The Nestorians and their Rituals/Volume 2/Chapter 16

CHAPTER XVI.

OF GOOD WORKS.

"Albeit that good works which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after justification, cannot put away our sin, and endure the severity of God's Judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith; insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit."—Article XII.

§ 1. "Physicians heal the sick with medicines, but the priests cure the sinner with the words of Scripture; and by tears, fasting, prayers, and almsgiving, we reconcile Christ to us. And there is joy in heaven among the angels when sinners turn away from their sins." From the service in the Khudhra for the eve of the commemoration of the Greek Doctors.

§ 2. In the foregoing part of the poem the author had adduced the case of the Ninevites, and therefrom deduces the doctrine that all affliction is sent on account of sin, and that by the austerities and mortifications which they imposed upon themselves, the Ninevites had put away the wrath of the Almighty. He then goes on to say: "Henceforth our condition requires that by fasting and prayer, and almsgiving, by contrition, and repentance, and sorrow, and tears, and earnestness, for sin, we should reconcile the Lord, and say all of us, 'O Lord, accept our supplication.'" From the Khâmees, "on Repentance."

§ 3. "Know thou assuredly, my soul, that there is no salvation from the hell prepared, but through the labour of soul and body. Therefore multiply and increase thy labour that thou mayest inherit the blessedness which passeth not away." From the Khâmees, from a different poem "on Repentance."

§ 4. "Let us 'please' [Heb. xi. 6] Christ the King by our works, for He is the Searcher of our hidden things, and the Discerner of our thoughts, lest He find us sunk in the laxity of lusts, and say unto us, 'I know you not, depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity.'" From the service in the Khudhra for the Monday of the Baootha d'Ninwâyé.

§ 5. "Whilst we continue in this transitory world, and whilst the door of mercy, and of the forgiveness of sins, is open, let us reconcile the Righteous one by our conversion from doing evil to doing good works, that we may escape the awful judgment, the sentence of which is severe, and the punishment of which is long." From the Khudhra, ut supra.

§ 6. "Fasting, and prayer, and the repentance of the soul, reconcile Christ, and His Father, and His Spirit." From the Liturgies, and appointed to he said whenever the Eucharist is offered.

§ 7. "When the full term of my life shall have arrived, and the Law shall appear to call my soul to account for all that I have done, what property or what wealth, can then aid me there where Christ shall sit upon the throne of His glory? The abundance of riches shall not profit the rich man if he be devoid of good works, nor shall poverty profit the poor man if his works be not pleasing to God. I pray Thee, therefore, O Lord, to have pity upon me here, and there to forgive me my sins, and to have mercy upon me." From the Khudhra, from the Monday of the Baootha.

§ 8. "Let us prepare ourselves in fear and in love to partake of the awful gift of the mysteries of Christ, and let us ornament ourselves with [good] works wherewith we reconcile the Judge of all, that He may have pity upon us when He cometh to judge all the nations of the world." From the service for Tuesday of the Baootha, in the Khudhra.

REMARKS.

The above extracts, taken alone, appear at first sight to militate against the doctrine of our Church in her Twelfth Article; but, taken together with the declarations contained in the quotations given in the preceding chapter, they seem to teach the scriptural truth, that God's grace is the procuring cause of man's salvation, (as is more largely set forth under Chap. VI.) that it is God, who, without any merit or deserving on our part, calls and justifies, and that if we are obedient to this call He will justify us at the last. This obedience may be the simple act of faith, as in the case of the penitent thief, who was justified here and hereafter because he believed, (for he had no time given him to testify further the sincerity of his confession;) or it may be faith evinced by a life of obedience. Not, however, that even his faith, as a good work, or faith and obedience conjoined, can make a man to merit the favour of God; for any such doctrine is clearly disproved by § 7 and 8, given under Chap. XV. "Repentant in my thoughts I call upon Thee, O Thou Physician Who healest gratuitously, that as Thou didst create me out of nothing, so, in Thy grace, heal Thou my misdeeds, since I cannot attain unto salvation, even by my repentance, unless Thou dost help me." And again, "O Thou just Judge Who dost justify freely, unto Thee do I declare all my shortcomings. Give me, therefore, whiteness of face on the day of judgment, through the mercies which sent Thee to our race, and have mercy upon me."

Moreover the clauses in the above extracts, which speak of the fruits of repentance "reconciling" the Lord, do not necessarily teach that such works, or that any other "charitable deeds of ours, are the original cause of our being accepted before God, or that for the dignity or worthiness thereof our sins may be washed away, and we purged and cleansed from all the spots of our iniquity;" but I conceive that thereby nothing more is meant than is conveyed by the following extract from the second part of the Homily on Alms-Deeds: "When He and His disciples were grievously accused of the Pharisees, to have defiled their souls in breaking the constitutions of the Elders, because they went to meat, and washed not their hands before, according to the custom of the Jews; Christ answering their superstitious complaint, teacheth them an especial remedy how to keep clean their souls, notwithstanding the breach of such superstitious orders: 'Give alms,' saith He, 'and behold all things are clean unto you.' He teacheth them, that to be merciful and charitable in helping the poor, is the means to keep the soul pure and clean in the sight of God. We are taught, therefore, by this, that merciful alms-dealing is profitable to purge the soul from the infection and filthy spots of sin. The same lesson doth the Holy Ghost also teach in sundry places of Scripture, saying, Mercifulness and alms-giving purgeth from all sins, and delivereth from death, and suffereth not the soul to come into darkness. A great confidence may they have before the high God, that show mercy and compassion to them that are afflicted. The wise preacher, the Son of Sirach, confirmeth the same, when he saith, 'That as water quencheth burning fire, even so mercy and alms resisteth and reconcileth sins.' And sure it is, that mercifulness quaileth the heat of sins so much, that they shall not take hold upon man to hurt him; or if ye have by any infirmity or weakness been touched and annoyed with them, straightways shall mercifulness wipe and wash away, as salves and remedies to heal their sores and grievous diseases. And thereupon that holy father Cyprian taketh good occasion to exhort earnestly to the merciful works of giving alms and helping the poor, and then he admonisheth to consider how wholesome and profitable it is to relieve the needy, and help the afflicted, by the which we may purge our sins, and heal our wounded souls."

The following additional extracts further prove the Nestorians to believe, 1st, That God's mercy in Christ is the procuring cause of salvation to mankind. 2nd, That faith in Him justifies. 3rd, That lively faith is inseparable from good works. 4th, That God is pleased with our good works. 5th, That works in order to be good must spring from a lively faith, or, in other words, that the belief of the heart must be evinced by the confession of the life. And, lastly, that without good works no man can be saved.

§ 1. "Let us all bring forth the pure fruits of repentance towards Christ, Who is God over all, and by prayer, fasting, alms-giving, and mercy to the poor, let us seek mercy from the righteous Judge, through whose abundant mercies alone we become worthy to ascribe praise unto Him, that He may forgive us our trespasses and sins." From the service appointed in the Khudhra for the mid-Wednesday in Lent.

§ 2. "The poor in spirit are those who do not boast of their riches, nor of their power, nor of their knowledge, nor of their good works." From the Warda, "on the Beatitudes."

§ 3. "Not that He did not know them when He said unto them, 'I know you not;' but He meant that they could not be acknowledged as those who should enjoy His kingdom. By this parable He terrifies those who trust in their virginity, and shows how that they cannot enter into the kingdom unless they have mercy," [i. e., have done works of mercy.] From the Warda, "on the Ten Virgins."

§ 4. "I will confide in this first, second and third thing, and in nothing more, although those who have speech were to cry aloud, and the very dumb should speak and declare it,—I confide in the mouth which spake and said: 'He that eateth My body, and drinketh My blood, and believeth on Me, shall never die.' On these three things, I take my stand; I stand although I am fallen. For though I am fallen I believe, and yet believe, that I shall rise again, I shall rise and shall not fall again, for I know in whom I have believed, and I have hope that I shall not be confounded." From the Warda, "on Repentance."

§ 5. "Blessed is the mouth which confesseth Him, for though it be dead it shall live through Him. Blessed is the heart which believeth on Him, for though it be sinful, it shall be justified through Him." From a poem in the Warda, "adapted to the fourth Sunday in Lent."

§ 6. Apostrophizing his soul the author writes: "Love righteousness, and abhor all sin and anger, ornament thyself with virtue, and lay fast hold of faith," [or, lean on faith.] From the Khâmees, "on Repentance."

§ 7. "Go forth, O Church, and take with thee thy sous and daughters, to do Him honour, and cry aloud with all thy heart: 'Hosanna to the Lord.' Let faith and love be to thee instead of branches, and cry out with the voice of thanksgiving, Hosanna." From the Warda, "for Palm Sunday."

§ 8. "O my unrighteous soul, who shall weep bitterly for thee, and who shall plead for thee with the righteous Judge? The angels of heaven are struck with awe, and tremble at the severe condemnation which shall be passed upon those of earth, especially upon those who have not exercised mercy. The wise virgins do not give oil to the foolish ones, because they do not take with them pure lamps trimmed with mercy. Whither, then, wilt thou go to buy oil to light thy lamp, O thou unrighteons one? Perchance, whilst thou art gone to buy, the Bridegroom will come, and thou shalt knock, but the door will not be opened unto thee; thou shalt cry aloud, 'Lord, Lord!' but He will not answer thee. Then shall He command thee to be delivered over to eternal punishment, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth for all evil-doers. Then thou shalt call out, as did the Rich Man, from the midst of hell, 'O moisten my tongue which is parched with the flames.' And Abraham shall answer thee as he did the Rich Man, 'Remember that thou hast received thy good things, and Lazarus has received his afflictions, and now thou shalt have thine afflictions, and Lazarus shall have his good things.' Since thou didst not comfort the weary, therefore thou shalt not rest in the treasure-house of life. Since thou didst not satisfy a hungry soul, thou shalt not enjoy the blessings to come. Since thou didst not give away a cup of cold water, thy poor tongue shall not be moistened. Therefore, O my soul, pray and beseech the merciful Lord, and say, 'Give me rest in Thy kingdom with all Thy saints, and have mercy upon me.'" From the service appointed in the Khudhra for the Baootha d'Ninwâyé.

See also Appendix B. Part iv. c. 7, for the connection in which Rom. xiv. 23 referred to in Art. xiii. is found.