Saturday, November 5, 2011

Anglican Homily on Salvation: Parts II and III

From our series of modern-language versions of the Anglican Homilies, this is the second and third part of the homily on Salvation.


Part II

In the first part of this homily, you heard from whom all men ought to seek their justification and righteousness, and how also this righteousness comes unto men by Christ’s death and merits. You also heard that three things are required to obtain our righteousness; that is, God’s mercy, Christ’s justice, and a true and a lively faith from which springs good works. It has also been declared that no man can be justified by his own good works, because no man fulfills all the requirements of the law. As St. Paul declares to the Galatians, “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law” (Galatians 3:21). And again he says, “If righteousness comes by the law, then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:21). And again he says, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). And furthermore he writes to the Ephesians as follows, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The sum of Paul’s argument is this: if justice comes of works, then it does not come of grace; and, if it comes of grace, then it does not come of works. And to this end all the Prophets preached, as St. Peter says: “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43).

Furthermore, all the ancient authors, both Greek and Latin, spoke of justification by true and lively faith in Christ. Let us look at three of these: Hilary, Basil, and Ambrose. St. Hilary says these words plainly in the ninth Canon on Matthew: “Faith only justifies.” And St. Basil, a Greek author, writes thus: “This is a perfect and a whole rejoicing in God, when a man does not boast in his own righteousness, but acknowledges himself to lack true justice and righteousness, and to be justified only by faith in Christ” (St. Basil’s Homily on Humility). He continues, “Paul glories in contempt of his own righteousness, and looks for the righteousness of God by faith (Philippians 3:9).” And St. Ambrose, a Latin author, says these words: “This is the ordinance of God, that he which believeth in Christ should be saved without works, by faith only, freely receiving remission of his sins.” Consider these words carefully. Without works, by faith only, freely we receive remission of our sins. What can be spoken more plainly than to say that freely, without works, by faith only, we obtain remission of our sins?

These and similar statements are found often in the best and ancient writers. Besides the passages quoted from Hilary, Basil, and St. Ambrose, we read the same in Origen, St. Chrysostom, St. Cyprian, St. Augustine, Prosper, Oecumenius, Photius, Bernardus, Anselm, and many other authors, Greek and Latin.

Nevertheless, when the ancient authors say that we are justified by faith only, they do not mean that justifying faith is alone in man without true repentance, hope, charity, dread, and fear of God, at any time or season. And when they say that we are justified freely, they do not mean that we should afterward be idle, with nothing else required of us. They certainly do not mean that being justified without our good works means that we should do no good works. Saying that we are justified by faith only, freely, and without works takes away all merit of our works, which are unable to deserve our justification at God’s hands, and it plainly expresses the weakness of man and the goodness of God, our great infirmity and God’s might and power, and the imperfectness of our own works and the most abundant grace of our Savior Christ. The merit and deserving of our justification is attributed to Christ only and His most precious bloodshedding. Holy Scripture teaches this faith, and this is the strong rock and foundation of Christian religion. All of the ancient authors of Christ’s Church approve this doctrine, which advances and sets forth the true glory of Christ, and beats down the vainglory of man, and whoever denies this doctrine is not to be counted for a true Christian man, nor for a promoter of Christ’s glory, but for an adversary of Christ and his Gospel, and for a promoter of men’s vainglory.

True indeed is this doctrine that we are justified freely without all merit of our own good works (as St. Paul states), and freely by this lively and perfect faith in Christ only (as the ancient authors wrote), yet this true doctrine must be also truly understood and most plainly declared, or else carnal men would unjustly take occasion to use this doctrine as an excuse to live carnally after the appetite and will of the world, the flesh, and the devil. To prevent this mistaken view of justification, the third part of this homily will set for a right understanding of this doctrine so that no man shall use it as an occasion of carnal liberty to follow the desires of the flesh or as an excuse to fall into greater sin or an ungodly lifestyle.

The first thing to note is that in our justification by Christ, it is not all one thing, the office of God unto man, and the office of man unto God. Justification is not the office of man, but of God, for man cannot make himself righteous by his own works, neither in part, nor in the whole; for it would be the greatest arrogance and presumption of man that Antichrist could devise, to affirm that a man might by his own works take away and purge his own sins, and so justify himself. Justification is the office of God only; and is not something we offer Him, but which we receive of Him; not which we give to him, but which we take of him, by his free mercy, and by the only merits of his most dearly beloved Son, our only Redeemer, Savior, and Justifier, Jesus Christ.

The doctrine that we are justified freely by faith without worksor that we are justified by faith in Christ onlydoes not mean that our own act of believing in Christ, or even the faith in Christ that is within us, is what justifies us or causes us to deserve justification. If that were the case, we could count ourselves to be justified by some act or virtue that is within ourselves. What it means is that, although we hear God’s Word and believe it, although we have faith, hope, charity, repentance, dread, and fear of God within us and do many good works, yet we must renounce the merit of all our virtues and good deeds that we have done, shall do, or can do, recognizing them as being far too weak, insufficient, and imperfect to deserve remission of our sins and our justification.

Therefore we must trust only in God’s mercy and in that sacrifice which our High Priest and Savior Christ Jesus, the Son of God, once offered for us upon the cross, to obtain thereby God’s grace and the remission of our original sin in baptism, as well as of all actual sin committed by us after our baptism, if we truly repent and sincerely turn to Him again. Although St. John Baptist was a virtuous and godly a man, yet in this matter of forgiving of sin he turned the people from himself and pointed them unto Christ, saying, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

Even so, as great and as godly a virtue as the lively faith is, it turns from itself, and points us unto Christ, for only by Him do we have remission of our sins or justification. So that our faith in Christ, as it were, says unto us thus: It is not I that take away your sins, but it is Christ only; and to Him only I send you for that purpose, forsaking all your good virtues, words, thoughts, and works, and only putting your trust in Christ.

Part III

In the previous parts of this homily it was plainly declared that no man can fulfill the law of God, and therefore by the law all men are condemned. As a result, it stands to reason that something else other than the law is required for our salvation, and that is a true and a lively faith in Christ, which brings forth good works and a life according to God’s commandments. You also heard the ancient authors’ teachings on justification declared so plainly that the true meaning of the statement, “We are justified by faith in Christ only,” is as follows: We put our faith in Christ, that we are justified by Him only, that we are justified by God’s free mercy and the merits of our Savior Christ only, and that we do not deserve it by any virtue or good work of our own that is in us, or that we are able to have or to do, Christ Himself only being the cause meritorious thereof.

Here you will notice many words have been used, to avoid contention with those who delight in bickering over words, and also to show the true meaning in order to avoid evil interpretations and misunderstanding. Yet perhaps even this effort will not quiet those who are contentious, for contenders will ever forge matters of contention, even when they have no occasion to do so. Nevertheless, such plain language offers less to dispute, so that all those may profit who are more desirous to know the truth when it is plain enough than to contend about it and obscure and darken it with pedantic arguments.

Truth it is that our own works do not justify us. In other words, our works do not merit remission of our sins, nor do they make us who are unjust, just before God. But God of His mere mercy justifies us through the only merits of His Son Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, because faith directs us to Christ for remission of our sins, and by faith given us by God we embrace the promise of God’s mercy and of remission of our sins, which could not be accomplished by any of our virtues or works, therefore Scripture states that faith justifies without works. And since the statement “Faith without works” is essentially the same as “Only faith justifies us,” the Church fathers sometimes used the latter statement to mean the same as St. Paul meant when he said that faith without works justifies us. And because all this is brought to pass through the only merits of our Savior Christ, and not through our merits, or through the merit of any virtue that we have within us or any work that comes from us, therefore, in that respect of merit and deserving, in a manner of speaking, we forsake our own faith, works, and all other virtues. For our own imperfection is so great, through the corruption of original sin, that all is imperfect that is within us, faith, charity, hope, dread, thoughts, words, and works, and therefore not apt to merit and deserve any part of our justification for us. And we speak in this way to humble ourselves before God and to give all the glory to our Savior Christ, who is most worthy to have it.

Here you have heard the office of God in our justification, and how we receive it of Him freely, by His mercy, though we do not deserve it, through true and lively faith. Now you shall hear the office and duty of a Christian man unto God, what we ought to return unto God for his great mercy and goodness. Our office is not to pass the time of this present life unfruitfully and idly after we are baptized or justified, not caring how few good works we do to the glory of God and profit of our neighbors. Much less it is our office, after we have been made members of Christ to live contrary to that calling, making ourselves members of the devil, walking after his enticements and after the suggestions of the world and the flesh; whereby we know that we serve the world and the devil rather than God. For that faith which brings forth, without repentance, either evil works or no good works is not a right, pure, and lively faith, but a dead, devilish, counterfeit, and feigned faith, as St. Paul and St. James call it. For even the devils know and believe that Christ was born of a virgin, that He fasted forty days and forty nights, and that He worked all kind of miracles, declaring himself very God. They also believe that Christ suffered most painful death for our sakes, to redeem us from everlasting death, and that He rose again from death the third day: they believe that He ascended into heaven, and that he sits on the right hand of the Father, and at the end of this world shall come again and judge both the living and the dead. These articles of our faith the devils believe; and so they believe all things written in the New and Old Testament to be true: and yet for all this faith they are still devils, remaining in their condemned estate, lacking the very true Christian faith. For the true Christian faith is not only to believe that Holy Scripture and all the previously mentioned articles of our faith are true, but also to have a sure trust and confidence in God’s merciful promises to be saved from everlasting damnation by Christ; and from this follows a loving heart to obey his commandments. No devil has this true Christian faith, nor does any man who in the outward profession of his mouth and in his outward receiving of the Sacraments, in coming to the church and in all other outward appearances seems to be a Christian man and yet in his living and deeds shows the contrary.

How can a man have this true faith, this sure trust and confidence in God, that by the merits of Christ his sins are forgiven and he is reconciled to the favor of God and made a partaker of the kingdom of heaven by Christ, when he lives ungodly and denies Christ in his deeds? Surely no such ungodly man can have this faith and trust in God. For just as they know Christ to be the only Savior of the world, so they know also that wicked men shall not enjoy the kingdom of God. They know that God hates unrighteousness and that He will destroy all those who speak untruly. They know that those who have done good works, which cannot be done without a lively faith in Christ, shall come forth into the resurrection of life, and those that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment. They also know well that to those who are contentious, and to those who will not be obedient unto the truth, but will obey unrighteousness, shall come indignation, wrath, affliction, and so forth.

Therefore, to conclude, we must consider the infinite benefits of God mercifully given unto us, though we did not deserve them. He not only created us out of nothing, and from a piece of vile clay, of his infinite goodness, has exalted us, with regard to our soul, unto His own likeness; but also, while we were condemned to hell and death everlasting, has given His own Son (who is God eternal, immortal, and equal unto Himself in power and glory) to be incarnated, and to take on our mortal nature with the infirmities of the same, and in the same nature to suffer most shameful and painful death for our offenses in order to justify us and to restore us to life everlasting; so making us also His dear beloved children, brothers to His only Son our Savior Christ and inheritors forever with Him of His eternal kingdom of heaven. These great and merciful benefits of God, if they are well considered, neither provide us occasion to be idle and to live without doing any good works, nor provoke us to do evil things. To the contrary, unless we are desperate persons with hearts harder than stones, they move us to render ourselves unto God wholly with all our will, hearts, might, and power. They move us to serve Him in all good deeds, obeying His commandments throughout our lives; to seek in all things his glory and honor, not our sensual pleasures and vainglory; and to live in dread of willingly offending such a merciful God and loving Redeemer in word, thought, or deed. The benefits of God, deeply considered, also move us for His sake to be ever ready to give ourselves to our neighbors, and to endeavor to do good to every man. These are the fruits of the true faith: to do good, as much as lies in us, to every man; and, above all things and in all things, to advance the glory of God, of whom only we have our sanctification, justification, salvation, and redemption. To Him be glory, praise, and honor, world without end. Amen.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Anglican Homily on Salvation: Part I

Another of our modern-language versions of the Anglican Homilies, this is the first part of the homily on Salvation.


Part I

Because all men are sinners and offenders against God, and breakers of His law and commandments, no one can by his own acts, works, and deeds, regardless of how good they are, be justified and made righteous before God. Everyone must seek another righteousness or justification to be received at God’s own hands, that is to say, the remission, pardon, and forgiveness of his sins and trespasses. And this justification or righteousness, which we so receive by God’s mercy and Christ’s merits, embraced by faith, is taken, accepted, and allowed of God for our perfect and full justification.

To better understand justification we must remember the great mercy of God; how that, when all the world was wrapped in sin by breaking of the law, God sent his only Son our Savior Christ into this world to fulfill the law for us, and by shedding of His most precious blood to make a sacrifice and satisfaction or (as it may be called) amends to His Father for our sins, to assuage His wrath and indignation conceived against us for the same. Infants, being baptized and dying in their infancy, are by Christ's sacrifice washed from their sins, brought to God’s favor, and made His children and inheritors of His kingdom of heaven. And all who commit sin after their baptism, when they turn again to God in sincerity, are likewise washed by this sacrifice from their sins so that there remains no spot of sin to be imputed to their damnation. This is that justification or righteousness of which St. Paul speaks when he says that no man is justified by the works of the law, but freely by faith in Jesus Christ, saying further, "We have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Gal. 2:16). Although this justification is free to us, it does not come so freely that no ransom is paid at all.

But this line of reasoning brings consternation. If a ransom is paid for our redemption, then it is not given to us freely. A prisoner who pays his ransom is not let go freely, for what does going freely mean unless to be set at liberty without payment of ransom? This difficulty is satisfied by the great wisdom of God in the mystery of our redemption, in that He has so tempered His justice and mercy together that He would neither by His justice condemn us unto the everlasting captivity of the devil and his prison of hell, remediless forever without mercy, nor by His mercy deliver us without justice or payment of a just ransom, but with His endless mercy He joined His perfect and equal justice. He showed us His great mercy in delivering us from our former captivity without requiring us to pay any ransom or make any amends; indeed, it was impossible for us to do so. And because we could not pay the price, He provided a ransom for us, the most precious body and blood of His own most dear and best beloved Son Jesus Christ; who, besides His ransom, fulfilled the law for us perfectly. And so the justice of God and His mercy embraced and fulfilled the mystery of our redemption. In Romans 3, St. Paul speaks of this justice and mercy of God knit together:
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-26)
He also speaks of it in Romans 10: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4) and in Romans 8:
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4)
In these Scriptures, the Apostle covers three things that must go together in our justification: upon God’s part, His great mercy and grace; upon Christ’s part, justice, that is, the satisfaction of God’s justice, or the price of our redemption by the offering of His body and shedding of his blood with fulfilling of the law perfectly and thoroughly; and upon our part, true and lively faith in the merits of Jesus Christ; which yet is not ours but by God’s working in us. So that our justification involves not only God’s mercy and grace, but also his justice, which the Apostle calls the justice of God; and it consists in paying our ransom and fulfilling of the law. Thus the grace of God does not shut out the justice of God in our justification, but only shuts out the justice of man, or more specifically, the justice of our works as merits deserving our justification.

St. Paul declares here nothing upon the behalf of man concerning his justification, but only a true and lively faith; which nevertheless is the gift of God, and not man’s only work without God. That faith, however, does not shut out repentance, hope, love, dread, and the fear of God, which all accompany  faith in everyone who is justified. These do not, however, accomplish justification. Similarly, that faith also does not shut out the justice of our good works, which are our duty towards God, commanded in Holy Scripture all the days of our life; but it excludes them so that we may not do them to the intent of being made good by doing them. For all the good works that we can do are imperfect, and therefore do not merit our justification. Rather, our justification comes freely, by the mere mercy of God. This mercy is so great and free mercy that even though no one in the whole world was able to pay even a part of the ransom, and none of us deserved to be ransomed, our heavenly Father was pleased to prepare for us the most precious jewels of Christ’s body and blood, by which our ransom might be fully paid, the law fulfilled, and His justice fully satisfied. As a result, Christ is now the righteousness of everyone who truly believes in Him. He paid their ransom by His death. He fulfilled for them the law in His life. Now in Him and by Him every true Christian may be called a fulfiller of the law. Whatever we lacked in our infirmity, Christ’s justice has supplied.

(Parts II and II to follow)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Anglican Homily on Holy Scripture

Here we provide the third in our series of modern-language versions of the Anglican Homilies. One of the hallmarks of Anglicanism is its emphasis on Holy Scripture, and this homily encourages every Christian, regardless of educational background, to "read, mark and inwardly digest" the Word of God. A PDF version of this homily, complete with all Scripture references, is available at this link.


Part I
To a Christian, nothing is either more necessary or more profitable than the knowledge of Holy Scripture, for it is God’s true Word, setting forth both His glory and man’s duty. Every truth and doctrine necessary for our justification and everlasting salvation can be drawn out of that fountain and well of truth. Therefore, all who desire to enter the right and perfect way unto God must apply their minds to know Holy Scripture. Without it they cannot adequately know God and His will, nor can they know their office and duty. As drink is pleasant to the thirsty and food to the hungry, so is the reading, hearing, searching, and studying of Holy Scripture to those who desire to know God and do His will, or to know themselves. By contrast, those who despise the heavenly knowledge and spiritual food of God’s Word show themselves to be so drowned in worldly vanities that they cannot savor God or godliness. It is for that very reason that they desire vanities rather than the true knowledge of God.

People who are sick with malaria find that whatever they eat or drink, no matter how good it may be, tastes as bitter as wormwood, not because the food is bitter, but because of their illness causes a corrupt and bitter disposition in their own tongue. In the same way, the sweetness of God’s word bitter, not of itself, but only unto those who have their minds corrupted with long custom of sin and love of this world. Therefore, let us forsake the company of those who follow after the flesh and instead reverently hear and read Holy Scripture, which is the food of the soul. Let us diligently search for the well of life in the books of the New and Old Testament, and not run to the stinking puddles of men’s traditions, devised by man’s imagination, for our justification and salvation. For in Holy Scripture is fully contained what we ought to do and what to avoid, what to believe, what to love, and what to expect at God’s hands. In those books we find the Father from whom, the Son by whom, and the Holy Ghost in whom all things have their being and are maintained.

In these books we also find these three Persons to be but one God and one substance. In these books we may learn to know ourselves, how vile and miserable we are, and also to know how good God is and how He makes us and all creatures to be partakers of His goodness. We may also learn in these books to know as much of God’s will and pleasure as is suitable for us to know at present. And, as the great cleric and godly preacher St. John Chrysostom says, “Whatsoever is required to salvation of man is fully contained in the Scripture of God. He that is ignorant may there learn and have knowledge. He that is hardhearted and an obstinate sinner shall there find everlasting torments prepared of God’s justice, to make him afraid, and to soften him. He that is oppressed with misery in this world shall there find relief in the promises of everlasting life, to his great consolation and comfort. He that is wounded by the devil unto death shall find there medicine, whereby he may be restored again unto health.” He further states that if there is need “to teach any truth or reprove false doctrine, to rebuke any vice, to commend any virtue, to give good counsel, to comfort, or to exhort, or to do any other thing requisite for our salvation; all those things,” says St. Chrysostom, “we may learn plentifully of the Scripture.” Similarly, “There is,” says Fulgentius, “abundantly enough both for men to eat and children to suck. There is whatsoever is suitable for all ages and for all degrees and sorts of men.”

Therefore, these books ought to be much in our hands, in our eyes, in our ears, in our mouths, but most of all in our hearts. For the Scripture of God is heavenly meat for our souls, the hearing and keeping of it makes us blessed, sanctifies us, and makes us holy. It converts our souls. It is a lantern to our feet. It is a sure, steadfast, and everlasting instrument of salvation. It gives wisdom to the humble and meek. It comforts, makes glad, cheers, and strengthens our consciences. It is a more excellent jewel or treasure than any gold or precious stone. It is sweeter than honey or honeycomb. It is called the best part, which Mary chose, for it has in it everlasting comfort. The words of Holy Scripture are called words of everlasting life for they are God’s instrument, ordained for the same purpose. They have power to convert through God’s promise, and they are effectual through God’s assistance; and being received in a faithful heart, they continue to perform a heavenly spiritual work. They are living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow. Christ calls him a wise builder who builds upon His Word, upon His sure and substantial foundation. By the Word of God we shall be judged, as Christ says: “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” He who keeps the Word of Christ is promised the love and favor of God, and that he shall be the dwelling place or temple of the blessed Trinity. Whoever is diligent to read the Word and to imprint upon his heart what he reads will have his affections for the transitory things of this world diminished and his great desire of heavenly things, which are therein promised of God, increased. There is nothing that so strengthens our faith and trust in God, that so supports innocence and purity of heart and also of outward godly life and conversation, as continual reading and understanding of God’s Word. For the message which by continual reading and diligent searching of Holy Scripture is deeply printed and engraved in the heart, will eventually seem to be a part of his own nature. Furthermore, the effect and benefit of God’s Word is to illuminate the ignorant and to give more light unto those who faithfully and diligently read it; to comfort their hearts, and to encourage them to do what God commands. It teaches patience in adversity and humility in prosperity. It teaches what honor is due unto God and what mercy and charity to our neighbor. It gives good counsel in uncertain matters. It shows to whom we should look for aid and help in all perils, and that God is the only Giver of victory in all battles and temptations of our enemies, both physical and spiritual.

In the reading of God’s Word, the one who profits most is not the one who can quickly locate passages or the one who can recite many passages by rote. Instead, the one who profits most is he who is most attuned to its message, who is most inspired with the Holy Ghost, whose heart and life are changed by what he reads in the Word. It is he who is daily less proud, less wrathful, less covetous, and less desirous of worldly and vain pleasures. It is he who daily, forsaking his old sinful life, increases in virtue more and more. In sum, there is nothing that more maintains godliness of the mind and drives away ungodliness than the continual reading or hearing of God’s Word, if it is accompanied by a godly mind and a desire to know and follow God’s will. For without a single eye, undivided in devotion to God, a pure intent, and a good mind, nothing is allowed for good before God. Conversely, nothing more darkens Christ and the glory of God, nor brings in more blindness and all kinds of vices, than ignorance of God’s Word.

Part II

In the first part of this Sermon, which is an exhortation to the knowledge of Holy Scripture, it was declared that the knowledge of the same is necessary and profitable to all men, and that by the true knowledge and understanding of Scripture the most necessary points of our duty towards God and our neighbors are also known. This matter will now be developed further.

If we profess Christ, why are we not ashamed to be ignorant of His doctrine? A man would be ashamed to be called a philosopher if he does not read the philosophy books; or to be called a lawyer, an astronomer, or a physician, who is ignorant in the books of those professions. How can any man then say that he professes Christ and his religion, if he will not apply himself, as much as he is able, to read and hear, and so to know, the books of Christ’s Gospel and doctrine? Although other sciences are good and should be learned, no man can deny that this is the chief of all learning, and incomparably passes all other knowledge. What excuse shall we therefore make at the last day before Christ, if we delight to read or hear men’s fantasies and inventions more than His most holy Gospel? What excuse shall we make if we will find no time to do that which chiefly, above all things, we should do; if we would rather read other things instead of the one thing for which we ought to lay aside reading of all other things? Let us therefore apply ourselves, as often have time and leisure, to know God’s Word by diligent hearing and reading thereof; as many as profess God, and have faith and trust in Him.

But those who show no affection for God’s Word commonly give one of two empty excuses. Some excuse themselves by their own frailty and fearfulness, saying that they dare not read Holy Scripture lest through their ignorance they should fall into any error. Others pretend that the difficulty of understanding it is so great that it is suitable to be read only by clergymen and scholars.

Regarding the first excuse, ignorance of God’s Word is actually the cause of all error, as Christ himself affirmed to the Sadducees, saying that they erred because they did not know the Scripture. How then can those who choose to be ignorant avoid error? And how will they come out of ignorance if they will neither read nor hear the very thing that will give them knowledge? He who now has the most knowledge was ignorant at first: yet he did not refrain from reading for fear he should fall into error; but he diligently read, lest he should remain in ignorance, and through ignorance in error. And, if you refuse to know the truth of God (a thing most necessary for you), lest you fall into error, by the same reasoning you must then lie still and never leave your house, for by going, you may fall in the mire. Similarly, you must not eat any good meat because you might overeat; nor will you sow your corn, nor labor in your occupation, nor use your merchandise, for fear you will lose your seed, your labor, your stock. By that line of reasoning, it would be best for you to live idly and never do any manner of good thing, because if you do, something bad might happen. But if you are still afraid that you will fall into error by reading of Holy Scripture, I will tell you how you may read it without danger of error. Read it humbly with a meek and lowly heart and for the purpose of glorifying God and not yourself with the knowledge of it. Daily pray to God that He would direct your reading to good effect; and do not try to expound it any further than you can plainly understand it. For, as St. Augustine says, the knowledge of Holy Scripture is a great, large, and a high palace, but the door is very low; so that the high and arrogant man cannot run in, but he must stoop low and humble himself that shall enter into it. Presumptuous arrogance is the mother of all error; humility needs fear no error. For humility will only search to know the truth; it will search and will bring together one passage with another; and, where it cannot find out the meaning, it will pray, it will ask of others who may know, and will not presumptuously and rashly define anything that it does not know. Therefore the humble man may search any truth boldly in the Scripture without any danger of error. And, if he is ignorant, he ought to read and to search Holy Scripture even more, to bring him out of ignorance. A man may prosper with only hearing the Word, but he will much more prosper with both hearing and reading.

Concerning the second excuse, the difficulty in understanding Scripture, he who is so weak that he is unable to bear strong meat may still consume the sweet and tender milk, and defer the rest until he grows stronger and more knowledgeable. For God receives the learned and unlearned, and casts away none, but is impartial unto all. And the Scripture contains enough low valleys, plain ways, and easy paths for every man to walk in, as  well as high hills and mountains that few men can climb. St. John Chrysostom says that whoever gives his mind to Holy Scriptures with diligent study and burning desire will not be left without help. For either God Almighty will send him some godly doctor to teach him, as he sent the Apostle Philip to instruct Eunuchus, a nobleman of Ethiopia and treasurer unto queen Candace, who had a great desire to read the Scripture, although he understood it not; or else, if we lack a learned man to instruct and teach us, yet God himself from above will give light unto our minds, and teach us those things which are necessary for us, and of which we are ignorant.

Chrysostom also says that man’s human and worldly wisdom or science is not what is needed for the understanding of Scripture, but the revelation of the Holy Spirit, who inspires the true meaning to those who with humility and diligence seek it. He who asks shall have, and he who seeks shall find, and he who knocks shall have the door open. If we read once, twice, or thrice, and do not understand, let us not cease, but continue reading, praying, asking of others; and so, by still knocking, the door will finally be opened, as St. Augustine says. Although many things in Scripture are spoken in obscure mysteries, nothing is obscure in one place that is not in other places spoken more familiarly and plainly so as to be understood by both the educated and uneducated.

Regarding those things in the Scripture that are plain to understand and necessary for salvation, every man’s duty is to learn them, to print them in memory, and effectually to exercise them. As for the dark mysteries, every man’s duty is to be contented to be ignorant in them until it pleases God to open those things unto him. In the meantime, if he lacks either the capacity or opportunity to learn these difficult matters, God will not consider him foolish. And those who are able to learn should not set aside reading, just because some others are not. Nevertheless, the reading of Scriptures ought not to be set aside simply because some passages are difficult. As St. Augustine says, by the Scripture all men be amended, weak men be strengthened, and strong men be comforted. So those who are enemies of the reading of God’s Word are either so ignorant that they do not know how wholesome it is, or else so sick that they hate the very medicine that would heal them, or so ungodly that they wish all people to continue in blindness and ignorance of God.

Thus we have briefly touched upon some of the products of God’s Holy Word, which is one of God’s principal benefits given and declared to mankind here on earth. Let us thank God heartily for this His great and special gift, beneficial favor, and fatherly providence. Let us be glad to stir up this precious gift of our heavenly Father. Let us hear, read, and know these holy rules, injunctions, and statutes of our Christian religion, upon which we made profession to God at our baptism. Let us with fear and reverence lay up in the treasure chest of our hearts these necessary and fruitful lessons. Let us night and day muse, meditate on, and contemplate them. Let us ruminate and as it were, chew the cud, that we may have the sweet juice, spiritual effect, marrow, honey, kernel, taste, comfort, and consolation of them. Let us calm, quiet, and certify our consciences with the most infallible certainty, truth, and perpetual assurance of them. Let us pray to God, the only Author of these heavenly studies, that we may speak, think, believe, live, and depart from here according to the wholesome doctrine and verities of them.

And by that means in this world we shall have God’s defense, favor, and grace, with the unspeakable solace of peace and quietness of conscience, and after this life of misery we shall enjoy the endless bliss and glory of heaven, which is granted to us all by Him who died for us all, Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and Holy Ghost be all honor and glory both now and forever. Amen.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The First Homily on the Coming of the Holy Spirit for Whitsunday

Provided below is the second in our series of modern language versions of the Anglican Homilies. It is the first of a two-part series for Pentecost. The author makes the interesting connection between the coming of the Holy Spirit and the giving of the Law, which is discussed as the original meaning of the Old Testament Feast of Pentecost. The sending of the Holy Spirit to dwell within the Church and lead us into all righteousness is the culmination of God's working in history to call unto Himself a people to be holy.

The PDF version of this homily, complete with footnotes and Scripture references is available at this link.

Before we declare the great and manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit with which the Church of God has been forever replenished, it is first necessary to discuss the origin of the feast of Pentecost or Whitsuntide. The feast of Pentecost was always kept the fiftieth day after Passover, a great and solemn feast among the Jews, in which they celebrated the memorial of their deliverance out of Egypt, and also the memorial of the publishing of the Law, which was given unto them on mount Sinai upon that day. This feast was first ordained and commanded to be kept holy, not by any mortal man, but by the mouth of the Lord himself; as we read in Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16. The place appointed for observing it was Jerusalem, where many people came from all parts of the world; as is evidenced in the second chapter of Acts, where mention is made of Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, and various other places. By this we may also partly gather what great and royal solemnity was customary in that feast.
This observance which was commanded of the Jews in the Old Testament was confirmed by our Savior Christ in the time of the Gospel. He ordained a new Pentecost for His disciples when he sent down the Holy Spirit visibly in form of cloven tongues like fire, and gave them power to speak so that everyone who heard would understand them in his own language. So that this miracle might be kept in perpetual remembrance, the Church has thought it good to solemnize and keep holy this day, commonly called Whitsunday. Just as the Law was given to the Jews on Mount Sinai the fiftieth day after Passover, so was the preaching of the Gospel through the mighty power of the Holy Spirit given to the Apostles on Mount Zion the fiftieth day after Easter. The number of days is how the feast came to be called “Pentecost,” for as St. Luke writes in the Acts of the Apostles, when fifty days were come to an end, the disciples being all together with one accord in one place, the Holy Spirit came suddenly among them, and sat upon each of them, like cloven tongues of fire. No doubt, this event occurred to teach the Apostles and all other men that it is He who gives eloquence and utterance in preaching the Gospel; that it is He who opens the mouth to declare the mighty works of God; that it is He who engenders a burning zeal toward God’s Word, and gives all men not just a tongue but a fiery tongue so that they may boldly and cheerfully profess the truth in the face of the whole world. Isaiah was endued with this same Spirit: “The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary.” The Prophet David cries out to have this gift, saying, “Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise.” Similarly, our Savior Christ says to His disciples, “It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” All of these testimonies of Holy Scripture sufficiently declare that the mystery of the tongues is a sign of the preaching of the Gospel and the open confession of the Christian faith in all who are in the control of the Holy Spirit. So that if any man remains silent and does not profess his faith openly, but cloaks and disguises himself for fear of danger in time to come, he gives others just cause to doubt that he has the grace of the Holy Spirit within him, because he is tongue tied and does not speak.
Having established that the Feast of Pentecost or Whitsuntide had its origin in the Old Testament and was continued in the New, let us consider what the Holy Spirit is and how He accomplishes His miraculous works towards mankind. The Holy Spirit is a spiritual and divine substance, the third Person in the Deity, distinct from the Father and the Son, and yet proceeding from them both. This truth is not only proclaimed in the Creed of Athanasius but may be also easily proved by God’s Holy Word. When Christ was baptized by John in the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit came down in the form of a dove and the Father thundered from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” In this passage, note three separate and distinct Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; who nevertheless are not three Gods, but one God. Likewise, when Christ first instituted and ordained the Sacrament of Baptism, He sent His disciples into the whole world, commanding them to baptize all nations in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He also says, “I will pray unto my Father, and he shall give you another Comforter.” Again, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me.” These and such other places in the New Testament so plainly and evidently confirm the distinction of the Holy Spirit from the other Persons in the Trinity that no man can possibly doubt it without blaspheming the everlasting truth of God’s Word. As for His proper nature and substance, it is altogether one with God the Father and God the Son, that is to say, spiritual, eternal, uncreated, incomprehensible, almighty; in sum, He is even God and Lord everlasting. Therefore, He is called the Spirit of the Father; therefore He is said to proceed from the Father and the Son; and therefore He was equally joined with them in the commission that the Apostles had to baptize all nations.
But as proof of these truths, it is necessary to mention the wonderful and heavenly works of the Holy Spirit, which plainly declare to the world His mighty and divine power. First, it is evident that He wonderfully governed and directed the hearts of the Patriarchs and Prophets in old time, illuminating their minds with the knowledge of the true Messiah, and giving them utterance to prophesy of things that should come to pass a long time after. For according to St. Peter, the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but the men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. And of Zacharias the high priest it is said in the Gospel that he, being full of the Holy Spirit, prophesied and praised God. So did also Simeon, Anna, Mary, and various others, to the great wonder and admiration of all men.
Moreover, was not the Holy Spirit a mighty worker in the conception and birth of Christ our Savior? St. Matthew says that the blessed Virgin was found with child of the Holy Spirit, before Joseph and she came together. And the angel Gabriel expressly told her that all of this would happen, saying, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you.” This is a marvelous matter: that a woman should conceive and bear a child without intimate knowledge of a man! But where the Holy Spirit works, nothing is impossible, as may further also appear by the inward regeneration and sanctification of mankind.
When Christ said to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” he was greatly amazed and began to reason with Christ, demanding how a man might be born when he is old. “Can he enter,” he asks, “into his mother’s womb again, and so be born anew?” Nicodemus is a living example of a fleshly, carnal man. He had little or no intelligence of the Holy Spirit, and therefore he bluntly asks how this thing could possibly be true. Yet if he had known the great power of the Holy Spirit, in that He inwardly works the regeneration and new birth of mankind, he would never have marveled at Christ’s words, but would have rather taken this occasion to praise and glorify God. Just as there are three separate and distinct Persons in the Deity, there are three separate and distinct offices among them: the Father to create, the Son to redeem, the Holy Spirit to sanctify and regenerate. Regarding these latter works, the more their operation is hid from our understanding, the more all men ought to be moved to wonder at the secret and mighty working of God’s Holy Spirit, which is within us. For it is the Holy Spirit and nothing else that kindles the minds of men, stirring up in their hearts good and godly actions that are in harmony with the will and commandment of God; otherwise, their own crooked and perverse nature would never have such inclinations. That which is born of the flesh, says Christ, is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Man of his own nature is fleshly and carnal, corrupt and wicked, sinful and disobedient to God, without any spark of goodness in him, without any virtuous or godly inclinations, only given to evil thoughts and wicked deeds: as for the works of the Spirit, the fruits of faith, charitable and godly inclinations, if anyone has these, they proceed only from the Holy Spirit, who is the only worker of our sanctification, and makes us new men in Christ Jesus. Did God’s Holy Spirit not miraculously work in the child David, when from a poor shepherd he became a royal prophet? Did God’s Holy Spirit not miraculously work in Matthew, sitting at the tax tables, when from a proud tax collector he became a humble and lowly Evangelist? And who would not be amazed to consider that Peter should become from a simple fisherman a chief and mighty Apostle, and Paul from a cruel and bloody persecutor, a faithful disciple of Christ to teach the Gentiles?
Such is the power of the Holy Spirit to regenerate men, and to bring them forth anew, so that they shall be nothing like the men that they were before. For Him, it is not enough to work the spiritual and new birth of man inwardly, unless He also dwells with him and abide in him.
St. Paul says, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” and “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” Again he says, “You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” In agreement with all of this is the doctrine of St. John, who similarly writes, “The anointing which you have received from Him abides in you.” And the doctrine of Peter says the same: “The spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” O what a comfort is this to the heart of a true Christian, to think that the Holy Spirit dwells within him! If God be with us, as the Apostle says, who can be against us?
But some may ask, How shall I know that the Holy Spirit is within me? Indeed, as the tree is known by its fruit, so is also the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Holy Spirit, according to St. Paul, is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance, and so forth. By contrast, the deeds of the flesh are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissention, heresies, envy, murder, drunkenness, gluttony, and the like. Here is the mirror in which you must behold yourself to discern whether you have the Holy Spirit within you, or the spirit of the flesh. If you see that your works are virtuous and good, consistent with the decree of God’s Word, savoring and tasting not of the flesh but of the Spirit, then assure yourself that you are endued with the Holy Spirit: otherwise in thinking well of yourself you only deceive yourself.
The Holy Spirit always declares Himself by His fruitful and gracious gifts, namely by the word of wisdom; by the word of knowledge, which is the understanding of the Scriptures; by faith, in doing of miracles; by healing those who are diseased; by prophecy, which is the declaration of God’s mysteries; by discerning of spirits, diversity of tongues, interpretation of tongues, and so forth. All of these gifts, proceeding from one Spirit and given to man according to the measurable distribution of the Holy Spirit, rightfully cause men to appreciate God’s divine power. Who will not marvel at what is written in the Acts of the Apostles, to hear their bold confession before the council at Jerusalem, and to consider that they went away with joy and gladness, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer rebukes and reproaches for the Name and faith of Christ Jesus? This was the mighty work of the Holy Spirit; who, because He gives patience and joyfulness of heart in temptation and affliction, has worthily obtained the name Comforter. Who will not also be astonished to read the learned and heavenly sermons of Peter and the other disciples, considering that they never received a formal education, but were called straight from their fishing nets to fulfill the office of Apostle? This transformation was the mighty work of the Holy Spirit; who, because He instructs the hearts of the simple in the true knowledge of God and His Holy Word, is accurately called the Spirit of truth.
Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History tells a strange story of an educated and intelligent philosopher, who, being an extreme adversary to Christ and His doctrine, could by no means of persuasion be converted to the faith, but was easily able to withstand all the arguments that could be brought against him. Eventually a poor simple man of small wit and less knowledge, reputed among the learned as a dullard, came forward in God’s Name to dispute with this proud philosopher. The bishops and other educated men standing by were amazed at his attempt, thinking that he would fail and put them to open shame. Nevertheless, he began in the Name of the Lord Jesus and quite opposite of expectations, he brought the philosopher to the point that he could not choose but acknowledge the power of God in his words, and to give place to the truth. Was it not miraculous that one feeble, uneducated soul could accomplish what many bishops of great knowledge and understanding were not able to do? So true is Bede’s observation that “where the Holy Spirit doth instruct and teach, there is no delay at all in learning.” Much more could be told of the manifold gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, which are most excellent and wonderful in our eyes, but there is not time to recount them all. Seeing you have heard the main points, you may easily deduce the rest.
The question that remains is whether all who boast and brag that they have the Holy Spirit truly prove that they have these gifts and graces. This will be the topic of the next part of this Homily. In the meantime let us, as we are obligated to do, give hearty thanks to God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ for sending down this Comforter into the world; humbly beseeching him so to work in our hearts by the power of this Holy Spirit that we, being regenerate and newly born again in all goodness, righteousness, sobriety, and truth, may in the end be made partakers of everlasting life in his heavenly kingdom through Jesus Christ our only Lord and Savior. Amen.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Richard Hooker's Sermon on Justification

This is not a book review but a sermon review. As anyone will tell you who has known me very long, I’m very committed to the concept of justification by faith only, which is part of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. Yet I’m afraid that some today are equating faith in Jesus for righteousness with faith in the doctrine of justification. We have linked Richard Hooker’s excellent sermon on Justification as a free download in PDF format. You will delight in this short read, and I trust that it will help you:

--The Very Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Homily for Good Friday Concerning the Death and Passion of Our Savior Jesus Christ

The following is an attempt to bring into modern English the first half of the Anglican Homily for Good Friday. The two Books of Homilies are mentioned in the Thirty-nine Articles as being "godly and wholesome doctrine and necessary for these times." Although that statement was written more than 400 years ago, it is our contention that the messages contained in the Homilies are so Scripturally based that they are necessary as well for THESE times. As time permits, we will provide additional homilies, in hopes that returning to our heritage will help us to preserve our Anglican identity. All of the Homilies are available online at Footstool Publications. For a PDF version of the post below, complete with footnotes for Scripture references, click here.

Beloved in Christ, it would not be suitable for us, having been redeemed from the devil, from sin and death, and from everlasting damnation, to let this day pass without meditating upon the excellent work of our redemption accomplished on that first Good Friday through the great mercy and love of our Savior Jesus Christ for us, even though we were wretched sinners and His mortal enemies. If we would take care to remember what a mortal man has done for the benefit of his country, how much more should we remember the benefit of Christ’s death, through which He has purchased the sure pardon and forgiveness of our sins, and through which He made us to be at one with our Father in heaven, who has accepted us as not only His loving children, but also with His only Son Jesus Christ, fellow heirs of the kingdom of heaven!

Christ’s kindness appears even greater to us when we consider that it pleased Him to divest Himself of all the godly honor that He held equally with His Father in heaven, and to come down into this vale of misery to be made a mortal man. Furthermore, He came in the state of a lowly servant, serving us for our profit, even though we were His sworn enemies who had renounced His holy law and followed the lusts and sinful pleasures of our corrupt nature. Despite all this, Christ put Himself between God’s deserved wrath and our sin, to expunge the charge that was against us, by which we were in danger to God. He paid our debt, a debt so great that we could never pay it, and without payment, God the Father could never be at one with us. It was not possible for us to be set free from this debt by our own ability. Therefore, Christ was pleased to pay it, completely settling our account.

Who could even consider the grievous debt of sin that could not be paid except by the death of an innocent, without hating sin in his heart? If God hates sin so much that neither man nor angel could pay the price of redemption—only the death of His only and well-beloved Son—who will not stand in fear of sin? If we, my friends, consider that for our sins this most innocent Lamb was driven to death, we shall have much more cause to grieve that we were the cause of His death than to cry out of the malice and cruelty of the Jews who were there that day to pursue Him to His death. We did the deeds for which He was stricken and wounded: they were only the ministers of our wickedness.

It is appropriate, then, for us to thoroughly examine our hearts and mourn our own wickedness and sinful living. If the most dearly beloved Son of God was stricken for sins He did not commit, how much more ought we to be punished for the manifold sins which we commit against God daily, if we do not earnestly repent, and if we are not sorry for them! No man can love sin, which God hates so much, and be in God’s favor. No man can say that he truly loves Christ while maintaining friendship with sin, which is Christ’s great enemy and the author of His death. Our love for God and Christ is equal to our hatred for sin. Therefore, we should take care not to favor sin, or else we will be found enemies to God and traitors to Christ. For those who nailed Christ to the cross are not His only tormentors and crucifiers; rather, everyone who commits immorality and sin (which brought Him to His death) crucifies again the Son of God.

If the wages of sin is death and death is everlasting, surely it is no small danger to be in service of sin. If we live according to the flesh and the sinful lusts thereof, we shall surely die, as Almighty God warns us through the words of St. Paul. The only way we can live to God is to die to sin. As St. Paul says,

And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

But, if sin rules and reigns in us, then God, who is the fountain of all grace and virtue, has departed from us; then the devil and his ungracious spirit has dominion over us. And surely, if we die in such a miserable state, we shall not rise to life, but fall down to eternal death and damnation.

For Christ has not redeemed us from sin so that we may safely return to it again; instead, He has redeemed us so that we should forsake every sinful deed and live in righteousness. We are therefore washed in our baptism from the filthiness of sin that we should live thereafter in purity of life. In baptism we promised to renounce the devil and his influence, and we promised to be, as obedient children, always following God’s will and pleasure. Then, if He is truly our Father, let us give Him His due honor. If we are His children, let us freely show Him our obedience, just as Christ openly declared His obedience to His Father, for as St. Paul writes, Christ was obedient even to the very death, the death of the cross. And He did this for all who believe in Him. Jesus Christ was not punished for any sins of His own, for He was pure and undefiled by any sin. He was wounded, says Isaiah, for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities. He suffered the penalty of them Himself, to deliver us from danger. Isaiah says that He bore all our sores and infirmities upon His own back: no pain did He refuse to suffer in His own body so that He might deliver us from pain everlasting. It was His pleasure to do this for us: we did not deserve it.

As a result, the more we see ourselves bound to God, the more we ought to thank Him and the more hope we have that we shall receive all other good things of His hand, in that we have received the gift of His only Son through His liberality. For as St. Paul says, He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? If we need any thing either for body or soul, we may lawfully and boldly approach God as our merciful Father, to ask what we desire, and we shall obtain it. For such power is given us to be the children of God, to as many as believe in Christ’s name. Whatever we ask in His name will be granted. For Almighty God the Father is so well pleased with Christ His Son that for His sake He favors us and will deny us nothing. This sacrifice and oblation of His Son’s death, which He so obediently and innocently suffered, was so pleasing to God that He was willing to take it for the only and full amends for all the sins of the world. And such favor did Christ purchase by His death from His heavenly Father for us that for the merit thereof (if we are true Christians indeed, and not in word only) we are now fully in God’s grace again, and clearly discharged from our sin.

Surely no tongue is able to express the worthiness of so precious a death! For in this stands the continual pardon of our daily offenses, in this rests our justification, in this we are accepted, in this is purchased the everlasting health of all our souls; indeed, there is nothing else that can be named under heaven to save our souls except for this work of Christ’s precious offering of His body upon the altar of the cross. Certainly no work of any mortal man, no matter how holy, can be added to the merits of 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 imperfect when compared with Christ’s righteousness. For in His acts and deeds there was no spot of sin or any imperfection (which is why they could be the true amends of our unrighteousness), whereas our acts and deeds are full of imperfection and infirmities, and therefore nothing worthy of themselves to stir God to any favor, much less to challenge the glory that is due to Christ’s act and merit: for “Not to us,” says David, “Not to us, but to thy Name give the glory, O Lord.”

Let us therefore, good friends, glorify His Name with all reverence; let us magnify and praise Him forever. For He has dealt with us according to His great mercy; by Himself He has purchased our redemption. He did not spare Himself and send an angel to do this deed. Instead, He did it Himself so that He might do it the better, and make it the more perfect redemption. Not even the intolerable pains that He suffered in the whole course of His long passion could turn Him from His purpose of doing good to His enemies, but He opened His heart for us, and gave Himself wholly to ransom us. Let us therefore now open our hearts again to Him, and study in our lives to be thankful to such a Lord, and always to be mindful of so great a benefit.

In fact, 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 endurance. For, if Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, how should it not be appropriate for us to bear patiently our small crosses of adversity and the troubles of this world? For surely, as St. Peter says, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” And, if we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him. Not that the sufferings of this life are worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us, but we should gladly be content to suffer, to be like Christ in our life, so that by our works we may glorify our Father in heaven. And, even though it is painful and grievous to bear the cross of Christ in the sorrows and unhappiness of this life, doing so brings forth the joyful fruit of hope in all who endure this discipline. Let us not focus on the pain so much as the reward that shall follow that labor. Rather, let us strive in our suffering to endure innocently and guiltlessly, as our Savior Christ did. For, if we suffer for our own faults, then we would be expected to endure without complaint: “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently?” But, if we suffer loss of goods and life through no fault of our own, if we suffer to be evil spoken of, for the love of Christ, this is “commendable before God,” for that is how Christ suffered.

He never sinned; neither was there any guile found in His mouth. Even 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 who judges rightly.

Perfect patience cares not what or how much it suffers, nor of whom it suffers, whether of friend or foe; but seeks to suffer innocently and without deserving. The one who possesses perfect charity cares so little for revenge that he studies how to return good for evil, to bless and say well of those who curse him, to pray for those who persecute him, according to the example of our Savior Christ, who is the most perfect example and pattern of all meekness and patience. For even while He was hanging upon the cross in most fervent anguish, bleeding in every part of His blessed body, being set in the midst of His enemies and crucifiers, who mocked and scorned Him despitefully without compassion, even though they saw how terribly He was suffering, Jesus Christ had towards them such compassion of heart that He prayed to His Father of heaven for them, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” What patience He also showed when one of His own trusted Apostles and servants came to betray Him to His enemies to the death! He said nothing worse to him than, “Friend, why have you come?”

Thus, good people, we should call to mind the great examples of charity which Christ showed in His passion, if we are to profit by remembering His passion. We should bear the same sort of charity and love to one another, if we want to be true servants of Christ. As He says, “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?” We must be more perfect in our charity than this, even as our Father in heaven is perfect, who makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. In this same way, we should show our charity impartially, as well to one as to another, as well to friend as foe, like obedient children, after the example of our good Father in heaven. For, if Christ was obedient to His Father even to the death, and even to the most shameful death (as the Jews esteemed it), the death of the cross, why should not we be obedient to God in lesser points of charity and patience?

Let us therefore forgive our neighbors their small faults, as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us our great faults. It is not fitting that we should desire God to forgive our great offences while we refuse to forgive the small trespasses of our neighbors against us. We call for mercy in vain if we will not show mercy to our neighbors. For if we will not banish wrath and displeasure toward our Christian brother from our hearts, God will not forgive the displeasure and wrath that our sins have deserved of Him. For under this condition God forgives us: that we forgive others. It is not suitable for Christian men to be hardhearted to one another or to think their neighbor unworthy to be forgiven. For no matter how unworthy your neighbor may be, Christ is worthy to have you do much for His sake: He has deserved it of you that you should forgive your neighbor. And God is also to be obeyed, who commands us to forgive, if we will have any part of the pardon which our Savior Christ purchased of God the Father by shedding His precious blood. Nothing becomes Christ’s servants so much as mercy and compassion.

Let us then be merciful to one another and pray one for another, that we may be healed from all frailties of our life, that we may reduce the opportunities to offend one another, and that we may be of one mind and one spirit, agreeing together in brotherly love and concord, as dear children of God. By these means we will move God to be merciful to us for our sins. Furthermore, such behavior will prepare us to receive our Savior and Maker in His blessed Sacrament to the everlasting comfort and health of our souls. Christ delights to enter and to dwell in that soul where love and charity rule, and where peace and concord are seen. As St. John writes, “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” And by this, he says, we shall know that we are of God, if we love our brothers. Furthermore, by this shall we know that we have been delivered from death to life, if we love one another. But he who hates his brother, says the same Apostle, abides in death, 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 remains in hatred) by God and all His heavenly company. For just as peace and charity make us the blessed children of Almighty God, hatred and envy make us the cursed children of the devil.

May God give us all the grace to follow Christ’s example in peace and charity, in patience and endurance, so that we may have Him as our guest to enter and dwell within us. By this, we may have full assurance, having such a pledge of our salvation. If we have Him and His favor, we may be sure that we have the favor of God by His means. For He sits on the right hand of His Father as our advocate and attorney, pleading and interceding for us in all our needs and necessities. Therefore, if we lack any gift of godly wisdom, we may ask it of God for Christ’s sake, and we shall have it.

Let us examine ourselves to determine what we lack in the virtue of charity and patience. If we see that our hearts are not inclined to forgive those who have offended against us, then let us acknowledge our lack and pray that God will supply what is needed. But, if we lack this virtue and still see in ourselves no desire to have it, we are truly in a dangerous case before God and need to pray earnestly that God will change our hearts, grafting in a new one. For unless we forgive others, we shall never be forgiven of God. No, not all the prayers and merits that others may offer can pacify God’s wrath toward us, unless we are at peace and in unity with our neighbor: not all our deeds and good works can move God to forgive us our debts to Him unless we forgive others. He values mercy more than sacrifice. Mercy moved our Savior Christ to suffer for His enemies; it is right for us to follow His example. For it will profit us little to meditate on the fruits and price of His passion, to magnify them, and to delight in them and trust them, if we do not also intend to follow His examples in passion. If we remember Christ’s death and will hold fast to it with faith for the merit of it, and will also frame ourselves so as to give ourselves and all that we have by charity for the good of our neighbor, as Christ spent Himself wholly for our profit, then we truly remember Christ’s death; and, being thus followers of His steps, we shall surely follow Him to where He sits now with the Father and the Holy Ghost, to whom be all honor and glory. Amen.