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in all good, so that he wanted no work or suffering in order to his becoming righteous and saved, (for he had all these things immediately from the beginning of himself); yet, was not puffed up with these, nor lifted up above us, nor did arrogate to himself a certain power over us, (although he might have done that by right ;) but that, on the contrary, he condescended so to labour, suffer, and die, that he might become like other men, and in form and fashion nothing more than a man, as though he had need of these things, and had nothing of the form of God; and that, he did all this for us, that he might serve us, and that all those things might become ours which he did in this form of a servant.
So the Christian, being by his faith complete and full, like Christ his head, ought to be satisfied with this “ form of God” which he has obtained by faith :-(except that, as I have before observed, he ought to increase this same faith until it be perfected; for this faith is his life, his righteousness, his salvation; preserving his person and rendering it acceptable, and making him a partaker of all that Christ possesses; as we have shewn before, and as Paul affirms Gal. i., saying, “ The life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God: ”— but yet, although he is thus free from all works, he ought, nevertheless, in this his liberty, to make himself of no reputation, to take upon him the form of a servant, to be made in the likeness of men, to be found in fashion as a man, to serve, to help, and in all things to do unto his neighbour, as he sees God has done, and still does, for Christ's sake, unto him: and that freely, and without any thing else in view than doing the good-will of God. - He ought to think thus with himself — Behold! here am I an unworthy and condemned wretch, and my God has, of his own pure and free mercy, without any deserving on my part, given unto me in Christ all the riches of righteousness and salvation: so that, I want no one thing else whatever, but faith to believe that this really is so. Unto such a Father, therefore, who has more than filled me with these his inestimable riches,
what shall I render? Shall I not freely, gladly, with all my heart, and with spontaneous desire, do whatever I know is acceptable and well-pleasing in his sight? Surely, then, I will give myself as a certain Christ to my neighbour, even as Christ has given himself to me. I will do nothing in this life, but that which shall be to my neighbour's service, profit, or edification; and that, because by faith, I possess an abundance of all good in Christ.
Thus you see, from faith, flow love and gladness in the Lord; and from love, a happy, willing, and free spirit to serve a neighbour spontaneously; and that, without any regard to gratitude or ingratitude, praise or blame, gain or loss.
Nor, in what it does, has it any eye to gaining the favour of men, nor does it make any distinction between friends and enemies, nor has it any respect to the grateful or ungrateful; but with the utmost freedom and willingness, it devotes both itself and its property, whether they prove to be lost upon the ungrateful, or given to the deserving. And even as the Father of this free son does, distributing freely and abundantly all things to all, “causing his sun to rise upon the just and upon the unjust;" so the son does nothing, and suffers nothing, but with that free gladness in which he delights, through Christ, in God, who has freely given him such exceedingly great things.
You see, therefore, that when we once know those exceedingly great and precious things, (as Peter saith) which are freely given unto us, love is thereupon largely shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost : under the influence of which, we are free and happy, all-affecting workmen, overcomers of all tribulation, the servants of our neighbours, and yet, nevertheless, lords of all things. Whereas, those who know not these things as freely given unto them through Christ, to them, Christ is born in vain : these, wander in the ways of working, and shall never attain unto a knowledge and taste of these things. As therefore our neighbour has necessity, and stands in need of our abundance; so we once had
necessity before God, and stood in need of his mercy. And as our heavenly Father has freely supplied our necessities in Christ; so we ought, by our body and its industry, freely to supply the necessity of our neighbour, and each to become to the other a certain Christ; that
be all as one in Christ, and Christ one in us all; that is, that we may be true Christians.
Who then can comprehend the riches and the glory of the Christian life! It possesses and can do all things wanting nothing itself; the royal conqueress of sin, death and hell; and yet, at the same time, an handmaid humbly subservient and profitable to all! But this kind of Christian life, alas! in this our day, is scarcely known, preached, or sought after, throughout the whole world : so that, we have ourselves utterly forgotten our own name, why we are, and are called, Christians ! But surely we are so called from Christ, not absent from us, but dwelling within us; that is, by our believing in him, and becoming, through an union of love, a Christ to each other, doing unto our neighbours as Christ does unto us. Whereas now, by the introduction of the doctrines of men, we are taught to seek nothing but merits, rewards, and the things of self; and of Christ, we have made nothing but an exactor by far more rigid than even Moses himself.
Of this same faith the Blessed Virgin, above all others, has afforded us an example. She, as it is recorded Luke ii., was purified according to the law of Moses, after the custom of all women, even when she was not bound by any such law, and had no need of being purified : to the law, nevertheless, she subjected herself willingly, and with free love, submitting to be made like unto other women, lest she should offend or despise them. She was not therefore justified by this work, but, being justified, she did it in freedom, and liberty. After the same manner ought our works to be done, not in order to our becoming justified thereby, but, being first justified by faith, we ought to do all things freely and cheerfully for the sake of others.
After the same example also Paul circumcised his disciple Timothy: not because he had need of circum, cision unto righteousness, but that he might not offend or despise those Jews who were weak in faith, and who could not yet receive the liberty of faith. But on the contrary, when they contemned the liberty of faith, and urged circumcision as necessary unto righteousness, he resisted them, and would not suffer Titus to be circumcised, Gal. ii. And as in the one instance, he was careful not to offend or despise the weakness of any one in the faith, bearing with them for a time; so, in the other, he would not suffer the liberty of faith to be offended and despised by hardened justiciaries : thus persevering in the middle way, sparing the weak for a time, but resisting the hardened unto the end, that he might convert all to the liberty of faith. With the saine mind ought our works to be done
, that we may receive them that are weak in the faith, as we are admonished, Rom. xiv., but resist hardened task-masters determinately unto the end: of which we shall speak more largely hereafter.
So also Christ himself, Matth. xvii.- When the tribute money was demanded of his disciples, he discoursea with Peter concerning it; asking him, whether the sota of kings were not free from paying tribute ? Peter answered in the affirmative. Nevertheless, he commanded him to go the sea : saying, “lest we should offend them, go thou, and the fish that first cometh up, take; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money; that take, and give unto them, for me, and for thee.”—This example sweetly makes to our purpose; in which, Christ calls himself and his disciples free, and the sons of the King, who could stand in need of nothing: neverthless he willingly submits himself, and pays
tribute. As much, therefore, as this work was necessary and profitable for Christ unto righteousness and salvation, just so much are all the other works of himself and his, available unto righteousness : for they are all free works, and follow righteousness already possessed, being done only in conformity to the custom of, and for an example to, others.
Of the same nature are those admonitions which Paul gives Rom. xiii. and Titus iii., that Christians should be “subject to the higher powers,” and,“ prepared unto every good work : ” not in order to become righteous thereby, for they are already righteous by faith ; but that, by these works they may, in the liberty of the spirit, serve their neighbours, and the higher powers, and be conformed to their will in all the freedom of love.
And such ought to be the works of all colleges, monasteries, and priesthoods : that each one should perform the duties of his profession and station, not with a view of becoming righteous thereby, but solely of bringing his body into subjection, as an example unto others, who have need to mortify their bodies also. And then, moreover, that he might solely yield obedience unto others, by an humble conformity to their will, in the freedom of love: having, nevertheless, this ever most carefully in mind, that no one, through a vain confidence, presume to become righteous, meritorious, and saved, by these things, which, as I have repeatedly shewn, are by faith alone.
Whoever therefore has this knowledge, may easily, and without danger, conduct himself through all those countless ordinances and precepts of the pope, of bishops, monasteries, churches, princes, and magistrates : which some ignorant pastors so urgently enforce, as though they were necessary unto righteousness and salvation, calling them the ordinances of the church, when indeed they are nothing less. But the free Christian will say thus—I will fast, I will pray, I will do this thing and the other, which is commanded of men, not because it is necessary unto my righteousness and salvation, but because I will therein conform myself to the pope, or the bishop, or that community, or that magistrate, or to my neighbour, for an example: yea, I will do and suffer all things, after the example of Christ, who did and suffered much more