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to the end that others may be increased and benefitted by thy bounty: thus thou wilt be a truly good man and a Christian. For what are all those superaboundin^ works to thee, which are wrought in the mortifying of thy body, when thy treasure already runneth over by thy faith, in which God hath given thee all things?
Behold! then, by this rule, whatever good things we have received of God, ought to flow from one to the other, and become common; and every one should put on his neighbour, and so conduct himself toward him, as if he were in his stead. For all things have flowed, and still continue to flow, unto us from Christ, who so put on us, and wrought for us, as if he himself had been what we are; and from us they flow unto all that have need of them. And hence, it becomes me to present my faith and righteousness before God in praying for the pardon and the covering of the sins of my neighbour; which I ought so to take upon myself, and so to labour and travail under, as though they were my own: for so Christ did for us. This is true love, and the true rule of the Christian life; and this true and real life there will be, where there is true and real faith. Hence the apostle, 1 Cor. xiii., makes this a property of love, that she "seeketh not her own."
We conclude, therefore, that the Christian man liveth not in himself, but in Christ, and in his neighbour, or, he is not a Christian at all: in Christ by faith, in his neighbour by love. By faith, he is raised above himself into God; and again, by love, he is humbled below himself into his neighbour; yet, ever standing in God and his love: as Christ saith, John i., "Verily, verily, I say unto you, hereafter shall ye see the heavens open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man."
Thus have I sufficiently shewn what Christian liberty is: which, as you see, is spiritual, and real: making our hearts free from all sins, commands, and laws whatever : as Paul testifies, .1 Tim. i., "The law was not made for a righteous man." This is as far above all other external liberties, as the heavens are higher than the earth; and may Christ enable us to understand it, and hold it fast. Amen!
In conclusion.—On account of those, who, although things be never so well spoken, are sure to pervert every thing by a wilful misunderstanding, we will add the following; if peradventure they will understand that.— There are very many, who, hearing this liberty of faith', immediately abuse it to an occasion of the flesh, taking it for granted at once, that all tllings are lawful unto them, and having no desire to be free and Christians, in my other way, than in contemning, and speaking evil of, all human ceremonies, ordinances, and laws. As though they were therefore Christians, because they refuse to ast on certain days, or chuse to eat meats while others fast; or, becase they omit all forms of prayer, and contemptuously deride all ordinances of men, while they are at the same time themselves passing by all the weighty essentials of the Christian religion.—These, again, are most obstinately resisted, by those in the other extreme, who are laboriously striving for salvation, by a devoted observance and reverence of human ceremonies only. As though they would therefore be saved, because they fast on stated days, or abstain from meats, or say certain prayers; extolling in the highest the ordinances of the church, and of the fathers, and at the same time, setting entirely at nought those things which are the essentials of our faith. Both of these therefore are evidently reprehensible: because, while they are each contending with so much noise for trifles and nonessentials, they are both passing by the weightier matters that are essential unto salvation.
How much more rightly does the apostle Paul teach tt* to walk in the middle way, and condemn both erroneous extremes; saying, "Let not him that eateth, despise him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not, judge him that eateth," Rom. xiv. Here you see, thos< who omit and speak evil of ceremonies, not from holy principle, but from mere contempt, are rebuked b} the apostle, where he admonishes them, not to " despise;' seeing it is knowledge that puffs them up. On the other hand, he admonishes those others who zealously resist these, not to "judge;" for neither of them are, in the meantime, observing that charity which edifieth. Wherefore, upon these points, we must be guided by the scripture: which directs us, neither to turn to the right hand nor to the left, but to follow the righteous judgments of the Lord, which alone rejoice the heart. Fot as no one is righteous because he obeys, and cleaves to, works, rites and ceremonies; so neither will any one therefore be accounted righteous, because he omits and despises them altogether.
For we are not, by faith in Christ, freed from works, but from the false opinion of works: that is, from the ignorant presumption of seeking to become righteous by works. For it is faith that delivers, rules, and keeps our consciences: under the experience of which, we know that righteousness lies not in works, although works ought not to be, and cannot be, utterly excluded. For as, without meat and drink and the universal exercise of this mortal body, we cannot exist, although our righteousness lies not in these things but in faith, and yet, these things cannot, on that account, be utterly excluded and despised; so are we compelled, from the nature and necessity of this mortal life, to remain in the world, although we become not righteous thereby. "My kingdom (said Christ) is not from hence :" that is, of this world. But he did not say, my kingdom is not here: that is, in this world. And so Paul saith: "For though we walk in the flesh we do not war after the flesh," 2 Cor. x. Again, Gal. i., "The life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God." Therefore, as to our acting, living, and being in the midst of works and ceremonies, the nature of this life, and the due care and government of our bodies, of necessity re
quire it; although we become not righteous by these things, but by faith in the Son of God.
The Christian, therefore, must here hold the middle way, and have ever before him these two kinds of men. For he will come in contact, either with stiffnecked and hardened ceremonialists, who, like deaf adders, will not hear of the true liberty, but urgently enforce, without faith, and insist upon, their works and ceremonies, and boast of them as righteousness: like the Jews of old, who would not understand that they might do well. These most be resisted, opposed, and determinately offended; lest, by this impious opinion, they should deceive numberless others together with themselves. Before the eyes of these, we should eat meats, exclude fastings, and do other things in defence of the liberty of faith, which they consider to be the greatest sins. Of these we are to say, 'Let them alone, they be blind, and leaders of the blind." For it was in this spirit that Paul would not after Titus to be circumcised when these urged the necessity of it; and Christ defended his disciples in their plucking the ears of corn on the sabbath-day. With many other examples of the same kind.
—Or, he will meet with the simple, the unexperienced, the ignorant, and the weak in faith (as Paul calls them) who cannot yet receive this liberty of faith, even though they would. These must be spared lest they should be offended; and their infirmity must be borne with till they shall have been more fully taught. And because they do not act and think wrong from hardened malice, but from weakness of faith alone, we must, to avoid giving them offence, observe fastings and other things which they consider to be essential matters: for this true charity requires, which hurts no one, but serves all. For the weakness of these, is not from their own fault, but from the fault of their pastors, who have taken them captive and shamefully entreated them, by the snares and influence of their« traditions; from which they must be delivered and healed by the doctrine of faith and liberty: so the apostle, Rom. xiv., "If my meat maketh my brother to offend, I will eat no meat while the world standeth." . And again, " I know that through Christ there is nothing unclean, but to him that thinketh it to be unclean—but it is evil to that man who eateth with offence."
Wherefore, although we must determinately resist these teachers of traditions, and sharply contend against the laws of popes, by which they would break in upon the liberty of the people of God; yet, we must spare those weak and fearful ones, whom these wicked tyrants hold captive under their laws, until they shall be disentangled from them. Therefore, resolutly contend against the wolves and for the sheep; but not against the sheep at the same time; which thou wilt do, if thou inveigh against the laws and lawgivers, and yet, at the same time, bear with them in the weak, lest they should be offended, until thev themselves shall discover the tyranny they are under, and come to the knowledge of their liberty.
But if thou wilt use thy liberty, do it in secret: as Paul saith Rom. xiv. The faith that thou hast in thine own experience, have before God; but take heed that thou use it not before the weak. On the other hand, use the same before the tyrants and stiffnecked, to the open contempt of them, and that, with the utmost firmness of determination; that they themselves may know that they are under sin, and that their laws are of no avail unto righteousness; nay, that they had no right whatever to make those laws'.
Since, therefore, this life cannot go on without ceremonies and works; nay, since the heated and inexperienced age of young persons has need to be curbed and guarded by these restraints; and since each one must, by the same means, mortify his own body; a minister of Christ must be prudent and faithful: that he may so rule and teach the people of Christ in all these things, that their conscience and faith be not offended, and that no false opinion or root of bitterness spring up in them, and thereby many be defiled, (as Paul warns the Hebrews :) that is, that they lose not faith, and begin to be