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done more to the dishonoring of Christ than to cast our souls away to
the devil for the value of a little money? - the soul which He has bought
with His painful passion and death. But I tell you those that will do
so, and that will not make restitution when they have done wrong, or
taken away their neighbor's goods, they are not in the livery of Christ,
they are not his servants; let them go as they will in this world, yet
for all that they are foul and filthy enough before God; they stink
before His face; and therefore they shall be cast from His presence into
everlasting fire; this shall be all their good cheer that they shall
have, because they have not the livery of Christ, nor His cognizance,
which is love. They remember not that Christ commanded us, saying, "This
I command you, that ye love one another." This is Christ's commandment.
Moses, the great prophet of God, gave many laws, but he gave not the
spirit to fulfil the same laws: but Christ gave this law, and promised
unto us, that when we call upon Him He will give us His Holy Ghost, who
shall make us able to fulfil His laws, tho not so perfectly as the law
requires; but yet to the contention of God, and to the protection of our
faith; for as long as we are in this world, we can do nothing as we
ought to do, because our flesh leadeth us, which is ever bent against
the law of God; yet our works which we do are well taken for Christ's
sake, and God will reward them in heaven.

Therefore our Savior saith, "my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,"
because He helpeth to bear them; else indeed we should not be able to
bear them. And in another place He saith, "His commandments are not
heavy"; they are heavy to our flesh, but being qualified with the Spirit
of God, to the faithful which believe in Christ, to them, I say, they
are not heavy; for tho their doings are not perfect, yet they are well
taken for Christ's sake.

You must not be offended because the Scripture commends love so highly,
for he that commends the daughter commends the mother; for love is the
daughter, and faith is the mother: love floweth out of faith; where
faith is, there is love; but yet we must consider their offices, faith
is the hand wherewith we take hold on everlasting life.

Now let us enter into ourselves, and examine our own hearts, whether we
are in the livery of God, or not: and when we find ourselves to be out
of this livery, let us repent and amend our lives, so that we may come
again to the favor of God, and spend our time in this world to His honor
and glory, forgiving our neighbors all such things as they have done
against us.

And now to make an end: mark here who gave this precept of love - Christ
our Savior Himself. When and at what time? At His departing, when He
should suffer death. Therefore these words ought the more to be
regarded, seeing He Himself spake them at His last departing from us.
May God of His mercy give us grace so to walk here in this world,
charitably and friendly one with another, that we may attain the joy
which God hath prepared for all those that love Him. Amen.




MELANCHTHON

THE SAFETY OF THE VIRTUOUS


BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Philip Melanchthon (Schwarzerd) was born at Bretten, in Baden, in 1497.
His name is noteworthy as first a fellow laborer and eventually a
controversial antagonist of Luther. At the Diet of Augsburg, in 1530, he
was the leading representative of the Reformation. He formulated the
twenty-eight articles of the evangelical faith known as the "Augsburg
Confession." The Lutherans of extreme Calvinistic views were alienated
by Melanchthon's subsequent modifications of this confession, and by his
treatises in ethics. He and his followers were bitterly assailed, but
his irenic spirit did not forsake him. He was a true child of the
Renaissance, and is styled by some writers "the founder of general
learning throughout Europe." While he was never called or ordained to
the ministry of the Church, he was in the habit of addressing the local
religious assemblies or collegia from time to time, and, being a man of
profound piety, his sympathetic and natural style of delivery made him
an impressive speaker. He died in 1560, and his body was laid beside
that of Martin Luther.



MELANCHTHON
1497 - 1560

THE SAFETY OF THE VIRTUOUS

_Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand._ - John x, 28.


To Thee, almighty and true God, eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
maker of heaven and earth, and of all creatures, together with Thy Son
our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost - to Thee, the wise, good,
true, righteous, compassionate, pure, gracious God, we render thanks
that Thou hast hitherto upheld the Church in these lands, and graciously
afforded it protection and care, and we earnestly beseech Thee evermore
to gather among us an inheritance for Thy Son, which may praise Thee to
all eternity.

I have in these, our assemblies, often uttered partly admonitions and
partly reproofs, which I hope the most of you will bear in mind. But
since I must presume that now the hearts of all are wrung with a new
grief and a new pang by reason of the war in our neighborhood, this
season seems to call for a word of consolation. And, as we commonly say,
"Where the pain is there one claps his hand," I could not, in this so
great affliction, make up my mind to turn my discourse upon any other
subject. I do not, indeed, doubt that you yourselves seek comfort in the
divine declarations, yet will I also bring before you some things
collected therefrom, because always that on which we had ourselves
thought becomes more precious to us when we hear that it proves itself
salutary also to others. And because long discourses are burdensome in
time of sorrow and mourning, I will, without delay, bring forward that
comfort which is the most effectual.

Our pains are best assuaged when something good and beneficial,
especially some help toward a happy issue, presents itself. All other
topics of consolation, such as men borrow from the unavoidableness of
suffering, and the examples of others, bring us no great alleviation.
But the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who was crucified for us and
raised again, and now sits at the right hand of the Father, offers us
help and deliverance, and has manifested this disposition in many
declarations. I will now speak of the words: "No man shall pluck my
sheep out of my hand." This expression has often raised me up out of the
deepest sorrow, and drawn me, as it were, out of hell.

The wisest men in all times have bewailed the great amount of human
misery which we see with our eyes before we pass into eternity - diseases,
death, want, our own errors, by which we bring harm and punishment on
ourselves, hostile men, unfaithfulness on the part of those with whom we
are closely connected, banishment, abuse, desertion, miserable children,
public and domestic strife, wars, murder, and devastation. And since
such things appear to befall good and bad without distinction, many wise
men have inquired whether there were any Providence, or whether accident
brings everything to pass independent of a divine purpose? But we in the
Church know that the first and principal cause of human woe is this,
that on account of sin man is made subject to death and other calamity,
which is so much more vehement in the Church, because the devil, from
the hatred toward God, makes fearful assaults on the Church and strives
to destroy it utterly.

Therefore it is written: "I will put enmity between the serpent and the
seed of the woman." And Peter says: "Your adversary, the devil, as a
roaring lion, walketh about and seeketh whom he may devour."

Not in vain, however, has God made known to us the causes of our misery.
We should not only consider the greatness of our necessity, but also
discern the causes of it, and recognize His righteous anger against sin,
to the end that we may, on the other hand, perceive the Redeemer and the
greatness of His compassion; and as witnesses to these, His
declarations, He adds the raising of dead men to life, and other
miracles.

Let us banish from our hearts, therefore, the unbelieving opinions which
imagine that evils befall us by mere chance, or from physical causes.

But when thou considerest the wounds in thy own circle of relations, or
dost cast a glance at the public disorders in the State, which again
afflict the individual also (as Solon says: "The general corruption
penetrates even to thy quiet habitation"), then think, first, of thy own
and others' sins, and of the righteous wrath of God; and, secondly,
weigh the rage of the devil, who lets loose his hate chiefly in the
Church.

In all men, even the better class, great darkness reigns. We see not how
great an evil sin is, and regard not ourselves as so shamefully defiled.
We flatter ourselves, in particular, because we profess a better
doctrine concerning God. Nevertheless, we resign ourselves to a careless
slumber, or pamper each one his own desires; our impurity, the disorders
of the Church, the necessity of brethren, fills us not with pain;
devotion is without fire and fervor; zeal for doctrine and discipline
languishes, and not a few are my sins, and thine, and those of many
others, by reason of which such punishments are heaped upon us.

Let us, therefore, apply our hearts to repentance, and direct our eyes
to the Son of God, in respect to whom we have the assurance that, after
the wonderful counsel of God, He is placed over the family of man, to be
the protector and preserver of his Church.

We perceive not fully either of our wretchedness or our dangers, or the
fury of enemies, until after events of extraordinary sorrowfulness.
Still we ought to reflect thus: there must exist great need and a
fearful might and rage of enemies, since so powerful a protector has
been given to us, even God's Son. When He says: "No man shall pluck my
sheep out of my hand," He indicates that He is no idle spectator of woe,
but that mighty and incessant strife is going on. The devil incites his
tools to disturb the Church or the political commonwealth, that
boundless confusion may enter, followed by heathenish desolation. But
the Son of God, who holds in His hands, as it were, the congregation of
those who call upon His name, hurls back the devils by His infinite
power, conquers and chases them thence, and will one day shut them up in
the prison of hell, and punish them to all eternity with fearful pains.
This comfort we must hold fast in regard to the entire Church, as well
as each in regard to himself.

If, in these distracted and warring times, we see States blaze up and
fall to ruin, then look away to the Son of God, who stands in the secret
counsel of the Godhead and guards His little flock and carries the weak
lambs, as it were, in His own hands. Be persuaded that by Him thou also
shalt be protected and upheld.

Here some, not rightly instructed, will exclaim: "Truly I could wish to
commend myself to such a keeper, but only His sheep does He preserve.
Whether I also am counted in that flock, I know not." Against this
doubt we must most strenuously contend, for the Lord Himself assures us
in this very passage, that all who "hear and with faith receive the
voice of the gospel are His sheep"; and He says expressly: "If a man
love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will
come to him and make our abode with him." These promises of the Son of
God, which can not be shaken, we must confidently appropriate to
ourselves. Nor shouldst thou, by thy doubts, exclude thyself from this
blest flock, which originates in the righteousness of the gospel. They
do not rightly distinguish between the law and the gospel, who, because
they are unworthy, reckon not themselves among the sheep. Rather is this
consolation afforded us, that we are accepted "for the Son of God's
sake," truly, without merit, not on account of our own righteousness,
but through faith, because we are unworthy, and impure, and far from
having fulfilled the law of God. That is, moreover, a universal promise,
in which the Son of God saith: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are
heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

The eternal Father earnestly commands that we should hear the Son, and
it is the greatest of all transgressions if we despise Him and do not
approve His voice. This is what every one should often and diligently
consider, and in this disposition of the Father, revealed through the
Son, find grace.

Altho, amid so great disturbances, many a sorrowful spectacle meets
thine eye, and the Church is rent by discord and hate, and manifold and
domestic public necessity is added thereto, still let not despair
overcome thee, but know thou that thou hast the Son of God for a keeper
and protector, who will not suffer either the Church, or thee, or thy
family, to be plucked out of His hand by the fury of the devil.

With all my heart, therefore, do I supplicate the Son of God, our Lord
Jesus Christ, who, having been crucified for us, and raised again, sits
at the right hand of the Father, to bless men with His gifts, and to Him
I pray that He would protect and govern this little church and me
therein. Other sure trust, in this great flame when the whole world is
on fire, I discern nowhere. Each one has his separate hopes, and each
one with his understanding seeks to repose in something else; but
however good that may all be, it is still a far better, and
unquestionably a more effectual, consolation to flee to the Son of God
and expect help and deliverances from Him.

Such wishes will not be in vain. For to this end are we laden with such
a crowd of dangers, that in events and occurrences which to human
prudence are an inexplicable enigma, we may recognize the infinite
goodness and presentness of God, in that He, for His Son's sake, and
through His Son, affords us aid. God will be owned in such deliverance
just as in the deliverance of your first parents, who, after the fall,
when they were forsaken by all the creatures, were upheld by the help of
God alone. So was the family of Noah in the flood, so were the
Israelites preserved when in the Red Sea they stood between the towering
walls of waters. These glorious examples are held up before us, that we
might know, in like manner, the Church, without the help of any created
beings, is often preserved. Many in all times have experienced such
divine deliverance and support in their personal dangers, as David
saith: "My father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord taketh me
up"; and in another place David saith: "He hath delivered the wretched,
who hath no helper." But in order that we may become partakers of these
so great blessings, faith and devotion must be kindled within us, as it
stands written, "Verily, I say unto you!" So likewise must our faith be
exercised, that before deliverance we should pray for help and wait for
it, resting in God with a certain cheerfulness of soul; and that we
should not cherish continual doubt and melancholy murmuring in our
hearts, but constantly set before our eyes the admonition of God: "The
peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your heart and mind";
which is to say, be so comforted in God, in time of danger, that your
hearts, having been strengthened by confidence in the pity and
presentness of God, may patiently wait for help and deliverance, and
quietly maintain that peaceful serenity which is the beginning of
eternal life, and without which there can be no true devotion.

For distrust and doubt produce a gloomy and terrible hate toward God,
and that is the beginning of the eternal torments, and a rage like that
of the devil.

Now you must guard against these billows in the soul, and these stormy
agitations, and, by meditation on the precious promises of God, keep and
establish your hearts.

Truly these times allow not the wonted security and the wonted
intoxication of the world, but they demand that with honest groans we
should cry for help, as the Lord saith, "Watch and pray that ye fall not
into temptation," that ye may not, being overcome by despair, plunge
into everlasting destruction. There is need of wisdom to discern the
dangers of the soul, as well as the safeguard against them. Souls go to
ruin as well when, in epicurean security, they make light of the wrath
of God as when they are overcome by doubt and cast down by anxious
sorrow, and these transgressions aggravate the punishment. The godly, on
the other hand, who by faith and devotion keep their hearts erect and
near to God, enjoy the beginning of eternal life and obtain mitigation
of the general distress.

We, therefore, implore Thee, Son of God, Lord Jesus Christ, who, having
been crucified and raised for us, standest in the secret counsel of the
Godhead, and makest intercession for us, and hast said: "Come unto me,
all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." I call
upon Thee, and with my whole heart beseech Thee, according to Thine
infinite compassion, forgive us our sins. Thou knowest that in our great
weakness we are not able to bear the burden of our woe. Do Thou,
therefore, afford us aid in our private and public necessities; be Thou
our shelter and protector, uphold the churches in these lands, and all
which serves for their defense and safeguard.




KNOX

THE FIRST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST


BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

John Knox, the great Scottish reformer, was born at Giffordgate, four
miles from Haddington, Scotland, in 1505. He first made his appearance
as a preacher in Edinburgh, where he thundered against popery, but was
imprisoned and sent to the galleys in 1546. In 1547 Edward VI secured
his release and made him a royal chaplain, when he acquired the
friendship of Cranmer and other reformers. On the accession of Mary
(1553) he took refuge on the Continent. In 1556 he accepted the charge
of a church in Geneva, but, after three years of tranquillity, returned
to Scotland and became a popular leader of the Reformation in that
country. His eloquence lashed the multitude to enthusiasm and acts of
turbulent violence. As a preacher his style was direct and fearless,
often fiery, and he had a habit of pounding the pulpit to emphasize
particular truths. He died in 1572.



KNOX
1505 - 1572

THE FIRST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST

_Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted
of the devil_. - Matt. iv., 1.


The cause moving me to treat of this place of Scripture is, that such as
by the inscrutable providence of God fall into divers temptations, judge
not themselves by reason thereof to be less acceptable in God's
presence. But, on the contrary, having the way prepared to victory by
Jesus Christ, they shall not fear above measure the crafty assaults of
that subtle serpent Satan; but with joy and bold courage, having such a
guide as here is pointed forth, such a champion, and such weapons as
here are to be found (if with obedience we will hear, and unfeigned
faith believe), we may assure ourselves of God's present favor, and of
final victory, by the means of Him, who, for our safeguard and
deliverance, entered in the battle, and triumphed over His adversary,
and all his raging fury. And that this being heard and understood, may
the better be kept in memory; this order, by God's grace, we propose to
observe, in treating the matter: First, What this word temptation
meaneth, and how it is used within the Scriptures. Secondly, Who is here
tempted and at what time this temptation happened. Thirdly, How and by
what means He was tempted. Fourthly, Why He should suffer these
temptations, and what fruits ensue to us from the same.

First, Temptation, or to tempt, in the Scriptures of God, is called to
try, to prove, or to assault the valor, the power, the will, the
pleasure, or the wisdom - whether it be of God, or of creatures. And it
is taken sometimes in good part, as when it is said that God tempted
Abraham; God tempted the people of Israel; that is, God did try and
examine them, not for His own knowledge, to whom nothing is hid, but to
certify others how obedient Abraham was to God's commandment, and how
weak and inferior Israelites were in their journey toward the promised
land. And this temptation is always good, because it proceeds
immediately from God, to open and make manifest the secret motions of
men's hearts, the puissance and power of God's word, and the great
lenity and gentleness of God toward the iniquities (yea, horrible sins
and rebellions) of those whom He hath received into His regimen and
care. For who could have believed that the bare word of God could so
have moved the heart and affections of Abraham, that to obey God's
commandment he determined to kill, with his own hand, his best-beloved
son Isaac? Who could have trusted that, so many torments as Job
suffered, he should not speak in all his great temptation one foolish
word against God? Or who could have thought that God so mercifully
should have pardoned so many and so manifest transgressions committed by
His people in the desert, and yet that His mercy never utterly left
them, but still continued with them, till at length he performed His
promise made to Abraham? Who, I say, would have been persuaded of these
things, unless by trials and temptations taken of His creatures by God,
they had come by revelation made in His holy Scriptures to our
knowledge? And so this kind of temptation is profitable, good, and
necessary, as a thing proceeding from God, who is the fountain of all
goodness, to the manifestation of His own glory, and to the profit of
the suffered, however the flesh may judge in the hour of temptation.
Otherwise temptation, or to tempt, is taken in evil part; that is, he
that assaults or assails intends destruction and confusion to him that
is assaulted. As when Satan tempted the women in the garden, Job by
divers tribulations, and David by adultery. The scribes and Pharisees
tempted Christ by divers means, questions, and subtleties. And of this
matter, saith St. James, "God tempteth no man"; that is, by temptation
proceeding immediately from Him He intends no man's destruction. And
here you shall note, that altho Satan appears sometimes to prevail
against God's elect, yet he is ever frustrated of his final purpose. By
temptation He led Eve and David from the obedience of God, but He could
not retain them forever under His thraldom. Power was granted to Him to
spoil Job of his substance and children, and to strike his body with a
plague and sickness most vile and fearful, but He could not compel his
mouth to blaspheme God's majesty; and, therefore, altho we are laid open
sometimes, as it were, to tribulation for a time, it is that when He has
poured forth the venom of His malice against God's elect it may return
to His own confusion, and that the deliverance of God's children may be
more to His glory, and the comfort of the afflicted: knowing that His
hand is so powerful, His mercy and good-will so prompt, that He delivers
His little ones from their cruel enemy, even as David did his sheep and
lambs from the mouth of the lion. For a little benefit received in
extreme danger more moves us than the preservation from ten thousand
perils, so that we fall not into them. And yet to preserve from dangers
and perils so that we fall not into them, whether they are of body or
spirit, is no less the work of God than to deliver from them; but the
weakness of our faith does not perceive it: this I leave at the present.

Also, to tempt means simply to prove or try without any determinate
purpose or profit or damage to ensue; as when the mind doubteth of
anything, and therein desires to be satisfied, without great love or
extreme hatred of the thing that is tempted or tried. David tempted;
that is, tried himself if he could go in harness. (I Sam. xvii.) And
Gideon said, "Let not thine anger kindle against me, if I tempt thee
once again." So the Queen of Sheba came to tempt Solomon in subtle
questions. This famous queen, not fully trusting the report and fame
that was spread of Solomon, by subtle questions desired to prove his
wisdom; at the first, neither extremely hating nor fervently loving the
person of the king. And David, as a man not accustomed to harness, would
try how he was able to go, and behave and fashion himself therein,
before he would hazard battle with Goliath so armed. And Gideon, not
satisfied in his conscience by the first that he received, desired,
without contempt or hatred of God, a second time to be certified of his
vocation. In this sense must the apostle be expounded when he commands
us to tempt; that is, to try and examine ourselves, if we stand in the


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Online LibraryUnknownThe World's Great Sermons, Volume 01 Basil to Calvin → online text (page 9 of 12)