatest miltake in the world to think, that because we are juItified by faith and the profession of Christianity, without works of righteousness, therefore we are under no obligation to a good life: for faith in Christ, and the sincere profession of the Christian religion, doth imply a good life, and an engagement to the practice of all virtue and goodness; which if we do not perform and make good, we fail in our part of the covenant, and thereby forfeit all the blessings and benefits promised therein on God's part.

Therefore it is observable, that the Apostle, after he had spoken of our justification by grace, without works of righteoufness, gives this charge to Titus, to press the necessity of good works upon those who did believe, and embrace the profession of the gospel, as it were on purpose to prevent all mistake and abuse of the doctrine of justification by faith, and the free grace and inercy of God in Jesus Christ, ver. 5. 6. 7. Not by works of righteousness which we have done ; but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the re


newing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour ; that is, by our fólemn profeslion of Christianity at our baptism ; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs, according to the hope of eternal life. And then he adds, ver. 8. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God, might be careful to maintain good works; that is, that they who are thus justified by the faith of the golpel, should be so far from thinking themselves hereby excused from good works, that they should upon this account be more careful to maintain and pradise them, because by the very profession of the Chriltian faith and religion, they have solemnly engaged themselves so to do.

That they which believe in God; that is, who have taken upon them the profession of Christianity in their baptism. For it is not improbable, that the Apostle, having spoken of baptism just before, may, by this phrase of believing in God, refer to that profession of faith made in baptism, which began with these words, I believe in God; and then, they which have believed in God, are those who in baptifm have made a solemn profession of Christianity : as if he had said, these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that all that profess themselves Christians be careful to maintain good works. Or if by the phrase of believing in God, we will understand an asfent to all divine revelations, more especially that of the gospel, and the Christian religion, the most perfect that ever God made of his will to mankind, the matter will come much to the same issue.

Be careful to maintuin good works. This phrase seems, in the latter end of this epistle, to be used in a very restrained sense; for labouring in an honest calling, ver. 14. Let ours also learn to maintain good works for necellary uses, that they be not unfruitful. In the margin of your bibles you will find it rendered, to profess honest irades. Let ours also learn to profefs honest trades for necessary uses, that is, for the supply of their necessities : but in the text it seems more agreeable to the scope of the Apostle's discourse, to understand the phrase of maintaining good works, for the practice of all Christian virtues, especially those which are more useful and beneficial to


human society; among which, diligence and industry in an honest calling, is none of the least considerable, because it follows, these things are good and profitable unto

And indeed these are properly works of goodness, which redound to the publick benefit and advantage.

But good works may well be taken in a larger sense for all sorts of virtuous actions. And so it is certainly used several times in this epistle, chap. i. 16. Unto every good work reprobate, speaking of all profligate persons who were lost to all virtue and goodness. Chap ii. 7. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works, that is, an example of all kind of virtue. And chap. iii. 1. Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, and to be ready to every good work; that is, to the practice of all goodness, of whatsoever is honest and virtuous in itself, amiable and commendable in the fight of others, useful and beneficial to any:

Having thus explained the words, I come now to consider the two points contained in them.

First, The certain truth and credibility of this saying or proposition, that they which have believed in God, ought to be careful to maintain good works. This is a faithful saying; that is, a moft evident and credible truth. And,

Secondly, The great fitness and necessity of inculcating this upon all Christians, that the Christian religion doth indispensibly require the virtues of a good life. These things I will that thou affirm constantly, &c. I begin with the

First of these points, viz. The certain truth and evident credibility of this saying or proposition, that they which have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. This is a faithful saying, wisós ainu, a Jaying worthy of credit, a most certain and credible truth. And it will appear to be so, whether we consider the great end and design of religion in general, or of the Chriftian religion in particular.

1. If we consider the great end and design of religion in general, which is to make us happy, by posleffing our minds with the belief of a God, and those other principles which have a necessary connexion with that belief; and by obliging us to the obedience and practice of his laws.

1. By poffefsing our minds with the belief of a God, and of those other principles which have a necessary connexion with it. Such are the belief of the divine perfections, of the infinite goodness, and wisdom, and power, and truth, and justice, and purity of the divine nature; a firm persuasion of his providence, that he governs and administers the affairs of the world, and takes notice of the actions of men, and will call them to an account for them; of the immortality of our souls, and their endless duration after death, and consequently of the eternal rewards and punishments of another life. These are the great principles of natural religion, wbichi mankind are in some measure posselt with, and persuaded of, without any external revelation from God; and these are necessary and fundamental to religion, as the Apoftle to the Hebrews declares, Heb. xi. 6. With. out faith it is impoffible to pleaje God; that is, there can be no such thing as the practice of religion, without the belief of the principles of it; and what these are he tells us in the next words; He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

But then we must not rest here, in the belief of a God, and the principles of religion ; for this faith is not required of us for itself, but in order to some farther end, which if it be not attained by us, the mere belief of the principles of religion is to no purpose, neither acceptable to God, nor useful and beneficial to ourselves. God would not have imprinted the notion of himself upon our nature, he would not have discovered himself to us, nor have required of us the belief of his being and pro. vidence, merely that we might know there is such a being as God in the world, who made us and governs us ; but that this belief might have its proper influence upon us, to oblige us to the obedience of his laws, which are the proper causes and means of our happiness. It will not avail us at all, nor is it in the least acceptable to God, for men to profess that they know him, when in works they deny him, being abominable and disobedient,


« PreviousContinue »