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thought and said to myself, as now commonly I do, Martin, thou shalt not utterly be without sin, for thou hast flesh; thou shalt therefore feel the battle thereof according to that saying of Paul, “ The flesh resisteth the spirit.” Despair not, therefore, but resist it strongly, and fulfil not the lusts thereof. Thus doing thou art not under the law.
I remember that Staupitius was wont to say, 'I have vowed unto God above a thousand times that I would become a better man; but I never performed that which I vowed. Hereafter I will make no such vow; for I have now learned by experience, that I am not able to perform it. Unless therefore God be favourable and merciful unto me for Christ's 'sake, and grant unto me a blessed and a happy hour when I shall depart out of this miserable life, I shall not be able with all my vows and all my good deeds to stand before him.' This was not only a true, but also a godly and a holy desperation; and this must they all confess, both with mouth and heart, which will be saved. For the godly trust not to their own righteousness, but say with David, “ Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall none that liveth be justified,” (Ps. cxliii. 2.) Again,
If thou, O Lord, shouldst straitly mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand ?” (Ps. xxx. 3.) They look unto Christ their reconciler, who gave his life for their sins. Moreover, they know, that the remnant of sin which is in their flesh, is not laid to their charge, but freely pardoned. Notwithstanding, in the meanwhile, they fight in spirit agninst the flesh, lest they should fulfil the lusts thereof. And although they feel the flesh to rage and rebel against the spirit, and themselves also do sometimes fall into sin through infirmity, yet are they not discouraged, nor think therefore that their state and kind of life, and the works which are done according to their calling, displease God, but they raise up themselves by faith.
The faithful, therefore, receive great consolation by this doctrine of Paul, in that they know themselves to have part of the flesh and part of the spirit; but yet so,
notwithstanding, that the spirit ruleth and the flesh is subdued and kept under awe, that righteousness reigneth and sin serveth. He that knoweth not this doctrine, and thinketh that the faithful ought to be without all fault, and yet seeth the contrary in himself, must needs at the length be swallowed up by the spirit of heaviness, and fall into desperation. But whoso kpoweth this doctrine well, and useth it rightly, to him the things that are evil turn unto good. (Rom. viii. 28.) For when the flesh provoketh him to sin by occasion thereof, he is stirred up and forced to seek forgiveness of sins by Christ, and to embrace the righteousness of faith, which else, he would not so greatly esteem, nor seek for the same with so great desire. Therefore, it profiteth us very much, to feel sometimes the wickedness of our nature and corruption of our flesh, that yet, by this means, we may be waked and stirred up to faith, and to call upon Christ. And by this occasion, a Christian becometh a mighty workman, and a wonderful creator: which, of heaviness can make joy, of terror comfort, of sin righteousness, and of death life; when he by this means, repressing and bridling the flesh, maketh it subject to the spirit.
Wherefore, let not them which feel the lust of the fesh
, despair of their salvation. Let them feel it and all the force thereof, so that they consent not to it. Let the passions of lust, wrath, and other such vices, shake
so that they do not overthrow them. Let sin assail them, so that they do not accomplish it. Yea, the more
a man is, the more doth he feel that battle. And bereof come these lamentable complaints of the faithful in the Psalms, and in the holy scripture. Of this battle, the hermits, the monks, the schoolmen, and all that seek righteousness and salvation by works, know nothing at all.
But here may some man say, that it is a dangerous matter to teach that a man is not condemned, if, byand-by he overcome not the motions and passions of the desh which he feeleth. For when this doctrine is taught amongst the common people, it maketh them careless, negligent, and slothful. This is it which I said a little before, that if we teach faith, then carnal men neglect and
reject works. If works be required, then is faith and consolation of conscience lost. Here no man can be compelled, neither can there be any certain rule prescribed. But let every man diligently try himself to what passion of the flesh he is most subject; and when he findeth that, let him not be careless nor flatter himself, but let him watch and wrestle in spirit against it; that, if he cannot altogether bridle it, yet at the least he do not fulfil the lusts thereof.
This battle of the flesh all the children of God have had, and felt. And the same do we also feel and prove. He that searcheth his own conscience, if he be not an hypocrite, shall well perceive that to be true in himself which Paul here saith ; that “the flesh lusteth against the spirit.” All the faithful, therefore, do feel and confess, that their flesh resisteth against the spirit, and that these two are so contrary the one to the other in themselves, that do what they can, they are not able to perform that which they would do. Therefore, the flesh hindereth us that we cannot keep the commandments of God; that we cannot love our neighbours as ourselves; much less can we love God with all our hearts. Therefore, it is impossible for us to become righteous by the works of the law. Indeed, there is a good will in us, and so must there be, (for it is the spirit itself which resisteth the flesh,) which would gladly do good, fulfil the law, love God and his neighbour, and such like; but the flesh obeyeth not this good-will
, but resisteth it; and yet, God imputeth not unto us this sin, for he is merciful to those that believe, for Christ's sake.
But it followeth not, therefore, that thou shouldst make a light matter of sin because God doth not impute it.
True it is that he doth not impute it. But to whom, and for what cause? To such as repent and lay hold by faith upon Christ the mercyseat, for whose sake, as all their sins are forgiven them, even so the remnants of sin which are in them be not imputed unto them! They make not their sin less than it is, but amplify it, and set it out as it is indeed. For they know, that it cannot be put away by satisfactions, works, or righteousness, but only by the death of Christ. And yet, notwithstanding, the greatness and enormity of their sin, doth not cause them to despair ; but they assure themselves, that the same shall not be imputed unto them, or laid unto their charge.
This I say, lest any man should think, that after faith is received, there is little account to be made of sin. Sin is truly sin, whether a man commit it before be hath received the knowledge of sin, or after. And God always hateth sin ; yea all sin is damnable, as touching the fact itself. But in that it is not damnable
to him that believeth, it cometh of Christ, who, by his I death, hath taken away sin. But to him that believeth
not in Christ, not only all his sins are damnable, but even his good works also are sin ; according to that saying, “ Whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” (Rom. xiv. 23.) Therefore, the error of the schoolmen is most pernicious, which do distinguish sins according to the fact, and not according to the person.
He that believeth, hath as great sin as the unbeliever. But to him that believeth, it is forgiven and not imputed ; to the unbeliever, it is not pardoned but imputed. To the believer
, it is venial; to the unbeliever, it is mortal and damnable
. Not for any difference of sins, or because the sin of the believer is less, and the sin of the unbeliever teater, but for the difference of the persons.
For the faithful assureth himself by faith, that his sins are forgiven him, forasmuch as Christ hath given himself for
Therefore, although he have sin in him, and daily sinneth, yet, he continueth godly. But contrariwise, the anbeliever continueth wicked. And this is the true wisdom and consolation of the godly :—that, although they have and commit sins, yet, they know, that for Christ's sake, they are not imputed unto them. This I say for the comfort of the godly.
For they only have and feel, indeed, that they have and do commit sins ; that is to say, they feel that they do not love God so fervently as they should do, that they do not beleve him so heartily as they would, but rather
, they oftentimes doubt whether God have a care of them or no; they are impatient, and are angry with God in adversity. Hereof, as I have said, proceed the sorrowful complaints of the faithful in the scriptures, and especially in the Psalms. And Paul himself complaineth, that he is “ sold under sin,” (Rom. vii. 14.) And here he saith, that “ the flesh resisteth and rebelleth against the spirit.” But because they mortify the deeds of the flesh by the spirit, (as he saith in another place, and also in the end of this chapter,) “They crucify the flesh with the desires and lusts thereof,” (Gal. v. 24); therefore, these sins do not hurt them nor condemn them. But if they obey the flesh in fulfilling the lust thereof, then do they lose faith and the Holy Ghost. And if they do not abhor their sin, and return unto Christ, (who hath given power to his church to receive and raise up those that be fallen so that they may recover faith and the Holy Ghost,) they die in their sins. Wherefore, we speak not of them which dream that they have faith, and yet continue still in their sins. These men, have their judgment already: “ They that live after the flesh shall die.” Also, “ The works of the flesh are manifest; which are, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, wantonness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, debate, emulations, wrath, contentions, seditions, heresies, envy, murder, drunkenness, gluttony, and such like: vhereof I tell you before, as also I have told you, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."
Hereby we may see who be very saints indeed. They be not stocks and stones, (as the monks and schoolmen dream,) so that they are never moved with any thing, never feel any lust or desires of the flesh; but, as Paul saith, “ their flesh lusteth against the spirit;” and therefore, they have sin, and both can and do sin. And the thirty-second Psalm witnesseth, that the faithful do confess their unrighteousness, and pray that the wickedness of their sin may be forgiven ; where it saith, “ I will confess against myself my wickedness unto the Lord, and thou forgavest the punishment of my sin. Therefore shall every one that is godly make his prayer unto thee, &c. Moreover, the whole church, which indeed is holy