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John Eaton on literal and spiritual knowledge

October 28, 2011

John Eaton (1575-1641), M.A. at Trinity College, Oxford, preached against the apostasy which he believed prevailed in the church in his day. He was the author of ‘The Honey-Combe of Free Justification by Christ alone.’ None of Eaton’s writings were permitted to be published in his lifetime. He was for 15 years a minister, but he was removed as vicar at Wickham Market, Suffolk in April 1619, allegedly for being ‘an incorrigible divulger of errors and false opinions,’ for which he suffered imprisonment numerous times, and yet he was seen as ‘a pattern of faith, holiness, and cheerfulness, in his sufferings.’ In the following quotation, Eaton discusses six ways in which literal and spiritual kinds of knowledge may be distinguished. [John Eaton. The honey-combe of free justification by Christ alone. Edited by Robert Lancaster. London. 1642. pp. 213 ff.]

Therefore if we will not erre in reading good Authors, wee must follow that notable rule, that Luther gives in the same case, saying, This only I say of those holy men, that when they vary among themselves; those are rather to bee followed, which have spoken the best things for free grace without works, leaving them which by the infirmitie of the flesh, have spoken rather after the flesh and reason, than after the Spirit. So likewise, those writers that vary from themselves, are in that part to be chosen, and holden fast unto, where they speak after the Spirit, but to be relinquished, where they favour of the flesh and naturall light of reason. This is the duty of a Christian Reader, and of the cleane beast, that hath cloven hoofes, and cheweth the cud. But now setting aside judgement, wee devoure all confusedly whatsoever a good man saith; or that which is worse, by a perverse and preposterous judgement wee refute the better things, and approve the worse: Yea, in one and the same Authors we attribute and apply that authoritie and Title of holinesse to their worser things, which they have deserved for their best things spoken after the Spirit, and not after the flesh, and naturall light of reason.

My second answer to this objection, that other Ministers doe speak, and seame to hold the contrarie, is this; that it is an undoubted truth, that although all brethren in the Ministry, may bee enlightened with one and the same truth; yet all are not enlightened with one and the same measure of truth; who thereupon may disceptare, that is, argue about a matter, but not dissentire, that is, bee of a contrary judgement and resolution, flatly to hold the contrary. And it is possible that one may have laboured more, and so see further in some one point than another; though he come behind many others, which are rich in all other gifts, and of excellent learning; who yet should shew themselves to be of Cain’s brood, and Devils incarnate, if wee should willingly and willfully envie an higher talent in our brother in some one gift: non omnia possumus omnes; and wee bee all of us set and appointed by God to bee, by our particular gifts, mutuall helpers of another, but not hinderers and enviers one of another.

And thirdly I answer, that although some one, or more, of seeming great learning, will in the heigth of their owne conceit, and in the opinion of their great learning, oppose themselves against this common consent of the learned Orthodox writers, and so flatly hold the contrary; yet is their great knowledge and great learning no sufficient cause, to drive thee into wavering, and doubting the excellency of Christ’s benefits: because the holy Ghost hath so sufficiently armed us against this scandall, in teaching so plentifully in his word, that there is a twofold knowledge or learning: the one a literall knowledge, or a literall learning, and the other a spirituall knowledge: the understanding and marking of which point, because it is of so great use, that thereupon depends, in a manner, the whole essence of salvation, both to discerne in what state thou thine one selfe dost stand, that makest this objection, who peradventure maist bee learned, and of great knowledge; and also to keep thee from many scandals and delusions by others, that seeme to be of great learning and knowledge; therefore to leave us without all excuse, is the holy Ghost most dilligent to describe these two knowledges unto us very largely.

First, the literall knowledge is described, Rom. 2 from verse 17 to the very end of the chapter, after this manner: Behold thou art called a Jew, that is, thou art called to bee a member of the Church of God, even of one called, and possessing God’s revealed glorious truth; and resteth in the Law, that is, thou takest the word of God, and the doctrine from heaven to be thine only rule, and warrant, and wilt not (as thou sayest) goe one haires breadth from the word; yea, and gloriest in God, namely, that he is thy Father, Saviour, Redeemer, and knowest his will, that is, thou art skillfull in the word of God, and canst try the things that differ, and are excellent, by reason thou art instructed and very learned in the word of God. Neither only hast thou thus, knowledge enough for thy selfe, and for thine own use alone, but also art a rich store-house for others; for thou art confident, and takest upon thee to be a Guide to the blinde, a Light to them that are in darknesse, an Instructer of them that lack discrecion, a Teacher of the ignorant, and hast the whole forme of knowledge, and of the truth in thy breast: is it possible that the exquisitest knowledge that is can be more gloriously described? and yet all this is there shewed, to the end of the chapter, to be no knowledge indeed; but only ***, that is, a meere shadow or shew of great knowledge, and of the truth, quam vulgo apparentiam vocant, which (as Calvin saith) men commonly call an appearance of knowledge; because (as the Apostle saith in diverse verses following) it consisteth but in the letter only, that is, meerly literall, learned by good wit, and good memory; but is not by the working of the spirit of God in spirit, and in truth; being agreeable with that which the Apostle saith in another place, habient ***, that is, they have a shew of very godlinesse, but they deny the power of the same; for they had (which is the Apostles scope in this description) a confession of the forgiveness of their sinnes by God’s mercy in the Messiah; but they had not a joyfull spirituall feeling knowledge of the excellency of the Free Justification, which is the soule of all this great knowledge; and when the soule is away, all the rest is nothing else but a dead carcasse of knowledge: as the Apostle shewes in all the whole Epistle following, Chap 9:30, and 10:2, 3. Whereby they that are in this literall knowledge, although they seeme to bee greatly enlightened in the whole word of God, and to be excellent learned men, yea and very zealous with a legall zeale, Rom. 9:31 and 10:2 yet because they are in this point destitute, as Calvin speaketh, interioe luce, of the true inward spirituall light, it is incredible to think how blinde they are in understanding the excellency of Christ’s benefits; so that none is so blinde as such as are in this literall knowledge, as it is plainly testified by the Prophet Esay 42:18, 19, saying, Heare yee deafe, and look yee blinde, that you may see. Who so blinde as my servant? or deafe, as my messenger that I send? yea who so blind as the perfect? (that is, that by this literall knowledge think themselves perfect) And who so blinde as the Lord’s servants? Yea such in this literall knowledge are not only more blinde that the very plough-boy, but also more blinde and ignorant than the oxe, and the asse that the plough-boy drives before him: as the same Prophet witnesseth, saying, The oxe knowes his owner, and the asse his master’s crib; but Israel hath not knowne; my people (as by this literall knowledge they professe themselves) hath not understood, Esay 1:3. But how then (will some man say) may these blinde men seeming so learned in this literall knowledge, be discerned from such as are truly enlightened? I answer, this same Prophet Esay plainly expresseth in the former place, saying thus: Seeing many things, but thou keepest them not; for such an one as is in this literall knowledge, doth not keep that which he professeth that he knowes; and that also two manner of wayes, that is neither in word, nor in deed.

For first he failes in the foundation, that is, hee keepeth it not in judgement; for how can he keep that which he hath not, that is, doth not understand? Indeed let a man runne with them in the same round of the ordinary letter, or usual phrase, that they like blinde mill-horses are customably without understanding used unto, thereby rocking themselves and others asleep in their cradle of custome; what in Christ’s mysteries is carnally and customarily conceited, and ordinarily spoken, rather than caring to understand what is said; and whilst they are applauded for learned men, so long they are reasonably quiet, and will sing the same song of the dead letter, containing the outward shell of Christ’s mysteries; and will some of them run as fast as you will, with you, in a legall zeal flowing from the light of nature, of works, works, works, and a preposterously holy walking: But if a man presse the same truth, which they seeme to hold, and to awake them out of their lethargy of Custome, do preach Novè, but not Nova; nay if one expresse the same truth which they seeme to hold, but even with an old phrase, used of the best Interpreters that understand rightly the mysteries of Christ, which they have not before heard of, or which they are not customarily acquainted withall (especially if it be a phrase going to the quick of the truth, and expressing the excellency of the matter, which they daily, like Parrots, doe blindefoldly prattle of;) then although it be but one and the same truth, and the olde doctrine which is daily taught; yet upon presumption and high conceit of their great learning, they cry out, New doctrine, errors, false doctrine, heresie, blasphemy: and what not? adding ever something thereto out of their owne Cimmerian darknesse, to make the matter more odious; and thus they keep not, no not in word and judgement to that, which they seemed to hold: but when the excellencey of Christ’s benefits are pressed upon them, by the expresse word of God, then they fall to sophisticating, equivocating, and plaine deniall (if they cannot fashion it to agree with their naturall reason, and earthly conceit, and humane wit) even of that truth which they seemed before to hold, at leastwise in letter: so that by not understanding what they have spoken in one sentence, they are so farre from keepting to that which they have said (especially dealing in the mysteries of Christ, that are above humane wit, and the light of reason) that they often times speak the flat contrary in another sentence: thus (as I said) not keepting, neither in judgement, nor in word and confession to that truth, which they themselves professe in other termes. An evident example hereof, is Nicodemus, who being a great learned Rabbin and teacher in Israel, knew by the dead literall knowledge, those usuall places often repeated in the Prophets, where God promiseth to give unto his people new hearts, and new spirits, that they might serve him in walking bodily in all his Commandments: And yet because he felt not the power and truth of it in himselfe, being in this dead literall knoowledge; although in his daily teaching he talked of these promises, and called for a new life in holy walking in all God’s Commandments; yet when Christ giving an example to all preachers, how they should awake people rocked asleep in the cradle of custome, not by teaching, Nova, but yet by preaching Novè, spake of the same truth which he daily beat upon, but in a new phrase that he had not heard of, expressing but the excellency of the doctrine, namely, that A man must be new borne; then was Nicodemus quite beside his books, and thought that Christ spake very absurdly, if not erroneously: the old doctrine uttered with a new phrase, expressing but the truth and deepnesse of it, made it seeme new and false doctrine to the old blind literall Doctor; and therefore it is well noted upon the same place by Musculus, saying, Exemplar quoddam in hoc viro propositum est, in quo deprehenditur, doctos alioqui & prudentes viros, nondum renatos, ad doctrinam regni Christi capiendam plane stupidos esse & ineptos: that is, there is in this man a certaine example set before us, wherein we may see, That men, although wise and learned, yet not being new borne againe, are to the conceiving of the mysteries of Christ, and of the doctrine concerning his kingdome, meerely blockish and sottish. Yes, and he added further, saying, ut non solum rem ipsam non intelligant, sed neque declarationem illius, Christi verbis profitam capiant: that is, they are so farre from understanding the matter it selfe, that they conceive not the very declaration thereof set before them by the words of Christ himselfe. Whereupon (as the learned well note) Christ seeing that he lost both his time and labour, in teaching a man so high in his owne conceit, and yet so greatly ignorant, is constrained to fall to chiding him, saying, Art thou a principall teacher in Israel, and knowest not these things? quasi diceret, O miseram ovium conditionem &c. as if hee should say, oh miserable condition of those sheep, whereof the Pastor, that hath the cure of them, is so grossely blinde, and so unskillfull in divine matters: hitherto thou hast been reverenced as a principall Teacher in Israel, and yet knowest not those things, of which it is a shame that thy very schollers should be ignorant; and lest any should think that this was a blindnesse, and just reproofe peculiar and proper only to Nicodemus, and not to all such as are dead in literall knowledge, it is upon the same place well noted of the learned, saying, Est autem haec generalis objurgatio, qua Christus, &c. But this is a generall reproofe, wherewith Christ reproveth all such Rabbins and great Teachers as lie by the literall knowledge in the same blindnesse with Nicodemus. And thus we see the first way how they that are in this literall knowledge, do only but sophisticate about the mysteries of Christ, seeing many things, but they keepe them not, viz. they doe not keepe to them in word and judgement, but possesse them one way, and deny them, and speake contrary to themselves divers other wayes.

The second way how these doe see many things, but they keepe them not, consisteth herein, that what they professe that they know, they keepe not in life, practice, and conversation; their life, conversation, and action nothing agreeing with that which they professe, and seeme to know and see. As for example; such as are in the meere literall knowledge of Free Justification, doe finde by reading, and thereupon do professe, that Free Justification is the strong Rock and foundation of Christian Religion, the head Article of salvation, the sole saving grace of Christ, the cause of sanctification, and of all godly living, the advancer of the true glory of Christ; but yet because by this literall knowledge of it, they feele not the truth and power thereof in themselves; therefore whose feet doe such labour to fasten upon this strong Rock of Christian Religion? whose house of Religion is not builded upon the sands of their repentance and holy walking; having this rocky foundation laid in their hearts no more in a manner than the Papists lay it? whose Religion is not headlesse for want of found joy for this head point of salvation? how many are truely sanctified, and serve God cheerfully, joyfully, and zealously, by the joyfull knowledge of it? yea, rather although such seeme to hold strongly contrary to Papists; yet they are, in this chiefe point of salvation, of the Papists mindes, coming forth with the Papists objections against it, that people learne it too fast; and although it be the only sacred ordinance that God in his high wisdome hath appointed to be the only cause and meanes to make men to live truely a godly life; yet such stick not in their rotten wisdome of Reason to belch out this blaphemy, that it opens the gate to all loose and wicked living, and are so farre from continually pressing this point, by shewing the horriblenesse of the least sin in the sight of God, and the excellency of this benefit, perfectly healing us from all sin in God’s sight, and so planting it soundly in mens hearts to effect these happy ends, that almost they never speake of it, bit finde themselves grieved with them that doe; or if their text chance to presse them to it, they lightly touch it, and soon passe it over, being as it were glad when that text is past. Is this to keepe to those foresaid most glorious Titles of the excellency of Free Justification, which they so gloriously professe in words, and is it not rather before God and men a denying them in deeds? and thus doe they in all the rest; for these that are in this literall knowledge, first, either they live prophane lives; or secondly, but outwardly civill honest lives, caring no more than for their profits, honours, and pleasures; or thirdly, at the best, which is worst of all, doe but delude the simple blinde devoted people, with a legall zeale of holy walking for feare of punishment, or hope of reward, and speeding well for the same: seeming, yea, and being as hot as a toste against outward vices, and earnestly calling for all active morall duties, which they call holy walking in all God’s Commandments; as if herein did consist the maine point of salvation, Doe this and live; and yet abound themselves with all manner of inward hidden corruptions, as envy, calumniating, slavish feare, and glorious outward painting of their old rotten Adam. All which is notably testified by the Doctrine of our Church, taught by the Martyrs and first Restorers of the Gospel in this land, saying thus, By outward shewes of good workes they appeare to the world: How? the most religious and holy men of all others, making the outside of the cup and platter (that is, the outward appearance both of their persons and vocations) so cleane, that they seeme to the world: What? most perfect men: Wherein so perfect? both in teaching and living. And yet because the inside is not cleane (which (as it is shewed in the Sermons before)  only the comfort and joy of Free Justification truely worketh and effecteth) Christ (who sees their hearts not justified with his owne righteousnesse) knowes that they are in the sight of God most unholy, most abominable, and farthest from God of all men; their judgement being preposterous, their doctrine sowre leven of mingling the Law and the Gospel together, and so marring both: and their life the hidden secret hypocrite: that is, not suspecting themselves of hypocrisie, they delude their owne selves with supposed sincere hearts, respecting (as they thinke) only God’s glory; being inwardly full of all manner of filth, as pride, envy, covetousnesse, ambition, vaine-glory, hatred, disdaine, unbeleefe, conceitedness of themselves, contempt of those whom they like not, calumniating them, and such like; and yet (as I said) so adorning and painting their old Adam that reignes in them, with such a fair outward new coate, not of Christ’s righteousnesse able utterly to abolish their corruptions freely from before God; but of their owne righteousnesse, that they seeme not only unto others, but also to their owne selves in all respects admiable and excellent men: and such were they, that because they excelled in great learning, and were zealous towards God, Rom. 10:2 in following righteousnesse by holy walking in all God’s Commandements, Rom. 9:31 serving God instantly day and night, Acts 26:7 said hereupon unto Christ, in the high conceit of their literall knoowledge, Are we blinde also? John 9:40 unto whom Christ answering, said, If ye were blinde, ye should have no sin; but now ye say, we see, therefore your sin remaineth, vers. 41. And thus much of the description of the literall knowledge, whereby men only sophisticating about the mysteries of Christ, would be Doctors and Teachers of the Word, but by not understanding what they say, nor whereof they affirme, 1 Tim. 1:7, they neither in word, nor deed keepe to that which they seeme to hold, but speake flat contraries.

But on the other side, the spirituall knowledge, and right illumination, by the true spirituall learning, whereof the Prophet thus speaketh, saying, And they shall be all taught of God: is likewise (that we may not be babes in the knowledge of it) as largely described by the Apostle, 1 Cor. 2 from verse 9 to the very end of the Chapter, also saying thus, the things which neither eye hath seene, nor ear hath heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, are they which God hath prepared for them that love him. But (some will say) if they be such things as neither eye hath seene, nor eare hath heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, what is any man the better for such things? true saith the Apostle, not into the heart of the naturall man, verse 14. but yet God hathe revealed them unto us by his spirit, for the spirit searcheth all things, yea the deepe things of God: for (saith he) what man knows the things within a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knowes no man, but the Spirit of God: Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God; but the naturall man, … the man endued only with a meere humane soule, perceiveth not, nor receiveth the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned, and so forth to the end of the Chapter: out of which two descriptions both of the literall knowledge, before expressed, and of the spirituall knowledge, he hath so largely described by the Apostle, let us (because to discerne these two knowledges, the one from the other is a point of great moment, the one being but a condemning knowledge, making our damnation only the greater; and the other being a true saving knowledge;) let us (I say) for further perspicuity and cleereness herein marke some maine and principall differences whereby they may be discerned the one from the other, wherein for brevities sake I will only briefly touch these sixe following.

First, the spirituall knowledge apprehends the things which neither eye hath seene, nor eare hath heard, nor heart of naturall man can conceive; that is, it conceives the mysteries of God above reason, yea, and contrary to naturall reason, sense, and feeling; but the literall knowledge apprehends not the mysteries of God, but after a carnall manner, as they are new-fashioned, as it were, and made agreeable to reason, sense, and feeling; and hence come so many objections from reason, sense, and feeling.

Secondly the literall knowledge doth γινώσκεις, Rom. 2:18, but it doth not εἰδῶμεν, 1 Cor. 2:12, that is, the literall knowledge so knowes the mysteries of God’s Word, as a man knows a thing by reading of it, or as a man knows a thing that is told him of a strange Countrey; but he hath no experimentall certainty of it in himselfe, whereby it is true in such that is written, Matth. 13:14, by hearing ye shall heare, but not understand, and by seeing ye shall see and not perceive: but the spirituall knowledge doth εἰδῶμεν; that is, so knowes the mysteries of Christ, as he knowes a thing that sees it with his very eyes, and hath experimentall feeling of it in his own selfe; so that hee that is in the literall knowledge only is like a man that lying in the morning in his bed, and peradventure seeing a little at the holes and crevices of his windowed, may talk of the day light, and of the actions of the day light to be done in the same; but because his windowes and doores are close shut, he still without doing any thing, lies in darknesse; when as he that is in the spirituall knowledge, is like the one that is abroad in the open cleer morning, working and walking by the light of the same.

Thirdly, the literall knowledge … doth know, as it were, by heare-say many things, by which they think themselves rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing, but it doth not see the deep things of God; whereby they are raysed up to no joy and zeale for the deepnesse and greatnesse of the same: but the spirituall knowledge doth εἰδῶμεν, 1 Cor. 2:10 see the deep things of God, that is as Beza well expoundeth it, excellentium Evangelicae Doctrine, the excellency of the benefits of the Gospel, working joy, and zeale of God’s glory by discerning the greatnesse and benefits wrought upon us; from whence flowes the cold and formall working of great learned Clerks, making a shew of doing something, and think in their own hearts that to proceed any futher is needlesse, when they that are in the spirituall knowledge do think both that there is need, and also that they can never doe enough.

Fourthly, the literall knowledge judgeth of the mysteries of the Gospel, by the Spirit of the world; that is, after an humane witted fashion, saying the same thing, that the spirituall enlightened child of God doth, as farre as naturall reason, and humane wit can reach, but pulls down God’s thoughts in the mysteries and benefits of the Gospel, and makes them like unto mans thoughts; for whereas the Spirit of God useth by certain humane phrases and similitudes, to descend down to our weak capacity (not to the intent that wee should dwell in them, but that we should, as it were, by a ladder reached downe to us, ascend up to the heigth and excellency of Gods working and dealing upon us, correspondent to the glory of his great majesty;) they that are in this literall knowledge doe stick fast in the humane phrase, as it were, in the foot and first step of the Ladder; but ascend not to the greatnesse and excellency of the work of God, correspondent to the greatnesse and excellency of his Majesty; whereby they hold fast to those phrases that are correspondent to humane reason, and to good humane wit, but cannot abide to have those humane phrases reduced and understood according to other Phrases, expressing in the same case, the true nature and excellent working of God above reason, and passing those humane similitudes; and so compare, and flatly measure, spirituall things with earthly things; because as a learned Dispenser of God’s mysteries saith, habent literum, sed non habent spiritum, whereby they can say in the mysteries & benefits of Christ Sibboleth, but not Shibboleth, Judg. 12:6. That is, they come very neere the truth, and are as Christ said to the young man, not farre from the kingdome of heaven; but they cannot frame to pronounce the afperate that hath God in it; that is, they cannot yeeld to the truth and mysterie correspondent to the nature, and perfect working of God; for that is foolishness unto them, 1 Cor. 2:10. But on the other side, they that are in the spirituall knowledge have received not the Spirit of the world to judge worldly, carnally, and after an humane witted fashion, of mysteries and benefits of the Gospel; but have received the Spirit, which is of God, that they may see after a spirituall manner the things freely given of God; that is, correspondent to the high nature, perfect operation and glorious working of God; whereby although they gladly use the similitudes and humane representations in the Scriptures, as an help to their weak capacities; yet they stick not in them, but ascend by them, as it were by steps, to the high working of God above all humane representations, and earthly excellencies; not comparing or measuring spirituall things with earthly things, but measuring spiritual things, as the Apostle saith, with spirituall; yea, even with God himselfe, the spirituall worker and Author of them; making them in our apprehension corresponded and agreeable to the Almighty nature, and glorious working of so wonderfull a workman.

Fifthly, the literall knowledge although it bee never so great, doth not change him that is in it: but leaves him in his former old nature, and corrupt conversation: as if he were prophane, it leaves him still prophane: if he were meerely civill honest; if he were blindly zealous with a legall zeale, it leaves him still blindly zealous with a legall zeale, of advancing works, works and doing: as we may bee by the example of S. Paul, who before his conversion, followed the righteousness of the Law, Rom. 9:31 and was zealous towards God, Acts 22:3 serving God instantly day and night, Acts 26:7 And yet was but in this literall knowledge: Yea, as this literall knowledge findes a man in death and condemnation; so it leaves him in death and condemnation; saving that it leaves him in greater condemnation, than if hee never knew any thing at all. But the spirituall knowledge wholy changeth him that is in it, and makes him to leave his old corrupt course of life, and to live a godly conversation; and not only makes him that was prophane, or meerly civill, to become zealous of Gods glory; but also changeth the legall zeale of advancing works into the Evangelicall zeale of advancing Christs benefits, and to doe all good duties zealously in meere thankfulnesse for the same; because he that by his spirituall knowledge with open face beholdeth (as in a looking glasse) the glory of the Lord, is changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the spirit of the Lord.

Sixthly and lastly, as the spirituall knowledge discerning the deep things of God, counts them and embraceth them as precious and glorious: so the literall knowledge resting in the bare letter, cannot perceive nor receive the deep things of God, that is, the excellency of Christ’s benefits, because it counts and rejects them as absurd and foolish; yea, very foolishnesse it selfe, 1 Cor. 2:14; and because great learning counts it her wisdome to confute that which she takes for foolishnesse; hereupon ariseth unfallibly against the preaching of the excellency of Christ’s benefits strong sophisticating, and bold contention: because the literall learning being mounted up upon the horse of pride (for this knowledge puffeth up, 1 Cor. 8:2); and being pricked forward with two spurres, the one of envie at her brother’s gift of preaching the glory of Christ, and the other of vaine glory lest this literall learning loose some of her praise, she rusheth out like a warre-horse into the battle of contention; and yet layes all the blame hereof upon the preaching of the excellency of Christ’s benefits; yea so strongly doth this literall knowledge judge the excellency of Christ’s benefits to be meere foolishnesse, and thereupon so impudent in contention against the same, that Luther upon these words, ‘Then is the slander of the crosse abolished,’ Gal. 5:11, proveth with many arguments, that Paul taketh it for a most certaine signe, that the Gospel of Christ, and righteousnesse of faith are not rightly preached, and is not the Gospel, if it be preached without contention against it; for (saith he) ‘when the crosse is abolished, and the rage of the false apostles wrangling, sophisticating, and persecuting ceaseth on the one side; and offences and scandals on the other side, and all things are in peace; this is a sure token that the devil keeping the entrie of the house, the pure doctrine of God’s Word, is taken away. Because (saith he) it cannot be, but as long as the Gospel flourisheth, the cross and offence thereof must needs follow it;’ or else truly the devil is not tightly levelled at, and hit, but slightly glanced at: but if he be rightly hit indeed, he resteth not, but beginneth horribly to rage, and to raise up by these literall vaine-glorious men all the troubles he can. And again, notably writeth Luther upon these words, (but as then he that was borne after the flesh, persecuted him that was borne after the spirit, even so is it now) whose whole exposition is worthy to be often read of the children of faith; the sum and effect whereof is thus, This persecution alwaies remaineth in the Church, especially when the word of God is powerfully brought to light, and the doctrine of the Gospel flourisheth, (to wit) that the children of the flesh mock the children of the promise, and persecute them: And therefore Paul in this place armeth the godly afore-hand, that they should not be offended with these persecutions, sects and offences; As if he should say; if we be the children of the promise, and born after the spirit, holding that righteousness commeth without works meerely by the promise, we must surely look to bee persecuted of our brother, which is born after the flesh, that is, after the Law and works, and yet shines in the righteousness, and glorious works of the Law: that is to say; not only our open enemies, which are manifestly wicked, shall persecute us; but also such as were at first our deare friends, with whom we were in religion familiarly conversant in one house, which received from us the true doctrine of the Gospel, shall become our deadly enemies, & persecute us extreamely, for they are brethren after the flesh, and will persecute their brethren, which are born after the Spirit, and so raise hurries and molestations.

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