Book: THE OBEDIENCE OF A CHRISTIAN MAN & How Christian Rulers Ought to Govern

GOD, which worketh all in all things, for a secret judgment and purpose, and for his godly pleasure, provided an hour that thy father and mother should come together, to make thee through them. He was present with thee in thy mother’s womb, and fashioned thee and breathed life into thee; and, for the great love he had unto thee, provided milk in thy mother’s breasts for thee against thou were born; moved also thy father and mother, and all other, to love thee, to pity thee, and to care for thee.And as he made thee through them, so hath he cast thee under the power and authority of them, to obey and serve them in his stead; saying, “Honour thy father and mother.” Exodus 20. Which is not to be understood in bowing the knee, and putting off the cap only, but that thou love them with all thine heart; and fear and dread them, and wait on their commandments; and seek their worship, pleasure, will and profit in all things; and give thy life for them, counting them worthy of all honor; remembering that thou art their good and possession, and that thou owest unto them thine own self, and all thou art able, yea, and more than thou art able to do.

Understand also, that whatsoever thou doest unto them, be it good or bad, thou doest unto God. When thou pleasest them, thou pleasest God; when thou displeasest them, thou displeasest God; when they are angry with thee, God is angry with thee: neither is it possible for thee to come to the favor of God again, no, though all the angels of heaven pray for thee, until thou have submitted thyself unto thy father and mother again.

If thou obey, though it be but carnally, either for fear, for vain glory, or profit, thy blessing shall be long life upon the earth. For he saith, “Honour thy father and mother, that thou mayest live long upon the earth.” ( Exodus 20) Contrariwise, if thou disobey them, thy life shall be shortened upon the earth. For it followeth, Exodus 21 “He that smiteth his father or mother shall be put to death for it. And he that curseth,” that is to say, raileth or dishonoreth his father or mother with opprobrious words, “shall be slain for it.” And, Deuteronomy “If any man have a son stubborn and disobedient, which heareth not the voice of his father and the voice of his mother, so that they have taught him nurture, and he regardeth them not; then let his father and mother take him, and bring him forth unto the seniors or elders of the city, and unto the gate of the same place: and let them say unto the seniors of that city, This our son is stubborn and disobedient: he will not hearken unto our voice: he is a rioter and a drunkard. Then let all the men of the city stone him with stones unto death: so shall ye put away wickedness from among you, and all Israel shall hear and shall fear.” ( Deuteronomy 21) And though that the temporal officers (to their own damnation) be negligent in punishing such disobedience, (as the spiritual officers are to teach it,) and wink at it, or look on it through the fingers, yet shall they not escape unpunished. For the vengeance of God shall accompany them (as thou mayest see Deuteronomy 28) with all misfortune and evil luck; and shall not depart from them until they be murdered, drowned, or hanged; either until, by one mischance or another, they be utterly brought to nought. Yea, and the world oftentimes hangeth many a man for that they never deserved: but God hangeth them because they would not obey, and hearken unto their elders; as the consciences of many well find, when they come unto the gallows. There can they preach, and teach other, that which they themselves would not learn in season.

The marriage also of the children pertaineth unto their elders; as thou mayest see 1 Corinthians 7 and throughout all the scripture, by the authority of the said commandment, Child, obey father and mother. Which thing the heathen and gentiles have ever kept, and to this day keep, to the great shame and rebuke of us Christians: inasmuch as the weddings of our virgins (shame it is to speak it) are more like to the saute of a bitch than the marrying of a reasonable creature. See not we daily three or four challenging one woman before the commissary or official, of which not one hath the consent of her father and mother? And yet he that hath most money hath best right, and shall have her in the despite of all her friends and in defiance of God’s ordinances. Moreover, when she is given by the judge unto the one party, and also married, even then ofttimes shall the contrary party sue before a higher judge, or another that succeedeth the same, and for money divorce her again. So shamefully doth the covetousness and ambition of our prelates mock with the laws of God. I pass over with silence, how many years they will prolong the sentence with cavillations and subtlety, if they be well monied on both parties; and if a damsel promise two, how shameful counsel they will give the second, and also how the religious of Satan do separate unseparable matrimony. For after thou art lawfully married at the commandment of father and mother, and with the consent of all thy friends; yet if thou wilt be disguised like unto one of them, and swear obedience unto their traditions, thou mayest disobey father and mother, break the oath which thou hast sworn to God before his holy congregation, and withdraw love and charity, the highest of God’s commandments, and that duty and service which thou owest unto thy wife; whereof Christ cannot dispense with thee: for Christ is not against God, but with God; and came not to break God’s ordinances, but to fulfill them. That is, he came to overcome thee with kindness; and to make thee to do, of very love, the thing which the law compelleth thee to do. For love only, and to do service unto thy neighbor, is the fulfilling of the law in the sight of God. To be a monk or a friar, thou mayest thus forsake thy wife before thou hast lain with her, but not to be a secular priest. And yet, after thou art professed, the pope for money will dispense with thee, both for thy coat and all thy obedience, and make a secular priest of thee: likewise as it is simony to sell a benefice, as they call it, but to resign upon a pension, and then to redeem the same, is no simony at all. O crafty jugglers and mockers with the word of God!