The Sermon of faith Part I
From The Homilies
The first coming unto God, good Christian people, is through faith, whereby, as it is declared in the last Sermon, we be justified before God. And lest any man should be deceived, for lack of right understanding thereof, it is diligently to be noted, that faith is taken in the Scripture two manner of ways.
There is one faith, which in Scripture is called a dead faith; which bringeth forth no good works, but is idle, barren, and unfruitful. And this faith, by the holy Apostle Saint James, is compared to the faith of devils; which believe God to be true and just, and tremble for fear, yet they do nothing well, but all evil. And such a manner of faith have the wicked and naughty Christian people; which confess God, as Saint Paul saith, in their mouths, but deny him in their deeds; being abominable, and without the right faith, and to all good works reprovable. And this faith is a persuasion and belief in man's heart, whereby he knoweth that there is a God, and agreeth unto all truth of Cod's most holy word, contained in Holy Scripture. So that it consisteth only in believing in the word of God, that it is true. And this is not properly called faith.
But as he that readeth Caesar's Commentaries, believing the same to be true, hath thereby a knowledge of Caesar's life and notable acts, because he believeth the history of Caesar, yet it is not property said, that he believeth in Caesar, of whom he looketh for no help nor benefit: Even so, he that believeth that all that is spoken of God in the Bible is true, and yet liveth so ungodlily, that he cannot look to enjoy the promises and benefits of God; although it may be said that such a man hath a faith and belief to the words of God; yet it is not properly said that he believeth in God, or hath such a faith and trust in God, whereby he may surely look for grace, mercy, and everlasting life at God's hand, but rather for indignation and punishment, according to the merits of his wicked life. For, as it is written in a book intituled to be of Didymus Alexandrinus, "Forasmuch as faith without works is dead, it is not now faith, as a dead man is not a man. This dead faith, therefore, is not that sure and substantial faith which saveth sinners.
Another faith there is in Scripture, which is not, as the foresaid faith, idle, unfruitful, and dead, but worketh by charity, as Saint Paul declareth, Galatians v.; which as the other vain faith is called a dead faith, so this may be called a quick or lively faith. And this is not only the common belief of the Articles of our faith; but it is also a true trust and confidence of the mercy of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and a steadfast hope of all good things to be received at God's hand: and that, although we, through infirmity, or temptation of our ghostly enemy, do fall from him by sin; yet, if we return again unto him by true repentance, that he will forgive and forget our offences for his Son's sake, our Saviour Jesus Christ, and will make us inheritors with him of his everlasting kingdom: and that in the mean time, until that kingdom come, he will be our protector and defender in all perils and dangers, whatsoever do change: and that, though sometime he doth send us sharp adversity, yet that evermore he will be a loving Father unto us; correcting us for our sin, but not withdrawing his mercy finally from us, if we trust in him, and commit ourselves wholly unto him, hang only upon him, and call upon him, ready to obey and serve him.
This is the true, lively, and unfeigned Christian faith, and is not in the mouth and outward profession only, but it liveth, and stirreth inwardly in the heart. And this faith is not without hope and trust in God; nor without the love of God and of our neighbours; nor without the fear of God; nor without the desire to hear God's word, and to follow the same in eschewing evil, and doing gladly all good works. This faith, as Saint Paul describeth it, is the sure ground and foundation of the benefits which we ought to look for, and trust to receive of God; a certificate and sure looking for them, although they yet sensibly appear not unto us. And after he saith, He that cometh to God must believe, both that he is, and that he is a merciful rewarder of well-doers. And nothing cornmendeth good men unto God so much as this assured faith and trust in him.
Of this faith three things are specially to be noted. First, that this faith doth not lie dead in the heart, but is lively and fruitful in bringing forth good works. Secondly, that without it can no good works be done, that shall be acceptable and pleasant to God: Thirdly, what manner of good works they be that this faith doth bring forth.
For the first. As the light cannot be hid, but will shew forth itself at one place or other; so a true faith cannot be kept secret, but when occasion is offered, it will break out and shew itself by good works. And as the living body of a man ever exerciseth such things as belong to a natural and living body, for nourishment and preservation of the same, as it hath need, opportunity, and occasion; even so the soul, that hath a lively faith in it, will be doing always some good work, which shall declare that it is living, and will not be unoccupied. Therefore, when men hear in the Scriptures so high commendations of faith, that it maketh us to please God, to live with God, and to be the children of God; if then they fancy that they be set at liberty from doing all good works, and may live as they list, they trifle with God, and deceive themselves. And it is a manifest token that they be far from having the true and lively faith, and also far from knowledge what true faith meaneth.
For the very sure and lively Christian faith is, not only to believe all things of God which are contained in Holy Scripture; but also is an earnest trust and confidence in God, that he doth regard us, and that he is careful over us, as the father is over the child whom he doth love; and that he will be merciful unto us for his only Son's sake; and that we have our Saviour Christ our perpetual Advocate, and Priest; in whose only merits, oblation, and suffering we do trust that our offences be continually washed and purged, whensoever we, repenting truly, do return to him with our whole heart, stedfastly determining with ourselves, through his grace, to obey and serve him in keeping his commandments, and never to turn back again to sin. Such is the true faith that the Scripture doth so much commend; the which, when it seeth and considereth what God hath done for us, is also moved, through continual assistance of the Spirit of God, to serve and please him, to keep his favour, to fear his displeasure, to continue his obedient children, shewing thankfulness again by observing or keeping his commandments; and that freely, for true love chiefly, and not for dread of punishment, or love of temporal reward; considering how clearly, without our deservings, we have received his mercy and pardon freely.
This true faith will shew forth itself, and cannot long be idle; for as it is written, The just man doth live by his faith. He neither sleepeth, nor is idle, when he should wake, and be well occupied. And Cod by his Prophet Jeremy saith, that he is a happy and blessed man, which hath faith and confidence in God. For he is like a tree set by the water-side, that spreadeth his roots abroad towards the moisture, and feareth not heat when it cometh; his leaf will be green, and will not cease to bring forth his fruit; even so, faithful men, putting away all fear of adversity, will shew forth the fruit of their good works, as occasion is offered to do them.