HOW CHRIST SAVES SINNERS
By William Tyndale
The fall of Adam has made us heirs of the vengeance and wrath of God, and heirs of eternal damnation; and has brought us into captivity and bondage under the devil. And the devil is our lord, and our ruler, our head, our governor, our prince, yea, and our god. And our will is locked and knit faster unto the will of the devil, than could an hundred thousand chains bind a man unto a post. Unto the devil’s will consent we with all our hearts, with all our minds, with all our might, power, strength, will and lusts; [so that the law and will of the devil is written as well in our hearts as in our members, and we run headlong after the devil with full zeal, and the whole swing of all the power we have; as a stone cast up into the air comes down naturally of his own self, with all the violence and swing of his own weight.] With what poison, deadly, and venomous hate hateth a man his enemy! With how great malice of mind, inwardly, do we slay and murder! With what violence and rage, yea, and with how fervent lust commit we adultery, fornication, and such like uncleanness! With what pleasure and delectation, inwardly, serves a glutton his belly! With what diligence deceive we! How busily seek we the things of this world! Whatsoever we do, think, or imagine, is abominable in the sight of God. [For we can refer nothing unto the honor of God; neither is His law, or will, written in our members or in our hearts: neither is there any more power in us to follow the will of God, than in a stone to ascend upward of his own self.]
And [beside that,] we are as it were asleep in so deep blindness, that we can neither see nor feel what misery, thralldom, and wretchedness we are in, till Moses come and wake us, and publish the law. When we hear the law truly preached, how that we ought to love and honor God with all our strength and might, from the low bottom of the heart, [because He hath created us, and both Heaven and earth for our sakes, and made us lord thereof;] and our neighbors (yea, our enemies) as ourselves, inwardly, from the ground of the heart, [because God hath made them after the likeness of His own image, and they are His sons as well as we, and Christ hath bought them with His blood, and made them heirs of everlasting life as well as us; and how we ought to] do whatsoever God bids, and abstain from whatsoever God forbids, with all love and meekness, with a fervent and a burning lust from the center of the heart; then begins the conscience to rage against the law, and against God. No sea, be it ever so great a tempest is so unquiet. For it is not possible for a natural man to consent to the law, that it should be good, or that God should be righteous which maketh the law; [inasmuch as it is contrary unto his nature, and damns him and all that he can do, and neither shows him where to fetch help, nor preaches any mercy; but only sets man at variance with God, (as witnesses Paul, Rom. 4) and provokes him and stirs him to rail on God, and to blaspheme him as a cruel tyrant. For it is not possible for a man, till he be born again, to think that God is righteous to make him of so poison a nature, either for his own pleasure or for the sin of another man, and to give him a law that is impossible for him to do, or to consent to;] his wit, reason, and will being so fast glued, yes, nailed and chained unto the will of the devil. Neither can any creature loose the bonds, save the blood of Christ [only].
This is the captivity and bondage, whence Christ delivered us, redeemed and loosed us. His blood, His death, His patience in suffering rebukes and wrongs, his prayers and fastings, his meekness and fulfilling of the uttermost point of the law, appeased the wrath of God; brought the favor of God to us again; obtained that God should love us first, and be our Father, and that a merciful Father, that will consider our infirmities and weakness, and will give us His Spirit again (which was taken away in the fall of Adam) to rule, govern, and strengthen us, and to break the bonds of Satan, wherein we were so strait bound. When Christ is thuswise preached, and the promises rehearsed, which are contained in the prophets, in the psalms, and in divers places of the five books of Moses, [which preaching is called the Gospel or glad tidings;] then the hearts of them which are elect and chosen, begin to wax soft and melt at the bounteous mercy of God, and kindness showed of Christ. For when the evangelion is preached, the Spirit of God entereth into them which God hath ordained and appointed unto eternal life; and opens their inward eyes, and works such belief in them. When the woeful consciences feel and taste how sweet a thing the bitter death of Christ is, and how merciful and loving God is, through Christ’s purchasing and merits; they begin to love again, and to consent to the law of God, how that it is good and ought so to be, and that God is righteous which made it; and desire to fulfill the law, even as a sick man desireth to be whole, and are an hungered and thirst after more righteousness, and after more strength, to fulfill the law more perfectly. And in all that they do, or omit and leave undone, they seek God’s honor and His will with meekness, ever condemning the unperfectness of their deeds by the law.
Now Christ stands us in double stead; and us serves, two manner wise. First, He is our Redeemer, Deliverer, Reconciler, Mediator, Intercessor, Advocate, Attorney, Solicitor, our Hope, Comfort, Shield, Protection, Defender, Strength, Health, Satisfaction and Salvation. His blood, His death, all that He ever did, is ours. His blood-shedding, and all that He did, does me as good service as though I myself had done it. And God (as great as He is) is mine, with all that He has, [as an husband is his wife’s,] through Christ and His purchasing.
Secondarily, after that we be overcome with love and kindness, and now seek to do the will of God (which is a Christian man’s nature), then have we Christ an example to counterfeit; as saith Christ Himself in John, „I have given you an example.” And in another evangelist He saith, „He that will be great among you, shall be your servant and minister; as the Son of man came to minister, and not to be ministered unto.” And Paul says, „Counterfeit Christ.” And Peter saith, „Christ died for you, and left you an example to follow his steps.” Whatsoever therefore faith hath received of God through Christ’s blood and deserving, that same must love shed out, every whit, and bestow it on our neighbors unto their profit, yea, and that though they be our enemies. [What faith receiveth of God through Christ’s blood, that we must bestow on our neighbors, though they be our enemies.] By faith we receive of God, and by love we shed out again. And that must we do freely, after the example of Christ, without any other respect, save our neighbor’s wealth only; and neither look for reward in the earth, nor yet in Heaven, for [the deserving and merits of] our deeds, [as friars preach; though we know that good deeds are rewarded, both in this life and in the life to come.] But of pure love must we bestow ourselves, all that we have, and all that we are able to do, even on our enemies, to bring them to God, considering nothing but their wealth, as Christ did ours. Christ did not His deeds to obtain Heaven thereby, (that had been a madness;) Heaven was His already, He was heir thereof, it was His by inheritance; but did them freely for our sakes, considering nothing but our wealth, and to bring the favor of God to us again, and us to God. And no natural son, that is his father’s heir, does his father’s will because he would be heir; that he is already by birth; his father gave him that ere he was born, and is loather that he should go without it, than he himself has wit to be; but of pure love doth he that he does. And ask him, Why he does any thing that he does? he answers, My father bade; it is my father’s will; it pleases my father.
Bond-servants work for hire, children for love: for their father, with all he has, is theirs already. So doth a Christian man freely all that he does; considereth nothing but the will of God, and his neighbor’s wealth only. If I live chaste, I do it not to obtain Heaven thereby; for then should I do wrong to the blood of Christ; Christ’s blood has obtained me that; Christ’s merits have made me heir thereof; He is both door and way thitherwards: neither that I look for an higher room in Heaven, than they shall have which live in wedlock, other than a whore of the stews (if she repent); for that were the pride of Lucifer: but freely to wait on the evangelion; [and to avoid the trouble of the world, and occasions that might pluck me therefrom,] and to serve my brother withal; even as one hand helps another, or one member another, because one feels another’s grief, and the pain of the one is the pain of the other. Whatsoever is done to the least of us (whether it be good or bad), it is done to Christ; and whatsoever is done to my brother (if I be a Christian man), that same is done to me. Neither does my brother’s pain grieve me less than mine own: neither rejoice I less at his wealth than at mine own, [if I love him as well and as much as myself, as the law commandeth me.] If it were not so, how saith Paul? „Let him that rejoiceth, rejoice in the Lord,” that is to say, Christ, which is Lord over all creatures. If my merits obtained me Heaven, or a higher place there, then had I wherein I might rejoice besides the Lord.
Here see ye the nature of the law, and the nature of the evangelion: how the law is the key that binds and damns all men, and the evangelion [is the key that] looses them again. The law goes before, and the evangelion follows. When a preacher preaches the law, he binds all consciences; and when he preaches the gospel, he looses them again. These two salves (I mean the law and the gospel) uses God and His preacher, to heal and cure sinners withal. The law drives out the disease and makes it appear, and is a sharp salve, and a fretting corosy, and kills the dead flesh, and looses and draws the sores out by the roots, and all corruption. It pulls from a man the trust and confidence that he has in himself, and in his own works, merits, deservings and ceremonies, [and robs him of all his righteousness, and makes him poor.] It kills him, sends him down to Hell, and brings him to utter desperation, and prepareth the way of the Lord, as it is written of John the Baptist. For it is not possible that Christ should come to a man, as long as he trusts in himself, or in any worldly thing, [or has any righteousness of his own, or riches of holy works.] Then comes the evangelion, a more gentle pastor, which supplies and lessen the wounds of the conscience, and brings health. It brings the Spirit of God; which looses the bonds of Satan, and couples us to God and His will, through strong faith and fervent love, with bonds too strong for the devil, the world, or any creature to loose them. And the poor and wretched sinner feels so great mercy, love, and kindness in God, that he is sure in himself how that it is not possible that God should forsake him, or withdraw His mercy and love from him; and boldly crieth out with Paul, saying, „Who shall separate us from the love that God loveth us withal?” That is to say, What shall make me believe that God loveth me not? Shall tribulation? anguish? persecution? Shall hunger? nakedness? Shall sword? Nay, „I am sure that neither death, nor life, neither angel, neither rule nor power, neither present things nor things to come, neither high nor low, neither any creature, is able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In all such tribulations a Christian man perceiveth that God is his Father, and loves him even as he loved Christ when He shed His blood on the cross.
Finally, as before, when I was bond to the devil and his will, I wrought all manner evil and wickedness, not for Hell’s sake, which is the reward of sin, but because I was heir of Hell by birth and bondage to the devil, did I evil, (for I could none otherwise do; to do sin was my nature:) even so now, since I am coupled to God by Christ’s blood, do I well, not for Heaven’s sake, [which is yet the reward of well doing;] but because I am heir of Heaven by grace and Christ’s purchasing, and have the Spirit of God, I do good freely, for so is my nature: as a good tree brings forth good fruit, and an evil tree evil fruit. By the fruits shall ye know what the tree is. A man’s deeds declare what he is within, but make him neither good nor bad; [though, after we be created anew by the Spirit and doctrine of Christ, we wax perfecter always, with working according to the doctrine, and not with blind works of our own imagining.] We must be first evil ere we do evil, as a serpent is first poisoned ere he poison. We must be also good ere we do good, as the fire must be first hot, ere it [heat another] thing. Take an example: As those blind and deaf, which are cured in the gospel, could not see nor hear, till Christ had given them sight and hearing; and those sick could not do the deeds of an whole man, till Christ had given them health; so can no man do good in his soul, till Christ have loosed him out of the bonds of Satan, and have given him wherewith to do good, yea, and first have poured into him that self good thing which He sheds forth afterward on other. Whatsoever is our own, is sin. Whatsoever is above that, is Christ’s gift, purchase, doing and working. He bought it of His Father dearly, with His blood, yea, with His most bitter death, and gave His life for it. Whatsoever good thing is in us, that is given us freely, without our deserving or merits, for Christ’s blood’s sake. That we desire to follow the will of God, it is the gift of Christ’s blood. That we now hate the devil’s will (whereunto we were so fast locked, and could not but love it), is also the gift of Christ’s blood; unto whom belongeth the praise and honor of our good deeds, and not unto us.
(A Pathway Into Holy Scriptures, pp. 17-23).