Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cranmer's Sermon of Salvation Pt. 3

Today's post is the final part of Cranmer's sermon on justification.  Thomas Cranmer in many ways is the forgotten man of today's Anglican Church.  Yet the more I have read on his life and theology, the more I have found that it is difficult at best to grasp the roots and heritage of the English reformation, and what it means to be "Anglican", apart from him.  In one sense for Cranmer, to be a Christian in the Church of England was to be a biblical Christian.  And that was the only sure measure of being catholic, i.e. holding to "the faith once delivered."  It's of no coincidence that Cranmer's first sermon in the Book of Homilies is "A Fruitful Exhortation unto the Reading and Knowledge of Holy Scripture."

Ashley Null in an interview states that:

Most people don’t realise that the first liturgical change Cranmer made was to insist on good solid biblical preaching in every Sunday church service. To ensure that, he and others gathered together a set of Homilies that were to be read in course throughout the year.
The first six of these sermons explain how one comes to a biblical understanding of having Jesus Christ as your Saviour by faith alone – and the gratitude that one receives from knowing God has saved you, even though you are not able to make yourself worthy of salvation.

Here is part three:



IT hath been manifestly declared unto you that no man can fulfil the law of God and therefore by the law all men are condemned.  Whereupon it followeth necessarily that some other things should be required for our salvation than the law, and that is a true and lively faith in Christ bringing forth good works, and a life according to God’s commandments.  And also ye heard the ancient authors’ minds of this saying, “Faith in Christ only justifieth man” so plainly declared that ye see that the very true meaning of this proposition or saying, “We be justified by faith in Christ only” according to the meaning of the old ancient authors, is this:

We put our faith in Christ that we be justified by him only, that we be justified by God’s free mercy and the merits of our Saviour Christ only; and by no virtue or good work of our own, that is in us, or that we are [can be] able to have or to do in order to deserve the same, Christ himself only being the cause meritorious thereof.

Here ye perceive many words to be used to avoid contention in words with them that delight to brawl about words and also to show the true meaning, to avoid evil talking and misunderstanding.  And yet peradventure all will not serve with them that be contentious, but contenders will ever forge matters of contention, even when they have none occasion thereto.  Notwithstanding, such be the less to be passed upon, so that the rest may profit which will be more desirous to know the truth than when it is plain enough to contend about it and with contentious and captious [ill-natured] cavitation [empty talk] to obscure and darken it.

Truth it is that our own works do not justify us, to speak properly of our justification.  That is to say, our works do not merit or deserve remission of our sins and make us, which of unjust [i.e. unrighteousness] just before God; but God of his mere mercy through the only merits and deservings of his Son Jesus Christ doth justify us.  Nevertheless, because faith doth directly send us to Christ for remission of our sins, and that by faith given us of God, we embrace the promise of God’s mercy and of the remission of our sins.  Which thing none other of our virtues or works properly doeth.  Therefore the scripture useth to say that faith without works doth justify.

And forasmuch as it is all one sentence in effect to say, “Faith without works, and only faith, doth justify us”, therefore the old ancient fathers of the church from time to time have uttered our justification with this speech:  Only faith justifieth us, meaning no other thing than St. Paul meant when he said, “Faith without works justifieth us” (Galatians 2.16).  And because all this is brought to pass through the only merits and deservings of our Saviour Christ and not through our merits or through the merit of any virtue that we have within us or of any work that cometh from us, therefore in that respect of merit and deserving we forsake, as it were, altogether again faith, works, and all other virtues.  For our own imperfection is so great through the corruption of original sin, that all is imperfect that is within us:  faith, charity, hope, dread, thoughts, words, and works, and therefore not apt to merit and deserve any part of our justification for us.  And this form of speaking use we in the humbling of ourselves to God and to give all the glory to our Saviour Christ, who is best worthy to have it.

Faith brings forth good works in Christian liberty.

Here ye have heard the office of God in our justification and how we receive it of him freely by his mercy without our deserts through true and lively faith.  Now ye shall hear the office and duty of a Christian man unto God:  what we ought on our part to render unto God again for his great mercy and goodness.  Our office is not to pass the time of this present life unfruitfully and idly after that we are baptised or justified, not caring how few good works we do to the glory of God and profit of our neighbours.  Much less is it our office, after that we be once made Christ’s members to live contrary to the same, making ourselves members of the devil, walking after his enticements and after the suggestions of the world and the flesh, whereby we know that we do serve the world and the devil and not God.

What is the true and justifying faith.

For that faith which bringeth forth without repentance either evil works or no good works, is not a right, pure, and lively faith, but a dead, devilish, counterfeit, and feigned faith, as St. Paul and St. James call it.  For even the devils know and believe that Christ was born of a virgin, that he fasted forty days and forty nights without meat and drink, that he wrought all kind of miracles, declaring himself very God.  They believe also that Christ for our sakes suffered a most painful death to redeem us from everlasting death and that he rose again from death the third day.  They believe that he ascended into heaven and that he sitteth on the right hand of the Father and at the last end of this world shall come again and judge both the quick and the dead.  These articles of our faith the devils believe and so they believe all things that be written in the New and Old Testament to be true; and yet for all this faith they be but devils remaining still in their damnable estate, lacking the very true Christian faith.

For the right and true Christian faith is not only to believe that holy scripture and all the foresaid articles of our faith are true, but also to have a sure trust and confidence in God’s merciful promises to be saved from everlasting damnation by Christ, whereof doth follow a loving heart to obey his commandments.  And this true Christian faith neither any devil hath nor yet any man which in the outward profession of his mouth and in his outward receiving of the sacraments, in coming to the church and in all other outward appearances seemeth to be a Christian man and yet in his living and deeds showeth the contrary.

They that continue in evil living have not true faith.

For how can a man have this true faith, this sure trust and confidence in God that by the merits of Christ his sins be forgiven and he reconciled to the favour of God and to be partaker of the kingdom of heaven by Christ, when he liveth ungodly like and denieth Christ in his deeds?  Surely no such ungodly man can have this faith and trust in God.  For as they know Christ to be the only Saviour of the world, so they know also that wicked men shall not enjoy the kingdom of God.  They know that God hateth unrighteousness, that he will destroy all those that speak untruly, that those which have done good works which cannot be done without a lively faith in Christ shall come forth into the resurrection of life, and those that have done evil shall come unto the resurrection of judgment.  Very well they know also that to them that be contentious and to them that will not be obedient unto the truth but will obey unrighteousness shall come indignation, wrath, and affliction, &c.

Therefore to conclude, considering the infinite benefits of God, shown and given unto us mercifully without our deserts [earnings], who hath not only created us of nothing and from a piece of vile clay of his infinite goodness, hath exalted us as touching our soul unto his own similitude and likeness, but also whereas we were condemned to hell and death everlasting, hath given his own natural Son, being God eternal, immortal, and equal unto himself in power and glory to be incarnated and to take our mortal nature upon him with the infirmities of the same and in the same nature to suffer most shameful and painful death for our offences to the intent to justify us and to restore us to life everlasting, so making us also his dear children, brethren unto his only Son our Saviour Christ, and inheritors forever with him of his eternal kingdom of heaven.

These great and merciful benefits of God, if they be well considered, do neither minister unto us occasion to be idle and to live without doing any good works, neither yet stir us up by any means to do evil things.  But contrariwise, if we be not desperate persons and our hearts harder than stones, they move us to render ourselves unto God wholly with all our will, hearts, might, and power to serve him in all good deeds, obeying his commandments during our lives to seek in all things his glory and honour, not our sensual pleasures and vainglory, evermore dreading willingly to offend such a merciful God and loving Redeemer in word, thought, or deed.

And the said benefits of God, deeply considered, move us for his sake also to be ever ready to give ourselves to our neighbours and, as much as lieth in us, to study with all our endeavour to do good to every man.  These be the fruits of true faith:  to do good as much as lieth in us to every man, and above all things and in all things to advance the glory of God, of whom only we have our sanctification, justification, salvation and redemption; to whom be ever glory, praise, and honour, world without end.  Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment