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.

It might have seemed that a man might have been sorry that without his occasion he should be born and conceived in sin, through the iniquity of his parents, whereby death reigned over all men; but now is taken away all lamentation, forasmuch as in the selfsame manner, without our occasion, the righteousness of Christ, and life everlasting by Christ, is come unto us, death being by him slain; whereupon Saint Paul maketh a very goodly discourse, which I will hereunder write: As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by the means of sin, and so death went over all men, insomuch that all men sinned; for even unto the time of the law was sin in the world, but sin was not regarded as long as there was no law: nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them all that sinned not with like trangression as Adam did, which is the similitude of him that is to come. But the gift is not like as the sin. For if through the sin of one many be dead, much more plenteous upon many was the grace of God and gift by grace, which grace was given by one man, Jesus Christ: and the gift is not over one sin, as death came through one sin of one that sinned; for damnation came of one sin unto condemnation, but the gift came to justify from many sins. For if by the sin of one death reigned by the means of one, much more shall they that receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, reign in life by means of one, that is to say, Jesus Christ. Likewise then as by the sin of one condemnation came on all men, even so by the justifying of one cometh the righteousness that bringeth life upon all men. For as by one man’s disobedience many became sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. But the law in the meantime entered in, that sin should increase; never the less, where abundance of sin was, there was more plenteousness of grace, that as sin had reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by the help of Jesus Christ.

By these words of Saint Paul we know that is above said, that is to say, that the law was given to the intent that sin might be known, and that thereby we might know that it is not of greater efficacy than is the righteousness of Christ, by the which we are justified before God. Therefore as Christ is of more power than Adam, even so the righteousness of Christ is of more efficacy than the sin of Adam. And if the sin of Adam were sufficient to make us sinners, and the children of wrath, without any sin actually done of us, much more shall be sufficient the righteousness of Christ to make us righteous, and the children of grace, without any of our good works. Neither can they be good except that before we do them we our own selves be made good and righteous by faith, as affirmed in like manner Saint Augustine. Hereby a man may know in how much error they be which for any sin, be it never so great, do despair of the mercy of God, and do think that he is not able to forgive, take away and pardon every sin, be it never so grievous, when he hath in his only-begotten Son already chastened all our faults and iniquities, and therefore consequently hath given a general pardon to all mankind, whereof every one hath benefit and fruition that believeth the gospel, that is to say, the most happy news which the apostles have published throughout the world, saying, We even in Christ’s stead pray you that ye be reconciled unto God; for he hath made him which knew no sin to be sin for us, that we by his means might be that righteousness that before God is allowed. And Esay, who evidently setteth forth so well the passion of Jesus Christ and the cause of it, that in the writing of the apostles there is not found a better description or a plainer setting forth; he (I say), foreseeing this great benefit of the mercy of God, writeth this most godly sentence, Who giveth credence unto our preaching, or to whom is the arm of the Lord known? he shall grow before the Lord like as a branch, and as a root in a dry ground: he shall have neither beauty nor favour: when we look on him there shall be no fairness, we shall have no lust unto him; he shall be the most simple and despised of all: which yet hath good experience of sorrows and infirmities; we shall reckon him so simple and so vile, that we shall hide our faces from him. Howbeit (of a truth) he taketh only away our infirmity, and beareth our pain, yet we shall judge him as though he were plagued and cast down of God; whereas he (notwithstanding) shall be wounded for our offences and smitten for our wickedness; for the pain of our punishment shall be laid on him, and with his stripes shall we be healed. As for us, we go all astray like sheep, every one turneth his own way; but through him the Lord pardoneth all our sins. He shall be pained and troubled, and shall not open his mouth; he shall be led as a sheep to be slain, yet shall he be still as a lamb before the shearer, and not open his mouth. O great ingratitude and abominable thing it is if we, professing ourselves to be Christians, and knowing that the Son of God hath taken upon him all our sins, and has also cancelled them with his own most precious blood, having suffered himself to be chastened for us on the cross, if we (I say) nevertheless go about to justify ourselves, and to obtain the forgiveness of our sins by our own works, as though the merits, the righteousness, and the blood of Christ were not sufficient to do it unless we put thereunto our foolish righteousness, spotted with the love of ourselves and with the respect to rewards, and with a thousand vanities; for the which we ought rather to ask of God pardon than reward: and we remember not Saint Paul’s threatening of the Galatians, who being beguiled by false preachers, not believing that justification by faith was of itself sufficient, did pretend that they would be justified still by the law, to whom Saint Paul said, Christ nothing helpeth you that will justify yourselves by the law; ye are fallen from grace; we therefore look for and hope in the Spirit, to be justified through faith.

And now if the seeking of righteousness and forgiveness of sins be by the keeping of the law, that the Lord with so great glory and open miracles gave in the hill of Sinai, be a losing of Christ and his grace, what shall we say then of them that pretend and endeavour to justify themselves before God with their own law and observations? Let those persons make the comparison, and after give their judgment. Insomuch as God will not give that honour and glory to his own law, will they then that he give it to their laws and constitutions? This honour he giveth alonely to his only-begotten Son: he only with the sacrifice of his passion hath made satisfaction for all our sins, past, present, and to come, as Saint Paul saith to the Hebrews, 7, 9, 10 chapters, and Saint John in his first epistle, 1, 2 chapters. Through which as oft as we apply by faith this satisfaction of Christ to our souls, we obtain undoubtedly forgiveness of sins, and by his righteousness we become good and righteous before God. And therefore Saint Paul saith in the third [chapter of his] epistle to the Philippians, after that he had said that as touching the righteousness which is in the law he was unrebukeable, he joineth, But the things that were vantage unto me I counted loss for Christ’s sake: yea, I think all things but loss for that excellent knowledge sake of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have counted all things loss, and do judge them but dung, that I might win Christ, and might be found in him, not having mine own righteousness which is of the law, but that which springeth of the faith which is in Jesus Christ; I mean the righteousness which cometh of God through faith in knowing him. O words most notable, the which every Christian man should engrave in his heart, beseeching God to make him taste the same perfectly! Behold how Saint Paul sheweth clearly that whosoever knoweth Christ truly judgeth the works of the law loss, insomuch as they draw a man from trusting in Christ (in whom we ought to settle our health), and causeth him to trust in himself; and aggravating this sentence he joineth therewith, that he judged all things dung, that he might win Christ, and might be found incorporate in him, shewing that whosoever trusteth in works, and goeth about to be justified by them, he winneth not Christ, neither is by any means incorporate in him, and therefore in this truth consisteth the whole mystery of faith; and to the intent that they should the better understand that he said, he joineth to it and affirmeth boldly that he refused all outward justification, all righteousness founded in the observing of the law, trusting only and assuredly unto the righteousness that God giveth by faith to them that believe that he hath chastened in Christ [all our sins, who] (as saith the same Saint Paul) was made of him our wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption, or forgiveness of sins; and therefore (as it is written) he that rejoiceth let him rejoice in the Lord, and not in his own works.

Truth it is that there are found some authorities of the Holy Scripture, which being evil-understanded seem to gainsay this holy doctrine of Saint Paul, and that they should attribute the justification and forgiveness of sins to works and charity; but those authorities are declared wondrous well by some others who have evidently proved that they that understand them in that sense understand them not. Let us then (most dearly beloved brethren) follow not the foolish opinion of the bewitched Galatians, but the verity that Saint Paul teacheth, and let us give all the praise of our justification to the mercy of God, and the merits of his Son, who with his blood hath delivered us from the dominion or danger of the law, from the tyranny of sin, and from death, and hath conducted us into the kingdom of God, by giving to us eternal felicity. I say he hath delivered us from the dominion of the law, for he hath given unto us his Spirit that sheweth us all truth, and he hath made perfect satisfaction for us to the law, and hath given the same satisfaction to all his members, that is to say, to all true Christians, so that they may safely come to the judgment-seat of God, being apparelled with the righteousness of Christ, and delivered by him from the curse of the law [which] cannot any more accuse or condemn us, nor any more stir up our affections and appetites, nor augment sin in us. And therefore saith Saint Paul, The handwriting that was against us was cancelled by Christ, and disannulled in the wooden cross, our Christ having delivered us from the dominion of the law; consequently he hath delivered us from the tyranny of sin and of death, the which cannot hold us any more oppressed, being overcome first of Christ by his resurrection, and then consequently of us that be his members, on such wise, that we may say with St. Paul [and with] Hosea the prophet, Death is overcome and destroyed. O death, where is thy sting? O hell, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be given to God, who hath given us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. This is that most happy seed which hath trodden down the head of the most venomous serpent, that is to say the devil; and therefore all those that believe in Christ, putting all their hope and confidence in his mercy, do overcome with Christ sin, death, the devil, and hell. This is that blessed seed of Abraham, in the which God did promise to bless all nations.

Every man ought to have trodden down severally that horrible serpent, and to have delivered himself from the malediction or curse; but that enterprise was so great that the force or power of the whole world gathered together was not sufficient to bear it. Our God then being the Father of all mercy, moved with compassion of our miseries, gave us his only-begotten Son, who hath delivered us from the venom of the serpent, and is made our blessing and justification. Let us embrace, most dearly beloved brethren, the righteousness of Jesus Christ, let us make it ours through faith, let us have a sure confidence to be righteous, not by our own works, but by the merits of Christ, and let us live with quiet conscience towards God, and with assured trust that the righteousness of Christ doth annihilate all our unrighteousness, and maketh us righteous and holy in the sight of God, who forsomuch as he seeth us made by faith one body in his Son, doth not now any more take us as the children of Adam, but as his children, and maketh us heirs with his own legitimate Son of all his riches.

Note

  1. Don Benedetto & Jonson, R. W. (1855). The Benefits of Christ: Our Salvation Depends on 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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