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because he knows how difficult it is to resist them : concerning which, Psalm lxxxii. 4, saith, “Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.” And although this persecution is now rare, and has become almost unknown, yet all that is the fault of those that preside over spiritual things, because they do not stir up the Gospel, but permit it to be overthrown. And thus, they have destroyed that cause which ought to raise all this persecution on the one hand, and this testimony on the other, and teach us, in the mean time, their own traditions and ordinances, and whatever pleases them. And therefore, Satan also sits down in quiet, when, by having thus destroyed the Gospel, he has destroyed also the faith of Christ. And thus all things go on just according to the devil's wishes. But if the Gospel were again stirred up, preached, and heard, without doubt the whole world would be put in commotion, and the greater part of the kings, princes, bishops, doctors, sacred or spiritual, and every thing great that opposes it, would be moved to fight against it; as it ever has been the case wheresover the Word of God has been brought forth openly. For the world cannot bear that which cometh from God. Which was proved in the case of Christ: for he was the greatest, the dearest, and the best thing that God had to give: and yet
the world was so far from receiving him, that it persecuted him more atrociously than any thing else that ever came from God. Therefore, as it was in his time, so it is always the case, that there are few who favour divine truth and will expose their body, life, property, fame, and all that they have, to peril, for its sake. And thus Christ. declared, saying,
“ Ye shall be hated of all men for my name sake,” Matt. x. 22. And again, “Many shall be offended,” Matt. xxiv. 10. Nay, if none persecuted this truth but farmers, shepherds, carters, and men of the lowest class, who could not, and would not, confess and stand by it? But when popes and bishops, together with princes and kings, persecute it, all men flee away, all keep silence, all flatter; lest they should lose their property, their honour, their favour, or perhaps their lives.
III. And why do they this ?-Because they have no faith in God; and cannot persuade themselves that they shall receive any good from him. For wherever this confidence and faith of God are, there will be found a courageous, intrepid, and fearless heart ; which subscribes to the truth and stands by it, whether the garment or the head be in danger; and whether it be against the Pope, or against kings; even as we see the holy martyrs acted. For a heart of this kind being satisfied with a propitious and merciful God, despises honour, favour, influence, and the riches of all men put together, permitting every thing that will not remain and endure, to go and come as it pleases : as it is read Psalm xiv. 4, “ In whose eyes a vile person is contemned: but he honoureth them that fear the Lord :” that is, he neither fears, nor cares for, tyrants and potentates who persecute the truth and condemn God, but despises them : but, on the other hand, he seeks after those who suffer persecutions for the truth's sake, and who fear God more than man; and he stands by such, patronizes them, and honours them, whomsoever he may displease thereby: even as it is read of Moses, Heb. xi. that he clave to his brethren, “not fearing the wrath of the king." —Behold, therefore, in this Commandment you again at once see that faith must be the great teacher and fountain-spring of this Work : which work, without faith, no man will dare to do. Therefore, all works lie in faith, as I have before often observed. And hence, out of faith all works are dead, how good soever they may seem to be, how fairly and brightly soever they may shine, and by what names soever they may be called. For as no one can do the work of this. Commandment, unless he be firm and well established, and fearlessly persuaded of his interest in the grace of God; so, neither can any one do any of the works of the other Commandments without this faith. And hence, every one may from this Commandment easily weigh himself, and form a judgment whether or not he be a Christian
and believe truly in Christ; and so, whether or not he really do good works. — And here, we see that the Almighty God has not only set forth unto us our Lord Jesus Christ that we may have such a confidence as this in him, but that we may also look at him as an example; who maintained such a confidence, and who sets before us in his own life all good works of this kind, that we may both believe in him, and follow him, and remain in him to all eternity: as he hath said, John xiv. 6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He is the “way" that we may follow him : the “ truth,” that we may believe in him : and the “ life,” that we may live in him for ever. From all which things it is manifest, that all other works, which are not commanded, are perilous : and they are easy to be known: such as, building churches and ornamenting them, going on pilgrimages to saints, and whatever other things are enjoined in the decrees of the Pope; which have seduced, laid burdens on, and destroyed, the world, made consciences wretched, and drowned and kept faith in silence. Whereas, it is well known that man has enough set before him to do in the Commandments of God, and to exercise all his powers, without meddling with any other works : so that, he never can do all the good works that are commanded him. Why then does the wretched creature seek after other works which are neither necessary for him nor commanded, and leave those which are necessary and commanded ?
CONCERNING THE LAST TWO COMMANDMENTS AND
THEIR GOOD WORKS.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his servant, nor his maid, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is his
These last Two Commandments, which prohibit evil desires or fleshly concupiscence, pleasures, and the love of temporal things, are clear in themselves, and forbid every kind of injury to be done to our neighbour.
And moreover, they remain in force even unto the grave: for the conflict within us against all those desires continues unto death. And therefore, these Two Commandments are by St. Paul contracted into One in his Epistle to the Romans, chap. vii. and mentioned as a certain mark unto which we never can attain; but yet, unto which we are to direct our thoughts and meditations, even until death. For no one ever lived to be so great a saint, as that he did not feel in himself motions of evil concupiscence: especially when any time or occasion occurred to excite them : because, original sin is engendered in us by nature: which may be subdued, but cannot be wholly rooted out but by corporal death : which, on account of original sin, is both profitable and desirable. And may that take place with God propitious unto us, and helping us! Amen.
PROFESSORS AND PROPHETS KNOWN
BY THEIR FRUITS.
Matt. vii. 16. Ye shall know them by their fruits, &c. Christ had admonished his followers to hold fast his doctrine perseveringly and defend it, and to take all heed that they might not be deceived by others who are ravening wolves in sheep's clothing. He now goes on to teach them how these characters are to be known by their fruits : and he sets forth a comparison in the most simple and plain words, which even a child may understand : for I should imagine that no one is so ignorant and senseless, who does not know, that i thorns
never produce either " figs” or grapes. Yet, although the words be thus simple, no one sees how much they embrace in their signification, but he who diligently looks into the Word of God. All the force of these words lies, in our understanding what
Christ calls a good and bad tree and fruit. And this is afterwards shown when he speaks of the figs and the thistles, the good fruit and the bitter berry of the thorn ; which are easily distinguishable by the eye and reason, by the sight and understanding. But it is impossible for any one to comprehend Christ's design and meaning in those things, unless they be discovered by a spiritual understanding according to the nature of the Word of God. For I have before observed, that these false spirits, or false prophets, conceal themselves under such an outward garb of sanctity, and use such becoming words, that reason cannot judge of and distinguish them, nor effectually guard against them. And, in a word, that kind of doctrine and life are the offspring of reason, and perfectly agreeable unto it; and moreover, it is that which pleases us, because it teaches all such works as are our own, and which we understand and can perform.
But, to be brief, that man is called a "good tree” who brings forth good fruit, and who lives purely and sincerely according to the Word of God. For Christ afterwards draws a conclusion concerning many who are destitute of the Word of God, and who only cry, “Lord, Lord;” and moreover, who work many signs and wonders, and yet, are false prophets and hypocrites ! Here, therefore, reason must be utterly excluded, and we must follow the Word of God only, and from that form our conclusions. If we should judge of men's lives and works, we must know and understand what God calls a “good tree” or “good fruit.” This is beyond the narrow bounds of reason, (as we have said,)—to see a man very plainly and miserably clad, fasting every week like the pharisees mentioned in the Gospel, nay, even performing miracles also, and yet, to pronounce such an one not a “good tree,” nor producing “ good fruits.” For reason can arrive at no higher degree, nor understand nor judge of any thing better, than this, to say, that he who follows any way of life different from the rest of mankind, must certainly be a man of a singular, and by no means ordinary, sanctity: not perceiv