Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Faith and Works
By Thomas Cranmer (14891556)
From the Homily of Good Works annexed unto Faith
AS a branch cannot bear fruit of itself, saith our Saviour Christ, except it abide in the vine, so cannot you except you abide in me. I am the vine, and you be the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, he bringeth forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing. And St. Paul proveth that Enoch had faith, because he pleased God: For without faith, saith he, it is not possible to please God. And again, to the Romans he saith: Whatsoever work is done without faith, it is sin. Faith giveth life to the soul; and they be as much dead to God that lack faith, as they be to the world whose bodies lack souls. Without faith all that is done of us is but dead before God, although the work seem never so gay and glorious before man. Even as a picture graven or painted is but a dead representation of the thing itself, and is without life, or any manner of moving; so be the works of all unfaithful persons before God. They do appear to be lively works, and indeed they be but dead, not availing to the eternal life. They be but shadows and shews of lively and good things, and not good and lively things indeed; for true faith doth give life to the works, and out of such faith come good works, that be very good works indeed; and without it no work is good before God.
As saith St. Augustine: we must set no good works before faith, nor think that without faith a man may do any good work; for such works, although they seem unto men to be praise-worthy, yet indeed they be but vain, and not allowed before God. They be as the course of a horse that runneth out of the way, which taketh great labour, but to no purpose. Let no man, therefore, saith he, reckon upon his good works before his faith; where as faith was not, good works were not. The intent, saith he, maketh the good works; but faith must guide and order the intent of man. And Christ saith: If thine eye be naught, thy whole body is full of darkness. The eye doth signify the intent, saith St. Augustine, wherewith a man doth a thing; so that he which doth not his good works with a godly intent, and a true faith that worketh by love, the whole body beside, that is to say, all the whole number of his works, is dark, and there is no light in it. For good deeds be not measured by the facts themselves, and so dissevered from vices, but by the ends and intents for the which they be done. If a heathen man clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and do such other like works; yet because he doth them not in faith for the honour and love of God, they be but dead, vain, and fruitless works to him. Faith it is that doth commend the work to God; for, as St. Augustine saith, whether thou wilt or no, that work that cometh not of faith is naught; where the faith of Christ is not the foundation, there is no good work, what building soever we make. There is one work, in the which be all good works, that is, faith which worketh by charity: if thou have it, thou hast the ground of all good works; for the virtues of strength, wisdom, temperance, and justice, be all referred unto this same faith. Without this faith we have not them, but only the names and shadows of them, as St. Augustine saith: All the life of them that lack the true faith is sin; and nothing is good without Him that is the author of goodness: where He is not, there is but feigned virtue, although it be in the best works. And St. Augustine, declaring this verse of the psalm, the turtle hath found a nest where she may keep her young birds, saith, that Jews, heretics, and pagans do good works: they clothe the naked, feed the poor, and do other good works of mercy; but because they be not done in the true faith, therefore the birds be lost. But if they remain in faith, then faith is the nest and safeguard of their birds, that is to say, safeguard of their good works, that the reward of them be not utterly lost.
And this matter (which St. Augustine at large in many books disputeth) St. Ambrose concludeth in few words, saying; He that by nature would withstand vice, either by natural will or reason, he doth in vain garnish the time of this life, and attaineth not the very true virtues; for without the worshipping of the true God that which seemeth to be virtue is vice.
And yet most plainly to this purpose writeth St. John Chrysostom in this wise: You shall find many which have not the true faith, and be not of the flock of Christ, and yet (as it appeareth) they flourish in good works of mercy: you shall find them full of pity, compassion, and given to justice; and yet for all that they have no fruit of their works, because the chief work lacketh. For when the Jews asked of Christ what they should do to work good works, he answered: This is the work of God, to believe in him whom He sent: so that he called faith the work of God. And as soon as a man hath faith, anon he shall flourish in good works; for faith of itself is full of good works, and nothing is good without faith. And, for a similitude, he saith, that they which glister and shine in good works without faith in God, be like dead men, which have goodly and precious tombs, and yet it availeth them nothing. Faith may not be naked without works, for then it is no true faith; and when it is adjoined to works, yet it is above the works. For as men, that be very men indeed, first have life, and after be nourished; so must our faith in Christ go before, and after be nourished with good works. And life may be without nourishment, but nourishment cannot be without life. A man must needs be nourished by good works, but first he must have faith. He that doth good deeds, yet without faith, he hath not life. I can shew a man that by faith without works lived, and came to heaven: but without faith never man had life. The thief that was hanged when Christ suffered, did believe only, and the most merciful God did justify him. And because no man shall object, that he lacked time to do good works, for else he would have done them; truth it is and I will not contend therein: but this I will surely affirm, that faith only saved him. If he had lived, and not regarded faith, and the works thereof, he should have lost his salvation again. But this is the effect that I say, that faith by itself saved him, but works by themselves never justified any man. Here ye have heard the mind of St. Chrysostom, whereby you may perceive, that neither faith is without works (having opportunity thereto), nor works can avail to eternal life without faith.