Good Works

Westminster Confession of Faith
CHAPTER XVI. Of Good Works

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

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

III. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ.m 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:n 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.o

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.p

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;q but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants;r and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit;s 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.t

VI. Yet notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him;u not as though they were in this life wholly unblameable and unreproveable in God's sight;w 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.x

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:y yet, because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith;z nor are done in a right manner, according to the word;a nor to a right end, the glory of God;b they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God.c And yet their neglect of them is more sinful, and displeasing unto God.d

a Micah 6:8. He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Rom. 12:2. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. Heb. 13:21. Make you perfect in every good work, to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

b Mat. 15:9. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Isa. 29:13. Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear towards me is taught by the precept of men. 1 Pet. 1:18. Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers. Rom. 10:2. For I bear them record, that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. John 16:2. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. 1 Sam. 15:21. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal. Ver. 22. And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice; and to hearken than the fat of rams. Ver. 23. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry: because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

c James 2:18. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. Ver. 22. Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

d Psal. 116:12. What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me? Ver. 13. I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. 1 Pet. 2:9. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

e 1 John 2:3. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. Ver. 5. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: Hereby know we that ware in him. 2 Pet. 1:5. And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; Ver. 6. And to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; Ver. 7. And to godliness, brotherly-kindness; and to brotherly-kindness, charity.—Ver. 8. 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. Ver. 9. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Ver. 10. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.

f 2 Cor. 9:2. For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many. Matt. 5:16. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

g Tit. 2:5. To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Ver. 9. Exhort servants to be obedient under their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; Ver. 10. Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. Ver. 11. For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men; Ver. 12. Teaching us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. 1 Tim. 6:1. Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour; that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.

h 1 Pet. 2:15. For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.

i 1 Pet. 2:12. Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that whereas they speak against you as evil-doers, they may, by your good works which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Phil. 1:11. Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God. John 15:8. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be my disciples.

k Eph. 2:10. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

l Rom. 6:22. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

m John 15:4. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. Ver. 5. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing. Ver. 6. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. Ezek. 36:26. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. Ver. 27. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

n Phil. 2:13. For it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Phil, 4:13. I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me. 2 Cor. 3:5. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves: but our sufficiency is of God.

o Phil. 2:12. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence; work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Heb. 6:11. And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope unto the end: Ver. 12. That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises. 2 Pet. 1:3. According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue. Ver. 5. And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge. Ver. 10. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if you do these things, ye shall never fall: Ver. 11. For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Isa. 64:7. And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. 2 Tim. 1:6. Wherefore I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee, by the putting on of my hands. Acts 26:6. And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: Ver. 7. Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come; for which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Jude, ver. 20. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Ver. 21. Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

p Luke 17:10. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. Neh. 13:22. And I commanded the Levites, that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath-day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy. Job 9:2. I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God? Ver. 3. If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand. Gal. 5:17. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

q Rom. 3:20. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Rom. 4:2. For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God. Ver. 4. Now, to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. Ver. 6. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works. Eph. 2:8. For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Ver. 9. Not of works, lest any man should boast. Tit. 3:5. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost: Ver. 6. Which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour: Ver. 7. That, being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Rom. 8:18. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Psal. 16:2. O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee. Job 22:2. Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself? Ver. 3. Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that thou art righteous? or is it gain to him that thou makest thy ways perfect? Job 35:7. If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand? Ver. 8. Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art, and thy righteousness may profit the son of man.

r Luke 17:10. (See letter p in this Chapter.)

s Gal. 5:22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Ver. 23. Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

t Isa. 64:6. But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, and we all do fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. Gal. 5:17. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the hings that ye would. Rom. 7:15. For that which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that do I not: but what I hate, that do I. Ver. 18. I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not. Psal. 143:2. And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified. Psal. 130:3. If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?

u Eph. 1:6. To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved. 1 Pet. 2:5. Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Exod. 28:38. And it shall be upon Aaron's forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts: and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord. Gen. 4:4. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof: and the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering. With Heb. 11:4. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and by it he, being dead, yet speaketh.

w Job 9:20. If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me; if I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse. Psal. 143:2. And enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.

x Heb. 13:20. Now, the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Ver. 21. Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 2 Cor. 8:12. For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. Heb. 6:10. For God is not unrighteous, to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. Matt. 25:21. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Ver. 23. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord

y 2 Kings 10:30. And the Lord said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel. Ver. 31. But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin. 1 Kings 21:27. And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly. Ver. 29. Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me; because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house. Phil. 1:15. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will. Ver. 16. The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds. Ver. 18. What then? notwithstanding every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

z Gen. 4:5. But unto Cain, and to his offering, he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. With Heb. 11:4. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and by it he, being dead, yet speaketh. Ver. 6. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

a 1 Cor. 13:3. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Isa. 1:12. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand to tread my courts?

b Matt. 6:2. Therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues, and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. Ver. 5. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. Ver. 16. Moreover, when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

c Hag. 2:14. Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord; and so is every work of their hands, and that which they offer there is unclean. Tit. 1:15. Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. Amos 5:21. I hate, I despise your feast-days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Ver. 22. Though ye offer me burnt-offerings, and your meat-offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts. Hosea 1:4. And the Lord said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel. Rom. 9:16. So then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. Tit. 3:5. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.

d Psal. 14:4. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the Lord. Psal. 36:3. The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good. Job 21:14. Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. Ver. 15. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have if we pray unto him? Matt. 25:41. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand. Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. Ver. 42. For I was an liungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; Ver. 43. I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Ver. 45. Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, In as much as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. Matt, 23:23. Wo unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Westminster Assembly. (1851). The Westminster Confession of Faith: Edinburgh Edition (pp. 81–88). Philadelphia: William S. Young.

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