8: The Eighth Sermon on the First Chapter
WE have already seen how God has sufficiently declared to us that if we have and possess his only Son, Jesus Christ, we have the full perfection of all good, so that if we cast our eye upon him, we may see all that can be desired. And thus, although there are many blameworthy things in us, and even though we find nothing but frailty in ourselves, yet we have a good, firm support to lean on, in that our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to him and tells us that the things he has received from God his Father are for us all, and that although we do not yet enjoy them to the full, we cannot come short of them. In short, our Lord Jesus Christ is set at the right hand of God his Father, in order that we might be sure that all things are under his control, and that he rules the whole world, and that all good things are from him and he is able to prevent all injuries, so that if we are under his protection, we may defy the devil and all our enemies.
And now, in order that we might learn to content ourselves all the more with Jesus Christ alone, and not wander here and there as we tend to do, St. Paul adds expressly that ‘he has been set above all might, sovereignty, principality, and power’. No doubt he means the angels. However, he has used this manner of speech to keep us the better to our Lord Jesus Christ, that no fancy might turn us from him; as if he should say, ‘Although God has imparted some portion of his glory, dignity, and power to the angels, yet it in no way diminishes that which he has given to Jesus Christ’; and therefore we shall find in him all things needful, so that we do not need to gad here and there for them; neither is it lawful to link any associate with him, because all pre-eminence and whatever else may be thought of as being most noble and excellent is there, that is to say, in our Lord Jesus Christ; and he alone is to be sought, as St. Paul himself says also in the first chapter to the Colossians. For it is not just recently that the world has sought occasion to turn away from our Lord Jesus Christ under the pretence of seeking the angels of heaven. We see how God’s creatures are always drawn to some superstition, and men make idols of angels, because God executes his sovereignty by them, and they are, as it were, his hands, his officers, and his instruments. [Ps. 104:4] That is why men think they have done much in imploring the protection of St. Michael, or St. Gabriel, or I know not whom else. For (as I said) it is not a newly devised vice. The devil, who is the father and author of lying, has entangled men at all times with such fancies, and even Christians have followed what is told us in the secular histories in that respect.
For the heathen have always imagined the angels to be demigods and made them their mediators, by which to come to God, because they were not worthy in themselves. And in just the same manner do the papists talk this day. Now the very same abominations began to be built on the earth even in St. Paul’s time. And for that reason, he shows that it is not lawful to join anything to Jesus Christ, but that although the angels are magnified and are called powers, authorities, principalities and dominions, and such other titles as men please, yet they must bow and be inferior to the Head, and the chief dignity must be reserved for God’s Son, because all knees must bow before him, not only of creatures of this world, but also of heaven. [Isa. 45:23; Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10]
We see, then, that the reason for St. Paul’s assembling together so many words in this place to refer to the angels, is that we should the better be kept to our Lord Jesus Christ, and rest wholly upon him without deviating one way or another, under pretence that the angels have excellent and noble gifts. And so we see and may gather from this passage that all the folly of popedom in conceiving patrons, advocates, and mediators towards God sprang up from no other cause than from lack of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ and the things given him by God his Father. For we have no inclination to rest ourselves upon him, unless we know for what purpose he is come. But the papists have, on the one hand, imagined themselves to be separated from our Lord Jesus Christ, not knowing that he has become our brother in order that we might have intimate access to him, and, on the other hand, they have robbed him of his office which is appointed him in the holy Scripture, and made it into a dead thing.
So much the more, therefore, do we need to note well these sayings, that we are made all one and gathered together into one body with the angels of heaven and with the holy fathers that lived under the law, and that we and all the prophets, apostles and martyrs, must with one accord glorify one common Head, Jesus Christ, and come to him. He must be exalted for every man to look at, and we must not wilfully put veils before our eyes, but take away all impediment, that his glory may not be in any way dimmed. The true way, then, to overcome all obstacles that Satan shall cast in our way to stop us from coming to Jesus Christ, is to consider that there is no dignity or worthiness in the whole world, neither above nor beneath, which is not put in subjection, in order that we should all be joined to him with one accord. Thus you see, in effect, what we have to gather from this passage.
It is true that by these words we are given to understand also that God distributes offices among his angels, as it pleases him, so that one has a greater responsibility than another. But it is not for us to know how matters stand with them. Let us be content to know it according to the measure of our faith, and only give ear to God’s Word, and in all soberness learn from him without giving rein to our own foolish curiosity, as some do, disputing subtly about the angels, as though each one would be master, qualified to distribute offices in the house of God. For there is not a more devilish audacity than to prattle in that fashion about God’s secrets further than God has shown them to us by his Word. Therefore, let us be content that the angels (however noble they may be) are ordained to be ministers of our salvation, by means of Jesus Christ. And when we want to acquire knowledge of them and their help, let us not act as the papists, who have their particular prayers to make to them, but let us come to Jesus Christ, for by that means shall all things become common between them and us.
When, having spoken of the church, we say, ‘I believe in the communion of the saints’, it is certain that the angels are included, seeing that God employs them to do us service. But why does he so? It is not because we are worthy of it, but because he has gathered us all together under Jesus Christ. That, therefore, is the true bond of concord and brotherhood between us and the angels of paradise.
Now, next, St. Paul adds that ‘Jesus Christ has obtained a name (that is to say, a majesty) which is above all names, both in heaven and in earth’. Here St. Paul briefly shows us that all our wisdom is to know the benefits that are brought to us by the Son of God, and which we possess in him alone, so that our faith is settled wholly upon him, according as it is said in the Acts of the Apostles, that there is no other name given under heaven whereby we must be saved. [Acts 4:12] For (as I told you earlier), since God is incomprehensible and dwells in light which we cannot approach (as St. Paul puts it), [I Tim. 6:16] Jesus Christ must, as it were, step in between him and us, in order that we may come boldly to him, and know that he is not far separated or far distant from us. Wherefore, let us note that since mention is here made of ‘Name’, it is because God will be known in the person of his only Son. It is said, at the same time, that there are not many deities. With reference to the essence or being, we have only one God, [Deut. 4:35—39] but in Jesus Christ we have the living and express image of the Father, [I Cor. 8:4—6; Col. 1:15] so that in him we find whatever is expedient and requisite for our salvation. It is said that we ought to glory in our knowledge of the one true God, [Jer. 9:24] but yet that is accomplished in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, because when men go about seeking God, they enter into a terrifying maze unless Jesus Christ is their way, and leads them. Thus we now see what St. Paul was aiming at.
And it is also added that ‘the same is not only for this world, but also for the other’, by which it is meant that the knowledge we have of Jesus Christ will suffice us for the heavenly life. Now it would seem on the surface that there is some contradiction between what is said here and what is said in the fifteen chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. For there he says that at the latter day when the world shall be judged, our Lord Jesus Christ will yield up the kingdom to God his Father, of whom he holds it, and here he says that Christ is established in all authority, yes, even for the world to come. But these two agree very well. For when he says that Jesus Christ has a name above all names, and that he is the image of God his Father, that is because of our hardness and infirmity, as also when Christ is called the Lieutenant of God, it is because we could not be at rest unless we knew that God has his hand stretched out to succour us in our need; and we perceive that best of all in Jesus Christ, since he has come near to us and has become our brother.
God, then, does not so reign by means of Jesus Christ as if he had given up his own office and sat idle in heaven; it would be a wicked imagination to think so. And indeed we see how our Lord Jesus Christ speaks of it in the fifth chapter of St. John (v. 17). My Father and I (he says) always have our hand at work. There he shows that his own ordaining to be the ruler of the world was not in order that the Father should meanwhile be at repose in heaven; but it is thus said for our sakes, in order that we should not doubt that God is continually near at hand to us when we seek him in faith. At the latter day, and after the judgment, we shall have new eyes, as St. John says. And since we shall be like God and be transfigured into his glory, we shall see him as he is, [I John 3:2] which we cannot do now because our understandings are too dull. Wherefore, it is enough for us now that we behold him as in a mirror darkly (as St. Paul says), and that we know him in part. [I Cor. 13:12] You see, then, that the yielding up of the kingdom by our Lord Jesus Christ to God his Father is in order that we shall behold God’s majesty and being, which is now incomprehensible to us. For we shall have our nature changed, we shall be re-fashioned in the heavenly glory, and we shall be rid of all the corruption with which we are now compassed about.
And yet, for all this, it is not meant that Jesus Christ will be abased, for he shall then be much better in his perfection, according to what is said in the third chapter to the Colossians, that our life is hid in God with Jesus Christ, and that when Jesus Christ appears then shall our life be likewise manifested. In short, when we are come to the sovereign happiness that is purchased for us, then we shall have that which lies as yet only in hope, and Jesus Christ shall gather all things to himself, so that we shall then be partakers of his glory, every man in his own degree and measure. Thus you see how these two passages agree very well, for Christ will render up the kingdom to God his Father. And why? For we shall then see his heavenly majesty which we are not able to conceive at present, because we are carnal. Also we shall perceive that whereas Jesus Christ has appeared to us a mortal man, he has been so glorified in his human nature that in very deed he is God, of one and the same substance with his Father. This (I say) shall be fully known then, whereas now we have only a little shadow of it.
Furthermore, let us learn that when Jesus Christ was exalted by God his Father, it was in order that his exaltation should serve to our eternal salvation. And therefore, in the ninth chapter of Isaiah, he is called the Father of the age to come, in order that we might know, not only that he is given to us for this transitory life, but also that the substance of the faith which is grounded in him is in heaven, and that there we shall know the fruit of what is now hidden and which we taste as yet only in part, and that we shall enter into full possession of all the good things that are already given to him. Thus, you see why St. Paul has purposely made express mention of the age to come.
He adds immediately that ‘God hath put all things under his feet, and made him head of the church over all things’. His speaking here of the subjection of the whole world is to show that whatever we have need of, if we can resort to our Lord Jesus Christ, he is able to succour us, for he has the wherewithal to do it. Yes, and we must note well how it is said in the eighth Psalm that God has care of all things, even the sheep, the birds of the air, and the fishes of the sea. In short, all creatures are put under his feet. And to what end For the Holy Spirit meant to draw us thereby, as little babes, and to show that the spiritual benefits (which we ought to have in greatest esteem) are communicated to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. His saying then is that we might not eat one bit of bread, save in so far as we are members of Jesus Christ.
For it is just as if he intended to train us up higher by the A.B.C., since all things have been given to our Lord Jesus Christ, with the condition that if we are truly members of his body, all things that he has belong to us, and that if we are not separated from him, he will hereafter make us partakers of far higher and more excellent good things, that is to say, we shall be named God’s children and be taken so to be, and we shall be the temples of his Holy Spirit. And what a thing is that! What a thing it is that we may come freely to him and call upon him boldly as our Father! What a thing it is to be enriched again with the gifts that we were stripped of by the sin of Adam! What a thing it is to be linked in fellowship with the angels, instead of being under the tyranny of Satan and under the thraldom of sin! How can we have these so high and noble things, since we cannot claim so much as a morsel of bread as our own without theft, saving in that we are members of our Lord Jesus Christ Now then we see what St. Paul aimed at in saying that all things are made subject to our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, let us learn now to give thanks to God in the name of his only Son our Lord Jesus Christ, whom he has sent, not only to feed and nourish our bodies, but also to be food to our souls that we may live for ever. And in that way let us learn to train ourselves, to acknowledge that our Lord Jesus Christ has supplies to succour all our necessities. If then the devil makes so violent an assault on us that we may be afraid of utter failure, let us understand that our Lord Jesus Christ has an invincible fortress with which to defend us against him, and arms with which to make us invincible in all battles. Therefore when we are weak, let us resort to his strength; when we lack any grace, let us desire him to give us what he thinks necessary; when our enemies behave like mad beasts, and it seems that we would be completely engulfed, as it were, in a whirlpool, let us beseech our Lord Jesus Christ to keep us under his protection and to keep Satan, as it were, chained with all his supporters, so that he does not allow us to be overcome by them.
You see then how all things were made subject to our Lord Jesus Christ, not for his own use (for what need had he of them?) but for our sakes, in order that he may give us whatever he knows to be for our profit, and that we also should learn to seek all things at his hand, that, when he sees our enemies have the advantage over us, he may repress them as he well can.
Furthermore, when St. Paul says here that Christ was ordained Head in the church (or over the church) ‘in all things’, it is to further his design to bring us wholly to Jesus Christ. As if he should say, It is true that God’s gracious gifts are distributed, and that even the angels and mortal men also may be ministers of them to us; but yet, be that as it may, we must always resort to the source. The veins that are dispersed throughout the whole body may well give strength to every part, for they are, as it were, the channels of the blood, but yet, however that may be, the brain must always be the source of life. It is readily to be seen that in a tree the sap is spread throughout, and yet, although the root does not ascend to give nourishment to every branch and leaf, all the nourishment comes from the root. And if any man would say that the whole tree is maintained alive by any one branch, quite the contrary is seen. It is true that a great bough may well give nourishment to the branches and twigs that are about it, but is it therefore right that that should take the glory from the root? No surely, no more than the members of a man’s body ought to take the glory from the head, despite the fact that every member fulfils its office.
Here St. Paul says that our Lord Jesus Christ was given to the church to be her head above all things, as if he should say it behoves us all to resort to him. In this matter, there is neither St. Paul, nor St. Peter, nor the Virgin Mary, nor St. Michael who have anything of their own. For they are all needy and hungry saving insofar as Jesus Christ fills them, and therefore all of them, both great and small, must draw from his plenty. And that is the reason why, in the same passage which I cited out of the first chapter to the Colossians [v. 19], St. Paul says that it pleased God the Father that all fulness should dwell in Christ. For the title of Head is not simply a style of fleeting honour, but it serves to express the power of our Lord Jesus Christ so much the better. Therefore just as a natural head not only has superiority and preeminence above the whole body, but also yields nourishment to the whole and keeps the man alive, even so it is between our Lord Jesus Christ and us, so much so that all would go to ruin if we did not depend upon him. Although (I say) it seems that we have received most excellent gifts at God’s hand already, yet nevertheless all is but wind and smoke, unless we persevere in union with our Lord Jesus Christ.
At the same time, it behoves us to note also that since Christ is called a Head, it is fitting that all others should obey him, and that we should acquiesce in his doctrine, that he may rule all things as the head rules all the rest of a man’s body. For the feet walk and the hands move, and to be brief, there is no part which is not willing and ready to do whatever the head shall appoint it. The same must be done in the church. Jesus Christ must rule and all men must quietly obey him. And so we have to note in this text, first, that our salvation so depends upon Jesus Christ, that there are neither angels nor men, however holy they are, who do not have need to receive at his hand the things that they lack in themselves. And therefore when we stand in need of anything that is requisite, either for the present life, or for the heavenly life, either for our bodies or for our souls, there is no running to St. Peter, or to St. Paul, but we must go straight to our Lord Jesus Christ. So much for one point.
Secondly, let us also learn to allow ourselves to be ruled and to be held in check by the hand of our Lord Jesus Christ, that thereby we may show ourselves to be true members of his body. And he cannot be our Head, except he be at the same time our Shepherd too, and have all authority over us. But just as I told you that the devil has laboured to obscure the glory of God’s only Son, under the shadow of angels, so, on the other side, he has sent us an idol into the world to be a barrier in our way, that Jesus Christ might be, as it were, separated from us. For the Pope is not ashamed to spew out this blasphemy, that the church would be but a headless body, if he himself did not reign over it and have the universal dominion of it, so that every man looked at him, and his seat were above the whole world. Now that is as much as if he should say that Jesus Christ has no more to do here, but ought to be content to be in heaven, and let his successor rule here in his stead. But in this we see how he overshoots himself to abolish the whole sovereignty of the Son of God. So much the more therefore ought we to keep this passage well in mind, in which St. Paul says that Jesus Christ is appointed to be Head of the church above all things.
It is true that the Pope will affirm himself to be but as a subordinate [un chef subalterne Fr.] and therefore that Jesus Christ is not thrust out of his place. But let us look back to that which I have touched on already, which is that Jesus Christ will have no imaginary title, but will have his power which belongs to him, reserved to him. For a head requires not only to be set highest, but also to have all others to receive all things from him; and we must all understand that he is the very root of our life and the fountain from which we have to draw, even though he sends forth his spiritual benefits and good among us by such channels as he thinks good. Thus you see what we have yet further briefly to bear in mind.
This matter is expounded at greater length in the first chapter to the Colossians [vv. 16—18]. For St. Paul shows there that our Lord Jesus Christ was appointed to be the Head even from the beginning of the world, since all things were created by him, and not simply because he is at this day our Redeemer. For supposing Adam had not fallen into the ruin into which he has drawn us with him, yet God’s Son would have been always as the firstborn of creatures. Not that he himself is a creature, but because he is the foundation, according also as St. Paul adds the reason for it, which is that by him the angels were created and in him they have their being. You see then that the Son of God would not have ceased to have had all pre-eminence both above and beneath, even if we had not fallen with our father Adam unto such confusion as we are in. But now our Lord Jesus Christ must be our Head after another manner, that is to say, to set us at one again with God his Father, and to gather us together again to him, from whom we were estranged by sin, so that he was our deadly enemy, till we were brought into favour again by means of Jesus Christ, in forgiving us our sins.
And besides this, St. Paul declares in the same passage that Jesus Christ was ordained Head of the church, in order that all fulness should be in him. Thus we see how we ought to be linked with the angels, with the ancient fathers and with the prophets, on the condition that our Lord Jesus Christ must nevertheless not only continue the first and chief, but also have all things related to him; on the condition also that we communicate in such a way together that each of us keeps his place and all be members of one body, and that there may be no more heads than one. For if we add any associate to Jesus Christ, it is robbing him of the things that God his Father has given to him alone. Let us be contented that he makes us partakers of all his benefits, upon the condition that we acknowledge all things to come from him and seek all things in him. For in the forty-fifth psalm it is well shown that we are all of us united to Jesus Christ, and that we receive some portion of all the good things that were given to him. But yet for all that, it is not to be said that he is merely one with us, and equal to us, and that he cannot be distinguished from the apostles, as the papists proverbially speak; but it is in order that we should know that none of all the good things which we can wish are far from us, but that they are offered us by him and that he is so liberal that he desires nothing else at our hands, but that we should receive the things that are for our own welfare, according as he himself says, ‘Come unto me, all ye that are athirst, come, drink water, yea even without money or money’s worth, drink your fill of water, wine and milk.’ [Isa. 55:1]
There our Lord shows how it is he that we must resort to, and that if we look upon him, his majesty is too high and too far off from us. Jesus Christ therefore must be our mediator, and since he is come down to us, let us also betake ourselves to him, in the manner expressed in the seventh chapter of St. John [vv. 37—3 8], ‘Come unto me, all ye that are athirst; and whosoever drinks of the water that I will give him, he shall have his belly so full that fountains of water shall flow out of him.’ Provided that men seek faithfully in Jesus Christ for the things they need, he will give us not only as much as shall be of use to every one of us for himself but also as much as we shall be able to bestow upon our neighbours too, and to succour their lack.
Now for a conclusion St. Paul adds that ‘the church is the body and fulness of him that performs all things in all men.’ In terming the church the body of Jesus Christ, he shows the thing that I have touched on already, that is to say, that we do not need to make long journeys nor find it difficult to get the things that we have need of. For since we are united and joined to the Son of God what more do we ask We must grant this principle that we have neither life, nor gladness, nor any good thing, except in God alone. That being confessed, let us see by what means we may reach him; it is by the means of our Lord Jesus Christ. And so you see the reason why it is said here that all fulness dwells in him and that it is his charge to unite us to God and to draw us back from the lost condition we are in.
Therefore we cannot swerve aside one way or another to attribute to St. Peter, or to St. Paul, parts of that which is reserved to Jesus Christ alone, without robbing God of his due. It is true that we may not come to admit it, but yet our hypocrisy will not serve to acquit us before God. We may indeed bring in many evasions, but yet we give sentence of condemnation on ourselves, in confessing that we ought to seek all our salvation at God’s hand.
Well, then, if we allege, Ho! we are not worthy to present ourselves before God, it is true; and if we say How can we fly without wings that is true too. And if we say, Then we must turn to St. Peter or to St. Paul, we speak all these things out of our silly heads. [á nostre fantaisie Fr.] For God says exactly the opposite. I send you to my only Son (he says), for in him you shall find all you need; and do not fear you shall have any scarcity if you are once filled with the grace I have put in him, and abides in him. And that is the reason why the prophet Isaiah speaks purposely of wine, water and milk, [Isa. 55:1] as if he should say, we have all fulness of life in Jesus Christ. As for those then who run off to St. Peter and St. Paul, and think it necessary to have patron saints and mediators, they not only do wrong to Jesus Christ by cutting into bits and pieces that which is given wholly to him, but also rob God of his honour. For since it is his will that all fulness should dwell in Jesus Christ, as I have alleged before, it is certain that we go about defying him openly when we do not remain within the bounds which he has set us, putting ourselves in subjection to that person he has given to us, in order that he might give us all we need.
But yet, what he adds ought to be a greater and larger comfort to us, when he says that ‘the church is the fulness of him that fills all’. Now, by this word ‘fulness’, he means that our Lord Jesus Christ, and even God his Father, account themselves imperfect, unless we are joined to him. And that (as I said) is a witness to God’s infinite goodness, at which a man can never marvel enough. First and foremost, God does not need to borrow from other men’s hands, for he is perfect in himself, neither did he lack anything even before he made the world. And when he made it, did he do it for his own profit or to his advantage? It was simply in order that we should know his goodness, power, wisdom and righteousness, and be witnesses of it. For he has set us here as on a stage, in order that we should see his glory in all his creatures, and yet, despite this, he could very well do without us. But supposing God should borrow from others to perfect himself, and he were like mortal men, of whom none is able to do without company; suppose God were like that. What are we? How can he fare better by being joined to us? It is just as if the sun were joined with a stinking mire. For what have we but infection and filthiness? We are so corrupted by Adam’s sin that it is horrible to think about it. How then can we bring any such perfection to God Although there is nothing but frailty in us, although we are perverse and evil, although there is nothing in us but all manner of filth, and in short, although we are loathsome in his sight, yet, in spite of this, it is his will to have us joined to him, yes, even on the condition that he should be perfected [accompli Fr.] in us by our being united in that manner. As if a father should say, My house seems empty to me, when I do not see my child in it. A husband will say, I seem to be only half a man when my wife is not with me.
After the same manner God says that he does not consider himself full and perfect, except by gathering us to himself and by making us all one with himself. He takes his whole pleasure in us, and will have his glory shine forth in us, so that his beams may shine out on all sides. And although the whole glory is in himself, yet he will have it seen that it is his will that we should have our part and portion of it. Thus you see, in effect, what St. Paul meant by calling the church the fulness of God and of Jesus Christ.
Now then, can we be excusable before God, when we say that we cannot come to him, seeing we are his body in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ? If one of our feet, being diseased, should run I know not where, and roam up and down saying, I go to seek remedy elsewhere, and to do so should cut itself off from the body; if (I say) the members of the body had any understanding and discernment, and could speak in that way, would it not be madness for the foot to say it would be separated from the body to seek elsewhere what it needed? Even so, when the papists and other idolaters assert that they have to be helped by the saints and to have a variety of mediators and means to bring them to God, it is just as if they should say, Jesus Christ is nothing to us, neither do we have access or approach to him. Can the members really be separated from the Head Of a truth, St. Paul has here accused and condemned of ingratitude and unkindness all those who, under the pretext of unworthiness to come to God, devise new means for themselves and separate themselves from Jesus Christ, and diminish his power and tear it to pieces. St. Paul condemns them because they cannot find in their hearts to accept the benefit and privilege that is offered them, in that our Lord Jesus Christ has vouchsafed to become one with them, as with his own body. Now then, let us learn to have such liberty with our Lord Jesus Christ that we resort to him at all times, whenever we are warned of our deficiencies and needs.
Furthermore, in order that the Lord’s majesty should not be thereby obscured, St. Paul adds that he does not cease to accomplish all in all things. For we see, on the one hand, that when men are once endued with God’s gifts, they begin to thrust themselves into his place and would be looked up to in his stead. That is how we behave; and it seems to us that the gifts God has bestowed on us freely are like a prey or booty to boast about, and to advance ourselves more than is lawful. Again, on the other hand, when we hear Jesus Christ spoken of, how he was humbled for our sakes, how he went down into the abyss of death, how he vouchsafed to be subject to all kinds of reproach, it seems to us that he may well be held in contempt by us. St. Paul therefore, to beat down all pride and to show that Jesus Christ was not so abased that his glory was diminished, says that nevertheless he does all in all things. Wherefore, let us learn to receive the blessing, grace and benefits which are given us by our Lord Jesus Christ. And, at the same time, let us acknowledge not only that we are made of nothing and that our life is but a fleeting and vanishing shadow, but also that all the virtue and excellence which we suppose ourselves to have, is but like a green flower which withers immediately as soon as God breathes upon it. And therefore, let us not imagine ourselves to be rich, when we are poor. Let us not boast ourselves in our free will. Let us not presume upon our own merits, nor upon any of the other fooleries which the devil has devised in popery; but let us draw at the fountain that cannot be drained dry, that we may find supplies to quench our thirst whenever we are dry.
Finally, there are two ways in which God does all in all things. For just as he himself created the world, so must all things be guided and governed by his hand. If it is asked who causes the sun to rise and set every day, who guides the whole order of nature, who ordains the days, months and years, and who makes the alternation of day and night, it is God, who does all in all things. We may say the same of all other things we perceive in the universal government of the whole world. Therefore, we must not imagine that God was a Creator for only a minute of time, for he also continues to maintain what he has created. But here, St. Paul speaks of the spiritual benefits, which are, as you might say, the heritage of God’s children. God, then, does all things in us. Yes, but not only by the common order of nature, but by enlightening us with the faith of the gospel, in that he sanctifies and cleanses us from the vices and wicked lusts of our flesh, in that he draws us from the world and, to be short, in that he provides us with all things requisite to our welfare and salvation. And so you see how he does all in all things. As if St. Paul had declared in one word that the faithful are nothing, and can do nothing nor can they have anything of themselves.
He does not speak here, then, of the sun, or of the moon, or of the trees of the fields, or of any other fruit, nor does he speak of beasts, nor even of men so far as they are the children of Adam, but of those whom God has regenerated by his Holy Spirit, so that whatever concerns salvation, or belongs to the heavenly life, is not to be had except at his hand. He has all things in himself and does all in all things, as is said of him here. And therefore, let us learn to empty ourselves and to offer ourselves in sacrifice to God with true and genuine humility, to yield him his deserved praise. Let none of us separate ourselves from him through our ingratitude, but let all of us do him such honour as to confess that we hold all from him and that we are joined to him by our Lord Jesus Christ who is our eternal God, acknowledging that it is he from whom all good things come, and that it is he also to whom all glory ought to be yielded and rendered.
Now therefore, let us cast ourselves down before the majesty of our good God with acknowledgement of our sins, praying him to make us perceive them more and more, and that the same may cause us to have such a dislike of ourselves that we may earnestly and heartily seek to give ourselves wholly to our Lord Jesus Christ. And since he has called us already to him by his gospel, let us fashion ourselves accordingly, renouncing all superstitions and assuring ourselves that all that we can ever imagine to bring us to the kingdom of heaven are but deceits of Satan, and that it is enough for us to have Jesus Christ alone to make our recourse to; that just as it was the Father’s will to lift him on high in order that all men should look to him, so also we may have our eyes fastened upon him and apply our whole minds to him in such a way that we may have no other way or preparation than by him alone; nor swerve one way or another, but when we are once brought into the right way, keep on continually towards our aim until we are fully come to perfection. That it may please him to grant this grace, not only to us, but also to all people. . .
This sermon is from a Wm. B. Eerdmans' volume which was a reprint of the only sizable collection of John Calvin's sermons translated into the English language since the Sixteenth Century and the only volume ever published in America up to that time (1949). The collection was originally published in a limited edition in 1830 by John Forbes of New York.