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stories, wherein is mentioned the impotency of the devil. And at this time we have a story written by a Spaniard in the Latin tongue, and affirmed by many godly and well learned men, which story happened in a town of Germany, where a poor husbandman, lying sore sick and ready to die, they that kept him company in the chamber, where he lay, saw a man of great stature and very horrible to look upon, his eyes being all fiery, coming into the chamber. This terrible devil, turning himself unto the sick body, said ; “Sir, thou must die this day, and I am come hither to fetch thy soul, for that pertaineth unto me.”
The sick man answered with a good countenance, saying, “I am ready to depart, whensoever I shall be called of my Lord, which gave unto me my soul, and put the same into my body; therefore unto him only I will deliver it, and not unto thee, for he hath delivered my soul from thy power, with the precious blood of his only Son."
Then said the devil, “ Thou art laden with many sins, and I am come hither to write them together.” And forthwith he drew out of his bosom pen, ink, and paper, setting himself at the table, that stood there ready to write upon.
The sick man, hearing his mind, and perceiving his intent, said, “ I know myself to be laden with many sins, but yet I believe that the same are taken away through the passion and suffering of Christ, through whom I stedfastly believe that the heavenly Father is pleased with me'; but yet if thou wilt write my sins, thou mayst do it, and then write thus, that all my righteousness is as a filthy cloth, therefore I cannot stand in the judgment of God.”
The devil sitting at the table wrote this with a good will, and desired the sick man to go forward in confessing and numbering his sins. Then the
sick man, alleging the Scripture, saith, “ The eternal and living God promised, saying, “ For *mine own sake only, I take away your iniquities.' Further, thou, O God, hast promised, that though our sins be as red as scarlet, thou wilt make them às white as snow."
But these words he wrote not, but instantly desired him to go forward, as he had begun. Then the sick man with great sorrow and heaviness cried out, saying, “ The Son of God appeared to that end, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” And after these words the devil vanished out of sight, and shortly after, the sick man departed unto the living God.
Here, you see how the devil will go to work with us when we are sick, therefore let us learn now, when we are in health, to know God and his word, that we may withstand this horrible enemy, knowing that we shall have the victory through Christ, our Saviour, in whom and by whom God is pleased with us, and taketh in good part all our doings.
We have a common saying amongst us, "Every thing is, as it is taken.” We read of King Henry the Seventh, at a time as he was served witb a cup of drink, a gentleman that brought the cup, in making obeisance, the cover fell to the ground, the King, seeing his folly, saith, “ Sir, is this well done?” -“ Yea, Sir,” said he, “ if your Majesty take it well.” With this pretty answer the King was pacified.
So is it with us, as touching our salvation. Our works are imperfect, but God taketh the same well for Christ's sake. He will not impute unto us the imperfectness of our works, for all our imperfections and sins are drowned in the blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ : and whosoever believeth the same stedfastly shall not perish. But we must be sure of
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it, we may not doubt, but be certain that Christ hath destroyed the works of Satan ; that is, he has taken his power from him, so that he can do us no more harm. And we must certainly believe his promises, which are, that we shall have life everlasting in beliving in him, and being sure of his promises, then are we sure of our salvation. Here you see, that we must seek our salvation, not in our works, but in Christ. For if we look upon our works, we shall never be sure ; as I said before, they will be evil and imperfect, and evil works deserve anger ; and imperfect works are punishable, and not acceptable, and therefore they deserve no heaven, but rather punishment. But you will
say, “Seeing we can get nothing with good works, we will do nothing at all, or else do such works, as shall best please us, seeing we shall have no reward for our well doings.” I answer, we are commanded by God's word to apply ourselves to goodness, every one in his calling: but we must not do it to the end to deserve heaven thereby, we must do good works, to shew ourselves thankful for all his benefits, which he has poured upon us, and in respect of God's commandment, considering that God willeth us to do well, not to make a merit of it; for this were a denying of Christ, to say, will live well and deserve heaven." This is a damnable opinion ; let us rather think thus, “ I will live to shew myself thankful towards my loving God, and Christ my redeemer.”
Further, in this Gospel is to be noted the earnestness of these three men, which were but Gentiles, as you have heard before. These men were not double-hearted, speaking one thing with their tongues, and thinking another thing in their hearts. No, they are none such, but they openly profess wherefore they come, and say,
" Where is this new
.-SERMON ON ST. LUKE, ii. 42. 457 burn king of the Jews ? for we have seen his star, and are come to worship him." This is a great matter for them to do. For the Jews at that time had a king whose name was Herod, not a Jew born, but an Idumean, which was not their lawful nor natural king, but somewhat with craft and subtlety, and somewhat with power, he had gotten the crown and the kingdom.
Now, the men came inquiring for the lawful king, which was newly born ; which thing they could not do without danger of their lives. But here appeareth, that faith feareth no danger. They had seen the star, and they were sure and certain in their hearts that the King of all kings was born, and they believed that this king was able to deliver them out of trouble, and this confidence and faith in God made them hearty to go and inquire without any dissembling for this new king, not fearing the old, &c.
Herod, hearing this news, was much troubled, for he was afraid the matter would go against him, and that he should be thrust out of his seat, which had been a great displeasure unto him. For he was not minded to give place to any other king with his good will. And also the citizens were sore dismayed, for they would rather have rest and quietness and serve the old, than to receive the new, with peril of their goods and bodies. So we see at this day, where his Gospel is preached and this new king proclaimed, there are more, which had rather be in quietness and serve the devil, than stand in jeopardy of their lives and serve God, and so they esteem this world more than God, his word, and their own salvation.
The said Herod, as soon as he heard these tidings, sent for the bishops and learned men, and inquired of them, where Christ should be born. The bishops were well seen in the prophets and the law, and made answer forthwith, that Christ should be born in Bethlehem. Herod, hearing that, sent for the wise men to examine them better of the matter, asking them, what time they had seen the star. And after that he had reasoned enough with them, he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.”
See what a crafty fox this Herod was, as our Saviour called him! He made a pretence, like as if he were willing to give over his kingdom, and to give place unto the new king. Such was his pretence outwardly. But his heart was poisoned with the poison of cruelty and ambition, so that he was minded to have killed the child, as soon as he might get him ; which, his intent, appeared afterward. For he, hearing that the wise men were returned another way into their country, sent by and by his guard, and killed all the children that were two years of age and under at Bethlehem, and in the country, But for all his cruelty God was able to preserve Christ that he should not be slain amongst these children. Therefore, the angel giveth Joseph warning, that he should go into Egypt.
Here, learn to trust in God, for “ against the Almighty prevaileth "no counsel.” This Herod thought himself wiser than God and the whole world : yet for all that he was much deceived, for he could neither destroy the wise men nor Christ, with all his wit and counsel; the Lord that sitteth above, laughed him to scórn, he brought his counsel to nought, and he delivered them out of his hands. So undoubtedly he will do with us. He will deliver us out of all our troubles, and from all our enemies, whensoever they shall oppress us, if we do put our trust in him,