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such words and declarations the Holy Ghost reproves the world of sin.
What is sin? Is it to steal, to murder, to commit adultery, and the like? Yea, these are indeed sins, but they are not those which are most prevalent and most grave. Many persons are not guilty of these manifest sins; but of that chief sin of which the Holy Ghost reproves the world, no one is free, else the Holy Ghost could not reprove the whole world. This great sin is the unbelief of the world, the refusal to believe in Jesus Christ. Nor does the world know anything of this sin before the Holy Ghost reproves the people of it through His teachings; the world considers only such deeds sinful as are contrary to the second table of the law. It knows nothing of Christ, and much less is it aware of the sin of not believing in Him. But we need not talk of the world in this regard; we find many among the Christians who do not consider unbelief a sin, much less an original sin. No one but the Holy Ghost can teach the world that unbelief is sin; He reproves all as sinners, no matter how some may attempt to cover up their faults by good works or to pass themselves off as pure under the tiusel of self-righteousness.
The Holy Ghost, therefore, preaches this truth that all men, without an exception, are sinners and cannot of themselves believe in Christ. This is, of course, strange preaching for the world. The world of itself is perfectly ignorant of the duty of having faith in Christ, the Son of man. Men suppose that they have fulfilled their duty if they can say with the Pharisee, Luke 18, that they are no murderers, no adulterers and no unjust persons.
But the Holy Ghost teaches otherwise and tells man: I know that this one or that one may lead an outwardly upright life, but still the great sin of unbelief nestles deep down in the heart of every one. If we are not reproved of this sin by the Holy Ghost, we will never discover it.
We must then infer from this that “every thing not concluded in faith is sin," whether it be monastic vows, or prayers, fastings, and giving of alms. Wherever faith in Christ is wanting, there the Holy Ghost must come with His reproof. There is no other way to be relieved from this sin but to believe in Christ Jesus the Saviour.
This is an overwhelming truth, and yet the Pope with his followers attempt to gainsay it. When they cannot remove the text itself, they say that it speaks de fide formata per caritatem, that is, of faith as formed by love. But this is a false interpretation of the text. Christ evidently speaks here of the great sin of unbelief in Him. Therefore, though there are ever so many works of love performed by man, if faith in Christ is wanting they will avail nothing, and he who performs them is nevertheless a sinner whom the Holy Ghost reproves on account of his sins.
Unbelief is therefore the principal sin, from which all transgressions take their origin. Wherever unbeliet dwells, there faith in Christ is banished, and the result is that His Word is rejected; it is either treated with contempt or regarded as heresy and falsehood and therefore persecuted as if it were the word of the devil. From this other great evils spring: disobedience towards parents and those in
authority, neglect in the fulfillment of the duties of one's office and calling, indulgence in all kinds of lasciviousness and lawlessness; although a few, perhaps, may lead an unblamable life before men from fear of detection and of scandal. Such are the blossoms and fruits of this tree of unbelief; its growth is immense and cannot be checked except by the power of the Holy Ghost. Whosoever does not believe in Christ has not the Holy Ghost and cannot have a single good thought; and if perchance he performs some work not evil in itself, and proper, he does this in slavish fear and not from true, earnest obedience to God's Word. The world is consequently the devil's household, devoid of every thing good in word and in deed. It cannot be otherwise, since unbelief is the source of all evil.
We can therefore very appropriately describe the world as a crowd of men on earth who do not believe in Christ, but abuse and despise His Word, who internally and externally, with thoughts, words and deeds, kill, steal, rob, and practice all manner of wickedness, often abusing for this purpose the blessings and merciful gifts of God.
Christ in our text instructs His apostles, and all ministers of His Word, to battle against such iniquity, powerfully to reprove the world of sin by telling it unceasingly, as long as time lasts, that it has no part in the kingdom of Christ, because it does not believe in Him, but is assuredly the devil's property, not so much on account of outward, gross sins as on account of the source of all sin, unbelief. We cannot remedy this by becoming monks, nor by many good works, for as long as unbelief remains in our hearts we are accursed sinners beyond all
hope of redemption. The only remedy in this our desperate condition is to thrust aside our unbelief, to have faith in Christ, and in Him alone to find consolation against sin and death.
You have often heard, my beloved, what is meant by “faith.” It is not simply a knowledge of Christ, nor a mere assent to the truth of His Word, but an earnest confidence in our hearts that what He did for the world was done actually for us, for our salvation. The devil knows well enough that Christ died, and his belief in this regard is as strong as that of the Papists; but he does not believe that this death occurred for him also and for his benefit. The Holy Ghost alone has the power to produce in the heart the confidence in Christ which accepts Him as a Saviour. Whosoever has not this faith, nor believes that Christ died for him to save him from sin and eternal death, is not a Christian and remains a sinner, even if he tortures himself to death with his so-called good works.
When thus the Holy Ghost reproves the world of sin, He makes it manifest that everything in us is sin, and that we with all our good works and saintly life are after all in the sight of God naught but miserable, accursed sinners, if we do not believe in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore away with all hoods, tonsures, orders, and all similar human instrumentalities devised to obtain forgiveness of sins! It is a contradiction to say that Christ died for us, and at the same time to wear a cowl or to perform this or that work for the purpose of becoming pious and entering heaven. He who does not heed the reproof of the Holy Ghost, and does not accept Christ, evidently demonstrates thereby that he does
not regard himself as a sinner and that he has no faith in the Lord.
Again it is the office of the Comforter to “reprove the world of righteousness.” This is also a hard saying. Sin the world has, that we know, but piety and righteousness it has none, nor does it know where or how to obtain them. What then is meant by this term “righteousness ?” The world has indeed laws and tribunals of justice; even the old heathens had appropriate legislation and institutions in regard to civil duties and the execution of their laws. Surely, it cannot be wrong to inflict punishment upon thieves and murderers. Is not all this very just and proper?
Christ answers thus : Call the regulations of this life as you will, only call them not righteousness, which would be false; for here is not meant the righteousness of the jurists, but that indicated in the words: "Because I go to my Father and ye see me no more.” This is an intricate expression, more difficult to be understood than the one in regard to our being sinners because we do not believe in Christ, and surely this is difficult enough for our natural man to comprehend. We suppose that we have withiu us natural powers which enable us to worship properly, to prepare ourselves for the reception of pardon, and to pray for it aright. Such supposition makes it even now impossible for the Papists to understand this declaration concerning faith in Christ. But still more incomprehensible is this expression concerning "righteousness." It declares that we are then pleasing in the sight of God when Christ goeth to the Father and we see