FOUR CONDITIONS OF SALVATION
Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity (From the Epistle)
“That you may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height.” Eph iii.18
In these words four things are noted, which are necessary to us for salvation. Firstly, charity, by which we love our friends and enemies: “What is the breadth,” Gloss. Which signifies the expansive nature of charity, which extends even to our enemies. Secondly, perseverance, that we finally continue in charity; “and length;” Gloss. That which is the length of charity is the length of perseverance. Thirdly, right intention, that we may set before ourselves God only as the reward of our actions. “And height.” This is that which lifts the soul on high, that God may be expected for a reward. Fourthly, that we may not fail in all these things through pride. “The depth;” it is humility which places man in the lowest state in regard to man, but in the highest state in relation to God. “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted,” S. Luke xviii. 14.
I. On the first head it is to be noted, that for three reasons we ought chiefly to love our enemies. (1) On account of the precept, “But I say unto you, love your enemies; bless them that curse you, &c. … That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven,” S. Matt v. 44, 45. (2) On account of the example of God: “God commendeth His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. … For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life, “ Rom. v. 8-10. (3) On account of our profit; for charity towards our enemies causes us to become sons of the Most High God: “Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you,” &c., St Matt. V. 44.
II. On the second head it is to be noted that for three reasons we ought to persevere in good. (1) That we may avoid blame, since he is greatly blamed who begins and does not persevere: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish,” S. Luke xiv. 28-30. (2) That punishment may be avoided; for he deserves a greater punishment who, having tasted how sweet it is to perform good works, has not persevered in them. “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them, according to the true proverb, the dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire,” 2 S. Peter ii. 21, 22. (3) On account of the reward to be acquired, for the reward is earned by perseverance alone: “He that endureth to the end shall be saved,” S. Matt. x. 22.
III. On the third head it is to be noted, that for two reasons we ought to expect God alone to be our reward. (1) Because He alone is the true reward: “I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward,” Gen. xv. 1. S. Augustine says, that God will be the reward of all in all, because He will be to us life and salvation, strength and plenty, honour and glory, peace and joy, and all good things. (2) Because He will be an eternal reward: “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent,” S. John xvii. 3.
IV. On the fourth head it is to be noted, that humility, in three ways, preserves man in good. (1) By defending him from his enemies: “The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and He helped me,” Psalm cxvi. 6. (2) By promising increase of grace: “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble,” S. James iv. 6. (3) By leading man to eternal glory: “Honour shall uphold the humble in spirit,” Prov. Xxix. 23. To which honour may we, &c.