William Bradford Institute
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Early Settlement of America

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The Sanctification of the Saint


by Francis Turretin


What is required that a work may be truly good? Are the works of the
righteous such? We affirm.

I. When we speak of the truth of good works, we do not mean works
simply moral as they are contradistinguished from spiritual and
supernatural by some. In this sense, those are called moral by them
which are such as to external discipline or external act (which they
commonly term the substance), constituting civil and external
discipline or righteousness. Aristotle unfolds these in his
Niconwchean Ethics. Spiritual are those which are such as much as to
substance as with regard to circumstances. The former are called
good equivocally (homonymc)s) and as to external appearance only;
but the latter univocally (synonym5s) and as to essence, inasmuch as
they have in themselves a supernatural goodness truly pleasing to a
reconciled God and Father and are ordained by him to receive the
rewards of this as well as of the future life (of which we here
treat). 11. In such works, the matter and form must be considered.
The matter are all the actions of man depending upon his intellect
and will and entertaining to the will (to thymikon) and the appetite
(to epithymetikon); those which are said to be the first motions by
philosophers, whether they are done without delay or with delay.
These are commonly called morals-whether with pleasure or without
it; whether with or without deliberation and with the consent of the
will. The form is the accordance with the law and will of God , with
respect to the substance of the action as well as with respect to
its circumstances.

III. By the substance of an action, we do not mean only the act
external to the inducement, but both the internal and external act
at the same time (if indeed each is connected together); or the
internal only, if the external cannot be held. These two acts are so
mutually related that the external act is not properly good without
the internal (as is apparent in hypocrites), but the internal can
exist without an external because goodness is properly constituted
in the will and intention. Again, the external does not increase the
goodness of the internal by itself, but accidentally, inasmuch as it
either continues or conserves the act of the will.

IV. By circumstances we mean all the modifications which attend
actions of this kind, so that the work may not only be good, but
also that it be done well according to the command of God. In this
sense, it is commonly said, "God loves not so much the adjective as
the adverb"; also good requires an entire cause, embracing not only
the substance of the action, but also the circumstances. Hence a
thing good in itself may still become evil and be turned into a sin,
if it is not well done (as prayer, charity, etc.). However, to
constitute this goodness, four things are required specially
required: a principle, rule, mode, end. (1) That the work may be
done from the faith of a renewed heart because "whatever is done
without faith is sin" (Rom.14:23). (2) That it be done according to
the prescription of the law and the will of God revealed in his word,
which is the sole rule of faith and life. (3) That it be done in a
lawful mode (i.e., not only externally, but also internally) because
the law (which is spiritual, Rom. 7:14) regards not only the
external motions of the body, but principally the internal actions
of the mind. (4) That it be done to the glory of God, the sole
object to which we ought always to look; and to which all things
should be subordinated (1 Cor. 10:31)-not only with a virtual and
habitual, but also with an actual intention. For since it is an
intention, it ought to be the most explicit of the highest good and
be interrupted by no other intention.

VI. Hence we infer (1) that the virtues of the Gentiles follows
(however illustrious), still cannot be said to be good virtues of
works, whatever the Pelagians formerly and the modem Socinians,
Romanists and especially the Jesuits maintain. These are not willing
that "the works of unbelievers should be sins or the virtues of
philosophers should be vices," as we read in the Bull of Pius V and
of Gregory XIII (cf. "Bull 111.25,' Magnum BullaTum Romanum [19651,
v. IV, Pt. 3, p. 427) and in Bellarmine ("De Gratia et Libero
Arbitrio," 5.9 Opera [18581, 4:391-94) and Trininus (Theologiae
elenchticae ... controversiarum fidei, Cont. 12, no. 5 [1648], pp.
569-83). To these Jansen with his whole school strongly opposed
himself in his Augustinus. For although they might have some
external goodness (by reason of the external act and object, which
was good), still they sinned in three things: (a) as to the
principle, which was not a renewed but an impure heart, although
imbued with some knowledge of virtue and vice from the dictation of
the natural law; (b) as to the mode because the internal obedience
of the heart was wanting; (c) as to the end because direction to the
glory of God was required, which they did not have in view. Moreover
no difference can be determined between the most wicked and the more
virtuous of them (as between Fabricius and Cataline) because a
difference always remained between them. "Not because the one was
good,' says Augustine, 'but because the other was worse and
Fabricius was less wicked than Cataline; not in having true virtues,
but not deviating as much from true virtues" (Against Julian 4.3.25
[FC 35:190; PL 44.7511). There it was better for them to cultivate
this civil virtue, than to loosen the reins to the appetite of the
flesh, by which if they could not obtain the reward of glory, still
they would have to expect a less severe punishment (as those failing
only in the mode of acting, sinned less than others who sinned in
the very substance of the deed). But because we have treated of this
question in Volume 1, Topic X, Question 5, we add no more.
VII. Hence also it is evident that the Romanists err when they hold
those to be good works which are obtruded upon God (not commanding
and requiring) which Paul calls will-worship (ethelothreskeia) and
condemns (Col. 2:23). For when it is treated of the worship of God,
we must not only abstain from things forbidden, but also from things
not commanded; nay, such works are forbidden just because they are
not commanded: 'What thing soever I command you, observe to do it:
thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it" (Dr. 12:32);
"Remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them: and seek
not after your own heart" (Num. 15:39*). He exclaims in Is. 1:12,
"Who has required this at your hands?" And: "In vain do they worship
me, teaching doctrines, which are the precepts of men" (Is. 29:13).
VIII. Nor can the diluted comment of good intention favor this
error, as if what is done contrary to or beyond God's command can be
a good work because it is done with a right intention. For that is
falsely termed a good intention which is opposed to God's intention.
Saul indeed pleaded a good intention when, being commanded to
destroy the Amalekites utterly, he spared the king and reserved the
fattest sheep for sacrifices; but this was not received as an excuse
and Samuel testifies that God wished obedience, not sacrifice no
matter with what good intention offered. This same good intention
destroyed Uzzah, when he reached out his hand to support the ark
shaking in the wagon. Christ, speaking of his persecutors, says,
"They think that they do God service, whosoever killeth believers"
(Jn. 16:2). The worst religions applaud themselves in the highest
degree and cover their works with a good intention.

IX. Further with regard to the question here agitated between us and
the Romanists-whether the works of believers are and can be called
truly good. We must distinguish between truly good and perfectly
good. We have proved before that the latter cannot be ascribed to
the works of the saints on account of the imperfection of
sanctification and the remains of sin. But the former is rightly
predicated of them because although they are not as yet perfectly
renewed, still they are truly and unfeignedly renewed. While the
Romanists are unwilling to make this distinction, they falsely
charge us with denying that the works of believers are truly good
because we maintain that they are imperfect, since the truth and
perfection of works are notwithstanding most diverse and the former
can be granted without the latter.

X. That the works of believers are truly good is proved: (1) because
they are not performed only with the general concourse of God, but
by a special motion and impulse of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in
the hearts of believers and excites them to good works. Hence these
works are usually ascribed to him as the primary cause (Ezk. 36:27;
Gal. 5:22; Rom. 8:9, 10; Phil. 1:6; 2:13). Nor are they done only by
the Holy Spirit exciting and impelling, but also by the qualities of
infused grace mediating (which overcome the order of nature). Hence
Paul ascribes all his works to the grace of God (I COL 15:10) and
Christ asserts that we can do nothing without him (jn. 15:5). Now
what is produced by the Spirit and the grace of Christ must be truly
good. Nor does the flesh, which still remains in us, hinder this
because its presence can indeed take away the perfection of
sanctification, but not its truth. (2) Such works please God;
therefore they are truly good. For what is properly and by itself
sin, cannot please him. The passages are obvious (1 Pet. 2:5; Heb.
11:4-6; 12:28; Rom. 12:1; 14:18; Phil. 4:18). 1 confess that the
first cause of their acceptance is Christ, in whom we are pleasing
to God (Eph. 1:6) because the person is rather pleasing to God and
is reconciled to him by the Mediation. In this sense, God is said to
have had respect to Abel rather than to his sacrifice (Gen. 4:4).
But this does not hinder God from being pleased with the works also,
on account of the true goodness which occurs in them (flowing from
the regeneration of the heart and the restoration of the divine
image). For wherever God beholds his own likeness, he deservedly
loves and holds it in honor. Thus not without a cause is the life of
believers (regulated according to holiness and righteousness) said
to please him. (3) A reward is promised to them, which could not be
done if they were not truly good. For although works have nothing in
themselves which can deserve and obtain such a reward (which on this
account is merely gratuitous, as will soon be shown), still they
have a certain ordination and aptitude that they are ordained to a
reward, both from the condition of the worker, who is supposed to be
a believer (i.e., admitted into the grace and friendship of God),
and from the condition of the works themselves, which although not
having a condignity to the reward, still have the relation of
disposition required in the subject for its possession. This
condition being fulfilled, the reward must be given as, it being
withheld, the reward cannot be obtained. For as without holiness, no
one shall see God and, unless renewed by water and the Spirit,
cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (Jn. 3:5; Heb. 12-.14); so,
holiness being posited, glory is necessarily posited from the
inseparable connection existing between them.

XIII. Our affirmation that all works (even the best) are not free
from sin in this life does not destroy the truth of the good works
of believers because although we affirm that as to mode they are
never performed with that perfection which can sustain the rigid
examination of the divine judgment (on account of the imperfection
of sanctification), still we maintain that as to the thing they are
good works. And if they are called sins, this must be understood
accidentally with respect to the mode, not of themselves and in
their own nature. So there always remains a difference between the
works of the renewed and the unrenewed. The latter are essentially
and specifically evil and so destitute of those circumstances and
conditions which are requisite to the essence of a good work (which
accordingly are only good as to sight and appearance). On the other
hand, the former are essentially good works because they have all
things from which the goodness of an action results and so are truly
and not apparently such (although as to degree they may fail and
have blemishes mixed up with them).

XIV. Although the works of the renewed are said to be sins, and so
faith (by which we are justified) can be called a sin under a
certain relation (schesei) (as also the prayer by which we seek the
pardon of sins), it does not follow that man is justified by sin and
by gin obtains the remission of sins. We do not say that the act of
believing itself or of praying is a sin, but only that there are
defects and blemishes connected with it. Thus the work of faith is
not the instrument of justification with respect to such
imperfections, but with respect to the act itself (which is produced
by the Holy Spirit and under that reduplication). Nor by sin do we
seek or obtain the remission of sin, as our opponents foolishly
infer; but we seek it by and on account of the merit of Christ, the
duty, not the fault of our prayer mediating as the condition
required from us.

XV. Although it is granted that all the works of the renewed are
tainted by some sin, the apostle could rightly say, "I am conscious
of no evil,' because he does not speak here of the course of his
whole life, but concerning a ministry faithfully completed. Nor does
he boast that the work of his ministry had been so completed by
himself that no fault had interfered with it on the part of the
flesh, but that he had done nothing deceitfully and impiously to
wound his own conscience. For otherwise, he professes that he did
not do the good that he would, but rather the evil he hated (Rom.
7:19).

XVI. Since God works in us all our good works as far as they have
any goodness in them and not as far as they have any imperfection or
taint in them (in which sense they spring from the flesh), we say
truly that every good work is marred by some sin and yet we deny
truly that God is the author of this faultiness or sin.


 

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