TWENTY-FOURTH LORD'S DAY.
Question. 62. But why cannot our good works be the whole or part of our righteousness before God?
Answer. Because that the righteous which can be approved of before the tribunal of God, must be absolutely perfect, and in all respects conformable to the divine law, and, also, that our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.
Thus far we have explained, and established the true doctrine of justification by faith. We must now refute the false doctrine of the Papists, according to which we are justified by works; or partly by faith, and part ly by works. This is the argument which we employ; It is necessary that that righteousness which will stand in the judgment of God must be absolutely perfect, and conformable to the law in every respect. But our best works in this life are imperfect, and defiled with sin. Therefore our best works cannot be the whole, nor even a part of our righteousness before God. The major proposition of this syllogism is proven from the law, which declares: “He that doeth these things shall live in them.” “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them.” (Lev. 18:5. Deut. 27:26.) The minor proposition is too plain to need any proof: for we do many things which we ought not to do, and leave many things undone, which we ought to do; yea, we mix much that is evil with the good we do; or in other words the good which we do, is done imperfectly. The com plaints and daily prayers of the saints testify to the truth of this. “For give us our debts.” “Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in,” &c. (Matt. 5:92. Ps. 143:2.) Therefore works which are imperfect cannot constitute perfect righteousness.
This is the first reason why we cannot be justified by our works, because our righteousness would be imperfect in as much as our works are imperfect. We may add many other reasons, such as these. 2. Because if our works were even perfect, yet they are still due from us, and so cannot acquit us, or make amends for past delinquences. “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say we are unprofitable servants,” &c. Luke 17:10.) 3. Our good works are not of us, but of God, who works them in us. 4. They are temporal, and bear no proportion to eternal rewards; whereas there is a necessity that there should be some proportion between merit, and reward. 5. They are the effects of our justification, and so cannot be the cause of it. 6. If we could be justified by our works, we should have whereof to boast, which would be contrary to what the Scripture saith; “Not of works, lest any man, should boast.” (Eph. 2:9.) 7. Conscience would be deprived of true peace, and comfort. 8. Christ would then have died in vain. 9. The way of salvation would not be the same in both testaments, if Abraham had been justified by faith only, and we by works, whether it be by works alone, or by works joined with faith. 10. Christ would not be a perfect Saviour, because a certain part of righteousness, and salvation would then be independent of him.
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