HOMILY ON CHRISTIAN LOVE AND CHARITY
A SERMON OF CHRIstian loue and charity.
OF all things that be good to bee taught vnto Christian people, there is nothing more necessary to be spoken of, and dayly called vpon, then charity: aswell for that all maner of workes of righteousnesse bee contayned in it, as also that the decay thereof is the ruine or fall of the world, the banishment of vertue, and the cause of all vice. And for so much as almost euery man, maketh and frameth to himselfe charity after his own appetite, and how detestable soeuer his life bee, both vnto GOD and man, yet hee perswadeth himselfe still that he hath charity: therfore you shall heare now a true and plaine description or setting foorth of charity, not of mens imagination, but of the very wordes and example of our Sauiour Iesus Christ. In which description or setting foorth, euery man (as it were in a glasse) may consider himselfe, and see plainely without errour, whether hee bee in the true charity, or not.
What charitie is. The loue of God. Charity is, to loue GOD with all our heart, all our soule, and all our powers and strength. With all our heart: That is to say, that our heart, minde, and study be set to beleeue his word, to trust in him, and to loue him aboue all other things that wee loue best in heauen or in earth. With all our life: that is to say, that our chiefe ioy and delight be set vpon him and his honour, and our whole life giuen vnto the seruice of him aboue all things, with him to liue and die, and to forsake all other things, rather then him. For he that loueth his father or mother, sonne or daughter, house, or land, more then me (sayth Christ) is not woorthy to haue me (Matthew 10.37). With all our power, that is to say, that with our hands and feete, with our eyes and eares, our mouthes and tongues, and with all our parts and powers, both of body and soule, we should be giuen to the keeping and fulfilling of his commandements.
The loue of thy neighbor. This is the first and principall part of charity, but it is not the whole: for charity is also to loue euery man, good and euill, friend and foe, and whatsoeuer cause be giuen to the contrary, yet neuerthelesse to beare good will and heart vnto euery man, to vse our selues well vnto them, aswell in wordes and countenances, as in all our outward actes and deedes: for so Christ himselfe taught, and so also hee performed indeed. Of the loue of GOD hee taught in this wise vnto a doctour of the law, that asked him which was the great and chiefe commandement in the Law, Loue thy Lord GOD, (sayd Christ) with all thy heart, with all thy soule, and with all thy mind (Matthew 22.37). And of the loue, that wee ought to haue among our selues each to other, he teacheth vs thus, You haue heard it taught in times past, Thou shalt loue thy friend, and hate thy foe: But I tell you, Loue your enemies, speake well of them that defame and speake euill of you, doe well to them that hate you, pray for them that vexe and persecute you, that you may be the children of your father that is in heauen. For he maketh his Sunne to rise both vpon the euill and good, and sendeth raine to the iust and vniust. For if you loue them that loue you, what reward shall you haue? Doe not the Publicanes likewise? And if you speake well onely of them that be your brethren and deare beloued friends, what great matter is that? Doe not the Heathen the same also (Matthew 5.43-47)? These bee the very wordes of our Sauiour Christ himselfe, touching the loue of our neighbour. And forasmuch as the Pharisees (with their most pestilent traditions, and false interpretations, and glosses) had corrupted, and almost clearly stopped vp this pure Well of GODS liuely word, teaching that this loue and charity pertayned onely to a mans friends, and that it was sufficient for a man to loue them which doe loue him, and hate his foes: therefore Christ opened this Well againe, purged it and scoured it by giuing vnto his godly law of charitie, a true and cleare interpretation, which is this: that we ought to loue euery man, both friend and foe, adding thereto what commodity we shall haue therby, and what incommodity by doing the contrary. What thing can we wish so good for vs, as the eternall heauenly father, to reckon, and take vs for his children? And this shall we be sure of (sayth Christ) if we loue euery man without exception. And if we doe otherwise (sayth he) we be no better then the Pharisees, Publicanes, and Heathen, and shall haue our reward with them, that is, to be shut out from the number of GOD'S chosen children, and from his euerlasting inheritance in heauen.
Thus of true charitie, Christ taught that euery man is bound to loue GOD aboue all things, and to loue euery man, friend and foe. And this likewise hee did vse himselfe, exhorting his aduersaries, rebuking the faults of his aduersaries, and when hee could not amend them, yet hee prayed for them. First hee loued GOD his Father aboue all things, so much that hee sought not his owne glorie and will, but the glorie and will of his Father. I seeke not (sayd hee) mine owne will, but the will of him that sent mee (John 5.30). Nor hee refused not to die, to satisfie his Fathers will, saying, If it may bee, let this cuppe of death passe from mee: if not, thy will bee done, and not mine (Matthew 26.39, 42). Hee loued not onely his friends, but also his enemies, which (in their heartes) bare exceeding great hatred against him, and with their tongues spake all euill of him, and in their actes and deedes pursued him with all their might and power, euen vnto death, yet all this notwithstanding, hee withdrew not his fauour from them, but still loued them, preached vnto them in loue, rebuked their false doctrine, their wicked liuing, and did good vnto them, patiently taking whatsoeuer they spake or did against him. When they gaue him euill wordes, hee gaue none euill againe. When they did strike him, hee did not smite him againe: and when hee suffred death, hee did not slay them, nor threaten them, but prayed for them, and did put all things to his fathers will. And as a sheepe that is lead vnto the shambles to be slaine, and as a lambe that is shorne of his fleece, maketh no noyse nor resistance, euen so hee went to his death, without any repugnance, or opening of his mouth to say any euill. Thus haue I set foorth vnto you what charity is, aswell by the doctrine, as by the examples of Christ himselfe, whereby also euery man may without errour know himselfe, what state and condition hee standeth in, whether he bee in charity, (and so the child of the father in heauen) or not. For although almost euery man perswadeth himselfe to be in charity, yet let him examine none other man, but his owne heart, his life and conuersation, and he shall not be deceiued, but truely discerne and iudge whether hee bee in perfect charity or not. For hee that followeth not his owne appetite and will, but giueth himselfe earnestly to GOD, to doe all his will and commandements, hee may bee sure that hee loueth GOD aboue all things, and else surely hee loueth him not, whatsoeuer hee pretend: as Christ sayd, If yee loue mee, keepe my commandements. For hee that knoweth my commandements, and keepeth them, he it is (sayth Christ) that loueth mee (John 14.15, 21). And againe he sayth, Hee that loueth me, will keepe my word, and my Father will loue him, and we will both come to him, and dwell with him: and hee that loueth mee not, will not keepe my words. And likewise hee that beareth a good heart and minde, and vseth well his tongue and deeds vnto euery man, friend and foe, he may know thereby that he hath charitie. And when hee is sure that Almighty GOD taketh him for his deare beloued sonne, as S. Iohn sayth, Heereby manifestly are knowne the children of GOD, from the children of the Diuell: for whosoeuer doeth not loue his brother, belongeth not vnto GOD (1 John 3.10).
THE SECOND PART OF THE SERMON OF CHARITIE.
YOU haue heard a plaine and a fruitfull setting foorth of charity, and how profitable and necessary a thing charitie is: how charitie stretcheth it selfe both to GOD and man, friend and foe, and that by the doctrine and example of Christ: and also who may certifie himselfe whether he be in perfect charity, or not. Now as concerning the same matter, it followeth.
Against carnall men that will not forgiue their enemies. The peruerse nature of man, corrupt with sinne, and destitute of GOD'S word and grace, thinketh it against all reason, that a man should loue his enemie, and hath many perswasions which bring him to the contrary. Against all which reasons, wee ought aswell to set the teaching, as the liuing of our Sauiour Christ, who louing vs (when we were his enemies) doeth teach vs to loue our enemies. He did patiently take for vs many reproches, suffered beating, and most cruell death. Therefore wee be no members of him, if we will not follow him. Christ (saith S. Peter) suffered for vs, leauing an example that we should follow him (1 Peter 2.21).
Furthermore, wee must consider, that to loue our friends, is no more but that which theeues, adulterers, homicides, and all wicked persons doe: in so much that Iewes, Turkes, Infidels, and all bruite beasts, doe loue them that be their friends, of whom they haue their liuing, or any other benefites. But to loue enemies, is the proper condition of them that bee the children of GOD, the disciples and followers of Christ. Notwithstanding, mans froward and corrupt nature weigheth ouer deepely many times, the offence and displeasure done vnto him by enemies, and thinketh it a burden intolerable, to bee bound to loue them that hate him. But the burden should be easie ynough, if (on the other side) euery man would consider, what displeasure hee hath done to his enemie againe, and what pleasure hee hath receiued of his enemie. And if we finde no equall or euen recompence, neither in receiuing pleasures of our enemie, nor in requiting displeasures vnto him againe: then let vs ponder the displeasures which we haue done vnto Almightie GOD, how often and how grieuously wee haue offended him, whereof if wee will haue of GOD forgiuenesse, there is none other remedy, but to forgiue the offences done vnto vs, which be very small, in comparison of our offences done against GOD. And if we consider that he which hath offended vs, deserueth not to bee forgiuen of vs, let vs consider againe, that we much lesse deserue to bee forgiuen of GOD. And although our enemie deserue not to be forgiuen for his owne sake, yet we ought to forgiue him for GOD'S loue, considering how great and many benefits we haue receiued of him, without our desertes, and that Christ hath deserued of vs, that for his sake wee should forgiue them their trespasses committed against vs.
A question. But heere may rise a necessary question to bee dissolued. If charitie require to thinke, speake, and doe well vnto euery man, both good and euill: how can Magistrates execute iustice vpon malefactors or euill doers with charitie? How can they cast euill men in prison, take away their goods, and sometime their liues, according to lawes, if charitie will not suffer them so to doe?
Answere. Hereunto is a plaine and a briefe answer, that plagues and punishments be not euill of themselues, if they be well taken of the harmelesse. And to an euill man they are both good and necessarie, and may bee executed according to charity, and with charitie should be executed.
Charity hath two offices. For declaration whereof, you shall vnderstand that charitie hath two offices, the one contrary to the other, and yet both necessary to bee vsed vpon men of contrary sort and disposition. The one office of charitie is, to cherish good and harmelesse men, not to oppresse them with false accusations, but to encourage them with rewards to doe well, and to continue in well doing, defending them with the sword from their aduersaries: as the office of Bishopes and Pastours is, to praise good men for well doing, that they may continue therein, and to rebuke and correct by the word of GOD, the offences and crimes of all euill disposed persons. The other office of charity is, to rebuke, correct, and punish vice, without regard of persons, and is to be vsed against them onely that be euill men, and malefactours or euill doers. And that it is aswell the office of charitie to rebuke, punish, and correct them that bee euill, as it is to cherish and reward them that bee good and harmelesse. S. Paul declareth (writing to the Romans ) saying, That the high powers are ordeined of GOD, not to be dreadfull to them that doe well, but vnto malefactors, to draw the sword to take vengeance of him that committeth the sinne (Romans 13.1, 4). And S. Paul biddeth Timothy stoutly and earnestly to rebuke sinne by the word of GOD (1 Timothy 5.20). So that both offices should be diligently executed, to fight against the kingdome of the Diuell, the Preacher with the word, and the Gouernours with the sword. Else they neither loue GOD, nor them whom they gouerne, if (for lacke of correction) they wilfully suffer GOD to be offended, and them whom they gouerne, to perish. For as euery louing father correcteth his naturall sonne when he doeth amisse, or else he loueth him not: so all gouernours of Realmes, Countreys, Townes, and Houses, should louingly correct them which bee offendours, vnder their gouernance, and cherish them which liue innocently, if they haue any respect either vnto GOD and their office, or loue vnto them of whom they haue gouernance. And such rebukes and punishments of them that offend, must be done in due time, lest by delay, the offenders fall headlong into all manner of mischiefe, and not onely be euill themselues, but also doe hurt vnto many men, drawing other by their euill example, to sinne and outrage after them. As one theefe may both robbe many men, and also make many theeues: and one seditious person may allure many, and annoye a whole Towne or Countrie. And such euill persons that bee so great offenders to GOD, and the common weale, charitie requireth to bee cut from the body of the common weale, least they corrupt other good and honest persons: like as a good Surgion cutteth away a rotten and festered member, for loue he hath to the whole body, lest it infect other members adioyning vnto it. Thus it is declared vnto you what true charitie or Christian loue is, so plainely, that no man neede to be deceiued. Which loue, whosoeuer keepeth, not onely towards GOD (whom he is bound to loue aboue all things) but also toward his neighbour, as well friend as foe, it shall surely keepe him from all offence of GOD, and iust offence of man. Therefore bears well away this one short lesson, that by true Christian charitie, GOD ought to be loued, good, and euill, friend, and foe, and to all such, wee ought (as wee may) to doe good: those that be good, of loue to encourage and cherish, because they be good: and those that be euill, of loue to procure and seeke their correction and due punishment, that they may thereby either bee brought to goodnesse, or at the least that GOD and the common wealth may be lesse hurt and offended. And if we thus direct our life, by Christian loue and charitie, then Christ doeth promise and assure vs that hee loueth vs, that we be the children of our heauenly Father, reconciled to his fauour, very members of Christ, and that after this short time of this present and mortall life, wee shall haue with him euerlasting life in his euerlasting kingdome of heauen. Therefore to him with the Father and the holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, now and for euer. Amen.
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