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say) if faith alone be sufficient, then the devil himself alis will be saved: for he believes that “ God is," and that
he rewards all that do good works, and that seek him. And he believes too that God became man, and suf
fered death upon the cross,' &c.—We answer: We deorr. sire such, not to permit this very great and deep .wis
dom of theirs to raise indignation in their minds. For we also know it very well to be true, that the devil does believe all these things. But we call upon you, ye very
wise ones, to tell us, -Does the devil believe that God this is God and Lord unto him for his salvation ? that he is
a rewarder of his good works ? that he was made man,
crucified, dead, and buried for him? Here all their malet mouths are stopped! And be they as many as they
may, they are compelled to answer in the negative, and cannot find one iota of the scripture to bring against
us. Wherefore, it is not enough to believe that “God ő is,” that Christ suffered death, and all those things. But
turbe argument falls to the ground !
thou must conceive an undoubting faith, that God is God unto thee for thy salvation! That Christ underwent injuries, death, and the cross, and rose again for thee!
and that therefore, thy sins are transferred to him, as it he was foretold by the prophet, Isaiah liii. The devil has
no faith whatever of this kind !-- Therefore, their whole
When, therefore, faith is exalted above works, it is on this account.--A man, before he can do any work that is good, must first be justified ; before that, he can do nothing good; for that word of Paul, Rom. xiv. is truth incontrovertible, “ Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Moreover, this justification is by faith only; for faith is the beginning thereof; which takes place thus. -When God promises any thing to him “ that believeth and is baptized,” Mark xvi., that man immediately takes hold of that promise, knows it to be sure, and directs all the powers of his mind unto it; firmly believing that it was set before him of God for his good; and upon this oracle of God he so builds his mind, as to doubt not at all that it will be fulfilled ; knowing, that if he bring it into a doubt, it is all over with him, as
has been observed before. In this way this man rests on God; undoubtingly believing, that God, as he has thus gratuitously bound himself unto us by his promises, will of grace be faithful to those promises.—By this faith, the man is justified, as Paul saith, Gal. iii. concerning Abraham, "Abraham believed in God, and it was counted to him for righteousness." God does not so much regard what great works we do, but always looks at our faith, how great that ie. Between works there is no difference in the sight of God; those which appear great, and those which appear small unto us, are, in his sight, all alike.
It is the nature of Heathens to judge according to works, but of Christians to look at, and judge according to faith. Where faith is great, works will be great; but if faith be weak, works will be small. Such as faith is, such ever will works be. For Christ saith in his Gospel, Matt. ix. "According to your faith, it shall be unto you." Hence a man will not be considered either righteous or ungodly accordingly as he has wrought much or little; all things are decided according to the rule of faith; as saith the prophet,'" Thine eyes, O Lord God, are upon them that are of faith in the earth." It is faith that hath efficacy, not works. The wise ones of the world lie, therefore, when they say, that we set aside works by exalting faith above them, and above merit. For wheresoever there is genuine faith, its fruits will, as a certain consequence, follow: namely, the love of God and of our neighbour. For it is impossible that true and undissembled faith should not shew forth its fruits and works. This, nevertheless, is truth ;—that a man must be first righteous, before he can do any good work; and that, this righteousness is by faith only. From these things therefore it plainly appears, in what sense it is to be understood, when it is said, that faith sufficeth without works. And may God grant, that the wise ones of the world, may at length attain unto that faith! Amen!
But, in the second place, Paul saith, Heb. xi. that we must believe, not only that "God is," but that "he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Here the wise of this world would drive the children of the kingdom too much aside from the right road, and would turn them into mercenaries and slaves, and make them to seek after God, not with a view to his mere goodness, but to the attainment of the joys of heaven. For these sharp-sighted instructors would know, by means of these invented and deeply subtle questions, how great, how exalting, and how manifold those joys are with which God will fill men. And also, how deep, how wide, and how long hell is; how horrible and terrible the devil is; how long his nose is; and with what kind of a maul it is that he breaks and bruises souls. They would set these things before our eyes as painters. And many other questions of the same kind do they agitate thus in vanity. And, in a word, such as are these their questions and conclusions, such also are all their sermons: the head, tail, and carcass of which, are all fables: and this they call, preaching the Gospel. In this way they strike such fear into the people, as to make the children of the kingdom fear hell, purgatory, and the devil. And they teach them, in what way they are to avoid these things by their works, and to get themselves numbered among the blessed. Thus, they exalt the gift above the giver, and heaven obove God! And signify, that if there were no hell and heaven set before us, and no hope of reward from the hand of God, we ought neither to love him nor praise him for his benefits.
But this, is not to seek God with pure affection, but with a view to our own private advantage. But our wise disputers of this world have here also their subtle refuges, and elude us thus.—That God is indeed to be sought as the primary object, but, next to him, his formal blessedness, (as they term it,) by which they mean joy, pleasure, and sweetness; which are, as it were, attendants on the knowledge of God. As though it were not enough, that we seek God only in sincerity, but there must be a receiving of a reward or hire also, as mercenaries are paid by their employers. But let all true Christians beware of these old wives fables of the disputers of this world, which have no scripture whatever for their authority, for by such they are drawn away from the purity of faith.
What Christians ought to know is, that as God serves us of mere grace without any respect to our works, Rom. viii.; even so we on the other hand, ought to seek God, without any view to a reward, but with an eye to his goodness only; seeking no one thing else but his mere good-will. He requires nothing more whatever of thee, but that thou believe; as Paul here saith, " He that cometh unto God must believe." And what must he believe?—That God is the rewarder! Of whom?—Of those who seek him in faith! but not of those who seek God for his joy and blessedness, as the reward of their works! Be not thou concerned about the reward; that thou shalt have in due time, even if thou be not so eager after it. For although it is impossible that the reward should not come to them, who worship God with a pure and true heart without any consideration of gain or wages; yet, certain it is, that God hates those mercenary characters, who seek themselves and not God, and will never give them any reward at all. So also the son serves his father duly and spontaneously, as being the heir, and because he knows it to be pleasing to bis father and agreeable to his will. Whereas if the son should be obedient to the father with an eye to the inheritance and the property only, he would highly deserve to be disinherited, and it would be right were he to be deprived of the lawful inheritance. Matters are the same between God and us, with respect to our attaining unto eternal happiness.—God is not the rewarder of our works according to our merit, but according to his own promises: wherein'he hath promised, that he will reward our works, but, of mere grace: as in Gen. xv. "I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward!" And may he be that unto us, to all eternity! Amen!
CONCERNING THE RICH MAN
Hitherto we have heard, in the Gospels, various examples both of faith and of love. For their peculiar and perpetual scope is, to set before us continual representations of faith and love. Wherefore, I hope by this time you know full well, that no one can be accepted of God but he that is received on the grounds of faith and love. In the present Gospel, however, the Lord has set before us an example of faith and of ungodliness at the same time: that by looking at this representation of ungodliness, as opposite to that of faith and love, we may be rendered more willing to abhor the former, and cleave unto the latter.
We may here see the judgment of God, as displayed both towards the believing, and the unbelieving; a view both dreadful and consoling;—dreadful to the ungodly, but consoling to those that are anointed with faith. But however, that the subject may be the more easily received into our minds, the description both of that rich man and of the poor Lazarus, must be set before our eyes; and from that description, we must learn on the one hand the nature of unbelief, and on the other the nature of faith. We will divide, therefore, the Exposition of this Gospel into Three Parts.
This rich man is not to be considered by us as to his external life, for he is covered with a sheep's clothing; and if you look at his life, he appears to be R man of