Faith. THE first coming unto GOD (good Christian people) is through Faith, whereby (as it is declared in the last Sermon) we be justified before GOD. And for fear that any man should be deceived, for lack of right understanding thereof, it is diligently to be noted, that Faith is taken in the Scripture two manner of ways.
A Dead Faith. There is one faith, which in Scripture is called a dead faith, which brings forth no good works, but is idle, barren, and unfruitful. And this faith, by the holy Apostle Saint James, is compared to the faith of Devils, which believe GOD to be true and just, and tremble for fear, that they do nothing well, but all evil (James 2.17, 19). And such a manner of faith have the wicked and naughty Christian people, which confess GOD, (as S. Paul says) in their mouth, but deny him in their deeds, being abominable, and without the right faith, and to all good works reprehensible (Titus 1.16). And this faith is a persuasion and belief in mans heart, whereby he knows that there is a GOD, and agrees unto all truth of GOD’S most holy word, contained in the holy Scripture. So that it consists only in believing in the word of GOD, that it is true. And this is not properly called faith. But as he that reads Caesar’s Commentaries, believing the same to be true, has thereby a knowledge of Caesar’s life, and notable acts, because he believes the history of Caesar: that it is not properly said that he believes in Caesar, of whom he looks for no help or benefit. even so, he that believes that all that is spoken of GOD in the Bible is true, and that lives so ungodly, that he cannot look to enjoy the promises and benefits of GOD: although it may be said, that such a man has a faith and belief to the words of GOD, that it is not properly said that he believes in GOD, or has such a faith and trust in GOD, whereby he may surely look for grace, mercy, and everlasting life at GOD’S hand, but rather for indignation and punishment, according to the merits of his wicked life. For as it is written in a book, authored by Didymus Alexandrinus, since as faith without works is dead, it is not now faith, as a dead man, is not a man.
A lively Faith. This dead faith therefore is not the sure and substantial faith, which saves sinners. another faith there is in Scripture, which is not (as the aforementioned faith) idle, unfruitful, and dead, but works by charity (as S. Paul declares, Galatians 5.6) Which as the other vain faith is called a dead faith, so may this be called a quick or lively faith. And this is not only the common belief of the Articles of our faith, but it is also a true trust and confidence of the mercy of GOD through or Lord Jesus Christ, and a steadfast hope of all good things to be received at GOD’S hand: and that although we, through weakness or temptation of our ghostly enemy, do fall from him by sin, that if we return again unto him by true repentance, that he will forgive, and forget our offences for his sons sake our saviour Jesus Christ, and will make us inheritors with him of his everlasting Kingdom, and that in the mean time until that Kingdom come, he will be our protector and defender in all perils and dangers, whatever do chance: and that though sometime he does send us sharp adversity, that that evermore he will be a loving Father unto us, correcting us for our sin, but not withdrawing his mercy finally from us, if we trust in him, and commit ourselves whole unto him, hang only upon him, and call upon him, ready to obey and serve him. This is the true, lively, and genuine Christian faith, and is not in the mouth and outward profession only: but it lives, and stirs inwardly, in the heart. And this faith is not without hope and trust in GOD, or without the love of GOD and of our neighbours, or without the fear of GOD, or without the desire to hear GOD’S word, and to follow the same in eschewing evil, and doing gladly all good works.
This faith (as Saint Paul describes it) is the sure ground and foundation of the benefits which we ought to look for, and trust to receive of GOD, a certificate and sure looking for them, although they that sensibly appear not unto us. And after he says, he that comes to GOD, must believe, both that he is, and that he is a merciful rewarder of well doers. And nothing commends good men unto GOD, so much as this assured faith and trust in him (Hebrews 11.1, 6).
Three Things Are to Be Noted of Faith. Of this faith, three things are specially to be noted. First, that this faith does not lie dead in the heart, but is lively and fruitful in bringing forth good works. Second, that without it, can no good works be done, that shall be acceptable and pleasant to GOD. Third, what manner of good works they be, that this faith does bring forth.
Faith Is Full of Good works. For the first, that the light can not be hid, but will shew forth it self at one place or other: So a true faith can not be kept secret, but when occasion is offered, it will break out, and shew it self by good works. And as the living body of a man ever exercises such things as belong to a natural and living body, for nourishment and preservation of the same, as it has need, opportunity, and occasion: even so the soul that has a lively faith in it, will be doing always some good work, which shall declare that it is living, and will not be unoccupied. Therefore when men hear in the Scriptures so high commendations of faith, that it makes us to please GOD, to live with GOD, and to be the children of GOD: if then they fantasise that they be set at liberty from doing all good works, and may live as they lust, they trifle with GOD and deceive themselves. And it is a manifest token; that they be far from having the true and lively faith, and also far from knowledge, what true faith means. For the very sure and lively Christian faith is, not only to believe all things of GOD, which are contained in holy Scripture, but also is an earnest trust, and confidence in GOD, that he does regard us, and that he is careful over us, as the father is over the child whom he does love, and that he will be merciful unto us for his only sons sake, and that we have our saviour Christ our perpetual advocate, and Priest, in whose only merits, oblation, and suffering, we do trust that our offences be continually washed and purged, when ever we (repenting truly) do return to him, with our whole heart, steadfastly determining with ourselves, through his grace, to obey and serve him in keeping his commandments, and never to turn back again to sin. Such is the true faith, that the Scripture does so much commend, the which when it sees and considers what GOD has done for us, is also moved through continual assistance of the Spirit of GOD, to serve and please him, to keep his favour, to fear his displeasure, to continue his obedient children, shewing thankfulness again by observing or keeping his commandments, and that freely, for true love chiefly, and not for dread of punishment, or love of temporal reward, considering how clearly, without deserving we have received his mercy and pardon freely.
This true faith will shew forth it self, and cannot long be idle: For as it is written, The just man does live by his faith (Habakkuk 2.4). he never sleeps or is idle, when he would wake, and be well occupied. And GOD by his Prophet Jeremiah says, that he is a happy and blessed man, which has faith and confidence in GOD (Jeremiah 17.7-8). For he is like a tree set by the water side, and spreads his roots abroad toward the moisture, and fears not heat when it comes, his leaf will be green, and will not cease to bring forth his fruit: even so, faithful men (putting away all fear of adversity) will shew forth the fruit of their good works, as occasion is offered to do them.
THE SECOND PART OF THE SERMON OF FAITH.
you have heard in the first part of this Sermon, that there are two kinds of faith, a dead and an unfruitful faith, and a faith lively that works by charity. The first to be unprofitable, the second, necessary for the obtaining of our salvation: the which faith has charity always joined unto it, and is fruitful, and brings forth all good works. Now as concerning the same matter, you shall hear what follows. The wise man says, He that believes in GOD, will heArkn unto his commandments (Ecclesiasticus 32:24). For if we do not shew ourselves faithful in our conversation, the faith which we pretend to have, is but a feigned faith: because the true Christian faith is manifestly shewed by good living, and not by words only, as S. Augustine says, (Augustine, De Fide et Operibus 23, 42 (PL 40. 224), Libro de fide & operibus) Good living cannot be separated from true faith, which works by love.
And S. Chrysostom says (Pseudo-Chrysostom, De Fide et Lege Naturae 1 [PG 48.1081], Sermo. de lege & fide.), Faith of it self is full of good works: as soon as a man does believe, he shall be garnished with them. How plentiful this faith is of good works, and how it makes the work of one man more acceptable to GOD, then of another, S. Paul teaches at large in the xi. Chapter to the Heb. saying, That faith made the oblation of Abel, better then the oblation of Cain. This made Noah to build the Ark. This made Abraham to forsake his Country, and all his friends, and to go into a far Country, there to dwell among strangers. So did also Isaac and Jacob, depending or hanging only of the help and trust that they had in GOD. And when they came to the country which GOD promised them, they would build no Cities, Towns, or Houses, but lived like strangers in Tents, that might every day be removed (Hebrews 11.4-38, Genesis 4.4-5, Genesis 6.22, Sir 44.17, Genesis 11.31, 12.1-5). Their trust was so much in GOD, that they set but little by any worldly thing, for that GOD had prepared for them better dwelling places in heaven of his own foundation and building. This faith made Abraham ready at GOD’S commandment, to offer his own son and heir Isaac, whom he loved so well, and by whom he was promised to have innumerable issue, among the which, one should be born, in whom all nations should be blessed, trusting so much in GOD, that though he were slain, that that GOD was able by his omnipotent power to raise him from death, and perform his promise (Genesis 22.1-18, 26.1-35, Ecclesiasticus 44.20). He mistrusted not the promise of GOD, although unto his reason every thing seemed contrary. He believed verily that GOD would not forsake him in death and famine that was in the country. And in all other dangers that he was brought unto, he trusted ever that GOD should be his GOD, and his protector and defender, whatever he saw to the contrary. This faith wrought so in the heart of Moses, that he refused to be taken for King Pharaoh his daughters son, and to have great inheritance in Egypt, thinking it better with the people of God to have affliction and sorrow, then with naughty men, in sin to live pleasantly for a time (Exodus 2.11). By faith he cared not for the threatening of king Pharaoh: for his trust was so in GOD, that he passed not of the happiness of this world, but looked for the reward to come in heaven, setting his heart upon the invisible GOD, as if he had seen him ever present before his eyes. By faith, the children of Israel passed through the red sea (Exodus 14.22). By faith, the walls of Jericho fell down without stroke, and many other wonderful miracles have been wrought (Joshua 6.20). In all good men that before now have been, faith has brought forth their good works, and obtained the promises of GOD. Faith has stopped the Lions mouths (Daniel 6.16-23): faith has quenched the force of fire (Daniel 3.13-28): faith has escaped the swords edges: faith has given weak men strength, victory in battle, overthrown the armies of Infidels, raised the dead to life: faith has made good men to take adversity in good part, some have been mocked and whipped, bound, and cast in prison, some have lost all their goods, and lived in great poverty, some have wandered in mountains, hills, and wilderness, some have been racked, some slain, some stoned, some sawn, some rent in pieces, some beheaded, some burnt without mercy, and would not be delivered, because they looked to rise again to a better state (Hebrews 11.36-38).
All these Fathers, Martyrs, and other holy men, (whom Saint Paul spake of) had their faith surely fixed on GOD, when all the world was against them. They did not only know GOD to be the Lord, maker, and governor of all men in the world: but also they had a special confidence and trust, that he was and would be their GOD, their comforter, aider, helper, maintainer, and defender. This is the Christian faith which these holy men had, and we also ought to have. And although they were not named Christian men, that was it a Christian faith that they had, for they looked for all benefits of GOD the Father, through the merits of his son Jesus Christ, as we now do. This difference is between them and us, that they looked when Christ should come, and we be in the time when he is come. Therefore faith S. Augustine (Augustine, In Ioannis Evangelium Tract. 45 10, 9 [PL 35: 1722]), The time is altered and changed, but not the faith. For we have both one faith in one Christ. The same holy ghost also that we have, had they, says S. Paul (2 Corinthians 4.13). For as the holy Ghost does teach us to trust in GOD, and to call upon him as our Father: so did he teach them to say, as it is written, you Lord art our Father and Redeemer, and they Name is without beginning and everlasting. GOD gave them then grace to be his children, as he does us now (Isaiah 63.10-11). But now by the coming of our saviour Christ, we have received more abundantly the spirit of GOD in our hearts, whereby we may conceive a greater faith, and a surer trust then many of them had. But in effect they and we be all one: we have the same faith that they had in GOD, and they the same that we have And Saint Paul so much extols their faith, because we should no less, but rather more, give ourselves whole unto Christ, both in profession and living, now when Christ is come, then the old fathers did before his coming. And by all the declaration of S. Paul, it is evident, that the true, lively, and Christian faith, is no dead, vain, or unfruitful thing, but a thing of perfect virtue, of wonderful operation or working, and strength, bringing forth all good motions, and good works.
All holy Scripture agreeably bares witness, that a true lively faith in Christ, does bring forth good works: and therefore every man must examine and test himself diligently, to know whether he have the same true lively faith in his heart genuinely, or not, which he shall know by the fruits thereof. Many that professed the faith of Christ, were in this error, that they thought they knew GOD, and believed in him, when in their life they declared the contrary: Which error Saint John in his first Epistle confuting, writes in this wise, Hereby we are certified that we know GOD, if we observe his commandments. He that says, he knows GOD, and observes not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1 John 2.3-4). And again he says, Whosoever sins, does not see GOD, or know him: let no man deceive you, well beloved children (1 John 3.6-7). And moreover he says, Hereby we know that we be of the truth, and so we shall persuade our hearts, before him (1 John 3.19-22).
For if our own hearts reprove us, GOD is above our hearts, & knows all things. well beloved, if our hearts reprove us not, then have we confidence in GOD, and shall have of him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that please him. And that further he says, every man that believes that Jesus is Christ, is born of GOD, and we know that whosoever is born of GOD, does not sin: but he that is begotten of God, purges himself, and the devil does not touch him (1 John 5.1, 18). And finally he concludes, and shows the cause why he wrote this Epistle, saying, For this cause have I thus written unto you, that you may know that you have everlasting life, which do believe in the son of GOD (1 John 5.13). And in his iii. Epistle he confirms the whole matter of faith and works, in few words, saying, he that does well, is of GOD, and he that does evil, knows not God (3 John 11). And as S. John says, That as the lively knowledge and faith of GOD brings forth good works: so says he likewise of hope and charity, that they cannot stand with evil living. Of hope he writes thus, We know that when GOD shall appear, we shall be like unto him, for we shall see him, even as he is: and whosoever has this hope in him, does purify himself, like as GOD is pure (1 John 3.2-3). And of charity he says these words, he that does keep Gods word and commandment, in him is truly the perfect love of GOD ( 1 John 2.5). And again he says, This is the love of GOD, that we should keep his commandments (1 John 5.3). And S. John wrote not this, as a subtle saying, devised of his own fantasy, but as a most certain and necessary truth, taught unto him by Christ himself, the eternal and infallible truth, who in many places does most clearly affirm, that faith, hope and charity, can not consist or stand without good and godly works. Of faith, he says, He that believes in the son, has everlasting life: but he that believes not in the son, shall not see that life, but the wrath of GOD remains upon him. And the same he confirms with a double oath, saying, Verily, verily I say unto you, he that believes in me, has everlasting life (John 6.47).
Now since as he that believes in Christ, has everlasting life: it must needs consequently follow, that he that has this faith, must have also good works, and be studious to observe Gods commandments obediently. For to them that have evil works, and lead their life in disobedience, and transgression or breaking of Gods commandments, without repentance, pertains not everlasting life but everlasting death, as Christ himself says, They that do well, shall go into life eternal, but they that do evil, shall go into everlasting fire (Matthew 25.46). And again he says, I am the first letter, and the last, the beginning and the ending: to him that is thirsty, I will give of the well of the water of life freely: he that has the victory, shall have all things, and I will be his GOD, and he shall be my son: but they that be fearful, mistrusting GOD, and lacking faith, they that be cursed people, and murderers, and fornicators and sorcerers, and all liars, shall have their portion in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Revelations 21.6-8).
charity brings forth Good works. And as Christ undoubtedly affirms, that true faith brings forth good works, so does he say likewise of charity. Whosoever has my commandments and keeps them, that is he that loves me. And after he says, He that loves me, will keep my word, and he that loves me not, keeps not my words. And as the love of GOD is tested by good works, so is the fear of GOD also, as the wise man says, The dread of GOD puts away sin. And also he says, he that fears GOD, will do good works (John 14.21-24, Sir 1.21, Sir 15.1).
THE THIRD PART OF THE SERMON OF FAITH.
You have heard in the second part of this Sermon, that no man should think that he has that lively faith which Scripture commands, when he lives not obediently to Gods laws, for all good works spring out of that faith: And also it has been declared unto you by examples, that faith makes men steadfast, quiet, and patient in all affliction. Now as concerning the same matter, you shall hear what follows. A man may soon deceive himself, and think in his own fantasise that he by faith knows GOD, loves him, fears him, and belongs to him, when in very deed he does nothing less. For the trial of all these things is a very godly and Christian life. He that feels his heart set to seek Gods honour, and studies to know the will & commandments of GOD, and to frame himself thereunto, and leads not his life after the desire of his own flesh, to serve the devil by sin, but sets his mind to serve GOD for his own sake, and for his sake also to love all his neighbours, whether they be friends or adversaries, doing good to every man (as opportunity serves) and willingly hurting no man: such a man may well rejoice in GOD, perceiving by the trade of his life, that he genuinely has the right knowledge of GOD, a lively faith, a steadfast hope, a true and genuine love, and fear of GOD. But he that casts away the yoke of GOD’S commandments from his neck, and gives himself to live without true repentance, after his own sensual mind and pleasure, not regarding to know GOD’S word, and much less to live according thereunto: such a man clearly deceives himself, and sees not his own heart, if he thinks that he either knows GOD, loves him, fears him, or trusts in him. Some perhaps fantasy in themselves, that they belong to GOD, although they live in sin, and so they come to the Church, and shew themselves as GOD’S dear children. But S. John says plainly, If we say that we have any company with GOD, and walk in darkness, we do lie (1 John 1.6). other do vainly think that they know and love GOD, although they pass not of the commandments. But S. John says clearly, he that says I know GOD, and keeps not his commandments, he is a liar (1 John 2.4). Some falsely persuade themselves, that they love GOD, when they hate their neighbours. But S. John says manifestly, If any man say I love GOD, and that hates his brother, he is a liar (1 John 4.20). He that says that he is in the light, and hates his brother, he is still in darkness. He that loves his brother, dwells in the light, but he that hates his brother, is in darkness, and walks in darkness, and knows not whither he goth: For darkness hat blinded his eyes (1 John 2.9-11). And moreover he says, Hereby we manifestly know the children of GOD from the children of the devil. he that does not righteously, is not the child of GOD, or he that hates his brother (1 John 3.10). deceive not yourselves therefore, thinking that you have faith in GOD, or that you love GOD, or do trust in him, or do fear him, when you live in sin: for then your ungodly and sinful life declares the contrary, whatever you say or think. It pertains to a Christian man to have this true Christian faith, and to try himself whether he has it or no, and to know what belongs to it, and how it does work in him. It is not the world that we can trust to, the world and all that is therein, is but vanity. It is GOD that must be our defence, and protection against all temptation of wickedness and sin, errors, superstition, idolatry, and all evil. If all the world were on our side, and GOD against us, what could the world avail us? Therefore let us set our whole faith and trust in GOD, and neither the world, the devil, or all the power of them shall prevail against us. Let us therefore (good Christian people) try and examine our faith, what it is: let us not flatter ourselves, but look upon our works, and so judge of our faith what it is. Christ himself speaks of this matter, and says, The tree is known by the fruit (Luke 6.44, Matthew 12.33). Therefore let us do good works, and thereby declare our faith to be the lively Christian faith. Let us by such virtues as ought to spring out of faith, shew our election to be sure and stable, as S. Peter teaches, Endeavour yourselves to make your calling & election certain by good works. And also he says, Minister or declare in your faith virtue, in virtue knowledge, in knowledge, in temperance patience, in patience godliness, in godliness brotherly charity, in brotherly charity love (2 Peter 1.5-7): so shall we shew in deed that we have the very lively Christian faith, and may so both certify our conscience the better that we be in the right faith, and also by these means confirm other men. If these fruits do not follow, we do but mock with GOD, deceive ourselves, and also other men. Well may we bare the name of Christian men, but we do lack the true faith that does belong thereunto: for true faith does ever bring forth good works, as S. James says: Shew me your faith by your deeds (James 2.18). your deeds and works must be an open testimonial of your faith: otherwise your faith (being without good works) is but the Devils faith, the faith of the wicked, a fantasy of faith, and not a true Christian faith. And like as the Devils and evil people be nothing the better for their counterfeit faith, but it is unto them the more cause of damnation: so they that be Christians and have received knowledge of GOD and of Christ’s merits, and that of a set purpose do live idly, without good works, thinking the name of a naked faith to be either sufficient for them, or else setting their minds upon vain pleasures of this world, do live in sin without repentance, not uttering the fruits that do belong to such an high profession, upon such presumptuous persons, and wilful sinners, must needs remain the great vengeance of GOD, and eternal punishment in hell, prepared for the unjust and wicked livers. Therefore as you profess the name of Christ (good Christian people) let no such fantasise and imagination of faith at any time beguile you: but be sure of your faith, try it by your living, look upon the fruits that comes of it, Mark the increase of love and charity by it towards GOD and your neighbour, and so shall you perceive it to be a true lively faith. If you feel and perceive such a faith in you, rejoice in it: and be diligent to maintain it, and keep it still in you, let it be daily increasing, and more and more by well working, and so shall you be sure that you shall please GOD by this faith, and at the length (as other faithful men have done before) so shall you (when his will is) come to him, and receive the end and final reward of your faith (as S. Peter names it) the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1.9): the which GOD grant us, that has promised the same unto his faithful, to whom be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.