Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles – Article XIV

Article XIV.

Of Works of Supererogation.

VOLUNTARY works, besides, over and above God’s commandments, which they call Works of Supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety: for by them men do declare, that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to do, but that they do more for His sake than of bounden duty is required: whereas Christ saith plainly, When ye have done all that are commanded to you, say, We are unprofitable servants.

De Operibus Supererogationis.

OPERA quæ supererogationis appellant, non possunt sine arrogantia, et impietate prædicari. Nam illis declarant homines, non tantum se Deo reddere, quæ tenentur, sed plus in ejus gratiam facere, quàm deberent, cum apertè Christus dicat: Cum feceritis omnia quæcunque præcepta sunt vobis dicite, servi inutiles sumus.

Section I. — History.

THERE is nothing in the earliest fathers which bears much on the subject of this Article, unless it be that they appear to have attached more than due importance to martyrdom. Thus the baptism of blood was considered equivalent to baptism by water; and some perhaps, appear to have ascribed merit to it, such as to cancel sins. Hermas for instance speaks of the martyrs as having “all their offences blotted out, because they have suffered death for the name of the Son of God.”[1] And again says of them, when compared with the rest of the redeemed, that they have “some glory above the others.”[2] And so Tertullian says, that “all sins are forgiven to martyrdom.”[3] But with reference to the last-named writer, it has been clearly shown, that with all his high esteem for martyrdom, he expressly maintained that it was impossible for martyrs to have an excess of holiness above what was required, as not being in themselves sinless. It was the custom in his days for persons who had lapsed in persecution to be restored to the communion of the Church, at the intercession of martyrs and confessors; a custom which was often much abused. Writing on this subject, Tertullian says, “Who but the Son of God can by His own death relieve others from death? He, indeed, delivered the thief at the very moment of His passion; for He had come for this very end, that, being Himself free from sin and perfectly holy, He might die for sinners. You then, who imitate Christ in pardoning sins, if you are yourselves sinless, suffer death for me. But if you are yourself a sinner, how can the oil out of your cruise suffice both for you and me?”[4]

In this admiration, however, of the early Church for martyrdom, and in the admission of the intercession of the martyrs for the deliverance of others from church-censures, we may perhaps trace the germ of the doctrine of works of supererogation.[5]

In the respect which they paid to virginity we may find another source for the same error; for it is well known, that they gave the fullest latitude to those words of our Lord and of St. Paul, in which they speak of celibacy as a favourable state of life for the development of Christian graces, and for devotion to the service of the Cross.

On this subject especially St. Paul writes, “Concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord; yet I give my advice” (1 Cor. vii. 25); De virginibus autem prœceptum Domini non habeo, sed consilium do. From this expression it was very early inferred that the Scriptures made a distinction between precepts, which are binding on all men, and counsels, which it is desirable to follow, but which are not obligatory on the conscience. Thus St. Cyprian, speaking of celibacy, says, “The Lord does not command this, but exhorts to it. He lays not on a yoke of necessity, when the free choice of the will remains. But whereas he says, that in His Father’s house are many mansions, He points out the way to the better mansions.”[6] St. Augustine writes, “It is not said, Thou shalt not marry, as it is said, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill. The latter are exacted, the former is offered. If the one is observed, there is praise. If the other is neglected, there will be condemnation.”[7] And St. Jerome distinguishes between a precept and a counsel, as that the one involves necessity of obedience, the other leaves a liberty of accepting or refusing.[8]

The distinction thus early made may have had a legitimate foundation in Holy Writ. But, in process of time, there grew out of it the doctrine of works of supererogation, as connected with a belief in the merits of martyrdom, and of voluntary celibacy. The increase of monasticism, and the increasing respect paid to every kind of ascetic observance, cherished this belief. In the language of the confession of Augsburg, “The monks taught that their mode of life was a state of perfection, because they observed not precepts only, but counsels also. This error is greatly at variance with Gospel truth; for thus they pretended so to satisfy the commands of God as even to exceed them. And hence arose the grievous error, that they claimed merits of supererogation. These they applied to others, that they might be satisfactions for other men’s sins.”[9]

The full-grown form of the doctrine was, that a man may not only keep the law of God, so as to do all that is actually enjoined on him, but may be so full of the grace of God as even to do more than God’s law enjoins, and thereby deserve even more than his own salvation. This excess of merit, which was supposed to be attained by some of the greater saints, formed a deposit, which was intrusted to the Church, and which the Roman pontiff, the vicar of Christ, could for reasonable causes, by the power of the keys, unlock, and grant to the faithful, in the way of indulgences, and for the remission of temporal punishment.

In the Council of Trent, the last decrees read and approved were concerning the granting of indulgences. The council anathematized those who said they were unprofitable, and, though forbidding their sale and other abuses, yet commanded that they should be retained as profitable for Christian people.[10] There is no express mention of works of supererogation.

It is scarcely necessary to add, that all the reformed Churches and sects, of whatever class or denomination, have rejected the doctrine of the Romanists concerning works of supererogation.

Section II. — Scriptural Proof.

THE principal arguments in favour of the doctrine of the Roman Church on this subject may be found in the writings of Cardinal Bellarmine, in the second book of his treatise De Monachis. He assumes the principle, a principle which rightly understood need not be controverted, that in some passages of Scripture advice is given, where there is not a positive command: and then he infers that, “as our Lord distinguishes counsels from precepts, He plainly shows that men justified by the grace of God can not only fulfil the law, but even do some works most pleasing to God, which have not been commanded.”[11]

Now this inference may fairly be considered a petitio principii; for advice, when coming from our Lord or His Apostles, may be a counsel tending indeed to spiritual good, but yet, if followed, not enabling to do more than is commanded, but only putting in the road to obtain more grace and strength from above.

Bellarmine, besides referring to several passages of the fathers, some of which have been already quoted, brings forward very many texts of Scripture to prove his position. The greater number of these appear so little relevant, that I shall make no apology for considering those only which appear to have some weight.

1. The first which we may mention is the counsel given by our Lord to the man who came to Him, and asked, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Our Lord first replies, “Keep the commandments.” The young man then says that he has kept all these from his youth, and adds, “What lack I yet?” Jesus said unto him, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven: and come and follow Me.”[12] Bellarmine argues that this last sentence of our Lord’s could not have been a command, but was a counsel of perfection, which, if obeyed, would have been more than was the young man’s duty, i. e. a work of supererogation. This he proves as follows: It was not a precept; for to the question, “What shall I do that I may have eternal life?” the answer is “If thou wilt enter into life keep the commandments.” Therefore the keeping the commandments would be sufficient for salvation. And the advice afterwards given tended to perfection, not to salvation.[13]

But if we attentively consider the whole conversation, we shall see that this interpretation will not satisfy the case. In the first place, the young man asks, “What good thing he should do to have eternal life;” to which our Lord gives the general reply, that, “if he would be saved, he must keep the commandments.” The young man, evidently not ill disposed (see Mark x. 21), but with an undue notion of his own strength and goodness, then says, that he has kept all the commandments from his youth, and, as though he could see no deficiency in his own conduct, asks again, “What lack I yet?” Now it was to this question, “What lack I?” that our Lord gave the reply now under consideration. That reply, therefore, was intended to show the young man what he lacked: and if he lacked something, it is quite clear that the supplying of that lack, or deficiency, could not be a work of supererogation, but a work of duty or obligation. This is further proved by the conduct of the young man, who, when he had heard our Lord’s reply, “went away sorrowful.” That is to say, he felt not able and willing to do what our Lord had said was needful for him to do. He had asked what was necessary for his salvation. The first answer gave him satisfaction; for it did not fully convince him of his weakness. The second probed him to the quick, and showed him that the strength of purpose which he supposed himself to possess, was not such as to lead him to renounce all for the kingdom of God. And so, when he had gone away sorrowful, our Lord does not say, A rich man shall hardly become perfect, or do works of supererogation; but He says, “Verily I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of Heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” It was unfitness for the kingdom of Heaven, not unfitness for a supereminent degree of glory, which the rich man showed, when, at our Lord’s bidding, he could not sell all that he had.

Whence it appears, that this saying of our Lord’s was a precept, and not a counsel. It was like the command given to Abraham to kill his son. It was a trial of his faith and of his readiness to obey. The faithful servant of God will give up all, even that he loves the best, for Him whom he serves. Abraham’s dearest treasure was his son, and he was ready to sacrifice him. The young man’s treasure was his wealth, and he went away sorrowful. The one was shown to be true and firm in the faith. The other’s faith was proved to be doubtful and wavering.

Bellarmine, however, farther contends that, whereas it follows in the 27th verse, “Peter answered and said unto Him, Behold we have forsaken all, and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?” if the command was only given to the young man, and not to all men, then our Lord would have said to Peter, “I will give nothing to you, I spoke only to this young man;” (Nihil vobis dabo, nam soli illi juveni loquutus sum); whereas the answer actually given is (Amen dico vobis, &c.) “Verily I say unto you, that ye who have followed Me . . . . shall sit on twelve thrones . . . . and every one who hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, shall receive an hundred-fold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” The cardinal’s conclusion is therefore, that to all men it is a precept, “keep the commandments,” and to all men it is a counsel, “sell that thou hast, and give to the poor.” The Apostles obeyed the precept and the counsel both, and so did more than their duty; the young man kept only the precepts, and so won Heaven, but not more than Heaven.

There is evidently a fallacy here. No doubt, it is not commanded to all men to sell all that they have; for St. Paul bade Timothy “charge those who are rich in this world” (not to sell their possessions, but) “not to trust in uncertain riches,” “to do good, to be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate” (1 Tim. vi. 17, 18). But though all men are not expressly called to sell all that they have, yet at the time of our Lord’s presence upon earth, He did call all His immediate followers to give up everything for His sake; and the most obvious and decided way of giving proof of zeal for His service and love to Him, was to forsake parents and brethren, house and lands, and to follow Him who had no place to lay His head.[14] Thus, as Abraham evidenced his faith by being ready to slay his son, so the Apostles evidenced theirs by forsaking their homes; and the rich young man could not find it in his heart to sacrifice so much, because his faith was not so true. Here is no room for works of supererogation, nor even for counsels of perfection.

2. Another of Bellarmine’s proofs[15] is drawn from 1 Cor. ix.; in which St. Paul asserts, that he might have received payment for his ministry, that he might have led about a wife at the expense of the Church; but that he would not do anything of this kind, lest his glorying should be made void. Taking the Latin version as his guide, Bellarmine reasons, that, though St. Paul might have fulfilled all his duty, if he had taken payment of the Church, yet he would not take reward, that he might obtain greater glory. And he argues against Peter Martyr (who interprets the gloriam of ver. 15 to “mean glorying before men”) that St. Augustine had written, Bonum est magis mihi mori, quam ut gloriam meam quis evacuet. Quam gloriam? nisi quam habere voluit apud Deum in Christo?[16] But pace tanti viri, be it said, that the Greek word is καύχημα, which means boasting; and that a greater than St. Augustine has written that “no flesh should glory (or boast) in God’s presence.”[17] The passage in St. Paul can hardly mean anything but this: that, whereas he, as an Apostle, had a right to be chargeable to the Church, he had yet refused to be so, that he might have the more influence for good over those among whom he ministered. As he says in the nineteenth verse of the same chapter, “Though he was free from all men, yet he made himself the servant of all, that he might gain the more.” Thus he was able to boast, that he had cost them nothing; and they therefore could not charge him with avarice or private views. To make his glorying in this respect void would have been to deprive him of his influence over them, and therefore of that power to do good which lay so near his heart.

3. But the most cogent argument from Scripture, in favour of works of supererogation, is drawn from the passages in which our Lord and St. Paul, whilst highly honouring marriage, yet give the preference to a life of celibacy. The passages in question are Matt. xix. 10, 11, 12, and 1 Cor. vii. passim, especially 7, 8, 25‒28, 32‒40.

On the first passage, Bellarmine observes, that to live a life of celibacy cannot be a precept, because of the high commendation which our Lord had just bestowed upon matrimony, and yet, he says, it is evident that it has a reward in Heaven, because our Lord declares that “some have made themselves eunuchs” (i. e. have lived a life of celibacy) “for the kingdom of Heaven’s sake,” and then adds, “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it” (Matt, xix. 12). In like manner, on 1 Cor. vii. he observes, that the advice to abstain from marriage is evidently a counsel; and that it is a counsel of not merely human wisdom, but proceeding from the Spirit of God; which he fully proves from ver. 25, 40; where the Apostle declares that, though there had been “no commandment of the Lord,” yet he gave his judgment as one who had “obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful,” ver. 25; and that in thus giving his judgment, he felt assured that he had the Spirit of God, ver. 40.[18]

Luther, he says, only admitted a temporal advantage to be attached to celibacy, and such has been the exposition of many Protestants; namely, that so a man may escape cares, and anxieties, and that especially in time of persecution. Against such Bellarmine quotes the words of St. Augustine;[19] who truly maintained, that the Apostle spoke of spiritual as well as temporal benefits to be derived from celibacy.

From Luther, Bellarmine passes to Melancthon, who went farther than Luther, and admitted that some spiritual good might be derived from an unmarried state, such as more freedom and time for prayer and preaching.[20] But to the temporal benefits admitted by Luther, and to the spiritual benefits allowed by Melancthon, Bellarmine adds a third, namely, to please God and obtain greater reward. He observes that the words propter instantem necessitatem, “because of the present distress” (ver. 26), do not mean that we may escape present troubles, but that they rather mean, propter brevitatem temporis, “because of the shortness of the time;” as it is said (ver. 29), “But this I say, brethren, the time is short.” Against Melancthon he says, that in ver. 34 the Apostle commends the state of an unmarried female, saying, that “she careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit;” and that this shows that virginity has of itself a sanctity both of body and spirit, according to the words of Jerome (lib. I. Contra Jovinian): Illa virginitas hostia Christi est, cujus nec mentem cogitatio, nec carnem libido maculant. From ver. 35, where St. Paul says he speaks thus “for that which is comely,” ad id quod honestum est, Bellarmine argues that the apostle calls continence a thing per se honestam et decoram et proinde Deo charam, “a thing in its own nature comely and honourable, and therefore dear to God.” And again, in ver. 40, the words “She is happier if she so abide,” he says, plainly mean, she will be happier in the world to come.[21]

Now in this reasoning of the distinguished Romanist divine there appears a considerable mixture of truth and error. Let us admit, as we cannot doubt, that the Apostle wrote under the guidance of the Spirit; let us admit that he gave a counsel, not a precept; for plainly it is no commandment of God that men should not marry, but only that they should “abstain from fornication.” Let us admit that both our blessed Lord and St. Paul spoke of abstaining from marriage, for the sake of some advantages which an unmarried life has, as regards spiritual employments and spiritual meditations. The divines of our own communion have admitted this as freely as those of the Roman Church.[22] There seems no reason to doubt, that both our Lord and St. Paul speak of some to whom a peculiar gift has been given, and who can, by living unmarried, devote themselves more unreservedly to the work of the Gospel, and the service of the Lord. Marriage brings with it the anxieties of family and worldly business, and many of those “cares of this life,” which may, if not checked, choke the good seed. From all such celibacy is free. Therefore, though marriage be a state ordained of God, yet some, thinking to give their whole lives to religious employments, have abstained from marriage, “have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven’s sake;” and such a determination, in such as are “able to receive it,” our Lord has honoured with His sanction, “Let him receive it.” And so it is with the counsel of St. Paul. He tells us, that “the time is short, it remaineth that they that have wives be as though they had none . . . that they who use this world, be as though they used it not;[23] for the fashion of this world passeth away.” Accordingly, to such as have the gift of continence he gives his advice, that it may help them on more in their course of godliness, if they continue to live a life less burdened with the cares of this world than is the life of those who are united in marriage. Such a life is not indeed to be commended to all men, and the Apostle carefully guards himself against forcing the conscience, or “casting a snare upon” them. But it is a life which has many advantages. The unmarried have nothing to do but care for the things of the Lord; whilst the married cannot but be anxious to please not only God, but the partner of their earthly pilgrimage. Much therefore as there is of blessing in the married state, honourable as it is in all men, and a κοίτη ἀμίαντος, a state undefiled; still those who have contracted it are, like Martha, necessarily “cumbered about much serving,” whilst the unmarried, like Mary, have more leisure to “sit at the feet of Jesus,” able to “attend upon the Lord without distraction.”[24] Therefore it is that the Apostle counsels an unmarried life, because of “the present distress;” because, it may be, of the distress and anxieties of this present life, which are much unfavourable to the attainment of holiness, and which especially be set those who are tied in the bond of matrimony.[25]

This exposition will fairly satisfy the language both of Christ and of His Apostle. But we deny that St. Paul, when instituting a comparison between marriage and celibacy, speaks of the latter as having more merit than the former; or that the one shall ensure a higher place in Heaven than the other. It may be to some persons a state more favourable for growth in grace, though, for obvious reasons, it may be a snare to others. But, as marriage is a thing holy in itself, so we do not learn that celibacy is holier. “One is not a better chastity than the other. Marriage is a κοίτη ἀμίαντος, an undefined state, and nothing can be cleaner than that which is not at all unclean.”[26] And therefore, though we fully admit the honour due to a holy celibacy, we yet deny that it has any merit at all, as nothing in man can merit from God; and still more do we deny that it can have merit of supererogation.[27]

The above are the only arguments from Scripture, adduced by Bellarmine, which can be considered as of weight or importance; and we may therefore fairly consider that, in answering them, we have shown that Scripture does not countenance the doctrine which our fourteenth Article condemns. It remains to show, that there are passages and statements in the Scriptures directly at variance with that doctrine, and utterly inconsistent with it.

1. In the first place Scripture shows that all men, even those under the dominion of grace, are still imperfect and full of infirmity. David says, that “there is none that doeth good, no not one” (Ps. xiv. 3); St. James says, that “in many things we offend, all” (Jas. iii. 2); and St. John says, that “if we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves” (1 John i. 8). But if it be true that all men have sinned and “in many things offend,” then it is quite clear that no man can be so perfectly holy as not only to fulfil all God’s law, but even to exceed it. And as the Psalmist spoke, in the fourteenth Psalm, “to those that were under the Law” (see Rom. iii. 10, 19), so St. James and St. John evidently spoke to those who were under grace; as the whole context evinces. Hence we must conclude that even under grace no man lives actually spotless in God’s commandments.

2. But even if we could live wholly without spot, and never offend in thought, word, or deed, even so our Lord teaches us that such a spotless obedience would still leave us undeserving of reward. “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke xvii. 10). What room is there then for the doctrine which teaches, that a man may do enough for his salvation and attain to glory by keeping the precepts; and then by observing counsels may merit still more? Even if we could keep all the precepts, we should be unprofitable, having no right to reward, but merely to exemption from punishment.[28] Something more than obedience to precepts is required, even for salvation; and where, then, is the foundation on which to build still higher merit?

3. Again, in the parable of the ten virgins, when the five foolish virgins found their oil fail, they are represented as going to the wise virgins, and asking to borrow oil from them. But the wise answered that they had not enough for themselves and others too, showing that no one can have holiness or grace enough to supply another’s deficiencies, but that each one must seek pardon and grace for himself (Matt. xxv. 9).

4. Then the precepts of the Gospel are so full and comprehensive that everything, even the highest degree of perfection, is contained in them. Under the Law, indeed, if the letter only was observed, the statutes contained but a certain express catalogue of duties: but the spiritual sense of the Law, as enforced by our Saviour, enjoins such an entire surrender of all the faculties of the body, soul, and spirit to the service of Christ, that nothing conceivable can exceed or overpass it. This will be quite apparent, if we read our Lord’s exposition of the Law, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt, v. 27, seq.), where a thought or a look of evil is deadly sin; or His declaration that no one can be His disciple who hates not his nearest friends and his own life, if need be, for Christ’s service; or His summary of the commandments — unbounded love to God, and perfect love to man (Matt. xxii. 37, 38, 39); “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” We cannot conceive either saint or angel more perfect than this: and yet all this is commanded — is of the nature of a precept, not of counsels only. The language of St. Paul’s exhortation is equally strong; that we present ourselves “as living sacrifices to God” (Rom. xii. 1), that we “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. vii. 1). “Finally, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. iv. 8). Can any thing go beyond these things which it is our duty to do? But if any man seem to be contentious, St. Peter tells us, as a plain command, to aim “to be holy as Christ is holy” (1 Pet. i. 15, 16): and Christ Himself concludes His teaching concerning the strict and spiritual nature of the Law with the words, “Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. v. 48). Till then we can learn that God’s grace has ever made man as perfect as God, we can never believe that man has ever fully lived up to the precepts of the Gospel. Where is the room for higher graces still?

5. Lastly, we may observe that the whole of the doctrine of works of supererogation arises from a false view of the principles of Christian obedience. If we look for merit, it must be to Christ. Christian obedience is not a task of so much work to be done, and so much reward to be expected. When it is sound and perfect, it springs from a true faith and a holy love. And as no degree of perfection can excel the obedience which would be yielded by perfect love, so nothing can excel that holiness at which every Christian is bound to aim. The obedience of the Gospel is not the task-work of a slave, but the perfect freedom of a son.


  1. Simil. IX. 29.
  2. Vis. III. 28.
  3. Omnia huic operi delicta donantur. Apol. sub. fin.
  4. De Pudicitia, Cap. 22. See Bishop Kaye, Tertullian, p. 336. Like this is the language of Augustine, quoted by Bp. Beveridge on this Article: Etsi fratres pro fratribus moriantur, tamen in peccatorum remissionem nullius sanguis martyris funditur, quod fecit Ille (i. e. Dominus Christus) pro nobis. August. In Joh. tract 84.
  5. Rogare legem, to propose a law. Erogare, to make a law for paying a sum of money out of a public treasury. So the word is used for lending or paying out. Hence supererogare, to pay over and above. In Luke x. 35, προσδαπανάω is in the Vulgate supererogo, to spend more. — Hey, III. p. 403.
  6. Nec hoc jubet Dominus sed hortatur: nec jugum necessitatis imponit, quando maneat voluntatis arbitrium liberum. Sed cum habitationes multas apud Patrem suum dicat, melioris habitaculi hospitia demonstrat: habitacula ista meliora vos petitis, carnis desideria castrantes, majoris præmium in cœlestibus obtinetis. — Cypr. De Habitu Virginum, p. 102.
  7. Non enim sicut Non mœchaberis, non occides, ita dici potest, non nubes. Illa exiguntur, ista offeruntur. Si fiunt ista, laudantur: nisi fiunt illa, damnantur. In illis Dominus debitum imperat vobis; in his autem si quid amplius supererogaveritis, in redeundo reddit vobis. — August. De Sancta Virginitate, cap. 30. Opera, Tom. VI. p. 355.
  8. Ubi consilium, ibi offerentis arbitrium, ubi præceptum datum, ibi necessitas est servientis. Hieron. ad Eustochium, De Servanda Virginitate. So in the Sermons De Tempore, ascribed to Augustine, Sermon LXI. De Virginitate dicitur, Qui potest capere, capiat. De justitia non dicitur, Qui potest facere, sed Omnis arbor, quæ non facit fructum bonum exscindetur, et in ignem mittetur. See these and some other passages quoted by Bellarmine, De Monachis, Lib. II. cap. 7, 11. Tom. II. pp. 363, 380. The words of S. Chrysostom are much to this purpose on Rom. viii.: οἱ πνευματικοὶ πάντα πράττουσιν ἐπιθυμίᾳ καὶ πόθῳ, καὶ τοῦτο δηλοῦσι τῷ καὶ ὑπερβαίνειν τὰ ὑποτάγματα. Thus rendered by Bp. Jer. Taylor, “Spiritual men do their actions with much passion and holy zeal, and give testimony of it by expressing it in the uncommanded instances.” — Rule of Conscience, II. 3, 12; which see.
  9. Sylloge, p. 223.
  10. Sarpi, p. 757.
  11. Controvers. General. Lib. IV. De Indulgentiis, Tom. III. p. 1124. Dominus consilia a præceptis distinguens, ostendit posse homines justificatos per gratiam Dei non solum implere legem, sed etiam aliqua alia opera Deo gratissima facere, quæ imperata non sint. He quotes especially the case of the young man, Matt. xix. 16, &c.
  12. Matt. xix. 16‒21.
  13. Lib. II. De Monachis, cap. 9, Tom. II. p. 368, &c. The cardinal replies to many arguments which have been brought against his interpretation of this history: e. g. St. Jerome and Bede considered the young man’s question as a tempting of our Lord, but Chrysostom refutes this opinion, by showing that none of the Evangelists blame him, and Bellarmine adds, that St. Mark (x. 21), says that “Jesus beholding him loved him.” Calvin (Inst. Lib. IV. cap. 13) had argued that our Lord could not have placed perfection in selling all things, since in 1 Cor. xiii. 3, we read “though I give all my goods to feed the poor . . . . and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” Calvin also observes, that the young man could not really have kept all the commandments, for one is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,” &c.; and he who does this will give up everything, and therefore, of course, all his wealth, for Him. Peter Martyr too had said, that it could not be a counsel, but a precept, when our Lord said, “If thou wilt be perfect, sell all that thou hast;” for in Matt. v. 48, “Be ye perfect” is a precept; and therefore whatever teaches us to be perfect must be of the nature of a precept also. To this Bellarmine tries to reply, that there are different kinds of perfection, some necessary for salvation, but a higher degree for a higher grade of glory. P. Martyr also says, that this command was given to the young man alone, and that therefore it was necessary for his perfection, but not for every one’s, for he is perfect who obeys God’s laws. Bellarmine answers, No! The command was, “If thou will enter into life, keep the commandments;” this was addressed to all. So we ought to infer that the saying, “If thou wilt be perfect, sell all that thou hast,” was equally addressed to all. He quotes Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine, as agreeing with him in this view.
  14. We must remember that there was a perfectly general precept to this effect: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,” Matt. x. 37. And again: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he can not be my disciple,” Luke xiv. 26.
  15. Tom. II. p. 378.
  16. Lib. de Opere Monachorum, c. 10.
  17. 1 Cor. i. 29. Comp. Rom. iii. 27; iv 2. Eph. ii. 9.
  18. Δοκῶ δὲ κἀγὼ Πνεῦμα Θεοῦ ἔχειν, where, according to the well-known usage of St. Paul and others, δοκεῖν is far from implying doubt.
  19. De Sancta Virginitate, c. 13. Unde mirabiliter desipiunt, qui putant hujus continentiæ bonum non esse necessarium propter regnum cœlorum, sed propter præsens sæculum, quod scilicet conjugia terrenis curis pluribus atque arctioribus distenduntur, qua molestia virgines et continentes carent, &c.
  20. In Locis, cap. De Castitate.
  21. Beatior autem erit, si sic permanserit, id est, ut exponit, in futuro sæculo. Bellarmine treats of Matt. xix. Controv. Gener. Tom. II. p. 367. Cf. 1 Cor. vii. Tom. II. p. 373.
  22. For example, see Bp. Burnet on this Article, and Milner, Hist. of the Church, Cent. I. ch. XI.; Cent. II. ch. VIII.; divines of a school peculiarly disinclined from any concessions to the Romanists. On the proper distinction between precepts and counsels, the student may read with great advantage Bp. Jer. Taylor Rule of Conscience, Book II. ch. III. Rule 12.
  23. 1 Cor. vii. 31: “As though they used it not,” ὡς μὴ καταχρώμενοι. Καταχρᾶσθαι here probably signifies to use. Comp. 1 Cor. vii. 31; ix. 18.
  24. 1 Cor. vii. 35. In the words πρὸς τὸ εὐπρόσεδρον τῷ Κυρίῳ ἀπερισπάστως, it has been thought that St. Paul especially alludes to Mary’s “sitting at Jesus’ feet.” Luke x. 39.
  25. Propter instantem necessitatem. Id est, præsentis vitæ solicitudinem, quæ multum potest obesse justitiæ, et qua præcipue juncti matrimoniis implicantur. — Hieron. in 1 Cor. vii.
  26. Jer. Taylor, as above.
  27. A passage, not noticed by Bellarmine, may seem to countenance the doctrine that the sufferings of the saints were beneficial, not only to themselves, but to the Church; and that therefore their merits were more than enough for their own salvation. The passage is Col. i. 24, “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, which is the Church.” But if we carefully consider the passage, we cannot suppose that the Apostle means that there was anything deficient in the sufferings of Christ, or that His infinite merits needed addition from the sufferings of His servant. The true meaning of the passage is this: Every servant of Christ has need to be conformed to the likeness of the sufferings of his Lord. St. Paul considered, that where was somewhat lacking in him, that there was somewhat yet behind of “the affliction of Christ,” before he could be thoroughly conformed to His likeness; and earnestly desiring to be made like his Lord, he gladly took every additional trial as only bringing him nearer to His image; and all these trials he endured for the sake of the Church, which he served, and to which he preached the Gospel of Christ. There is no mention of vicarious suffering on the part of St. Paul, of supererogatory merit, or of addition to the full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross.
  28. Quod sub præcepto est, si non impleatur, punit. Impletum morte tantum caret; quia nihil ex se dat, sed quod debet, exsolvit. — Hieron. in 1 Cor. vii. It is true, that the divines of the Roman communion always presuppose that it is the atonement of Christ which gives efficacy and merit to the works of the saints. But we must remember that our Lord, in the passage from Luke xvii. 10, spoke to His own disciples, — those very saints who are supposed not only to have merited life, but to have laid up a store of good works, more than was needed for their salvation.

E. Harold Browne

(Edward) Harold Browne was an English bishop, born at Aylesbury and educated at Eton and Cambridge. He was ordained in 1836, and two years later was elected senior tutor of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. From 1843 to 1849 he was vice-principal of St David’s College, Lampeter, and in 1854 was appointed Norrisian professor of divinity at Cambridge. His best-known book is the Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles (vol. i., Cambridge, 1850; vol. ii., London, 1853), which remained for many years a standard work on the subject and is still beloved today. In 1864 he was consecrated bishop of Ely.

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