Effects of Lively Faith

For we know ourselves by the efficacy of faith
to be dead with Christ.

Gal 2:20

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.

God then seeing his Son all befilled with the sin of his spouse, scourged him, and killed him upon a wooden cross; but yet because he was his most dearly-beloved and obedient Son, he raised him again from death to life, and gave unto him all power in heaven and in earth, and hath set him on his right hand. The spouse in like manner saith with most hearty rejoicing, The realms and empires of my well-beloved husband are mine. I am queen and empress of heaven and earth, my husband’s riches, (that is to say) his holiness, his innocency, his righteousness, his Godhead, with all his virtue and power, are my riches; and therefore I am holy, innocent, righteous, and godly; there is no spot in me; I am fair and well-favoured, because my dearly-beloved husband is not spotted, but fair and well-favoured; and he being altogether mine, consequently all that is his is mine; and because he is holy and pure, I also am become holy and pure. Beginning then with his most innocent nativity, he hath with the same sanctified the filthy nativity of his spouse, conceived in sin. The innocent childhood and youth of the husband hath justified the life of the childhood, the youth, and the imperfect working of his beloved wife; and therefore the love and union that the soul of a true Christian man hath with her husband Christ is so great that the work of both are common to both; so that when it is said Christ did fast, Christ did pray, and was heard by his Father, did raise the dead, delivered men from evil spirits, healed the sick, died, rose again, and ascended to heaven; even in like manner it is said, that the Christian man hath done the selfsame work, because the works of Christ are the work of the Christian man, and by him he hath done them all. Truly it may be said that the Christian man was fastened to the cross, buried, raised again, ascended to heaven, and was made partaker of the nature of God. On the other side, all the works that a Christian man doth are the works of Christ, because he accepteth them as his own, and because they are unperfect and he perfect, and that he willeth not to have any imperfect thing, therefore with his virtue he maketh them perfect, to the intent that [the] wife should be always merry and content, and not be afeared; and therefore how much soever her works be imperfect, yet are they acceptable before God for his Son’s sake, whom continually he beholdeth. O most great bountifulness of God, how much is the Christian man bound to God! There is no human love that may be compared to the love of God, the dearly-beloved Spouse of the soul of every Christian man. Wherefore Saint Paul saith, that Christ loved his church, (that is to say every soul) his beloved spouse, and offered himself for her to the death of the cross, to sanctify her and purify her with the fountain of water, through the word; to make it to himself a glorious congregation, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be wholly without blame, (that is to say) like unto himself in holiness and innocency, and the true and lawful daughter of God, who loved so the world (as John saith) that he gave his only Son, to the end that every one that believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. Wherefore God sent his Son into the world not to judge it, but because the world should be saved by him, so that he that trusteth in him is not condemned.

A man might say to me, in what manner is made the union of this godly matrimony? how is made this copulation of the soul the wife with her husband Christ? what certainty may I have that my soul is united with Christ and made his wife? how may I assuredly glory of his riches as above the wife hath done of her husband’s riches? It is easy to me to believe that others receive this honour and glory; but that I am one of them to whom God hath given so great grace, I cannot persuade myself; I know mine own misery and imperfection. Most dearly beloved brother, I answer thee, that thy certainty consisteth in true and lively faith, with the which, as Saint Peter saith, God purifieth the heart. This faith consisteth in giving credence to the Gospel, (that is to say) to the happy news that is published on God’s behalf throughout all the world, which is, that God hath used the rigour of his righteousness against Christ, chastening in him all our sins. Whosoever receiveth this good news and believeth it certainly hath the true faith, and broketh the remission of his sins, and is reconciled with God, and of [a] child of wrath becometh the child of grace, and recovereth the image of God, entereth into the kingdom of God, and maketh himself the temple of God; who marrieth the soul with his only-begotten Son through this faith, the which is the work and gift of God (as Saint Paul oftentimes saith), and God giveth it to them that calleth for the same to justify themselves and to give them life everlasting, as Christ testified, saying, This is the will of him that sent me, that every man that seeth the Son and believeth on him, have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day. In like manner he saith, As Moses lift up on [high] the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lift up, that none that believeth in him perish, but have eternal life. And to Martha he said, He that believeth on me, yea though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die. And he said to the multitude of the Jews, I am come a light unto the world, that whosoever believeth in me should not bide in darkness. And Saint [John] in his Epistle saith, In this appeared the love of God to usward, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into this world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to make agreement for our sins. And to that end he made him partaker of our flesh and blood, as St. Paul saith, because that by death he should destroy him that had lordship over death, that is to say, the devil: and that he might deliver them which through fear of death were all their lifetime in danger of bondage. Having then the testimony of the holy scripture upon these promises which are above recited, and upon many other that are in divers places thereof spread abroad, we in nowise may doubt that the same promises should not be true. And insomuch as the scripture speaketh generally, no man ought to doubt that that which it speaketh should not appertain unto him; which thing, because it may the better be understanded, and the whole mystery of faith consisteth in it, let us put the case that a good and holy king causeth a proclamation to be made that all such as have at any time rebelled against him should return safely into his realm, because that he by the desert or merits of one of their kin hath pardoned them all, verily none of these rebels ought to doubt that he hath not assuredly obtained pardon and forgiveness for his rebellion, but ought rather with a sure trust return to his house, and to live under the shadow and defence of that holy king; and if he return not, he should bear the pains, and because of his incredulity die a banished man, and in the displeasure of his king. This holy king is the Lord of heaven and earth, the which through the obedience and merits of Christ our kinsman hath pardoned all our rebellion, and (as we have said above) hath caused to be made a proclamation throughout the whole world that safely we may return to his kingdom. Whosoever then trusteth this promise returneth to the kingdom of God (from the which we were cast forth by the offence of our first parents), and is governed most happily of the Spirit of God. He that trusteth not to this proclamation, broketh or enjoyeth not this general pardon, but through his mistrust remaineth still in exile and banishment under the tyranny of the devil, and liveth and dieth in extreme misery; for he liveth and dieth in the displeasure of the King of heaven and earth; and that worthily; for we cannot greatlier offend God than to make him a liar and a deceiver; and that do we when we trust not to his promise.

O how grievous is this sin of incredulity, the which (as much as in it lieth) doth deprive and spoil God of his glory and of his perfection, besides that it bringeth to itself the hurt of everlasting damnation, and continual vexation of mind that in this life the miserable conscience doth feel; but to the contrary, he that approacheth to God with an unfeigned heart and strong faith, trusting to his promises, without any manner of doubting, believing assuredly that all that God promiseth he shall obtain, that man (I say) giveth glory unto God, that man liveth in continual peace and joyfulness of conscience, always praising and thanking God, who hath chosen him to the glory of everlasting life, having a gage most sure and certain, that is to say, the Son of the same God for his most dearly-beloved spouse, whose blood hath made his heart as it were ghostly drunken and merry. And this most holy faith engendereth a lively hope and an assured trust or belief in the mercy of God towards us; which faith liveth and worketh in the heart, and by the same we altogether put our whole trust in God, committing unto him wholly the care and charge of us, and that in such sort and manner that being sure of the benevolence and mercy of God towards us, we are not afraid neither of the devil, neither of his ministers, neither of death itself. And this so stedfast and comfortable a belief in the mercy of God once brought into the heart sticketh it up, and with certain most sweet affections directeth it towards God, and filleth it with most ardent charity or love. Wherefore Saint Paul exhorteth us that we go with faith to the throne of grace, and he comforteth us not to cast away our faith and confidence which hath great reward. This holy faith and trust is gendered in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given us through faith, that never is void of the love of God; and hereof it cometh that by this lively efficacy or strength we are stirred to do good works; and we get so great an ability and inclination or readiness thereto, that we are very ready to do and suffer all things, be they never so intolerable, for the love and glory of God our most benign Father, who by Christ hath made us so rich of his so abundant grace or favour and good mind, and hath made us of enemies most dear children.

This true faith is not so soon given to man by God but that he is forthwith stirred with a most strong zeal and desire to do good works, and to bring forth most pleasant fruits to the Lord, and to his neighbour, as a very good tree; even as it is impossible but that a fagot of fire being kindled must give forth light. This is the faith without the which it is impossible that any man can please God, and by the which all the saints, both of the Old and New Testament, be saved, as Saint Paul testified of Abraham, of whom the Scripture saith, Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness; and therefore he saith a little before, Let us believe then that man is justified by faith, without the works of the law. And in another place he saith, Even so at this time there is a remnant left through the election of grace; if it be of grace, then it is not of works: for then were grace no more grace. And to the Galatians he saith, that it is a manifest thing that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God; for the just shall live by faith. The law is not of faith, but the man that fulfilleth the things contained in the law shall live by them. And a little above he saith, A man is not justified by the deeds of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ: and a little after saith, that if righteousness come by the law, Christ then died in vain, or for nought. And [to] the Romans, comparing the righteousness of the Gospel, he saith, that that consisteth in working and this in believing; for if thou shalt knowledge with thy mouth that Jesus is the Lord, and shalt believe with thine heart that God raised him up from death, thou shalt be safe; for to believe with the heart justifieth, and to knowledge with the mouth maketh a man safe. See how plainly Saint Paul sheweth that faith without any help of works maketh a man righteous.

And not only Saint Paul, but also the holy doctors that came after him have likewise confirmed and approved this most holy verity of justification by faith, amongst the which is principal Saint Augustine, in his Book of Faith and Works, and Of [the] Spirit and the Letter, and of the Eighty-three Questions, and in that he writteth to the Bishop of Rome, Bonifacius, and in his Tract on the thirty-first Psalm, and in many other places he defendeth this opinion; the which Origen also defendeth in his Fourth Book upon the Epistle to the Romans, affirming that Saint Paul would have that faith only be sufficient to justify the world in such manner, that he saith the man only by believing becometh righteous, although he have done no works: like as the thief was justified without the works of the law; for the Lord did not seek that which he before had wrought, nor tarried that he should work anything after that he had believed; but having justified him by his confession only, took him for his companion when he entered into Paradise. And in like manner that woman so celebrated in the Gospel of Saint Luke, at the feet of Jesus Christ heard said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven thee; and a little after: Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace. And after that Origen adjoineth: In many places of the Scripture it is seen that the Lord spake in such manner that he shewed that faith is the occasion of the health and salvation of him that believeth. Then the man is justified by faith, to the which the works of the law help nothing; and on the contrary part, where the faith is not which justified him that believeth, although a man have the works that the law commandeth, nevertheless because they be not builded upon the foundation of faith, although in outward appearance they appear never so good, they nevertheless cannot justify him that doth them, he wanting faith, which is the mark of them that are justified of God. And who is he that may glory in his own righteousness, hearing God say by the prophet that all our righteousness is like the clothes stained with the flowers of a woman. Then to glory in the faith of the cross of Jesus Christ is the true glorying. Saint Basil, in his homily Of humility, expressly willeth that the Christian man account himself righteous only by faith in Christ; his words be these: The apostle saith, he that glorieth, let him [glory] in the Lord, saying that Christ was made by God to us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; and therefore as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. Therefore the perfect and entire glorying is in God, when a man doth not enhance himself by his own righteousness, but knoweth that he lacketh the true righteousness, and that by the only faith in Christ he is justified. Paul also glorieth in not esteeming his own righteousness, and in seeking by faith in Christ the righteousness that cometh from God. Saint Hilarius, upon Saint Matthew in the ninth canon, saith these words: The scribes were troubled because that sin should be remitted of man, for they esteemed Jesus Christ only as man, and that he had remitted that which the law could not remit, and therefore faith only justified. Saint Ambrose, expounding these words of Saint Paul (To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, is faith counted for righteousness; even as David describeth the blessedfulness of the man to whom God ascribeth righteousness without deeds) Saint Ambrose (I say) writeth this upon these words: Saint Paul saith, that to him that believeth in Christ, that is to say, to the Gentile, is his faith imputed for righteousness, even as it was to Abraham? In what manner then did the Jews think to be justified by the works of the law after the justification of Abraham, when Abraham was not justified by the works of the law, but only by faith? Then the law is not necessary, since the wicked man only by faith is justified before God, according to the purpose of the mercy of God. So he saith that it is determined of God, that, not meddling with the law, the unrighteous for his health and salvation should seek only the faith of the mercy of God, as David also saith. The apostle verifieth that that he spake after the example of the prophet, The blessedfulness of the man to whom God imputeth righteousness without works. David understandeth that they are blessed of whom God hath determined, that without weariness and without any observations by faith only they be made righteous before God. Then he setteth forth the blessedness of the time in which Christ was born, even as saith the same Lord, Many righteous men and prophets have desired to see the things that you [see, and to hear the things that you] hear, and have not heard them. The same Ambrose, expounding the first chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, saith very plainly, that whosoever believeth in Christ is justified without works and without any of his merits, receiving by faith only the remission of sins. He also affirmeth the same in an epistle to Irenaeus with these words, Let no man glory or boast of his works, for no man is justified by his own works; but he that is righteous hath his righteousness by gift; for he is justified by Christ. Then faith is the thing that delivereth us through the blood of Christ; for he is blessed to whom sin is remitted and pardon given. And Saint Bernard, upon Cantica Salomonis, in the seventy-seventh sermon, confirmeth the same, affirming that our merits have no part in our justification; the which should all wholly be attributed unto mercy, which maketh us just freely, and in this manner delivereth us from the servitude or bondage of sin. And further, Saint Bernard saith, That Christ espouseth the soul and uniteth it with him by faith, not mingling therewith any merits of our works. But not to be too long, I will make an end of allegations as soon as I have told a very good saying of Saint Ambrose, in the book that is entitled, Of Jacob, and of the blessed life. This holy man saith, that as Jacob, not having merited through himself the being first born, hid him under the habit of his brother, and apparelled himself with his garments, the which cast out a most swell smell, and in that manner presented himself to his father, to receive to his own behoof the blessing under the similitude or likeness of another. So it [is] necessary that we apparel ourselves with the righteousness of Christ by faith, and that we hide us under the precious purity of our eldest brother, if we will be received as righteous in the sight of God.—And surely this is true. Insomuch that if we come into the presence of God not apparelled with the righteousness of Christ, without doubt we shall be all judged unrighteous, and worthy of all punishment; but, on the other side, if God see us apparelled with the righteousness of Christ, no fail he will accept us as just, holy, and worthy eternal life.

And, verily, great is the foolish rashness of them that pretend to come to righteousness by the observation of the commandments of God, which are all comprehended in loving God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbour as thyself. Who shall be then so arrogant, or presumptuous and mad, that dare believe to keep truly these two commandments, and seeth not that the law of God in requiring of man a perfect love condemneth all unperfectness? Let every man consider then his own works which partly appeareth good to him, and he shall find that his works rather should be called a transgressing of the holy law, forsomuch as they are unclean and imperfect works. Whereupon concluded the words of David, Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall not man be justified. And Solomon saith, Who may say my heart is clean? And Job crieth out, How can he be clean that is born of a woman? behold, that amongst his saints there is none stedfast, nor the heavens are clear in his sight. How much more is he then abominable, the which drinketh iniquity as water! And Saint John saith, That if we will say that we are without sin, we deceive ourselves. And the Lord taught that we should say always when we pray, Forgive us our debts. By this may be gathered the foolishness of them that make merchandise of their works, presuming with those works to be of power to save not only themselves, but also others, as though the Lord had not said, When ye have done all those things which ye are commanded, say, We are unprofitable servants all, and that we have but done that was our duty to do. Behold, that although we keep perfectly the law of God, we may judge and call ourselves unprofitable servants. Now all men being very far off from this perfect fulfilling of the law, dare any man glory that he hath put together so great a heap of merits to the just measure, that he hath to give to others?

But now return to our purpose. Let the arrogant sinner consider, the which (doing some works in the sight of the world laudable) pretendeth to justify himself in the sight of God, let him (I say) consider that all the works that come from a corrupt and unclean heart are themselves in like manner corrupt and unclean, and consequently cannot be acceptable to God, nor of effect or power to justify. It is needful then, first, to purify the heart, if we would that our works please God; and that purifying consisteth in faith, as affirmeth the Holy Ghost by the mouth of Saint Peter. We may not then say that the unrighteous man and sinner by his works becometh just, good, and acceptable to God; but we must say that faith purifieth our hearts from all sin, maketh us good, just, and acceptable to God, and consequently causeth that our works (although they be never so imperfect and weak) do nevertheless please his majesty. For when by faith we are become the children of God, he then considereth our works as a father most merciful, and not as a strait judge: for he hath compassion of our frailty, and considereth us as a member of his first-begotten Son, whose righteousness and perfection supplieth our uncleanness and imperfection, the which being covered under the purity and innocency of Christ, be not imputed unto us, nor come [under] the judgment of God.

Whereof it cometh that the works proceeding from true faith (be they of themselves never so impure and imperfect), yet shall they be greatly praised and commended of Christ in the universal judgment, forasmuch as they shall be the fruit and testimony of our faith, by the which we are saved. For insomuch as we have loved the brethren of Christ we shall shew plainly that we again be made faithful, and the brethren of Christ, and by faith we shall be brought unto the perfect possession of the everlasting kingdom, the which God our heavenly Father prepared for us from the beginning of the world: not because of our merits, but through his mercy, by the which he hath chosen and called us to the grace of the Gospel, and hath justified us, that we may glory for ever with his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ our Lord, our justification and righteousness; but not for them that will not confess and knowledge that the same his mercy is of itself sufficient to make a man just and acceptable to God, who through his fatherly kindness offereth and giveth unto us Christ with his righteousness, without any merits of our works. And what thing may man work that might deserve so great a reward and treasure as Christ is? This treasure is given only by the grace, favour, and mercy of God, and faith only is the thing which receiveth such a gift, and maketh us have fruition of the forgiveness of our sins; and therefore when Saint Paul and the doctors say that faith only justifieth without the works, they understand that it only maketh us have fruition of the general pardon and maketh us receive Christ; who (Saint Paul saith) dwelleth in our hearts by faith; who hath overcome the terror of our conscience, made satisfaction to the justice of God for our sins, appeased and quenched the wrath of God against us, and the fire of hell, into the which our natural corruption did throw us headlong, and hath vanquished and destroyed the devil with his power and tyranny. The which things all the works that all men together might do could not attain unto nor bring to pass.

This glory and this power is reserved only to the Son of God, that is to say, unto blessed Christ, who is most mighty above all the powers of heaven and earth and hell, and giveth himself with all his merits to those, that despairing of themselves, put all their hope of salvation in him and his merits. And therefore let no man beguile himself when he heareth say, that only faith without works justifieth, (believing as doth the false Christians, which draweth all things to a fleshly living) that the true faith consisteth in believing the story of Jesus Christ, in like manner as they that believe the histories of Caesar and Alexander. This manner of believing is an historical faith, founded on the very report of man, and of writing, and is printed slightly in the mind by a certain use or custom; and is like to the faith of the Turks, who by the selfsame occasions believeth in the fables of Alcoran. This faith (so made) is an imagination of man, which reneweth nothing the heart of man, nor heateth him with godly love, neither doth there follow it any works of faith, nor new life; and therefore they say falsely, both against the holy Scripture and also the holy doctors of the true Church, that only faith justifieth not, but that the works are needful; to the which I answer, that this historical and very vain faith, with the works that follow it, not alone not justifieth, but also casteth a man down headlong into hell, as those that have no oil in their lamps, that is to say, no true faith in their hearts.

The faith that justifieth is a work of God in us by the which our old man is crucified, and we being altogether transformed into Christ do become a new creature, and dearly-beloved sons of God: this godly faith is such that it graffeth us in the death and resurrection of Christ, and consequently mortifieth the flesh with her affections and concupiscences; for we know ourselves by the efficacy of faith to be dead with Christ, and do therefore determine with ourselves and with the world, and also do understand that it appertaineth to those that are dead with Christ, to mortify their worldly members, that is to say, the sinful affections of the mind, and the appetites or lusts of the flesh; and knowing ourselves raised with Christ, we diligently endeavour to lead a spiritual and holy life, and like that which we shall live in heaven after our resurrection. This most holy faith causeth us to broke or enjoy the general pardon that the Gospel publisheth, yea, it leadeth us into the kingdom of God, and maketh peace in our conscience, and maintaineth in it a perpetual and holy joyfulness and mirth. This sameself faith uniteth us with God, and causeth that God dwelleth in our hearts, and clotheth our soul with himself; and consequently his Holy Spirit moveth us to those things to the which it moved Christ, when he was conversant amongst men: I say, to humility, meekness and obedience of God, charity, and to other perfections, by the which we recover the image of God.

Then worthily Christ doth attribute blessedfulness to this inspired faith, the which blessedness cannot stand without good works and holiness; and how may it be true that the Christian man is not holy if by faith Christ is become his sanctification? Then by faith we become just and holy, and therefore almost always Saint Paul calleth those saints which we call Christian men, who if they have not the Spirit of Christ are not Christian men; and if they have the Spirit of Christ which ruleth and governeth them, we should not doubt that those, how well soever they know themselves justified by faith only, should become slothful to do good works; for the Spirit of Christ is the spirit of charity or love, and charity cannot be idle nor easy from doing good works; and so if we will say the truth, a man can never do good works if first he do not know himself justified through the merits and righteousness of Christ, which he maketh his through faith. [Then and not before he] worketh only for the love and glory of God and of Christ, and not for the love he beareth to himself, nor yet for that he would be thereby justified; whereupon it cometh that the true Christian man (that is to say) he that counteth himself righteous through the righteousness of Christ, asketh not whether good works be commanded or not, but being moved and stirred through the strength of God’s love towards him, he again offereth himself most ready to holy Christian works, and never ceaseth to work well.

And he that by his faith feeleth not the marvellous effects that we have spoken of, which the inspired faith doth in a Christian man, let him know that he hath not yet the true Christian faith, and let him make instant prayer to God, to give it him, saying, Lord, help my incredulity or unbelief; and hearing say, that faith only justifieth, let him not deceive himself, saying, What needeth it that I weary myself in doing good works? Faith sufficeth to send me to Paradise; but let him mark that the devils believeth also and trembleth. Now wilt thou go with them into Paradise through this false conclusion or reasoning? Brother, thou mayest know how great an error thou art in: thou thinkest that thou hast the faith that justifieth, and hast it not; thou sayest, I am rich, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, poor, blind, and naked. I persuade thee to buy of God gold fined in the fire, that is to say, true faith fined through good works, to the intent thou mayest become rich and apparelled with white clothes, that is to say, with the innocency of Christ, to the intent that the shamefulness of thy nakedness appear not, that is to say the filthiness of thy sins.

Then the faith that justifieth is like a flame of fire, which cannot but shine; and as it is true that the flame only burneth the wood without the help of the light, so it is true that faith only putteth out and burneth the sins without help of works; and nevertheless this faith cannot be without good works; for as when we see a flame of fire that shineth not, we know that it is painted and vain, so likewise when we see not in any man the light of good works, it is a sign that such a one hath not the true inspired faith the which God giveth to his elects, to justify and glorify them. And I think assuredly that Saint James understanded this by his words when he said, Shew me thy faith by they deeds, and I will shew thee my faith by my deeds; meaning that he who attendeth to the ambition and pleasures of the world, how much soever he saith he believeth, he believeth not; since he sheweth not in him the effects of faith. We may yet liken this most holy faith that justifieth, to the divinity or Godhead that was in Jesus Christ, who being very man (but without sin) wrought things wonderful, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, going upon the waters, and raising the dead. But these miraculous works were not the cause that Christ was God; for afore that he wrought any of these works he was God, and the lawful and only-begotten Son of God; and it was not to him needful to work such miracles that thereby he might become God, but contrariwise, because he was God he wrought them: wherefore these miracles were not the cause that Christ was God, but they shewed that he was very God. So the true living faith is a divinity in the soul of a Christian man, which worketh marvellously, and is never weary of doing good works; but these works are not the cause that the Christian man is a Christian, (that is to say) just, good, holy, and very acceptable unto God; and to him it was not needful to do such works that thereby he might become such an one; but he, because he is a Christian man by faith (as Christ being a man by his divinity was God) doth all those works. So that these good works do not make the Christian man righteous and good, but doth shew that he is good and righteous. Then even as the divinity or Godhead of Christ was the cause of his miracles, so faith working by love is the cause of the good works of the Christian man. And even as they said of Christ, he hath done this and that miracle; and such miracles, besides that they glorified and gave honour unto God, were also very greatly to Christ’s honour as man; who being obedient even to the death, was of God rewarded in the resurrection, and had given to him all power in heaven and in earth, the which before, as man, he then had not; and this he deserved by the agreement and unity that the Word of God had with the manhood of Christ: even so doth faith in the Christian man. For by the agreement and unity that it hath with the soul it attributeth that which appertaineth to the one unto the other; so that many times the holy Scriptures promiseth to a Christian man life everlasting for his good works, because that good works are fruits and testimony of the living faith, and proceedeth from it as the light from the flame of fire, as we have already above said; and this most holy faith embraceth Christ, and uniteth him [with] the soul; and all three, (that is to say faith, Christ, and the soul,) do become one self[same] thing, on such manner that the thing which Christ meriteth the soul in like manner meriteth. And therefore Saint Augustine saith, that God crowneth in us his gifts.

Of this union of the soul with Christ by faith, giveth testimony Christ himself in Saint John, making prayer to the Father for his Apostles, and for them that should believe in him by their reaching, that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may be also one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And that glory that thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, as we are one. Then when we believe the words of the Apostles who preached Christ to have died for our sins, and to have risen again for our justification, and to make us righteous, we become one thing with Christ, who being one only thing with God, we also by Christ be one only thing with God. O glory to be marvelled at of a Christian man, to whom by faith is granted to possess these things which are not able to be expressed, which the angels do desire to see.

By these arguments may plainly be known the difference that is between us and them that doth defend the justification of faith and works together: in this we agree, that we also establish works, and we affirm that the faith that justifieth cannot be without good works, and we say that the justified by faith be those that do the works that truly may be called good; but in this we differ and vary, that we say that faith without the help of the works justifieth, and the reason is at hand, for we by faith clothe ourselves with Christ, making his righteousness and holiness ours; and insomuch as it is true that by faith the righteousness of Christ is given unto us, we cannot be so unthankful, blind, and wicked, to believe that the same righteousness of Christ without our works is not sufficient to make us acceptable and righteous in the sight of God. And we say with the Apostles, If the blood of oxen and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer when it was sprinkled, purified the unclean, as touching the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, which through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge our conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Now let a good Christian man judge which of these two opinions is more true, more holy, and more worthy to be preached or taught, either ours that doth illustrate the benefit of Christ, and abateth the pride of the man that would exalt his works against the glory of Christ, or the other, which saying, that faith only justifieth not, doth darken the glory and benefit of Christ, and stirreth up the pride of man, who cannot suffer nor abide to be justified and made righteous freely by Jesus Christ our Lord. Some will say, it is a great instigation to do good works when we say that a man by them is made righteous before God. I answer, that we also knowledge that good works are acceptable to God, and that he rewardeth them through his mere liberality in Paradise; but we say that those only are good works (as Saint Augustine saith) which are done by those that are justified through faith; for if the tree be not good it cannot bear good fruits.

Moreover, such as are justified by faith, knowing themselves righteous through the righteousness of God executed in Christ, make not merchandise with God of their good works, pretending with them to buy of him their justification; but being inflamed with the love of God, and desirous to glorify Christ, who hath justified them and given to them all his merits and riches, they give heed with all their hearts to do the will of God, and fight manfully against the love of themselves, the world, and the devil. And when they fall through the frailty of the flesh, they rise again and be so much the more desirous to do good works, and the more enamoured and in love with God; considering that their sins are not imputed unto them by him, forsomuch as they are incorporate and made one body with Christ, who hath made satisfaction for all his members on a wooden cross, and continually maketh intercession to his eternal Father for them; who, for the love of his only Son, beholdeth them always with a most pleasant countenance, and governeth and defendeth them as his most dearly-beloved sons, and in the end will give them the inheritance everlasting, making them like to the glorious image of Christ.

These amorous instigations and kind provocations are those that move the true Christians to do good works, who considering that they are become through faith the children of God, and partakers of the nature of God, be stirred up through the Holy Ghost that dwelleth in them to live as appertaineth to the children of one so great a lord, and they are ashamed not to keep the worthiness of their heavenly nobility, and therefore they wholly apply their minds to follow their eldest brother Jesus Christ, living in most great humility and meekness, seeking in all things the glory of God, giving their life for their brethren, doing good to their enemies, rejoicing [in] slanders and in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; and they say with Zacharias, We are delivered from the hands of our enemies, to the intent that we may without fear serve God in holiness and in righteousness before him all the days of our life. They say with Saint Paul, The grace of God that bringeth salvation to all men hath appeared, and hath taught us, that we should deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and that we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and appearing of the glory of the great God and of our Saviour Jesus Christ. These and other such like thoughts, desires, and affections, worketh the inspired faith in the minds of all such as are thereby justified; and he that doth not feel in his heart either altogether or else at the leastway partly these godly affections and effects, but is given to the flesh and to the world, let him be well assured that he hath not yet the faith that justifieth, nor is any member of Christ, for he hath not the Spirit of him, and consequently is not of Christ; and he that is not of Christ is not a Christian. Then at the last let man’s wisdom cease to speak against the righteousness of holy faith, and let us give all the glory of our justification to the merits of Christ, with whom we apparel ourselves through faith.

Reference

  1. Don Benedetto & Jonson, R. W. (1855). The Benefits of Christ: Effects of Lively Faith, 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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