Westminster Confession of Faith: Chapter XVI—Of Good Works

1. Good works are only such as God hath commanded in His holy Word, (Micah 6:8, Rom. 12:2, Heb. 13:21) and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men, out of blind zeal, or upon any pretence of good intention. (Matt. 15:9, Isa. 29:13, 1 Pet. 1:18, Rom. 10:2, John 16:2, 1 Sam. 15:21–23)

2. These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: (James 2:18, 22) and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, (Ps. 116:12–13, 1 Pet. 2:9) strengthen their assurance, (1 John 2:3, 5, 2 Pet. 1:5–10) edify their brethren, (2 Cor. 9:2, Matt. 5:16) adorn the profession of the gospel, (Tit. 2:5, 9–12, 1 Tim. 6:1) stop the mouths of the adversaries, (1 Pet. 2:15) and glorify God, (1 Pet. 2:12, Phil. 1:11, John 15:8) whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, (Eph. 2:10) that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life. (Rom. 6:22)

3. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. (John 15:4–6, Ezek. 36:26–27) And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside 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: (Phil. 2:13, Phil. 4:13, 2 Cor. 3:5) 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. (Phil. 2:12, Heb. 6:11–12, 2 Pet. 1:3, 5, 10–11, Isa. 64:7, 2 Tim. 1:6, Acts 26:6–7, Jude 20–21)

4. 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)

5. 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, (Rom. 3:20, Rom. 4:2, 4, 6, Eph. 2:8–9, Tit. 3:5–7, Rom. 8:18, Ps. 16:2, Job 22:2–3, Job 35:7–8) but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: (Luke 17:10) and because, as they are good, they proceed from His Spirit; (Gal. 5:22–23) 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. (Isa. 64:6, Gal. 5:17, Rom. 7:15, 18, Ps. 143:2, Ps. 130:3)

6. Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him; (Eph. 1:6, 1 Pet. 2:5, Exod. 28:38, Gen. 4:4, Heb. 11:4) not as though they were in this life wholly unblameable and unreproveable in God’s sight; (Job 9:20, Ps. 143:2) 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. (Heb. 13:20–21, 2 Cor. 8:12, Heb. 6:10. Matt. 25:21, 23)

7. 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: (2 Kings 10:30–31, 1 Kings 21:27, 29, Phil. 1:15–16, 18) yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith; (Gen. 4:5, Heb. 11:4, 6) nor are done in a right manner,according to the Word; (1 Cor. 13:3, Isa. 1:12) nor to a right end, the glory of God, (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16) they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: (Hag. 2:14, Tit. 1:15, Amos 5:21–22, Hosea 1:4, Rom. 9:16, Tit. 3:5) and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God. (Ps. 14:4, Ps. 36:3, Job 21:14–15, Matt. 25:41–43, 45, Matt. 23:23)

Westminster Confession of Faith: CHAPTER XIX—Of the Law of God

1. 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, Gen. 2:17, Rom. 2:14–15, Rom. 10:5, Rom. 5:12, 19, Gal. 3:10,12, Eccl. 7:29, Job 28:28)

2. 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: (James 1:25, James 2:8, 10–12, Rom. 13:8–9, Deut. 5:32, Deut. 10:4, Exod. 34:1) the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man. (Matt. 22:37–40)

3. Besides 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; (Heb. 9, Heb. 10:1, Gal. 4:1–3, Col. 2:17) and partly, holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. (1 Cor. 5:7, 2 Cor. 6:17, Jude 1:23) All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the new testament. (Col. 2:14, 16, 17, Dan. 9:27, Eph. 2:15–16)

4. 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. (Exod. 21, Exod. 22:1–29, Gen. 49:10, 1 Pet. 2:13–14, Matt. 5:17, 38–39, 1 Cor. 9:8–10)

5. The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; (Rom. 13:8, 9, Eph. 6:2, 1 John 2:3–4, 7–8) 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. (James 2:10, 11) Neither doth Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation. (Matt. 5:17–19, James 2:8, Rom. 3:31)

6. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; (Rom. 6:14, Gal. 2:16, Gal. 3:13, Gal. 4:4–5, Acts 13:39, Rom. 8:1) 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; (Rom. 7:12, 22, 25, Ps. 119:4–6, 1 Cor. 7:19, Gal. 5:14, 16, 18–23) discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; (Rom. 7:7, Rom. 3:20) so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, (James 1:23–25, Rom. 7:9, 14, 24) together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of His obedience. (Gal. 3:24, Rom. 7:24, Rom. 8:3–4) It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: (James 2:11, Ps. 119:101, 104, 128) and the threatenings of it serve to shew 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. (Ezra 9:13–14, Ps. 89:30–34) The promises of it, in like manner, shew them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof: (Lev. 26:1–14, 2 Cor. 6:16, Eph. 6:2–3, Ps. 37:11, Matt. 5:5, Ps. 19:11) although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works. (Gal. 2:16, Luke 17:10) So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and not under grace. (Rom. 6:12, 14, 1 Pet. 3:8–12, Ps. 34:12–16, Heb. 12:28–29)

7. Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the Gospel, but do sweetly comply with it; (Gal. 3:21) 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, requireth to be done. (Ezek. 36:27, Heb. 8:10, Jer. 31:33)