Perseverance of the Saints defended
Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee because though hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen and repent….
From this Scripture it might seem to follow that the saints may fall away wholly from grace and so perish eternally. For if so holy a teacher [called an ‘angel’] in the church of Ephesus fell from his first love, why then may we not conclude the uncertainty of the grace of faith, justification, perseverance and salvation? And why should we Protestants not also doubt these things and stand in fear as do the Papists? I confess, had this teacher-angel fallen away, there would be just cause for such doubting. For no man can assuredly believe in the certainty of his faith and salvation who also doubts of the certainty of his perseverance.
The exposition of Ribera and Alcazar in this place is sound. They say namely, ‘that he had not altogether lost his love, for as much as he endured so great things for the sake of Christ, but that he lost much of his former zeal.’ In this we agree with them. For the saints left to themselves will soon fall from their faith, love, perseverance and salvation, if we only have respect to secondary causes; to wit, the mutability of the will, the weakness of man, the scandals of the world, and the subtlety and power of Satan. For how shall we be able to withstand all these, seeing that we are weak men, subject to the common frailties of others as long as we carry about us this earthly tabernacle? For what saith the Scripture? Be not lift up, but fear; lest thou also be cut off; The Spirit, indeed, is willing, but the flesh is weak; Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall; For Satan walking about as a roaring lion seeketh whom he may devour. So that not only the example of this pastor, but also the manifold slips and complaints of the saints do witness that they may languish and fail in the act of faith and charity, grieve the Spirit of God, to the present loss of a good conscience. But if, on the contrary, we consider the unchangeable council of God touching the salvation of the elect, or the most effectual intercession of Christ for their faith, perseverance and salvation, and lastly, the power of God, by which, as the Apostle Peter witnesses, 1 Peter 1:5, the elect are kept until the end, then we, with the holy Scriptures as our authority, may firmly conclude that the faithful cannot wholly and finally fall from the habit and act of faith and love toward God, so as to fall and become the enemies of God, perishing forever, I say for the following reasons:
(1) Whosoever is born of God sinneth not, 1 John 3:9, to wit, with his whole will, and that unto death, for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God;
(2) For it is impossible the elect should be deceived, Matt. 24:24, to wit, finally unto their damnation;
(3) Because no man can pluck Christ’s sheep out of his hand: but he giveth unto them life eternal, John 10:28;
(4) And therefore, Christ said to Peter, I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not, Luke 22:32;
(5) And God promised to put his fear into their hearts, that they may not depart from him, Jeremiah 32:40; which is, as Augustine interprets it, ‘that they might always cleave unto him: for they are as Mount Zion which cannot be moved, etc.’
These and many similar passages of Scripture plainly overthrow that Pelagian error which makes possible the final apostasy of the saints, the fear of being finally drawn away from the truth, and the doubting of the power of God’s grace to save as decreed by the Council of Trent. These Scriptures, and many besides, all confirm the free purpose of God to certainly and most assuredly keep us in His grace unto the end, guaranteeing our perseverance. However, I do not deny that the elect may many times disturb their peace and assurance, having their minds troubled with manifold doubts. For as men we are subject to human frailties, and shall as long as we are here in this present life.
Therefore, we expound the verse, From whence thou art fallen, as if the Lord had said, ‘in that thou art gone back from thy former zeal in godliness, fervor and love, and art become unlike what you were before.’ So then, Christ commends the teacher of the Ephesian church for his constancy in the truth and hatred of heresy; but reproves him for his languishing, covetousness and ambition. Hence we see it is not sufficient to profess the truth, unless it be done in obedience of faith and humility……
Pareus argues against Free Will
To him that overcommeth will I give to eat of the tree of life…
They who plead for free will infer from these promises: To him that overcommeth, that it is in our own power to overcome. But to reach this conclusion one must argue from the thing conditional to the condition itself, which is absurd. In fact, this promise teaches what Christ will give unto the doers of His will, but it does not teach by what power this is performed. A similar false argument is given by these teachers, who vainly gather from the words, he that hath an ear, let him hear, as if men had some power in themselves to hear. Nay, rather the contrary is true. For whereas the Lord calleth upon us to hear, it shows that we are deaf, unless He himself open the ears of our hearts. For not only are we dead in sins, but we are deaf and blind by nature, remaining so, until, by the grace of Christ, we are made able to hear and perceive the things of God.
The Church of Rome is the Church of Satan;
The Papacy the Throne of Satan
…..and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews and are not, but are the Synagogue of Satan.
Here we see that titles avail not when men are degenerated and forsake the truth. The same may be said of the title of ‘Church’, of which the Papists boast so highly. They say, ‘We are the Church.’ We grant they are indeed the ‘Church’, but not the Church of Christ. They are the Church of Satan who worship not God, but the devil in their Idols.
I know thy works and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is….
Pergamus was the throne of the devil, who, in Hebrew, is called Satan, that is, ‘an adversary.’ This city was full of lascivious and vile persons, haters of Christ and His members, among whom Satan reigned, in their palace, senate and temples; compelling the magistrates and citizens to commit horrible Idolatry and all manner of outrage and wickedness against Christians. Nevertheless, Christ had a church in this evil city. And could He not likewise preserve a people for Himself, though for a thousand years and more the Roman Papacy has been the throne of Satan and the seat of Antichrist where, under the name of Christianity abounds all ungodliness, idolatry and barbaric cruelty against Christ? The Papists object to the comparison, arguing that the true Christians in Pergamus were a visible church, separated from the Pagans, but there was no visible church for centuries besides the Church of Rome. Therefore, they say, the Protestants hold to a new religion which must be false, while theirs is true, the gates of Hell not having prevailed against them.
I answer, unless there had been some kind of visible Church among the Papists, the Roman clergy would not have been so renowned as they are for the killing and martyring of the saints. But be it granted there was no visible church other than the Church of Rome for centuries, were not the 7,000 in Israel a true Church who worshipped God, though they were not a visible congregation separated from the worshippers of Baal, having kept themselves hidden for fear of persecution, even unknown to Elijah himself?
Pareus proves the burdens of men’s traditions not of Christ
….I will put upon you none other burden…
In this verse Christ repudiates the imposition of the ceremonial law, a yoke which neither ye nor the Fathers were able to bear.Christ has freed us from this law, for it is sufficient to salvation to maintain the doctrine faithfully delivered to us by the Apostles…..Hence, it appears that human traditions are a burden imposed upon the Church, not by Christ, but by the instruments of Satan. Here we see what to think of the manifold traditions of the Prelates, to wit, that they are burdens, not required by Christ, but by the son of perdition; wherefore, neither the Church nor any of the faithful ought to submit to them, nor to hearken unto the voice of that Antichristian parasite, affirming ‘that the yoke imposed by the Holy See is to be borne, no matter how intolerable.’ 
Pareus exposes the lie of Transubstantiation
But that which ye have already hold fast until I come.
Christ promises He will descend, bodily, from Heaven in the clouds, for judgment, according to our Christian belief, confirmed by the Scriptures and confession of the primitive Church. Therefore, for men to believe as necessary for salvation that Christ in the flesh is present, in and under the sacrament of the altar, or that His human nature is in all places, and fills all things, is a most false doctrine, and a burden not imposed by Christ our Lord.
Discourse on False Christians
….I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
Here we are taught that all who profess the truth, making a show of holiness, are not truly faithful and regenerate persons, but many of them are hypocrites and deceivers who, in reality, are far from Christ. Hypocrisy is that profession of faith with the mouth, while at the same time destitute thereof in the heart. And hence we may conclude that a bare profession is not an argument for true faith as the patrons of hypocrites affirm, whereby they oftentimes delude themselves and others. Simon Magus is said to believe. Therefore, they say, some who profess Christ, having true faith, may fall away and perish. But this verse teaches that many professing Christians are inwardly dead, though they may seem outwardly to be alive. We have New Testament examples of this in Ananias, the High Priest, called a whited wall, by Paul; the Pharisees, called painted sepulchers, and spiritually dead, by Christ; and the admonition by Christ, who told the man to, let the dead bury the dead. Paul also spoke of some wanton widows who were dead while they lived, yea, all men considered in their natural condition are dead in trespasses and sins. To be short, many have faith without love, which is a dead faith. This the devils also have.
Thus, we see in Scripture how persons are said not only to be dead, being deprived of natural life, but also to be ‘dead,’ meaning not regenerated, not having spiritual life. These persons are sincere in appearance only, but not in truth. Let us, therefore, take notice that all are not godly who seem to be. Neither shall all they who say, Lord, Lord, enter into the kingdom of God, for the Church consists of a mixture of saints and hypocrites. This difference is not only in the Laity, but chiefly in the Clergy, as the Papists call themselves. That is to say that many in sheep’s clothing who seem to be true Pastors and Teachers are in truth mercenary wolves, and despite whatever means they use to deceive men, Christ knows them all. Therefore, let not the Bishops of Antichrist think to blind the eyes of Christ with their titles, miters and royal robes.
By considering this sober warning, we are informed of the divers condition of the Church in the world. For many are called to be members of the Church whereof some are good, others bad, some saints, others hypocrites, as we are taught in the parable of the dragnet which gathers all sorts of fish.
But though the elect saints are not known of men, yet God and Christ do discern them. For the Lord knoweth who are His. Therefore, let every one try and examine himself whether he be dead or alive, for hypocrites deceive not God, but man and their own souls…..
Large Church rolls do not mean many are saved
Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled his garments: and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy.
For many are called, but few chosen, in almost every congregation. We ought, therefore, not to be offended at the paucity of the faithful and the multitude of the ungodly. The Papists, indeed, glory in their multitude and write volumes in praise of the superior size of the Roman Catholic Church, upbraiding us because of our diminutive numbers. But in this verse we learn that that in Sardis there were many hypocrites and only a few who were not defiled.
Predestination expounded, including the question of eternal security
He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment, and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
Now concerning the elect, two things are here spoken of them: First, that their names are written in the Book of Life, also Phil. 4:3; or their names are written in Heaven, Luke 10:20, by which manner of speech we are taught that true believers do not obtain salvation by chance, but were elected by God to life in Christ before the foundation of the world and known by them, unlike those who perish. Secondly, the names of the elect are never blotted out of this Book, as it is here testified, I will not blot out his name out of the book of life. By this phrase is signified that the salvation of the of the elect is certain and sure and that they shall never perish. This He also promises in John 10, no man shall pluck my sheep from my hand. Also, in Matt. 24:24, It is impossible the elect should be seduced. All which serves, not for curiosity, but for our comfort, that we being certain of our salvation might joyfully persevere in well doing unto the end.
But of reprobates and infidels two things are also spoken: First, that their names are not written in the Book of Life. This truth is also taught in Rev. 13:8,17:8, 20:15. Secondly, they are blotted out of the Book of Life and cast into the Lake of Fire, by which is signified that they who were not predestinated shall certainly perish.
But this seems to imply a contradiction – not written, yet blotted out. I answer: this is to be taken in a double sense. (1) Either of those reprobates who, in the eternal counsel of God, are never written in, and thus, never blotted out; or (2) According to the boasting and appearance of the hypocrites, they are thus said to be blotted out. That is to say, declared by God never to have been written therein in the first place. We see there are many hypocrites in the Church, who are taken for a time to be considered the elect of God, whereas in truth, they are not. Therefore, when their hypocrisy is discovered and they are justly cast out of the Church, then they are said to be blotted out, as Ambrose and Augustine have well observed. Notwithstanding, from this argument against the hypocrites, it does not follow that any of the elect shall be blotted out. For this is contrary to the promise of God, It is impossible the elect shall perish; none shall pluck my sheep out of my hand.
This argument concerning our perseverance is full of comfort, for all the faithful, being elected by God, are written in the Book of Life, and shall never be blotted out. Whosoever, therefore, can now assure himself to be a believer, ought certainly now to believe that he is the chosen of God and that he shall assuredly persevere in his faith, fear and service for evermore. This he shall not do by his own strength (for such is repugnant and presumptuous unto true faith) but by the power of God, who keepeth the elect through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time, 1 Peter 1:5
The Pope of Rome is that great Antichrist by virtue of his titles
These things saith he that is holy, he that is true…..
….Thus, we see the divine majesty of Christ declared. Here also let us note the detestable boldness of the Pope of Rome who will be called the Most Holy Father, yea, His Holiness itself. Is not this to lift himself up above Christ? Does he not by this manifest himself to be the great Antichrist?
Christ, indeed, is absolutely called the Holy One. But the Pope calls himself the Most Holy One, and that absolutely. Thus, he proudly exalts himself above Christ, which is a mark of Antichrist. Earlier we noted from the title of Christ’s priesthood, Hebrews 4:14, where he is twice called a great high priest. In this the Pope arrogates to himself a higher title, the greatest high priest, wherein again he lifts himself up above Christ, plainly showing he is not Christ’s Vicar, but rather the successor of the Archpriest of the Pagans, whom the Romans called Archflamins.
Another discourse against free will
Behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
We see from this verse the conversion of the wicked is not to be ascribed to any free will in them. For Christ makes them to come and worship. And without Him we can do nothing, according to that saying, No man can come unto the Son, except the Father draw him. The consideration of which puts us in mind both of our misery and weakness which is come upon us by sin, as well as the great mercy of God towards us. For although, indeed, our coming to worship God may in some way be applied to our willingness, while those who refuse or who blaspheme the name of Christ may be said to be due to their unwillingness, yet the true and primary cause which makes us willing, whereas others are left in their unwillingness, is the free mercy and grace of Christ, by which we are made to differ, being given better things than others. For this reason in this verse is it said, I will make them to come, etc. 1 Cor. 4:7 echoes a similar sentiment, Who hath made thee to differ? Also, Romans 9:18, For he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
This now begs the question how Christ makes us come to worship. The ‘Sophists’ who plead for free will confess, indeed, that this is a work of grace, without which no man can come. Notwithstanding, they affirm that a man has free will to do good before he is in a state of grace, although he is weak and sleepy. His will is awakened and strengthened by grace, they say, in that it cooperates with grace; yea, it even precedes God’s grace in the very act of conversion, being, as it were, a co-working cause, as when two horses draw a chariot, or two men together carry a heavy object.
Moreover, they affirm that free will is like a seeing man, who is indisposed to seeing in the dark, but being brought into the light, he discerns everything. In such a manner they argue among themselves of the agreement between grace and the will. The Scotists teach that grace works nothing on the will, whereas it only influences the effects. The Jesuits affirm the contrary, teaching that grace works upon the will, yet so as by an indifferent influence, distinguishing between its effects by virtue of the good or evil of the particular will in question.
But herein they all agree, that grace is only persuasive, as is the influence of public speakers upon their audience, so that the will, if it wills, may give efficacy to grace. Such was the heresy of Pelagius.
Scripture teaches the contrary: the natural man lies dead in sin, and is like an Ethiopian who cannot change his skin, or a leopard who cannot cast off his spots. He cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him. Every imagination of the thought of his heart is only evil continually. Thus, we see that man’s free will is not subject to the law of God, neither, indeed, can be. For his blind and erroneous mind cannot bring saving spiritual things to his will; neither can his corrupt will refuse that which is evil as evil. On the contrary, he chooses and delights in it, as if it were good. Therefore, seeing that such is corruption of our will and faculties, and that it is Christ who makes us come to Him, the Father drawing men unto Christ, none can affirm that the grace of conversion is only an indifferent influence or moral persuasion, without committing blasphemy against God.
But our opponents further argue that free will makes man to differ from the beast that perishes, therefore, sin could not take away the freedom of his will without the destruction of nature, making man an unreasonable creature.
I answer: It is true, if it is meant of free will absolutely. But what is that to the purpose? We do not deny free will absolutely, for without it a man is not a man, but a beast. We deny that a natural man has a free and understanding will unto that which is good, in spiritual things pertaining to God. Regarding this subject, Scripture pronounces man blind, a servant to that which is evil; yea, even to be dead in sins, and altogether disobedient unto God. Therefore, to come to Christ we need more than mere persuasion. We must have the effectual work of grace by which the Lord illumines, draws and regenerates us, so that we may become new creatures.
To summarize in few words as possible: The natural man is dead in sin, God giving him both the will and the deed. Christ makes us come to Him, so where does man’s free will come into play? Those who teach the doctrine of free will against the biblical doctrine of sovereign grace rob God and Christ of their honor, lead men into extreme danger of pride, renewing the heresy of the Pelagians, whatsoever they pretend to the contrary.
Eternal security of the Elect defended
Behold, I come quickly. Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
Our adversaries claim this verse for their cause against the absolute perseverance of the saints. I answer: We are confident that this exhortation is to both the Pastor and the whole Church, in which there is always a mixture of saints and hypocrites, of elect and reprobates, who, indeed, make a confession of faith with their mouth, but believe not with their heart unto righteousness. Therefore, they are said to be deprived of the crown because they hold not fast what they have, that is to say, what they seem to have. According to Luke 8:18, Whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken, even that which he seemeth to have. Therefore, when such fall away and lose their crown, it does nothing to weaken the doctrine of eternal security of the elect, for as the Apostle witnesses, those who fall away are not numbered among the elect: They went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would have no doubt continued with us. Also apropos is the Scripture, Let him which seems to stand take heed lest he fall. Thou standest by faith, be not high-minded, but fear. This is obviously directed to the high-minded hypocrites who stand in outward appearance only.
But the salvation of the elect is sure because they are kept by the power of God through faith, in humility of mind. They shall certainly hold fast that which they have and never be cast off.
But if you say, ‘If this Bishop’ (as undoubtedly he was) ‘was one of the elect, what need was there of the threat, let no man take thy crown, since the Reformed teach the elect cannot fall away, or be deprived thereof?’
I answer: It is not in vain. First, indeed, since the elect cannot lose their crown of life in respect to the decree of God by which they are predestinated and called unto salvation, it could possibly be taken away if left to their own infirmity, and for multiple other reasons and causes which threaten their destruction, unless they were preserved by that power of which Peter spoke, 1 Peter 1:5.
Secondly, respecting the faithful, these threatenings are conditional. Another shall take their crown, if they do not persevere in the faith, but they do persevere:
(1) Because God keeps them unto the end.
(2) Because Christ doth continually pray for them that their faith fail not.
(3) Because they continually pray for the same, and are heard, according to the promise of Jeremiah 32:40, and I will put my fear into their hearts that they shall not depart from me, that is, as Augustine interprets it, ‘they shall persevere and cleave unto me.’
(4) And lastly, by such threatenings and exhortations the Lord stirs up the saints in their endeavor unto perseverance.
Pareus exposes hypocrites in the Church
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou were cold wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold not hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth….
The narration contains many particulars, such as reproof, combination, confutation, persuasion, exhortation and promise, unto verse 21. First, in this verse he sharply reproves the Laodiceans as not answering to the name by which they were called. For Laodicea signifies a just people, sincere and well reformed in manners faith and godliness, being derived from the Greek words meaning ‘a people’ and ‘just’. But thou, saith Christ, are neither cold nor hot. Interpreters differ as to what constitutes ‘cold,’ ‘hot,’ and ‘lukewarm.’ Alcazar brings in eleven opinions, but he seeks a knot in a rush. The thing itself plainly shows that by a proverbial metaphor Christ accounts those neither cold, nor hot, but lukewarm, who neither is a professed enemy of the Gospel, nor a faithful professor thereof, but a hypocrite. In other words, one who is between the two. This may refer either to their lifestyle or doctrine. As for the origin of the mixture of heathenish and Jewish rites in the service of God, it began immediately upon the cessation of the persecution of the Roman Emperors, when the Christian Church began to enjoy ease and tranquility. Therefore, it is my opinion that these Laodiceans were not as yet guilty of this particular evil, but they were lukewarm concerning their faith and morals, so that they would ‘fit in’ better with the gentiles, not offending them, for the purpose of enhancing their trade in that mart-town which abounded with all kinds of merchants. Desiring the best of both worlds, they wished to be good Christians while still remaining attached to their former love of luxury and fraud. In summation, they mingled Christ and the world together, making use of religion only when it would not interfere with their profit and trade. Thus, they were neither open enemies of Christ, nor His true friends, but as it were lukewarm and neutral, that is, feigned and lying hypocrites. In Christ’s estimation they were worse than His open, professed enemies.
He wished they were hot, that is, truly zealous in faith and godliness, for the Law requires that men should love the Lord with all their heart, and with all their soul, etc. Thus, we see that to be hot is to be upright in heart, full of love to God and neighbor.
Now Christ wishes they were cold, that is, altogether without faith and godliness, not absolutely, but comparatively, insomuch as they who are cold seem to be more excusable than those who are lukewarm, and more easily reformable, easier to discern, and thus, less hurtful to other Christians. For the sin of hypocrites is greater than those who are open enemies because it is worse not to sincerely follow the truth which we know then to be ignorant altogether thereof. For the ignorant are more easily brought to knowledge of the truth than the hypocrites who believe they already possess the truth, believing they see when, in fact, they are blind, insisting on maintaining their false opinions, hating and persecuting the truth of Christ.
For example, the Lutherans, who being wedded to their false opinions, are with much more difficulty drawn away from them. For they hate and persecute the orthodox doctrine concerning our spiritual communion with Christ, even more than the blind Papists. Again, a Jew who is a professed enemy of Christ, is easier to bring to embrace the Christian religion then a hypocritical Jesuit drowned in Antichristian superstitions. And therefore, with great reason Christ wishes was cold rather than lukewarm; not that it is good to be cold, but because a lukewarm condition is more dangerous and hurtful than the other. This metaphor is applicable to the world, who also view that which is lukewarm to be less desirous. Hot meats in cold weather and cold drinks in hot seasons agree best with the stomach, but that which is lukewarm is loathsome and disposed to vomit.
Hence, Christ desired that the Pharisees had been blind rather than hypocrites: If ye were blind, ye should have no sin, but now ye say, we see, therefore your sin remaineth. Similarly, Elijah said to the hypocritical and idolatrous Israelites, Why halt ye between two opinions? If Jehovah be God, follow him; but if Baal, follow him. Not as if Elijah approved the worship of Baal, but rather shows that there is such a contradiction between Baal worship and the true worship of God that they cannot possibly be joined together.
And hence we are taught whom we are to discern to be lukewarm in these our days – not such as are weak in the faith, whom the Scripture commands us to receive in all meekness, but rather those who endeavor to join Christ with Belial in faith, ceremonies and morals. Also included are those who glory as if they were come out of Babylon and would feign to be counted good Protestants, nevertheless strive tooth and nail to uphold the superstitions of Antichrist, such as his title, orders, garments, surplices, miters, crucifixes, images, and the like Babylonish stuff brought by him into the worship of God. But let us here notice the judgment of Christ upon such men.
The second part of the narration contains a threatening, with a repetition of the cause thereof, because thou art lukewarm, I will spew thee out of my mouth. Christ goes forward in the metaphor, comparing hypocrites to lukewarm water which is so loathsome to the stomach that it cannot retain it, but casts it forth with loathsomeness and pain. In this way also hypocrites are abominable to Christ, for He spews them out of His mouth, that is, He rejects them as strangers unto Him. Here we see the leniency and patience of Christ in bearing a long time with the hypocrites; yea, inviting them to repentance and admonishing them of their punishment before He spews them out for their obstinacy. God’s threatenings, therefore, are to be understood conditionally, I will spew thee out, ‘if thou repent not.’
We may not conclude from this verse that those cold are in Christ’s mouth, or that any of the faithful may fall from grace, as Ribera subtly disputes. For Christ threatens this, not against the cold, but the lukewarm, who by profession and appearance are in His mouth, that is, in the Church of Christ, but are, indeed, hypocrites having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.
From this we should ever be cognizant that there are always to be many hypocrites in the bosom of the Church, especially among the clergy. This mixture, therefore, should not offend us (for the devil will always sow tares among the wheat), neither are we to be moved with the lofty titles of high priests, cardinals, bishops, prelates, and the like rabble of Antichrist.
Because thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked…
The third part of this narrative is a confutation of the vain boasting of this church, in which many were rich merchants, fallen into worldliness and loose living. For riches do often fool their owners, occasioning in them pride and luxury. And this seems to be the reason they pridefully boasted. They were rich and had need of nothing. But it may also be rightly understood that they gloried as if they had been rich in spiritual things. For hypocrites imagine they are just and holy and need not grace and remission of sins as other men. Thus, these gloried in their faith, but it was dead and void of sincerity and love, as is the faith of all hypocrites, and so not sufficient for the attaining of spiritual riches. And this kind of faith we willingly grant to Ribera, who here cavils against us. Christ, therefore, mentioned their pride as another reason why He will spew them out. This pride is understood by the words, Because thou sayest…., that is, ‘proudly boast,’ therefore I will spew thee out of my mouth.
Christ refutes their vanity and foolishness by declaring His contrary judgment of them. For as it is a vain and foolish thing for a beggar to boast of the riches which he hath not, even so is it for men to be lifted up with any confidence of spiritual riches before God, seeing in this respect they are altogether destitute. And though we may be bound in outward goods, yet to glory therein is vanity, for they are transitory and perish in their use.
Christ shows that ignorance is the cause of the pride of the hypocrites and indeed, know thyself, is a very hard lesson. And therefore, there is no better remedy to beat down our pride, then to examine and know ourselves. The Lord here shows us in five epithets what hypocrites are; yea, what all of us are by nature.
(1) Wretched: that is, oppressed with calamity and sickness. The prideful hypocrite is wretched before God.
(2) Miserable: deprived of mercy, without which men must perish forever.
(3) Poor: that is, destitute of righteousness and true holiness before God, as the poor beggar who hath not anything to supply his needs.
(4) Blind: that is, one ignorant of his miserable state and condition. Hypocrites are ordinarily sharp-sighted in worldly matters; yea, many times they have a large knowledge of divine mysteries, notwithstanding touching the knowledge of themselves they are as blind as beetles.
(4) Naked: lacking Christ, the wedding garment. For hypocrites, though they be partakers of the Sacraments, yet being destitute of true faith, do not put on the Lord Jesus. Thus, in reproving these men, Christ stirs us up to the knowledge of our own misery, to seek after God’s mercy. For knowledge is the first step to salvation.
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see.
Christ is that merchant who alone deals in the heavenly merchandise of salvation, offering the same unto us in the Gospel; not for a price, nor in regard to our works, but freely to be obtained by faith and prayer. Here is that monopoly of Christ, our Lord, without which there is no salvation. They, therefore, who look to be saved by saints shall miss of their expectation; and so shall all who give credit to the indulgences of Antichrist, setting Heaven to sale for money.
They who possess much gold are accounted rich in the world. Now it is not gold, but faith, by which we possess Christ with all his treasure that makes us rich in God’s account. Having bought gold of Christ, we must also buy white raiment. For He says that we are both poor and naked, and therefore we stand in need of gold to supply our poverty. Likewise, we are in need of raiment to cover our nakedness. By white raiment is meant that which can cover our filthy nakedness, that is, the deformity and guilt of sin, which cannot be covered by any righteousness or merit of our own. All our righteousness is as filthy cloths in the sight of God. Now Christ, with His righteousness, is this white and pure garment, which we put on by faith, and in a special manner received by the faithful in the sacraments. Thus, we see that to buy white raiment is to seek for and appropriate unto our souls, by faith, the righteousness and salvation in and through the alone merit of Christ. It is called white because it is purified in the blood of Christ, that immaculate and undefiled Lamb, for whiteness denotes purity. The white garments spoken of in verse 5 denote our being made partakers of heavenly glory, but not so in this verse. The former place hath respect to the reward of victory after this life, but here He speaks of white raiment with which we must be clothed in this life, so that we may be acceptable in the sight of God.
The eye salve with which we must anoint our eyes is the illumination of the Spirit of God by which dark hearts may be enlightened and stirred up unto the true knowledge and love of God through faith, that by seeing their own misery and Christ’s benefits, they might cease to be blind…..
Pareus’ further arguments against Free Will
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with me.
This allegory is abused by Libertines and Jesuits (whom the Lutherans also begin to imitate) to establish (contrary to the Scriptures) universal grace, to the injuring of the free grace of Christ. They build their alleged proof upon this verse 20. They infer that God has made His promise universally unto all men and, because all are counseled to ‘open’ to Christ, then it must be in their free will either to admit or to exclude Him.
Cardinal Bellarmine argues, ‘they at whose heart the Lord knocks either have sufficient power to open or not. If they have, then the free will we plead for is granted. If they have not, then why, I pray you, doth the Lord knock? Or is He ignorant they cannot open? Would we not account him unwise, who should knock at his neighbor’s door, knowing in the meantime that there is no one inside to open the door to him?’
First, I cite Jerome, who says that ‘parables and the exposition of dark sentences are not to be brought forward for the confirmation of doctrines. Now this parable of Christ is spoken allegorically, and not literally, for whereas Christ is said to ‘knock’, like a traveler at the ‘door,’ and to ‘sup’ with them that open, if this should be taken according to the letter of the text, Christ should not be the omnipotent God Almighty. For either He can open, or else He cannot. If he cannot do it unless we open up to Him, how then is He omnipotent? But if He can, why then does He knock? Or of what use is it that we should open to Him? Would he not to seem be unwise if he knocks at his neighbor’s door while having the key in his own hand?
Secondly, the reasoning is false, for the consequence will not hold whereby we must necessarily deduce from the thing which is conditional to the thing which is categorically required. In this instance, they insist that, if any man hear and open, then it necessarily follows that it is by the power of our free will that we open. But conditional promises prove nothing more than what God declares is our duty to perform; this being done, it then promises what God will do. Thus, Erasmus disputed against Luther: ‘If ye will, ye shall eat the good things of the earth, therefore, men have a free will to do good and repent. But the Scripture wholly denies this to be true: Can the Ethiopian change his skin? Or the Leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good who are accustomed to do evil; A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit; For it is God which worketh in you to will and to do according to his good pleasure.
In answering Erasmus, Luther stated, ‘oftentimes these conditional promises signify an impossibility……which in a manner of speech signify things which are not possible in regard to our own strength, though to God all things are possible. And, indeed, by such expressions the Scriptures declare unto us, not what we can do of ourselves, but what the Lord may work in us by His own power.’
Thirdly, concerning universal grace and our natural power to open: (1) It is false to believe that the same grace is bestowed on all alike when we consider that the means of conversion and salvation is not offered to all alike. Instead, it is always bestowed as it hath pleased the Lord, when, where and to whom He would. We see that the Turks, Jews and Pagans in our day have not the means of salvation which we Christians enjoy by the singular mercy of God; (2) We do not deny that those doors upon which Christ knocks by His special grace have sufficient help to open, as far as the outward means are concerned. This would, indeed, be enough for all, except for the fact that all men are by nature deaf and dead in sins. Not withstanding, it is sufficient for their conversion if they are inwardly wrought upon by the Spirit of God.
But it is untrue that this sufficiency is made effectual and operative through a free will in us because while Christ outwardly knocks, we inwardly are dead in our sins, being deaf and blind, black Ethiopians, spotted leopards, evil trees, which of themselves cannot bring forth good fruit. And therefore, the greatest outward means are of no force, until there be an inward and powerful motion, raising us up from the death of sin, illuminating the mind, opening the heart, changing the whole man. Christ is not ignorant that we cannot open at his knock, much less is He unwise in knocking, but does it because He knows we are inwardly deaf and dead in sin, unable of ourselves to open. By so doing, He convicts us of our miserable, natural estate, raising us up from the death of sin, giving unto us both the will and power to open to Him.
(3) Scripture speaks in a two-fold manner of our conversion. Sometimes the Lord attributes to us and requires from us the whole works thereof, as if it depended altogether on our will: If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good things of the land; Turn ye unto me and I will turn unto you; Make you a new heart and a new spirit. For why will ye die, O House of Israel?; Repent ye, and believe the Gospel. These are said not as if it were in our power to do these things. For how can they spiritually move who are dead in sins? But the Scripture doth speak: (a) To teach us that we neither will, nor can do anything of ourselves, but are bound to ask it of God; (b) Because it pleases God, by such exhortations, threatenings, promises and conditions, to raise up our desire, and then, by His Spirit, enable us to perform His will. As Augustine says, ‘God commands us those things which we cannot do, that we may know what we ought to ask of him.
(4) Elsewhere the Lord ascribes the whole work of our conversion to Himself alone, and commands us to acknowledge that fact: I will make you to walk in my ways, and I will take the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh; Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; No man can come unto me except the Father draw him; Without me ye can do nothing. See also, Eph. 2:1; 1 Cor. 2:14; Romans 8:7; 2 Cor. 3:5; Luke 24:45; Acts 16:14; Acts 11:18. All these Scriptures plainly evince that the grace of conversion is not indifferent or universal, but just as our sufficient help does wholly depend on the general, particular pleasure and motion of God, so does the efficient help which the elect alone receive.
These essential differences between the Scriptures which attribute to man’s cooperation his salvation vs. those which attribute salvation to the Lord alone, as well as their causes, the Pelagians and their adherents have not observed, instead abusing the former Scriptures, as if they were absolutely spoken. They have corrupted the latter by their equivocations about grace, calling it indifferent and resistible grace, limited by the will of man either to do that which is good or evil. They have most falsely wrested the doctrine of original sin to establish their Idol of Free Will. By so doing, our opponents must of necessity embrace all other Pelagian heresies; namely:
1) That faith and good works foreseen do go before God’s predestination, and thus, their origin is not from God’s predestinating them; whereupon it follows that predestination is an effect of causes and conditions foreseen, which should rather be called postdestination.
2) That faith going before predestination must also be before calling, seeing that we are elected before we are called. By this ground, man, not God, is the author of faith, contrary to Romans 9:16, It is not of him that willeth, or of him that runneth, but God that sheweth mercy.
3) That the will, either co-working or not co-working with prevenient grace, doth make men to differ, contrary to 1 Cor. 4:7, Who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou did not receive? And so the increase of faith and grace should be given according to the merit of congruity, [i.e., the agreement of man’s will with the will of the Spirit.]
4) That man’s will is not corrupted or made worse by the fall of Adam, and so, either there should be no original sin at all, or else in name only, contrary to Jeremiah 17:9, The heart of man is deceitful above all things.
5) That the Law is within man’s strength to keep, but that he must absolutely fulfill the same, and be altogether free from sin in this life, if he would; whereas the Scriptures teach on the contrary, there is not any one just man in the earth which doth good and sinneth not. All which errors establish merits of condignity [i.e., merit acquired while performing works in a state of grace], which overthrow the grace and merits of Christ, and so, consequently, the truth of the Christian religion, being nothing, indeed, but in name only. In a word, Pelagianism confirms pagan divinity and philosophy. For in all these positions, only the names excepted, there is nothing but what philosophy teaches, both concerning the beginnings and reward of virtue, which to philosophers is faith, righteousness and works.
 I.e., the people the Papists killed were not invisible, but visible and known, so that their stories of martyrdom exist until this very day.
 Acts 15:10.
 Gratian. Distinc. 19.
 Acts 8:13.
 Acts 23:3.
 Matt. 23:27.
 Mat. 8:22.
 1 Timothy 5:6.
 Ephesians 2:1.
 2 Thess. 2:4.
 I.e., by his title of Pontifex Maximus, ‘the greatest bridge builder to the Gods,’ the highest priest in the Roman Empire.
 John 6:44.
 Ephesians 2:1.
 Jeremiah 13;
 1 Cor. 2:14.
 Genesis 6:5.
 Romans 8:6.
 1 John 2:18.
 John 9:41.
 Matt. 7:18.
 Phil. 2:13.
 Isaiah 1:19.
 Zech. 1:3.
 Ezek. 18:31.
 Mark 1:15.
 Ezek. 36:26.
 Jeremiah 31:18.
 John 6:44.