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Westminster Confession of Faith 1647

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CHAPTER XVI - Of Good Works

I. Good works are only such as God hath commanded in His holy Word, and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men, out of blind zeal, or upon any pretence of good intention.

Micah 6:8; Rom 12:2; Heb 13:21; Matt 15:9; Isa 29:13; 1Pe 1:18; Rom 10:2; John 16:2; 1Sam 15:21, 22, 23.

II. These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto; that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.

James 2:18, 22; Ps 116:12, 13; 1Pe 2:9, 1Jn 2:3, 5; 2Pe 1:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, l0; 2Cor 9:2; Matt 5:16; Tit 2:5, 9, 10, 11, 12; 1Tim 6:1; 1Pe 2:15; 1Pe 2:12; Php 1:11; John 15:8; Eph 2:10; Rom 6:22.

III. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, besides the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will and to do of His good pleasure: yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty, unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.

John 15:4, 5; Ezek 36:26, 27; Php 2:13; Php 4:13; 2Cor 3:5; Php 2:12; Heb 6:11, l2; 2Pe 1:3, 5, 10, 11; Isa 64:7; 2Tim 1:6; Acts 26:6, 7; Jude 20, 21.

IV. They, who in their obedience attain to the greatest height which is possible in this life, are so far from being able to supererogate, and to do more than God requires, as that they fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do.

Luke 17:10; Neh 13:22; Job 9:2, 3; Gal 5:17.

V. We cannot, by our best works, merit Pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins, but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants; and because, as they are good, they proceed from His Spirit; and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment.

Rom 3:20; Rom 4:2, 4, 6; Eph 2:8, 9; Tit 3:5, 6, 7; Rom 8:18; Ps 16:2; Job 22:2, 3; Job 35:7, 8; Luke 17:10; Gal 5:22, 23; Isa 64:6; Gal 5:17; Rom 7:15, 18; Ps 143:2; Ps 130:3.

VI. Yet notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him, not as though they were in this life wholly unblameable and unreprovable in God’s sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.

Eph 1:6; 1Pe 2:5; Ex 28:38, Gen 4:4 and Heb 11:4; Job 9:20; Ps 143:2; Heb 13:20, 21; 2Cor 8:12; Heb 6:10, Matt 25:21, 23.

VII. Works done by unregenerate men, although, for the matter of them, they may be things which God commands, and of good use both to themselves and others: yet, because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God; they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God. And yet, their neglect of them is more sinful, and displeasing unto God.

2Kg 10:30, 31; 1Kg 21:27, 29; Php 1:15, 16, 18; Gen 4:5 and Heb 11:4, 6; 1Cor 13:3: Isa 1:12; Matt 6:2, 5, l6: Hag 2:14; Tit 1:15; Amos 5:21, 22; Hosea 1:4; Rom 9:16; Titus 3:5; Ps 14:4: Ps 36:3; Job 21:14, 15; Matt 25:41, 42, 43, 45; Matt 23:23.

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CHAPTER XVII - Of the Perseverance of the Saints

I. They, whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally, nor finally, fall away from the state of grace: but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

Php 1:6; 2Pe 1:10; John 10:28, 29; 1Jn 3:9; 1Pe 1:5, 9.

II. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ; the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them; and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which arises also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

2Tim 2:18, 19; Jer 31:3; Heb 10:10, 14; Heb 13:20, 21; Heb 9:12, 13, 14, 15; Rom 8:33-39; John 17:11, 24; Luke 22:32; Heb 7:25; John 14:16 17; 1Jn 2:27; 1Jn 3:9; Jer 32:40; John 10:28; 2Thess 3:3; 1Jn 2:19.

III. Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve His Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.

Matt 26:70, 72, 74; Ps 51 title and verse 14; Isa 64:5, 7, 9; 2Sam 11:27; Eph 4:30; Ps 51:8, 10, 12; Rev 2:4; Isa 63:17; Mark 6:52; Mark 16:14; Ps 32:3, 4; Ps 51:8; 2Sam 12:14; Ps 89:31, 32; 1Cor 11:32.

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CHAPTER XVIII - Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation

I. Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes, and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation; which hope of theirs shall perish: yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.

Job 8:13, 14; Mic 3:11; Deut 29:19; John 8:41; Matt 7:22, 23; 1Jn 2:3; 1Jn 3:14, 18, 19, 21, 24; 1Jn 5:13; Rom 5:2, 5.

II. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion, grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith, founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God: which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.

Heb 6:11, 19; Heb 6:17, 18; 2Pe 1:4, 5, 10, 11; 1Jn 2:3; 1Jn 3:14; 2Cor 1:12; Rom 8:15, 16; Eph 1:13, 14; Eph 4:30; 2Cor 1:21, 22.

III. This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure; that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.

1Jn 5:13; Isa50:10; Mark 9:24; Ps 88 chapter, Ps 77:1-12; 1Cor 2:12, 1Jn 4:13; Heb 6:11, 12; Eph 3:17, 18, 19; 2Pe 1:10; Rom 5:1, 2, 5; Rom 14:17; Rom 15:13; Eph 1:3, 4; Ps 4:6, 7; Ps 119:32; 1Jn 2:1, 2; Rom 6:1, 2; Tit 2:11, 12, 14; 2Cor 7:1; Rom 8:1, 12; 1Jn 3:2, 3; Ps 130:4; 1Jn 1:6, 7.

IV. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin, which wounds the conscience and grieves the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God’s withdrawing the light of His countenance, and suffering even such as fear Him to walk in darkness and to have no light: yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the mean time, they are supported from utter despair.

Ps 51:8, 12, 14; Eph 4:30, 31; Ps 77:1 to 10; Matt 26:69, 70, 71, 72; Ps 31:22; Ps 88 chapter; Isa 50:10; 1Jn 3:9; Luke 22:32; Job 13:15; Ps 73:15; Ps 51:8, 12; Isa 50:10; Mic 7:7, 8, 9; Jer 32:40, Isa 44:7, 8, 9, 10; Ps 22:1.

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CHAPTER XIX - Of the Law of God

I. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which He bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience; promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it: and endued him with power and ability to keep it.

Gen 1:26, 27 and Gen 2:17; Rom 2:14, 15; Rom 10:5; Rom 5:12, 19; Gal 3:10, 12; Eccl 7:29; Job 28:28.

II. This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness, and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables: the four first commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six our duty to man.

James 1:25; James 2:8, 10, 11, 12; Rom 13:8, 9; Deut 5:32; Deut 10:4; Ex 34:1; Matt 22:37-40.

III. Beside this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, His graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the New Testament.

Heb 9 chapter; Heb 10:1; Gal 55:1, 2, 3; Col 2:17; 1Cor 5:7; 2 Cor 6:17; Jude 23; Col 2:14, 16, 17; Dan 9:27; Eph 2:15, 16.

IV. To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

Ex 21 chapter.; Ex 22:1-29; Gen 49:10 and 1Pe 2:13, 14; Matt 5:17 and ver 38, 39; 1Cor 9:8, 9, 10.

V. The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it: neither doth Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.

Rom 13:8, 9, 10; Eph 6:2; 1Jn 2:3, 4, 7, 8; James 2:10, 11; Matt 5:17, 18, 19; James 2:8; Rom 3:31.

VI. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs, and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin; together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of His obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin; and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof; although not as due to them by the law, as a covenant of works. So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourages to the one, and deters from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and not under grace.

Rom 6:14; Gal 2:16; Gal 3:13; Gal 4:4, 5; Acts 13:39; Rom 8:1; Rom 7:12, 22, 25; Ps 119:4, 5, 6; 1Cor 7:19; Gal 5:14, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23; Rom 7:7; Rom 3:20; James 1:23, 24, 25; Rom 7:9, 14, 24, Gal 3:24; Rom 7:24, 25; Rom 8:3, 4: James 2:11; Ps 119:101, 104, 128, Ezra 9:13, 14; Ps 89:30, 31, 32, 33, 34; Lev 26:1 to 14 and 2Cor 6:16; Eph 6:2, 3; Ps 37; Ps 19:11; Gal 2:16; Luke 17:10; Rom 6:12, 14; 1Pe 3:8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and Ps 34:12, 13, 14, 15, 16; Heb 12:28, 29.

VII. Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the Gospel, but do sweetly comply with it; the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that, freely and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requires to be done.

Gal 3:21; Ezek 36:27; Heb 8:10 and Jer 31:33.

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CHAPTER XX - Of Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience

I. The liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the Gospel consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, the condemning wrath of God, the curse of the moral law; and, in their being delivered from this present evil world, bondage to Satan, and dominion of sin; from the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grave, and everlasting damnation; as also, in their free access to God, and their yielding obedience unto Him, not out of slavish fear, but a child-like love and willing mind. All which were common also to believers under the law. But, under the new testament, the liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish Church was subjected; and in greater boldness of access to the throne of grace, and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of.

Tit 2:14; 1Thess 1:10; Gal 3:13; Gal 1:4; Col 1:13; Acts 26:18; Rom 6:14; Rom 8:28; Ps 119:71; 1Cor 15:54, 55, 56, 57; Rom 8:1; Rom 5:1, 2; Rom 8:14, 15; 1Jn 4:18; Gal 3:9, 14; Gal 4:1, 2, 3, 6, 7; Gal 5:1; Acts 15:10, 11; Heb 4:14, 16; Heb 10:19, 20, 21, 22; John 7:38, 39; 2Cor 3:13, 17, 18.

II. God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are in any thing contrary to His Word; or beside it, in matters of faith or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.

James 4:12; Rom 14:4; Acts 4:19; Acts 5:29; 1Cor 7:23; Matt 23:8, 9, 10; 2Cor 1:24; Matt 15:9; Col 2:20, 22, 23; Gal 1:10; Gal 2:4, 5; Gal 5:1; Rom 10:17; Rom 14:23; Isa 8:20; Acts 17:11; John 4:22; Hos 5:11; Rev 13:12, 16, 17; Jer 8:9.

III. They who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, do practice any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life.

Gal 5:13; 1Pe 2:16; 2Pe 2:19; John 8:34; Luke 1:74, 75.

IV. And because the powers which God hath ordained, and the liberty which Christ hath purchased, are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another; they who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God. And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity, whether concerning faith, worship or conversation; or, to the power of godliness; or, such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ hath established in the Church, they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against by the censures of the Church, (and by the power of the civil magistrate.)*

Matt 12:25; 1Pe 2:13, 14 16; Rom 13:1-8; Heb 13:17; Rom 1:32 and 1Cor 5:1 5, l1, 13; 2Jn 10, 11 and 2Thess 3:14, and 1Tim 6:3, 4 5, and Tit 1:10, 11, 13, and Tit 3:10 and Matt 18:15, 16, 17; 1Tim 1:19, 20; Rev 2:2, 14, 15, 20; Rev 3:9; Deut 13:6 to 12; Rom 13:3, 4 and 2Jn 10, 11; Ezra 7:23, 25, 26, 27, 28; Rev 17:12, 16, 17; Neh 13:15, 17, 21, 22, 25, 30; 2Kg 23:5, 6, 9, 20, 21; 2Chron 34:33; 2Chron 15:12, 13, 16; Dan 3:29; 1Tim 2:2; Isa 49:23; Zech 13:2, 3.

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