Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
By Richard Hooker (15541600)
From the Sermon on Justification
WE are but upbraided, when we are honoured with names and titles whereunto our lives and manners are not suitable. If we have indeed our fruit in holiness, notwithstanding we must note, that the more we abound therein, the more need we have to crave that we may be strengthened and supported. Our very virtues may be snares unto us. The enemy that waiteth for all occasions to work our ruin, hath ever found it harder to overthrow an humble sinner than a proud saint. There is no mans case so dangerous as his, whom Satan hath persuaded that his own righteousness shall present him pure and blameless in the sight of God. If we could say, we are not guilty of any thing at all in our own consciences (we know ourselves far from this innocency, we cannot say, we know nothing by ourselves; but if we could), should we therefore plead not guilty in the presence of our Judge, that sees further into our hearts than we ourselves are able to see? If our hands did never offer violence to our brethren, a bloody thought doth prove us murderers before Him; if we had never opened our mouths to utter any scandalous, offensive, or hurtful word, the cry of our secret cogitations is heard in the ears of God. If we did not commit the evils which we do daily and hourly, either in deeds, words, or thoughts, yet in the good things which we do, how many defects are there intermingled! God, in that which is done, respecteth specially the mind and intention of the doer. Cut off then all those things wherein we have regarded our own glory, those things which we do to please men, or to satisfy our own liking, those things which we do with any by-respect, not sincerely and purely for the love of God; and a small score will serve for the number of our righteous deeds. Let the holiest and best thing we do be considered. We are never better affected unto God than when we pray; yet when we pray, how are our affections many times distracted! How little reverence do we show to the grand majesty of that God unto Whom we speak! How little remorse of our own miseries! How little taste of the sweet influence of His tender mercy do we feel! Are we not as unwilling many times to begin, and as glad to make an end, as if God, in saying Call upon me, had set us a very burdensome task?
It may seem somewhat extreme, which I will speak; therefore let every man judge of it even as his own heart shall tell him, and no otherwise; I will but only make a demand; If God should yield to us, not as unto Abraham, if fifty, forty, thirty, twenty, yea, or if ten good persons could be found in a city, for their sakes that city should not be destroyed; but, if God should make us an offer thus large, Search all the generations of men sithence the fall of your father Adam, find one man, that hath done any one action, which hath past from him pure, without any stain or blemish at all; and for that one mans one only action, neither man nor angel shall feel the torments which are prepared for both; do you think that this ransom, to deliver men and angels, would be found among the sons of men? The best things we do have somewhat in them to be pardoned. How then can we do any thing meritorious, and worthy to be rewarded? Indeed, God doth liberally promise whatsoever appertaineth to a blessed life, unto as many as sincerely keep His law, though they be not able exactly to keep it. Wherefore, we acknowledge a dutiful necessity of doing well, but the meritorious dignity of well doing we utterly renounce. We see how far we are from the perfect righteousness of the law; the little fruit which we have in holiness, it is, God knoweth, corrupt and unsound; we put no confidence at all in it, we challenge nothing in the world for it, we dare not call God to a reckoning, as if we had Him in our debt-books; our continual suit to Him is, and must be, to bear with our infirmities, to pardon our offences.