A Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for Any Christian Man
Set forth by the Kings Majesty of England, &c.
The Kings Book, 1543
Introduction by the Reverend T.A. Lacey London: R. Browning, 1895.
FORASMUCH as in this book, which is set forth for the institution and erudition of the common people, the articles of our faith have the first place, it is very necessary, before we enter into the declaration of the said articles, something to entreat of faith, to the intent that it may be known what is meant properly by the word faith, as it is appertaining to a Christian man, who by faith is partaker of Gods benefits by Christ. And although faith be diversely taken in scripture, it shall be sufficient to entreat here of two kinds or acceptions of the same.
Faith, in the first acception, is considered as it is a several gift of God by itself, distinct from hope and charity; and so taken, it signifieth a persuasion and belief wrought by God in mans heart, whereby he assenteth, granteth, and taketh for true, not only that God is, which knowledge is taught and declared by the marvellous works of the creation of the world, (as saith St. Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans,) but also that all the words and sayings of God which be revealed and opened in the scripture, be of most certain truth and infallible verity. And further also, that all those things which were taught by the apostles, and have been by an whole consent of the church of Christ ever sith that time taught continually, and taken always for true, ought to be received, accepted, and kept, as a perfect doctrine apostolic. And this is the first acception of faith which man hath of God, wherein man leaneth not to his own natural knowledge, which is by reason, but leaneth to the knowledge attained by faith; without the which faith we be ignorant and blind, and cannot understand, according as the prophet Esay saith, Nisi credideritis, non intelligetis : Unless ye believe, ye shall not understand. And this faith is the beginning, entry, and introduction unto all Christian religion and godliness. For, as St. Paul saith, He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder unto them which seek to please him. And this faith, although it be the necessary beginning of all righteousness, yet if it proceed not further to hope and charity, it is called in scripture a dead faith, because it is void and destitute of the life and efficacy of charity.
Faith, in the second acception, is considered as it hath hope and charity annexed and joined unto it: and faith so taken, signifieth not only the belief and persuasion before mentioned in the first acception, but also a sure confidence and hope to attain whatsoever God hath promised for Christs sake, and an hearty love to God, and obedience to his commandments. And this faith is a lively faith, and worketh in man a ready submission of his will to Gods will. And this is the effectual faith that worketh by charity, which St. Paul unto the Galatians affirmeth to be of value and strength in Christ Jesu. By this faith, Abraham, not knowing whither he should go, went out of his country, and dwelt in the land of behest, as in a strange land, looking and trusting for a city founded and builded by Almighty God. By this faith also he was ready to offer up his only begotten son Isaac, when he was tempted, in whom he looked for the promise, nothing doubting but that God was able to raise him up again from death. And this wise is faith taken in the most part of the examples which be recited of St. Paul, in the eleventh chapter of his Epistle to the Hebrews. And this faith every Christian man professeth and covenanteth to keep, when he receiveth the sacrament of baptism.
For declaration whereof it is to be noted, that all promises of God made to ma after the fall of Adam, for Christs sake, be made under this condition, that man should believe in God, and with the grace of God, given for Christ, endeavour himself to accomplish Gods commandments. The church therefore (intending that man should always have in mind how the promises of God be made upon condition, and without keeping of the condition no man is partaker of Gods promises) hath taught and ordained, that men before they receive baptism shall promise and covenant to fulfil the said condition, and to forsake the Devil and the world, and to serve only God. And of this especial covenant, whereby man bindeth himself to God, he is called in Latin, fidelis, faithful; and he that never made the same covenant, or after he hath made it, renounceth and refuseth the same, is called amongst Christian men, infidelis, unfaithful or heathen. And because God hath made promise and covenant with man, (as is before declared,) which we must most assuredly believe that God will observe and keep, and is ever in his words and promises most true, most just, most constant; therefore God is called (as he is indeed) faithful to man, and keepeth and observeth his faith, that is to say, his promise to man, requiring that man should likewise keep his faith and promise towards him.
Now of that which is before said, it is manifest, that faith (as it is taken in the second acception) is the perfect faith of a true Christian man, and containeth the obedience to the whole doctrine and religion of Christ. And thus is faith taken of St. Paul, and in other places of scripture, where it is said, that we be justified by faith. In which places men may not think that we are justified by faith, as it is a several virtue separated from hope and charity, fear of God and repentance; but by it is meant faith neither only ne alone, but with the aforesaid virtues coupled together, containing, as it is aforesaid, the obedience to the whole doctrine and religion of Christ.
And here it is to be noted, that every man that doth offend God doth not lose his faith thereby. For they that sin by frailty and sudden motions, (which just men do not avoid,) and be taught therefore of Christ to say in their Paternoster, Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us; yet these men so breaking their promise with God, and slacking in such care and desire as they should have to please God, nevertheless be not accounted to have lost their faith thereby; yea they also, who, after the knowledge of God, fall into deadly sin advisedly, as they that commit murder, adultery, and other abominations, and so fall from faith, as it is taken in the second acception, and be therefore out of the state of grace and favour of God for the time, yet do not those men fall from faith, as it is taken in the first acception, that is to say, from certain and assured knowledge of God and his doctrine. And therefore the gospel speaketh of a servant that knoweth the will of his lord, and doeth it not. And St. James, in his Epistle, saith, that faith may remain without charity; wherefore a transgressor of the law of Almighty God, after baptism, keepeth still a remorse of conscience, and the light of knowledge by faith, whereby he seeth the remedies how to attain remission of sin, and by a special gift of further grace is moved to use the same remedies, and so by faith walketh the ways ordained to attain remission of sins, as in the sacrament of penance shall be declared.
Thus we have shewed two acceptions of faith, and declared that the faith of knowledge may remain in him that hath fallen from faith after the second acception. But whether there be any special particular knowledge which man by faith hath certainly of himself, whereby he may testify to himself that he is of the predestinates, which shall to the end persevere in their calling, we have not spoken, ne cannot in scripture ne doctors find that any such faith can be taught or preached. Truth it is, that in the sacraments instituted by Christ we may constantly believe the works of God in them, to our present comfort, and application of his grace and favour, with assurance also that he will not fail us, if we fall not from him; wherefore so continuing in the state of grace with him, we may believe undoubtedly to be saved. But forasmuch as our own frailty and naughtiness ought ever to be feared in us, it is therefore expedient for us to live in continual watch and continual fight with our enemies the Devil, the flesh, and the world, and not to presume too much of our perseverance and continuance in the state of grace, which on our behalf is uncertain and unstable. For although Gods promises made in Christ be immutable, yet he maketh them not to us but with condition; so that his promise standing, we may yet fail of the promise, because we keep not our promise. And therefore if we assuredly reckon upon the state of our felicity, as grounded upon Gods promise, and do not therewith remember that no man shall be crowned unless he lawfully fight, we shall triumph before the victory, and so look in vain for that which is not otherwise promised but under a condition. And this every Christian man must assuredly believe.