« السابقةمتابعة »
vit,” said St. Austin 4: . It is a good degree of perfection to have proceeded so far, as well to know and observe our own imperfections.' The Scripture concludes all under sin ; not only because all have failed of the covenant of works, of the exactness of obedience, but by reason of their prevarication of that law which they can obey. And indeed no man could be a sinner, but he that breaks that law which he could have kept. We were all sinners by the covenant of works, but that was in those instances where it might have been otherwise. For the covenant of works was not impossible, because it consisted of impossible commandments; for every commandment was kept by some or other, and all at some times: but therefore it was impossible to be kept, because at some time
other, men would be impotent, or ignorant, or surprised, and for this, no abatement was made in that covenant. But then since in what every man could help he is found to be a sinner, he ought to account it a mighty grace that his other services are accepted. In pursuance of this, ,
21. XV. Let no man boast himself in the most glorious services and performances of religion. “ Qui in ecclesi a semper gloriosè et granditer operati sunt, et opus suum Domino nunquam imputaverunt,” as St. Cyprian's expression is *; “ They who have greatly served God in the church, and have not been forward to exact and challenge their reward of God,” they are such whom God will most certainly reward. For“ humility without other external works is more pleasing to God, than pride though standing upon heaps of excellent actions." It is the saying of St. Chrysostom. For if it be as natural to us to live according to the measures of reason, as for beasts to live by their nature and instinct, what thanks are due to us for that, more than to them for this ? And therefore one said well, “ Ne te jactes si benè servisti : obsequitur sol, obtemperat luna :" “ Boast not if thou hast well obeyed : the sun and the moon do so,” and shall never be rewarded. But when ourselves and all our faculties are from God, he hath power to demand all our services without reward; and therefore if he will reward us, it must wholly be a gift to us that he will so crown our services. But he does not only give us all our being and all our faculties, but makes them also irriguous with the dew of his divine grace ; • De Spir. el Lit. c. 56.
* Epist. ad Lapsos.
sending his only Son to call us to repentance, and to die to obtain for us pardon, and resurrection, and eternal life ; sending his Holy Spirit by rare arguments, and aids external and internal, to help us in our spiritual contentions and difficulties'. So that we have nothing of our own, and therefore can challenge nothing to ourselves. But besides these considerations,
many sins are forgiven to us, and the service of a whole life cannot make recompense for the infinite favour of receiving pardon : especially since, after our amendment and repentance, there are remaining such weaknesses and footsteps of our old impieties, that we who have daily need of the divine mercy and piety, cannot challenge a reward for that which in many degrees needs a pardon; for if every act we do should not need some degrees of pardon, yet our persons do in the periods of our imperfect workings. But after all this, all that we can do, is no advantage to God?; he is not profited or obliged by our services, no moments do thence accrue to his felicities; and to challenge a reward of God, or to think our best services can merit heaven, is as if Galileo when he bad found out a star which he had never observed before, and pleased himself in his own fancy, should demand of the grand signior to make him king of Tunis : for what is he the better, that the studious man hath pleased himself in his own heart, and the Turkish empire gets no advantages by his new argument? And this is so much the more material, if we consider that the littleness of our services (if other things were away) could not countervail the least moment of eternity a: and the poor countryman might as well have demanded of Cyrus to give him a province for his handful of river-water, as we can expect of God to give us heaven as a reward of our good works.
22. XVI. But although this rule, relying upon such great and convincing grounds, can abolish all proud expectations of reward from God as a debtor for our good works, yet they ought not to destroy our modest confidence and our rejoicings in God, who by his gracious promises hath not only obliged himself to help us if we pray to him, but to reward us if we work. For “our God is merciful, he rewardeth every man according to his work :” so said David "; accord
s Concil. Arausic. 2. c. 18. Debelar merces bonis operibus : sed gratia quæ non debetur, præcedit ut fiaut. 1 Job, xxxv. 7.
b Psal. Ixii, 12.
a Rom. viii. 18.
ing to the nature and graciousness of the work“, not according to their value and proper worthinesss; not that they deserve it, but because God for the communication of his goodness was pleased to promise it. “Promissum quidem ex misericordiâ sed ex justitiâ persolvendum,” said St. Bernard: "Mercy first made the promise, but justice pays the debt.” Which words were true, if we did exactly do all that duty to which the reward was so graciously promised; but where much is to be abated even of that little which was upon us by so glorious promises of reward, there we can in no sense challenge God's justice, but so as it signifies equity, and is mingled with the mercies of the chancery. “Gratis promisit, gratis reddit.” So Ferus. “God promised freely, and pays freely.”—“If therefore thou wilt obtain grace and favour, make no mention of thy deservings. And yet let not this slacken thy work, but reinforce it, and enlarge thy industry, since thou hast so gracious a Lord:” who of his own mere goodness will so plentifully reward it.
23. XVII. If we fail in the outward work, let it be so ordered, that it be as little imputable to us as we can; that is, let our default not be at all voluntary, but wholly upon the accounts of a pitiable infirmity: for the law was a covenant of works, such as they were; but the mind could not make amends within for the defect without. But in the Gospel it is otherwise : for here the will is accepted for the fact, in all things where the fact is not in our power. But where it is, there to pretend a will, is hypocrisy. “Nequam illud verbum est, 'bene vult,' nisi qui bene facit,” said the comedian. This rule is our measure in the great lines of duty, in all negative precepts, and in the periods of the law of Christ, which cannot pass by us without being observed. But in the material and external instances of duty, we may without our fault be disabled, and therefore can only be supplied with our endeavours and desires. But that is our advantage : we thus can perform all God's will acceptably. For if we endeavour all that we can, and desire more,
pursue more, it is accepted as if we had done all: for we are accepted “according to what a man hath, and not according to what he hath note.” Unless we can neither endeavour, nor desire,
c Matt. v. 12. 1 Cor. iii. 8. Matt. xvi. 27. 2 Cor. iv. 17. 2 Thess. i. 5. Apoc. iii. 4. and xvi. 6. Rom. viii. 18. dlo Matt. lib. 3. cap. 20. v. 8.
e 2 Cor. viii. 12.
we ought not to complain of the burden of the divine commandments. For to endeavour truly, and passionately, to desire and contend for more, is obedience and charity, and that is the fulfilling of the commandments.
MATTER FOR. MEDITATION OUT OF SCRIPTURE, ACCORD
ING TO THE FORMER DOCTRINE.
The old Covenant, or the Covenant of Works.
Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the law, to do them.-Gal. iii. 10. Deut. xxvii. 26.
And thou shalt write upon stones all the words of this law very plainly.-Deut. xxvii. 8.
Thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand or to the left.
But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes, then shall all these curses come upon thee, and overtake thee.—Deut. xxviii.
And if you will not be reformed by these things, but will walk contrary unto me, then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.-Lev. xxvi. 23, 24, &c.
He that despised Moses's law, died without mercy under two or three witnesses.--Heb. x. 28.
The new Covenant, or the Covenant of Grace. We are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded: by what law? Of works ? Náy, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude, that a man is justified by
faith, without the deeds of the law.-Rom. iii. vers. 24 28.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. For as many as are led by the Spirit, they are the sons of God. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.-Rom. viii. 1. 14. 26-28.
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall not he with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.–Ver. 33, &c.
This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws in their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people--all shall know me from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.--Heb. viii. 10–12.
If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.-2 Cor. y. 17–21.
Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost: for the promise is unto you
and to your children, and to all that are afar off, and to as many as the Lord our God shall call.-Acts ii. 37, 38.
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved.-Rom. x. 13.
Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, that the man which doth those things, shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith, speaketh on this wise ;The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart, that is, the word of faith which we preach, that if thou shalt