HOMILY ON THE PASSION FOR GOOD FRIDAY
AN HOMILIE FOR
good Friday, concerning the death and passion
of our Sauiour Iesus Christ.
IT should not become vs (welbeloued in Christ) being that people which he redeemed from the Diuell, from sin and death, and from euerlasting damnation, by Christ, to suffer this time to passe foorth without any meditation, and remembrance of that excellent worke of our redemption, wrought as about this time, through the great mercy and charity of our Sauiour Iesus Christ, for vs wretched sinners, and his mortall enemies. For if a mortall mans deed, done to the behoofe of the common wealth, bee had in remembrance of vs, with thankes for the benefit and profit which we receiue thereby: how much more readily should wee haue in memory this excellent act and benefite of Christs death? whereby hee hath purchased for vs the vndoubted pardon and forgiuenesse of our sinnes, whereby hee made at one the Father of heauen with vs, in such wise, that he taketh vs now for his louing children, and for the true inheritours, with Christ his naturall sonne, of the kingdome of heauen? And verily so much more doeth Christs kindnesse appeare vnto vs, in that it pleased him to deliuer himselfe of all his goodly honour, which hee was equally in with his Father in heauen, and to come downe into this vale of misery, to bee made mortall man, and to be in the state of a most low seruant, seruing vs for our wealth and profit, vs, I say, which were his sworne enemies, which had renounced his holy Law and Commandements, and followed the lustes and sinfull pleasures of our corrupt nature. And yet, I say, did Christ put himselfe betweene GODS deserued wrath, and our sinne, and rent that obligation wherein we were in danger to GOD, and payd our debt (Colossians 2.14). Our debt was a great deale too great for vs to haue payd. And without payment, GOD the Father could neuer bee at one with vs. Neither was it possible to bee losed from this debt by our owne ability. It pleased him therefore to be the payer thereof, and to discharge vs quite.
Who can now consider the grieuous debt of sinne, which could none otherwise be payd but by the death of an innocent, and will not hate sinne in his heart? If GOD hateth sinne so much, that hee would allow neither man nor Angel for the redemption thereof, but onely the death of his onely and welbeloued Sonne: who will not stand in feare thereof? If we (my friends) consider this, that for our sinnes this most innocent Lambe was driuen to death, we shall haue much more cause to bewaile our selues that we were the cause of his death, then to cry out of the malice and cruelty of the Iewes, which pursued him to his death. We did the deedes wherefore he was thus stricken and wounded, they were onely the ministers of our wickednesse. It is meete then wee should steppe low downe into our hearts, and bewaile our owne wretchednesse and sinfull liuing. Let vs know for a certaintie, that if the most dearely beloued Sonne of GOD was thus punished and stricken for the sinne which he had not done himselfe: how much more ought wee sore to be stricken for our dayly and manifold sinnes which wee commit against GOD, if wee earnestly repent vs not, and be not sorie for them? No man can loue sinne, which GOD hateth so much, and be in his fauour. No man can say that hee loueth Christ truely, and haue his great enemie (sinne I meane, the authour of his death) familiar and in friendship with him. So much doe we loue GOD and Christ, as we hate sinne. Wee ought therefore to take great heede, that we be not fauourers thereof, lest we be found enemies to GOD, and traytours to Christ. For not onely they which nayled Christ vpon the crosse, are his tormentours and crucifiers: but all they (sayth Saint Paul) crucifie againe the Sonne of GOD (Hebrews 6.6), as much as is in them, who doe commit vice and sinne, which brought him to his death. If the wages of sinne be death, and death euerlasting (Romans 6.23): surely it is no small danger to be in seruice thereof. If we liue after the flesh, and after the sinfull lustes thereof, Saint Paul threatneth, yea Almighty GOD in Saint Paul threatneth, that we shall surely die (Romans 8.13). We can none otherwise liue to GOD, but by dying to sinne. If Christ be in vs, then is sinne dead in vs: and if the spirit of GOD bee in vs, which raysed Christ from death to life, so shall the same spirit raise vs to the resurrection of euerlasting life (Romans 8.10-11). But if sinne rule and reigne in vs, then is GOD, which is the fountaine of all grace and vertue, departed from vs: then hath the Deuill, and his vngracious spirite, rule and dominion in vs (Romans 1). And surely if in such miserable state wee die, we shall not rise to life, but fall downe to death and damnation, and that without ende.
Christ hath not redeemed vs from sinne, that we should liue in sinne. For Christ hath not so redeemed vs from sinne, that wee may safely returne thereto againe: but hee hath redeemed vs, that wee should forsake the motions thereof, and liue to righteousnesse. Yea, wee bee therefore washed in our Baptisme from the filthinesse of sinne, that we should liue afterward in the purenesse of life. In Baptisme we promised to renounce the deuill and his suggestions, we promised to bee (as obedient children) alwayes following GODS will and pleasure. Then if he be our Father indeede, let vs giue him his due honour. If we be his children, let vs shew him our obedience, like as Christ openly declared his obedience to his Father, which (as Saint Paul writeth) was obedient euen to the very death, the death of the Crosse (Philippians 2.8). And this he did for vs all that beleeue in him. For himselfe he was not pun ished, for he was pure, and vndefiled of all maner of sinne. He was wounded (sayth Esay) for our wickednesse, and stripped for our sinnes (Isaiah 53.4): he suffered the penalty of them himselfe, to deliuer vs from danger: he bare (sayth Esay) all our sores and infirmities vpon his owne backe. No paine did he refuse to suffer in his owne body, that he might deliuer vs from paine euerlasting. His pleasure it was thus to doe for vs, we deserued it not. Wherefore the more we see our selues bound vnto him, the more he ought to be thanked of vs, yea, and the more hope may we take, that we shall receiue all other good things of his hand, in that we haue receiued the gift of his onely Sonne, through his liberality. For if GOD (sayth Saint Paul) hath not spared his owne Sonne from paine and punishment, but deliuered him for vs all vnto the death: how should he not giue vs all other things with him (Romans 8.32)? If we want any thing, either for body or soule, we may lawfully and boldly approch to GOD, as to our mercifull Father, to aske that we desire, and we shall obteine it. For such power is giuen to vs, to be the children of GOD, so many as beleeue in Christes Name (John 1.12). In his Name whatsoeuer wee aske, wee shall haue it granted vs (Matthew 21.22). For so well pleased is the Father almighty GOD, with Christ his Sonne, that for his sake he fauoureth vs, and will denie vs nothing. So pleasant was this sacrifice and oblation of his Sonnes death, which hee so obediently and innocently suffered, that wee should take it for the onely and full amendes for all the sinnes of the world. And such fauour did he purchase by his death, of his heauenly Father for vs, that for the merite thereof (if we be true Christians indeede, and not in word onely) we be now fully in GODS grace againe, and clearely discharged from our sinne. No tongue surely is able to expresse the worthinesse of this so precious a death. For in this standeth the continuall pardon of our dayly offences, in this resteth our iustification, in this we be allowed, in this is purchased the euerlasting health of all our soules. Yea, there is none other thing that can be named vnder heauen to saue our soules, but this onely worke of Christs precious offering of his body vpon the altar of the crosse (Acts 4.12). Certes there can be no worke of any mortall man (bee hee neuer so holy) that shall bee coupled in merites with Christes most holy act. For no doubt, all our thoughts and deedes were of no value, if they were not allowed in the merites of Christs death. All our righteousnesse is farre vnperfect, if it be compared with Christs righteousnesse. For in his acts and deedes, there was no spot of sinne, or of any vnperfectnesse.
Our deedes be full of imperfection. And for this cause they were the more able to bee the true amends of our righteousnesse, where our acts and deedes be full of imperfection, and infirmities, and therefore nothing worthy of themselues to stirre GOD to any fauour, much lesse to challenge that glory that is due to Christs act and merit. For not to vs (saith Dauid) not to vs, but to thy Name giue the glory, O Lord (Psalms 115.1). Let vs therefore (good friends) with all reuerence glorifie his Name, let vs magnifie and prayse him for euer. For he hath dealt with vs according to his great mercy, by himselfe hath he purchased our redemption (Hebrews 1.3). Hee thought it not ynough to spare himselfe, and to send his Angel to doe this deede, but he would doe it himselfe, that hee might doe it the better, and make it the more perfect redemption. He was nothing moued with the intolerable paines that he suffered in the whole course of his long passion, to repent him thus to doe good to his enemies: but he opened his hart for vs, and bestowed himselfe wholly for the ransomming of vs. Let vs therefore now open our heartes againe to him, and studie in our liues to bee thankefull to such a Lord, and euermore to bee mindfull of so great a benefice, yea let vs take vp our crosse with Christ, and follow him. His passion is not onely the ransome and whole amendes for our sinne, but it is also a most perfect example of all patience and sufferance. For if it behoued Christ thus to suffer, and to enter into the glory of his Father (Acts 17.3): why should it not become vs to beare patiently our small crosses of aduersitie, and the troubles of this world? For surely (as saith S. Peter) Christ therefore suffered, to leaue vs an example to follow his steps (1 Peter 2.21). And if wee suffer with him, wee shall be sure also to raigne with him in heauen (2 Timothy 2.12). Not that the sufferance of this transitorie life should bee worthie of that glorie to come (Romans 8.18), but gladly should wee be contented to suffer, to bee like Christ in our life, that so by our workes we may glorifie our Father which is in heauen (Matthew 5.16). And as it is painefull and grieuous to beare the Crosse of Christ in the griefes and displeasures of this life: so it bringeth foorth the ioyfull fruit of hope, in all them that bee exercised therewith (Hebrews 12.11). Let vs not so much behold the paine, as the reward that shall follow that labour (James 5.11). Nay, let vs rather endeuour our selues in our sufferance, to endure innocently and guiltles, as our Sauiour Christ did. For if we suffer for our deseruings, then hath not patience his perfect worke in vs: but if vndeseruedly we suffer losse of goods and life, if we suffer to be euill spoken of for the loue of Christ, this is thankefull afore GOD, for so did Christ suffer (1 Peter 2.20).
The patience of Christ. Hee neuer did sinne, neither was any guile found in his mouth. Yea when hee was reuiled with taunts, hee reuiled not againe. When hee was wrongfully dealt with, he threatned not againe, nor reuenged his quarrell, but deliuered his cause to him that iudgeth rightly.
Perfect patience. Perfect patience careth not what nor how much it suffereth, nor of whom it suffereth, whether of friend or foe: but studieth to suffer innocently, and without deseruing.
The meeknesse of Christ. Yea, he in whom perfect charity is, careth so little to reuenge, that he rather studieth to doe good for euill, to blesse and say well of them that curse him, to pray for them that pursue him (Matthew 5.44), according to the example of our Sauiour Christ, who is the most perfect example & paterne of all meeknes and sufferance, which hanging vpon his Crosse, in most feruent anguish bleeding in euery part of his blessed Body, being set in the middest of his enemies and crucifiers: and hee, notwithstanding the intolerable paines which they sawe him in, being of them mocked and scorned dispitefully without all fauour and compassion, had yet towards them such compassion in heart, that hee prayed to his Father of heauen for them, and sayd, O Father, forgiue them, for they wote not what they doe (Luke 23.34). What patience was it also which he shewed, when one of his owne Apostles and Seruants which was put in trust of him, came to betray him vnto his enemies to the death? Hee sayde nothing worse to him, but, Friend, wherefore art thou come (Matthew 26.50)? Thus (good people) should we call to minde the great examples of charitie which Christ shewed in his passion, if wee will fruitfully remember his passion. Such charity and loue should wee beare one to an other, if wee will be the true seruants of Christ. For if we loue but them, which loue and say well by vs, what great thing is it that we doe saith Christ? Doe not the Panims and open sinners so (Matthew 5.46-47)? Wee must bee more perfect in our charitie then thus, euen as our Father in heauen is perfect, which maketh the light of his Sunne to rise vpon the good and the bad, and sendeth his raine vpon the kinde and vnkinde. After this maner should we shew our charity indifferently, aswell to one as to another aswell to friend, as foe, like obedient children, after the example of our Father in heauen. For if Christ was obedient to his Father euen to the death, and that the most shamefull death (as the Iewes esteemed it) the death of the Crosse: Why should wee not bee obedient to GOD in lower poyntes of charitie and patience? Let vs forgiue then our neighbors their small faultes, as GOD for Christes sake hath forgiuen vs our great (Sirach 28.2).
It is not meete that wee should craue forgiuenesse of our great offences at GODS handes, and yet will not forgiue the small trespasses of our neighbours against vs. We doe call for mercy in vaine, if wee will not shew mercy to our neighbours (Matthew 18.35). For if we will not put wrath and displeasure foorth of our hearts to our Christian brother, no more will GOD forgiue the displeasure and wrath that our sinnes haue deserued afore him. For vnder this condition doeth GOD forgiue vs, if we forgiue other. It becommeth not Christian men to bee hard one to another, nor yet to thinke their neighbour vnworthy to bee forgiuen. For howsoeuer vnworthie he is, yet is Christ worthie to haue thee doe thus much for his sack, hee hath deserued it of thee, that thou shouldest forgiue thy neighbour. And GOD is also to bee obeyed, which commandeth vs to forgiue, if wee will haue any part of the pardon which our Sauiour Christ purchased once of GOD the Father, by shedding of his precious blood. Nothing becommeth Christes seruantes so much, as mercie and compassion. Let vs then bee fauourable one to another, and pray we one for another, that wee may bee healed from all frailties of our life (James 5.16), the lesse to offend one the other, and that wee may bee of one minde and one spirit, agreeing together in brotherly loue and concord, euen like the deare children of GOD (Ephesians 5.1-2). By these meanes shall wee mooue GOD to bee mercifull vnto our sinnes, yea, & we shall be hereby the more ready to receiue our Sauiour and maker in his blessed Sacrament, to our euerlasting comfort, and health of soule. Christ delighteth to enter and dwell in that soule where loue and charitie ruleth, and where peace & concord is seene. For thus writeth S. Iohn, GOD is charity, hee that abideth in charitie, abideth in GOD, and GOD in him (1 John 4.16). And by this (saith he) we shall know that we be of GOD, if we loue our brethren. Yea, & by this shall we know, that we bee deliuered from death to life, if we loue one another. But hee which hateth his brother (sayth the same Apostle) abideth in death, euen in the danger of euerlasting death, and is moreouer the childe of damnation and of the Diuel, cursed of GOD, and hated (so long as he so remayneth) of GOD and all his heauenly company (1 John 2.11). For as peace and charity make vs the blessed children of Almighty GOD: so doth hatred and enuie make vs the cursed children of the Diuel. GOD giue vs all grace to follow Christs examples in peace and in charity, in patience and sufferance, that wee now may haue him our ghest to enter and dwell within vs, so as we may be in full surety, hauing such a pledge of our saluation. If we haue him and his fauour, we may be sure that we haue the fauour of GOD by his means. For he sitteth on the right hand of GOD his Father, as our proctour and atturney, pleading and suing for vs in all our needes and necessities (Romans 8.34). Wherefore, if wee want any gift of godly wisedome, wee may aske it of GOD for Christs sake, and we shall haue it. Let vs consider and examine our selues, in what want we be concerning this vertue of charity and patience. If we see that our hearts bee nothing inclined thereunto, in forgiuing them that haue offended against vs, then let vs knowledge our want, and wish to GOD to haue it. But if we want it, and see in our selues no desire thereunto, verily wee bee in a dangerous case before GOD, and haue neede to make much earnest prayer to GOD, that we may haue such an heart changed, to the grafting in of a new. For vnlesse we forgiue other, we shall neuer be forgiuen of GOD. No, not all the prayers and good workes of other, can pacifie GOD vnto vs, vnlesse we be at peace, and at one with our neighbour. Nor all our deedes and good workes can mooue GOD to forgiue vs our debts to him, except wee forgiue to other. He setteth more by mercy, then by sacrifice. Mercy moued our Sauiour Christ to suffer for his enemies: it becommeth vs then to follow his example. For it shall little auayle vs to haue in meditation the fruites and price of his passion, to magnifie them, and to delight or trust in them, except we haue in minde his examples in passion to follow them. If we thus therefore consider Christs death, and will sticke thereto with fast fayth for the merit and deseruing thereof, and will also frame our selues in such wise to bestow our selues, and all that we haue by charity, to the behoofe of our neighbour, as Christ spent himselfe wholly for our profit, then doe we truely remember Christs death: and being thus followers of Christs steps, we shall be sure to follow him thither where he sitteth now with the Father and the holy Ghost, to whom bee all honour and glory, Amen.
THE SECOND HOMILIE
concerning the death and Passion of our
THAT wee may the better conceiue the great mercy and goodnesse of our Sauiour Christ, in suffering death vniuersally for all men, it behoueth vs to descend into the bottome of our conscience, and deepely to consider the first and principall cause wherefore he was compelled so to doe. When our great grandfather Adam had broken GODS commandement, in eating the apple forbidden him in Paradise, at the motion and suggestion of his wife, he purchased thereby, not only to himselfe, but also to his posterity for euer, the iust wrath and indignation of GOD, who according to his former sentence pronounced at the giuing of the commandement, condemned both him and all his to euerlasting death, both of body and soule (Genesis 3.17). For it was sayd vnto him, Thou shalt eat freely of euery tree in the Garden: but as touching the tree of knowledge of good and ill, thou shalt in no wise eat of it: For in what houre soeuer thou eatest thereof, thou shalt die the death (Genesis 2.16-17). Now as the Lord had spoken, so it came to passe. Adam tooke vpon him to eat thereof, and in so doing he died the death, that is to say, he became mortall, he lost the fauour of GOD, hee was cast out of Paradise, he was no longer a citizen of heauen: but a firebrand of hell, and a bondslaue to the Diuell. To this doth our Sauiour beare witnesse in the Gospel, calling vs lost sheepe, which haue gone astray, and wandered from the true shepheard of our soules (Luke 15.4-7). To this also doth Saint Paul beare witnesse, saying, That by the offence of onely Adam, death came vpon all men to condemnation (Romans 5.18). So that now neither hee, or any of his, had any right or interest at all in the kingdome of heauen, but were become plaine reprobates and castawayes, being perpetually damned to the euerlasting paynes of hell fire. In this so great misery and wretchednesse, if mankinde could haue recouered himselfe againe, and obtayned forgiuenesse at GODS handes, then had his case beene somewhat tolerable, because hee might haue attempted some way how to deliuer himselfe from eternall death. But there was no way left vnto him, hee could doe nothing that might pacifie GODS wrath, he was altogether vnprofitable in that behalfe. There was not one that did good, no not one. And how then could he worke his owne saluation? Should he goe about to pacifie GODS heauy displeasure by offering vp burnt sacrifices, according as it was ordained in the olde Lawe? by offering vp the blood of oxen, the blood of calues, the blood of goats, the blood of lambes, and so foorth (Hebrews 9.12-13)? O these things were of no force nor strength to take away sinnes, they could not put away the anger of GOD, they coulde not coole the heate of his wrath, nor yet bring mankind into fauour againe, they were but onely figures and shadowes of things to come, and nothing else. Read the Epistle to the Hebrewes, there shall you finde this matter largely discussed, there shall you learne in most plaine wordes, that the bloodie sacrifice of the olde Law was vnperfect, and not able to deliuer man from the state of damnation by any meanes (Hebrews 10.3-4, 8): so that mankinde in trusting thereunto, should trust to a broken staffe, and in the end deceiue himselfe. What should he then doe? Should he goe about to serue and keepe the Law of GOD diuided into two tables, and so purchase to himselfe eternall life? In deede, if Adam and his posterity had beene able to satisfie and fulfill the Law perfectly, in louing GOD aboue all things and their neighbour as themselues: then should they haue easily quenched the Lordes wrath, and escaped the terrible sentence of eternall death pronounced against them by the mouth of Almighty GOD. For it is written, Doe thus, and thou shalt liue; that is to say, fulfill my commandements, keepe thy selfe vpright and perfect in them according to my will, then shalt thou liue, and not die. Here is eternall life promised with this condition, and so that they keepe and obserue the Law (Luke 10.28). But such was the frailty of mankind after his fall, such was his weakenesse & imbecility, that hee could not walke vprightly in GODS commandements though he would neuer so faine, but dayly & hourely fell from his bounden duety, offending the Lord his GOD diuers wayes, to the great increase of his condemnation, insomuch that the Prophet Dauid crieth out on this wise: All haue gone astray, all are become vnprofitable, there is none that doeth good, no not one (Psalms 14.3). In this case what profit could hee haue by the Law? None at all. For as S. Iames saith, Hee that shall obserue the whole Law, and yet fayleth in one poynt, is become guiltie of all (James 2.10). And in the booke of Deuteronomy it is written, Cursed bee hee (saith GOD) which abideth not in all things that are written in the booke of the Law, to doe them (Deuteronomy 27.26).
Behold, the Law bringeth a curse with it, and maketh it guiltie, not because it is of it selfe naught or vnholy, (GOD forbid wee should so thinke) but because the frailty of our sinfull flesh is such, that wee canne neuer fulfill it, according to the perfection that the Lord requireth. Coulde Adam then (thinke you) hope or trust to bee saued by the Law? No hee could not. But the more hee looked on the Law, the more hee sawe his owne damnation set before his eyes, as it were in a cleare glasse. So that now of himselfe hee was most wretched and miserable, destitute of all hope, and neuer able to pacifie GODS heauie displeasure, nor yet to escape the terrible iudgement of GOD, whereunto hee and all his posteritie were fallen, by disobeying the strait commandement of the Lord their GOD. But O the abundant riches of GODS great mercie. O the vnspeakeable goodnesse of his heauenly wisedome (Romans 11.33). When all hope of righteousnesse was past on our part, when wee had nothing in our selues, whereby wee might quench his burning wrath, and worke the saluation of our owne soules, and rise out of the miserable estate wherein we lay: Then, euen then did Christ the Sonne of GOD, by the appoyntment of his Father, come downe from heauen, to bee wounded for our sakes, to bee reputed with the wicked, to be condemned vnto death, to take vpon him the reward of our sinnes, and to giue his Body to bee broken on the Crosse for our offences. Hee (sayth the Prophet Esay, meaning Christ) hath borne our infirmities, and hath caried our sorrowes, the chastisement of our peace was vpon him, and by his stripes we were made whole (Isaiah 53.4-5). Saint Paul likewise saith, GOD made him a sacrifice for our sinnes, which knew not sinne, that wee should bee made the righteousnesse of GOD by him (2 Corinthians 5.21). And Saint Peter most agreeably writing in this behalfe, saith, Christ hath once died and suffered for our sinnes, the iust for the vniust. &c. To these might bee added an infinite number of other places to the same effect: but these fewe shall bee sufficient for this time.
Now then (as it was sayd at the beginning) let vs ponder and weigh the cause of his death, that thereby we may bee the more mooued to glorifie him in our whole life. Which if you will haue comprehended briefly in one word, it was nothing else on our part, but onely the transgression and sinne of mankinde. When the Angel came to warne Ioseph, that hee should not feare to take Marie to his wife: Did hee not therefore will the childes name to bee called Iesus, because hee should saue his people from their sinnes? When Iohn the Baptist preached Christ , and shewed him to the people with his finger: Did hee not plainely say vnto them, Beholde the Lambe of GOD which taketh away the sinnes of the worlde (John 1.29)? when the Woman of Canaan besought Christ to helpe her daughter which was possest with a Deuill: did hee not openly confesse that hee was sent to saue the lost sheepe of the house of Israel, by giuing his life for their sinnes (Matthew 15.22, 24)? It was sinne then, O man, euen thy sinne that caused Christ the onely Sonne of GOD to bee crucified in the flesh, and to suffer the most vile and slaunderous death of the Crosse. If thou haddest kept thy selfe vpright, if thou haddest obserued the commandements, if thou haddest not presumed to transgresse the will of GOD in thy first father Adam: then Christ , being in forme of GOD, needed not to haue taken vpon him the shape of a seruant (Romans 5.19): being immortall in heauen, he needed not to become mortall on earth: being the true bread of the soule, hee needed not to hunger: being the healthfull water of life hee needed not to thirst: being life it selfe, he needed not to haue suffered death. But to these and many other such extremities, was hee driuen by thy sinne, which was so manifolde and great, that GOD could bee onely pleased in him, and none other. Canst thou thinke of this O sinfull man, and not tremble within thy selfe? Canst thou heare it quietly without remorse of conscience, and sorrow of heart? Did Christ suffer his passion for thee, and wilt thou shew no compassion towards him? While Christ was yet hanging on the Crosse, and yeelding vp the Ghost, the Scripture witnesseth that the vayle of the Temple did rent in twaine and the earth did quake, that the stones claue asunder, that the graues did open, and the dead bodies rise (Matthew 27.51-52). And shall the heart of man be nothing mooued to remember how grieuously and cruelly he was handled of the Iewes for our sinnes? Shall man shew himselfe to bee more hard harted then stones, to haue lesse compassion then dead bodies? Call to mind, O sinfull creature, and set before thine eyes Christ crucified. Thinke thou seest his Body stretched out in length vpon the Crosse, his head crowned with sharpe thornes, and his handes and his feete pearced with nayles, his heart opened with a long speare, his flesh rent and torne with whippes, his browes sweating water and blood. Thinke thou hearest him now crying in an intolerable agony to his Father and saying, My GOD, my GOD, why hast thou forsaken mee? Couldest thou beholde this wofull sight, or heare this mournefull voyce, without teares, considering that hee suffered all this, not for any desert of his owne, but onely for the grieuousnesse of thy sinnes? O that mankinde should put the euerlasting Sonne of GOD to such paines. O that wee should bee the occasion of his death, and the onely cause of his condemnation. May wee not iustly cry, woe worth the time that euer wee sinned? O my brethren, let this Image of Christ crucified, bee alwayes printed in our heartes, let it stirre vs vp to the hatred of sinne, and prouoke our mindes to the earnest loue of Almighty GOD. For why? Is not sinne, thinke you, a greeuous thing in his sight, seeing for the transgressing of GODS precept in eating of one apple, he condemned all the world to perpetuall death, & would not be pacified, but only with the blood of his owne Sonne? True, yea most true is that saying of Dauid: Thou, O Lord, hatest all them that worke iniquitie, neither shall the wicked and euill man dwell with thee (Psalms 5.4). By the mouth of his holy Prophet Esay, he cryed mainely out against sinners, & saith: Wo be vnto you that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, & sin as it were with cartropes (Isaiah 5.18).
Did not he giue a plaine token how greatly he hated and abhorred sin, when he drowned all the world saue only eight persons (Genesis 7.23), when he destroy Sodome and Gomorrhe with fire and brimstone (Genesis 19.24), when in three dayes space hee killed with pestilence threescore and tenne thousand for Dauids offence (2 Sam. 24.15), when hee drowned Pharao and all his hoste in the red sea (Exodus 14.28), when hee turned Nabuchodonosor the king into the forme of a bruit beast, creeping vpon all foure (Daniel 4.33), when he suffered Achitophel and Iudas to hang themselues vpon the remorse of sinne, which was so terrible to their eyes (2 Sam. 17.23, Acts 1.18)? A thousand such examples are to bee found in Scripture, if a man would stand to seeke them out. But what neede we? This one example which wee haue now in hande, is of more force, and ought more to mooue vs, then all the rest. Christ being the Sonne of GOD, and perfect GOD himselfe, who neuer comitted sinne, was compelled to come downe from heauen, to giue his body to bee bruised and broken on the crosse for ouer sinnes. Was not this a manifest token of GODS great wrath and displeasure towards sinne, that he could be pacified by no other meanes, but onely by the sweete and precious blood of his deare Sonne? O sinne, sinne, that euer thou shouldest driue Christ to such extremity! Woe worth the time that euer thou camest into the world. But what booteth it now to bewaile? Sinne is come, and so come that it cannot be auoyded. There is no man liuing, no not the iustest man on the earth, but he falleth seuen times a day, as Salomon sayth (Proverbs 24.16). And our Sauiour Christ, although he hath deliuered vs from sinne: yet not so that we shalbe free from committing sinne: But so that it shall not be imputed to our condemnation. He hath taken vpon him the iust reward of sinne, which was death, and by death hath ouerthrowen death, that wee beleeuing in him, might liue for euer and not dye (Romans 6.9, 23). Ought not this to engender extreme hatred of sinne in vs, to consider that it did violently, as it were, plucke GOD out of heauen, to make him feele the horrours and paines of death? O that we would sometimes consider this in the middest of our pompes and pleasures, it would bridle the outragiousnesse of the flesh, it would abate and asswage our carnall affections, it would restraine our fleshly appetites, that wee should not run at random as wee commonly doe. To commit sinne wilfully and desperately without feare of GOD, is nothing els but to crucifie Christ anew, as we are expresly taught in the Epistle to the Hebrewes (Hebrews 6.6). Which thing if it were deepely printed in all mens hearts, then should not sinne reigne euery where so much as it doth, to the great griefe and torment of Christ now sitting in heauen.
Let vs therefore remember, and alwayes beare in minde Christ crucified, that thereby wee may bee inwardly mooued both to abhorre sinne throughly, and also with an earnest and zealous heart to loue GOD. For this is another fruit which the memoriall of Christes death ought to worke in vs, an earnest and vnfained loue towardes GOD. So GOD loued the world (sayth Saint Iohn) that hee gaue his onely begotten Sonne, that whosoeuer beleeueth in him, should not perish, but haue life euerlasting (John 3.16). If GOD declared so great loue towards vs his seely creatures: how can wee of right but loue him againe? Was not this a sure pledge of his loue, to giue vs his owne Sonne from heauen? Hee might haue giuen vs an Angel if he would, or some other creature, and yet should his loue haue beene farre aboue our deserts. Now hee gaue vs not an Angel, but his Sonne. And what Sonne? His onely Sonne, his naturall Sonne, his welbeloued Sonne, euen that Sonne whom he had made Lord and ruler of all things. Was not this a singular token of great loue? But to whom did he giue him? Hee gaue him to the whole world, that is to say, to Adam, and all that should come after him. O Lord, what had Adam, or any other man deserued at GODS handes, that he should giue vs his owne Sonne? Wee are all miserable persons, sinfull persons, damnable persons, iustly driuen out of Paradise, iustly excluded from heauen, iustly condemned to hell fire: And yet (see a wonderful token of GODS loue) he gaue vs his only begotten Sonne, vs I say, that were his extreme and deadly enemies, that we by vertue of his blood shedde vpon the Crosse, might be cleane purged from our sinnes, and made righteous againe in his sight. Who can chuse but maruell, to heare that GOD should shew such vnspeakable loue towardes vs, that were his deadly enemies? Indeede, O mortall man, thou oughtest of right to maruell at it, and to acknowledge therein GODS great goodnesse and mercy towards mankinde, which is so wonderfull, that no flesh, bee it neuer so worldly wise, may well conceiue it, or expresse it. For as Saint Paul testifieth, GOD greatly commendeth and setteth out his loue towards vs, in that he sent his Sonne Christ to die for vs, when we were yet sinners, and open enemies of his Name (Romans 5.8). If we had in any manner of wise deserued it at his handes, then had it beene no maruell at all, but there was no desert on our part wherefore hee should doe it. Therefore thou sinnefull creature, when thou hearest that GOD gaue his Sonne to die for the sinnes of the world, thinke not he did it for any desert or goodnesse that was in thee, for thou wast then the bondslaue of the Deuill: But fall downe vpon thy knees, and cry with the Prophet Dauid, O Lord, what is man, that thou art so mindefull of him? or the sonne of man, that thou so regardest him (Psalms 8.4)? And seeing he hath so greatly loued thee, endeuour thy selfe to loue him againe, with all thy heart, with all thy soule, and with all thy strength, that therein thou mayest appeare not to be vnworthy of his loue. I report me to thine owne conscience, whether thou wouldest not thinke thy loue ill bestowed vpon him, that could not finde in his heart to loue thee againe? If this be true, (as it is most true) then thinke how greatly it behoueth thee in duetie to loue GOD, which hath so greatly loued thee, that he hath not spared his owne onely Sonne from so cruell and shamefull a death for thy sake. And hitherto concerning the cause of Christs death and passion, which as it was on our part most horrible and grieuous sinne, so on the other side it was the free gift of GOD, proceeding of his meere and tender loue towards mankinde, without any merite or desert of our part. The Lord for his mercies sake graunt that we neuer forget this great benefite of our saluation in Christ Iesu, but that wee alwayes shew our selues thankefull for it, abhorring all kinde of wickednesse and sinne, and applying our mindes wholy to the seruice of GOD, and the diligent keeping of his commandements.
Now it remayneth that I shew vnto you, how to apply Christs death and passion to our comfort, as a medicine to our woundes, so that it may worke the same effect in vs wherefore it was giuen, namely, the health and saluation of our soules. For as it profiteth a man nothing to haue salue, vnlesse it be wel applyed to the part infected: So the death of Christ shall stand vs in nor force, vnlesse wee apply it to our selues in such sort as GOD hath appoynted. Almighty GOD commonly worketh by meanes, and in this thing he hath also ordained a certaine meane, whereby we may take fruit and profite to our soules health.
What meane is that? forsooth it is faith. Not an vnconstant or wauering faith: but a sure, stedfast, grounded, and vnfained faith. GOD sent his sonne into the world (sayth Saint Iohn) To what end? That whosoeuer beleeueth in him should not perish, but haue life euerlasting. Marke these words: that whosoeuer beleeueth in him (John 3.16). Heere is the mean whereby we must apply the fruites of Christs death vnto our deadly wound. Heere is the meane whereby we must obtaine eternall life, namely fayth. For (as Saint Paul teacheth in his Epistle to the Romanes) With the heart man beleeueth vnto righteousnesse, and with the mouth confession is made vnto saluation (Romans 10.10). Paul being demanded of the keeper of the prison, what he should doe to be saued? made this answer: Beleeue in the Lord Iesus , so shalt thou and thine house both be saued (Acts 16.30-31). After the Euangelist had described and set foorth vnto vs at large, the life and the death of the Lord Iesus, in the end he concludeth with these words: These things are written, that we may beleeue Iesus Christ to be the sonne of GOD, and through fayth obtayne eternall life (John 20.31). To conclude with the wordes of Saint Paul, which are these: Christ is the end of the Law vnto saluation, for euery one that doeth beleeue (Romans 10.4). By this then, you may well perceiue, that the onely meane and instrument of saluation required of our parts, is fayth, that is to say, a sure trust and confidence in the mercies of GOD: whereby we perswade our selues, that GOD, both hath, and will forgiue our sinnes, that he hath accepted vs againe into his fauour, that he hath released vs from the bonds of damnation, and receiued vs againe into the number of his elect people, not for our merits or deserts, but onely and solely for the merits of Christs death and passion, who became man for our sakes, and humbled himselfe to sustaine the reproach of the Crosse, that we thereby might be saued, and made inheritours of the kingdome of heauen. This fayth is required at our hands. And this if we keepe stedfastly at our hearts, there is no doubt, but we shall obtayne saluation at GODS hands, as did Abraham, Isaac, and Iacob, of whom the Scripture sayth, that they beleeued, and it was imputed vnto them for righteousnesse (Genesis 15.6, Romans 4.3). Was it imputed vnto them onely? and shall it not bee imputed vnto vs also? Yes, if wee haue the same fayth as they had, it shall be as truely imputed vnto vs for righteousnes, as it was vnto them. For it is one fayth that must saue both vs and them, euen a sure and stedfast fayth in Christ Iesus, who as ye haue heard, came into the world for this end, that whosoeuer beleeue in him, should not perish, but haue life euerlasting (John 3.15). But heere wee must take heed, that wee doe not halt with GOD through an vnconstant and wauering fayth, but that it bee strong and stedfast to our liues end. Hee that wauereth (sayth Saint Iames) is like a waue of the sea, neither let that man thinke that he shall obtayne any thing at GODS hands (James 1.6-7). Peter comming to Christ vpon the water, because he fainted in fayth, was in danger of drowning. So we, if we beginne to wauer or doubt, it is to be feared lest wee shall sinke as Peter did (Matthew 14.29-30), not into the water, but into the bottomlesse pit of hell fire. Therefore I say vnto you, that we must apprehend the merits of Christes death and passion by fayth, and that with a strong and stedfast fayth, nothing doubting, but that Christ by his owne oblation, and once offering of himselfe vpon the Crosse, hath taken away our sinnes, and hath restored vs againe into GODS fauour, so fully and perfectly, that no other sacrifice for sinne, shall heereafter be requisite or needfull in all the world.
Thus haue you heard in few words, the meane whereby wee must apply the fruites and merits of Christs death vnto vs, so that it may worke the saluation of our soules, namely a sure, stedfast, perfect, and grounded fayth. For as all they which beheld stedfastly the brasen serpent, were healed and deliuered at the very sight thereof, from their corporall diseases, and bodily stings (Numbers 21.9): euen so all they which behold Christ crucified with a true and liuely fayth (John 3.14-15), shall vndoubtedly be deliuered from the grieuous wound of the soule, be they neuer so deadly or many in number. Therefore (dearely beloued) if we chance at any time through frailty of the flesh, to fall into sinne (as it cannot be chosen, but wee must needes fall often) and if we feele the heauy burden thereof to presse our soules, tormenting vs with the feare of death, hell, and damnation, let vs then vse that mean which GOD hath appoynted in his word, to wit, the meane of fayth, which is the onely instrument of saluation now left vnto vs. Let vs stedfastly behold Christ crucified, with the eyes of our heart Let vs only trust to be saued by his death and passion, and to haue our sinnes cleane washed away through his most pretious bloud, that in the end of the world, when he shall come againe to iudge both the quicke and the dead, he may receiue vs into his heauenly kingdome, and place vs in the number of his elect and chosen people, there to be partakers of that immortall and euerlasting life, which he hath purchased vnto vs by vertue of his bloudy woundes: To him therefore, with the Father, and the holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end, Amen.
The Anglican Library, This HTML edition copyright 1999.