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Moreover, we exercise ourselves in the fear of God, and avoid sin as much as we may. If we sin, we sin not of purpose but of ignorance, and we are sorry for it. We may slip, for the devil lieth in wait for us both day and night. Also, the remnants of sin cleave yet fast in our flesh. Therefore, as touching the flesh, we are sinners, yea, after that we have received the Holy Ghost. And there is no great difference betwixt a Christian and a civil honest man. For the works of a Christian, in outward shew, are but base and simple. He doth his duty according to his vocation, he guideth his family, he tilleth the ground, he giveth counsel, he aideth and succoureth his neighbour. These works the carnal man doth not much esteem, but thinketh them to be common to all men, and such as the heathen may also do. For the world understandeth not the things which are of the Spirit of God, and therefore, it judgeth perversely ot the works of the godly. But the monstrous superstition of the hypocrites and their will works, they have in great admiration. They count them holy works, and spare no charges in maintaining the same. Contrariwise, the works of the faithful, (which although in outward appearance they seem to be but vile and nothing worth, yet, are they good works indeed, and accepted of God, because, they are done in faith with a cheerful heart, and with obedience and thankfulness towards God,) these works, I say, they do not only, not acknowledge to be good works, but also they despise as most wicked and abominable. The world, therefore, believeth nothing less than that we have the Holy Ghost. Notwithstanding, in the time of tribulation, or of the cross and of the confession of our faith, (which is the proper and principal work of those that believe) when we must either forsake wife, children, goods, and life, or else deny Christ, then it appeareth that we make confession ot our faith, and that we confess Christ and his word by the power of the Holy Ghost.
We ought not, therefore, to doubt whether the Holy Ghost dwelleth in us or not, but to be assuredly persuaded that we "are the temple of the Holy Ghost," as Paul saith (1 Cor. iii. 16.) For if any man feel in himself a love towards the Word of God, and willingly heareth, writeth, and thinketh of Christ; let that man know, that this is not the work of man's will or reason, but the gift of the Holy Ghost; for it is impossible that these things should be done without the Holy Ghost. Contrariwise, where hatred and contempt of the Word is, there the devil the god of this world reigneth, "blinding men's hearts, and holding them captive that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should not shine upon them," (1 Cor. iv. 4.) Which thing we see at this day in most part of the common people, which have no love to the Word, but contemn it as though it pertained nothing at all unto them. But whosoever do feel any love or desire to the Word, let them acknowledge with thankfulness, that this affection is poured into them by the Holy Ghost For we bring not this affection and desire with us, neither can we be taught by any laws how we may obtain it, but this change is plainly and simply the work of the right hand of the Most High. Therefore, when we willingly and gladly hear the word preached concerning Christ the Son of God, who for us was made man and became subject to the law, to deliver us from the malediction of the law, hell, death, and damnation, then let us assure ourselves that God, by and with this preaching, sendeth the Holy Ghost into our hearts. Wherefore, it is very expedient for the godly to know that they have the Holy Ghost.
This I say to confute that pernicious doctrine of the Papists, which taught, that no man certainly knows, ^although his life be never so upright and blameless,) whether he be in the favour of God or no. And this sentence commonly received, was a special principle and article of faith in the whole papacy; whereby, they utterly defaced the doctrine of faith, tormented men's consciences, banished Christ quite out of the church, darkened and denied all the benefits of the Holy Ghost, abolished the whole worship of God, and set up idolatry, contempt of God, and blasphemy against God, in men's hearts.
Augustine saith very well and godly, 'every man seeth most certainly his own faith, if he have faith.' This do they deny. God forbid (say they) that I should assure myself that I am under grace, that I am holy, and that I have the Holy Ghost; yea, although I live godly and do all good works. Ye which are young, and are not infected with this pernicious opinion, (whereupon the whole kingdom of the Pope is grounded,) take heed and fly from it as from a most horrible plague. We that are old men have been trained up in this error even from our youth, and have been so nursed therein, that it hath taken deep root in our hearts. Therefore, it is to us no less labour to unlearn and forget the same, than to learn and lay hold upon true faith. But we must be assured and out of doubt, that we are under grace, that we please God for Christ's sake, and that we have the Holy Ghost. "For if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, the same is none of his." (Rom. viii. 9.)
Wherefore, whether thou be a minister of God's word, or a magistrate in the commonwealth, thou must assuredly think that thy office pleaseth God: but this thou canst never do, unless thou have the Holy Ghost. But thou wilt say, I doubt not but that my office pleaseth God, because it is God's ordinance; but I doubt of mine own person, whether it please God or no. Here thou must resort to the Word of God; which teacheth and assureth us, that not only the office of the person, but also the person himself, pleaseth God. For the person is baptized, believeth in Christ, is purged in his blood from all his sins, and liveth in the communion and fellowship of his church. Moreover, he doth not only love the pure doctrine of the Word, but also, he is glad and greatly rejoiceth when he seeth it advanced, and the number of the faithful increased. Contrariwise, he detesteth the Pope and all his sectaries, with their wicked doctrine; according to that saying of the Psalm, "I hate them that imagine evil things, but thy law do I love," (Psalm cxix. 113.)
We ought therefore to be surely persuaded, that not only our office, but our person, pleaseth God: yea whatsoever it saith, doth, or thinketh particularly, the same pleaseth God: not for our own sake, but for Christ's sake, who was made under the law for us. Now we are sure that Christ pleaseth God, and that he is holy, &c. Forasmuch then as Christ pleaseth God, and we are in him, we also please God and are holy. And although sin do still remain in our flesh, and we also daily fall and offend, yet grace is more abundant and stronger than sin. The mercy and truth of God reigneth over us for ever. Wherefore, sin cannot terrify us and make us doubtful of the grace of God which is in us. For Christ, that most mighty giant, hath quite abolished the law, condemned sin, and vanquished death and all evils. So long as he is at the right hand of God making intercession for us, we cannot doubt of the grace and favour of God towards us.
Moreover, God hath also sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, as Paul here saith. But Christ is most certain in his Spirit that he pleaseth God, &c.; therefore, we also, having the same Spirit of Christ, must be assured that we are under grace for his sake, which is most assured. This I have said concerning the inward testimony, whereby a Christian man's heart ought to be fully persuaded, that he is under grace and hath the Holy Ghost. Now, the outward signs, (as before I have said,) are, gladly to hear of Christ, to preach and teach Christ, to render thanks unto him, to praise him, to confess him, yea, with the loss of goods and life; moreover, to do our duty according to our vocation, as we are able to do it [I say,] in faith, joy, &C., not to delight in or to thrust ourselves into another man's vocation, but to attend upon our own, to help our needy brother, to comfort the heavy hearted, &c. By these signs, as by certain effects and consequents, we are fully assured and confirmed, that we are in God's favour. The wicked also do imagine that they have the same signs, but they have nothing less. Hereby we may plainly perceive, that the Pope, with his doctrine, doth nothing else but trouble and torment men's consciences, and at length drive them into desperation. For he not only teacheth, but he also commandeth men to doubt. Therefore, as the Psalm saith, "There is no truth or certainty in his mouth," (Psalm v. 9.) And, in another place, "Under his tongue is iniquity and mischief." (Psalm x. 7.)
Here we may see, what great infirmity is yet in the faith of the godly. For if we could be fully persuaded that we are under grace, that our sins are forgiven, that we have the Spirit of Christ, that we are the children of God; then, doubtless, we shall be thankful to God for this inestimable gift. But, because we feel contrary motions; that is to say, fear, doubtfulness, anguish, and heaviness of heart, and such like, therefore, we cannot assure ourselves hereof; yea, our conscience judgeth it a great presumption and pride to challenge this glory. Wherefore, if we well understand this thing rightly, and as we should do, we must put it in practice; for without experience and practice, it can never be learned.
Wherefore, let every man so practise with himself, that his conscience may be fully assured that he is under grace, and that his person and his works do please God. And if he feel in himself any wavering or doubting, let him exercise his faith and wrestle against this doubting, and let him labour to attain more strength and assurance of faith: so that he may be able to say, I know that I am accepted, and that I have the Holy Ghost; not for mine own worthiness, my work, my merit, but for Christ's sake; who, of his inestimable love towards us, made himself thrall and subject to the law, and took away the sins of the world; in him do I believe! If I be a sinner and err, he is righteous and cannot err. Moreover, I gladly hear, read, sing, and write of him: and I desire nothing more, than that his Gospel may be known to the whole world, and that many may be converted unto him.
These things do plainly witness, that the Holy Ghost is present with us, and in us. For such things are not wrought in the heart by man's strength, nor gotten by man's industry or travel, but are obtained by Christ