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Chapter VI.

The Perfection And Salvation Of Men Depend On Union With Christ By Faith; But To This They Can Contribute Nothing, Whereas They Rather Interfere With The Grace Of God By Their Perverse Will; But Christ, And He Alone, Accomplishes The Work In Us.

Without me ye can do nothing.John 15:5.

As man by his apostasy from God, through ambition and self-love, was separated from him, and fell from the perfection in which he was created, so he must of necessity return to his original tranquillity and happiness, by a union with God; in which the whole of human perfection consists. It was therefore necessary, that the Son of God should become man, in order that human nature, being again united to God, might thereby be restored to its primitive integrity and perfection. As the divine and human natures are united in the one Person of Christ, so must we all, through grace, be united to him by faith, as to our eternal and sovereign Good. In this manner it pleased God to rectify the exceeding corruption of our nature by the abounding goodness of his grace. This union is declared by the Son of God himself: “I will betroth thee,” says he, “unto me for ever, in loving kindness and in mercies.” Hos. 2:19. For since our nature is infected and corrupted by sin, which is the greatest of evils, it could not be restored and healed but by God himself, the sovereign Good.

2. Now as the union of the divine and the human natures in Christ is eternal, and is never to be dissolved, insomuch that even death itself could not break asunder so sacred a bond: so Christ our Head is to be so firmly united with his faithful members, that neither life nor death may ever be able to separate them from him. This is also declared by the prophet Hosea, in the Person of Christ: “I will,” says he, “betroth thee unto me for ever.”

3. This union by faith, is of the highest necessity, because “our iniquities have separated between us and our God.” Isa. 59:2. And this deplorable state will continue to all eternity, unless Christ dwell in us here by faith. Moreover, we are not able to do the least good, unless Christ himself work it in us. Hence, says the apostle, “Not I, but the grace of God which is with me.” 1 Cor. 15:10. And the Lord himself says: “Without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5); the truth of which he illustrates by the beautiful parable of the vine and the branches. Whence it naturally follows, that if we are, or do, any good 183 at all, it is altogether to be ascribed to God alone; according to what is said by the prophet: “Thou hast wrought all our works in us” (Isa. 26:12); and by another: “I am like a green fir-tree. From me is thy fruit found.” Hos. 14:8.

4. O man! consider therefore, what thou art, and what thou canst do. What hast thou been able to contribute to thy restoration and the renovation of thy depraved nature? Surely nothing. As thou couldst not afford any help toward thy bodily birth, nor create thyself; so neither canst thou bring any assistance towards thy new birth or regeneration. Thou canst indeed lose, corrupt, and destroy thyself; but to renew, to restore, to heal, to justify, and to quicken thyself, is a work entirely beyond thy strength. Couldest thou contribute anything that God might become man? No. There is nothing therefore that thou canst arrogate to thyself, or ascribe to thy own ability. Indeed, the more a man attributes to his own will, strength, and ability, the more effectually does he obstruct divine grace, and the renewal of his corrupted nature. Let us therefore wholly renounce our own strength, our own wisdom, our own will, and self-love, that, being thus resigned to God alone, we may suffer his power freely to work in us, so that nothing may, in the least, oppose the will and operations of the Lord.

5. Until thou art brought to this, O Christian, that thy mind becomes merely passive, and that thou purely sufferest the operation and will of God, it is evident, that God is impeded by thee, so that he cannot unite himself with thy soul; or by true renovation of thy corrupt nature establish his image there. For our own will, self-love, ambition, the opinion of our own wisdom, and whatever we arrogantly claim to ourselves, are so many impediments, why God cannot freely operate in us, and effect his good will. For as a man's own will more and more corrupts and depraves him; so the will of God more and more perfects and restores him.

6. Hence, it was said by Bonaventura, that “the highest perfection of religion, consists in renouncing our own will.” And by Augustine, “If to love God is the greatest good to man, to love himself must needs be his greatest evil. And, if such is the nature of good, that it diffuses and communicates itself; of necessity self-love must be a great evil, since it engrosses to itself both its own and the goods of others, and will not part with any of them.” Of this even the pagan Seneca himself was not ignorant when he said: “That only is an accession to virtue, which is a denial of thy own will.” And again: “Unless thou departest from thyself, thou canst not approach God, who is above thee.”

7. Our own will is nothing else but a defection or apostasy from God. Defection verily is easy, smooth, and pleasant; but the recovery from it is bitter, troublesome, and difficult; yea, even beyond all the power of the creature. For man, by his own strength, can neither return, nor in any wise help himself, whether in will or deed. Man's will is captive, and his works are dead. Christ alone is able to help, in the beginning, the progress, and the end. He lays before us two means, the law and the gospel; or repentance and remission of sin. Through the law, in the first place, thou must die with Christ, and by true sorrow and brokenness of heart sacrifice thy own will. Thou must become as nothing 184 in thine own eyes, and resign thyself wholly to Christ. Then grace and forgiveness of sin are conferred through the gospel, and man, that was dead before, is made alive by faith. Whence it appears, that no man can by his own strength convert and quicken himself. For it is absolutely necessary that he hate, deny, and lose himself; that he be displeased with, and die unto, himself; and that his hope be placed entirely in God alone, by whose grace he expects to live.

8. But even this self-hatred, denial, and mortification, are not the effect of our own will and ability. “It is not,” says St. Paul, “of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” Rom. 9:16. It is God therefore alone who operates all this in us by his grace, and by the power of his good Spirit: so that our justification is not derived from any creature whatsoever, but from God alone, whose work and gift it is. For the most dangerous enemy any man has, is himself; insomuch that we have great reason to implore the Lord to deliver us from ourselves and all that we have by nature, and then to bestow that which flows from his grace. By our own strength we are not able to perform the least good, if God, himself, even after conversion, do not graciously operate in us. Who is there that can endue us with love and mercy, but God, who is love itself, and from whom all other graces proceed? Therefore, Christ alone is our help and support, when the help of men cannot avail. But after all, be the condition ever so low to which man has been brought by the fall of Adam, he is now raised again by Christ, and even exalted to a higher degree than he possessed before. But of this more shall be said in Chapter XI.

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