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then will it appear evidently, that the power of it is so great that by no means it could be put away, but that the Son of God must needs be given for it. He that considereth these things, well understandeth, that this word SIN comprehendeth God's everlasting wrath and the whole kingdom of Satan, and that it is a thing more horrible than can be expressed; which ought to move us and make us afraid indeed. But we are careless, yea, we make light of sin and a matter of nothing, which although it bring with it a sting and remorse of conscience, yet notwithstanding, we think it not to be of such weight and force, but that by some little work or merit we may put it away. This sentence therefore witnesseth, that all men are servants and bond-slaves of sin, and, (as Paul saith in another place,) “ sold under sin.” And again, that sin is a most cruel and mighty tyrant over all men; which cannot be vanquished by the power of any creatures, whether they be angels or men, but by the sovereign and infinite power of Jesus Christ, “who hath given himself for the same.'
Furthermore this sentence setteth out to the consciences of all men which are terrified with the greatness of their sins, a singular comfort. For albeit sin be never so invincible a tyrant, yet notwithstanding, for as much as Christ hath overcome it through his death, it cannot hurt them that believe in him. Moreover, if we arm ourselves with this belief, and cleave with all our hearts unto this man Jesus Christ, then is there a light opened and a sound judgment given unto us, so as we may most certainly and freely judge of all kinds of life. For when we hear that sin is such an invincible tyrant, thus, incontinent, by as necessary consequence we infer,—then, what do Papists, Monks, Nuns, Priests, Mahometists, Anabaptists, and all such as trust in their works, which will abolish and overcome sin by their own traditions, works preparative, satisfactions, &c. ? Here forthwith we judge all those sects to be wicked and pernicious : whereby the glory of God and of Christ is not only defaced, but also utterly taken away, and our own advanced and established.
But weigh diligently every word of Paul; and especially, mark well the pronoun-OUR; for the effect altogether consisteth in the well applying of the pronouns which we find often in the scriptures; wherein also there is some vehemency and power. Thou wilt, easily say and believe, that Christ the Son of God was given for the sins of Peter, of Paul, and of other saints whom we account to have been worthy of this grace. But it is a very hard thing that thou, which judgest thyself unworthy of this grace, shouldest from thy heart say and believe, that Christ was given for thine invincible, infinite
, and horrible sins. Therefore, generally, and without the pronoun, it is an easy matter to magnify and amplify the benefit of Christ; namely, that Christ was given for sins, but for other men's sins which are worthy. But when it cometh to the putting to of this pronoun our, there our weak nature and reason starteth back, and dare not come near unto God, nor promise to herself that so great a treasure should be truly given unto her ; and therefore, she will not have to do with God except first she be pure and without sin. Wherefore, although she hear or read this sentence, “Who gave himself for our sins," or such like, yet doth she not apply this pronoun OUR unto herself, but unto others which are worthy and holy; and as for herself, she will tarry till she be made worthy by her own works.
This then is nothing else but that man's reason fain would, that sin were of no greater force and power than she herself dreameth it to be. Hereof it cometh, that hypocrites, being ignorant of Christ, although they feel the remorse of sin, do think notwithstanding, that they shall be able easily to put it away by their good works and merits; and secretly in their hearts they wish, that these words, “Who gave himself for our sins,” were but as words spoken in humility; and would have their sins not to be true and very sins indeed, but light and small matters. To be short, man's reason would fain bring and present to God a feigned and counterfeit sinner, which is nothing afraid nor hath any feeling of sin. It would bring him that is whole, and not
him that hath need of a physician: and when it feeleth no sin, then it would believe that Christ was given for our sins.
The whole world is thus affected: and especially, they that would be counted more holy and religious than others, as monks and justiciaries. These confess with their mouth that they are sinners, and they confess also that they commit sins daily; howbeit, not so great and many, but that they are able to put them away by their own works. Yea, and besides all this, they will bring their righteousness and deserts to Christ's judgmentseat, and demand the recompence of eternal life for them at the judge's hand. In the meanwhile, notwithstanding, (as they pretend great humility,) because they will not vaunt themselves to be utterly devoid of sin, they feign certain sins, that for the forgiveness thereof they may with great devotion pray with the publican, “ God be merciful to me a sinner.” Unto them these words of St. Paul, “ for our sins," seem to be but light and trifling: therefore, they neither understand them, nor in temptation, when they feel sin indeed, can they take any comfort of them, but are compelled flatly to despair.
This is then the chief knowledge and true wisdom of Christians, --- to count these words of Paul, that Christ was delivered to death, not for our righteousness, or holiness, but “for our sins,” (which are very sins indeed, great, many, yea infinite, invincible;) to be most true, effectual, and of great importance. Therefore, think them not to be small and such as may be done away by thine own works; neither yet despair thou for the greatness of them, if thou feel thyself oppressed therewith either in life or death ; but learn here of Paul to believe that Christ was given, not for feigned or counterfeit sins, nor yet for small sins, but for great and huge sins: not for one or two, but for all : not for vanquished sins (for no man, no norangel is able to overcome the least sin that is) but for invincible sins. And except thou be found in the number of those that say “our sins ;” that is, which have this doctrine of faith, and teach, hear, learn, love, and believe the same, there is no salvation for thee!
Labour therefore diligently, that not only out of the time of temptation, but also in the danger and conflict of death, when thy conscience is thoroughly afraid with the remembrance of thy sins past, and the devil assaileth thee with great violence, going about to overwhelm thee with heaps, floods, and whole seas of sins, to terrify thee, to draw thee from Christ, and to drive thee to despair ; that then, I say, thou mayest be able to say with sure confidence, Christ the Son of God was given, not for the righteous and holy, but for the unrighteous and sinners. If I were righteous and had no sin, I should have no need of Christ to be my reconciler. Why then, O thou peevish, holy Satan, wilt thou make me to be holy, and to seek righteousness in myself, when in very deed I have nothieg in me but sins and most grievous sins? not feigned or trifling sips, but such as are against the first table; to wit, great infidelity; doubting; despair; contempt of God; hatred; ignorance, and blaspheming of God; unthankfulness; abusing of God's name; neglecting, loathing, and despising the word; and such like
. And moreover, these carnal sins against the second table ; as not to yield honour to my parents; not to obey the magistrates ; to covet other men's goods, his wife, and such like : albeit that these be light faults in respect of those former sins. And admit that I have not committed murder, whoredom, theft, and such other sins against the second table, in fact; yet, I have committed them in heart; and therefore I am a transgressor of all God's commandments, and the multitude of my sins is so great that they cannot be numbered; for I have sinned above the number of the sand of the sea.'
Besides this, Satan is such a cunning juggler, that be can make of my righteousness and good works, great sins. For so much then as my sins are so weighty, so infinite, so horrible and invincible; and that my righteous-, ness doth nothing further me, but rather hinder me, before God; therefore, Christ the Son of God was given to death for them to put them away, and so save all men
which believe. Herein, therefore, consisteth the effect of eternal salvation : namely, in taking these words to be effectual, true, and of great importance. I say not this for nought, for I have oftentimes proved by experience, and I daily find, what an hard matter it is to believe, (especially in the conflict of conscience,) that Christ was given, not for the holy, righteous, worthy, and such as were his friends; but for wicked sinners, for the unworthy, and for his enemies which have deserved God's wrath and everlasting death.
Let us, therefore, arm ourselves with these and such like sentences of the holy scripture, that we may be able to answer the devil, (accusing us and saying thou art a sinner, and therefore thou art damned,) in this sort.Because thou sayest I am a sinner, therefore will I be righteous and saved. Nay (saith the devil) thou shalt be damned. No (say I) for I fly unto Christ " who hath given himself for my sins;" therefore, Satan, thou shalt not prevail against me in that thou goest about to terrify me in setting forth the greatness of my sins, and so to bring me into heaviness, distrust, despair, hatred, contempt, and blaspheming of God. Yea rather, in that thou sayest I am a sinner, thou givest me armour and weapon against thyself, that with thine own sword I may cut thy throat and tread thee under my feet: for Christ died for sinners. Moreover, thou thyself preachest unto me the glory of God; for thou puttest me in mind of God's fatherly love towards me a wretched and damned sinner; “who so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Also as often as thou objectest that I am a sinner, so often thou callest me to remembrance of the benefit of Christ my Redeemer; upon whose shoulders, and not upon mine, lie all my sins; for, “The Lord hath laid upon him the iniquities of us all ;” again, “ For the transgression of his people was he smitten.” Wherefore, when thou sayest I am a sinner, thou dost not terrify me, but comfort me above measure.
Whoso knoweth this one point of cunning well, shall