Volume 9, Issue 3: The Puritan Eye
A Lively Description
Mark therefore, the way toward justifying, or forgiveness of sin, is the law. God causes the law to be preached to us and writes it in our hearts, and makes us by good reasons feel that the law is good, and ought to be kept. And on the other side, I feel that there is no power in me to keep the law, whereupon it would shortly follow that I should despair, if I were not quickly helped. But God, who has begun to cure me, and has laid that corrosive unto my sores, goes forth in His cure, and sets His Son Jesus before me, and all His passion and death and says to me, this is my dear Son, and He has prayed for you, and has suffered all this for you, and for His sake I will forgive you all that you have done against this good law. I will heal your flesh, and teach you to keep this law, if you will learn. And I will bear with you, and take all in good part that you do, till you can do better. And in the meantime, notwithstanding your weakness, I will yet love you no less than I do the angels in heaven, so you will be diligent to learn. And I will assist you, and keep and defend you, and be your shield, and care for you.
And the heart here begins to mollify and soften, and to receive health, and believes the mercy of God, and , in believing, is saved from the fear of everlasting death, and is made sure of everlasting life; and then being overcome with this kindness, begins to love again, and to submit herself unto the laws of God, to learn them, and walk in them.
Note now the order; first God gives me light to see the goodness and righteousness of the law, and my own sin and unrighteousness -- out of which knowledge springs repentance. Now repentance teaches me not that the law is good, and I evil, but is a light which the Spirit of God has given me, out of which light repentance springs.
Then the same Spirit works in my heart trust and confidence to believe the mercy of God and His truth, that He will do as He has promised, which belief saves me. And immediately out of that trust springs love toward the law of God again. And whatsoever a man works of any other love than this, it pleases not God, nor is that love godly.
Now love does not receive this mercy, but faith only -- out of which faith love springs, by which love I pour out again upon my neighbor that goodness which I have received of God by faith. Hereof you see that I cannot be justified without repentance, and yet repentance does not justify me. And hereof you see that I cannot have a faith to be justified and saved, except love spring thereof immediately, and yet love does not justify me before God. For my natural love to God again, does not make me first see and feel the kindness of God in Christ, but faith through preaching. For we love not God first, to compel Him to love again; but He loved us first, and gave His Son for us, that we might see love, and love again, says St. John in his first epistle -- which love of God to us we receive by Christ through faith, says Paul.
And this example I have set out for them in various places, but their blind eyes have no power to see it, covetousness has so blinded them. And when we say, faith only justifies us; that is to say, faith only receives the mercy wherewith God justifies us and forgives us. We do not mean faith that has no repentance, or faith which has no love unto the laws of God again, and good works, as wicked hypocrites falsely slander us.
For how then should we suffer, as we do, all misery, to call the blind and ignorant unto repentance and good works, which now do but consent unto all evil, and study mischief all day long, for all their preaching their justifying by good works? Let M. More improve this with his sophistry, and set forth his own doctrine, that we may see the reason of it, and walk in light.
So here you see what faith it is which justifies us. The faith in Christ's blood, of a repenting heart toward the law, justifies us alone, and not all kinds of faiths. You must understand therefore, that you may see to come out of More's blind maze, that there are many faiths, and that all faiths are not one faith, though they are all called with one general name. There is an historical faith, without feeling in the heart, wherewith I may believe the whole history of the Bible, and yet not set my heart earnestly to it, taking it for the food of my soul, to learn to believe and trust God, to love Him, to dread Him, and fear Him by the doctrine and examples thereof. To seem learned, and to know the history, to dispute and make merchandise, we have examples enough.
My works make not my love, nor my love my faith, nor my faith God's mercy; but contrary, God's mercy makes my faith, and my faith my love, and my love my works. And if the pope could see mercy, and work of love to his neighbor, and not sell his works to God for heaven, after M. More's doctrine, we would not need to settle the disputing over faith.