Spirituali

Beneficio Di Christo

– Benedetto Fontanini

1. Of Original Sin and the Misery of Man
2. Purpose of the Law
3. Our Salvation Depends upon Christ
4. Effects of Lively Faith
5. Clothed with Christ
6. Remedies against Unbelief

Of Original Sin and the Misery of Man

The Holy Scripture saith that God created man to his own similitude and likeness, making him as concerning the body impassible, and as touching the soul, righteous, true, godly, merciful, and holy: but after that he, being overcome with desire of knowledge of good and evil, did eat of the apple that God had forbidden him, he lost that image and likeness of God, and became like unto beasts and the devil that had deceived him; and therefore, as concerning the soul he became unrighteous, a liar, and cruel, ungodly, and the enemy of God; and as concerning the body he became passible, and subject unto a thousand evils and infirmities, being not only like but also inferior to the most brute beasts. And, as if our first parents had obeyed God, they had left us, as of inheritance, their righteousness and holiness, so now, in that they were disobedient unto him, they have left us of inheritance their unrighteousness, ungodliness, and hatred towards God, in such sort that it is impossible that by our own strength we can love God and conform ourselves unto his will. We are so become very enemies unto him, as to him that (insomuch as he is a righteous Judge) will punish our faults, neither can we any more trust unto hismercy. And to be short, this our nature by the sin of Adam is wholly corrupt, which nature, being before superior to all creatures, is now become subject to all, yea the bondservant of the devil, sin, and death, and is condemned to the pains of hell, having lost the right judgment or discerning of all things, and beginneth to call good evil and evil good, counting false things true and true things false. Whereupon the prophet considering this, saith that every man is a liar, and that there is not one that doth good, insomuch that the devil reigneth peaceably as one strongly armed in his own palace, which is this world, whereof he is become prince and governor.

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Purpose of the Law

That the Law was given of God to the intent that we might first know our sin; and then, distrusting to be justified by our own works, that we might run unto the mercy of God and the righteousness of faith.

And therefore, God minding of His infinite goodness and mercy to send His only-begotten Son to deliver the miserable children of Adam, and knowing that it was needful first to make them know their own misery, God (I say) chose Abraham, in whose seed He did promise to bless all the generations of the earth, and to accept for His peculiar and chosen people all that descended of him. After they were gone out of Egypt and delivered from the bondage of Pharaoh, He gave to them by Moses the Law, the which forbade concupiscences or lusts, and commanded that we should love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our power; in such wise that all our hope should be put in God, and that we should be ready to depart from our own lives for the same our good God’s sake, to suffer all torments in all parts of our bodies, to deprive ourselves of all our goods, dignities, and honours, to honour the same our God with all, choosing rather to die than to commit a thing never so little that should not please the same our good God. And to do all those things with all joyfulness and promptness of heart.

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Our Salvation Depends upon Christ

That the forgiveness of our sins, our justification, and all our salvation dependeth on Christ.

Forsomuch now as our Lord God hath thus sent that great prophet whom He promised, which is His onlybegotten Son, to the intent that he should deliver us from the malediction or curse of the law, and should reconcile us unto God, and make able our will to do good works, healing our freewill, and restoring to us that likeness of God which we had lost by the sin of our first parents; and forsomuch as we know that under heaven there is given none other name to mankind whereby we may be saved besides the name of Jesus Christ, let us therefore run with the paces or steps of our lively faith in him, into his arms that calleth us, crying, Come to me, all ye that labour and are laden, and I will ease you. What consolation, what joyfulness of heart in this life, may be compared to [his] joy and comfort that having felt himself first oppressed with the intolerable weight of his sins, heareth afterward so sweet and pleasant a saying of the Son of God, who promised him so mercifully thoroughly to ease and to deliver him of so great a burden? But all consisteth in this, that we know from whence our sickness and misery cometh: for no man tasteth or truly discerneth that that is good, unless first he have felt that that is evil; and therefore saith Christ, If any man thirst let him come to me and drink; as he might say, except a man know himself a sinner, and thirst for righteousness, he cannot taste how sweet this our Jesus Christ is, nor how pleasant it is to think and speak of Him, and to follow his most holy life and conversation. If then we know our sickness by the office of the law, behold then Saint John Baptist sheweth with his finger unto us our merciful healer and Saviour, saying, Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world. The which (I say) delivered us from the grievous yoke of the law, abrogating and making of none effect the maledictions or cursings, and sharp threatenings thereof; healing all our sicknesses, reforming our freewill, and restoring us unto our first innocency, and bringing to us again the likeness of God. And therefore, as Saint Paul saith, As by Adam we are all dead, even so by Christ we all are revived. Then let not us believe that the sin of Adam, which we have inherited, is of greater efficacy than the righteousness of Christ, which we have in like manner by faith inherited.

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Effects of Lively Faith

Of the effects of the lively faith, and of the unity or agreement of the soul with Christ.

This holy and lively faith worketh so much, that it bringeth to pass that whosoever believeth that Christ hath taken upon him his sins becometh like unto Christ, and overcometh sin, death, the devil, and hell; and this is the cause that the Church (that is to say every faithful soul,) is the wife of Christ, and Christ is her husband. We know that the custom of marriage is that of two there become one self[same] thing, they being two in one flesh, and the goods of both become common to either of them, so that the husband saith the dowry of the wife is his, and in like manner the wife saith that the house and all the riches of the husband are hers; and so truly they be, otherwise they should not be one flesh, as the Holy Scripture saith. Even in the self-same manner God hath married his most dearly-beloved Son with the faithful soul, who having nothing of her own but alonely sin, the Son of God nevertheless hath not disdained to take her for his well-beloved spouse with her own dowry which is sin. And by the uniting and knitting together which is wrought in this most holy matrimony, the thing that appertaineth to the one is also the other’s, so that Christ saith then, the dowry of the soul, my dearly-beloved spouse, that is to say, her sins, the transgression of the law, the wrath of God against her, [the] malapertness and boldness of the devil against her, the prison of hell and all her other evils, are come into my power, and are in mine own ordering, and unto me it pertaineth to do with the same dowry even as it pleaseth me, and therefore I will cast it upon the altar of my cross, and make it of none effect.

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Clothed with Christ

How the Christian man apparelleth or clotheth himself with Christ.

And although by the things above said it may clearly enough be understanded how the Christian man apparelleth himself with Christ, nevertheless we will speak somewhat more, knowing that to talk of Christ and of his gifts to a good Christian it can never seem tedious nor painful, although a thing were repeated a thousand times. I say, that the Christian knoweth Christ to be his by faith, with all his righteousness, holiness, and innocency. And as a man apparelleth himself with a very fair and precious garment when he will present himself to the presence of a great lord, so the Christian, apparelled and covered with the innocency of Christ and with all his perfections, presenteth himself before God [the] Lord of all, putting his trust in the merits of Christ none otherwise than if he had merited and obtained [them all]; faith (without doubt) causeth that we possess Christ and all that is his, as every one of us possesseth his own garment. And therefore to apparel ourself with Christ is none other thing than to believe assuredly that Christ is ours (as true it is if we believe it), and to believe that by this heavenly garment we be dearly-beloved and acceptable in the presence of God; because it is most certain that he is a most kind Father, hath given unto us his Son, and willeth that all his righteousness and all that he is, that he may and that he hath wrought, be in our jurisdiction and rule, in such manner that it is lawful for us to glory as though we by our own power had gotten and wrought them. Whosoever then believeth this shall without fail find that which he believeth to be very true, as we have above shewed. Then the Christian man ought to have a firm faith and trust that all the goods, all the grace, and all the riches of Christ be his; for God having given us Christ, how may it be that he giveth not us all things with him?

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Remedies against unbelief

Certain remedies against incredulity or unbelief.

But because the devil and man’s wisdom evermore goeth about to spoil us of this most holy faith, by which we believe that in Christ all our sins are chastened, and that through his most precious blood we are reconciled and made at one with God, it is needful that the Christian have always his armour ready to defend himself from this most evil temptation, which goeth about to deprive the soul of her life. Amongst these armours we judge prayers, often use of the most holy communion, the remembrance of baptism and of predestination, to be most mighty. In our prayers let us say with the father of the lunatic, Lord, help our unbelief; and let us say with the Apostle, Lord, increase our faith; and if we will that there shall reign in us a continual desire to increase in faith, hope, and charity, forthwith let us pray as Saint Paul ordained, for prayer is none other thing than a fervent desire founded and fixed in God. With the remembrance of baptism we shall assure ourselves to be in peace with God; for Saint Peter saith, that the ark of Noe was a figure of baptism; then as Noe, believing the promises of God, saved himself in the ark from the flood, even so we, through faith, save ourselves in baptism from the wrath of God; the which faith is founded in and upon the word of Christ, who said, He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved, (and with good reason), for in baptism we apparel and clothe ourselves with Christ, as Saint Paul affirmeth, and consequently we are made partakers of his righteousness and all his goods. And under this most precious garment the sins that our frail nature doth commit are covered, and are not imputed to us of God; and, as Saint Paul saith, the blessing of the psalm appertaineth to us which saith, Blessed are they whose unrighteousnesses are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not sin. But let [the] Christian man beware that he take not through these words license to sin, for this doctrine appertaineth not to them who, when they are honoured with the name of a Christian, do with words confess Christ, and with works deny him; but it pertaineth to the true Christians which, although they fight manfully with the flesh, the world, and the devil, yet they fall every day, and are constrained to say continually, Forgive us our debts. To those we speak to comfort and hold them up, to the intent they fall not into desperation as though the blood of Christ did not cleanse them from all sin, and as [though] he were not the Advocate and propitiation or sacrifice for all his members. Then when we shall be moved to doubt of the remission of sins, and our conscience shall be given to be troubled, let us, being apparelled with faith, run straightway to the precious blood of Jesus Christ which was shed for us on the altar of the cross, and to the faithful distributed in the last supper, under the cover of the most holy sacrament; which was by Christ instituted because we should celebrate the remembrance of his death, and with this visible sacrament should make our afflicted conscience certain of our reconciliation and atonement with God.

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Bib.

  1. Don Benedetto & Jonson, R. W. (1855). The Benefits of Christ, trans. by Edward Courtenay. Mantova, Sicilily: Montova de Benedetto, 1544. Retrieved from archive.org

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them (Matt 7:20).

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