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and believe truly in Christ; and so, whether or not he really do good works. And here, we see that the Almighty God has not only set forth unto us our Lord Jesus Christ that we may have such a confidence as this in him, but that we may also look at him as an example; who maintained such a confidence, and who sets before us in his own life all good works of this kind, that we may both believe in him, and follow him, and remain in him to all eternity: as he hath said, John xiv. 6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." He is the "way" that we may follow him: the "truth," that we may believe in him and the "life," that we may live in him for ever. From all which things it is manifest, that all other works, which are not commanded, are perilous : and they are easy to be known: such as, building churches and ornamenting them, going on pilgrimages to saints, and whatever other things are enjoined in the decrees of the Pope; which have seduced, laid burdens on, and destroyed, the world, made consciences wretched, and drowned and kept faith in silence. Whereas, it is well known that man has enough set before him to do in the Commandments of God, and to exercise all his powers, without meddling with any other works: so that, he never can do all the good works that are commanded him. Why then does the wretched creature seek after other works which are neither necessary for him nor commanded, and leave those which are necessary and commanded?
CONCERNING THE LAST TWO COMMANDMENTS AND
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his servant, nor his maid, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is his.
These last Two Commandments, which prohibit evil desires or fleshly concupiscence, pleasures, and the love of temporal things, are clear in themselves, and forbid every kind of injury to be done to our neighbour.
And moreover, they remain in force even unto the grave: for the conflict within us against all those desires continues unto death. And therefore, these Two Commandments are by St. Paul contracted into One in his Epistle to the Romans, chap. vii. and mentioned as a certain mark unto which we never can attain; but yet, unto which we are to direct our thoughts and meditations, even until death. For no one ever lived to be so great a saint, as that he did not feel in himself motions of evil concupiscence: especially when any time or occasion occurred to excite them: because, original sin is engendered in us by nature: which may be subdued, but cannot be wholly rooted out but by corporal death: which, on account of original sin, is both profitable and desirable. And may that take place with God propitious unto us, and helping us! Amen.
PROFESSORS AND PROPHETS KNOWN BY THEIR FRUITS.
Matt. vii. 16.
Ye shall know them by their fruits, &c.
Christ had admonished his followers to hold fast his doctrine perseveringly and defend it, and to take all heed that they might not be deceived by others who are ravening wolves in sheep's clothing. He now goes on to teach them how these characters are to be known by their fruits and he sets forth a comparison in the most simple and plain words, which even a child may understand: for I should imagine that no one is so ignorant and senseless, who does not know, that "thorns" never produce either"figs or grapes. Yet, although the words be thus simple, no one sees how much they embrace in their signification, but he who diligently looks into the Word of God. All the force of these words lies, in our understanding what
Christ calls a good and bad tree and fruit. And this is afterwards shown when he speaks of the figs and the thistles, the good fruit and the bitter berry of the thorn; which are easily distinguishable by the eye and reason, by the sight and understanding. But it is impossible for any one to comprehend Christ's design and meaning in those things, unless they be discovered by a spiritual understanding according to the nature of the Word of God. For I have before observed, that these false spirits, or false prophets, conceal themselves under such an outward garb of sanctity, and use such becoming words, that reason cannot judge of and distinguish them, nor effectually guard against them. And, in a word, that kind of doctrine and life are the offspring of reason, and perfectly agreeable unto it; and moreover, it is that which pleases us, because it teaches all such works as are our own, and which we understand and can perform.
But, to be brief, that man is called a "good tree" who brings forth good fruit, and who lives purely and sincerely according to the Word of God. For Christ afterwards draws a conclusion concerning many who are destitute of the Word of God, and who only cry, "Lord, Lord;" and moreover, who work many signs and wonders, and yet, are false prophets and hypocrites! Here, therefore, reason must be utterly excluded, and we must follow the Word of God only, and from that form our conclusions. If we should judge of men's lives and works, we must know and understand what God calls a "good tree" or "good fruit." This is beyond the narrow bounds of reason, (as we have said,)—to see a man very plainly and miserably clad, fasting every week like the pharisees mentioned in the Gospel, nay, even performing miracles also, and yet, to pronounce such an one not a "good tree," nor producing "good fruits." For reason can arrive at no higher degree, nor understand nor judge of any thing better, than this,—to say, that he who follows any way of life different from the rest of mankind, must certainly be a man of a singular, and by no means ordinary, sanctity: not perceiv
ing, (for it is totally blind to these things,) that all works of this kind most widely differ and depart from the Word of God. And if you ask her how it is that she knows that such works really are as precious as she makes them to be; she has no other answer to give, than, that they appear to be so unto her. But, O reason! rather go thou to perdition, together with thy opinion, than that I should trust my salvation unto thee. A man must be certain, not merely think; and must have an infallible foundation and testimony confirmed by the Word of God, which shall assure him that his work is agreeable to that Word; that he may with certainty say, 'This work is a good work: or
This state pleases God.' And of that I am to be certain; not according to what seems good or evil to my own natural light and blinded reason; but because it is done according to the Commandment and the Word of God. For, as to myself, I am sure to think that no father or mother of a family, no prince, no judge, nor any other person, can be so great a saint as he who lives in some secret corner, or passes his life in a desert. But I am not to judge according to my own opinion. And although any one should cast out devils, and should perform all the miracles that ever were performed by the apostles, yet I am rather to choose to be a cobbler's drudge, or wash dishes in a scullery, according to the Word of God, than be such an one. And I am to prefer such a low station to all a man's opinion of himself, even though he could call souls out of hell upon earth again. Wherefore stand thou fast in this truth, and know, that to bring forth good fruit, is to do those works, and to live that life which spring from the Word and Commandment of God.
These words, therefore, "By their fruits ye shall know them," are set up as a standard, and held up as a mark by which we are to be directed. If we be deceived, the fault is our own, and no one's else. For Christ has not left us in doubt, but has painted out all false characters, in their own colours, with the utmost exactness. If (saith he) ye know not how to judge of
them because of the sheep's clothing coming in the way, then look at their fruits and works, whether they be good and sincere. But you will say, How am I to know them? for those works may impose upon the most wise and discerning man?-I answer: Thou doubtlessly knowest what are the Commandments of God. Mark then, whether their works are consistent with, and agreeable unto, them. For I will venture to aver as a certainty, that no Anabaptist will come, without leaving such traces behind him, as shall make it manifest that the devil was with him. No false doctrine or heresy ever arose, which did not carry with it that mark which Christ here gives :—that is, which did not command, ordain, and teach, those works as necessary to be done, which God never commanded. And the reason why the world is seduced as it is, is none other, than because it suffers itself to be led by maddened reason, and permits the Word of God to fall into disuse, as if hidden under a bench, or laid up in rust; not at all regarding what that Word saith, but following the deluded sight of its own eyes, wherever it perceives any thing new or
Let him, therefore, who would rightly judge in these matters, do as Christ bids him. Let him set the works of these characters before him, and judge of them. Let him examine their fruits, and compare them with the Word and Commandments of God. He will then soon see, to a certainty, how far they agree with them, and will be enabled to give them an answer? In this way only view a most holy monk of the order of the Carmelites, with his strict and rigid profession: and, on the other hand, the apostle Paul with the Ten Commandments. You will here find Paul teaching thus,—' When ye have apprehended Christ by faith, then, be subject to all the higher powers, exercising mutual charity among yourselves in all stations and conditions.'-Behold! Here thou hast a true picture of the Christian life, according to the Commandments and ordinances of God.
But here, the Carmelite will insolently cry out, These things that thou commandest are quite common.