9. Let any man have then what he will, let him boast himself of what he will. “If I speak with the tongues of men and of Angels, but, have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” What is more sublime than the gift of divers tongues? It is “brass,” it is “a tinkling cymbal,” if thou take charity away. Hear other gifts; “If I should know all mysteries.”31 What more excellent? what more magnificent? Hear yet another; “if I should have all prophecy, and all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not charity, I am nothing.”32 He comes to still greater things, Brethren. What else has he said? “If I should distribute all my goods to the poor.” What more perfect thing can be done? When indeed the Lord commanded the rich man this for perfection’s sake, saying, “If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor.”33 Was he then at once perfect, because he sold all his goods and gave them to the poor? No; and therefore He added, “And come, follow Me.” “Sell all,” saith He, “give to the poor, and come, follow Me.” “Why should I follow Thee? Now that I have sold all, and distributed to the poor, am I not perfect? What need is there that I should follow Thee?“Follow Me,” that thou mayest learn that “I am meek and lowly in heart.” For what? can any man sell all he hath, and give to the poor, who is not yet meek, not yet lowly in heart? Assuredly he can. “For if I should distribute all my goods to the poor.” And hear still further. For some, who had left all the hid and had already followed the Lord, but not yet followed Him perfectly (for to follow Him perfectly is to imitate Him), could not bear the trial of suffering. Peter, Brethren, was already one of those who had left all and followed the Lord. For as that rich man went away in sadness, when the disciples bring troubled, asked how then any one could be perfect, and the Lord consoled them, they said to the Lord, “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?”34 And the Lord told them what He would give them here, what He would reserve for them hereafter. Now Peter was already of the number of those who had so done. But when it came to the crisis35 of suffering, at the voice of a maid-servant he denied Him thrice with whom he had promised that he was ready to die.
10. Take good heed then, Beloved: “Go,” saith He, “sell all that thou hast, give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me.” Peter is perfect, now that the Lord sitteth in heaven at the right Hand of the Father, then did he attain perfection and maturity. For when he followed the Lord to His Passion, he was not perfect; but when there began to be no one on earth for him to follow, then was he perfected. But thou truly hast always One before thee to follow; the Lord hath set up an example on earth, when He left the Gospel with thee, in the Gospel He is with thee. For He did not speak falsely when He said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”36 Therefore follow the Lord. What is, “Follow the Lord”? Imitate the Lord. What is, “Imitate the Lord”? “Learn of Me, that I am meek and lowly in heart.” Because if I should distribute all my goods to the poor, and give up my body to be burned, but not have charity, it profiteth me nothing. To this charity then I exhort your Charity; now I should not exhort to charity, but with some charity. I exhort then that what is commenced may be filled up; and pray that what is begun may be perfected. And I beg that ye would offer this prayer for me, that what I advise may be perfected in me also. For we are all now imperfect, and there shall we be perfected, where all things are perfect. The Apostle Paul says, “Brethren, I do not reckon myself to have apprehended.”37 He says, “Not that I have already attained, either am already perfect.”38 And shall any man dare to vaunt himself on perfection? Yea rather let us acknowledge our imperfection, that we may attain39 perfection.
Sermon XCIII. [CXLIII. Ben.]
On the words of the gospel, John xvi. 7, “I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away,” etc.
1. The medicine for all the wounds of the soul, and the one propitiation for the offences of men, is to believe on Christ; nor can any one be cleansed at all, whether from original sin which he derived from Adam,1 in whom all men have sinned, and become by nature children of wrath; or from the sins which they have themselves added, by not resisting the concupiscence of the flesh, but by following and serving it in unclean and injurious deeds: unless by faith they are united and compacted into His Body, who was conceived without any enticement of the flesh and deadly pleasure, and whom His Mother nourished in her womb without sin, and “Who did no sin, neither was deceit found in His Mouth”2 They verily who believe on Him, become the children of God; because they are born of God by the grace of adoption, which is by the faith of Jesus Christ our Lord. Wherefore, dearly Beloved, it is with good reason that the same Lord and our Saviour mentions this one sin only, of which the Holy Ghost convinces the world, that it believeth not on Him. “I tell you the truth,” He saith, “It is expedient for you that I go away. For if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. And when He shall come, He will convince the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Of sin, because they believe not on Me. Of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye shall see Me no more. Of judgment, because the prince of this world is already judged.”3
2. Of this one only sin then He would have the world to be convinced, that they believe not on Him; to wit, because by believing on Him all sins are loosed, He would have this one imputed by which the rest are bound. And because by believing they are born of God, and become children of God; “For,” saith he, “to them gave He power to become the sons of God, to them that believe on Him.”4 Whoso then believeth on the Son of God, in so far as he adhereth to Him, and becometh himself also by adoption a son and heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ, in so far he sinneth not. Whence John saith, “Whosoever is born of God sinneth not.”5 And therefore the sin of which the world is convinced is this, that they believe not on Him. This is the sin of which He also saith, “If I had not come, they had not had sin.”6 For what! had they not innumerable other sins? But by His coming this one sin was added to them that believed not, by which the rest should be retained. Whereas in them that believe, because this one was wanting, it was brought to pass that all should be remitted to them that believe. Nor is it with any other view that the Apostle Paul saith, “All have sinned, and have need of the glory of God;7 that “whosoever believeth on Him, should not be confounded; “8 as the Psalm also saith “Come e unto Him, and be enlightened, and your faces shall not be confounded.”9 Whoso then glorieth in himself shall be confounded; for he shall not be found without sins. Accordingly he only shall not be confounded who glorieth in the Lord. “For all have sinned, and have need of the glory of God.” And so when he was speaking of the infidelity of the Jews, he did not say, “For if some of them have sinned, shall their sin make the faith of God of none effect?” For how should he say, “If some of them have sinned;” when he said himself, “For all have sinned “? But he said, “If some of them believed not, shall their unbelief make the faith of God of none effect?”10 That he might point out more expressly this sin, by which alone the door is closed against the rest that they by the grace of God should not be remitted. Of which one sin by the coming of the Holy Ghost, that is by the gift of His grace, which is granted to the faithful, the world is convinced, in the Lord’s words, “Of sin, because they believed not on Me.”
3. Now there would be no great merit and glorious blessedness in believing, if the Lord had always appeared in His Risen Body to the eyes of men. The Holy Ghost then hath brought this great gift to them that should believe, that Him whom they should not see with the eyes of flesh, they might with a mind sobered from carnal desires, and inebriated with spiritual longings, sigh after. Whence it was that when that disciple who had said that he would not believe, unless he touched with the hands His Scars, after he had handled the Lord’s Body, cried out as though awaking from sleep, “My Lord and my God;” the Lord said to him, “Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”11 This blessedness hath the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, brought to us, that the form of a servant which He took from the Virgin’s womb, being removed from the eyes of flesh, the purified eye of the mind might be directed to This Form of God, in which He continued equal with the Father, even when He vouchsafed to appear in the Flesh; so as that with the Same Spirit filled the Apostle might say, “Though we have known Christ after the flesh; yet now we know Him so no longer.”12 Because even the Flesh of Christ he knew not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, who, not by touching in curiosity, but in believing assured, acknowledgeth the power of His Resurrection; not saying in his heart, “Who hath ascended into heaven? that is, to bring Christ down; or, Who hath descended into the deep? that is, to bring back Christ from the dead.” “But,” saith he, “the word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, that Jesus is the Lord; and if thou; shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”13 These, Brethren, are the words of the Apostle, pouring them forth with the holy inebriation of the Holy Ghost Himself.
4. Forasmuch then as we could in no way have had this blessedness by which we see not and yet believe, unless we received it of the Holy Ghost; it is with good reason said, “It is expedient for you that I go away. For if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.”14 By His Divinity indeed He is with us always; but unless He had in Body gone away from us, we had always seen His Body after the flesh. and never believed after a spiritual sort; by the which belief justified and blessed we might attain15 with cleansed hearts to contemplate the Very Word, God with God, “by whom all things were made,” and “who was made Flesh, that He might dwellamong us.” And if not with the contact of the hand, but “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness;” with good reason is the world, which will not believe save what it sees, convinced of our righteousness. Now that we might have that righteousness of faith of which the unbelieving world should be convinced, therefore said the Lord, “Of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye shall see Me no more.” As if He had said, “This shall be your righteousness, that ye believe on Me, the Mediator, of whom ye shall be most fully assured that He is risen again and gone to the Father, though ye see Him not after the Flesh; that by Him reconciled, ye may be able to see God after the Spirit.” Whence He saith to the woman who represents the Church, when she fell at His Feet after His Resurrection, “Touch Me not, for I am not yet ascended to the Father.”16 Which expression is understood mystically, thus. “Believe not in Me after a carnal manner by means of bodily contact; but thou shall believe after a spiritual manner; that is, with a spiritual faith shalt touch Me, when I shall have ascended to the Father.” For, “blessed are they who do not see, and believe.” And this is the righteousness of faith, of which the world, which hath it not, is convinced of us who are not without it; for “the just liveth by faith.”17 Whether it be then that as rising again in Him, and in Him coming to the Father, we are invisibly and in justification perfected; or that as not seeing and yet believing we live by faith, for that “the just liveth by faith;” with these meanings said He, “Of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye shall see Me no more.”
5. Nor let the world excuse itself by this, that it is hindered by the devil from believing on Christ. For to believers the prince of the world is cast out,18 that he work no more in the hearts of then whom Christ hath begun to possess by faith; as he worketh in the children of unbelief;19 whom he is constantly stirring up to tempt and disturb the righteous. For because he is cast out, who once had dominion interiorly he wageth war exteriorly. Although then by means of his persecutions, “the Lord doth direct the meek in judgment;”20 nevertheless in this very fact of his being cast out, is he “judged already.” And of this,” judgment” is the world convinced; for in vain doth he who will not believe on Christ complain of the devil whom, judged, that is, cast out, and for the exercising of us allowed to attack us from without, not only men, but even women, and boys, and girls, Martyrs have overcome. Now in whom have they overcome, but in Him on whom they have believed, and whom seeing not, they loved, and by whose dominion in their hearts they have got rid of a most oppressive21 lord. And all this by grace, by the gift, that is, of the Holy Ghost. Rightly then doth the Same Spirit convince the world, both of “sin,” because it believeth not on Christ; “and of righteousness,” because they who have had the will have believed, though Him on whom they believed they saw not; and by His Resurrection have hoped that themselves also should be in the resurrection perfected; “and of judgment,” because if they had had the will to believe, they could be hindered by none, “for that the prince of this world hath been judged already.”
Sermon XCIV. [CXLIV. Ben.]
On the same words of the gospel John xvi. 8, “He will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement.”
1. When our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was speaking at length of the coming of the Holy Ghost, He said among the rest, “He shall convince the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”1 Nor when He had said this, did He pass on to another subject; but vouchsafed to convey a somewhat more explicit notice of this same truth. “Of sin,” said He, “because they believed not on Me. Of righteousness, because I go to the Father. Of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged already.”2 There arises therefore within us a desire of understanding, why as if it were men’s only sin, not to believe on Christ, He said it of this alone, that the Holy Ghost should convince the world; but if it is plain that besides this unbelief there are manifold other sins of men, why of this alone should the Holy Ghost convince the world? Is it because all sins are by unbelief retained, by faith remitted; that therefore God imputeth this one above all the rest, by which it comes to pass that the rest are, not loosed, so long as proud man believes not in an Humbled God? For so it is written; “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”3 Now this grace of God is a gift of God. But the greatest gift is the Holy Ghost Himself; and therefore is it called grace. Forforasmuch “as all had sinned, and needed the glory of God; because by one man sin entered into the world, and death by his sin in whom all have sinned;”4 therefore is it grace because given gratuitously. And therefore is it given gratuitously, because it is not rendered as a reward alter a strict scrutiny of deserts, but given as a gift after the pardon of sins.
2. Therefore of sin are unbelievers, that is, the lovers of the world, convinced; for they are signified by the name of the world. For when it is said, “He will convince the world of sin;” it is of none other sin than that they have not believed on Christ. For if this sin exist not, no sins will remain, because when the just man lives by faith, all are loosed. Now the difference is great as to whether one believe that Jesus is Christ, or whether he believe on Christ. For that Jesus is Christ even the devils believed, and yet the devils believed not on Christ. For he believeth on Christ, who both hopeth in Christ and loveth Christ. For if he have faith without hope and love, he believeth that Christ is, but he doth not believe on Christ. Whoso then believeth on Christ, by believing on Christ, Christ cometh unto him, and in a manner uniteth Himself to him, and he is made a member in His Body. Which cannot be, but by the accession of hope and love.
3. What mean again His words, “Of righteousness, because I go to the Father “? And first must we enquire, if the world is convinced of sin, why it is also of righteousness? For who can rightly, be convinced of righteousness? Is it indeed that the world is convinced of its own sin, but of Christ’s righteousness? I do not see what else call be understood; since He saith, “Of sin, because they believed not on Me. Of righteousness, because I go to the Father.” They believed not, He goeth to the Father. Their sin therefore, and His righteousness. But why would He name righteousness in this only, that He goeth to the Father? Is it not righteousness also that He came hither from the Father? Or is that rather mercy, that He came from the Father to us, and righteousness, that He goeth to the Father?
4. So, Brethren, I think it expedient, that in so profound a depth of Scripture, in words, wherein peradventure there lies some hidden truth which may in due season be laid open, we should as it were together enquire faithfully, that we may attain5 to find healthfully. Why then doth He call this righteousness, in that He goeth to the Father, and not also in that He came from the Father? Is it that in that it is mercy that He came, therefore it is righteousness that He goeth? that so in our own case too we may learn that righteousness cannot be fulfilled in us, if we are slow to give a place first6 to mercy, “not seeking our own things, but the things of others also.” Which advice when the Apostle had given, he immediately joined to it the example of our Lord Himself; “Doing nothing,” saith he, “through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind, each esteeming the other better than themselves. Not looking every man on his own things, but also on the things of others.” Then he added immediately, “Let this mind be in each of you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the Form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and found in fashion as a man; He humbled Himself, having become obedient even unto death, yea the death of the cross.”7 This is the mercy whereby He came from the Father. What then is the righteousness whereby He goeth to the Father? He goes on and says; “Wherefore God also hath exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name; that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the Glory of God the Father.” This is the righteousness whereby He goeth to the Father.
5. But if He Alone goeth to the Father, what doth it profit us? Why is the world convinced by the Holy Ghost of this righteousness? And yet if He did not Alone go to the Father, He would not say in another place, “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He That descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven.”8 But the Apostle Paul also says, “For our conversation is in heaven.”9 And why is this? Because he also says, “If ye be risen with Christ, seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Mind the things which are above, not those which are upon the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”10 How then is He Alone? Is He therefore Alone because Christ with all His members is One, as the Head with His Body? Now what is His Body, but the Church? As the same teacher says, “Now ye are the Body of Christ, and members in particular.”11 Forasmuch then as we have fallen, and He descended for our sakes, what is, “No man hath ascended, but He That descended;” but that no man hath ascended, except as made one with Him, and as a member fastened into His Body who descended? And thus He saith to His disciples, “Without Me ye can do nothing.”12 For in one way is He One with the Father, and in another one with us. He is One with the Father, in that the Substance of the Father and the Son is One; He is One with the Father, in that, “Being in the Form of God, He thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” But He was made One with us, in that “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant;” He was made one with us, according to the seed of Abraham, “in whom all nations shall be blessed.” Which place when the Apostle had brought forward, he said, “He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy Seed, which is Christ.”13 And for that we too belong to that which is Christ, by our incorporation together, and coherence to That Head, It is One Christ. And also for that he says to us too, “Therefore are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.”14 For if the seed of Abraham be One, and That One Seed of Abraham can only be understood of Christ; but this seed of Abraham we also are; therefore This Whole, that is, the Head and the Body, is One Christ.
6. And therefore we ought not to deem ourselves separated from that righteousness, which the Lord Himself makes mention of, saying, “Of righteousness, because I go to the Father.” For we too have risen with Christ, and we are with Christ our Head, now for a while15 by faith and hope; but our hope will be completed in the last resurrection of the dead. But when our hope shall be completed, then shall our justification be completed also. And the Lord who was to complete it showed us in His Own Flesh (that is, in our Head), Wherein He rose again and ascended to the Father, what we ought to hope for. For that thus it is written, “He was delivered for our sins, and rose again for our justification.”16 The world then is convinced “of sin” in those who believe not on Christ; “and of righteousness,” in those who rise again in the members of Christ. Whence it is said, “That we may be the righteousness of God in him.”17 For if not in Him, in no way righteousness. But if in Him, He goeth with us Whole to the Father, and this perfect righteousness will be fulfilled in us. And therefore “of judgment” too is the world convinced, “because the prince of this world hath been judged already;” that is, the devil, the prince of the unrighteous, who in heart inhabit only in this world which they love, and therefore are called “the world;” as our conversation is in heaven, if we have risen again with Christ. Therefore as Christ together with us, that is His Body, is One; so the devil with all the ungodly whose head he is, with as it were his own body, is one. Wherefore as we are not separated from the righteousness, of which the Lord said, “Because I go to the Father;” so the ungodly are not separated from that judgment, of which He said, “Because the prince of this world hath been judged already.”
Sermon XCV. [CXLV. Ben.]
On the words of the gospel, John xvi. 24, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name;” and on the words of Luke x. 17, “Lord, even the demons are subject unto us in thy name.”
1. When the Holy Gospel was being read, we heard what in truth ought at once to pUt every earnest soul in motion to seek, not to faint. For whoso is not moved, is not changed. But there is a dangerous movement, of which it is written, “Suffer not my feet to be moved.”1 But there is another movement of him who seeketh, knocketh, asketh. What then has been read we have all heard; but I suppose we have not all understood. It makes mention of that which together with me ye should seek, with me ask, for the receiving of which ye should with me knock. For as I hope the grace of the Lord will be with us, that whereas I wish to minister to you, I too may be thought2 worthy to receive. What is it, I pray you, that we have just heard that the Lord said to His disciples? “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My Name.”3 Is He not speaking to those disciples, who, after He had sent them, having given them power to preach the Gospel, and to do mighty works, returned with joy, and said to Him, “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Thy Name”?4 Ye recognise, ye recollect this which I have quoted from the Gospel, which in every passage and every sentence speaketh truth, nowhere false, nowhere deceiveth. How then is it true, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My Name”? and, “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Thy name”? Of a surety this puts the mind in motion to ascertain the secret of this difficulty. Therefore ask we, seek, knock. Be there in us faithful godliness, not a restlessness of the flesh, but a submission of the mind, that He who seeth us knocking may open unto us.