“A Homily of Salvation” Thomas Cranmer (1489 – 1556 ad), Archbishop of Canterbury, Protestant Reformer and Martyr.
“Because all men be sinners and offenders against God…
…and breakers of his law and commandments, therefore can no man by his own acts, works, and deeds (seem they never so good) be justified and made righteous before God; but every man of necessity is constrained to seek for another righteousness, or justification, to be received at God’s own hands, that is to say, the remission, pardon, and forgiveness of his sins and trespasses in such things as he hath offended. And this justification or righteousness, which we so receive by God’s mercy and Christ’s merits, embraced by faith, is taken, accepted, and allowed of God for our perfect and full justification.
For the more full understanding hereof, it is our parts and duty ever to remember the great mercy of God, how that (all the world being 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; and by shedding of his most precious blood, to make a sacrifice and satisfaction, or (as it may be called) amends, to his Father for our sins, to assuage1 his wrath and indignation conceived against us for the same. … This is that justification, or righteousness, which St Paul speaketh of, when he saith: ‘No man is justified by the works of the law, but freely by faith in Jesus Christ.’ And again he saith: ‘We believe in Christ Jesus, that we be justified freely by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law, because that no man shall be justified by the works of the law.’
And although this justification be free unto us, yet it cometh not so freely to us, that there is no ransom paid therefore at all.
But here may man’s reason be astonished, reasoning after this fashion: If a ransom be paid for our redemption, then it is not given us freely. For a prisoner that payeth his ransom is not let go freely; for if he go freely, then he goeth without ransom: for what is it else to go freely, than to be set at liberty without payment of ransom? This reason is satisfied by the great wisdom of God in this mystery of our redemption, who hath so tempered his justice and mercy together, that he would neither by his justice condemn us unto the perpetual captivity of the devil, and his prison of hell, remediless forever, without mercy; nor by his mercy deliver us clearly, without justice, or payment of a just ransom; but with his endless mercy he joined his most upright and equal justice. His great mercy he showed unto us in delivering us from our former captivity, without requiring of any ransom to be paid, or amends to be made upon our parts; which thing by us had been impossible to be done. And whereas it lay not in us that to do, he provided a ransom for us; that was the most precious body and blood of his most dear and best beloved son Jesus Christ, who, besides his ransom, fulfilled the law for us perfectly. And so the justice of God and his mercy did embrace together, and fulfilled the mystery of our redemption. And of this justice and mercy of God knit together speaketh St Paul in the third chapter to the Romans: ‘All have offended, and have need of the glory of God, justified freely by his grace, by redemption which is in Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth to us for a reconciler and peace-maker, through faith in his blood, to show his righteousness.’ And in the tenth chapter: ‘Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to every man that believeth.’ And in the eighth chapter: ‘That which was impossible by the law, inasmuch as it was weak by the flesh, God sending his own Son in the similitude of sinful flesh, by sin damned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, which walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.’
In those foresaid places the apostle toucheth specially three things, which must concur and go together in our justification: upon God’s part, his great mercy and grace; upon Christ’s part, justice, that is, the satisfaction of God’s justice, or price of our redemption, by the offering of his body and shedding of his blood, with fulfilling of the law perfectly and throughly; and upon our part, true and lively faith in the merits of Jesus Christ, which yet is not ours, but by God’s working in us. So that in our justification is not only God’s mercy and grace, but also his justice, which the apostle calleth the justice of God; and it consisteth in paying our ransom, and fulfilling of the law: and so the grace of God doth not exclude the justice of God in our justification, but only excludeth the justice of man, that is to say, the justice of our works, as to be merits of deserving our justification. And therefore St Paul declareth here nothing upon the behalf of man concerning his justification, but only a true and lively faith; which nevertheless is the gift of God, and not man’s only work
And yet that faith doth not exlude repentance, hope, love, dread, and the fear of God, to be joined with faith in every man that is justified; but it excludeth them from the office of justifying: so that although they be all present together in him that is justified, yet they justify not altogether. Nor that faith also doth not exclude the justice of our good works, necessarily to be done afterward of duty towards God, (for we are most bounden to serve God in doing good deeds, commanded by him in his holy scripture, all the days of our life;) but it excludeth them, so that we may not do them to this intent, to be made good by doing of them. For all the good works that we can do be unperfect, and therefore not able to deserve our justification: but our justification doth come freely by the mere mercy of God, and of so great and free mercy, that whereas all the world was not able of theirselves to pay any part towards their ransom, it pleased our heavenly Father, of his infinite mercy, without any our desert2 or deserving, to prepare for us the most precious jewels of Christ’s body and blood, whereby our ransom might be fully paid, the law fulfilled, and his justice fully satisfied. So that Christ is now the righteousness of all them that truly do believe in him. He for them paid their ransom by his death: he for them fulfilled the law in his life: so that now in him, and by him, every true christian man may be called a fulfiller of the law; forasmuch as that which their infirmity lacketh, Christ’s justice hath supplied.”
Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Cranmer (2 July 1489 – 21 March 1556) was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and, for a short time, Mary I. He helped build the case for the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, which was one of the causes of the separation of the English Church from union with the Holy See. Along with Thomas Cromwell, he supported the principle of Royal Supremacy, in which the king was considered sovereign over the Church within his realm.
During Cranmer’s tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury, he was responsible for establishing the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the reformed Church of England. Under Henry’s rule, Cranmer did not make many radical changes in the Church, due to power struggles between religious conservatives and reformers. When Edward came to the throne, Cranmer was able to promote major reforms. He wrote and compiled the first two editions of the Book of Common Prayer, a complete liturgy for the English Church. With the assistance of several Continental reformers to whom he gave refuge, he developed new doctrinal standards in areas such as the Eucharist, clerical celibacy, the role of images in places of worship, and the veneration of saints. Cranmer promulgated the new doctrines through the Prayer Book, the Homilies and other publications.
After the accession of the Roman Catholic Mary I, Cranmer was put on trial for treason and heresy. Imprisoned for over two years and under pressure from Church authorities, he made several recantations and apparently reconciled himself with the Roman Catholic Church. However, on the day of his execution, he withdrew his recantations, to die a heretic to Roman Catholics and a martyr for the principles of the English Reformation. Cranmer’s death was immortalised in John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and his legacy lives on within the Church of England through the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles, an Anglican statement of faith derived from his work.
Excerpts form Wikipedia, source materials from Ilyston