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?

If this be true (as indeed it is) the Christian man may say truly, I am the son of God, Christ is my brother, I am lord of heaven and earth, of hell, of death, and of the law; and therefore the law cannot accuse nor say evil of me, being made mine the righteousness of my Christ. This faith is that only which maketh a man to be called a Christian, and it apparelleth him with Christ, as we have said. And this may properly be called a great mystery, under which are contained the things of almighty God both marvellous and unheard, the which cannot enter into the heart of man, if God do not mollify it with his grace, as he promiseth by the mouth of Ezekiel, saying, A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put into you: as for that stony heart I will take it out of your body, and give you a fleshly heart. He then which doth not believe in this manner, that is to say, that Christ is his with all his goods that he possesseth, he (I say) cannot call himself a true Christian, nor never can have a merry and a quiet conscience, nor a good and a fervent mind to work well, and shall fall very soon from good works, or rather he can never do any that may be truly called good works. This only faith and trust that we have in the merits of Christ maketh men true Christians, strong, rejoicing, merry, in love with God, ready to do good works, possessors of the kingdom of God, and his dearly-beloved children, in whom truly and certainly the Holy Ghost dwelleth.

What mind is so abject, or lewd, vile, and cold, that considering the inestimable greatness of the gift which God hath given unto us, giving us his most dearly-beloved Son with all his perfections, is not inflamed with most ardent desire to be like unto him in good works, forsomuch as he is also given to us of the Father for an example, whom we ought always to behold, forming on such manner our life and conversation that it should be a representation of following the life of Christ; for, as Saint Peter saith, Christ suffered for us, leaving us an ensample that we should follow his steps. By considering of this springeth the other manner of apparelling us with Christ, the which we may call example; for the Christian ought to rule all his life by the example of Christ, conforming himself like unto him in all his thoughts, words, and works, leaving his ill life past, and apparelling himself [with] a new life, that is to say, with the life of Christ. Whereupon Saint Paul saith, Let us cast away the works of darkness, and [let] us apparel ourselves with the armour of light: let us walk honestly as it were in daylight, not in banqueting [and] drunkenness, neither in chambering and wantonness, neither in strife and envying; but let us put upon us our Lord Jesus Christ, and let us not make provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts of it. Wherefore the true Christian man being enamoured on Christ, saith thus within himself, Since Christ having no need of me, hath recovered me with his own blood, and became poor to make me rich, I will in like manner again give my goods and my life for the love and health of my neighbour; and even as I am apparelled with Christ through the love that he hath borne to me, so will I that my neighbour in Christ for the love that I bare unto him for Christ’s sake be apparelled with me and my goods. And if a man do not in this manner, then is he not yet a true Christian man, and therefore let not any man brag or say, I love Christ, if he love not the members and the brethren of Christ; for if we love not our neighbour for whose sake Christ hath shed his own precious blood, we cannot say truly that we do love Christ, who being equal with God, was obedient to the Father, even to the death of the cross, and hath loved and redeemed us, giving unto us himself with all his works and with all that he possesseth. In this same self manner, forsomuch as we be abundantly rich with the goods of Christ, we ought to be obedient to God again, and to offer and give our works, and all that is ours and ourselves, likewise to our neighbours and brethren in Christ, serving them in all their needs, and being to them, as a man might say, another Christ. And even as Christ was humble, meek, and most far off from contention and strife, so ought we to give ourselves altogether to humbleness and meekness, fleeing all strife and contention, no less those that consist in words and disputations, than those that consist in deeds. Even as Christ suffered all the persecutions and shames of the world for the glory of God, so ought we joyfully to sustain the shames and persecutions that the false Christians do to all those who will live godly in Christ. Christ did give his life for his enemies and prayed for them on the cross, and so we ought ever to pray for our enemies, and give our life gladly for their health. And this is to follow Christ’s footsteps, as Saint Peter saith. For when we know Christ with all his riches to be our own, which is to clothe us with Christ, and to become clean and pure of all spots, there resteth then none other thing for us to do but to glorify God through the following of Christ, and to do the selfsame thing to our brethren that Christ hath done to us; and that, through his own word, we bear in mind without ceasing, that whatsoever good or benefit we do to his brethren and ours he accepteth as benefit done to him. And without doubt, forsomuch as the true Christians are the members of Christ, we can do neither good nor evil unto the true Christian man, but we do evil or good to Christ, forasmuch as he rejoiceth and suffereth in his members. Then as Christ is our apparel, by faith, so ought we through love to be the apparel of our brethren, and the selfsame care and regard that we have of our own body we ought to have of theirs who are true members of our body, of the which Christ is the head. This is that godly love and charity which springeth up out of the unfeigned faith wherewith God inspireth his elects, of the which Saint Paul saith that it worketh through love.

But forasmuch as the life of Christ, with the imitation or following of which we ought to apparel ourselves, was a perpetual cross, full of tribulation, shame, and persecutions; if we will conform ourselves and become like unto his life, it is needful that we do bear continually the cross, as he himself saith, If any man will follow me let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. The chief cause of this cross is that our Lord God with this exercise will mortify in us the affections of the mind and the appetites and lusts of the flesh, to the intent that we may comprehend in ourselves that perfection in the which we are comprehended of Christ, through the incorporation and being made one body in him, and will that our faith, fined as gold in the furnace of adversity, shine to his praise. And moreover, he will that by our infirmities we shall illustrate and set forth his mighty power, the which the world (in despite of itself) seeth in us when our frailness through tribulations and persecutions become strong, and the more it is beaten down and oppressed, so much the more it becometh strong and stable or stedfast. Whereupon Saint Paul saith, We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency [of the] power might be of God, and not ours. We are troubled on every side, yet are we not utterly without shift; we are in poverty, but not utterly without somewhat; we suffer persecution, but are not forsaken therein; we are cast down, nevertheless we perish not; and always we bear about in our body the dying of our Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus might appear in our bodies.

Then seeing Christ and his dear disciples have glorified God with their tribulations, let us also embrace them joyfully, saying with Saint Paul, God forbid that I should glory but in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. And let us work and behave ourselves in such sort that the world (to his own hurt) may know and see with his eyes the marvellous effects that God worketh in them that sincerely embrace the grace of the Gospel; let the man of the world (I say) see with how much tranquility and quietness of mind the true Christians sustain the loss of goods, the death of their children, slanders, infirmities of the body, and the persecutions of the false Christians; let them see how these only do honour God in the spirit and truth, thankfully taking at the hand of him all that happeneth to them, counting for good, just, and holy, all that he doeth; and in all prosperity and adversity praising and thanking him as a most good and merciful Father, and knowledging it for a great gift of God to suffer, and specially for the gospel and following of Christ before all things, knowing that tribulation bringeth patience, patience bringeth experience, experience bringeth hope, and hope makes not ashamed. I say that patience worketh experience; for God having promised to help in tribulations them that trust in him, we know it by experience whilst we stand strong and constant and be holden up by the hand of God, which thing we cannot do by our own strength. Then through patience we have experience, that the Lord bringeth the help that he hath promised in our need, through which our hope is established; therefore it should be to him much ingratitude and unthankfulness not to abide and look for that help and favour at his hand, which we had before by experience found so certain and constant. But what needeth so many words? it ought to be sufficient and enough to know that the true Christian men through tribulations apparel themselves with the image and likeness of Christ crucified, which if we shall bear willingly we shall apparel ourselves afterward with the image of Christ glorified; for even as the afflictions of Christ now abound in us, even so through Christ shall also abound our consolation and comfort; and if we suffer with him we shall reign together with him.¹

Note

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

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

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