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easily avoid all the engines and snares of the devil ; who by putting man in mind of his sins, driveth him to despair and destroyeth him ; unless he withstand him with his cunning and with this heavenly wisdom, whereby only, sin, death, and the devil, are overcome. But the man that putteth not away the remembrance of his sin, but keepeth it still and tormenteth himself with his own cogitations, thinking either to help himself by his own strength and policy, or to tarry the time until his conscience may be quieted, falleth into Satan's snares, and miserably afflicteth himself, and at length is overcome with the continuance of the temptations : for the devil will never cease to accuse his conscience.
Against this temptation we must use these words of Paul, in the which he giveth a very true definition of Christ in this manner. -Christ is the Son of God and of the Virgin, delivered and put to death for our sins. Here, if the devil allege any other definition of Christ, say thou, The definition and the thing defined are false; therefore, I will not receive this definition. I speak not this without cause ; for I know what moveth me to be so earnest that we should learn to define Christ out of the words of Paul. For indeed Christ is no cruel exactor, but a forgiver of the sins of the whole world. Wherefore, if thou be a sinner, (as indeed we are all,) set not Christ down upon the rainbow as a judge, (for so shalt thou be terrified and despair of his mercy,) but take hold of his true definition; namely, that Christ the Son of God and the Virgin, is a person, not that terrifieth, not that afflicteth, not that condemneth us of sin, not that demandeth an account of us for our lives evilly past, but that “ hath given himself for our sins," and, with one oblation, hath put away the sins of the whole world, hath fastened them upon the cross, and put them clean out by himself.
Learn this definition diligently; and especially, so exercise this pronoun our, that this one syllable being believed may swallow up all thy sins; that is to say, that thou mayest know assuredly that Christ hath taken away the sins, not of certain men only, but also of thee, and of the whole world. Then let not thy sins be-sin's, but even thy own sins indeed : that is, to wit, believe thou that Christ was not only given for other men's sins, but also for thine. Hold this fast, and suffer not thyself by any means to be drawn away from this sweet definition of Christ, which rejoiceth even the very angels in heaven ; that is to say, that Christ, according to the proper and true detinition, is no Moses, no lawgiver, no tyrant, but a mediator for sins, a free giver of grace, righteousness, and life, who gave himself, not for our merits, holiness, righteousness, and godly life, but“ for our sins.” Indeed, Christ doth interpret the law, but that is not his proper and principal office.
These things as touching the words we know well enough, and can talk of them, but in practice and in conflict, when the devil goeth about to deface Christ, and to pluck the word of grace out of our hearts, we find that we do not yet know them well and as we should do. He that, at that time, could define Christ truly, and could magnify him and behold him as his most sweet Saviour and High-Priest, and not as a strict judge, this man had overcome all evils, and were already in the kingdom of heaven. But this to do in the conflict, is of all things the most hard. I speak this by experience. For I know the devil's subtleties; who, at one time, not only goeth about to fear us with the terror of the law, yea and also of a little mote maketh many beams; that is to say, of that which is no sin he maketh a very hell, (for he is marvellous crafty both in aggravating sin and in puffing up the conscience even in good works,) but also is wont to fear us with the very person of the Mediator; into the which he transformeth himself, and laying before us some place of the scripture, or some saying of Christ, suddenly he striketh our hearts, and sheweth himself unto us in such sort, as if he were Christ indeed ; leaving us sticking so fast in that cogitation, that our conscience would swear it were the same Christ whose saying he alleged. Moreover, such is the subtlety of the enemy, that he will not set before us Christ entirely and wholly, but a piece of Christ only, namely that he is the Son of God, and man born of the Virgin; and by-and-by, patcheth there some other thing; that is to say, some saying of Christ wherewith he terrifieth the impenitent sinner, such as that in the 13th of Luke, “ Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish;” and so, corrupting the true definition of Christ with his poison, he bringetħ to pass, that albeit we believe him to be Christ the true Mediator, yet in very deed our troubled conscience feeleth and judgeth him to be a tyrant and a judge. Thus, we being deceived by Satan, do easily lose the sweet sight of our HighPriest and Saviour Christ: which being once lost, we shun him no less than the devil himself.
And this is the cause, why I do so earnestly call upon you to learn the true and proper definition of Christ out of these words of Paul," who gave himself for our sins.” If he gave himself to death for our sins, then undoubtedly he is no tyrant or judge, which will condemn us for our sins; he is no caster down of the afflicted, but a raiser up of those that are fallen; a merciful reliever and comforter of the heavy and broken-hearted. Else should Paul lie in saying, "who gave himself for our sins.” If I define Christ thus, I define him rightly, and take hold of the true Christ and possess him indeed. And here, I let pass all curious speculations touching the divine Majesty, and I stay myself in the humanity of Christ; and so, I learn truly to know the will of God. Here is then no fear, but altogether sweetness, joy, peace of conscience, and such like. And here withal there is a light opened, which sheweth me the true knowledge of God, of myself
, and of all creatures, and all the iniquities of the devil's kingdom. We teach no new thing, but we repeat and establish old things which the apostles and all godly teachers have taught before us. And would to God we could so teach and establish them, that we might not only have them in our mouth, but also well-grounded in the bottom of our heart; and especially, that we may be able to use them in the agony and conflict of death.
THE SIN AGAINST THE HOLY GHOST.
MATTHEW xü. There are six sins against the Holy Ghost: which, although they be essentially the same, yet differ in their actings, or rather in their sinful workings.- Presumption, fighting against the known truth, obstinacy, desperation, envy of the grace in a brother, and final impenitency.
These act or work thus.-In the time of security and
peace, presumption, fighting against the truth, and obstinacy: in the time of soul-straits and trouble, desperation, envy, and impenitency.
1. The reprobate, in the time of security, is confident and presumptuous; and seems sure that he in his works please God, and will be righteous as he is in himself, as the pharisees.
2. If he be reproved, he grows proud, and resists the truth which makes against him; and although he knows it is the truth, yet he will not cease from his presumption; and thus, he fights against the known truth.
3. He obstinately perseveres in this presumption and fighting; and thus, dies in his sins hardened, seared, and incorrigible.--On the other hand
1. The reprobate when they begin to feel the wrath of God, they at once, like Cain and Judas, despair, and do not believe that their sins are pardoned; but imagine, that their sin is greater than the grace of God. .
2. When they see, that they are rejected, they envy all men their salvation; and would that no one were saved, but that all should perish with themselves.
3. They persevere in this envy and desperation, and will not suffer themselves to be converted. And as obstinacy is a certain final impenitency in the time of security; that is, in presumption and fighting against the truth; so, final impenitency is a certain obstinacy in the time of soul-straits, that is, in desperation, envy, &c.
CHRIST DELIGHTING IN THE BEAUTY
OF THE RIGHTEOUS.
PSALM xlv. 11. So shall the King greatly desire thy beauty. This is a most sweet promise. For the Holy Spirit knoweth that this monster, Monk, sticks fast in our heart, --that we want to be pure and without spot before God. Thus, under Popery, all my temptation was this. I used to say that I would willingly go to the sacrament if I were but worthy.' Thus we seek, naturally, a purity in ourselves; and we examine our whole life and want to find a purity in ourselves, that we might have no need of grace, but might be pronounced righteous upon the grounds of our own merit. This inclination is rooted in our flesh; and the Holy Spirit knows that we wish for a beauty in ourselves. And hence, when we would pray, we think thus, 'willingly would I pray, but I am not worthy that God should hear me.'
These cogitations come from that monstrous monk, (of whom I have spoken before,) that dwells in our own breasts, and intoxicates our conscience with a looking to our own worthiness, and a desiring not to pray before we are better. But thus, it will come to pass that thou wilt never pray, if thou wilt wait until thou art worthy. For if it be required that we be first righteous, why do we pray in the Lord's prayer, “ Forgive us our trespasses ? ” Rather, when thou feelest that thou art-a sinner and unfit to pray, thou shouldst then go the most to prayer and to the sacrament. For in what other way wouldst thou become righteous, but by the Word and Sacrament? Thou wilt certainly never become righteous by thyself and thine own works. Thus, there is in us all this pestilent reasoning of our own monk, that we are always looking for our own purity.
The Holy Spirit saith, therefore, I will give thee wholesome counsel; and if thou wilt hear me, thou shalt become a virgin all fair. For, if thou wouldst be beautiful