All Saints Anglican  All Saints’ Church
Greenville, SC REC Reformed Episcopal ACNA Anglican Church in North America Parish 1928 BCP 1928 Book of Common Prayer Divine Hours Daily Offices Breviary terce sext compline prime vespers

Book 2; Homily 13

Homily 2.13, On the Passion; For Good Friday Book 2; Homily 13

Homilies Appointed to Be Read in Churches

Second Book, Homily xiii.


AN HOMILY

FOR GOOD FRIDAY, CONCERNING THE DEATH AND

PASSION OF OUR SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST.

The Former Part. The Great Mercy and Goodness of Our Saviour.

I

T SHOULD not become us, well beloved in Christ, being that people which he redeemed from the devil, from sin and death, and from everlasting damnation by Christ to suffer this time to pass forth without any meditation and remembrance of that excellent work of our redemption wrought as about this time through the great mercy and charity of our Saviour Jesus Christ, for us wretched sinners and his mortal enemies. For if a mortal man’s deed done to the behoof [advantage] of the commonwealth be had in remembrance of us with thanks for the benefit and profit which we receive thereby, how much more readily should we have in memory this excellent act and benefit of Christ’s death, whereby he hath purchased for us the undoubted pardon and forgiveness of our sins, whereby he made at one the Father of heaven with us in such wise that he taketh us now for his loving children and for the true inheritors, with Christ his natural son of the kingdom of heaven!

And verily so much more doth Christ’s kindness appear unto us in that it pleased him to deliver himself of all his goodly honour which he was equally in with his Father in heaven, and to come down into this vale of misery to be made mortal man and to be in the state of a most low servant, serving us for our wealth and profit; “us”, I say, which were his sworn enemies, which had renounced his holy law and commandments and followed the lusts and sinful pleasures of our corrupt nature. And yet, I say, did Christ put himself between God’s deserved wrath, and our sin, and rend that obligation wherein we were in danger to God and paid our debt (Colossians 2.14)! Our debt was a great deal too great for us to have paid. And without payment, God the Father could never be at one with us. Neither was it possible to be loosed from this debt by our own ability. It pleased him therefore to be the payer thereof and to discharge us quite.

Hate sin.

Who can now consider the grievous debt of sin which could none otherwise be paid but by the death of an innocent and will not hate sin in his heart! If God hateth sin so much that he would allow neither man nor angel for the redemption thereof but only the death of his only and well beloved Son, who will not stand in fear thereof? If we, my friends, consider this, that for our sins this most innocent Lamb was driven to death, we shall have much more cause to bewail ourselves that we were the cause of his death than to cry out of the malice and cruelty of the Jews, which pursued him to his death.

We did the deeds wherefore he was thus stricken and wounded; they were only the ministers of our wickedness. It is meet then, we should step low down into our hearts and bewail our own wretchedness and sinful living. Let us know for a certainty that if the most dearly beloved Son of God was thus punished and stricken for the sin which he had not done himself, how much more ought we sore to be stricken for our daily and manifold sins which we commit against God, if we earnestly repent us not and be not sorry for them? No man can love sin which God hateth so much and be in his favour. No man can say that he loveth Christ truly and have his great enemy (sin I mean, the author of his death) familiar and in friendship with him. So much do we love God and Christ as we hate sin.

We ought therefore to take great heed that we be not favourers thereof, lest we be found enemies to God and traitors to Christ. For not only they which nailed Christ upon the cross are his tormentors and crucifiers, but all “they”, saith St. Paul “crucify again the Son of God” (Hebrews 6.6), as much as is in them who do commit vice and sin which brought him to his death. If the wages of sin be death and death everlasting (Romans 6.23), surely it is no small danger to be in service thereof. If we live after the flesh and after the sinful lusts thereof, St. Paul threateneth, yea Almighty God in St. Paul threateneth, that we “shall surely die” (Romans 8.13). We can none otherwise live to God but by dying to sin. If Christ be in us, then is sin dead in us; and if the Spirit of God be in us which raised Christ from death to life, so shall the same Spirit raise us to the resurrection of everlasting life (Romans 8.10-11). But if sin rule and reign in us, then is God, which is the fountain of all grace and virtue, departed from us, then hath the devil and his ungracious spirit rule and dominion in us (Romans 1). And surely if in such miserable state we die, we shall not rise to life but fall down to death and damnation, and that without end.

Christ hath not redeemed us from sin that we should live in sin.

For Christ hath not so redeemed us from sin that we may safely return thereto again, but he hath redeemed us that we should forsake the motions thereof and live to righteousness. Yea, we be therefore washed in our baptism from the filthiness of sin that we should live afterward in the pureness of life. In baptism we promised to renounce the devil and his suggestions, we promised to be (as obedient children) always following God’s will and pleasure. Then if he be our Father indeed, let us give him his due honour. If we be his children, let us show him our obedience, like as Christ openly declared his obedience to his Father, which as St. Paul writeth, “was obedient even to the very death, the death of the cross” (Philippians 2.8).

And this he did for us all that believe in him. For himself he was not punished, for he was pure and undefiled of all manner of sin. “He was wounded”, saith Esay, “for our wickedness and stripped for our sins” (Isaiah 53.5); he suffered the penalty of them himself to deliver us from danger. “He bare”, saith Esay, “all our sores and infirmities upon his own back” (v. 4). No pain did he refuse to suffer in his own body that he might deliver us from pain everlasting. His pleasure it was thus to do for us — we deserved it not. Wherefore the more we see ourselves bound unto him, the more he ought to be thanked of us, yea, and the more hope may we take that we shall receive all other good things of his hand, in that we have received the gift of his only So, through his liberality. For if God saith St. Paul, hath “not spared his own Son from pain and punishment, but delivered him for us all unto the death: how should he not give us all other things with him” (Romans 8.32)?

If we want anything either for body or soul, we may lawfully and boldly approach to God as to our merciful Father to ask that we desire — and we shall obtain it. For such power is given to us to be the children of God, “so many as believe in Christ’s name” (John 1.12). In his name whatsoever we ask, we shall have it granted us (Matthew 21.22). For so well pleased is the Father Almighty God with Christ his Son, that for his sake he favoureth us and will deny us nothing. So pleasant was this sacrifice and oblation of his Son’s death which he so obediently and innocently suffered, that we should take it for the only and full amends for all the sins of the world.

And such favour did he purchase by his death of his heavenly Father for us, that for the merit thereof (if we be true Christians indeed, and not in word only), we be now fully in God’s grace again and clearly discharged from our sin. No tongue surely is able to express the worthiness of this so precious a death. For in this standeth the continual pardon of our daily offences, in this resteth our justification, in this we be allowed, in this is purchased the everlasting health of all our souls. Yea, there is none other thing that can be named under heaven to save our souls, but this only work of Christ’s precious offering of his body upon the altar of the cross (Acts 4.12).

Certes [certainly] there can be no work of any mortal man (be he never so holy), that shall be coupled in merits with Christ’s most holy act. For no doubt, all our thoughts and deeds were of no value if they were not allowed in the merits of Christ’s death. All our righteousness is far unperfect if it be compared with Christ’s righteousness. For in his acts and deeds, there was no spot of sin or of any unperfectness.

Our deeds be full of imperfection.

And for this cause they were the more able to be the true amends of our righteousness, where our acts and deeds be full of imperfection and infirmities, and therefore nothing worthy of themselves to stir God to any favour, much less to challenge that glory that is due to Christ’s act and merit. For “not to us”, saith David, “not to us, but to thy name give the glory, O Lord” (Psalm 115.1). Let us therefore, good friends. with all reverence glorify his name, let us magnify and praise him forever. For he hath dealt with us according to his great mercy, by himself hath he purchased our redemption (Hebrews 1.3). He thought it not enough to spare himself and to send his angel to do this deed, but he would do it himself, that he might do it the better and make it the more perfect redemption.

He was nothing moved with the intolerable pains that he suffered in the whole course of his long passion to repent him thus to do good to his enemies; but he opened his heart for us and bestowed himself wholly for the ransoming of us. Let us therefore now open our hearts again to him, and study in our lives to be thankful to such a Lord, and evermore to be mindful of so great a benefice, yea let us take up our cross with Christ, and follow him.

His passion is not only the ransom and whole amends for our sin, but it is also a most perfect example of all patience and sufferance. For if it behoved Christ thus to suffer and to enter into the glory of his Father (Acts 17.3), why should it not become us to bear patiently our small crosses of adversity and the troubles of this world? For surely as saith St. Peter, “Christ therefore suffered to leave us an example to follow his steps” (1 Peter 2.21). And if we suffer with him, we shall be sure also to reign with him in heaven (2 Timothy 2.12). Not that the sufferance of this transitory life should be worthy of that glory to come (Romans 8.18), but gladly should we be contented to suffer to be like Christ in our life, that so by our works we may glorify our Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5.16).

And as it is painful and grievous to bear the cross of Christ in the griefs and displeasures of this life, so it bringeth forth the joyful fruit of hope in all them that be exercised therewith (Hebrews 12.11). Let us not so much behold the pain as the reward that shall follow that labour (James 5.11). Nay, let us rather endeavour ourselves in our sufferance to endure innocently and guiltless, as our Saviour Christ did. For if we suffer for our deservings, then hath not patience his perfect work in us; but if undeservedly we suffer loss of goods and life, if we suffer to be evil spoken of for the love of Christ, this is thankful afore God, for so did Christ suffer (1 Peter 2.20).

The patience and meekness of Christ.

He never did sin, neither was any guile found in his mouth. Yea when he was reviled with taunts, he reviled not again. When he was wrongfully dealt with, he threatened not again, nor revenged his quarrel, but delivered his cause to him that judgeth rightly. Perfect patience careth not what nor how much it suffereth, nor of whom it suffereth, whether of friend or foe; but studieth to suffer innocently and without deserving.

Yea, he in whom perfect charity is careth so little to revenge that he rather studieth to do good for evil, to bless and say well of them that curse him, to pray for them that pursue him (Matthew 5.44), according to the example of our Saviour Christ, who is the most perfect example and pattern of all meekness and sufferance, which hanging upon his cross in most fervent anguish bleeding in every part of his blessed Body, being set in the midst of his enemies and crucifiers. And he, notwithstanding the intolerable pains which they saw him in, being of them mocked and scorned despitefully without all favour and compassion, had yet towards them such compassion in heart, that he prayed to his Father of heaven for them and said, “O Father, forgive them, for they wot not [do not know] what they do” (Luke 23.34). What patience was it also which he showed when one of his own apostles and servants which was put in trust of him, came to betray him unto his enemies to the death? He said nothing worse to him, but, “Friend, wherefore art thou come” (Matthew 26.50)?

Love and forgive one another.

Thus, good people, should we call to mind the great examples of charity which Christ showed in his passion, if we will fruitfully remember his passion. Such charity and love should we bear one to another, if we will be the true servants of Christ. For if we love but them which love and say well by us, what great thing is it that we do, saith Christ? Do not the paynims [Jews and Muslims] and open sinners so (Matthew 5.46-47)? We must be more perfect in our charity than thus, even as our Father in heaven is perfect, which maketh the light of his sun to rise upon the good and the bad, and sendeth his rain upon the kind and unkind (v. 45). After this manner should we show our charity indifferently: as well to one as to another, as well to friend as foe, like obedient children after the example of our Father in heaven. For if Christ was obedient to his Father even to the death, and that the most shameful death — as the Jews esteemed it — the death of the cross (Philippians 2.8), why should we not be obedient to God in lower points of charity and patience? Let us forgive then our neighbours their small faults, as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven us our great (Ecclesiasticus 28.2).

Forgiveness.

It is not meet that we should crave forgiveness of our great offences at God’s hands and yet will not forgive the small trespass of our neighbours against us. We do call for mercy in vain if we will not show mercy to our neighbours (Matthew 18.35). For if we will not put wrath and displeasure forth of our hearts to our Christian brother, no more will God forgive the displeasure and wrath that our sins have deserved afore him. For under this condition doth God forgive us if we forgive other. It becometh not Christian men to be hard one to another, nor yet to think their neighbour unworthy to be forgiven. For howsoever unworthy he is, yet is Christ worthy to have the do thus much for his sack, he hath deserved it of the, that thou shouldst forgive thy neighbour.

And God is also to be obeyed which commandeth us to forgive, if we will have any part of the pardon which our Saviour Christ purchased once of God the Father, by shedding of his precious blood. Nothing becometh Christ’s servants so much, as mercy and compassion. Let us then be favourable one to another and pray we one for another, that we may be healed from all frailties of our life (James 5.16); the less to offend one the other and that we may be of one mind and one spirit, agreeing together in brotherly love and concord, even like the dear children of God (Ephesians 5.12).

By these means shall we move God to be merciful unto our sins, yea, and we shall be hereby the more ready to receive our Saviour and Maker in his blessed sacrament to our everlasting comfort and health of soul. Christ delighteth to enter and dwell in that soul where love and charity rule, and where peace and concord are seen. For thus writeth St. John, “God is charity; he that abideth in charity, abideth in God and God in him” (1 John 4.16). “And by this”, saith he “we shall know that we be of God, if we love our brethren” (1 John 5.2-3). Yea, and by this shall we know that we be delivered from death to life, if we love one another. But “he which hateth his brother”, saith the same apostle “abideth in death” (1 John 3.14), even in the danger of everlasting death, and is moreover the child of damnation and of the devil, cursed of God, and hated (so long as he so remaineth) of God and all his heavenly company (1 John 2.11). For as peace and charity make us the blessed children of Almighty God, so do hatred and envy make us the cursed children of the devil.

Pray for godly wisdom and let us examine ourselves.

God give us all grace to follow Christ’s examples in peace and in charity, in patience and sufferance, that we now may have him our Guest to enter and dwell within us so as we may be in full surety, having such a pledge of our salvation. If we have him and his favour, we may be sure that we have the favour of God by his means. For he sitteth on the right hand of God his Father as our Proctor and Attorney, pleading and suing for us in all our needs and necessities (Romans 8.34).

Wherefore if we want any gift of godly wisdom, we may ask it of God for Christ’s sake and we shall have it. Let us consider and examine ourselves in what want we be concerning this virtue of charity and patience. If we see that our hearts be nothing inclined thereunto in forgiving them that have offended against us, then let us knowledge our want and wish to God to have it. But if we want it and see in ourselves no desire thereunto, verily we be in a dangerous case before God and have need to make much earnest prayer to God that we may have such an heart changed to the grafting in of a new.

For unless we forgive other, we shall never be forgiven of God. No, not all the prayers and good works of other can pacify God unto us, unless we be at peace and at one with our neighbour. Nor all our deeds and good works can move God to forgive us our debts to him except we forgive to other. He setteth more by mercy than by sacrifice. Mercy moved our Saviour Christ to suffer for his enemies; it becometh us then to follow his example. For it shall little avail us to have in meditation the fruits and price of his passion to magnify them and to delight or trust in them, except we have in mind his examples in passion to follow them.

If we thus therefore consider Christ’s death and will stick thereto with fast faith for the merit and deserving thereof, and will also frame ourselves in such wise to bestow ourselves and all that we have by charity to the behoof [advantage] of our neighbour as Christ spent himself wholly for our profit, then do we truly remember Christ’s death. And being thus followers of Christ’s steps, we shall be sure to follow him thither where he sitteth now with the Father and the Holy Ghost; to whom be all honour and glory. Amen.


THE SECOND HOMILY

CONCERNING THE DEATH AND PASSION OF OUR SAVIOUR CHRIST.

The Principal Cause wherefore He Suffered Death.

T

HAT we may the better conceive the great mercy and goodness of our Saviour Christ in suffering death universally for all men, it behooveth us to descend into the bottom of our conscience and deeply to consider the first and principal cause wherefore he was compelled so to do. When our great grandfather Adam had broken God’s commandment in eating the apple forbidden him in paradise at the motion and suggestion of his wife, he purchased thereby not only to himself but also to his posterity forever the just wrath and indignation of God who, according to his former sentence pronounced at the giving of the commandment, condemned both him and all his to everlasting death, both of body and soul (Genesis 3.17). For it was said unto him, “Thou shalt eat freely of every tree in the garden; but as touching the tree of knowledge of good and ill, thou shalt in no wise eat of it. For in what hour soever thou eatest thereof, thou shalt die the death” (Genesis 2.1617). Now as the Lord had spoken, so it came to pass.

The Law cannot deliver man from the everlasting pains of hellfire.

Adam took upon him to eat thereof, and in so doing he died the death; that is to say, he became mortal, he lost the favour of God, he was cast out of Paradise, he was no longer a citizen of heaven but a firebrand of hell and a bondslave to the devil. To this doth our Saviour bear witness in the Gospel, calling us lost sheep which have gone astray and wandered from the true Shepherd of our souls (Luke 15.47). To this also doth St. Paul bear witness, saying, “That by the offence of only Adam, death came upon all men to condemnation” (Romans 5.18). So that now neither he or any of his had any right or interest at all in the kingdom of heaven, but were become plain reprobates and castaways, being perpetually damned to the everlasting pains of hellfire.

In this so great misery and wretchedness, if mankind could have recovered himself again and obtained forgiveness at God’s hands, then had his case been somewhat tolerable because he might have attempted some way how to deliver himself from eternal death. But there was no way left unto him, he could do nothing that might pacify God’s wrath, he was altogether unprofitable in that behalf. There was not one that did good, no not one.

And how then could he work his own salvation? Should he go about to pacify God’s heavy displeasure by offering up burnt sacrifices, according as it was ordained in the old Law by offering up the blood of oxen, the blood of calves, the blood of goats, the blood of lambs, and so forth (Hebrews 9.12-13)? O these things were of no force nor strength to take away sins, they could not put away the anger of God, they could not cool the heat of his wrath nor yet bring mankind into favour again. They were but only figures and shadows of things to come and nothing else. Read the Epistle to the Hebrews; there shall ye find this matter largely discussed, there shall ye learn in most plain words that the bloody sacrifice of the old Law was unperfect and not able to deliver man from the state of damnation by any means (Hebrews 10.34, 8), so that mankind in trusting thereunto should trust to a broken staff and in the end deceive himself.

What should he then do? Should he go about to serve and keep the Law of God divided into two tables and so purchase to himself eternal life? Indeed, if Adam and his posterity had been able to satisfy and fulfil the Law perfectly in loving God above all things and their neighbour as themselves, then should they have easily quenched the Lord’s wrath and escaped the terrible sentence of eternal death pronounced against them by the mouth of Almighty God. For it is written, “Do thus and thou shalt live” (Luke 10.28); that is to say, “Fulfil my commandments, keep thyself upright and perfect in them according to my will, then shalt thou live and not die.”

Here is eternal life promised with this condition and so that they keep and observe the Law. But such was the frailty of mankind after his fall, such was his weakness and imbecility that he could not walk uprightly in God’s commandments though he would never so fain, but daily and hourly fell from his bounden duty, offending the Lord his God divers ways to the great increase of his condemnation, insomuch that the prophet David crieth out on this wise: “All have gone astray, all are become unprofitable, there is none that doeth good, no not one” (Psalm 14.3). In this case what profit could he have by the Law? None at all. For as St. James saith, “He that shall observe the whole Law and yet faileth in one point is become guilty of all” (James 2.10). And in the Book of Deuteronomy it is written, “Cursed be he”, saith God “which abideth not in all things that are written in the book of the Law, to do them” (Deuteronomy 27.26).

Behold, the Law bringeth a curse with it and maketh it guilty not because it is of itself naught or unholy (God forbid we should so think), but because the frailty of our sinful flesh is such that we can never fulfil it according to the perfection that the Lord requireth. Could Adam then, think ye, hope or trust to be saved by the Law? No he could not. But the more he looked on the Law, the more he saw his own damnation set before his eyes as it were in a clear glass.

For Christ hath borne our offences.

So that now of himself he was most wretched and miserable, destitute of all hope, and never able to pacify God’s heavy displeasure nor yet to escape the terrible judgement of God whereunto he and all his posterity were fallen by disobeying the strait commandment of the Lord their God. But “O the abundant riches of God’s great mercy! O the unspeakable goodness of his heavenly wisdom” (Romans 11.33)! When all hope of righteousness was passed on our part, when we had nothing in ourselves whereby we might quench his burning wrath, and work the salvation of our own souls, and rise out of the miserable estate wherein we lay, then, even then, did Christ the Son of God by the appointment of his Father come down from heaven to be wounded for our sakes, to be reputed with the wicked, to be condemned unto death, to take upon him the reward of our sins and to give his body to be broken on the cross for our offences.

“He”, saith the prophet Esay, meaning Christ, “hath borne our infirmities and hath carried our sorrows, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we were made whole” (Isaiah 53.45). St. Paul likewise saith, “God made him a sacrifice for our sins which knew not sin, that we should be made the righteousness of God by him” (2 Corinthians 5.21). And St. Peter most agreeably writing in this behalf saith, “Christ hath once died and suffered for our sins, the just for the unjust”, &c. (1 Peter 3.18). To these might be added an infinite number of other places to the same effect, but these few shall be sufficient for this time.

Ponder the cause of his death.

Now then (as it was said at the beginning), let us ponder and weigh the cause of his death that thereby we may be the more moved to glorify him in our whole life. Which if ye will have comprehended briefly in one word, it was nothing else on our part but only the transgression and sin of mankind. When the angel came to warn Joseph that he should not fear to take Mary to his wife, did he not therefore will the child’s name to be called Jesus, because he should save his people from their sins? When John the Baptist preached Christ and showed him to the people with his finger, did he not plainly say unto them, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world” (John 1.29)? When the woman of Canaan besought Christ to help her daughter which was possessed with a devil, did he not openly confess that he was sent to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel by giving his life for their sins (Matthew 15.22, 24)? It was sin then, O man, even thy sin, that caused Christ the only Son of God to be crucified in the flesh and to suffer the most vile and slanderous death of the cross.

If thou hadst kept thyself upright, if thou hadst observed the commandments, if thou hadst not presumed to transgress the will of God in thy first father Adam, then Christ, being in form of God, needed not to have taken upon him the shape of a servant (Romans 5.19). Being immortal in heaven, he needed not to become mortal on earth; being the true Bread of the soul, he needed not to hunger; being the healthful Water of Life he needed not to thirst; being Life itself, he needed not to have suffered death. But to these and many other such extremities was he driven by thy sin, which was so manifold and great that God could be only pleased in him and none other.

Canst thou think of this, O sinful man, and not tremble within thyself? Canst thou hear it quietly without remorse of conscience and sorrow of heart? Did Christ suffer his passion for thee and wilt thou show no compassion towards him? While Christ was yet hanging on the cross and yielding up the Ghost, the scripture witnesseth that the veil of the temple did rend in twain and the earth did quake that the stones clave asunder, that the graves did open, and the dead bodies rise (Matthew 27.51-52).

And shall the heart of man be nothing moved to remember how grievously and cruelly he was handled of the Jews for our sins? Shall man show himself to be more hardhearted than stones, to have less compassion than dead bodies?

See in thy mind his cruel death.

Call to mind, O sinful creature, and set before thine eyes Christ crucified. Think thou seest his body stretched out in length upon the cross, his head crowned with sharp thorns and his hands and his feet pierced with nails, his heart opened with a long spear, his flesh rent and torn with whips, his brows sweating water and blood? Think thou hearest him now crying in an intolerable agony to his Father and saying, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me” (Matthew 27.46, Mark 15.34)? Couldst thou behold this woeful sight or hear this mournful voice without tears, considering that he suffered all this not for any desert of his own, but only for the grievousness of thy sins?

O that mankind should put the everlasting Son of God to such pains! O that we should be the occasion of his death and the only cause of his condemnation! May we not justly cry, “Woe worth the time that ever we sinned”? O my brethren, let this image of Christ crucified be always printed in our hearts, let it stir us up to the hatred of sin, and provoke our minds to the earnest love of Almighty God!

For why? Is not sin, think ye, a grievous thing in his sight, seeing for the transgressing of God’s precept in eating of one apple he condemned all the world to perpetual death and would not be pacified, but only with the blood of his own Son? True, yea most true, is that saying of David, “Thou, O Lord, hatest all them that work iniquity, neither shall the wicked and evil man dwell with thee” (Psalm 5.4). By the mouth of his holy prophet Esay, he cried mainly out against sinners, and saith, “Woe be unto you that draw iniquity with cords of vanity and sin as it were with cart-ropes” (Isaiah 5.18). Did not he give a plain token how greatly he hated and abhorred sin when he drowned all the world save only eight persons (Genesis 7.23), when he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrha with fire and brimstone (Genesis 19.24), when in three days space he killed with pestilence threescore and ten thousand for David's offence (2 Sam. 24.15), when he drowned Pharao and all his host in the red sea (Exodus 14.28), when he turned Nabuchodonosor the king into the form of a bruit beast creeping upon all four (Daniel 4.33), when he suffered Achitophel and Judas to hang themselves upon the remorse of sin, which was so terrible to their eyes (2 Sam. 17.23, Acts 1.18)? A thousand such examples are to be found in scripture if a man would stand to seek them out.

Christ hath freed us from the condemnation we deserve.

But what need we? This one example which we have now in hand is of more force and ought more to move us than all the rest. Christ, being the Son of God and perfect God himself who never committed sin, was compelled to come down from heaven to give his body to be bruised and broken on the cross for our sins. Was not this a manifest token of God’s great wrath and displeasure towards sin, that he could be pacified by no other means but only by the sweet and precious blood of his dear Son? O sin, sin, that ever thou shouldst drive Christ to such extremity! Woe worth the time that ever thou camest into the world. But what booteth [profit] it now to bewail? Sin is come, and so come that it cannot be avoided. There is no man living; no, not the justest man on the earth but he falleth seven times a day as Salomon saith (Proverbs 24.16). And our Saviour Christ, although he hath delivered us from sin, yet not so that we shall be free from committing sin, but so that it shall not be imputed to our condemnation.

He hath taken upon him the just reward of sin which was death, and by death hath overthrown death that we believing in him might live forever and not die (Romans 6.9, 23). Ought not this to engender extreme hatred of sin in us, to consider that it did violently, as it were, pluck God out of heaven to make him feel the horrors and pains of death? O that we would sometimes consider this in the midst of our pomps and pleasures, it would bridle the outrageousness of the flesh, it would abate and assuage our carnal affections, it would restrain our fleshly appetites that we should not run at random as we commonly do! To commit sin wilfully and desperately without fear of God is nothing else but to crucify Christ anew, as we are expressly taught in the Epistle to the Hebrews (v. 6.6). Which thing if it were deeply printed in all men’s hearts, then should not sin reign everywhere so much as it doth to the great grief and torment of Christ now sitting in heaven.

Let us therefore remember and always bear in mind Christ crucified, that thereby we may be inwardly moved both to abhor sin throughly and also with an earnest and zealous heart to love God. For this is another fruit which the memorial of Christ’s death ought to work in us — an earnest and unfeigned love towards God. “So God loved the world”, saith St. John, “that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have life everlasting” (John 3.16). If God declared so great love towards us his silly creatures, how can we of right but love him again? Was not this a sure pledge of his love to give us his own Son from heaven? He might have given us an angel, if he would, or some other creature — and yet should his love have been far above our deserts!

Now he gave us not an angel, but his Son. And what Son? His only Son, his natural Son, his well beloved Son, even that Son whom he had made Lord and Ruler of all things. Was not this a singular token of great love? But to whom did he give him? He gave him to the whole world, that is to say, to Adam and all that should come after him. O Lord, what had Adam or any other man deserved at God’s hands that he should give us his own Son? We are all miserable persons, sinful persons, damnable persons, justly driven out of Paradise, justly excluded from heaven, justly condemned to hellfire; and yet (see a wonderful token of God’s love), he gave us his only begotten Son to us, I say, that were his extreme and deadly enemies, that we by virtue of his blood shed upon the cross might be clean purged from our sins and made righteous again in his sight.

Love God for that he spared not his Son to die for thee.

Who can choose but marvel to hear that God should show such unspeakable love towards us that were his deadly enemies? Indeed, O mortal man, thou oughtest of right to marvel at it and to acknowledge therein God’s great goodness and mercy towards mankind which is so wonderful that no flesh, be it never so worldly wise, may well conceive it or express it. For as St. Paul testifieth, “God greatly commendeth and setteth out his love towards us, in that he sent his Son Christ to die for us, when we were yet sinners and open enemies of his name” (Romans 5.8). If we had in any manner of wise deserved it at his hands, then had it been no marvel at all — but there was no desert on our part wherefore he should do it.

Therefore thou sinful creature, when thou hearest that God gave his Son to die for the sins of the world, think not he did it for any desert or goodness that was in thee, for thou wast then the bondslave of the devil. But fall down upon thy knees, and cry with the prophet David, “O Lord, what is man that thou art so mindful of him? or the son of man that thou so regardest him” (Psalm 8.4)? And seeing he hath so greatly loved thee, endeavour thyself to love him again “with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength” that therein thou mayest appear not to be unworthy of his love (Matthew 22.37, Mark 12.30, Luke 10.27).

I report me to thine own conscience whether thou wouldst not think thy love ill bestowed upon him that could not find in his heart to love thee again? If this be true (as it is most true), then think how greatly it behooveth thee in duty to love God which hath so greatly loved thee that he hath not spared his own only Son from so cruel and shameful a death for thy sake. And hitherto concerning the cause of Christ’s death and passion, which as it was on our part most horrible and grievous sin, so on the other side it was the free gift of God proceeding of his mere and tender love towards mankind, without any merit or desert of our part. The Lord for his mercy’s sake grant that we never forget this great benefit of our salvation in Christ Jesu, but that we always show ourselves thankful for it, abhorring all kind of wickedness and sin and applying our minds wholly to the service of God and the diligent keeping of his commandments.

With an unwavering faith in Christ, we apply Christs’ death to our wound.

Now it remaineth that I show unto you how to apply Christ’s death and passion to our comfort as a medicine to our wounds, so that it may work the same effect in us wherefore it was given; namely, the health and salvation of our souls. For as it profiteth a man nothing to have salve unless it be well applied to the part infected, so the death of Christ shall stand us in nor force unless we apply it to ourselves in such sort as God hath appointed. Almighty God commonly worketh by means, and in this thing he hath also ordained a certain mean whereby we may take fruit and profit to our soul’s health.

What mean is that? Forsooth it is faith, not an unconstant or wavering faith, but a sure, steadfast, grounded, and unfeigned faith. “God sent his Son into the world”, saith St. John, to what end? “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have life everlasting” (John 3.16). Mark these words: that whosoever believeth in him.

Here is the mean[s] whereby we must apply the fruits of Christ’s death unto our deadly wound. Here is the mean whereby we must obtain eternal life, namely faith. For as St. Paul teacheth in his epistle to the Romans, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10.10). Paul, being demanded of the keeper of the prison what he should do to be saved, made this answer: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, so shalt thou and thine house both be saved” (Acts 16.30-31). After the evangelist had described and set forth unto us at large the life and the death of the Lord Jesus, in the end he concludeth with these words: “These things are written that we may believe Jesus Christ to be the son of God and through faith obtain eternal life” (John 20.31).

Faith unto salvation.

To conclude with the words of St. Paul, which are these: “Christ is the end of the Law unto salvation for every one that doth believe” (Romans 10.4). By this then, ye may well perceive that the only mean[s] and instrument of salvation required of our parts is faith; that is to say, a sure trust and confidence in the mercies of God. Whereby we persuade ourselves that God both hath and will forgive our sins, that he hath accepted us again into his favour, that he hath released us from the bonds of damnation and received us again into the number of his elect people, not for our merits or deserts but only and solely for the merits of Christ’s death and passion, who became man for our sakes and humbled himself to sustain the reproach of the cross that we thereby might be saved and made inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.

This faith is required at our hands. And this if we keep steadfastly at our hearts, there is no doubt but we shall obtain salvation at God’s hands as did Abraham, Isahac, and Iacob of whom the scripture saith that they believed and it was imputed unto them for righteousness (Genesis 15.6, Romans 4.3). Was it imputed unto them only? And shall it not be imputed unto us also? Yes, if we have the same faith as they had, it shall be as truly imputed unto us for righteousness as it was unto them. For it is one faith that must save both us and them, even a sure and steadfast faith in Christ Jesus who as ye have heard came into the world for this end, that “whosoever believe in him, should not perish, but have life everlasting” (John 3.16).

But here we must take heed that we do not halt with God through an unconstant and wavering faith, but that it be strong and steadfast to our lives’ end. “He that wavereth”, saith St. James, “is like a wave of the sea, neither let that man think that he shall obtain anything at God’s hands” (James 1.6-7). Peter coming to Christ upon the water, because he fainted in faith was in danger of drowning. So we, if we begin to waver or doubt it is to be feared lest we shall sink as Peter did (Matthew 14.29-30), not into the water but into the bottomless pit of hellfire. Therefore I say unto you that we must apprehend the merits of Christ’s death and passion by faith and that with a strong and steadfast faith, nothing doubting, but that Christ by his own oblation, and once offering of himself upon the cross, hath taken away our sins, and hath restored us again into God’s favour, so fully and perfectly, that no other sacrifice for sin shall hereafter be requisite or needful in all the world.

Conclusion.

Thus have ye heard in few words the mean whereby we must apply the fruits and merits of Christ’s death unto us, so that it may work the salvation of our souls, namely: a sure, steadfast, perfect, and grounded faith. For as all they which beheld steadfastly the brasen serpent were healed and delivered at the very sight thereof from their corporal diseases and bodily stings (Numbers 21.9), even so all they which behold Christ crucified with a true and lively faith (John 3.14-15) shall undoubtedly be delivered from the grievous wound of the soul, be they never so deadly or many in number.

Therefore, dearly beloved, if we chance at anytime through frailty of the flesh to fall into sin (as it cannot be chosen, but we must needs fall often), and if we feel the heavy burden thereof to press our souls, tormenting us with the fear of death, hell, and damnation, let us then use that mean[s] which God hath appointed in his word, to wit: the mean of faith which is the only instrument of salvation now left unto us. Let us steadfastly behold Christ crucified with the eyes of our heart. Let us only trust to be saved by his death and passion and to have our sins clean washed away through his most precious blood, that in the end of the world when he shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead, he may receive us into his heavenly kingdom and place us in the number of his elect and chosen people, there to be partakers of that immortal and everlasting life which he hath purchased unto us by virtue of his bloody wounds; to him, therefore, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.



Website Builder