Week 23 in Fisher: Reasons for Holiness

If you found the body main text of Edward Fisher’s The Marrow of Modern Divinity to be a difficult read, brace yourself as you approach the appendix, which contains the twelve queries “agreed unto by the commission of the General Assembly, and put to those ministers who gave in a representation and petition against the 5th and 8th Acts of Assembly 1720, with the answers given by these ministers to the said queries.” The style is much more protracted and demands more concentration from the reader. At least it did of this reader.

I found all of the first seven queries interesting, but the seventh one captured most of my attention, because of the fourteen reasons provided therein, as the writers detailed the need for a holy life. I wonder how many people today could give three reasons for holiness in the lives of believers today, much less fourteen!

Here they are, courtesy of the “marrow controversy” (available online at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/fisher_e/marrow.iii.xv.html):

To the query, we answer, that we cordially and sincerely own a holy life, or good works,

  1. necessary, as an acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty, and in obedience to his command: for this is the will of God, even our sanctification; and, by a special ordination, he has appointed believers to walk in them:
  2. necessary, for glorifying God before the world, and showing the virtues of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light:
  3. necessary, as being the end of our election, our redemption, effectual calling, and regeneration; for “the Father chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy; the Son gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works”; and by the Holy Spirit are we created in Christ Jesus unto them:
  4. necessary, as expressions of our gratitude to our great Benefactor; for being bought with a price, we are no more our own, but henceforth, in a most peculiar manner bound, in our bodies and in our spirits, which are his, to glorify, and by all possible ways, to testify our thanksgiving to our Lord Redeemer and Ransomer; to him “who spared not his own Son, but gave him up to the death for us all”; to him “who humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, for us”:
  5. necessary, as being the design, not only of the world, but of all ordinances and providences; even that as he who has called us is holy, so we should be holy in all manner of conversation:
  6. necessary, again, for evidencing and confirming our faith, good works being the breath, the native offspring and issue of it:
  7. necessary, for making our calling and election sure; for they are, though no plea, yet a good evidence for heaven, or an argument confirming our assurance and hope of salvation:
  8. necessary, to the maintaining of inward peace and comfort, though not as the ground and foundation, yet as effects, fruits, and concomitants of faith:
  9. necessary, in order to our entertaining communion with God even in this life; for, “if we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth”:
  10. necessary, to the escaping of judgments, and to the enjoyment of many promised blessings; particularly there is a necessity of order and method, that one be holy before he can be admitted to see and enjoy God in heaven; that being a disposing mean, preparing for the salvation of it, and the king’s highway chalked out for the redeemed to walk into the city:
  11. necessary, to adorn the gospel and grace our holy calling and profession:
  12. necessary, further, for the edification, good, and comfort, of fellow-believers:
  13. necessary, to prevent offence, and to stop the mouths of the wicked; to win likewise the unbelieving, and to commend Christ and his ways to the consciences:
  14. necessary, finally, for the establishment, security, and glory of churches and nations.

Having belabored the necessity of holiness in this way, however, these ministers subsequently denied that holiness procured salvation, and thus denied salvation by works.  And it was this issue which kept popping up over and over again in the queries, as it has throughout the history of the church, because the flesh loves to smuggle in self-righteousness.

Take up and read!


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