Thomas Boston – Holiness and Good Works Terms of Salvation

Object. But the elect’s believing, holiness, and good works, were also fixed as terms of their salvation: and Christ undertook also that they should believe, &c.

Ans. Then at that rate Christ performed the chief part of the condition of the covenant, and took it wholly on himself; but they perform another part of the condition, for which he became their cautioner. [Note: “In Scots law, the person who is bound for another, to the performance of an obligation,” Webster’s 1828 Dictionary.] Thus the condition of the covenant of grace is divided betwixt Christ and the impotent beggarly creature: and so must the glory of their salvation be; for whosoever works part of the work, or pays a part of the price, without question so much of the reward and purchase is due to him. But none of the glory of it is due to us, 1 Cor. i. 31. Zech. vi. 13. Rom. iv. 4, 5.; and therefore no part of the condition is performed by us. I own these things are secured in the covenant; but they are secured not in the conditionary part of the covenant, but in the promissory part of it, Heb. Viii. 10. 2.”

Thomas Boston, “An Illustration of the Doctrines of the Christian Religion: With Respect to Faith and Practice, Upon the Plan of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism. Comprehending a Complete Body of Divinity,” (Still Waters Revival Books reprint), Volume 1:339.

Thomas Boston – Conditions of the Covenant of Grace

“The condition of a covenant or bargain is that part of it, upon the performance of which one’s right to the benefit promised is founded, his plea for it is established, as becoming due to him for that his performance, according to the agreement betwixt the parties. For instance, the paying of such a sum of money, for such a commodity, according to the agreement of the parties bargaining, is the condition of a covenant of commerce, sale, or traffic; and the working of such a piece of work, or doing of such a deed, for such a reward, agreed upon by the parties, is the condition of a covenant of service or hire.

There is also what is called a condition of connection or order in a covenant, whereby one thing necessarily goes before another in the order of a covenant, without being the ground on which one’s right and title to that other thing is founded. As in the former instances, the buyer’s receiving of the commodity, and the hireling’s receiving of the reward, covenanted or bargained for, must needs go before the possession or enjoyment of them: but it is evident, that receiving is not the thing on which the buyers right and title to the reward is founded: therefore, though it maybe called a condition of connection in the respective covenants, yet it cannot in any propriety of speech be called the condition of these covenants.

Thus, in the order of the covenant of grace, the having of the Spirit must go before faith, faith before justification, justification before sanctification, and holiness before heaven’s happiness. These may be called conditions in the covenant of grace, viz. conditions of certain connection; and belong to the established order of the promises of the covenant, which are contradistinguished to the condition of the covenant. But such conditions can in no proper sense be called the condition or conditions of the covenant.

This being premised, we say, that the condition of the covenant of grace, properly so called, is Christ’s fulfilling of all righteousness, owing unto God by the elect, in virtue of the covenant of works, and that as the last Adam, their head and representative.”

Thomas Boston, “An Illustration of the Doctrines of the Christian Religion: With Respect to Faith and Practice, Upon the Plan of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism. Comprehending a Complete Body of Divinity,” (Still Waters Revival Books reprint), Volume 1:338.

Anthony Burgess – Good Works and Salvation

“You must, in the discourse you shall hear concerning the necessity of good works, carefully distinguish between these two Propositions: Good works are necessary to believers, to justified person, or to those that shall be saved; and this, Good works are necessary to justification and salvation.  Howsoever this latter is true in some sense, yet, because the words carry as if holiness had some effect immediately upon our justification and salvation, therefore I do wholly assent to those learned men, that think, in these two cases, we should not use such a Proposition: 1. When we deal with adversaries, especially Papists, in disputation; for then we ought to speak exactly: Therefore the Fathers would not use the word Christotokos of the Virgin Mary, lest they should seem to yield to Nestorius, who denied her to be Theotokos. The second case is in our sermons and exhortations to people; for, what common hearer is there, that, upon such a speech, doth not conceive that they are so necessary, as that they immediately work our justification?  The former proposition holds them offices and duties in the person justified; the other, as conditions effecting justification.”

Anthony Burgess, Vindiciae Legis: A Vindication of the Moral Law and the Covenants, Reformation Heritage Books, p. 40.

Some Neglected Aspects of the Ninth Commandment – Part 5

This is a continuation of a series with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 preceding.


The Catechism continues:

a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them;

Just as a salesman promotes his product, and is very happy to hear of more sales, so we who are required to promote our neighbor’s good name will be very happy to hear good news about them. Scripture states that charity “Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things,” (1 Corinthians 13:6-7). Are we happy to hear evil of our neighbor? If so, we are not walking in love. Thus, we are to be unwilling to receive an evil report concerning him. Proverbs 25:23 states that “The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.” To backbite is “to censure, slander, reproach, or speak evil of the absent,” (American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 1828, entry for “backbite”). If we are honest with ourselves, it is much easier to listen to the juicy details of the evil report about our neighbor than to make the angry countenance that God requires. We must neither be willing to take up such a report, nor to listen to such foul-mouthed fools who spew them.

The Catechism continues:

discouraging tale-bearers, flatterers, and slanderers;

This is a continuing thought from what preceded. If we are unwilling to receive evil reports about our neighbor because we rejoice in their good name, we will take all steps in our power to discourage tale-bearers, flatterers, and slanderers. When we discourage someone, we take the wind out of their sails. We make such rogues doubt themselves, and question whether or not they should repeat such matters to others, or at least to us. Taking a soft approach to tale-bearers, flatterers, and slanderers does not discourage them, but only slightly checks them. The hard-line approach of Proverbs 25:23 is more appropriate, and those with power to do something about it, whether in church, family, or state, are required by God to do so: “Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer,” (Psalm 101:5). Tale-bearers, flatterers, and slanderers are divisive, and their end is destructive. If their mouths are not silenced and discouraged by those with the power to do so, their deadly poison will bring destruction and misery.

Although it may be hard to see how flatterers ruin the good name of others, since they seem to inflate it, we must look to the heart and soul of flattery rather than to the external appearance: “He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him; When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart,” (Proverbs 26:24-25). Though flattery could be justified in someone’s mind, even by the requirements of the Ninth Commandment to promote the good name of others, we may illustrate such vanity by the salesman analogy. While every salesman rejoices in making a sale, we may have known an unethical salesman in our life. Such a person will lie about the condition of the car they’ll sell you, or about the output of their product, or about the ability of their tool to complete a specific task. Such is the flatterer: the good name he sells is not one rooted in sober judgment, but one he puts forth in order to trap you into doing what he would like you to do. “A man that flattereth his neighbor spreadeth a net for his feet,” (Proverbs 29:5).

A tale-bearer is “A person who officiously tells tales; one who impertinently communicates intelligence or anecdotes, and makes mischief in society by his officiousness,” (American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 1828, entry for “talebearer”). Officiousness means “Eagerness to serve; usually, an excess of zeal to serve others, or improper forwardness, interposing in affairs without being desired, or with a disposition to meddle with the concerns of others,” (American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 1828, entry for “officiousness”). Such tales as are spun by tale-bearers are such as corrupt children, destroy marriages, divide brethren, ruin nations, and bring in all sorts of chaos and evil. Is it any wonder that the Ninth Commandment requires that we discourage such well-meaning folly?

In summary, the Ninth Commandment requires much more than merely refraining from lying in court. Rather, the Ninth Commandment provides a context for human communication that is truthful, charitable, and edifying, while also avoiding the excesses of flattery (exaggeration of the truth to pump up someone’s good name), as well as tale-bearing (trying to “tell the truth” with excessive zeal by relating tales and anecdotes).

In our next set of installments, we will review the sins forbidden by the Ninth Commandment, paying special attention to such aspects as are neglected in our modern use of the tongue. However, this first part is enough for me to be convinced of how very needy I am of the grace of Jesus Christ to pardon my sins of the tongue, as well as my need for the grace of the Spirit of God to “set a guard over my mouth,” and help me to love my neighbor’s good name as I love my own.




Some Neglected Aspects of the Ninth Commandment – Part 4

This is a continuation of a series with Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 preceding.


Question 144 continues:

a charitable esteem of our neighbours; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name;

Esteem has to do with how we think of someone. What do we make of their words? Do we see their actions in a positive light? Do we see their actions in a negative light? Do we give them the benefit of the doubt? Charitable esteem does not make us blind to others’ sins, but merely means that the “filter” through which we hear, see, think about, and speak of them is one of charity. Charity is an older term (in the sense used in “charitable”), and in our modern usage generally means gifts or donations that we make, or organizations set up to help people in need. In older language “charity” carried the idea of “liberality in judging of men and their actions; a disposition which inclines men to think and judge favorably, and to put the best construction on words and actions which the case will admit,” (American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 1828, entry for “charity”).

Scripture praises this sort of “charitable esteem” stating that charity “Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things,” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

Further, we are taught to love, desire, and rejoice in other people having a good name as well as our self. Salesmen generally love getting people to buy into their products; they desire more and better commissioned sales; they rejoice when their products are sold, particularly in large quantities and at very favorable margins. And this is precisely what we are required to feel about the good reputation of our neighbor. Only in this case our gain is not financial, but a charitable gain by which we love our neighbor’s good name as we love our own. Examples abound in this regard, but one particularly strong passage about our attitude toward the good name of others is 3 John 3-4: “For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” Note the fulness and exuberance of joy the Apostle took in the good reports about others.

The Catechism continues:

sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities;

Every person has some weakness. The way that God created each man’s personality, body, temperament, etc. is good so far it is the workmanship of God. But when the good workmanship of God is joined to particular persons with sinful human natures, dwelling in a fallen world, there are sins and infirmities galore. The Apostles of Christ sorrowed for the infirmities of their congregants. For example, the Apostle Paul stated that “out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you,” (2 Corinthians 2:4). Note how loving others entails grief and tears over the infirmities of others, rather than exploiting them to forward our own goals (see also 2 Corinthians 12:21).

Covering the infirmities of others goes beyond simply the internal affection of sorrow, and relates to our speaking of, or repeating to others the infirmities of others, or even those that we think they have. Often, we justify repeating the infirmities, mistakes, sins, etc. of others by our motivation to “pray for someone,” or to explain their current conduct. Such conduct is divisive and hateful, as Scripture states in Proverbs 17:9: “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.” Transgressions are to be covered and not repeated. Love covers these things, but hatred repeats them, even if we convince ourselves that we are motivated by good things. 1 Peter 4:8 identifies the same virtue: “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” Note how charity does not reveal “a multitude of sins.” This is very contrary to the general current of our cultural use of speech.


To continue reading, see Part 5.




Some Neglected Aspects of the Ninth Commandment – Part 3

In our previous posts (Part 1 and Part 2), we introduced this topic of the practical application of the Ninth Commandment, and began examining the Westminster Larger Catechism’s detailed treatment of the duties required in the Ninth Commandment.  And as we continue to examine our ways, we can come afresh to the blood of Christ for forgiveness, and the grace of the Holy Spirit to enable us to keep this part of the “perfect Law of liberty.”

speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things whatsoever;

Truth, and truth alone must be spoken. This is particularly the requirement of the Ninth Commandment as far as matters of judgment and justice are concerned (whether in church, state, family, or personal relationships), but also with regard to “all other things whatsoever.” From the smallest detailed fact, to the actual observations we make from our experiences, to the color of the shirt I wore last Tuesday (if I can even remember that!). Leviticus 19:15 commands that “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.” Note the universality and justice required in what we do.

Not only is it particularly important to speak truth in matters of justice, but even in all other matters. Jesus teaches that our “yea” must be “yea,” and our “nay,” “nay.” The Apostle was an example of this, as he reflected the truth of God, “But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay,” (2 Corinthians 1:18). Ephesians 4:25 commands this general truthfulness in the following terms: “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.” The addition of ecclesiastical unity, or “we are members one of another” does not provide an excuse for those outside the church to deal falsely, but is simply an added aggravation for committing this sin within the context of the church itself.


To continue reading, see Part 4.




Some Neglected Aspects of the Ninth Commandment – Part 2

In our previous post, we introduced this topic of the practical application of the Ninth Commandment. In this and the next few posts, we well look at the Westminster Larger Catechism’s detailed treatment of the duties required in the Ninth Commandment.  And as we examine our ways, we can come afresh to the blood of Christ for forgiveness, and the grace of the Holy Spirit to enable us to keep this part of the “perfect Law of liberty.”

The Ninth Commandment Requires:

preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbour, as well as our own;

To preserve something means to keep it from failing, corrupting, rotting, or falling apart. Promoting is a more active verb, meaning to become a “salesman” so to speak. To go out and make something to be respected, embraced, and loved by others.

These actions are required with respect to two things: truth, and good names. Truth is what is actually the case, and extends to theological truth about God, Christ, the Scriptures, salvation, the law, as well as about particular circumstances, actions, thoughts, etc. A good name is what we sometimes call the reputation. How do people think of, speak of, and treat someone else? Do they speak well of him? Do they desire to become a salesman for that person’s reputation, as well as for their own? This is the foundational assumption of what follows in the rest of 144 and 145 of the Larger Catechism.

The answer continues:

…appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully,

Part of promoting something is actively taking stands for it. Salesmen do not idly sit at their desks all day hoping that someone will eventually hear about their product. Rather, they make calls, post things on the internet, send emails, make personal visits, etc. All of these actions are with a view to making their product embraced, believed in, purchased, etc.

Standing for truth, however, is not to be done merely by our conduct, but must first be done within the heart. Thus it must be done “from the heart,” and “sincerely.” The blessed man of Psalm 15 is one who “speaketh the truth in his heart,” (Psalm 15:2), and not merely with his lips. Though his father Saul hated David with a passion, yet Jonathan sincerely and freely spoke truth, even though it could have jeopardized his life and reputation (see 1 Samuel 19:4-5). This historical example demonstrates the Ninth Commandment’s requirement to stand for the truth and good name of our neighbor, even at great risk to ourselves

Speaking truth clearly is when we do not hide any part of the truth that is relevant to a particular situation. We can’t say that we’ll speak the part of the truth that is found acceptable to the audience, or that we don’t want to ruffle feathers, and will therefore just speak the parts that are agreed upon, or easy to receive. As Joshua commanded Achan, “My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me,” (Joshua 7:19).


To continue reading, see Part 3.