« PreviousContinue »
church, which honour God with their lips, and worship him in vain; because they follow not the word of God, but the doctrines and commandments of men, and teach others to do the same. And because they do certain superstitious and monstrous works, which carnal reason magnifieth and highly esteemeth, therefore they judge them only to be saints, and to be the church ; and in so doing, they change and turn this article of faith clean contrary, I believe that there is a holy church,' &c. and instead of this word . I believe they put in ‘I see.' These kinds of righteousness and holiness of man's own devising, are nothing else but spiritual sorceries, wherewith the eyes and minds of men are blinded, and led from the knowledge of true holiness.
But thus teach we, that the church hath no spot or wrinkle, but is holy; and yet, through faith only in Christ Jesus. Again, that she is holy in life and conversation, by abstaining from the lusts of the flesh and exercise of spiritual works; but yet, not in such sort that she is delivered from all evil desires, or purged from all wicked opinions and errors ! For the church always confesseth her sins, and prayeth that her faults may be pardoned; also, she believeth the forgiveness of sins. The saints therefore do sin, fall, and also err, but yet through igno
For they would not willingly deny Christ, nor forsake the Gospel, &c.; therefore, they have remission of sins.
And if through ignorance they err also in doctrine, yet is this pardoned; for in the end they acknowledge their error, and rest only upon the truth and the grace of God offered in Christ; as Hierome, Gregory, Bernard, and others did. Let Christians then endeavour to avoid the works of the flesh, but the desires or lusts of the flesh they cannot avoid.
It is very profitable therefore for them to feel the unclean lusts of the flesh, lest they should be puffed up with some rain and wicked opinion of the righteousness of their own works, as though they were accepted before God for the same. The monks being puffed up with this opinion of their own righteousness, thought themselves to be so holy, that they sold their righteousness
and holiness to others, although they were convinced by the testimony of their own hearts that they were unclean. So pernicious and pestilent a poison it is for a man to trust in his own righteousness, and to think himself to be clean.
But the godly, because they feel the uncleanness of their own hearts, therefore they cannot trust to their own righteousness. This feeling so maketh them to stoop, and so humbleth them, that they cannot trust to their own good works, but are constrained to fly unto Christ their mercy-seat and only succour; who hath not a corrupt and sinful, but a most pure and holy flesh, which he hath given for the life of the world! (John iv. 51.) In him they find a sound and perfect righteousness! Thus, they continue in humility, not counterfeit and monkish, but true and unfeigned, because of the uncleanness which yet remaineth in their flesh; for the which, if God would straitly judge them, they should be found guilty of eternal death. But because they lift not up themselves proudly against God, but with a broken and a contrite heart, humbly acknowledging their sins, and resting wholly upon the benefit of the Me. diator Christ, they come forth into the presence
of God, and pray that for his sake their sins may be forgiven them; God spreadeth over them an infinite hea. ven of grace, and doth not impute unto them their sins, for Christ's sake!
This I say, to the end that we may take heed of the pernicious errors of the Papists touching the holiness of life, wherein our minds are so wrapped, that without great difficulty we could not wind ourselves out of them. Wherefore do
efore do you endeavour with diligence, that ye may discern, and rightly judge between true righteousness and holiness, and that which is hypocritical; then shall ye behold the kingdom of Christ with other eyes, than carnal reason doth, that is with spiritual eyes, and certainly judge those to be true saints indeed, which are baptized, and believe in Christ, and afterwards, in the same faith whereby they are justified, and their sins both past and present are forgiven, do abstain from the der sires of the flesh. But from these desires they are not thorougly cleansed, for the filesh lusteth against the spirit
. Notwithstanding, these unclean and rebellious lusts do still remain in them, to this end, that they may be humbled; and being so humbled, they may feel the streetness of the grace and benefit of Christ. So these remnants of unclean lusts and sins do nothing at all hinder, but greatly further the godly, for the more they feel their infirmities and sins, so much the more they fly unto Christ, the throne of grace; and more heartily crave his aid and succour, to wit, that he will cover them with his righteousness, that he will increase their faith, that he will endue them with his Holy Spirit, by whose gracious leading and guiding they may overcome the lusts of the flesh, that they may rule and reign not over them, but may be subject unto them. Thus true Christians do continually wrestle with sin, and yet notwithstanding in wrestling, they are not overcome, but obtain the victory.
This have I said that ye may understand, not by men's dreams, but by the word of God, who be true saints indeed. We see then how greatly Christian doctrine helpeth to the raising up and comforting of weak consciences, which treateth not of cowls, shavings, shearings, fraternities, and such like toys; but of high and weighty matters, as how we may overcome the flesh, sin, death, and the devil. This doctrine as it is unknown to justiciaries, and such as trust in their own works, so it is impossible for them to instruct, or bring into the right way, one poor conscience wandering, and going astray, or to pacify, and comfort the same when it is in heaviness, terror, or desperation.
GRATITUDE TO GOD FOR HIS DIVINE
PSALM cxviii. 21. I thank thee, O Lord, that thou humblest me; and again, becomest my salvation.
These are the sacrifices, this is the worship which are offered up by the righteous, or Christians, in the New
Testament, or the gate of the Lord.—They give thanks unto God, and they celebrate and praise him by preaching, by teaching, by singing, and by confessing. And these sacrifices are twofold. The one is, when we are humbled : concerning which David thus speaks, Ps. li. “ The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”
This is the great, full, perpetual, daily, and eternal sacrifice.-- When God, by his word, reproves us in all our works; when he rejects our holiness, our righteousness, our wisdom, and our strength, and pronounces them to be nothing, that we may be compelled to acknowledge ourselves to be sinners and guilty; when he brings home to us that word of his law, Rom. iii.; and when he not only reproves us by teaching, but terrifies our consciences and exercises us with tribulations of every kind, that we may be thoroughly cleansed, purged, and humbled, according to the old Adam which is under sin, until our confidence, pride, satisfaction, and hopes in our own works, and our own industry and wisdom, be wholly mortified. Which work, is indeed begun now, but will be perfected at the end of our life. He who can bear and endure this; who can continue and persevere therein; and who can celebrate and give thanks unto God for the same, firmly persuaded that God sends all these things upon him, and works them in him, with a favouring and paternal will, and with a special goodness towards him ;—such an one, can truly sing this verse, “I confess," or, “ I thank thee, Ó Lord, that thou humblest me.” The Psalmist does not say, The devil humbleth and affecteth me; but, “Thou, THOU (saith he) humbleth me.” This is thy good, merciful, and paternal will ;—that I may be humbled; and that, to my greatest good and blessedness; for, without thy will, Satan could have no power against me.
The other sacrifice is, when God afterwards comforts us, delivers us, and returns unto us, and comes as near unto our Spirit and new man, as he departs in distance from our flesh and old man; when he bestows upon us, in return, greater and fuller blessings, and gives us sure victory over our enemies, that we may be joyful before him and in him; as he saith, Psalm l.,
“ Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. Sacrifice unto the Lord the sacrifice of thanksgiving,” &c. He that does this, sings this verse, " I thank thee, O Lord, because thou becomest my salvation ; because thou hast holpen me with present help, and hast condescended to be my
Saviour. This also is a great, a daily, a perpetual, and an eternal, sacrifice of the godly, or the righteous, in the gate of the Lord. And this very sacrifice rejects and abolishes all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, which were types and figures of this sacrifice of praise. Moreover, the sacrifices of the Old Testament could be offered up as well by the ungodly, and hypocrites, as by the true saints. But these sacrifices of praise none can offer up and perform, but the godly and the righteous, or Christians. And this also experience has proved. For it is sufficiently evident, how the Jews raged in the times of the apostles, and what cruelties they exercised on this very account;—because their own righteousness was condemned. As, in these times, our justiciaries also, who promise to themselves and others salvation upon the ground of the merit of works, exercise a brutal tyranny, because their works and wisdom are rejected. They are unwilling to be humbled. Instead of offering the sacrifice of praise, they insult the godly, load them with abuses, persecute them, and murder them; and think, that this their cruelty and tyranny is a sacrifice and worship the most acceptable to God, John xvi.
The man, therefore, who is filled with joy sings this verse in exultation and gladness, with these feelings ; O Lord God, art not thou a wonderful and lovely God, who thus wonderfully, lovingly, and paternally defendest, governest, and guardest us! Thou exaltest when thou humblest us: thou makest us righteous, when thou shewest us we are sinners : thou raisest us up to heaven, when thou castest us down to hell : thou givest us the victory, when thou permittest us to be overcome: thou cheerest us and makest our cup to run over with joy,