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WORKS OF ARMINIUS - ON THE MATERIAL OBJECT OF THE PRECEPTS OF THE LAW IN GENERAL
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ON THE MATERIAL OBJECT OF THE PRECEPTS OF THE LAW IN GENERAL
I. As mere obedience, considered in the abstract, is the formal object of all the precepts of the divine law, so the acts in which the obedience that must be performed is prescribed, are the material objects of the same precepts.
II. For this reason, these acts will at length be said to be conformable to law, and performed according to law, when obedience has given form to them; that when they have been performed from obedience, or through the intention and desire of obeying. This desire to obey is necessarily preceded by a certain knowledge that those acts have been prescribed by God, according to this expression of the apostle: "Whatsoever is not of faith, is sin."
III. Hence, it is apparent that a good intention does not suffice to justify an act, unless it be preceded by a command of God and a knowledge of such command; though, without a good intention, no act, even when commanded by God, can of itself be pleasing to him. But it is our wish that, under the term "actions," omission is also understood to be comprehended.
IV. A good work, therefore, universally requires these conditions:
(1.) That it be prescribed by God.
(2.) That man certainly knows it to have been commanded by God.
(3.) That it be performed with the intention and desire of obeying God, which cannot be done without faith in God. To these ought to be added a special condition, which belongs to Christ and to his gospel -- that it be done through faith in Christ, because no work is agreeable to God after the commission of sin in a state of grace, except in Christ, and through faith in him.
V. But the acts which are prescribed in the law, are either of themselves and in their own nature indifferent; or they have in them. something why they are pleasing or displeasing to God -- why they are prescribed by him or forbidden. The law, which prescribes the former of these, [the indifferent acts,] is called "positive,"symbolical," and "ceremonial." That which prescribes the latter is styled "the moral law" and "the decalogue;" it is also called "the law of nature." On these last, we shall afterwards treat at greater length.
VI. The material acts, in which obedience is prescribed to be performed by the moral law, are either general, and belonging to the observance of the whole law and of all and each of its precepts; or they are special, and peculiarly prescribed in each of the precepts of the decalogue.