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PREACHED AT PAULíS CROSS, THE FRIDAY BEFORE EASTER, COMMONLY CALLED GOOD FRIDAY.
BY JOHN FOX.
To preach Christ Jesus crucified, and the excellent mystery of his passion, as it is no small matter, so it requireth no slender person to take the same in hand, but such as both in other respects were sufficiently furnished, and especially in spiritual matters perfectly exercised. Briefly, whomsoever it required, certes F25 me it required not, nor such as I am, being, as they say, of most of my brethren most unfit and furthest off. Notwithstanding, forsomuch as it was so allotted to me, and I thereto called by authority, and means of certain, F26 because I could not well refuse, I thought to show my good will and did what I could. After I had done, then was I further urged by divers and sundry, and by some adjured also, to commit the same to writing that I had preached. To deny the persons I might not; to reject their request I could not; to grant it was hard; to perform it was tedious, especially having nothing written before of all my sermon, whereby either to ease my labor, or to direct my pen. Again, with penning and writing I was full weary of late before, and fain would have had rest if I might, but that would not be; so vehement were they in urging, so violent in persuading, as they would have no nay.
Beside the importunity of these, I considered partly the necessity of the cause. And furthermore, what if Godís providence had also a secret stroke herein to have his Son illustrated amongst us? For as Christ Jesus, in this earth, sought nothing but the glory only of his Father, so his Father now seeketh nothing else in heaven but the glory of his Son. And as the same Son, being here on earth, so humbly did debase himself, dejected as a servant under all men, to obey his Fatherís will, so hath it pleased his Father again to exalt him; not only to surmount the glory of all princes and potentates whatsoever, but also with such power and majesty hath advanced him, that even the very knowledge and belief of his name giveth everlasting life to all sinners, be they ever so grievously burdened or laden, whosoever will come to him.
Wherefore, seeing now all the felicity and comfort of manís life consisteth only in the knowledge of Christ Jesus and glorifying of his name, and in nothing else; what thing then can be more needful to the health and salvation of all men, than to preach and set forth Christ Jesus, and the glory of his kingdom, which must be glorified, and will be glorified. And if we will not glorify him, God will stir up, yea, stones and worms of the earth, to glorify his Son. For his glory must prosper and increase, and at length shall cast down all the glory of this world, so that in the end no glory shall stand, but only of Christ Jesus crucified. St. Paul, understanding this glorious majesty of the Son of God, regarded to know nothing else but only Christ Jesus and him crucified, 1 Corinthians 2. And so likewise shall be our parts, especially those who are preachers and ministers in Christís church, to employ all our endeavor to the same end, that Christ Jesus may be preached and glorified, especially in these our days and times, wherein the world seemeth to grow in an utter contempt of Christ and of his kingdom. For, to omit first to speak of the Jews and Turks, which are professed enemies to the cross of Christ, and have despoiled him of the greatest portion of his universal church; even amongst us which yet remain, and bear the name of christians, how many do live as though we knew not Christ, or believed not his teaching, or passed not F27 much for that we profess!
Of this ignorance and contempt of Christ, riseth all these heaps of mischiefs, which daily grow, and now overflow the world. The devil rages, the Turk daily winneth ground upon us, the papist persecuteth, and yet all this will not awake us to seek to Christ in whom only lieth our victory. Our covetous, voluptuous, vicious, and ambitious life, what does it declare, but either infidelity, or neglecting of Christís kingdom? We talk of heaven, we walk not to heaven. For whatsoever our outward face pretendeth, to examine our hearts by our fruits, what thing almost is so vile in this world, which we do not more esteem than the kingdom of heaven. The glory of Christ is not our study, or certes, is the least part of our study. Our wits and senses are so occupied and employed in other affairs and worldly studies, that what was done in the mount of Calvary for our redemption, scarce have we leisure once to think thereof; or if we think a little, it sinketh not down, it tarrieth not with us. We hear of the glory of Christ, but we feel it not, we talk of Christ, but have no experience of him, nor acquaintance with him; we honor him with lips, but our heart doth not hunger after him. Outwardly we profess him, but inwardly we pass not for him. For then is Christ not passed for, when any thing is preferred before him. And this is the cause why, amongst us christians, vice is so rife, the devil so strong, by his sorceries and witchcrafts to hurt and enchant us, as he doth, and man not able to withstand him; because Christ dwelleth not in us, who only call overcome the devil. For without Christ man can do nothing.
Wherefore, to awaken the hearts of such christians, in these drowsy days of carnal security, to the contemplation of the glorious kingdom of Christ, I was the more willing at the request of my friends to condescend in bestowing a little pains herein. And partly for the papistís cause, to do them some good if I could; who, albeit they profess the whole history of Christís passion as we do, yet by their doctrine it seems, they go no further than the outward history. They make much ado about the cross of Christ, yet they know not his cross, and see little more in the passion of Christ than the sensible man F28 may do. They see him poor, sweating, bleeding, falsely accused, wrongfully oppressed, wounded, scourged, derided, crowned with thorns, nailed, crucified, hanging upon the cross naked, pierced, dead, and buried. All this they see, and his miracles also they confess which he wrought, and that he rose again the third day, and ascended up, etc. And because they grant the same to be the Son of God, therefore they magnify and worship all the outward implements that went to his blessed passion; the nails, the cross and timber, the spear, the crown of thorns, his coat and tunicle, etc. And herein standeth almost the sum total of their religion. But this is not enough. To know Christ Jesus crucified, and to know him rightly, it is not sufficient to stay in these outward things; we must go further than the sensible man, we must look inwardly with a spiritual eye into spiritual things. Neither is it perfectly enough for us to know that Christ was crucified, that he rose again, and ascended, etc. but here is need of Godís Holy Spirit and revelation, to open unto us wherefore he died, wherefore he rose again and for whom, that is, for our sins and our justification. To know, not the story of his death, but the power of his death, and the virtue of his resurrection; to know what his crucifying here in earth wrought above in heaven and underneath in hell; how by the blood of his cross the law is satisfied, Godís wrath killed, his favor reconciled, all things pacified both in heaven and in earth, the devil conquered, death vanquished, hell gates destroyed. To know that crucified sacrifice of Christís body to be a perfect deliverance of all his people from the beginning to the end of the world, to be a full satisfaction once and ever for all our sins, and absolute discharge and acquittance for all our debts; briefly, to be a free justification, redemption, and righteousness, before God for ever, to all them that believe in him, without any other means or help adjoined to him. And this is to know aright Christ Jesus crucified. The knowledge whereof seemeth to be wanting in the church of Rome, as may sensibly appear by their doctrine and institutes, by their auricular confession and satisfaction for sins, by their daily sacrifice, propitiatory masses, trentals, and purgatory, by merits of supererogation, invocation of saints, the popeís pardons and dispensations; finally by all the proceedings of that church, even from the holy water stock to the hanging pix on the high altar, which all being packed in one fardel, F29 as in Pandoraís box together, are but altogether a mere ignorance of Christ Jesus crucified, and thereof take their ground and beginning.
Wherefore, to remove this disease of ignorance partly from these above rehearsed, whereby they may be reduced into the kingís highway of their salvation; but especially for you that are mourning in conscience, to comfort you in Christ Jesus crucified, whom the terror of the law too much oppresses, I was so much the rather persuaded to have this sermon published; that Christ Jesus might not only be preached to the ears of some, but also printed, yea and painted, if I might, to the eyes of many. In which sermon, although I have not fully followed in speech and form every thing so precisely as was spoken, yet, so far as remembrance could serve me, I have not much digressed from the sentence, order, and principal points in the said sermon contained; adding withal some things more which I thought before to have spoken, and either for abundance of matter, or lack of memory, were forgotten. Also certain other things then not spoken I have here inserted upon necessary occasion, yet conveniently serving for the purpose, and necessarily for the time, especially in two points; one concerning the daily sacrifice of the mass, the other touching the possibility of the law; with certain other additions incident, whereby this sermon, I must grant, is grown some what more large in printing, than it was in preaching.
And although the time now I see so miserable, that it avails little or nothing to take pains either in preaching or printing, when men, wholly given over to worldly studies, have little leisure and less desire either to hear sermons or to read books, be the argument ever so grave and comfortable ó yet, notwithstanding, forsomuch as the Lord hath a remnant of some faithful servants which walk after their Lord and God with a perfect heart, and are not hearers only, but seekers also of his kingdom; and especially for your cause that labor and are laden in conscience, wheresoever or whatsoever ye are, in whom the Lord hath wrought an earnest hunger, and hearty seeking for his kingdom; for you most principally I have penned this sermon of Christ Crucified, and to you specially I dedicate and commend the same; desiring the same Lord Jesus crucified for us, that you in reading hereof may receive such spiritual refreshing to your souls, and high courage of faith in Christ Jesus, that neither Satan may deceive you, nor the law terrify you, nor death confound you, nor sin oppress you, nor conscience captive you, nor hell gates prevail over you; but that you, rightly understanding with all saints, what is the hope of your calling, the riches of your inheritance, the greatness of his power towards you; and what is the breadth, length, and profundity, and what is the superadmirable love of knowledge of Christ Jesus crucified, may superabound in all heavenly consolation, Ephesians 1 and also with a holy pride may triumph in Christ Jesus. In whom, as I wish to you all spiritual benediction and goodness, so I beseech you likewise to pray for me your fellow-brother, servant, and debtor in the Lord to you and to all others; who preserve both you and us all with you, in these dangerous days, from all wickedness, to his everlasting kingdom. Amen.
THE SERMON OF