SERMONS ON SELECTED LESSONS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

SERMON LXXXV.

[CXXXV. BEN.]

ON THE WORDS OF THE GOSPEL, JOHN IX. 4 AND 31, " WE MUST WORK THE WORKS OF HIM THAT SENT ME," ETC. AGAINST THE ARIANS. AND OF THAT WHICH THE MAN WHO WAS BORN BLIND AND RECEIVED HIS SIGHT SAID, " WE KNOW THAT GOD HEARETH NOT SINNERS."

1. The Lord Jesus, as we heard when the Holy Gospel was being read, opened the eyes of a man who was born blind. Brethren, if we consider our hereditary punishment, the whole world is blind. And therefore came Christ the Enlightener, because the devil had been the Blinder. He made all men to be born blind, who seduced the first man. Let them run to the Enlightener, let them run, believe, receive the clay made of the spittle. The Word is as it were the spittle, the Flesh is the earth. Let them wash the face in the pool of Siloa. Now it was the Evangelist's place to explain to us what Siloa means, and he said, "which is by interpretation, Sent."[1] Who is This That is Sent, but He who in this very Lesson said, "I am come to do the works of. Him That sent Me."[2] Lo, Siloa, wash the face, be baptized, that ye may be enlightened, and that ye who before saw not, may see.

2. Lo, first open your eyes to that which is said; "I am come," saith He, "to do the works of Him That sent Me." Now here at once stands forth the Arian, and says, "Here you see that Christ did not His Own works, but the Father's who sent Him." Would he say this, if he saw, that is, if he had washed his face in Him who was sent, as it were in Siloa? What then dost thou say? "Lo," says he, "Himself said it." What said He? "I am come to do the works of Him That sent Me." Are they not then His Own? No. What then is that which the Siloa Himself saith, the Sent Himself, the Son Himself, the Only Son Himself, whom thou complainest of as degenerate? What is that He saith, "All things that the Father hath are Mine."[3] You say that He did the works of Another, in that tie said, "I must do the works of Him That sent Me." I say that the Father lead the things of another: I am speaking according to your[4] principles. Why would you object to me that Christ said, "I am come to do His works" as if," not Mine own but 'His That sent Me'"?

3. I ask Thee, O Lord Christ, resolve the difficulty, put an end to the contention. "All things," saith He, "that the Father hath are Mine." Are they then not the Father's, if they are Thine? For He doth not say, "All things that the Father hath He hath given unto Me;" although, if He bad said even this, He would have shown His equality. But the difficulty is that He said, "All things that the Father hath are Mine." If yon understand it aright, All things that the Father hath, are the Son's; all things that the Son hath, are the Father's. Hear Him in another place; "All Mine are Thine, and. Thine are Mine."[5] The question is finished, as to the things which the Father and the Son have: they have them with one consent, do not thou introduce[6] dissension. What He calleth the works of the Father, are His Own works; for, "Thine too are Mine," for He speaketh of the works of That Father, to whom He said, "All Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine." So then, My works are Thine, and Thy works are Mine. "For what things soever the Father doeth;"[7] Himself hath said, the Lord hath said, the Only-Begotten hath said, the Son hath said, the Truth hath said. What hath He said? "What things soever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son in like manner." Signal expression ! signal truth ! signal equality. "All things that the Father doeth, these doeth the Son also." Were it enough to say, "All things that the Father doeth, these doeth the Son also"? It is not enough; I add, "in like manner." Why do I add, "in like manner"? Because they who do not understand, and who walk with eyes not yet open, are wont to say, "The Father doeth them by way of command, the Son of obedience, therefore not in like manner." But if in like manner, as the One, so the Other; so what things the One, the same the Other.

4. "But," says he, "the Father commands, that the Son may execute." Carnal indeed is thy conceit, but without prejudice to the truth, I grant it to you. Lo, the Father commands, the Son obeys; is the Son therefore not of the same Nature, because the One commands, and the Other obeys? Give me two men, father and son; they are two men: he that commands is a man; he that obeys is a man; he that commands anti he that obeys have one and the same nature. Does not he that commands, beget a son of his own nature? Does he who obeys, by obeying lose his nature? Now take for the present, as you thus take two men, the Father commanding, the Son obeying, yet God and God. But the first two together are two men, the Latter together is but One God; this is a divine miracle. Meanwhile if you would that with you I acknowledge the obedience, do you first with me acknowledge the Nature. The Father begat That which Himself is. If the Father begat ought else than what Himself is, He did not beget a true Son. The Father saith to the Son, "From the womb before the day-star, I begat Thee."[1] What is, "before the day-star"? By the day-star times are signified. So then before times, before all that is called "before;" before all that is not, or before all that is. For the Gospel does not say, "In the beginning God made the Word;" as it is said, "In the beginning God made the Heaven and the earth;"[2] or, "In the beginning was the Word born;" or, "In the beginning God begat the Word." But what says it? "He was, He was, He was." You hear, "He was;" believe. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."[3] So often do ye hear, "Was:" seek not for thee, for that He always " was." He then who always was, and was always with the Son, for that God is able to beget without thee; He said to the Son, "From the womb before the day-star I begat Thee." What is from the womb? Had God a womb? Shall we imagine that God was fashioned with bodily members? God forbid ! And why said He, "From the womb," but that it might be understood that He begat Him of His Own Substance? So then froth the womb came forth That which Himself was who begat. For if He who begat was one thing, and another came forth out of the womb; it were a monster, not a Son.

5. Therefore let the Son do the works of Him That sent Him, and the Father also do the works of the Son. "At all events," you say, "the Father wills, the Son executes." Lo, I show, that the Son willeth, and the Father executeth. Do you say, "where dost thou show this?" I show it at once. "Father, I will."[4] Now here if I had a mind to cavil, lo, the Son commandeth, and the Father executeth. What wilt Thou? "That where I am, they may be also with Me." We have escaped, there shall we be, where He is; there shall we be, we have escaped. Who can undo the "I Will" of the Almighty? You hear the will of His power, hear now the power of His will. "As the Father" saith He "raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will."[5] "Whom He will." Say not, The Son quickeneth them, whom the Father commandeth Him to quicken. " He quickeneth whom He will." So then whom the Father will, and whom Himself will: because where there is One Power, there is One Will. Let us then in a heart blind no more hold fast that the Nature of the Father and the Son is One and the Same; because the Father is very Father, the Son is very Son. What He is, That did He beget: because the Begotten was not degenerate.

6. There is a something in the words of that man who was blind, which may cause perplexity, and peradventure make many who understand them not aright despair. For he said amongst the rest of his words, the same man whose eyes were opened, "We know that God heareth not sinners."[6] What shall we do, if God heareth not sinners? Dare we pray to God if He heareth not sinners? Give me one who may pray: lo, here is One to hear. Give me one who may pray, sift thoroughly the human race from the imperfect to the perfect. Mount up from the spring to the summer; for this we have just chanted. "Thou hast made summer and spring;"[7] that is, "Those who are already spiritual, and those who are still carnal hast Thou made;" for so the Son Himself saith, "Thine Eyes have seen My imperfect being."[8] That which is imperfect in My Body, Thine Eyes have seen. And what then? Have they who are imperfect hope? Undoubtedly they have. Hear what follows; "And in Thy Book shall all be written." But perhaps, Brethren, the spiritual pray and are heard, because they are not sinners? What then must the carnal do? What must they do? Shall they perish? Shall they not pray to God? God forbid! Give me that publican in the Gospel. Come, thou publican, stand forth, show thy hope, that the weak may not lose hope. For behold the publican went up with the Pharisee to pray, and with face cast down upon the ground, standing afar off, beating his breast, he said, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.[9] And he went down justified rather than the Pharisee." Said he true or false, who said, "Be merciful to me a sinner"? If he said true, he was a sinner; yet was he heard and justified. What then is that, that thou whose eyes the Lord opened didst say, "We know that God heareth not sinners?[10] Lo, God doth hear smokers. But wash thou thy inferior face, let that be done in thy heart, which hath been done in thy face; and thou wilt see that God doth hear sinners. The imagination of thine heart hath deceived thee. There is still something for Him to do to thee. We see that this man was cast out of the synagogue; Jesus heard of it, came to him, and said to him, "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" And He said, "Who is He, Lord, that I should believe on Him ?[11] He saw, and did not see; he saw with the eyes, but as yet with the heart he saw not. The Lord said to him, "Thou both seest Him," that is, with the eyes; "and He that talketh with thee is He. He then fell down, and worshipped Him."[1] Then washed he the face of his heart.

7. Apply yourselves then earnestly to prayer, ye sinners: confess your sins, pray that they may be blotted out, pray that they may be diminished, pray that as ye increase, they may decrease: yet do not despair, and sinners though ye be, pray. For who hath not sinned? Begin with the priests. To the priests it is said, "First offer sacrifices for your own sins, and so for the people."[2] The sacrifices convicted the priests that if any one should call himself righteous and without sin, it might be answered him, "I look not at what thou sayest, but at what thou offerest; thine own victim convicteth thee. Wherefore dost thou offer for thine own sins, if thou have no sins? Dost thou in thy sacrifice lie unto God?" But peradventure the priests of the ancient people were sinners; of the new people are not sinners. Of a truth, Brethren, for that God hath so willed, I am His priest; I am a sinner; with you do I beat the breast, with you I ask for pardon, with you I hope that God will be merciful. But peradventure the Holy Apostles, those first and highest leaders[3] of the flock, shepherds, members of The Shepherd, these peradventure had no sin. Yes, indeed, even they had, they had indeed; they are not angry at this, for they confess it. I should not dare. First hear the Lord Himself saying to the Apostles, "In this manner pray ye."[4] As those other priests were convicted by the sacrifices, so these by prayer. And amongst the other things which He commanded them to pray for, He appointed this also, "Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors."[5] What do the Apostles say? Every day they pray for their debts to be forgiven them. They come in debtors, they go out absolved, and return debtors to prayer. This life is not without sin, that as often as prayer is made, so often should sins be forgiven.

8. But what shall I say? Peradventure when they learnt the prayer, they were still weak. Some one, perhaps, will say this. When the Lord Jesus taught them that prayer, they were yet babes, weak, carnal; they were not yet spiritual, who have no sin. What then, Brethren? When they became spiritual, did they cease to pray? Then Christ ought to have said, "Pray in such wise now;" and to have given them, when spiritual, another prayer. It is one and the same. He who gave it is One and the Same; use it then in prayer in the Church. But we will take away all controversy, when you say the Holy Apostles were spiritual, up to the time of the Lord's Passion they were carnal; this you must say. And indeed, the truth is, as He was hanging, they were in alarm, and the Apostles then despaired when the robber believed. Peter dared to follow, when the Lord was led to suffering, he dared to follow, who came to the house, and was wearied in the palace, and stood at the fire, and was cold; he stood at the fire, he was frozen with a chilling fear. Being questioned by the maid-servant, he denied Christ once; being questioned a second thee, he denied Him; being questioned a third thee, he denied Him.[6] God be thanked, that the questioning ceased; if the questioning had not ceased, long would the denial have been repeated. So then after He rose again, then He confirmed them, then did they become spiritual. Had they at that thee then no sin? The Apostles spiritual, wrote spiritual epistles, they sent them to the Churches; "they had no sin." This you say. I do not believe you, I ask themselves. Tell us, O holy Apostles, after the Lord rose again, and confirmed you with the Holy Ghost sent from heaven; did ye cease to have sin? Tell us, I pray you. Let us hear, that sinners may not despair, that they may not leave off to pray to God, because they are not without sin. Tell us. One of them saith. And who? He whom the Lord loved the most, and who lay on the Lord's Breast,[7] and drank in the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven which he was to pour forth again. Him I ask; "Have ye sin or not?" He maketh answer and saith, "If we shall say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."[8] Now it is the same John who said, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."[9] See ye what heights he had passed, that he could reach to the Word Such an one, and so great, who like an eagle soared above the clouds, who in the serene clearness of his mind saw, "In the beginning was the Word ;" he hath said, "If we shall say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we shall confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."[10] Therefore pray ye.

SERMON LXXXVI

[CXXXVI. BEN.]

ON THE SAME LESSON OF THE GOSPEL, JOHN IX., ON THE GIVING SIGHT TO THE MAN THAT WAS BORN BLIND.

1. We have heard the lesson of the Holy Gospel which we are in the habit of hearing; but it is a good thing to be reminded: good to refresh the memory from the lethargy of forgetfulness. And in fact this very old lesson has given us as much pleasure as if it were new. Christ gave sight to one blind from his birth; why do we marvel? Christ is the Saviour; by an act of mercy He made up that which He had not given in the womb. Now when He gave that man no eyes, it was no mistake of His surely; but a delay with a view to a miracle. You are saying, it may be, "Whence knowest thou this?" From Himself I have heard it; He just now said it; we heard it all together. For when His disciples asked Him, and said, "Lord, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"(1) What answer He made, ye, as I did, heard. "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."(2) Lo then wherefore it was that He delayed when He gave him no eyes. He did not give what He could give, He did not give what He knew He should give, when need was. Yet do not suppose, Brethren, that this man's parents had no sin, or that he himself had not, when he was born, contracted original sin, for the remission of which sin infants are baptized unto remission of sins. But that blindness was not because of his parents' sin, nor because of his own sin; "but that the works of God should be made manifest in him." For we all when we were born contracted original sin: and yet we were not born blind. However enquire carefully, And we were born blind. For who was not born blind? blind, that is, in heart. But the Lord Jesus, for that He had created both, cured both.

2. With the eyes of faith ye have seen this man blind, ye have seen him too of blind seeing; but ye have heard him erring. Wherein this blind man erred, I will tell you; first, in that he thought Christ a prophet, and knew not that He was the Son of God. And then we have heard an answer of His entirely false; for he said, pharisee was "We know that God heareth not sinners."(3) If God heareth not sinners, what hope have we? If God heareth not sinners, why do we pray, and publish the record of our sin by the beating of the breast? Where again is that Publican, who went up with the Pharisee into the temple(4) and while the Pharisee was boasting, parading(5) his own merits, he standing afar off, and with his eyes fastened on the ground, and beating his breast, was confessing his sins? And this man, who confessed his sins, went down from the temple justified rather than the other Pharisee. Assuredly then God doth hear sinners. But he who spake these words had not yet washed the face of the heart in Siloa. The sacrament had gone before on his eyes; but in the heart had not been yet effected the blessing of the grace. When did this blind man wash the face of his heart? When the Lord admitted him into Himself after he had been cast out by the Jews. For He found him, and said to him as we have heard; "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" And he, "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe on Him ?"(6) With the eyes, it is true, he saw already; did he see already in the heart? No, not yet. Wait; he will see presently. Jesus answered him, "I that speak with thee am He"(7) Did he doubt? No, forthwith he washed his face. For he was speaking with That Siloa, "which is by interpretation, Sent."(8) Who is the Sent, but Christ? Who often bare witness, saying, "I do the will of My Father That sent Me."(9) He then was Himself the Siloa. The man approached blind in heart, he heard, believed, adored; washed the face, saw.

3. But they who cast him out continued blind, forasmuch as they cavilled at the Lord, that it was the sabbath when He made clay of the spittle, and anointed the eyes of the blind man. For when the Lord cured with a word, the Jews openly cavilled. For He did no work on the sabbath day, when He spake, and it was done. It was a manifest cavil; they cavilled at Him merely commanding, they cavilled at Him speaking; as if they did not themselves speak all the sabbath day. I might say that they do not speak not only on the sabbath, but on no day, forasmuch as they have kept back from the praises of the True God. Nevertheless, as I have said, brethren, it was a manifest cavil. The Lord said to a certain man, "Stretch forth thine hand;(10) he was made whole, and they cavilled for that He healed on the sabbath day. What did He do? what work did He do? what burden did He bear? But in this instance, the spitting on the ground, the making clay, and anointing the man's eyes, is doing some work. Let no one doubt it, it was doing a work. The Lord did break the sabbath; but was not therefore guilty. What is that I have said, "He brake the sabbath"? He, the Light had come, He was removing the shadows. For the sabbath was enjoined by the Lord God, enjoined by Christ Himself, who was with the Father, when that Law was given; it was enjoined by Him, but in shadow of what was to come. "Let no man therefore judge you in. meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come."(11) He had now come whose coming these things announced. Why do the shadows delight us? Open your eyes, ye Jews; the Sun is present. "We know."(12) What do ye know, ye blind in heart? what know ye? "That this man is not of God, because he thus breaketh the sabbath day"(1) The sabbath, unhappy men, this very sabbath did Christ ordain,(2) who ye say is not of God. Ye observe the sabbath in a carnal manner, ye have not the spittle of Christ. In this earth of the sabbath look also for the spittle of Christ, and ye will understand that by the sabbath Christ was prophesied. But ye, because ye have not the spittle of Christ in the earth upon your eyes, ye have not come unto Siloa, and have not washed the face, and have continued blind, blind to the good of this blind man, yea now no longer blind either in body or heart. He received clay with the spittle, his eyes were anointed, he came to Siloa, he washed his face, he believed on Christ, he saw, he continued not in that exceedingly fearful judgment; "For judgment I came into this world, that they which see not may see, and that they which see may be made blind."(3)

4. Exceeding alarm! "That they which see not may see:" Good. It is a Saviour's office, a profession of healing power, "That they which see. not may see." But what, Lord, is that Thou hast added, "That they which see may be made blind"? If we understand, it is most true, most righteous. Yet what is, "They which see"? They are the Jews. Do they then see? According to their own words, they see; according to the truth, they do not see. What then is, "they see"? They think they see, they believe they see. For they believed they did see, when they maintained the Law against Christ. "We know;" therefore they see. What is "We know," but we see? What is, "this Man is not of God, because He thus breaketh the sabbath day"? They see; they read what the Law said. For it was enjoined that whosoever should break the sabbath day, should be stoned.(4) Therefore said they that He was not of God; but though seeing, they were blind to this, that for judgment He came into the world who is to be the Judge of quick and dead; why came He? "That they which see not may see:" that they who confess that they do not see, may be enlightened. "And that they which see may be made blind;" that is, that they who confess not their own blindness, may be the more hardened. And, in fact, "That they which see may be made blind," has been fulfilled; the defenders of the Law, Doctors(5) of the Law, the teachers of the Law, the understanders of the Law, crucified the Author of the Law. O blindness, this is that which "in part hath happened to Israel."(6) That Christ might be crucified, and the fulness of the Gentiles might come in, "blindness in part hath happened to Israel." What is, "that they which see not may see"? That the fulness of the Gentiles might come in, "blindness in part hath happened to Israel." The whole world lay in blindness; but He came, "that they which see not may see, and that they which see may be made blind." He was disowned by the Jews, He was crucified by the Jews; of His Blood He made an eye-salve for the blind. They who boasted that they saw the light, being more hardened, being made blind, crucified the Light. What great blindness? They killed the Light, but the Light Crucified enlightened the blind.

5. Hear one seeing, who once was blind. Behold, against what a cross they have miserably stumbled, who would not confess their blindness to the Physician! The Law had continued with them. What serveth the Law without grace? Unhappy men, what can the Law do without grace? What doeth the earth without the spittle of Christ? What doeth the Law without grace, but make them more guilty? Why? Because hearers of the Law and not doers, and hereby sinners, transgressors. The son of the hostess of the man of God was dead, and his staff was sent by his servant, and laid upon his face,(7) but he did not revive. What doeth the Law without grace? What saith the Apostle, now seeing, now of blind, enlightened? "For if there had been a Law given which could give life, verily righteousness should have been by the Law."(8) Take heed; let us answer and say; what is ibis that he hath said? "If there had been a Law given which could give life, verily righteousness should have been by the Law." If it could not give life, why was it given? He went on and added, "But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by the faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe."(9) That the promise of illumination, the promise of love by the faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe, that Scripture, that is the Law, hath concluded all under sin. What is, "hath concluded all under sin"? "I had not known concupiscence, except the Law had said, 'Thou shalt not lust."(10) What is," hath concluded all under sin"? Hath made the sinner a transgressor also. For it could not heal the sinner. "It hath concluded all under sin;" but with what hope? The hope of grace, the hope of mercy. Thou hast received the Law: thou didst wish to keep it, thou wast not able; thou hast fallen from pride, hast seen thy weakness. Run to the Physician, wash the face. Long for Christ, confess Christ, believe on Christ; the Spirit is added to the letter, and thou wilt be saved. For if thou take away the Spirit from the letter, "the letter killeth;" if it kill, where is hope? "But the Spirit giveth life."(1)

6. Let then Gehazi, Elisha's servant, receive the staff, as Moses the servant of God received the Law. Let him receive the staff, receive it, run, go before, anticipate him, lay the staff upon the face of the dead child. And so it was; he did receive it, he ran, he laid the staff upon the face of the dead child. But to what purpose? what serveth the staff? "If there had been a Law given which could give life," the boy might have been raised to life by the staff; but seeing that "the Scripture hath concluded all under sin," he still lies dead. But why hath it concluded all under sin? "That the promise by the faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." Let then Elisha come, who sent the staff by the servant to prove that he was dead; let him come himself, come in his own person, himself enter into the woman's house, go up to the child, find him dead, conform himself to the members of the dead child, himself not dead, but living. For this he did; he laid his face upon his face, his eyes upon his eyes, his hands upon his hands, his feet upon his feet, he straitened, he contracted himself, being great, he made himself little. He contracted himself; so to say, he lessened himself. "For being in the Form of God, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant."(2) What is He conformed Himself, alive to the dead? Do ye ask, what this is? Hear the Apostle; "God sent His Son."(3) What is, he conformed himself to the dead? Let him tell this, let him go on and declare it again; "In the likeness of flesh of sin." This is to conform Himself Alive to the dead; to come to us in the likeness of flesh of sin, not in the flesh of sin. Man lay dead in a flesh of sin, the likeness of flesh of sin conformed Himself to him. For He died who had not wherefore to die. He died, Alone "Free among the dead;" forasmuch as the whole flesh of men was indeed a flesh of sin. And how should it rise again, had not He who had no sin, conforming Himself to the dead, come in the likeness of flesh of sin? O Lord Jesus, who hast suffered for us, not for Thyself, who hadst no guilt, and didst endure its punishment, that thou mightest dissolve at once the guilt and punishment.

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