with certaine Answeres
to the obiections of the Aduersaries of
WHEREAS three years ago, dearly beloved, I did write of this matter of Election & Reprobation, which is called predestination, in a certain Commentary upon the Prophet Malachi, by the occasion of this text: I have loved Jacob,& I have hated Esau. The which Treatise by the rage of persecution, partly perished, and part did come of late to my hands: accounting this doctrine so necessary, that upon all occasions it ought with reverence to be uttered to the glory of God, which so wonderfully appeareth in this his rich mercy towards us, whom he chooseth from the filth of sin, to serve him in righteousness, and to the beating down of our corrupt nature, which without this, either mounteth by pride, unto presumption, or falleth by infidelity to desperation. Because that without some taste of this divine providence in Predestination, there can be no faith, but either a doubtful wavering, leading to despair, which we have left in the Papistry whiles we looked to our own weakness and infirmity, not able to endure one hour in the way of righteousness: or else a vain presumption of feigned holiness, whiles we behold our own belief and good works, or the perfection that we do imagine in our own selves, as do the Anabaptists. Therefore I thought it good according to my simple Talent, to testify this truth again unto the world, at the Printing of this worthy Table of the great learned man, Master Beza, which is set forth in French, Latin, and Italian, and now into English, translated by our brother W. Whittingham: wherein is most evidently set forth before our eyes the chief ground of this doctrine, and the principal points thereof are so deeply opened, that there seemed to want nothing that was possible in few lines to be uttered: yet for the shortness, therein all things cannot be contained, but that some brief lessons for the unlearned (who hath not their senses fully exercised with such deep sentences) may well be adjoined, as every man hereafter shall hereunto be moved by the spirit of God working in their hearts (that many bearing witness to the truth of this most profitable doctrine now revealed) the mercies of God in choosing his children, may more and more, day by day be disclosed: and by the witness of divers consenting together in one, God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified. For herein chiefly standeth his praise, honor, and glory, that these his wonderful mercies toward his Elect may be praised. Now there is no mean more apt, nor doctrine more convenient to establish the faith of the Saints, than to certify by the Scriptures, that God hath chosen them before the beginning of the world to be holy to himself, and so written their names in the book of life in the heavens, that all their salvation resteth wholly upon his hands and holy counsel that can by no means be altered or changed, so that neither death, Devil, nor hell, dare now accuse them that are by adoption grafted in Christ, who are called of the eternal purpose: because it is God that justifieth, and who dare condemn them? It is Christ that is given for them, & how shall not all things with him be given to them also? For them that he knew before, them he ordained before, that they should be like fashioned to the image of his son, and whom he appointed before, those also he called, and whom he called those also he justified,& whom he justified those also he glorified, that his eternal purpose and counsel of God, being once revealed to his Saints, by the effectual vocation and calling, which is the justification of faith wrought in their hearts by the holy spirit, they can no longer doubt neither of Election, Predestination, salvation, or glorification. Neither can anything more beat down man's nature, and the pride of his vain heart, than to behold the majesty of God, making them by grace so far unlike one to the other, who were both one, altogether by nature the children of wrath, of vengeance,& damnation: as the wonderful example of Jacob & Esau doth declare, of whom the Lord pronounceth that he loveth the one, & hateth the other, before they were born, & the terrible sentence against Pharaoh, whom the Scripture affirmeth that God raised up to shew upon him his power, and hardened his heart, to make his name known, & such like, which everywhere are set before our eyes, to cause man to fall down before God, and to fear his judgments.
But our adversaries object against us, that this doctrine is an offence to many, and that some abuse it to carnal liberty. I do answer, that Christ is a stumbling stone to many, and all the doctrine of the Gospel is likewise slandered by the evil conversation of others: yet may we not prohibit the sweet flowers from the Bees, because Spiders suck thence their poison, no more than we may stop the Sun to shine, because it hurteth sore eyes. But that it may be the glad tidings of salvation to the assurance of the faith of the one, and a clear testimony of condemnation of the other, to the beating down of the pride of man, this glorious counsel of the mighty GOD, ought unto all in this clear revelation of the Gospel, to be offered, opened, and published.
Wherefore by the goodwill of God, we intend to speak of this great matter, none other ways, neither in any other sort, than the open Scriptures shall approve our sayings. Therefore we say with the holy Apostle Paul: Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things unto Christ, like as he hath elected and chosen us in him before the foundations of the world were laid, that we should be holy and blameless before him by love, who hath predestinate us, that he might freely choose us to be his children by Jesus Christ. Ephes. 1. And though there come some wicked men, which were long before appointed to this judgment, which do turn the grace of our God to lasciviousness and wantonness, as holy Jude saith: yet know we that we are chosen by Jesus Christ that the glory of his grace, his favour & mercy towards us might be praised. For we are the elect and chosen kindred, and his people by purchase, that we should shew the virtue of him which hath called us forth of darkness into his marvelous light.
This people ordained to salvation only believeth, Acts 13. For this Elect people only was Christ sent into this world. To them only is the word of salvation sent, as Peter saith: To the Elect by the foreknowledge of God the Father, 1 Pet. 1. Then to know what this election of God is, and what in the scriptures it doth signify. We describe and define election to be the free choice of the goodwill of the almighty God, appointing and prescribing in the book of life before the beginning of the world, whom he will have to be saved, and counted amongst the just. Whom he will have holy and without fault before him to be his children, by adoption to set forth his glory. This choice, his choosing, this afore-appointed purpose and ordinance of God, is abundantly set forth in the first Chapter to the Ephesians. That this cometh of the freewill of God & his only grace, freely without our deserving (contrary to the vain opinion of the Papists and Anabaptists) the same Chapter & the next chapter following doth plainly testify, Ephes. 1, 2. And most evidently, the Lord in his majesty, speaking to his servant Moses, Exod. 33, declared all this to stand of his mercy, saying, I will have mercy upon whom it liketh me, and I will shew mercy where it shall be my pleasure, for so is the meaning of those words, I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy. Paul also declaring in this place the work of God betwixt these two children Jacob and Esau, Romans 9, saith thus of this free Election, when Rebecca was with child with one & the same father Isaac, before the children were born, when they had neither done good nor bad, (that the purpose of God which is by Election might stand), it was said to her, not for the cause of works, but by the grace of the caller, the elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, saith he: Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated. Of the book of life, Moses speaketh, Exod. 32. And Christ himself, Luke 10, Saying to his apostles: Joy you and be glad, for your names are written in the book of life in the heavens. And in the 69 Psalm it is spoken against the wicked, Let them not be written amongst the Just, and put them forth of the book of life. And against the false Prophet, Ezek. 13, He shall not be in the counsel of my people, nor written in the book of the house of Israel. There be two final causes also of this eternal purpose of the Election, the which Paul rehearseth in the first Chapter to the Ephesians, the one toucheth GOD, the other pertaineth to man. He hath Elected us before the foundations of the world (saith the Apostle) that we might be holy & without blame. And this answereth the wicked, which would abuse the mercies of God to their lust. Again it followeth, He hath predestinate us, that he might choose us to be his children, that his name may be praised. And this stoppeth the mouths of all our adversaries that say, that this doctrine is not to the praise of God: so that they must cease to slander this doctrine, unless they will hinder the glory of God, and deny the open Scriptures.
Now it is to be noted and marked diligently, that this word Election is taken after two sorts in the Scripture, sometimes as it signifieth absolutely the free choice, will, and appointment of GOD, without the respect of the revelation of the word and message of salvation. And thus speaketh the holy Apostle Paul of election, saying of the carnal Jacob: They were enemies concerning the gospel for your cause, but concerning the election they are beloved for their parents. For the gifts of God, and his calling are such, that he cannot repent. Even as you once were misbelievers from God, but now have attained mercy, by their misbelief, that they should attain mercy also.
This Election expresseth absolutely the secret purpose of God, without the respect of revelation of the word, or any of our works following. Under this first kind of election were those hundred and twenty thousand, which God did choose & keep unto himself in Nineveh amongst the Idolaters, and the seven thousand which God did leave for himself in Israel, in the third book of Kings the 19th Chapter. Yea, those that yet are not, are thus elect, chosen and amongst all nations both Jews in this long blindness, and banishment from their country amongst the Turks in their idolatrous wickedness, yea amongst the Edomites, the Sabees, the Indians, and Ethiopians.
And in the late blindness of the popish Church, wherein we together with our fathers were altogether idolatrous, all Hypocrites and counterfeit Christians, this absolute Election whereby the merciful Lord GOD did reserve and keep his chosen unto him in all places, all ages, all countries, without respect of persons did most evidently appear. Howbeit this secrecy of Election must only be left to the Majesty of God where, when, how, and whom he thereby saveth and sheweth his mercy. For, to the blind judgment of man all these people rehearsed, and such like seemeth reject, reprobate and cast away, as appeareth by Jonah condemning the Ninevites, by Elias condemning the Israelites and a long while, until God had by miracle from Heaven delivered him from that errour, unto the chief Apostle Peter, judging all the Gentiles to be a polluted people, far from the favour of God.
The second kind of Election is set forth and known, evident and opened by the spirit of God, working in the hearts of the Elect and chosen by faith, and trust in God's promises through Christ, teaching us that we are the children of God chosen to himself by Jesus Christ, from the beginning, and therefore preparing us to an holy and blameless life, to the laud & praise of the grace of God. The which Election besides the daily experience of our consciences may be approved by the testimonies of these Scriptures compared together: Isa. 59, Rom. 8, Eph. 1, Col. 3, and a very brief and perfect description of this Election, 2 Thes. 2, in these words, We ought to thank God that he hath chosen you from the beginning, by the sanctifying of the spirit and the belief of the truth, to the which he hath called you by our gospel, to attain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. By this gracious election was Jacob dearly beloved in his Mother's womb, and Jeremy known unto God before he was fashioned in his mother's womb, Jer. 1. And to be short, all other the Elect of God are thus chosen, sanctified, & beloved from the beginning from before the foundations of the world, from everlasting to everlasting. For there is no change of time with God, seeing that all things are present in his sight. For unto him a thousand years are but one day, but the course & change of times are in us, our deeds, our knowledge, in man's changeable wisdom.
This election must of necessity drive down the pride we have of our own strength, our own power, our own nature, our own free will, our own merits, our own justification of our own works, and bring us to the feeling of the mighty power of God, which worketh all in all things, to the restoring of all things in our Christ, both in heaven and earth, by whom we were called into this state, long before appointed according to his purposed pleasure, by whose power all things are wrought, that we may boldly say with the apostle, who dare lay anything to the charge of the elect of God? It is God that justifieth, who is he that can condemn? Who can separate us (which are his chosen Jacob) from the love of God?
Can affliction? Can anguish? Can persecution? Can hunger? Can nakedness? Can peril? Can the sword? For I am persuaded, saith he, that neither death nor life, nor angel, nor power, nor things present either things to come, neither height, nor depth, neither any creature can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Lo, this is the love wherewith the Lord loveth his Jacob, whereby we say: O heavenly Father, Lord of heaven and earth, it hath pleased thee that thou might shew thy great goodness most liberally & freely towards us, before that we were,& therefore before we had done either good or evil, without any our merits or deservings, only through thy free mercy to elect and choose, ordain and appoint us heirs of everlasting life, & thereby to make all things pertaining to our salvation, so firm and sure, that they cannot stagger, waver nor fail. Where contrariwise if they did hang of our worthiness, we should ever be doubtful because every man is a liar, & all our righteousness is like a spotted cloth, and nothing but counterfeit hypocrisy, weighed in the balance of severe justice. But the grace of this thy free Election maketh us most certain and sure, seeing no Creature is able to take out of thy hand, O God. Wherefore we do laud and magnify thy name, world without end. So be it.
Now after this doctrine of election, and love of God toward Jacob, the hating & reprobation of Esau, must likewise be declared,& though the adversaries of this doctrine do seem to deny that there is any such Reprobation of the wicked, yet the words are so plain in Malachi and Romans 9, that nothing can be more evident. For what can be more plainly spoken for this purpose, than that God should say before the children were born, that he hated Esau. What was this hatred, but the Reprobation, Rejection,& condemnation by God's own mouth of this wicked Esau, like as in the last verse of the first Psalm, where it is said, that the Lord knoweth the ways of the just, (that is) he hath them written in his book in the heavens, he loveth them as is said of Jacob, he hath such care over them, that they cannot fall, but unto the glory of GOD, and their own commodity,& by the course of the contraries compared together in that Psalm: it should be added, the Lord knoweth not the wicked, like as Christ saith it shall be answered unto them, I know you not: the latter part of the verse is that the way of the wicked shall perish, so that it appeareth to be all one, not to be elected, accepted, and known of God, and to perish, and to be as a Reprobate condemned. And Fœlinus forth of Kymhy doth note, that that part of the last verse of the 2d Psalm: God being angry, you shall perish forth of the way, doth expound this of the first Psalm, so that the Election, knowledge, love, and favour of God, and eternal salvation cannot be separate: Like as his anger and hatred, reprobation and condemnation consequently do follow, in Cain, Esau, Pharaoh, Judas, the Pharisees, and like obdurate persons, so manifestly uttering themselves to be of that sort whom God always hated: The Children not of Abraham, but as Christ answereth unto them, of their father the Devil, who was a murderer from he beginning, like as his children have been also ever since the beginning of the world, and therefore must of necessity be hated of the most merciful Lord, who is compelled by the order of his works, to use these wicked rods and cruel scourges, for the chastisement of his children, doing many times that work strange from his nature, that he may do his work of his mercy, peculiar unto his nature: And then utterly break, hate, reject, & cast away into everlasting fire, & utter destruction this rod and scourge, like a most merciful Father, favouring his children & hating the rod. Like as he saith by his prophet: Woe unto Assur the rod of my fury, and the staff of my indignation, and after promiseth to break the staff & cast away the rod, Psalm 10, Suffering in the mean season, yet these instruments of his wrath prepared unto destruction, with great patience, for this end that he may utter the riches of his glory, towards the vessels of glory, which he hath prepared unto glory.
Thus was Pharaoh the manifest scourge and rod of God, to correct, to chastise, and to exercise the Israelites, and to spread the power of God through all the world. Therefore was Moses sent unto him, with the rod of God's mighty mercy, to break in sunder the rod of chastisement. And the Lord said unto Moses, I have appointed thee to be the God of Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy Prophet, thou shalt speak unto him all that I command thee. And he shall speak unto Pharaoh, to let go the children of Israel forth of his land. But I will harden his heart, saith the Lord, and I will multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, and he shall not hear you. And I will bring mine army and people forth of the land of Egypt, by most great judgments, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord. Exod. 12.
Again the Lord saith, Now shall I stretch my hand to strike thee, and thy people with a plague, and thou shalt perish from the earth, for therefore have I caused thee to stand (for so is the Hebrew word) that I may shew in thee my strength, and that my name may be renowned through all the earth. Exod. 9. Then the Lord sendeth a great hail, so that feeling the hand of God the tenth time, Pharaoh was compelled to cry: The Lord is just, and I and my people are sinners, as followeth in the same Chapter. Yet for all this the Lord hardeneth his heart, that he pursueth the children of Israel to his own destruction, Exod 14. So that resisting the power of God, he perisheth in this world, and in the world to come, he is appointed to the everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his Angels, by the just judgment of the Almighty Lord: who being refused and so openly resisted, justly doth give over the wicked to their own Reprobate minds, with greediness to fulfill their fleshly desires, and obstinate purpose to prosecute that which the Devil and the world willeth them to do, and causeth them to heap upon their own heads, their own damnation, treasuring and storing up all their life long, works deserving the wrath of God against the day of his wrath and vengeance, as the Apostle saith to the Romans.
This Reprobation then is the declaration of God's severe justice and just judgment, against the Serpent and his seed, whom, by the word of his eternal wisdom he hath accursed from the beginning, & appointed to everlasting torment. The which work necessary for the proceeding of God's holy providence, Eternal and never ceasing Regiment, and governance, because it is the work of the will of the mighty God, which is the very law, equity, and justice itself, free from all affections, far from all fault, crime, or sin: It ought to be known unto us all, that all flesh may tremble, and consider before whom it standeth, even before that great Lord & mighty God, who hath power both over the body and soul to cast into Hell fire. To whom no man may say: what doest thou? Being like the clay in the Potter's hand, or the staff or axe in the hand of the smiter. Who offendeth against no law, because his godly will is the law itself,& to know his pleasure, is to know the law, to follow his will, is to do the law, so that of necessity this great Lord is so far and free from all sin, that nothing is good but that which is wrought by him, nothing can be evil that he worketh in his creatures. No, the fall of Lucifer the father of the reprobate, doth utter his Majesty, doth shew his justice, which old Satan and father Devil, was worthily cast down into the bottom of Hell, and eternally condemned to everlasting pain and torment, because he did so ambitiously and proudly climb up above his appointed place in the heavens. And where the malice of this old Serpent, caused Adam the first man to mount above his estate, to desire to know good and evil, like a GOD, the marvelous mercy of GOD, and inestimable love towards mankind caused and compelled this wicked work of the serpent to serve his glory, and to turn to our great commodity and profit, in that he raiseth of the seed of man another Adam, most innocent and holy, against whom no Devil, neither any hellish power may prevail, by whom we are not only reconciled unto God, & do obtain pardon for this offence, but we are born anew, and as it were again created into greater glory by far, than we were at the first: for the first man had only a promise to live in the earthly garden so long as he did not eat of the forbidden fruit, we have the promise of the heavenly Paradise, and everlasting pleasures. He had earthly meat and fruit, we have the heavenly Manna which feedeth into life everlasting. He was created to work in the garden works natural, we are renewed unto works supernatural, above nature, heavenly and celestial. He was overcome by the Serpent, we do overcome and triumph over the Serpent, Sin, Devil, Death, and Hell. He had the gift of reason and understanding, we have the rich wisdom of God's holy spirit, whereby we discern our own infirmity& weakness, and his almighty power, mercy, & goodness. To be short, where he did run from God, hid himself, & sewed fig leaves to cover his shame, following his fond fantasy, We do boldly behold the course of God's working in our nakedness, sin, and infirmity, and magnify, renown, and praise our Lord God, which sheweth his grace by our sin, which uttereth his power by our weakness, his wisdom by our foolishness, which setteth forth his elect vessels, his chosen Abels, by Cainites the vessels of his wrath. In which Cain the first murderer, & therefore manifestly of the Serpent's seed, appeareth evidently the just judgment of the Almighty God, accursing & condemning in Satan and Cain, all sins & wickedness. To utter that he abhorreth sin, and hateth it, being so far contrary from his nature, which is justice itself, contrary from his will, which is equity,& his law which is judgment. In Pharaoh a child of the same father, reprobate, indurate, and accursed, whom God stirred up for the declaration of his great power & mighty arm, as well in the manifold miracles wrought for his people, which nothing had needed, neither had been occasioned, if there had not been such a tyrant so indurate and so obstinate, to withstand God & his servants, as also by the subversion & drowning of him& his people in the red Sea, a sign and token first of the eternal and inevitable destruction and damnation, whereunto the wicked are appointed, then of the salvation assigned and sealed up for the elect and chosen: we do learn hereby also the power of God, which the very Sorcerers, the enemies of God were compelled to confess before Pharaoh, Exod. 8. We do learn moreover the justice of God, which justice Pharaoh himself was compelled against himself, to denounce and affirm, Exod. 9. And finally we may see expressed most manifestly the fatherly mercy of the God of Jacob, which did give the king & the whole people of Egypt a price for his chosen Jacob. Lo the love towards Jacob, and the hatred towards Esau. What shall we speak of Judas and others, manifestly reprobate, which are compelled by the testimony of their own consciences to pronounce themselves wicked,& therefore to fear God's severe justice & just judgment, & to fly therefrom by the terrour of their evil consciences, which is more sore than a thousand witnesses, against such as God doth leave to their own selves. The which terrible examples, the elect of God having before their eyes, hath great cause to praise their heavenly father, through his son Christ, who hath sent them his holy spirit of comfort, which will never suffer them to be tempted above that they are able to suffer and to bear.
But here we have two kind of men that be adversaries to this doctrine of reprobation. The one sort uttering themselves most manifest Reprobate, obstinate, and willfully wicked, crying and blaspheming: we will follow our lusts, what need we care how we live, or what we do? If we be elected with Jacob, we shall be saved, if we be rejected and cursed with Ham, we shall be damned. These Lucifers, not submitting themselves to the governance of God, careless what becometh of them, must be beat down with the consideration of the majesty and mighty power of God, which suffereth not one sparrow to fall upon the earth without his will & providence, neither one hair to all from the head of his elect and chosen, how fiercely soever they shall rage against them.
Wherefore (O you Serpent's seed) howsoever you shall be offended with this that I shall speak, know this, that as the mighty God hath made the scattered sands able enough to stay the raging Seas: so shall your proud waves of your boiling stomachs and your busy heads, be broken and brought full low where and when it shall like the Lord of all flesh by these his weak vessels. And license must you ask, as did your father the devil: executing his tyranny upon the good man Job as we read in the first chapter of that History, before you can lay hands either of body or goods of his chosen, and therein shall you be limited and appointed (as there appeareth) how far you shall be able to extend your violence. For God holdeth your hearts in his hand be you never so great tyrants,& can soon cause you to faint & fail from your fury, turning your hearts round about as him liketh best. And because you thus blaspheme God in words and deeds, following your father Lucifer, abusing God's creatures, and despising his benefits, his tolerance, & his long sufferance, which might move you to repentance (as holy Paul warneth) you treasure up for yourselves, even wrath & vengeance against the day of vengeance. I do fear nothing at all to offend you with my writing, neither do you pass any thing at all what is written or spoken, though you use to swear, stamp,& stare for a little space in a furious rage, when you hear and feel things contrary to your poison. But the scriptures of God, all good writings, all truth, unto such dogs and hogs are uttered to this purpose, that they may be a testimony of condemnation of the light of God's truth rejected and despised. Therefore for the elect of God that they may understand the course of God's working in all his creatures, and reverence his majesty, and magnify and renown his holy name, is this written. Yet doubtless do I know among the chief vessels & chosen children of God, there be many which have not attained to this point of doctrine of Election & Reprobation, whom I am very loth to offend, and therefore I desire them for the love of God to suffer me quietly without their grief to utter unto other the comfort of my conscience, which I have hereby undoubtedly received: like as I have many times hearkened unto them in the contrary. First praying thus both of us together unto our heavenly father, acknowledging our own infirmity & weakness. O father in the heavens, whatsoever we are, whatsoever we have, whatsoever we know, it is only by thy free grace, for we were by nature the children of wrath, & we are not born anew of flesh & blood, either of the seed of man, or of the will of man, flesh and blood cannot reveal the mysteries of thy heavenly kingdom unto us. But by thy blessed will, are we that we are, & by the same know we that we know: therefore (O father) do we commit into thy hands only our salvation. If our knowledge be final, yet we doubt nothing but that we are the children of thy everlasting kingdom, and therefore by thy mighty power, we shall grow when it shall be thy pleasure, to a more full and riper knowledge of a more perfect age, wherein our faith shall be fully able to comprehend and receive the breadth, depth, height, & largeness of thy great mercies, and gracious promises. But seeing this power of full knowledge and perfect revelation, passeth all power natural, and remaineth only in thy power, and the light of thy spirit (O Lord,) Do thou what shall please thee, to open to us thy servants and children, depending of thy hands, so much of the light of thy countenance, and at such times as shall seem good to thy wisdom and fatherly mercy. In the meantime thus resting wholly upon thee, neither can we despair, neither will we be too much careful, although we cannot attain to the knowledge of many of thy works, neither to the understanding of many places of the scriptures, but we will confess unto thee the weakness of our faith, waiting always for further revelation of thy glorious light to be uttered unto us, when thou shalt think of thy fatherly benevolence& goodness meet & convenient, knowing most surely that thou wilt pity our childish infancy, and cause the same to serve for thy glory and our great commodity, seeing that we do err and are childish, as sons before such a Father which can not put off his Fatherly pity, but rather as thou hast brought us unto thee, to be the heirs of thy kingdom by the blood of thy natural son, so we be most sure that thou wilt lighten us in the end, with the full fruition of the bright light of thy countenance, that we may see thee and know thee as this thy son our redeemer knoweth thee, yea, see thee our Father, face to face, and know as we be known. Thus rest we only of thy hand to increase our knowledge at thy good pleasure, O mighty Lord and most merciful Father. So be it.
If you can thus submit yourselves, good brethren, to the wisdom of God, working in us weaklings what him liketh, All the stumbling stocks which might offend you, may easily be removed. There be two things especially which do seem to stand against this doctrine of Election and Reprobation, or of God his governance and providence, for all is one in effect, the one toucheth God, the other man. The first and principal is, lest that the wicked do make God the Author of sin in the Reprobate, the which doubt, we may remove four manner of ways.
First, by the authority of Scriptures. Secondly, by the testimony of their own consciences which be the reprobate. Thirdly, by the nature of sin. Fourthly, by the majesty of God, which is bound to none of his creatures, to make him this or that vessel.
1. For the first, James saith: Let no man say when he is tempted, that he is tempted of God, for God, as he cannot be tempted with evil, so neither doth he tempt any man. But every man is tempted, drawn away, and enticed of his own lust and concupiscence. Then the lust when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin. James 1. And even thus it appeared in the first fall of mankind.
First, though the Lord our God had warned and commanded the contrary, our old enemy stirreth the concupiscence and lust of the Woman, with the goodness, pleasantness and beauty of the Apple, then her lust conceiving this, bringeth forth sin, enticing also her husband, to the breaking of God's commandments. Genes. 3. But contrariwise, saith James in the same place. Jam. 1, lest you should err and conceive any evil opinion of God, every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, descending from the father of light, with whom is no variableness, neither change into darkness, that he should give now good things, now evil, now light, now darkness. No, saith the Apostle Paul, let God be true, and all men liars. Can God be unjust? How shall he then judge the world? Rom. 3. Again, God saith by his Prophet Ezekiel: I will not the death of a sinner, but I will rather that the sinner convert, repent, and live. And unto wicked Jerusalem saith our Saviour Christ: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which slayest the Prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee: How oft would I have gathered together thy children, as the Hen gathereth her Chickens under her wings, & thou wouldest not. Lo, thy house therefore is left desolate. Matt. 23. Lo, here appeareth the goodness of the living Lord, so diligently calling the wicked to him by his word, by his Prophets, by his messengers, and at the length by his own son, that he cannot in any case be accounted the Author of their evil, nor cause of their fall. But contrariwise, their own willful and wicked stubbornness is the cause of their evil, and the only occasion of their fall, as it is written: Thy perdition & destruction is of thine own self, but only of me is thy salvation. And infinite scriptures to the same purpose appertaining. That we may say with Daniel: unto thee O Lord, belongeth righteousness, and to us the shame & covering of our faces. Daniel 9.
2. Secondly, The testimony of the consciences of the wicked, which shall accuse or excuse them at the great day, which is always of the force and value of a thousand witnesses, which is the worm that shall never die, but gnaw the wicked forever, Isa. 46. This conscience, I say, of theirs shall condemn the wicked, and what shall God then do? Or wherein is his dreadful majesty to be charged? Cain by his own conscience, is compelled to confess: greater is my wickedness than can be remitted. Thou castest me from the face of the earth, saith he, and I must hide me from thy face. Lo, the just judgment of God, and his worthy condemnation, openly confessed. Who dare then blame God? Cain dare in no wise do it. Neither yet proud Pharaoh, who condemned in his own heart and conscience, accuseth himself and his people, and justifieth God, delivering all men from this wicked blasphemy, saying, openly: I have sinned now, the Lord is just, and I and my people are wicked. Exod. 9. What doeth Judas? Doth he not cry likewise, I have sinned, betraying this innocent blood, Matt. 27. And to utter indeed that thing he felt within his breast, he is compelled to take vengeance, and execute a judgment most terrible against himself, uttering to all the world himself most wicked, and that the justice of God, punishing such wicked Traitors and murderers, ought most worthily to be feared, magnified, and reverenced, throughout the whole world. Like as all the other wicked and desperate persons, which for anguish of heart, and terrour of conscience, do murder themselves, doth evidently and continually witness unto the world's end, that there is a just Lord, the God of judgment, whom they do fear, and before whose face they dare not appear to accuse him of any sin, but rather taking the crime, blame, shame, & punishment, unto themselves, who worthily by their own conscience, have deserved it, doth thus torment themselves, and with violent hands avenge the sin they have committed in their own sinful souls and bodies. Thus must God always be found just, and overcome when he is judged, by the testimony of our own conscience, which shall accuse or excuse us at the great day, Rom. 2. Wherefore let no man be so foolish to say, that God is the Author of evil, unless he will be accounted worse than Cain, more proud than Pharaoh, more wicked than Judas, or any other the Reprobate from the beginning.
3. Thirdly, the nature of sin being defined by the authority of Scriptures, to be a thought, word, or deed, contrary to the will of God. For such things only defile the man, as Christ our master saith, Matt. 15, And therefore are only to be accounted sin. No such thought can be attributed or ascribed unto God, as can be against his will, therefore no sin can be his work. Neither can he be the Author of evil, which therefore is called God, because he is the Author and giver of all good, and so far from evil, that he turneth all our evil to some good, our sin to the uttering of his grace, our lies to the declaration of his truth. No, this is the perfect workmaster which worketh all things without fault or trespass, all other do fail, fault, & trespass and sin in all their works, that he may be justified in all his doings, and all creatures fall down before his face & presence, Who though he do work all in all things, yet doth he work the same to such godly end and purpose, known only to his majesty, that though we be compelled to say, God is the author of the fact, yet must we answer: but not of the crime. Because he is the Master of the house, and Lord over the family, and therefore may do anything without the blame of his servants.
And like as that which is no fault in the master of the house, is a great fault many times in any of his servants, because it is the breaking of their master's commandment: Even so doubtless the selfsame work is sin in God's servants & creatures, which to God is no sin, but an ordinary work appointed for some special purpose, either for the manifestation of his power, as was the hardening of Pharaoh, or for the declaration of his mercy, as was the fall of David, of Peter, of Mary Magdalene, and all other repentant sinners. And wherefore I pray you, may not this Lord thus use his own servants, without any blame of sin, seeing that he hath created and made them all only to serve his glory, his justice, and his mercy? Or how can he be unjust, or the author of any sin, by whom all the world must be judged and brought to the balance of justice and equity. When the first world shall be condemned for their sin & iniquity, and we now living shall be judged for our sins: specially all those which not only do evil themselves, but are Authors and faulters to wicked doers, Romans 1.
4. Fourthly, the Majesty of God can be subject to no sin, because it can be under no law. And that only is worthily called sin which is done against a Law, therefore no work that GOD doth ought to be accounted evil, either that he is the occasion of any evil, which only is the mind, sense, spirit, and power of the Law, without whom no law of itself is good. For every good law is the mind, will, and commandment of God, and whatsoever law is not the mind, will, and commandment of God (as was the laws of the Scribes and Pharisees, and of the cursed papists) the same be wicked: who of necessity were set up the body of Antichrist, to utter their unrighteousness, that Christ the son of righteousness, the head of his body, in his manifold mercies, more plainly might appear, and shine with more glory. Again to define sin to be the affection, motion, or operation of any reasonable creature, against the law of God: his majesty must needs be secluded and excused who is the law maker, the creator, no creature, having no evil motion, nor led with any affection, which might make his work evil. Like as the creature is for the most part blameworthy because even when it doth the best of all, it is subject to some affection, either self-love, or hatred of some other, yea the Lord God may use any of his creatures in any work, without the blame of any evil, as well as the Smith may make his coals to flame, or to quench them, either the same piece of iron, sometimes his hammer, sometimes his tongs and stithy [anvil].
Wherefore though very much might be said in this part, that as the potter may make of one piece of clay what him liketh, the Smith may make of his iron divers instruments, yet following the godly wisdom of Paul, I think it more meet to beat down man's subtleties, with the contemplation of the majesty of the mighty GOD, pronouncing boldly, that such as say, if my lies and sin set forth his glory, why am I then judged as a sinner, let us do evil that good may come, and so in their wicked words dare make God the author of evil, hath their worthy damnation already, as Paul saith, Rom. 3. For of necessity which their eyes cannot see, such diversity of sin and grace, or righteousness and unrighteousness, of the contrariety& change of things, must be in this wonderful creation of heaven and earth, by the high majesty of God appointed and ordained. For what needed the godly creature of light, if there had been no darkness? or how should this benefit have been felt or perceived? what matter or cause of uttering justice might have been found without sin & unrighteousness? How should grace have been shewed, if no wrath had been deserved? No the mighty God thereby most evidently uttereth his majesty, in that he sheweth how the heavens fall into darkness without him, the earth into dust, the angels into Devils, the men into sin, & so finally without him all things to come to naught, that he may be magnified, creating all things, his son our Saviour renowned, who hath redeemed us all, his holy spirit exalted, who hath renewed all us that be his elect and chosen. Now to what creature is the majesty of God bound and found debtor of his spirit? If he withhold it from any, his dreadful majesty may rightly withhold it, for who hath given him first, to ask anything again of debt or duty? If his majesty do give his spirit, it is of his free mercy and grace. If the earth fall into dust, if man fall into sin, that all things may be known to be nothing without God: what blame deserveth God, or who dare accuse him? No, let all flesh fall down before his Majesty and confess: All things do only rest upon thee, O Lord, thou hast created all things of nothing, so that without thee, they all do fall to their original, to shew themselves vain and nothing worth, weak, wretched, and miserable, wherefore if we have any good thing, it cometh of thy mercy, if we have any weakness, sin, or infirmity, it cometh of our concupiscence, lusts, & vanity, our perdition is of ourselves, our sin is of ourselves, only of thee is our salvation, thou made us clay, pots & vessels to thine use. Do thou with us as thou shalt think good in thine eyes, & the shame shall fall upon our own faces.
The second cause which concerneth man (whereby many mistake this doctrine) is that God exhorteth man always in his scriptures to good,& forbiddeth evil with many terrible threatenings, which things seemeth not to be needful (say they) seeing the elect shall be saved, and the reprobate condemned, by decree and sentence given upon them before they be born. To this do we answer, that these exhortations and communications are very necessary to both twain, because God leadeth us men always like reasonable creatures, not like insensible stocks or stones. And to the elect they are most necessary pricks and spurs, to stir the dull flesh toward his duty, as all good men feeleth and can bear witness. To the reprobate they are testimonies of the good will of the Almighty God to them opened and uttered, but openly resisted and refused, and rejected, according to the saying of our Saviour Christ: If I had not come and spoken to them, they had had no sin, but now they have no pretence or excuse for their sin. Peradventure you will answer me: They cannot obey unto it. What is the cause thereof I pray you? because they lack the spirit of Christ to lead them, you will say: I dare easily grant you, but will they grant this? will they (think you) submit themselves under poor Christ, and the foolishness of the cross, and not rather boast and brag their wisdom, their knowledge,& their upright dealing, and righteousness. Are not these the men that dare thus boast, We know as well as the Preacher can tell us, Is the spirit of God departed from us to speak with him? As was said to Micaiah, 1 of the Kings 22d Chapter. Or as the Pharisees did answer unto Christ: are we blind? To whom our Saviour saith again: If you were blind you had no sin, but now you say you see, therefore your sin remaineth, John 9. Thus doubtless they are so far from the submission and subjection to poor Christ, that contrariwise they do willingly & naturally follow their Father Lucifer, who did lift himself arrogantly above Christ the son of righteousness, and evermore fighteth against Christ, though the mighty power and high wisdom of God turneth his evil will and all theirs to his glory & good purposes. None other ways than bodily and natural darkness, which by the wonderful wisdom of God, clearly setteth forth the bright Sunshine, and yet laboureth by continual course to shadow the Sun, and to cover the whole earth. Wherefore the Lord God to drive away this natural darkness from man, exhorteth to justice and equity, which is his nature, and the image which man ought to counterfeit. And always commandeth things thereunto agreeable. And forbiddeth that he is not, that is to say, iniquity, and dehorteth therefrom by his Prophets and Preachers, publishing his will and pleasure, which is the light and law most perfect to man his noble creature, whom he hath made for his honour and glory, whom he hath appointed to bear his image upon earth, of justice, righteousness, & innocency. But because this image could by no creature perfectly be expressed, unless the same were fully replenished with the selfsame Godhead, because that all things besides forth had some imperfection, bewraying their original the darkness, as John calleth it, the Tohu and Bohu, as Moses doth it name. The vain vanity, and wild deformity, whence they were by creation altered, recovered, and brought into light and life, as appeared in Adam falling from truth to lies, straight at the beginning: now of necessity the son of God (who only is good of nature) becometh man, and taken this office to bear the image of God invisible, Col. 1, And to be the head of that spiritual perfection which was to be wrought in mankind, by his aforeappointed purpose, and becometh the first begotten of all creatures, for by him were all things created both in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, majesty, Lordship, rule, & power, by whom, and in whom all things are created, and he is before all creatures, and in him all things have their being. And he is the head of the body, he is the beginning and first begotten of the dead, that in all things he might have preeminence. For it pleased the father that in him should dwell all fullness, and by him to reconcile all things to himself. And to set at peace by him through the blood of his cross, both things in heaven and things in earth: for even you, saith Paul which in times past were strangers, because your minds were set in evil works, hath he now reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to make you holy and blameless, & without fault in his sight. Seeing then that this cannot be denied to be the course of God's holy working, to drive away this darkness, and to bring man to his light, to take away sin, and to bring man to a life blameless, the state of innocency, & his own likeness: shall it not be most necessary to have Preachers and teachers to tell us the same, and to admonish us whereunto we are called, seeing of our selves and our own reasons, no such thing can be perceived? Therefore have we preachings & exhortations, as Paul saith: For when the world through wisdom knew not God in the wisdom of God, it pleaseth God through the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believed, 1 Cor. 1. And as he also saith of himself in another place: We do preach this riches in Christ the hope of your glory, warning all men, and teaching all men in all wisdom, to make all men perfect in Christ Jesus.
Thus serveth then exhortations, dehortations, comminations, and publications of the laws and will of our Lord God: that he may be known the Lord and governor over all the things he hath created, and the only law maker amongst his creatures, publishing unto all, that perfect equity and justice, which ought in no case to be resisted. Whereunto if they cannot attain, they must confess & acknowledge their own infirmity and weakness, and submit themselves under the mighty hand of God, and so doing they shall be received as children of the most loving and most merciful father, in such degrees of perfection as he hath appointed to the beautifying of the body of his son our head. So that the Lord God doth teach all, and enlighten all men that come into the world, both chosen and reprobate, with such a knowledge as doth the good Prince, which unto all his subjects proclaimeth his Statutes, and publisheth his laws: but like a good and tender father, he leadeth his children, regenerate and born anew, neither of flesh nor blood, nor the will of man, and guideth them with his fatherly spirit, in the paths of the same laws, writing in their hearts what is his goodwill and pleasure.
In the which course of God's wonderful work, the wicked hath no cause to complain, for as their father whom they do follow, is named the Prince of this world, so they have the world at will, & are rich roisters & wealthy worldlings, trampling under their feet, poor Abel, and the despised Christians: neither will they change their estate with any such, no when they are called from darkness to be partakers of light, of life, and of the heavenly dainties, laid up in poor Christ, they despised that estate, excusing their purchases, their merchandize, and their earthly lusts and delights, Luke 14. Wherefore in the other world they that here are oppressed shall have comfort, and the other torment.
Such is the order then of God's working, that by the contrariety of the chosen and reprobate, of Jacob and Esau, of Pharaoh and Israel, and the wisdom of God, and the wisdom of the world, he will set forth his majesty, his power, his divinity, his Godhead, so much as may be known unto man (that is to say) in his wisdom, justice, mercy, & almightiness. For, comparing his wisdom to any other wisdom, now appeareth the contrary, that it is very foolishness, even darkness compared unto light, death unto life, lies unto truth, as Paul saith: When they accounted themselves wise, they were made very fools, and changed the truth with lies: the glory of the immortal God, to mortal & corruptible creatures. They following their own righteousness could not come to the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ.
Wherefore of necessity God did shut all under sin, that his mercy might flow over all. And that his mighty power might appear, he hath created the heavens and the earth, wherein we do see light and darkness, death and life, shame and glory, weakness and strength, lies and truth, righteousness, and unrighteousness, to serve to the setting forth of his glory, that man may be driven to say with Paul: O the depth of the riches of the wisdom & knowledge of God. How incomprehensible are his ways? How unsearchable are thy judgments? For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath given him ought aforehand, that he might be repaid? For by him, & through him, and in him, are all things, to him be praise for ever. Amen.
And as this holy Apostle Paul doth submit himself to the great depth of the wisdom of God, and his wonderful Regiment and providence, and would beat and drive down all flesh by the consideration of the same. So also all our Fathers from the beginning hath laid this the only foundation of their faith: Wherefore Moses beginneth to stablish the faith of man at the history of the creation, and so forth by the order of God's present governance about the things made and created. And David for a confession of his faith, pronounceth of this providence, Psalm 95, I do know that thou art a great Lord, and a Lord above all gods. All things whatsoever the Lord's pleasure was, he hath made in the heavens, the earth, the Seas, and the bottomless waters. Again, by the word of God all things were set in their places, and by the spirit of his mouth all the power that be in them. And Paul considering most deeply, and pronouncing most plainly this divine governance of the creatures, and godly providence of the Creator, in all things for his Elect and chosen, saith thus, Rom. 8, We know that all things work for the best unto them that love God, who also are called of purpose: for those which he knew before, he also predestinate, that they should be like fashioned to the shape of his son. Moreover, whom he hath predestinate, those hath he called, & whom he called, them he also hath justified, whom he hath justified, those also hath he glorified.
So that this appeareth to be no new learning or vain doctrine of God's providence and election. But the only ground of faith and certainty of conscience in all conflicts against the world, the flesh and the Devil, against sin, death, and Hell, as the Apostle useth it in the latter end of the same Chapter, and all the fathers from the beginning hath felt it. For, how could Adam by any other work or creature, either by comfort of any other doctrine stay his conscience? But in that the Lord God promised to provide for him, and to save him from his enemy, (who once had overcome him) by the blessed seed, which not by merits, but by mercy and grace, and therefore of his free purpose before appointed, should be sent unto him, to break the head of the Serpent: Why? Should Abraham have left his country and his own Fathers house, if he had not felt this divine providence, fatherly care, free choice, and Election of him and his seed? By the which lively feeling of God's careful providence, and free choice, sending him seed when he was past hope of seed (concerning his dead body all the works of nature) and by the steadfastness of faith in the temptations about the same seed, to be made a slain sacrifice, other grievous temptations and adversities from time to time laid upon him, this chosen vessel Abraham is called the father of all faithful. As by his history appeareth a fatherly care of our God, for all his people, both for bodies & souls, for wife and child, and all together. And Isaac his son, that chosen seed, in whom all the Nations of the earth were promised to be blessed long before the child was born, hath this promise of inheritance given him by favour, that the promise might be sure to all the seed as Paul saith, Rom. 14, unto whom and his faithful seed, this free promise & fatherly Election & Predestination (or what else you will call it) was again revealed and opened, Gen. 26, In these words: through thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. And the lively sense and feeling of this Election and fatherly care of God for him, did then especially shine in his heart, when the lord said unto him: Go not into Egypt, tarry here, I will be with thee,& will bless thee, & through thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, Gen. 26. And after that grievous temptation undoubtedly wherein he was compelled for fear of the Philistines, to deny his wife and call her sister, & after the manifold contentions with the Philistines, wherein his God did preserve him, and at the end, in the wonderful miracle of his children, whose birthright was altered by the unsearchable providence of God, the manifest notes and tokens of the free Election and choice of God did appear. And Jacob chosen and beloved in his mother's womb, felt this free work of God's great favour, who had chosen him before he was born, and taking occasion of the necessity of his brother, seeketh the birthright, the which God had unto him before appointed and promised, renouncing the course of nature, then doth he leave and forsake his father's house,& patiently taketh all troubles offered unto him. In the which oftentimes undoubtedly he feeleth the heavy & grievous temptations that his fathers Abraham and Isaac had before (for no creature more often suffereth trouble than the very Elect of God) for the experiment of his faith, whereby the lively sense & undoubted tokens of his favourable election after many battles & victories, might be made certain & sure, through present comfort always ministered unto him, either by secret inspiration or manifest revelation witnessing the singular care of his heavenly Father over him his dearly beloved and chosen child, as his wonderful vision of the ladder& the Angels descending from heaven doth declare, and the other vision wherein the Angel did shew him the party coloured sheep for his portion, to multiply and increase his substance: as also when God biddeth him go into his own country from his deceitful Laban, and defendeth his Jacob from him: and finally the glorious victory given unto him over the Angel, comforting him against the fear of his brother, Esau, doth bring forth unto his heart and conscience the assured sign and token of the favour of his heavenly father, first election and choosing, and after evermore governing, guiding, and preserving by the free mercy of his divine providence.
Jeremy also chosen in his Mother's womb, as appeareth in the first chapter of his Prophecy, where it is said from the mouth of God: before I fashioned thee in thy Mother's womb I did know thee, and or ever thou wast born, I did sanctify thee and ordained thee to be a Prophet unto this people, then felt the most lively signs and tokens of his Election, when his flesh repined, grudged and feared to take in hand the execution of this great and dangerous embassage, & the power of God's spirit doth touch his heart, and openeth his mouth to the planting and rooting up of all people & kingdoms, to break, destroy, and make waste, and raised him as a fenced town, a brazen wall, and iron pillar against the kings, priests, and people of the land. Now though sometimes his flesh doth grudge for the burden of his office, and anguish of heart, as though he had been an abject or Reprobate, yet always after the brunt of temptations uttering his weakness, he findeth the merciful providence of his heavenly father, to take a continual care of him, and not only comfort and assist him, but also most evidently to punish his enemies.
And to be short, all the elect of God are thus chosen& called, guided, and governed from their mother's womb, according to the saying of the princely Prophet: Thou art he that takest me from my Mother's womb, thou wast my hope, yet when I hanged upon my Mother's breasts. I have been left unto thee ever since I was born, thou art my God even from my Mother's womb. And then do they feel most sensibly & lively this their Election, when temptations and adversities do assail and assault them, in the which conflicts of the flesh, and the spirit, of sin and grace, of light and darkness, they are compelled to cry & call, to sigh and sob before their heavenly Father for the deliverance of this mortal and sinful body subdued to vanities: & though they do most evidently perceive how they are called from darkness to light, from love of iniquity, to the hatred of the same, from obedience sometime given to Satan and to the lusts of the flesh, to the obedience of the spirit, which fighteth against the flesh, and though, I say, they perceiving this, be not able to quench these raging lusts yet do they mourn and daily lament, calling for the grace of their heavenly father, which lamentations, sighings and sorrowings of their sins, be the sensible feelings & lively signs and tokens of God's infallible and sure election. Wherefore whosoever shall feel these secret sighs and mournings, thereby hating sin & desiring therefrom to be delivered, considering their own weakness, and wishing always to be of more perfection, let them with all thanksgiving unto God rejoice, knowing that this proceedeth not from flesh nor blood, but from the spirit of our head Jesus Christ, who maketh intercession for his afflicted members (who are his Saints) with unspeakable groanings. Whom though for a time he do permit to be afflicted, both in spirit and body, as sometimes he did Job, Jonah, Jeremy, and other: yet at the end he giveth unto them most triumphant victory, according to the everlasting purpose of his divine providence, who is to be feared, reverenced, renowned & praised for ever. Sobeit.
Heretofore have we answered generally to them that would make God the Author of evil, and to them which do say, that this doctrine taketh away exhortations & threatenings, and the preaching of the word. Now by the grace of God, we will more briefly answer to some arguments which they bring forth of the scriptures, setting apart all such cavillations as man's reason (which in God's mysteries can never be satisfied) by the craft of the devil doth excogitate & invent. But first we will speak something of good works, & the true understanding of those scriptures which commend them unto us, lest we should seem to dissuade men from the same, or extenuate the meaning of the holy ghost, in such sentences as our adversaries do wickedly pervert for the maintenance of man's power against this doctrine of grace & free election, which dare affirm that by works they purchase part of their salvation, the which (as we have said) is freely given by this Election in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world was laid.
The good works which are so indeed, that is to say, which proceed of the spirit of adoption, and the feeling of God's mercies in electing, calling & justifying, first of all have this use, that they declare the power of God to be in us, and the spirit of Christ, which doth conform us to his image: and this is the end whereunto we are Elected and Predestinate to be conformed to the Image of his son, Rom. 8. Elected before the foundation of the world, to be holy & blameless, Eph. 1. Created unto good works, which God hath prepared for us to walk therein, Eph. 2. These have the reward, as Paul saith, not only of this life, but of the world to come. Therefore saith our Saviour Christ, Matt. 25, Come ye blessed of my father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink, &c.
Of this excellent commendation and reward of good works, we do learn the dignity of the same, not of the worthiness of themselves, which are never able to stand in God's judgments: for our very righteousnesses are, as Isaiah saith, as cloths filthily polluted, but of the dignity of the grace of the promise of God, who worketh them in us. For it is God, saith Paul, that worketh in us both the will and also the work, even of his purpose, Phil. 2. Therefore all is of grace, not of works, lest any should glory, Eph. 2. For if there were any power in ourselves, or dignity in the works, then had we something to glory, but now that all is confessed to be of God's free mercies, & nothing of ourselves, we conclude that God crowneth and rewardeth his own works in us, that whoso glorieth should glory in the Lord, 1 Cor. 1. And where some allege this place, Matt. 25, so to commend works that they should be the cause of the election and the favour of God, they do not consider the first words: Come you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. Wherein we may note, that they being the blessed and beloved of the father, are called to the inheritance of the heavenly kingdom, not won by works, but prepared by the heavenly Father for his children, before they did any works at all: Like as the wicked have their place of eternal torment, there named for them before prepared and appointed. And in both twain the works doth only declare what the trees are whereout they spring, and testify what the fountain is whence they flow: according as our saviour Christ saith: the tree is known by the fruit, and a good man forth of the good treasure of his heart doth bring forth good works, & the evil man evil works. This doth James bid us, to shew our faith of our works, and saith, that Abraham did thus utter his faith by his works, and Rahab by her works, & were justified. Where we are compelled with all the godly learned to expound the word justified, declared to be just, or else we do make James contrary to himself, contrary to Moses, whose sentence he in the same place allegeth, contrary to Paul, and the whole course of Scriptures. And thus must all the general sentences of works be understood, that by these works wherein God will have us to walk, we are known to have his spirit, to be good trees, & so judged by our fruits: as is the good Apple tree by the Apples, not that the Apples make him good, but testify that he is good, and that it hath within itself a kindly power of good juice and nourishment. So we feeling the power of the spirit working in our hearts, godly motions, and so bringing forth good fruits of faith and good works, do confirm our Election & vocation, as Peter speaketh, to ourselves and others.
The second use of works is, that God in us by them may be glorified. Whereof our saviour Christ saith, Matt. 5, Let your light so shine before men, that they seeing your good works, may glorify your father which is in heaven. And this is the chief use of good works, the laud and glory of God, whereunto we were first created in the earthly Adam, and now are new restored by the heavenly Adam, Christ Jesus, to walk in good works, and to be holy, blameless, and without fault. And to this end, that God in them might be glorified, doth scripture commend unto us good works, and setteth forth the crown of glory to them that therein are exercised. So run that ye may obtain, saith the Apostle, labour for the crown incorruptible, 1 Cor. 9.
Now because these latter days are the times wherein our Saviour Christ did say, that faith should fail, and charity should wear cold, we that have so clear revelation of God's great mercies in Jesus Christ may give no occasion to the slothful flesh, either in ourselves or others: but after the example of the Scriptures, we must always exhort to good works, and to tame our bodies and bring them into subjection (as Paul saith) lest whiles we preach to others, we ourselves be found Reprobates, 1 Cor. 9. The which sentence is evil alleged of the adversaries of Election, as though Paul might have become a reprobate, or as if that he had not been certain of his salvation, but that it should hang of his well doings. For he saith first in the same sentence, I do run, not as at an uncertain thing, & so fight, not as one that beateth the air: but as he saith to the Romans, chapter 8, I am sure that neither death nor life, neither Angels, nor rule, neither power, neither things present, neither things to come, neither high, neither low, neither any other creature, shall be able to depart us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Likewise they allege forth of the second Chapter to the Philippians, that Paul willeth us to work our own salvation: but they do not consider that he straightways addeth, that it is God which worketh both the will and the work. And in the Chapter before, he saith, that it is God which hath begun the good work, and will finish it. So that such Scriptures may never be alleged for works against grace, for to set up our salvation of ourselves, which only cometh of mercy in the free Election, whereby we were chosen in Christ Jesus, and created anew in him, by his only spirit to bring forth good works.
Therefore doe wee conclude with Paule, Rom. 11, that wee are saued and iustified
freely by grace, not by works, for so grace werenograce, and that all are shutte up
under sinne, thatmercyemay be uppon
shewemercye. Andfor the considerati-
on of these greatemysteryesofElection
O the depth of the ryches of the wisdome
of God. How unsearchable are his iudge-
ments? & how incõprehensible his wayes?
For who hath giuen him first, & hee shall
be recompensed? For of him, & through
him, and for him are all things. To
him therefore be glorie,
for euer and euer.
So be it.
I will shewe mercie vpon whome I will
shewe mercie, and I will haue com-
passion vpon whom I wyll