Monday, November 15, 2010

Anselm on the death of Christ and the day of judgement

Reading Robert L. Reymond's The Reformation's Controversy with Rome: Why it Must Continue, (Mentor, 2001), I came across this quote from Anselm, the great medieval Archbishop of Canterbury. Reymond cites it to show that the doctrine justification by faith alone in Christ alone had not entirely disappear in the Dark Ages. (Quoted on p. 76 - see note 75). Anselm is writing to console the dying who, conscious of their sins, feared appearing before God on the day of judgement.
Question: “Dost thou believe that the Lord Jesus died for thee?”
Answer: “I believe it.”

Question: “Dost thou thank Him for His passion and death?
Answer: “I do thank Him.”

Question: “Dost thou believe that thou canst not be saved except by His death?”
Answer: “I believe it.”

And then Anselm addresses the dying man:

“Come then, while life remaineth in thee; in His death alone place thy whole trust; in naught else place any trust; to His death commit thyself wholly; with this alone cover thyself wholly; and if the Lord thy God will to judge thee, say, ‘Lord, between thy judgment and me I present the death of our Lord Jesus Christ; no otherwise can I contend with thee.’ And if He shall say that thou art a sinner, say thou, ‘Lord, I interpose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my sins and thee.’ If He say that thou hast deserved condemnation, say, ‘Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my evil deserts and thee, and Your merits I offer for those which I ought to have and have not.’ If he say that He is wroth with thee, say, ‘Lord, I oppose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between Thy wrath and me.’ And when thou hast completed this, say again, ‘Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between Thee and me.’” (see Anselm, Opera (Migne), 1:686, 687)
Likewise, in his controversy with Franciscian Friar John Vincent Cane, John Owen cited the schoolman Ferus as saying, ‘If you desire to hold the grace and favour of God, make no mention of your own merits.'  He also reminded Cane of the example of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, who, on his death bed ‘renounced all merit of good works, as a proud figment, and gave himself up to the sole grace of God in Jesus Christ, on whose purchase of heaven for him he alone relied.’ Owen urged his opponent to likewise forsake his supposed merits and trust solely in the righteousness and blood of Christ as the grounds of his justification before God.

Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.
(Ludwig von Zinzendorf, 1700-1760)

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