Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cranmer's Sermon on the Knowledge of Scripture Part 2

This excerpt from Thomas Cranmer's preface to the Great Bible of 1539 serves as an apt introduction to part two of his sermon:
     ... the Apostles and prophets wrote their books so that their special intent and purpose might be understood and perceived of every reader, which was nothing but the edification of amendment of the life of them that read or hear it...  Wherefore I would advise you all that come to the reading or hearing of this book, which is the word of God, the most precious jewel and most holy relic that remaineth upon earth; that ye bring with you the fear of God, and that ye do it with all due reverence, and use your knowledge thereof, not to vain glory of frivolous disputation, but to the honor of God, increase of virtue, and edification both of yourselves and other.


The Second Part of the Sermon of the Exhortation to Holy Scripture
Against Fear and Excuses
    In the first part of this Sermon, which exhorteth to the knowledge of Holy Scripture, was declared wherefore the knowledge of the same is necessary and profitable to all men; and that, by the true knowledge and understanding of Scripture, the most necessary points of our duty towards God and our neighbours are also known.
    Now, as concerning the same matter, you shall hear what followeth.  If we profess Christ, why be we not ashamed to be ignorant in his doctrine, seeing that every man is ashamed to be ignorant in that learning which he professeth? That man is ashamed to be called a Philosopher which readeth not the books of philosophy; and to be called a Lawyer, an Astronomer, or a Physician, that is ignorant in the books of law, astronomy and physic. How can any man, then, say that he professeth Christ and his religion, if he will not apply himself, as far forth as he can or may conveniently to read and hear, and so to know, the books of Christ’s Gospel and doctrine? Although other sciences be good, and to be learned, yet no man can deny but this is the chief, and passeth all other incomparably. What excuse shall we therefore make, at the last day, before Christ, that delight to read or hear men’s fantasies and inventions, more than his most holy Gospel? and will find no time to do that, which chiefly, above all things, we should do; and will rather read other things that that, for the which we ought rather to leave reading of all other things? Let us therefore apply ourselves, as far forth as we can have time and leisure, to know God’s word, by diligent hearing and reading thereof, as many as profess God, and have faith and trust in him.
    But they that have no good affection to God’s word, to colour this their fault, allege commonly two vain and feigned excuses. Some go about to excuse them by their own frailness and fearfulness, saying, that they dare not read Holy Scripture, lest through their ignorance they should fall into any error. Other pretend that the difficulty to understand it, and the hardness thereof, is so great, that it is meet to be read only of Clerks and learned men.
One the fear of falling into error.
    As touching the first: Ignorance of God’s word is the cause of all error; as Christ himself affirmed to the Sadducees, saying, that they erred, because they knew not the Scripture (Mtt 22). How should they then eschew error, that will still be ignorant? And how should they come out of ignorance, that will not read nor hear that thing which should give them knowledge? He that now hath most knowledge, was at the first ignorant; yet he forbare not to read, for fear he should fall into error, by the same reason you may then lie still, and never go, lest, if you go, you fall into the mire; nor eat any good meat, lest you take a surfeit [eat to excess]; nor sow your corn, nor labour in your occupation, nor use your merchandise, for fear you lose your seed, your labour, your stock: and so, by that reason, it should be best for you to live idly, and never to take in hand to do any manner of good thing, lest peradventure some evil thing may chance thereof. And if you be afraid to fall into error by reading of Holy Scripture, I shall shew you how you may read it without danger of error. 
Read it humbly, with meek and lowly heart, to the intent that you may glorify God, and not yourself, with the knowledge of it: and read it not without daily praying to God, that he would direct your reading to good effect; and take upon you to expound it no further than you can plainly understand it: for, as St. Augustine saith, the knowledge of Holy Scripture is a great, large, and high place; but the door is very low, so that the high and arrogant man cannot run in; but he must stoop low, and humble himself, that shall enter into it. Presumption and arrogancy is the mother of all error; and humility needeth to fear no error. For humility will only search to know the truth: it will search and will bring together one place with another; and where it cannot find out the meaning, it will pray, it will ask of others that know, and will not presumptuously and rashly define any thing which it knoweth not. Therefore, the humble man may search any truth boldly in the Scripture, without any danger of error. And if he be ignorant, he ought the more to read and search Holy Scripture, to bring him out of ignorance. I say not may, but a man may profit with only hearing; but he may much more profit with both hearing and reading.
On the hardness of Scripture.     
This have I said as touching the fear to read, through ignorance of the person.  And concerning the hardness of Scripture; he that is so weak that he is not able to brook strong meat, yet he may suck the sweet and tender milk, and defer the rest until he wax stronger, and come to more knowledge. For God reciveth the learned and un-learned, and casteth away none, but is indifferent unto all. And the Scripture is full, as well of low valleys, plain ways, and easy for every man to use and to walk in, as also of high hills and mountain, which few men can climb unto. And whosoever giveth his mind to Holy Scriptures with diligent study and burning desire, it cannot be, saith St. John Chrsysostom, "that he should be left without help. For either God Almighty will send him some godly Doctor to teach him - as he did to instruct the Eunuch, a nobleman of Ethiopia, and treasurer unto Queen Candace; who having a great affection to read the Scripture, although he understood it not, yet, for the desire that he had unto God’s word, God sent his Apostle Philip to declare unto him the true sense of the Scripture that he read - or else, if we lack a learned man to instruct and teach us, yet God himself from above will give light unto our minds, and teach us those things which are necessary for us, and wherein we be ignorant." 
And in another place Chrysostom saith, "that man’s human and worldly wisdom, or science, is not needful to the understanding of Scripture; but the revelation of the Holy Ghost, who inspireth the true meaning unto them that with humility and diligence do search therefore." 
"He that asketh shall have, and he that seeketh shall find, and he that knocketh shall have the door opened" (Mtt 7). If we read once, twice, or thrice, and understand not, let us not cease so; but still continue reading, praying, asking of others: and so, by still knocking, at the last, the door shall be opened, as St. Augustin saith. Although many things in Scripture be spoken in obscure mysteries, yet there is nothing spoken under dark mysteries in one place, but the self-same thing in other places is spoken more familiarly and plainly, to the capacity both of learned and unlearned. 
And those things, in the Scripture, that be plain to understand, and necessary for salvation, every man’s duty is to learn them, to print them in memory, and effectually to exercise them; and, as for the dark mysteries, to be contented to be ignorant in them, until such time as it shall please God to open those things unto him. In the mean season, if he lack either aptness or opportunity, God will not impute it to his folly: but yet it behoveth not, that such as be apt should se aside reading, because some other be unapt to read: nevertheless, for the hardness of such place, the reading of the whole ought not to be set apart. 
Conclusion.
And briefly to conclude: as St. Augustin saith, "By the Scripture all men be amended; weak men be strengthened, and strong men be comforted." So that surely none be enemies to the reading of God’s word, but such as either be ignorant, that they know not who wholesome a thing it is; or else be so sick, that they hate the most comfortable medicine, that should heal them, or so ungodly, that they would wish the people still to continue in blindness and ignorance of God.
    Thus we have briefly touched some part of the commodities of God’s holy word, which is one of God’s chief and principal benefits, given and declared to mankind here on earth. Let us thank God heartily for this his great and special gift, beneficial favour, and fatherly providence. Let us be glad to receive this precious gift of our heavenly Father. Let us hear, read, and know these holy rules, injunctions, and statutes of our Christian religion, and upon that we have made profession to God at our baptism. Let us with fear and reverence lay up, in the chest of our hearts, these necessary and fruitful lessons (Psalm 1); let us night and day muse, and have meditation and contemplation in them; let us ruminate, and, as it were, chew the cud, that we may have the sweet juice, spiritual effect, marrow, honey, kernel, taste, comfort and consolation of them. Let us stay, quiet, and certify our consciences with the most infallible certainty, truth, and perpetual assurance of them. Let us pray to God, the only Author of these heavenly studies, that we may speak, think, believe, live, and depart hence, according to the wholesome doctrine and verities of them. And, by that means, in this world we shall have God’s defence, favour, and grace, with the unspeakable solace of peace, and quietness of conscience; and, after this miserable life, we shall enjoy the endless bliss and glory of heaven: which he grant us all, that died for us all, Jesus Christ: to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, both now and everlastingly. Amen.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cranmer's Sermon on the Reading and Study of Scripture

In further pursuit of understanding Thomas Cranmer's theology I am posting part one (part two will follow) of another of his homilies, indeed the first one from the Church of England's First Book of Homilies, titled "A fruitful Exhortation Unto the Reading and Knowledge of Holy Scripture."  What one finds in this sermon is a very Protestant view of the relationship between the Bible and the believer, as well as an understanding of Scripture (to no surprise) in harmony with Article VI of the Church's confession of faith:  
VI. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.

"Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation..."
Finally, I turn again to Dr. Ashley Null, one of the foremost scholars on Cranmer's theology:
In Cranmer’s understanding, the Holy Spirit came directly to God’s people through his Word. As Scripture was proclaimed, the Holy Spirit wrote his promises on the hearts of believers, thereby nurturing in them a living, personal faith which alone united them to God. That is the reason why Cranmer urged the English people to feed on Christ continually, because they could strengthen their union with Christ at any time simply by meditating on God’s Word in their own hearts.
Therefore, in Cranmer’s mature understanding, the sacraments were not the principal means of grace. Nor were they a second, separate channel on par with Scripture, as if the Spirit worked supernaturally through two different, but parallel, means, i.e., the sacramental ministry of an apostolically ordained priesthood and biblical preaching. Cranmer’s final view was far simpler. Since the Holy Spirit came to God’s people through the Scriptures, the sacraments were effectual means of grace precisely because of their unique capacity for proclaiming the promises of God’s Word.
BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.  [The Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent]

A FRUITFUL EXHORTATION
UNTO THE READING AND KNOWLEDGE OF HOLY SCRIPTURE.

THE FORMER PART.  WHICH KNOWLEDGE IS NECESSARY,

PROFITABLE, AND DOTH MAKE KNOWN OUR DUTY.

U
NTO a Christian man, there can be nothing either more necessary or profitable than the knowledge of holy scripture; for, as much as in it is contained God's true word, setting forth his glory and also man's duty.  And there is no truth nor doctrine necessary for our justification and everlasting salvation but that is or may be drawn out of that fountain and well of truth.  Therefore as many as be desirous to enter into the right and perfect way unto God must apply their minds to know holy scripture, without the which they can neither sufficiently know God and his will neither their office and duty.  And as drink is pleasant to them that be dry and meat to them that be hungry, so is the reading, hearing, searching, and studying of holy scripture to them that be desirous to know God or themselves and to do his will.  
And their stomachs only do loathe and abhor the heavenly knowledge and food of God's word that be so drowned in worldly vanities, that they neither savour God nor any godliness.  For that is the cause why they desire such vanities rather than the true knowledge of God.  As they that are sick of an ague, whatsoever they eat and drink, though it be never so pleasant yet it is as bitter to them as wormwood, not for the bitterness of the meat but for the corrupt and bitter humour that is in their own tongue and mouth.  Even so is the sweetness of God's word bitter not of itself, but only unto them that have their minds corrupted with long custom of sin and love of this world.
Therefore, forsaking the corrupt judgment of fleshly men which care not but for their carcase, let us reverently hear and read holy scripture, which is the food of the soul (Matthew 4.4).  Let us diligently search for the well of life in the books of the New and Old Testaments and not run to the stinking puddles of men's traditions devised by men's imagination for our justification and salvation.  For in holy scripture is fully contained what we ought to do and what to eschew, what to believe, what to love, and what to look for at God's hands at length.  In these books we shall find the Father from whom, the Son by whom, and the Holy Ghost in whom all things have their being and keeping up, and these three Persons to be but one God and one substance.
The necessity and profit to all men.

In these books we may learn to know ourselves, how vile and miserable we be, and also to know God, how good he is of himself and how he maketh us and all creatures partakers of his goodness.  We may learn also in these books to know God's will and pleasure, as much as for this present time is convenient for us to know.  And as the great clerk [cleric] and godly preacher S. John Chrysostom saith,
Whatsoever is required to the salvation of man is fully contained in the scripture of God.  He that is ignorant may there learn and have knowledge.  He that is hard-hearted and an obstinate sinner shall there find everlasting torments prepared of God's justice to make him afraid and to mollify or soften him.  He that is oppressed with misery in this world shall there find relief in the promises of everlasting life to his great consolation and comfort.  He that is wounded by the devil unto death shall find there medicine whereby he may be restored again unto health. (Scriptor. Incert. in Matth. Hom. xvi, Chrysost. opp. ad calc. Tom. vi, p. clxxiv b.)
If it shall require to teach any truth or reprove false doctrine to rebuke any vice, to commend any virtue, to give good counsel, to comfort, or to exhort, or to do any other thing requisite for our salvation, all those things (saith S.  Chrysostom), we may learn plentifully of the scripture.  (Chrysost. in Epist. ii ad Tim. Hom. ix; Opp. xi, 714 e.)
"There is", saith Fulgentius "abundantly enough both for men to eat and children to suck" (Fulgent. i, § i; Opp. ed. Paris. 1684, p,546).  There is whatsoever is meet [in good measure] for all ages and for all degrees and sorts of men.
These books, therefore, ought to be much in our hands, in our eyes, in our ears, in our mouths, but most of all — in our hearts.  For the scripture of God is the heavenly meat of our souls; the hearing and keeping of it maketh us blessed, sanctifieth us, and maketh us holy.  It turneth our souls; it is a light lantern to our feet.  It is a sure, steadfast, and everlasting instrument of salvation.  It giveth wisdom to the humble and lowly hearts.  It comforteth, maketh glad, cheereth, and cherisheth our conscience.  It is a more excellent jewel, or treasure than any gold or precious stone.  It is more sweet than honey or honeycomb.  It is called the best part which Mary did choose, for it hath in it everlasting comfort.
The words of holy scripture be called words of everlasting life, for they be God's instrument ordained for the same purpose.  They have power to turn through God's promise and they be effectual through God's assistance.  And being received in a faithful heart, they have ever an heavenly spiritual working in them.  They are lively, quick, and mighty in operation, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and enter through even unto the dividing asunder of the soul and the spirit or the joints and the marrow.  Christ calleth him a wise builder that buildeth upon his word, upon his sure and substantial foundation.  By this word of God we shall be judged, "for the word that I speak", saith Christ "is it that shall judge in the last day" (John 12.48).  He that keepeth the word of Christ is promised the love and favour of God and that he shall be the dwelling-place, or temple, of the blessed Trinity.
This word, whosoever is diligent to read and in his heart to print that he readeth, the great affection to the transitory things of this world shall be minished in him, and the great desire of heavenly things that be therein promised of God shall increase in him.  And there is nothing that so much strengtheneth our faith and trust in God that so much keepeth up innocency and pureness of the heart and also of outward godly life and conversation, as continual reading and recording of God's word.  For that thing, which by continual reading of holy scripture and diligent searching of the same is deeply printed and graven in the heart, at length turneth almost into nature.

Our duty towards God and our neighbours.

And moreover, the effect and virtue of God's word is to illuminate the ignorant and to give more light unto them that faithfully and diligently read it, to conform their hearts and to encourage them to perform that which of God is commanded.  It teacheth patience in all adversity, in prosperity humbleness.  What honour is due unto God, what mercy and charity to our neighbour!  It giveth good counsel in all doubtful things; it showeth of whom we shall look for aid and help in all perils and that God is the only Giver of victory in all battles and temptations of our enemies, bodily and ghostly (1 Samuel 14.6-23; 2 Chronicles 20.1-30; 1 John 5.4).  
And in reading of God's word, he not always most profiteth that is most ready in turning of the book or in saying of it without the book, but he that is most turned into it, that is most inspired with the Holy Ghost, most in his heart and life altered and changed into that thing which he readeth.  He that is daily less and less proud, less wrathful, less covetous, and less desirous of worldly and vain pleasures.  He that, daily forsaking his old vicious life, increaseth in virtue more and more.  And to be short, there is nothing that more maintaineth godliness of the mind and driveth away ungodliness than doeth the continual reading or hearing of God's word, if it be joined with a godly mind and a good affection to know and follow God's will.  For without a single eye, pure intent, and good mind, nothing is allowed for good before God.  And on the other side, nothing more darkeneth Christ and the glory of God nor bringeth in more blindness and all kinds of vices than doth the ignorance of God's word (Isaiah 5.13; Matt 22.29;1 Corinthians 14).


Part Two of Cranmer's Sermon on Scripture






















Monday, August 23, 2010

Some thoughts on Romans 6:1-5

Romans 6-
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2 God forbid. We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?
3 Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
4 We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection; [ASV]
6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin
7 for he that hath died is justified from sin.

     When speaking of our having "died to sin" and having been "baptized into his death" - this is to be understood, as John Stott writes in his Romans commentary, in a 'legal sense'.  It is self-evident that we did not literally die when Christ was crucified on the cross.  Rather, in that God "chose us in him before the foundation of the world" [Eph. 1:4], our life and destiny, by God's gracious will, are irrevocably connected to Christ our Head.  We have been made party to God's covenant of promise, i.e. salvation in Christ, by God's choosing; a covenant that Christ alone fulfills.  And he, as our representative head, accomplished this through the death he died to sin once for all who are in him (Rom. 5:15-18).  So then it follows that the ultimate death penalty for sin no longer has a claim on us.  We are set free from the reign of sin and death by Jesus' propitiatory sacrifice on the cross.
     Therefore in real time, through baptism and faith, we were united with Christ in the "likeness of his death"; a penalty bearing death that is effectual for us according to God's promise.  So that through Jesus' death on our behalf the "body of sin" (the evidence of our guilt before the Law) has been put away.  It cannot touch us in that the evidence and guilt of our sin was imputed to Christ and borne by him on the cross (2Cor. 5:21a).  God's justice is completely served and satisfied.  Paul speaks of this having been accomplished through baptism, and this is true inasmuch as water baptism is truly an effectual sign and seal of the inward Holy Spirit-powered grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
     United to Christ through faith, Jesus is our means or ark (for safe passage through seas of death, 1Pet. 3:20-21) of dying to sin and death, having been buried with him.  Death could not hold him, for in his own person he fully met all the just requirements of God's holy law.  Having died for the sins of his people, he was raised by the Spirit in keeping with the justice of God (Rom. 2:13b).  And also we who are united with him have risen with him out of death into newness of life.  And we have the down payment of that resurrection having been given the blessing of regeneration, a new heart and "right-will" inclined to righteousness and love (Rom. 5:5; 6:17-18).  Jesus Christ rose from the dead fully justified by his law-keeping and by faith in him alone we, for whom he died, are now "justified from sin", declared as righteous before God through Christ's merit only (2Cor. 5:21b; Rom. 4:5).
     This is the ground floor upon which we rest, walk, and stand as Christians.  As Edward Mote, 1797-1874, wrote "All other ground is sinking sand."  So, in a manner of speaking, we look backward to what Jesus accomplished for us helpless sinners through his death and resurrection in order that we may move forward, living for him as we are led by his Spirit.  Any other ground of merit and service before God will see us devolve into the subtle yet deceitful box canyon of attempting to establish a false merit through our works in order to attain some measure self-justification.  For we yet remain helpless inasmuch as being able to truly do anything that is free from the stain of sin.  And we should not deceive ourselves into taking refuge in our good works, our "spiritual" experiences, our epiphanies, or our godly intentions, even as the Holy Spirit faithfully leads us into those good works "which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." [Eph. 2:10]

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The "Unpopular" Church Strategy...

Some thoughts based on an article highlighted at Prydain blog...

I think that the current trend in much of the evangelical church of using marketing strategies to grow numbers is misguided and pathetic on so many levels. One such level is that "marketing approaches” don't take the believer or unbeliever seriously. It treats them as consumers rather than people who are made in the image of their Creator and yet fallen. This marketing approach hinges success upon “checking off” any number of boxes such as an entertaining worship service, helpful advice for living (family, finances, virtues-coaching) via sermons or small groups, and often a one-stop shop for a person’s social life (some churches are actually like all-purpose college campuses).
Forgotten or marginalized is the harsh reality that, apart from the saving knowledge of Christ, people are burdened by the unbearable weight and destructiveness of their own sin (though often in denial), suffer alienation from God and their fellow man, and ultimately face a day of reckoning on That Day. And it is the very message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, communicated regularly through the rather "unflashy" ministering of the Word and Sacrament, which equips the Church to uniquely address this condition in man.  Too many have lost sight of the fact that the church was not instituted by our Lord to be about growing numbers but rather finding, gathering, and nuturing those who are marked off for salvation. It's certainly not a popular diagnosis of and prescription for "consumers" in today’s modern media-driven, numbers oriented church. And yet, though out of fashion and unpopular, it has one thing really going for it. It is true and rings true in those called of God.

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:


THE THIRD PART OF THE SERMON
OF SALVATION.

GO, AND SIN NO MORE.

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.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cranmer's Sermon of Salvation Pt. 2

To the question who is Thomas Cranmer and why is he important to Anglicans, Dr. Ashley Null answers:  "Thomas Cranmer was born in 1489 and baptised into the medieval catholic church. He studied at Cambridge, receiving a Doctorate of Divinity in 1526, and served there as a don. 
As a theologian, Cranmer was very much influenced by Erasmus’ emphasis on going back to the original sources for the Christian faith, in particular, of course, the Bible.
In the late 1520s, the authority of Scripture was at the centre of the most pressing English political issue of the day - Henry VIII’s divorce case.
The king and his scholars argued that the Pope did not have the authority to set aside a clear Scriptural commandment against a moral sin. Since Leviticus 20:21 specifically forbids taking the wife of one’s brother, Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon was invalid, despite having received papal approval. True to his own theological convictions on Scripture, Cranmer agreed.
Once Henry learned of Cranmer’s views on the subject, he invited the Cambridge don to join his team of scholars. In 1532, as part of that effort, Henry sent Cranmer to Germany as his ambassador to the Emperor.
While in Germany, Cranmer came under the influence of Protestantism. Not only did he acquire a new wife - who was the niece of the wife of the German reformer Andreas Osiander - but he also acquired a clearly protestant understanding of justification.
His commitment to Scripture and to the early Church Fathers, like Augustine, helped Cranmer to grasp the Protestants’ emphasis on salvation by grace alone. His Erasmian studies, therefore, laid the bridge for him to cross over from being a catholic to a protestant.
Then, quite unexpectedly, Henry VIII called Cranmer back to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury. Naturally, he was quite reluctant. No doubt, though, he accepted the position because he saw it as his task to use such a powerful position to restore the English Church to its scriptural roots. And, of course, that’s what Cranmer did for the rest of his life as the Archbishop of Canterbury - seeking to bring the Church of England back to a sound, biblical faith.
Under Henry’s successor, the boy king Edward VI, he was primarily responsible for the three key formularies of the Church of England: the Book of Homilies, the Book of Common Prayer and the Articles of Religion. Therefore, understanding Cranmer’s theology is essential for understanding the theological origins of the Anglican Communion."


Below is part two of Thomas Cranmer's three part sermon.  Tomorrow I will post the last part.

THE SECOND PART OF THE SERMON
OF SALVATION.

HOW NO MAN CAN BE JUSTIFIED BY HIS OWN GOOD WORKS.

WE have heard of whom all men ought to seek their justification and righteousness and how also this righteousness cometh unto men by Christ’s death and merits.  Ye heard also how that three things are required to the obtaining of our righteousness, that is:  God’s mercy, Christ’s justice, and a true and lively faith out of the which faith spring good works.  Also before was declared at large that no man can be justified by his own good works because that no man fulfilleth the law according to the strict rigor of the law.

And St. Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians proveth the same, saying thus:  “If there had been any law given which could have justified, verily righteousness should have been by the law” (Galatians 3.21).  And again he saith: “If righteousness be by the law, then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2.21).  And again he saith, “Ye that seek to be justified by the law are fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5.4).  And furthermore, he writeth to the Ephesians on this wise:  “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God; and not of works, lest any man should glory” (Ephesians 2.8).  And to be short, the sum of all Paul’s disputation is this:  that if righteousness come of works, then it cometh not of grace; and if it come of grace, then it cometh not of works.  And to this end tend all the prophets as St. Peter saith in the tenth chapter of the Acts, “Of Christ all the prophets”, saith St. Peter, “do witness that through his name all they that believe in him shall receive the remission of sins” (Acts 10.43).

Faith only justifieth is the doctrine of old Doctors.

And after this wise to be justified only by this true and lively faith in Christ, speak all the old and ancient authors, both Greeks and Latins, of whom I will specially rehearse three:  Hilary, Basil, and Ambrose.  St. Hilary saith these words plainly in the ninth Canon upon Matthew:  “Faith only justifieth.”  And St. Basil, a Greek author, writeth thus:  “This is a perfect and whole rejoicing in God when a man advanceth not himself for his own righteousness, but acknowledgeth himself to lack true justice and righteousness and to be justified by the only faith in Christ.  And “Paul”, saith he, “doth glory in the contempt of his own righteousness, and that he looketh for the righteousness of God by faith.”  These be the very words of St. Basil.  And St. Ambrose, a Latin author, saith these words: “This is the ordinance of God, that they which believe in Christ should be saved without works, by faith only, freely receiving remission of their sins.”  Consider diligently these words:  Without works, by faith only, we freely receive remission of our sins.  What can be spoken more plainly than to say that freely without works – by faith only – we obtain remission of our sins?  These and other like sentences that we be justified by faith only, freely, and without works, we do read oft times in the best and most ancient writers as beside Hilary, Basil, and St. Ambrose before rehearsed, we read the same in Origen, St. Chrysostom, St. Cyprian, St. Augustine, Prosper, Ĺ’cumenius, Phocius, Bernardus, Anselm, and many other authors Greek and Latin.

Faith alone, how it is to be understood.

Nevertheless, this sentence – that we be justified by faith only – is not so meant of them that the said justifying faith is alone in man without true repentance, hope, charity, dread, and the fear of God at any time and season. Nor when they say that we be justified freely do they mean that we should or might afterward be idle and that nothing should be required on our parts afterward.  Neither do they mean so to be justified without our good works that we should do no good works at all, like as shall be more expressed at large hereafter.  But this saying that we be justified by faith only, freely, and without works is spoken for to take away clearly all merit of our works as being unable to deserve our justification at God’s hands and thereby most plainly to express the weakness of man and the goodness of God, the great infirmity of ourselves and the might and power of God, the imperfection of our own works and the most abundant grace of our Saviour Christ, and therefore wholly to ascribe the merit and deserving of our justification unto Christ only and his most precious blood-shedding.

The profit of the doctrine, of faith only justifieth.

This faith [that justifieth], the holy scripture teacheth us, is the strong rock and foundation of Christian religion.  This doctrine all old and ancient authors of Christ’s church do approve.  This doctrine advanceth and setteth forth the true glory of Christ and beateth down the vainglory of man.  This whosoever denieth is not to be accounted for a Christian man nor for a setter-forth of Christ’s glory, but for an adversary to Christ and his gospel and for a setter-forth of men’s vainglory.

And although this doctrine be never so true, as it is most true indeed that we be justified freely without all merit of our own good works as St. Paul doth express it and freely by this lively and perfect faith in Christ only as the ancient authors use to speak it, yet this true doctrine must be also truly understood and most plainly declared lest carnal men should take unjustly occasion thereby to live carnally after the appetite and will of the world, the flesh, and the devil.  And because no man should err by mistaking of this doctrine, I shall plainly and shortly so declare the right understanding of the same, that no man shall justly think that he may thereby take any occasion of carnal liberty to follow the desires of the flesh or that thereby any kind of sins shall be committed or any ungodly living the more used.

A declaration of this doctrine, faith without works justifieth.

First, ye shall understand that in our justification by Christ, it is not all one thing, the office of God unto man and the office of man unto God.  Justification is not the office of man, but of God; for man cannot make himself righteous by his own works, neither in part nor in the whole.  For that would be the greatest arrogancy and presumption of man that antichrist could set up against God to affirm that a man might by his own works take away and purge his own sins and so justify himself.  But justification is the office of God only and is not a thing which we render unto him, but which we receive of him; not which we give to him, but which we take of him by his free mercy and by the only merits of his most dearly beloved Son, our only Redeemer, Saviour, and Justifier – Jesus Christ.

So that the true understanding of this doctrine – we be justified freely by faith without works or that we be justified by faith in Christ only – is not that this our own act to believe in Christ, or this our faith in Christ, or this our faith in Christ which is within us doth justify us and credit [deserve] our justification unto us.  For that would be to count ourselves to be justified by some act or virtue that is within ourselves.  But the true understanding and meaning thereof is that – although we hear God’s word and believe it, although we have faith, hope, charity, repentance, dread, and fear of God within us and do never so many good works thereunto – yet we must renounce the merit of all our said virtues of faith, hope, charity, and all our other virtues and good deeds which we either have done, shall do, or can do as things that be far too weak and insufficient and imperfect to deserve remission of our sins and our justification.

And therefore we must trust only in God’s mercy and that sacrifice which our High Priest and Saviour Christ Jesus, the Son of God, once offered for us upon the cross to obtain thereby God’s grace and remission, as well of our original sin in baptism as of all actual sin committed by us after our baptism – if we truly repent and turn unfeignedly to him again.  So that as St. John the Baptist, although he were never so virtuous and godly a man, yet in this matter of forgiving of sin, he did put the people from him and appointed them unto Christ, saying thus unto them, “Behold, yonder is the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world” (John 1.29).  Even so, as great and as godly a virtue as the lively faith is, yet it putteth us from itself and remitteth or appointeth us unto Christ for to have only by him remission of our sins or justification.  So that our faith in Christ, as it were, saith unto us thus:  It is not I that take away your sins, but it is Christ only; and to him only I send you for that purpose, forsaking therein all your good virtues, words, thoughts, and works, and only putting your trust in Christ.