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place in him our hope of every thing that is good; that is, with a conscience joyful and unwavering; which wants not to take hold of God with the hand, nor to tempt him. And this you see here accomplished in these lepers; whom, before they call, he hears; and is ready, before they have finished their prayer, to do for them what they desired in their hearts. '" Go," saith he. I promise you nothing. The matter is accomplished beyond the need of promises. Take what ye have prayed for, and go your way.' And are not these powerful allurements which might render the heart happy and confident? Behold here, at length, his grace is sensibly felt, and allows itself to be touched; or rather, he touches and lays hold of us.
But here we have set before us another view of the Christian life. The lepers taught us to believe: but here, Christ commends unto us love. Moreover, love ever so carries itself towards its neighbour, as it sees Christ carry himself toward it; as he himself saith, John xiii. "I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." And, "By this shall all men know whether ye be my disciples, if ye have love one toward another." Again, " My commandment unto you is, that ye love one another as I have loved you." And what, I pray, is this, but as if he had said, Ye have now in me, by faith, all that I am, and all that I possess. I am all yours. Ye are now, in me, rich and full unto satisfaction. For whatever I do or love, I do and love for your sakes, not for my own; considering nothing else but how I may benefit you, and accomplish those things that may administer to your need and necessity. Wherefore, it becomes you to weigh well the example which I have given you, that each of you also may do unto the other, as he knows that I have done unto him, and may apply himself unto this one thing;—that all his life and labour may be directed to the profit of his neighbour. My love and goodness is an overflowing treasure to your faith; and therefore, in return, it is right that your love should be an abundant supply to your neighbours. For this is the sum of the Christian life brought into a small compass; so that there is no need of much teaching and many books to set it forth. In these two particulars are briefly comprehended all those things which are required unto Christianity: concerning which Paul thus speaks, Gal. vi. "Bear ye one another's burthens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." And again, Philip. ii. 'Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: who, although he was God, yet became our servant, and obedient even unto death,' &c.
This Christian, kind, and happy life, greatly galls the devil. Nor does he suffer loss by it in any thing so much, as in his human doctrines: as we shall presently hear.
Most certainly the Christian man's life is set forth to him thus in a few words.—That he have his heart rightly set towards God, and a will inclined to serve his neighbour; this is the sum of Christianity. A right heart and faith, teach, of their own accord, how a man ought to pray. And, what is a faith of this sort, but a kind of perpetual prayer? For it continually sets its hope in the divine favour: and, if it hope in that, then it seeks after it with all its heart: and to seek after this one thing, is that true and real prayer which Christ enjoins us, which God requires, and which obtains and can do all things : — and for this very reason: because it looks neither to itself, its works, or its worthiness, but to the goodness of God only: to which alone it commits itself, and lays hold of it as its only consolation. Hence, what such prayer asks for, it has at once; because, it springs from faith and an undoubting confidence in God. So, the holy prophet Zechariah, chap. x. rightly calls the Spirit, " the Spirit of grace and of supplications." For God there saith, " I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of favour and of prayers." Which signifies, that faith knows the grace of God, and, without ceasing, breathes after it!
And again, charity teaches him, in what way he should apply himself spontaneously unto good works. For those works only deserve to be called good, which serve our neighbour and bring profit unto him. For what else is a love of this sort, but a continual doing of good works to the benefit of our neighbour? And hence it has obtained the name "work of love," in the same way as the former has been called 'the faith of prayer:' as John xv, saith, "This is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." As though he had said, I have so directed all my works to your profit, that I have even laid down my life for you, which is the greatest of all love: that is, it is the greatest work and proof of love. And if greater works of love had been necessary, I would have been ready to perform them also for your sakes. It will therefore become you, after my example, to love one another and to do good one to another. Beyond this, I require nothing to be done by you. I do not ask you to build temples unto me, to take long journies into foreign lands to salute certain saints, to starve yourselves with fasting, to sing a great deal, to follow monkery or any singular kind of life: but it is in this you will obey me, and in this you will gain my favour;—when each in duty serves the other; not for any private advantage, but with a view to the benefit of his neighbour. It is in this the whole matter stands.
But when Christ here says " friends," we are not by that to understand that he will not have enemies to be loved also: for the words plainly say, who layeth down his life for "his friends.'' "His iriends " embraces more than if he had said " friends" only. For it may be, that thou mightest be a friend toward me, but I may not have a friendly inclination toward thee: that is, I may love thee, account thee as a friend, and do good unto thee, while thou, at the same time, hatest me and shewest enmity against me: even as Christ accosted Judas in the garden, thus, " Friend, wherefore art thou come?" He treated Judas as a friend, but Judas did not treat him as a friend: for Judas accounted him an enemy and hated him. On the other hand, Christ regarded Judas and acknowledged him as a friend..- -Love mast always be round, and be kind towards all men alike;
This is how the apostle James, in his Epistle, chap. ii. will have it: where he says, " Faith without works is dead. For as the body without the Spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." Faith cannot be in a man and work nothing; that is impossible. For faith is a living thing, and a thing impatient of sloth. Let, therefore, men not deceive themselves, supposing that they have faith, when they have no one particle of it. Wherefore, they ought to look into their works:—whether they love their neighbour, and assist him in kind offices. For if it be otherwise, they have nothing but a certain rashly-conceived notion of faith by hearing. And it happens unto them, as unto him who has beheld his natural face in a glass; as soon as he goes away from it, he sees himself no longer; and from the intervention of other things, he forgets the image which the surface of the glass reflected; concerning which, the same apostle James has also spoken, chap. i.
These words of the apostle James, seducers and blind leaders have so extensively exemplified, that they have wholly extinguished faith, and, in the room of it, have erected works only; as though righteousness and salvation proceeded not of faith, but of works. Moreover, to this darkness, thick to an awful degree, they have added that which is thicker still. They have taught and inculcated those good works only, which bring no benefit whatever to our neighbour.—Such as fasting; dunning the ears of God with a babbling of long prayers; keeping holy-days; not eating flesh, butter, or milk; building churches, colleges for monks, and altars; appointing masses, vigils, and stated hours, (as they call them); clothing themselves in grey, white, or black garments; joining themselves to a certain ecclesiastical order; and a thousand other things of the same kind, which are of no benefit to any one mortal whatever, and which God himself condemns.
And therefore the meaning of James is this;—that, since the life of a Christian is nothing but faith and love, and love nothing but benefiting and doing good unto all men, both friends and enemies; so, where true faith is, love will certainly accompany it; which so does through love unto others, as Christ does.unto it through faith. Let each one take heed, therefore, that. he deceive not himself, and foster in his heart a dream or a fictitious faith for true faith: of which latter, he can have no evidence more satisfactory, than works of love. By which sign, Christ will have his disciples distinguished from the rest of the world: for he saith, "By this shall all men know whether ye be my disciples, if ye love one another." „
And hence the apostle James in the same manner saith, Look into thyself. If thy life be not so directed as to be to the benefit of others; and thou livest to thyself only, wholly regardless of the necessity of thy neighbour; it is certain that thy faith is of nothing worth and unprofitable. For it does not shew forth itself towards others, as it has found Christ to be towards itself: and therefore, does not believe that it has received benefits from Christ: for if it believed that, it would not consult its own profit, but would lay itself out to benefit its neighbour in re-urn.
To the same point also speaks the apostle Paul, 1 Cor. xiii. "If I have faith so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." Which also is thus to be understood.—Not that faith is not sufficient unto the attainment of salvation, but that Christianity ought to unite faith and charity in an indissoluble bond, and by no means to suffer these sister graces to be sundered; for the nature of them is, that they should be joined together, and never separated. And although some rash ones desire to separate them, wishing to believe only and not to love also, despising their neighbours, and yet, nevertheless, passing themselves off for Christians, which is a false persuasion rushing to destruction; so I also say, that all things are placed in faith, and that it alone saves us, so that a man hath no need of any thing else unto salvation. And yet, it is not on that account slothful, but employed in various works,