Aled Seago encourages us all to slow down more in lockdown.
“God is a delicious good.” (Thomas Watson)
Introduction Confession 1: I am not a workaholic.
Having clinical depression has helpfully made me all too aware of my limits. Yet I have worked with and under workaholics, and I have seen just how damaging that is. Too I have trained with workaholics.
Despite this, I need to learn to slow down in lockdown. And if I do, then I imagine most of us need to! I would point you towards George Crowder’s timely and helpful piece on rest for further reading.
Why do I need to slow down in lockdown?
Because lockdown has us firing on all sorts of cylinders: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We can’t switch off as much as we might have done, for the work/home blurred line is even more blurred. Now that most of church stuff is on a screen too, that exhausts us. For example, we find in our church at the moment that it’s hard to do ministry to our younger people, who have spent all week on a screen for school.
Lee Gatiss preaches from Homily 4, “A Short Declaration of True and Living Christian Faith” (Part 1).
Our first approach to God (good Christian people) is through faith, through which (as it was declared in the last sermon) we are justified before God. And lest anyone should be deceived, for lack of a right understanding of this, it is diligently to be noted that faith is taken in the Scripture in two ways.
Two kinds of faith
There is one kind of faith, which in Scripture is called a dead faith. This brings forth no good works, but is idle, barren, and unfruitful. And this faith, by the holy Apostle Saint James, is compared to the faith of devils, who believe God to be true and just, and tremble for fear, yet they do nothing well, but all evil (James 2:17-18). This is the kind of faith which wicked and disobedient Christian people have who “confess God” (as Saint Paul says) with their mouth, “but deny him in their deeds, being detestable, and without the right faith, and unfit for any good work” (Titus 1:16). And this faith is a persuasion and belief in someone’s heart, by which they know that there is a God, and assent to all the truth of God’s most holy word contained in the holy Scripture. But it consists only in believing that the word of God is true.
Lee Gatiss presents a modernised text of Part 3 of “A Homily of the Salvation of Mankind Only by Christ our Saviour from Sin and Death Everlasting”.
It has been manifestly declared to you, that no one can fulfil the Law of God, and therefore by the Law all are condemned. It therefore follows necessarily that some other thing should be required for our salvation than the Law: and that is, a true and a living faith in Christ, bringing forth good works, and a life according to God’s commandments. And you have also heard the ancient authors’ opinion of this saying, “Faith in Christ alone justifies a person”, so plainly declared. So you see that the very true meaning of this proposition or saying, “We are justified only by faith in Christ” (according to the meaning of the old ancient authors) is this: We put our faith in Christ, that we are justified by him alone, that we are justified by God’s free mercy, and the merits of our Saviour Christ alone. By no virtue or good works of our own that are in us, or that we are able to have or to do, can we deserve the same. Christ himself is the only meritorious cause of our justification.
Sometimes, one’s circles are awash with a book that everyone seems to be reading and recommending, and that has definitely been the case with this book. Christians look askance at what strikes them as society’s ever-hastening hurtle into incoherence—the dizzying array of gender identities, the new degree of permissiveness around unsettling sexual mores—and wonder, ‘How did we get here?’ Carl Trueman’s study offers itself as an answer to that question, painstakingly surveying a range of thinkers, philosophers, poets and critics to show how a self-understanding that feels strikingly new has been centuries in the making. For a sub-culture that feels ever more out of its depth in the 21st century West, this contribution, from an intellectual historian of Trueman’s calibre, has been eagerly awaited.
Lee Gatiss presents a modernised text of Part 2 of “A Homily of the Salvation of Mankind Only by Christ our Saviour from Sin and Death Everlasting”.
You have heard that everyone should seek for their justification and righteousness from Christ, and how also this righteousness comes to us by Christ’s death and merits. You heard also that three things are required to obtain our righteousness, that is, God’s mercy, Christ’s justice, and a true and living faith (out of which springs good works). Also it has been declared at length that no one can be justified by their own good works, and that no one fulfils the Law according to the full demands of the Law.
St. Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians proves the same, saying “If there had been any law given which could have justified, truly righteousness would have been by the law” (Galatians 3:21). And again he says, “If righteousness is by the Law, then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:21). And again he says, “You who are justified by the Law, have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4). And furthermore, he writes to the Ephesians in this way: “By grace you are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God, and not of works, lest any one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). In short, the sum of all Paul’s argument is this: that if justification comes by works, then it does not come by grace; and if it comes by grace, then it does not come by works. And to this end tend all the Prophets, as St. Peter says in Acts 10: “All the prophets testify about Christ that through his name, all those who believe in him shall receive the cancellation of sins” (Acts 10:43).
Lee Gatiss presents a modernised text of Homily 3, “A Homily of the Salvation of Mankind Only by Christ our Saviour from Sin and Death Everlasting” (Part 1).
Because all people are sinners and offenders against God, and breakers of his law and commandments, therefore no one can, by their own acts, works, and deeds (however good they seem) be justified, and made righteous before God. Everyone of necessity is constrained to seek for another righteousness or justification, to be received from God’s own hands — that is to say, the cancellation, pardon, and forgiveness of their sins and trespasses, in such things as they have offended. And this justification or righteousness, which we receive by God’s mercy and Christ’s merits embraced by faith, is taken, accepted, and counted by God as our perfect and full justification.
The justice and mercy of God
In order to understand this more fully, it is our part and duty always to remember the great mercy of God. When all the world was wrapped in sin by breaking of the Law, God sent his only son, our Saviour Christ, into this world to fulfil the Law for us. By shedding his most precious blood, he made a sacrifice and satisfaction, or (as we might say) he made amends to his Father for our sins, to satisfy the wrath and indignation he had against us for them.
Lee Gatiss presents a modernised text of Part 2 of Homily 2, “A Homily of the Misery of All Mankind and of their Condemnation to Death Everlasting, by Their Own Sin.”
Since true knowledge of ourselves is very necessary to come to the right knowledge of God, you have heard in the last homily how humbly all godly people have always thought of themselves. They are taught to think and judge of themselves this way by God their Creator in his holy word. For of ourselves we are crabtrees, that can bring forth no apples. We are of ourselves of such earth as can bring forth only weeds, nettles, brambles, briers, corncockle, and darnel.
Our imperfect fruit
Our fruits are declared in the fifth chapter of Galatians. We have neither faith, charity, hope, patience, chastity, nor anything else that is good, except from God, and therefore these virtues are called there “the fruit of the Spirit”, and not the fruit of mankind (Galatians 5:19-23). Let us therefore acknowledge ourselves before God to be pitiable and wretched sinners (as indeed we are). And let us earnestly repent, and humble ourselves heartily, and cry to God for mercy. Let us all confess with mouth and heart, that we are full of imperfections. Let us know our own works, how imperfect they are, and then we shall not stand foolishly and arrogantly in our own conceits, nor think we can obtain justification by our merits or works.
George Crowder encourages us to renew our commitment to preaching and to prayer, for we have hope.
At what point do we give up hope? “Never,” you say. Let me re-phrase the question. At what point do we give up hope in our own abilities and resources? We can come to a moment of grim recognition, a fateful dawning of realisation that we do not possess the means to get out of a bad situation, be that medical, relational, financial, ecclesiastical, or otherwise.
Recently, I have often found myself reflecting on Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37). As Ezekiel surveyed the desolate scene God set before him, I wonder what he thought. There were so many bones which were so very dry. Who were these people and what happened to them?
Accompanying this arresting tableau, the Lord offers one outrageous question, a question which frames its purpose, verse 3: “Son of man, can these bones live?” Not only are these people dead, but their bodies have also rotted away. Not only have they been reduced to bones, but their bones are very dry. One step away from finally returning to dust, these human remains couldn’t be further away from life.
Lee Gatiss presents a modernised text of Homily 2, “A Homily of the Misery of All Mankind and of their Condemnation to Death Everlasting, by Their Own Sin.” (Part 1)
The Holy Spirit, in writing the Holy Scripture, is in nothing more diligent than to pull down our vainglory and pride, which of all vices is most universally grafted into all mankind, even from the first infection of our first father Adam. And therefore we read, in many places of Scripture, many notable lessons against this old rooted vice, to teach us the most commendable virtue of humility, how to know ourselves, and to remember what we are of ourselves.
Dust and Ashes
In the book of Genesis (Genesis 3:19), Almighty God gives us all a title and name in our great grandfather Adam, which ought to warn us all to consider what we are, where we came from, and where we shall go,. He says, “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Here, as it were, in a mirror we may learn to know ourselves, that we are but ground, earth, and ashes, and that to earth and ashes we shall return.
Lee Gatiss presents a modernised text of part 2 of the first Homily, “A Fruitful Exhortation to the Reading and Knowledge of Holy Scripture”.
In the first part of this sermon, which exhorts us to the knowledge of Holy Scripture, it was declared how the knowledge of Scripture is necessary and profitable to all; and that, by the true knowledge and understanding of Scripture, the most necessary points of our duty towards God and our neighbours are also known. Now, concerning the same matter, you shall hear what follows.
Ignorance of Scripture
If we profess Christ, why are we not ashamed to be ignorant of his doctrine, seeing that everyone is ashamed to be ignorant in that learning which they profess? Someone who does not read books of philosophy is ashamed to be called a Philosopher; or to be called a Lawyer, an Astronomer, or a Physician, if they are ignorant in the books of law, astronomy, and medicine. How can anyone, then, say that they profess Christ and his religion, if they will not apply themselves as far as they conveniently can to read and hear, and so to know, the books of Christ’s gospel and doctrine?