And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.
~ Zechariah 13:9
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
~ Romans 5:1-2
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful. Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Titus 3:1, Titus 3:14, Titus 2:13-14
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
~ Matthew 5:16
Recommendatory Preface to the Works of Mr. John Bunyan, by George Whitefield.
If such thou art in reality, or if only a bare outward professor, thou needest not be informed, that the all-gracious Emmanuel, in the days of his flesh, after he had given us a glorious display of the divine sovereignty in dispensing the everlasting gospel, broke forth into these emphatic words,
“I thank thee, Holy Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou haft hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy fight. Agreeable to this, says the great Apostle of the Gentiles, God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wife: and God hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised hath God chosen, yea, and things that are not, to bring to nought things that are. And why? That no flesh should glory in his presence.
Perhaps, next to the first publishers of the gospel of the blessed God, these sayings were never more strongly exemplified in any single individual (at least in this, or the last century) than in the conversion, ministry and writings of that eminent servant of Jesus Christ, Mr, John Bunyan, who was of the meanest occupation, and a notorious sabbath-breaker, drunkard, swearer, blasphemer, &c. by habitual practice: And yet, through rich, free, sovereign, distinguishing grace, he was chosen, called, and afterwards formed, by the all-powerful operations of the Holy Ghost, to be a scribe ready instructed to the kingdom of God. The two volumes of his works formerly published; with the great success that attended them in pulling down Satan’s strong-holds in sinners hearts, when sent forth in small detached parties, are pregnant proofs of this. Some of them have gone through a great variety of editions. His Pilgrim’s Progress in particular, hath been translated into various languages, and to this day is read with the greatest pleasure, not only by the truly serious, of divers religious persuasions, but likewise by those, to whom pleasure is the end of reading. Surely it is an original, and we may say of it, to use the words of the great Doctor Goodwin in his preface to the Epistle to the Ephesians that it smells of the prison. It was written v/hen the author was confined in Bedford-gaol, And ministers never write or preach so well as when under the cross: the spirit of Christ and of glory then rests upon them.
It was this, no doubt, that made the Puritans of the last century such burning and shining lights. When cast out by the black Bartholomew Act and driven from their respective charges to preach in barns and fields, in the highways and hedges, they in an especial manner wrote and preached as men having authority. Though dead, by their writings they yet speak: a peculiar unction attends them to this very hour; and for these thirty years past I have remarked, that the more, true and vital religion hath revived either at home or abroad, the more the good old puritanical writings, or the authors of a like stamp who lived and died in communion of the Church of England have been called for. Among these may be justly reckoned those great luminaries, Bishop Zewels, Usher, Andrews, Hall, Reynolds, Hopkins, Wilkins, Edwards, who, notwithstanding a difference of judgment in respect to outward church-government, all agreed (as their printed works manifestly evince) in asserting and defending the grand essential truths for which the Puritans, though matters of an inferior nature were urged as a pretext, chiefly suffered, and were ejected. The impartial Doctor Hodges therefore (late provost of Oriel College in Oxford) in his elaborate treatise titled “Elihu” hath done himself honour in saying, that the old Puritans and Presbyterians in general, till a division happened lately among them, deserve praise for their steady and firm adherence to the, principal and fundamental doctrines of Christianity. Their works still praise them in the gates; and without pretending to a spirit of prophecy, we may venture to affirm, that they will live and flourish, when more modern performances, of a contrary cast, notwithstanding their gaudy and tinselled trappings, will languish and die in the esteem of those, whose understandings are opened to discern what comes nearest to the Scripture standard.
This consideration, hath induced me to preface the present large and elegant edition of the Reverend Mr. John Bunyan’s works; which, with the unparalleled commentary of the good Mr. Matthew Henry, the pious and practical writings of the excellent Mr. Flavel, and the critical and judicious commentaries and tracts of the accurate Doctor Owen, I hear are enquired after, and bought up, more and more every day. The last forementioned worthy, though himself so great a scholar and for some time chancellor of one of our most famous universities, as I have been credibly informed, attended on the sermons, and countenanced the ministerial labours of our Reverend author; when, by reason of his being unskilled in the learned languages, and a few differences in lesser matters (as will always be the cafe in this mixed state of things) he was lightly esteemed by some of less enlarged sentiments. But this, I must own, more particularly endears Mr. Bunyan to my heart; he was of a catholic spirit, the want of water adult baptism with this man of God, was no bar to outward Christian communion. And I am persuaded, that if, like him, we were more deeply and experimentally baptised into the benign and gracious influences of the blessed Spirit, we should be less baptised into the waters of strife, about circumstantials and non-essentials. For being thereby rooted and grounded in the love of God, we should necessarily be constrained to think, and let think, bear with and forbear one another in love; and without saying “I am of Paul, Apollos, of Cephas”, have but one grand, laudable, disinterested strife, namely, who should live, preach and exalt the ever-loving, altogether lovely Jesus most. That these volumes may be blest to beget, promote and increase such divine fruits of real and undefiled religion in the hearts, lips and lives of readers, of all ranks and denominations, is the earnest prayer of,
Thy soul’s well-wisher in our common Lord,
London, Jan, 3, 1767.
The Best Way to Provoke Good Works, by John Bunyan. This is an excerpt from his work, “Christian Behaviour”.
That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 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. These things are good and profitable unto men.
~ Titus 3:7-8
The best way both to provoke others and ourselves to good works is to be often affirming to others the doctrine of justification by grace and to believe it ourselves. “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” (Tit 3:8)…I tell you that the best way to be fruitful in them is to be much in the exercise of the doctrine of justification by grace. And they both agree: for as faith animates to good works, so the doctrine of grace animates faith. Wherefore, the way to be rich in good works is to be rich in faith; and the way to be rich in faith is to be conscientiously affirming the doctrine of grace to others and believing it ourselves.
First, to be constantly affirming it to others: Thus, Paul tells Timothy that if he puts the brethren in mind of the truths of the Gospel, he himself should not only be a good minister of Christ, but should be nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine (1Ti 4:6). It is the ordinance of God that Christians should be often asserting the things of God each to others and that by their so doing they should edify one another (Heb 10:24, 25; 1Th 5:11).
The doctrine of the Gospel is like the dew and the small rain that distilleth upon the tender grass, wherewith it doth flourish and is kept green (Deu 32:2). Christians are like the several flowers in a garden that have upon each of them the dew of heaven, which being shaken with the wind, they let fall their dew at each other’s roots, whereby they are jointly nourished and become nourishers of one another. For Christians to commune savourly63 of God’s matters one with another is as if they opened to each other’s nostrils boxes of perfume. Saith Paul to the church at Rome, “For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me” (Rom 1:11, 12). Christians should be often affirming the doctrine of grace and justification by it one to another.
Second, as they should be thus doing, so they should live in the power of it themselves. They should by faith suck and drink in this doctrine as the good ground receiveth the rain, which being done, forthwith there is proclaimed good works. Paul to the Colossians saith thus, “We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth.” But how long ago? Why, “since the day ye heard it,” (saith he,) “and knew the grace of God in truth” (Col 1:3-6).
Apples and flowers are not made by the gardener, but are an effect of the planting and watering. Plant in the sinner good doctrine, and let it be watered with the word of grace, and as the effect of that, there (are) the fruits of holiness and the end everlasting life (Rom 6:22). Good doctrine is the doctrine of the Gospel, which showeth to men that God clotheth them with the righteousness of His Son freely and maketh Him with all His benefits over to them, by which free gift the sinner is (declared) righteous before God. And because he is so, therefore, there is infused a principle of grace into the heart, whereby it is both quickened and bringing forth fruit (Rom 3:21-26; 1Co 1:30; 2Co 5:21; Joh 1:16).
Now then, seeing good works do flow from faith and seeing faith is nourished by an affirming of the doctrine of the Gospel, take here these few considerations from the doctrine of the Gospel for the support of thy faith, that thou mayest be indeed fruitful and rich in good works.
Consider 1: The whole Bible was given for this very end: that thou shouldest both believe this doctrine and live in the comfort and sweetness of it. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom 15:4; Joh 20:31).
Consider 2: That therefore every promise in the Bible is thine to strengthen, quicken, and encourage thy heart in believing.
Consider 3: That there is nothing that thou dost (that) can so please God as believing: “The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy” (Psa 147:11). They please Him because they embrace His righteousness, etc.
Consider 4: That all the withdrawings of God from thee are not for the weakening, but for the trial of thy faith; and also that whatever He suffers Satan or thy own heart to do is not to weaken faith (Job 23:8-10; 1Pe 1:7).
Consider 5: That believing is that which will keep in thy view the things of heaven and glory and that at which the devil will be discouraged, sin weakened, and thy heart quickened and sweetened (Heb 11:27; Jam 4:7; 1Pe 5:9; Eph 6:16; Rom 15:13).
63 savourly – with understanding; with appreciation.
Consider lastly: By believing, the lover of God is kept with warmth upon the heart; and this will provoke thee continually to bless God for Christ, for grace, for faith, hope, and all these things, either in God or thee that doth accompany salvation (2Co 2:14; Psa 103:1-3).
Third, the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins received by faith will make notable work in the heart of the sinner to bring good works. But, forasmuch as there is a body of death and sin in every one that hath the grace of God in this world, and because this body of death will be ever opposing that which is good, as the Apostle saith (Rom 7:21), therefore take these few particulars further for the suppressing that which will hinder a fruitful life.
1. Keep a continual watch over the wretchedness of thy own heart, not to be discouraged at the sight of thy vileness, but to prevent its wickedness. That will labor either to hinder thee from doing good works or else will hinder thee in the doing thereof. For evil is present with thee for both these purposes. Take heed then, that thou do not listen to that at any time, but deny, though with much struggling, the workings of sin to the contrary.
2. Let this be continually before thy heart: God’s eye is upon thee and seeth every secret turning of thy heart, either to or from Him. “All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb 4:13).
3. If thou deny to do that good which thou oughtest with what thy God hath given thee, then consider that though He love thy soul, yet He can chastise: First, thy inward man with such troubles that thy life shall be restless and comfortless. Secondly, and can also so blow upon thy outward man that all thou gettest shall be put in a bag with holes (Psa 89:31-33; Hag 1:6). And set the case64 He should license65 but one thief among thy substance or one spark of fire among thy barns, how quickly might that be spent ill and against thy will, which thou shouldest have spent to God’s glory and with thy will. And I tell thee further, that if thou want a heart to do good when thou hast about thee, thou mayest want66 comfort in such things thyself from others, when thine is taken from thee (see Jud 1:6, 7).
4. Consider that a life full of good works is the only way on thy part to answer the mercy of God extended to thee: God hath had mercy on thee and hath saved thee from all thy distresses. God hath not stuck67 to give thee His Son, His Spirit, and the kingdom of heaven. Saith Paul, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom 12:1; Mat 18:32, 33).
5. Consider that this is the way to convince all men that the power of God’s things hath taken hold of thy heart. I 68 speak to them that hold the head —and say what thou wilt—if thy faith be not accompanied with a holy life, thou shalt be judged a withered branch, a wording professor,69 salt without savour, and as lifeless as a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal (Joh 15; Mat 13; 1Co 13:1, 2). For, say they, show us your faith by your works, for we cannot see your hearts (Jam 2:18). But I say on the contrary, if thou walk as becomes thee who art saved by grace, then thou wilt witness in every man’s conscience that thou art a good tree, now thou leavest guilt on the heart of the wicked (1Sa 24:16, 17). Now thou takest off occasion from them that desire occasion; and now thou art clear from the blood of all men (2Co 11:12; Act 20:26, 31-35). This is the man also that provoketh others to good works. The ear that heareth such a man shall bless him, and the eye that seeth him shall bear witness to him. “Surely,” saith David, “he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance” (Psa 112:6; Heb 10:24; Job 29:11).
6. Again, the heart that is fullest of good works hath in it the least room for Satan’s temptations. And this is the meaning of Peter, where he saith, “Be sober, be vigilant,” that is, be busying thyself in faith and holiness, “because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1Pe 5:8). He that walketh uprightly, walketh safely. And they that add to faith, “virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to
64 set the case – suppose. 65 license – permit.
66 want – lack.
67 stuck – hesitated.
68 hold the head – to make a very prominent profession of religion.
69 wording professor – one who professes Christ, but speaks only empty words.
brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Pe 1:5-10; Pro 10:9).
7. The man who is fullest of good works is fittest to live and fittest to die: “I am now,” at any time, “ready to be offered,” saith fruitful Paul (2Ti 4:6). Whereas he that is barren is neither fit to live, nor fit to die: to die, he himself is convinced he is not fit, and to live, God Himself saith he is not fit: “Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?” (Luk 8:7).
Lastly, consider, to provoke thee to good works, thou shalt have of God when thou comest to glory a reward for everything thou dost for Him on earth. Little do the people of God consider how richly God will reward, what from a right principle and to a right end, is done for Him here. Not a bit of bread to the poor, not a draught of water to the meanest of them that belong to Christ, or the loss of a hair of your head shall in that Day go without its reward (Luk 14:13, 14; Mat 10:42). “For our light affliction,” and so all other pieces of self-denial, “which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2Co 4:17). I tell thee, Christian, be but rich in good works, and thou shalt have more than salvation. Thy salvation thou hast freely by grace through Christ without works (Eph 2:8-10), but now being justified and saved, and as the fruits hereof, renewed by the Holy Ghost. After this, I say, thou shalt be rewarded for every work that proved good.