The Death and Passion of Our Saviour Jesus Christ
It should not become us (well-beloved in Christ) being that people which he redeemed from the Devil, from sin and death, and from everlasting damnation, by Christ, to suffer this time to pass forth without any meditation, and remembrance of that excellent work of our redemption, wrought as about this time, through the great mercy and charity of our Saviour Jesus Christ, for us wretched sinners, and his mortal enemies. For if a mortal mans deed, done to the behoof of the commonwealth, be had in remembrance of us, with thanks for the benefit and profit which we receive thereby: how much more readily should we have in memory this excellent act and benefit of Christ’s death? Whereby he hath purchased for us the undoubted pardon and forgiveness of our sins, whereby he made at one the Father of heaven with us, in such wise, that he taketh us now for his loving children, and for the true inheritors, with Christ his natural son, of the kingdom of heaven? And verily so much more doeth Christ’s kindness appear unto us, in that it pleased him to deliver himself of all his goodly honour, which he was equally in with his Father in heaven, and to come down into this vale of misery, to be made mortal man, and to be in the state of a most low servant, serving us for our wealth and profit, us, I say, which were his sworn enemies, which had renounced his holy Law and Commandments, and followed the lusts and sinful pleasures of our corrupt nature. And yet, I say, did Christ put himself between GODS deserved wrath, and our sin, and rent that obligation wherein we were in danger to GOD, and paid our debt (Colossians 2.14). Our debt was a great deal too great for us to have paid. And without payment, GOD the Father could never be at one with us. Neither was it possible to be loosed from this debt by our own ability. It pleased him therefore to be the payer thereof, and to discharge us quite.
Who can now consider the grievous debt of sin, which could none otherwise be paid but by the death of an innocent, and will not hate sin in his heart? If GOD hateth sin so much, that he would allow neither man nor Angel for the redemption thereof, but only the death of his only and well-beloved Son: who will not stand in fear thereof? If we (my friends) consider this, that for our sins this most innocent Lamb was driven to death, we shall have much more cause to bewail ourselves that we were the cause of his death, then to cry out of the malice and cruelty of the Jews, which pursued him to his death. We did the deeds wherefore he was thus stricken and wounded, they were only the ministers of our wickedness. It is meet then we should steppe low down into our hearts, and bewail our own wretchedness and sinful living. Let us know for a certainty, that if the most dearly beloved Son of GOD was thus punished and stricken for the sin which he had not done himself: how much more ought we sore to be stricken for our daily and manifold sins which we commit against GOD, if we earnestly repent us not, and be not sorry for them? No man can love sin, which GOD hateth so much, and be in his favour. No man can say that he loveth Christ truly, and have his great enemy (sin I mean, the author of his death) familiar and in friendship with him. So much do we love GOD and Christ, as we hate sin. We ought therefore to take great heed, that we be not favourers thereof, lest we be found enemies to GOD, and traitors to Christ. For not only they which nailed Christ upon the cross, are his tormentors and crucifiers: but all they (saith Saint Paul) crucify again the Son of GOD (Hebrews 6.6), as much as is in them, who do commit vice and sin, which brought him to his death. If the wages of sin be death, and death everlasting (Romans 6.23): surely it is no small danger to be in service thereof. If we live after the flesh, and after the sinful lusts thereof, Saint Paul threateneth, yea Almighty GOD in Saint Paul threateneth, that we shall surely die (Romans 8.13). We can none otherwise live to GOD, but by dying to sin. If Christ be in us, then is sin dead in us: and if the spirit of GOD be in us, which raised Christ from death to life, so shall the same spirit raise us to the resurrection of everlasting life (Romans 8.10-11). But if sin rule and reign in us, then is GOD, which is the fountain of all grace and virtue, departed from us: then hath the Devil, and his ungracious spirit, rule and dominion in us (Romans 1). And surely if in such miserable state we die, we shall not rise to life, but fall down to death and damnation, and that without end.
Christ hath not redeemed us from sin, that we should live in sin.
For Christ hath not so redeemed us from sin, that we may safely return thereto again: but he hath redeemed us, that we should forsake the motions thereof, and live to righteousness. Yea, we be therefore washed in our Baptism from the filthiness of sin, that we should live afterward in the pureness of life. In Baptism we promised to renounce the devil and his suggestions, we promised to be (as obedient children) always following GODS will and pleasure. Then if he be our Father indeed, let us give him his due honour. If we be his children, let us show him our obedience, like as Christ openly declared his obedience to his Father, which (as Saint Paul writeth) was obedient even to the very death, the death of the Cross (Philippians 2.8). And this he did for us all that believe in him. For himself he was not punished, for he was pure, and undefiled of all manner of sin. He was wounded (saith Isaiah) for our wickedness, and stripped for our sins (Isaiah 53.4): he suffered the penalty of them himself, to deliver us from danger: he bare (saith Isaiah) all our sores and infirmities upon his own back. No pain did he refuse to suffer in his own body, that he might deliver us from pain everlasting. His pleasure it was thus to do for us, we deserved it not. Wherefore the more we see ourselves bound unto him, the more he ought to be thanked of us, yea, and the more hope may we take, that we shall receive all other good things of his hand, in that we have received the gift of his only Son, through his liberality. For if GOD (saith Saint Paul) hath not spared his own Son from pain and punishment, but delivered him for us all unto the death: how should he not give us all other things with him (Romans 8.32)? If we want any thing, either for body or soul, we may lawfully and boldly approach to GOD, as to our merciful Father, to ask that we desire, and we shall obtain it. For such power is given to us, to be the children of GOD, so many as believe in Christ’s Name (John 1.12). In his Name whatsoever we ask, we shall have it granted us (Matthew 21.22). For so well pleased is the Father almighty GOD, with Christ his Son, that for his sake he favoureth us, and will deny us nothing. So pleasant was this sacrifice and oblation of his Son’s death, which he so obediently and innocently suffered, that we should take it for the only and full amends for all the sins of the world. And such favour did he purchase by his death, of his heavenly Father for us, that for the merit thereof (if we be true Christians indeed, and not in word only) we be now fully in GODS grace again, and clearly discharged from our sin. No tongue surely is able to express the worthiness of this so precious a death. For in this standeth the continual pardon of our daily offences, in this resteth our justification, in this we be allowed, in this is purchased the everlasting health of all our souls. Yea, there is none other thing that can be named under heaven to save our souls, but this only work of Christ’s precious offering of his body upon the altar of the cross (Acts 4.12). Certes there can be no work of any mortal man (be he never so holy) that shall be coupled in merits with Christ’s most holy act. For no doubt, all our thoughts and deeds were of no value, if they were not allowed in the merits of Christ’s death. All our righteousness is far unperfect, if it be compared with Christ’s righteousness. For in his acts and deeds, there was no spot of sin, or of any unperfectness.
Our deeds be full of imperfection.
And for this cause they were the more able to be the true amends of our righteousness, where our acts and deeds be full of imperfection, and infirmities, and therefore nothing worthy of themselves to stir GOD to any favour, much less to challenge that glory that is due to Christ’s act and merit. For not to us (saith Dauid) not to us, but to thy Name giue the glory, O Lord (Psalms 115.1). Let us therefore (good friends) with all reverence glorify his Name, let us magnify and praise him for ever. For he hath dealt with us according to his great mercy, by himself hath he purchased our redemption (Hebrews 1.3). He thought it not enough to spare himself, and to send his Angel to do this deed, but he would do it himself, that he might do it the better, and make it the more perfect redemption. He was nothing moved with the intolerable pains that he suffered in the whole course of his long passion, to repent him thus to do good to his enemies: but he opened his hart for us, and bestowed himself wholly for the ransoming of us. Let us therefore now open our hearts again to him, and study in our lives to be thankful to such a Lord, and evermore to be mindful of so great a benefice, yea let us take up our cross with Christ, and follow him. His passion is not only the ransom and whole amends for our sin, but it is also a most perfect example of all patience and sufferance. For if it behooved Christ thus to suffer, and to enter into the glory of his Father (Acts 17.3): why should it not become us to bear patiently our small crosses of adversity, and the troubles of this world? For surely (as saith St. Peter) Christ therefore suffered, to leave us an example to follow his steps (1 Peter 2.21). And if we suffer with him, we shall be sure also to reign with him in heaven (2 Timothy 2.12). Not that the sufferance of this transitory life should be worthy of that glory to come (Romans 8.18), but gladly should we be contented to suffer, to be like Christ in our life, that so by our workers we may glorify our Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5.16). And as it is painful and grievous to bear the Cross of Christ in the griefs and displeasures of this life: so it bringeth forth the joyful fruit of hope, in all them that be exercised therewith (Hebrews 12.11). Let us not so much behold the pain, as the reward that shall follow that labour (James 5.11). Nay, let us rather endeavor ourselves in our sufferance, to endure innocently and guiltless, as our Saviour Christ did. For if we suffer for our deservings, then hath not patience his perfect work in us: but if undeservedly we suffer loss of goods and life, if we suffer to be euill spoken of for the love of Christ, this is thankful afore GOD, for so did Christ suffer (1 Peter 2.20).
The patience of Christ.
He never did sin, neither was any guile found in his mouth. Yea when he was reviled with taunts, he reviled not again. When he was wrongfully dealt with, he threatened not again, nor revenged his quarrel, but delivered his cause to him that judgeth rightly.Perfect patience. Perfect patience careth not what nor how much it suffereth, nor of whom it suffereth, whether of friend or foe: but studieth to suffer innocently, and without deserving.
The meekness of Christ.
Yea, he in whom perfect charity is, careth so little to revenge, that he rather studieth to do good for evil, to bless and say well of them that curse him, to pray for them that pursue him (Matthew 5.44), according to the example of our Saviour Christ, who is the most perfect example & pattern of all meekness and sufferance, which hanging upon his Cross, in most fervent anguish bleeding in every part of his blessed Body, being set in the midst of his enemies and crucifiers: and he, notwithstanding the intolerable pains which they saw him in, being of them mocked and scorned despitefully without all favour and compassion, had yet towards them such compassion in heart, that he prayed to his Father of heaven for them, and said, O Father, forgive them, for they wot not what they do (Luke 23.34). What patience was it also which he showed, when one of his own Apostles and Servants which was put in trust of him, came to betray him unto his enemies to the death? He said nothing worse to him, but, Friend, wherefore art thou come (Matthew 26.50)? Thus (good people) should we call to mind the great examples of charity which Christ showed in his passion, if we will fruitfully remember his passion. Such charity and love should we bear one to an other, if we will be the true Servants of Christ. For if we love but them, which love and say well by us, what great thing is it that we do saith Christ? Do not the Paynims and open sinners so (Matthew 5.46-47)? We must be more perfect in our charity then thus, even as our Father in heaven is perfect, which maketh the light of his sun to rise upon the good and the bad, and sendeth his rain upon the kind and unkind. After this manner should we show our charity indifferently, as well to one as to another as well to friend, as foe, like obedient children, after the example of our Father in heaven. For if Christ was obedient to his Father even to the death, and that the most shameful death (as the Jews esteemed it) the death of the Cross: Why should we not be obedient to GOD in lower points of charity and patience? Let us forgive then our neighbors their small faults, as GOD for Christ’s sake hath forgiven us our great (Sirach 28.2).
It is not meet that we should crave forgiveness of our great offences at God’s hands, and yet will not forgive the small trespasses of our neighbours against us. We do call for mercy in vain, if we will not show mercy to our neighbours (Matthew 18.35). For if we will not put wrath and displeasure forth of our hearts to our Christian brother, no more will GOD forgive the displeasure and wrath that our sins have deserved afore him. For under this condition doeth GOD forgive us, if we forgive other. It becometh not Christian men to be hard one to another, nor yet to think their neighbour unworthy to be forgiven. For howsoever unworthy he is, yet is Christ worthy to have thee do thus much for his sack, he hath deserved it of thee, that thou shouldest forgive thy neighbour. And GOD is also to be obeyed, which commandeth us to forgive, if we will have any part of the pardon which our Saviour Christ purchased once of GOD the Father, by shedding of his precious blood. Nothing becometh Christ’s servants so much, as mercy and compassion.
Let us then be favourable one to another, and pray we one for another, that we may be healed from all frailties of our life (James 5.16), the less to offend one the other, and that we may be of one mind and one spirit, agreeing together in brotherly love and concord, even like the dear children of GOD (Ephesians 5.1-2). By these means shall we move GOD to be merciful unto our sins, yea, and we shall be hereby the more ready to receive our Saviour and maker in his blessed Sacrament, to our everlasting comfort, and health of soul. Christ delighteth to enter and dwell in that soul where love and charity ruleth, and where peace & concord is seen. For thus writeth St. John, GOD is charity, he that abideth in charity, abideth in GOD, and GOD in him (1 John 4.16). And by this (saith he) we shall know that we be of GOD, if we love our brethren. Yea, & by this shall we know, that we be delivered from death to life, if we love one another. But he which hateth his brother (saith the same Apostle) abideth in death, even in the danger of everlasting death, and is moreover the childe of damnation and of the Devil, cursed of GOD, and hated (so long as he so remaineth) of GOD and all his heavenly company (1 John 2.11). For as peace and charity make us the blessed children of Almighty GOD: so doth hatred and envy make us the cursed children of the Devil.
GOD give us all grace to follow Christ’s examples in peace and in charity, in patience and sufferance, that we now may have him our guest to enter and dwell within us, so as we may be in full surety, having such a pledge of our salvation. If we have him and his favour, we may be sure that we have the favour of GOD by his means. For he sitteth on the right hand of GOD his Father, as our proctor and attorney, pleading and suing for us in all our needs and necessities (Romans 8.34). Wherefore, if we want any gift of godly wisdom, we may ask it of GOD for Christ’s sake, and we shall have it.
Let us consider and examine ourselves, in what want we be concerning this virtue of charity and patience. If we see that our hearts be nothing inclined thereunto, in forgiving them that have offended against us, then let us knowledge our want, and wish to GOD to have it. But if we want it, and see in ourselves no desire thereunto, verily we be in a dangerous case before GOD, and have need to make much earnest prayer to GOD, that we may have such an heart changed, to the grafting in of a new. For unless we forgive other, we shall never be forgiven of GOD. No, not all the prayers and good works of other, can pacify GOD unto us, unless we be at peace, and at one with our neighbour. Nor all our deeds and good works can move GOD to forgive us our debts to him, except we forgive to other. He setteth more by mercy, then by sacrifice. Mercy moved our Saviour Christ to suffer for his enemies: it becommeth us then to follow his example. For it shall little avail us to have in meditation the fruits and price of his passion, to magnify them, and to delight or trust in them, except we have in mind his examples in passion to follow them. If we thus therefore consider Christ’s death, and will stick thereto with fast faith for the merit and deserving thereof, and will also frame ourselves in such wise to bestow ourselves, and all that we have by charity, to the behoof of our neighbour, as Christ spent himself wholly for our profit, then do we truly remember Christ’s death: and being thus followers of Christ’s steps, we shall be sure to follow him thither where he sitteth now with the Father and the holy Ghost, to whom be all honour and glory, Amen.