Nam cui hæc non adsunt, is cæcus, est, nihil procul cernens, oblitus sese à veteribus peccatis suis fuisse purificatum. Quapropeter, fratres &c.
But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore brethren etc.
The prophet David saith, Psal. the twenty ninth, Man was in honor when he was first created, but continued not in that state the space of a night, but became like a beast that perisheth. So that as God made man so honourable a creature, that he thought he might be God: So when man in the pride of his heart, would be like God he became a beast; a beast not only in body, for that he dyeth as they doe, but in soul: For if we consider the understanding part of the soul, and the knowledge that man hath in the same, He is foolish and ignorant, even as a beast before God, Psalme the seventy third and the twenty second verse; and the rebellion of his heart is such, that he is compared to horse and mule, Psalme the thirty second. This is our downfall: But God of his rich mercy will not have man continue in dishonour, though he lost that honour which God gave him in the beginning. And as man would not continue in honor one night, so God would not suffer him to continue in dishonour one night, but presently after his fall gave him the pretious promise, That howsoever man had made himself a beast, yet God would not only make him a man again but partaker of the divine nature, the second of Peter, the first chapter and the fourth verse: Which promise albeit it begin to be performed, when we apprehend it by faith, yet faith only doth not make it perfect, but we must unto faith add virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge, temperance, patience, godlinesse, brotherly kindenesse, and love; And these virtues, if they concurre, doe make man partaker of the heavenly nature.
At first the Doctrine of Faith in Christ, was hardly received; for men thought to be saved only by Works: And when they had once received it, they excluded the doctrine of good Works. All the difficulty that St. Paul found in the work of his Ministerie, was to plant faith, and to perswade men that we are justified before God by Faith in Christ, without the works of the Law: But St. Peter and St. James met with them that received the doctrine of Faith fast enough, but altogether neglected good Works: But because both are necesary, therefore St. Paul, in all his epistles, joynes the doctrine of Faith with the doctrine of good Works. This is a faithful saying, and to be avouched, That they which beleeve in God, be carefull to shew forth good works, [544/545] Titus, the third chapter and the eighth verse. Therefore with the doctrine of the Grace of God, he joynes the doctrine of the carefull bringing forth of good works, Titus, the second chapter and the 12 verse, The saving grace of God hath appeared, and teaches us to deny ungodlinesse, and worldly lusts, and to live soberly and righteously and godly in this world. The doctrine of Grace is not rightly apprehended, untill we admit of the Doctrine of good Works. Wilt thou know, O man, that Faith is dead without works? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offred his sonne Isaac? James, the second chapter and the twentieth verse: Therefore St. Peter saith, That is no true faith, which is not accompanied with virtue and godlinesse of life. It is true that good works have no power to work justification, because they doe not contain a perfect righteousnesse: And in as much as they are imperfect, there belongs the curse of God unto them; Cursed is he that continueth not in all things, Galatians, the third chapter. So farre are they from justifying; but yet they are tokens of justification, Genesis the fourth chapter, Respexit Deus ad Abelem, & as oblationem suam, God first looked upon his person, and then upon his sacrifice; For before the person be justified, his works are not accepted in Gods sight: The best works, if they proceed not of Faith, are sinne, Romans, the fourteenth chapter: Our Saviour saith, No branch can bring forth fruit of itself, except it abide in the Vine, John, the fifteenth chapter: Therefore if we doe any good works, they proceed from our incision and ingrafting into Christ; by whom they are made acceptable to God.
Paul saith, Abraham was justified by faith before works, not when he was circumcised, but when he was uncircumised Romans, the fourth chapter and the tenth verse. But James saith, Abraham our father was justified by Works James the second chapter and the twenty first verse. To reconcile the Apostles, we must know, that the power of Justification, which, in Paul, is effective; But that which James speaketh is declarative: It was Abrahams Faith that made him righteous; and his works did only declare him to be justified: Therefore Paul saith, That albeit good works have no power to justifie, yet they are good and profitable for men, Titus, the third chapter; For they declare our justification, which is by faith; and by them we make ourselves sure of our calling and election, the second epistle of Peter, the fifth chapter and the tenth verse.
In these two verses Peter delivers two things: First, A Rule, by which we may examine our selves. Secondly, An application of the same. Seeing we have such a good Rule to try whether we be elected and called, let us study by the practice of these virtues, to assure our selves of our calling and election.
Two things commend this Rule, which the holy Ghost sets down, First. That it is Regula negativa; For having said before affirmatively, If these things be in you and abound, they will make you that you shall not be idle nor unfruitfull in the knowledge of Christ. Now he speaks negatively, But if you have them not, you are blinde; which is more than if he [545/546] had contented himself with his affirmative speech: For as the tree in the Garden was called Arbor scientiæ boni, Genesis, the second chapter, though directly it brings us to the knowledge of nothing but evill, because Adam knew not what a good thing it was to be obedient, till he felt the smart of his disobedience: So we doe perceive the goodnesse of things by the want of them, better than by enjoying of them. The benefit of possessing the graces of God's spirit, doth not so much move us, as the want of them. There the Apostle saith, If ye care not for being fruitfull in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, yet let this perswade you to practice all these virtues; for that if you be without them, you are blinde. And as no man knoweth what a benefit it is to have sight, so well as a blinde man that wants it, so it is with them that practice not these virtues.
Secondly. That it is a universal Rule, Whosoever hath not these things: For our nature is inclined to take exception against good rules; As John Baptist, when he willed all men to bring forth fruit worthy of repentance: Nor as the Jews, not to say, We have Abraham to our Father, Matthew, the third chapter. It is our corruption, as the Apostle saith, to think that we shall escape the plagues of God for these sinnes, which we condemn in others, Romans, the second chapter: Therefore our Saviour prevented that exception, when speaking to his Disciples, he said Quod vobis dico omnibus dico, Mark, the thirteenth chapter. Even to Peter saith, Whosoever wants these virtues, whatsoever occasion he pretends for the want of them, he is blinde, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sinnes.
But to speak more particularly of this Rule, two things make us secure in the matter of our Salvation, which not withstanding, We should work out with fear and trembling, Philippians, the second chapter and the twelfth verse.
The one is, our knowledge: We are ready to say with Job, I know that my Redeemer liveth, Job, the ninteenth chapter: But unless we perform something else, it shall be in vain to make this allegation, Have we not prophecied in thy name? Matthew, the seventh chapter.
The other cause of confidence and carelessnesse is the opinion we have, that it makes no matter how we live, The blood of Christ doth purge me from all sinne, the first epistle of John, the first chapter and the seventh verse.
To these two the holy Ghost opposeth two things. First, Doe we think we know God and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent? Yea; but he that knoweth not these virtues, is blinde, and knoweth nothing. Secondly, Doe we think, we need not to be carefull of holinesse of life, because we are purged by Christs blood? But except we be carefull to walk in newnesse of life, we have forgotten that we were purged from our old sinnes.
For the first point, That he that hath not these virtues, is blinde we are to knowe, That albeit there be not opposition between knowledge and wickednesse of life, because all that know Gods will, doe not practice it, yet there is a necessary dependance between them; If ye love me, [546/547] saith Christ, keep my commandements John, the fifteenth chapter. And the Preacher, Seek for the mysterie of faith, as in a pure conscience; The first epistle of Timothy and chapter three: For they that put they put away a good conscience, make shipwreck of faith, the first epistle to Timothie, the first chapter and the nineteenth verse. The Gentils did know God, but did not glorifie him as God: They knew the truth, but did detinere veritatem in injustitiâ Romans, the first chapter. As they held knowledge, so they should not withhold it from others, but should have made manifest the same, that others might have known God; which because they did not, God gave them over to be darkned in their understanding. We must manifest our knowledge by doing some good works; for he that hath knowledge, and is not carefull to be fruitfull in the knowledge of Christ, is in the half way to be blinded; for when men receive not the love of the truth, that they may be saved, God will send them the efficacie of error, that they may beleeve lies, the second epistle to the Thesalonians the second chapter and the eleventh verse. This knowledge is but a shew of knowledge, and not the power of it, If any man think he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing as he ought to know it, the second epistle to the Corinthians, the eighth chapter and the seventh verse. This knowledge is like that which John Baptist speaketh of, Matthew, the third chapter Think not to say with your selves &c. rest not in this knowledge.
The rule of true knowledge is, when it is accompanied with holinesse of life, as he speaks, If any man love God, he is known of him, the first epistle to the Corinthians, the eighth chapter and the third verse. The virtue that openeth mens eyes, to make them see, is wisdome: So he that hath no care of virtue, is not wise for, the fear of God is wisdome; and to depart from evil is understanding, Job, the twenty eighth chapter: And to fear God, is the beginning of wisdome, Proverbs, the first chapter. The Art of sowing is of pollicy, so is buying and selling; But the Kingdom of God is likened to the traffique of a Merchant man; and to the sowing of seed, Matthew, the thirteenth chapter, To teach us, that to our knowledge we must ad[d] spiritual wisdom, without which we are blinde and ignorant, He that is blinde,nescit quò vadit, John, the twelfth chapter; He considers not how he lives, whether he be in the way that leadeth to life or to death; ke knows not what shall come to him after this life; Incedit tanquam Bos, He goeth as an Oxe to the slaughter Proverbs, the seventh chapter: But he that to knowledge adds godlinesse and holinesse of life, he knoweth whither he goeth, That it shall goe well with him at the last Ecclesiastes, the eighth chapter and the twelfth verse. So saith the Prophet, Marke the righteous, and thou shalt see his end is peace at the last, Psalme the thirty seventh and the thirty seventh verse.
Secondly, He is not only blinde, but cannot see a farre off. Two things are said to be a farre off, things Spiritual and eternall; and he that hath not these Christian virtues, cannot see a farre off, neither things spiritual nor eternall.
For the first, The favour of the world makes a man commit many sinnes, [547/548] but the favour of God keeps him from sinne. Worldly pleasures make a man commit many sinnes; but the pleasure of the life to come and the joyes of the holy Ghost, make a man forbear sinne.
Secondly. For the things eternal, the evil estate of the wicked is very bad, be his temporal estate never so good: therefore they are to consider what God will doe in the need thererof, Quod fiat in sine, Jeremiah, the fift[h] chapter and the thirty first verse. The least pleasure that the wicked have in this life, brings poenas inferni: And howsoever Godly men be subject to miseries in this life, yet their eternal estate is most happy: I know that it shall goe well with them at the last, Isaiah, the third chapter and the tenth verse.
He hath forgotten that he was purged. Wherein we are to consider:
First, How true this is, There are so many perswasions arising from the benefit of the purging of our sinnes, that it is confest, that he hath forgotten that he was purged, that is, not carefull to obtain these virtues: First, That God passeth over the sinne of our former ignorance, Acts, the seventeenth chapter; Admonisheth us now to repentance, That is enough that we have spent the time past of our life, the first epistle of Peter, the fourth chapter. The consideration this should make us to become holy. The Prophet saith, When thou hast enlarged my heart, I will runne the way of thy commandements, Psalme, the hundred nineteenth. But what doth enlarge our hearts so much, as that all our former sinnes are washed away in the blood of Christ, That now we shall runne the way and race of holinesse, not in the spirit of fear, but of adoption, Romans, the eighth chapter; Not as servants, but as children, in obedience to God our Father, we need not to fear the curse of the Law, which Christ hath delivered us from Galatians, the third chapter: Only, we may look for temporal plagues, if we sinne against God, Psalm, the eighty ninth. Secondly, If we consider how we are purged, the which would perswade us hereunto, that is, Not by corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the blood of Christ, the first epistle of Peter the second chapter. But with the blood of Christ, not a prophane and common blood, Hebrews, the tenth chapter, but a pretious blood. Thirdly, If we consider the end of our purging, which is, not to continue in sin, but, as Christ saith, I will refresh you, that you may take my yoke upon you, and be obedient unto me, Matthew, the eleventh chapter: The father purgeth the branches, that they may bring forth more fruit, John, the fifteenth chapter: And Christ gave himself for us, that he might purge us, to be zealous of good works, Titus, the second chapter and the fourteenth verse. Whereby we see it is true, That he which hath not care of holinesse, hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sinnes.
Secondly, We are to consider how evil a thing it is, to forget the purging of our former sinnes; which we shall perceive, if we consider what a benefit it is to have them cleansed. When Gods benefits upon us are fresh, they somewhat affect us for a time, but we presently forget them: And we are sorie for our sinnes, while they are fresh and newly [548/549] committed, and feel the plague of God upon us; so that we can say with David, I have sinned and done wickedly, in the second book of Samuel and the twenty fourth verse, but the remembrance of them soon departeth away; But howsoever we forget them, yet God will remember them, and punish them to the third and fourth generation. Exodus the twentieth chapter: His patience towards us, whereby he would draw us to repentance, makes us think him like our selves, that he doth forget our old sinnes as we doe, but he will set them before us, and reprove us for them, Psalm the fiftieth, If thou do'st evil thy sinne lyeth at the dore, and thou art to look for God's plagues; for evil shall haunt the wicked, Psalm 140.11.
The brethren of Joseph were for awhile touched with their sinne committed against their brother, but when they had forgotten it, then did God remember it, and brought trouble upon them for it, as they themselves confessed. The sinne which Simeon and Levi committed was an old sinne, the thirty fourth chapter of Genesis, but God remembred it, and put in Jacob's heart to curse them for it, Genesis, the forty ninth chapter, so did God remember the old sinne of Ameleck committed against the Israelites and punished it, in the first book of Samuel and the fifteenth chapter, so the sinne of Saul in killing the Gibeonites which was old, was punished with a famine, the second booke of Samuel, and the one and twentieth chapter, so Job saith, God will plague the old man for the sinne of his youth, so that his bones shall be full of it and shall ly down with him in the dust, Job, the twentieth chapter and the eleventh verse, therefore David prayeth, Remember not the sinnes of my youth, the twenty fifth Psalme and the Church prayeth, That ancient sinnes might be forgiven. We have sinned with our Fathers, Psalm, the one hundred and sixt[h], Remember not our old sinnes. And because we are by nature inclined to forget them which we commit in our youth, and have been committed in former time by our Fathers; therefore we must beware, that we provoke not God to punish us for them. When the wicked Servant forgat his old debt, which his Lord forgave him, and began again to declare cruelly with his fellow, this forgetfulness made God to reverse his purgation, Matthew, the eighteenth chapter; so we must remember that God forgave our old sinnes; for this remembrance is profitable to us; as out of darkness God brings light, so out of the remembrance of former sinnes, he can make us to avoid sinnes to come. The sinfull woman, when she remembred that Christ had forgiven her many sins, was provoked thereby to love him much, Luke the seventh chapter; and when Paul remembered, that he had been a persecutor of the Church of God, and a blood-shedder, and that his sinne was purged, it made him carefull to walk in holiness of life, so as he laboured more than all the Apostles, the first epistle to the Corinthians, the fifteenth chapter: wherefore seeing the remembrance of sinnes past is so good, it must needs be hurtfull to our own souls, and prejudiciall to Gods' glory, to forget that our former sinnes were purged by the blood of Christ.