The Law, and the Benefit of a Mediator

Taken and Adapted from, “The Benefit of Christ Crucified”
Written by, Don Benedetto (d. 1544)

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[The Benefit of Christ Crucified, was arguably the most popular book of the short lived Italian Reformation. It is estimated that 40,000 – 80,000 copies were printed between 1541-1548, of which very few remain today due to the fact that most were burned once the title was placed on the list of prohibited books during the Inquisition. The treatise was originally published anonymously under the title Trattato Ultilissimo Del Beneficio Di Geisu Christo Crocifisso, and was for a few hundred years mistakenly attributed to Aonio Paleario (1503-1570), a martyr for the Reformation cause in Italy. But most scholars now agree, based on records from the Inquisition itself, that the “Trattato” was written by Don Benedetto, a student of the Spanish Reformer Juan de Valdes (1498?-1541) and friend of Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562). This online edition makes use of a translation from the original Italian into English by Edward Courtenay (1548), later edited and modernized in 1855 by Rev. R. W. Johnson (Cambridge: Deighton, Bell, & Co., 1855.]

That the law was given of God to the intent that we might first know our sin; and then that distrusting to be justified by our own works, we might run unto the mercy of God, and the righteousness of faith.

And Therefore, minding of his infinite goodness and mercy to send his only-begotten Son to deliver the miserable children of Adam, and knowing that it was needful first to make them know their own misery, God (I say) chose Abraham, in whose seed he did promise to bless all the generations of the earth, and to accept for his peculiar and chosen people all that descended of him, to whom, after they were gone out of Egypt and delivered from the bondage of Pharaoh, he gave by Moses the law, the which forbade concupiscences or lusts, and commanded that we should love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our power; in such wise that all our hope should be put in God, and that we should be ready to depart from our own lives for the same our good God’s sake, to suffer all torments in all parts of our bodies, to deprive ourselves of all our goods, dignities, and honours, to honour the same our God with all, choosing rather to die than to commit a thing never so little that should not please the same our good God. And to do all those things with all joyfulness and promptness of heart.

The law commandeth farther that we love our neighbour as ourself, understanding by our neighbour all states of men, as well our enemies as friends, commanding that we be ready to do [to] all men that which we should be done to us, and to love all things that appertain to others as that pertaineth properly to ourselves. A man then looking (as in a bright glass) in this holy law knoweth forthwith his own likeness and his unableness to obey unto the commandment of God, and to give due honour and love again unto his Maker. Then the first office that the law doth is this, it maketh sin to be known, as affirms Saint Paul. I knew not (saith he) what sin meant but by the law. The second office of the law is that it maketh sin to increase; for we being separate from the obedience of God, and made servants of the devil, and full of vicious affections and appetites, cannot suffer that God do forbid us concupiscences or lusts, the which the more they be forbidden the more they do increase. Whereupon Saint Paul saith, that above measure he became a sinner; sin (as he himself saith) was dead, but the law once coming it then rose up on and grew. The third office is that it openly declareth the wrath and justice of God, the which threateneth death and pain everlasting to them that doth not fully keep his law. And therefore the Holy Scripture saith, Accursed is he that keepeth not thoroughly all things that are written in the book of the law. Therefore Saint Paul saith, that the law is the administration of death, and that it worketh ire. Then the law having discovered and shewed sin and increased the same, having also shewed the wrath and fury of God, that threateneth death, it doth the fourth office, that is to say, it feareth the man, who then becometh desperate, and would satisfy the law, but he saith plainly that he cannot; and forsomuch as he cannot he is angry with God, and would that there were no God at all, because he feareth to be sharply chastened and punished of him: as Saint Paul saith, The wisdom of the flesh is the enemy of God. Wherefore it is not subject to the law of God, nor can be. The fifth office of the law, and his proper and most excellent and necessary end and effect, is that it causeth a man even of necessity to go unto Christ; as the Hebrews, being afraid, were necessarily constrained to desire Moses, saying, Let not God talk with us lest we die; speak thou to us, and we will obey thee, and do anything. The Lord answered, They have spoken very well; and for none other thing were they praised,’ but only because they demanded a mediator between them and God, the which was Moses, who signified Jesus Christ, who should be the Advocate and Mediator between them and God. And therefore God said unto Moses, I will raise to them a prophet from the midst of their own brethren like to thee, and will put my word in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I will command; and I will punish every one that will not obey my word, the which he shall speak in my name.