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

ANTICHRIST of another manner hath sent forth his disciples, those “false anointed,” of which Christ warneth us before, that they should come and show miracles and wonders, even to bring the very elect out of the way, if it were possible. He anointeth them after the manner of the Jews; and shaveth them and sheareth them after the manner of the heathen priests, which serve the idols. He sendeth them forth not with false oil only, but with false names also: for compare their names unto their deeds, and thou shalt find them false. He sendeth them forth, as Paul prophesied of them, with lying signs and wonders. What sign is the anointing? That they be full of the Holy Ghost. Compare them to the signs of the Holy Ghost, which Paul reckoneth, and thou shalt find it a false sign. “A bishop must be faultless, the husband of one wife.” Nay, saith the pope, the husband of no wife, but the holder of as many whores as he lusts [desires] after. God commandeth all degrees, if they burn, and cannot live chaste, to marry. The pope saith, If thou burn, take a dispensation for a concubine, and put her away when thou art old; or else, as our lawyers say, Si non caste, tamen caute; that is, If ye live not chaste, see ye carry clean, and play the knave secretly. “Harborous:” yea, to whores and bawds; for a poor man shall as soon break his neck as his fast with them, but of the scraps and with the dogs, when dinner is done. “Apt to teach,” and, as Peter saith, “ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that ye have, and that with meekness.” Which thing is signified by the boots which doctors of divinity are created in, because they should be ready always to go through thick and thin, to preach God’s word; and by the bishop’s two-horned mitre, which betokeneth the absolute and perfect knowledge that they ought to have in the new Testament and the old. Be not these false signs? For they beat only, and teach not. ‘Yea,’ saith the pope, ‘If they will not be ruled, cite them to appear; and pose them sharply, what they hold of the pope’s power, of his pardons, of his bulls, of purgatory, of ceremonies, of confession, and such like creatures of our most holy father’s. If they miss in any point, make heretics of them, and burn them. If they be of mine anointed, and bear my mark, disgrace them, (I would say, disgraduate them,) and after the ensample of noble Antiochus (2 Maccabees 7) pare the crowns and the fingers of them, and torment them craftily, and for very pain make them deny the truth.’ (‘But now,’ say our bishops, ‘because the truth is come too far abroad, and the lay-people begin to smell our wiles, it is best to oppress them with craft secretly, and to tame them in prison. Yea, let us find the means to have them in the king’s prison, and to make treason of such doctrine: yea, we must stir up some war, one [some]where or another, to bring the people into another imagination.’) ‘If’ they be gentlemen, abjure them secretly. Curse them four times in the year. Make them afraid of every thing; and namely, to touch mine anointed; and make them to fear the sentence of the church, suspensions, excommunications and curses. Be they right or wrong, bear them in hand that they are to be feared yet. Preach me and mine authority, and how terrible a thing my curse is, and how black it maketh their souls.

On the holidays, which were ordained to preach God’s word, set up long ceremonies, long matins, long masses, and long evensongs, and all in Latin, that they understand not; and roll them in darkness, that ye may lead them whither ye will. And lest such things should be too tedious, sing some, say some, pipe some, ring the bells, and lull them and rock them asleep.’ And yet Paul ( 1 Corinthians 14) forbiddeth to speak in the church or congregation, save in the tongue that all understand. For the layman thereby is not edified or taught. How shall the layman say Amen (saith Paul) to thy blessing or thanksgiving, when he [understands] not what thou sayest? He [understands] not whether thou bless or curse.

What then saith the pope? ‘What care I for Paul? I command by the virtue of obedience, to read the gospel in Latin. Let them not pray but in Latin, no, not their Pater noster. If any be sick, go also and say them a gospel, and all in Latin: yea, to the very corn and fruits of the field, in the procession week, preach the gospel in Latin: make the people believe, that it shall grow the better.’ It is verily as good to preach it to swine as to men, if thou preach it in a tongue they understand not. How shall I prepare myself to God’s commandments? How shall I be thankful to Christ for his kindness? How shall I believe the truth and promises which God hath sworn, while thou tellest them unto me in a tongue which I understand not?

What then saith my lord of Canterbury to a priest that would have had the new testament gone forth in English? “What,” saith he, “wouldest thou that the lay-people should wete what we do?” “No fighter:” which I suppose is signified by the cross that is borne before the high prelates, and borne before them in procession. Is that also not a false sign? What realm can be in peace for such turmoilers? What so little a parish is it, but they will pick one quarrel or another with them, either for some surplice, chrisom, or mortuary, either for one trifle or other, and cite them to the Arches? Traitors they are to all creatures, and have a secret conspiration between themselves. One craft they have, to make many kingdoms, and small; and to nourish old titles or quarrels; that they may ever move them to war at their pleasure; and if much lands by any chance fall to one man, ever to cast a bone in the way, that he shall never be able to obtain it, as we now see in the emperor. Why? For as long as the kings be small, if God would open the eyes of any to set a reformation in his realm, then should the pope interdict his land, and send in other princes to conquer it. “Not given to filthy lucre, but abhorring covetousness;” and, as Peter saith, “Taking the oversight of them, not as though ye were compelled thereunto, but willingly; not for desire of filthy lucre, but of a good mind; not as though ye were lords over the parishes.” Over the parishes, quoth he! O Peter, Peter, thou wast too long a fisher; thou wast never brought up at the Arches, neither wast master of the Rolls, nor yet chancellor of England. They are not content to reign over king and emperor, and the whole earth; but challenge authority also in heaven and in hell. It is not enough for them to reign over all that are quick, but have created them a purgatory, to reign also over the dead, and to have one kingdom more than God himself hath. “But that ye be an ensample to the flock,” saith Peter; “and when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive an incorruptible crown of glory.” This “abhorring of covetousness” is signified, as I suppose, by shaving and shearing of the hair, that they have no superfluity. But is not this also a false sign? Yea, verily, it is to them a remembrance to shear and shave, to heap benefice upon benefice, promotion upon promotion, dignity upon dignity, bishoprick upon bishoprick, with pluralities, unions and TOT QUOTS. First, by the authority of the gospel, they that preach the word of God in every parish, and other necessary ministers, have right to challenge an honest living like unto one of the brethren, and therewith ought to be content. Bishops and priests that preach not, or that preach aught save God’s word, are none of Christ’s, nor of his anointing; but servants of the beast, whose mark they bear, whose word they preach, whose law they maintain clean against God’s law, and with their false sophistry give him greater power than God ever gave to his Son Christ.

But they, as unsatiable beasts, not unmindful why they were shaven and shorn, because they will stand at no man’s grace, or be in any man’s danger, have gotten into their own hands, first the tithe or tenth of all the realm; and then, I suppose within a little, or altogether, the third foot of all the temporal lands.

Mark well how many parsonages or vicarages are there in the realm, which at the least have a plowland a-piece. Then note the lands of bishops, abbots, priors, nuns, knights of St John’s, cathedral churches, colleges, chauntries, and free-chapels. For though the house fall in decay, and the ordinance of the founder be lost, yet will not they lose the lands. What cometh once in, may never more out. They make a free-chapel of it; so that he which enjoyeth it shall do nought therefore. Besides all this, how many chaplains do gentlemen find at their own cost, in their houses? How many sing for souls, by testaments? Then the proving of testaments, the prizing of goods, the bishop of Canterbury’s prerogative; is that not much through the realm in a year? Four offering days, and privy tithes. There is no servant, but that he shall pay somewhat of his wages. None shall receive the body of Christ at Easter, be he never so poor a beggar, or never so young a lad or maid, but they must pay somewhat for it. Then mortuaries for forgotten tithes, as they say. And yet what parson or vicar is there that will forget to have a pigeon-house, to peck up somewhat both at sowingtime and harvest, when corn is ripe? They will forget nothing. No man shall die in their debt; or if any man do, he shall pay it when he is dead. They will lose nothing. Why? It is God’s; it is not theirs. It is St Hubert’s rents, St Alban’s lands, St Edmond’s right, St Peter’s patrimony, say they, and none of ours. Item, if a man die in another man’s parish, besides that he must pay at home a mortuary for forgotten tithes, he must there pay also the best that he there hath; whether it be an horse of twenty pound, or how good soever he be; either a chain of gold of an hundred marks, or five hundred pounds, if it so chance. It is much, verily, for so little painstaking in confession, and in ministering the sacraments. Then bead-rolls.

Item chrysome, churchings, banns, weddings, offering at weddings, offering at buryings, offering to images, offering of wax and lights, which come to their vantage; besides the superstitious waste of wax in torches and tapers throughout the land. Then brotherhoods and pardoners. What get they also by confessions? Yea, and many enjoin penance, to give a certain [sum] for to have so many masses said, and desire to provide a chaplain themselves; soul-masses, dirges, month-minds, year-minds, All-soulsday, and trentals. The mother church, and the high altar, must have somewhat in every testament. Offerings at priests’ first masses. Item, no man is professed, of whatsoever religion it be, but he must bring somewhat. The hallowing, or rather conjuring of churches, chapels, altars, super-altars, chalice, vestments, and bells. Then book, bell, candlestick, organs, chalice, vestments, copes, altar-cloths, surplices, towels, basins, ewers, ship, censer, and all manner ornament, must be found them freely; they will not give a mite thereunto. Last of all, what swarms of begging friars are there! The parson sheareth, the vicar shaveth, the parish priest polleth, the friar scrapeth, and the pardoner pareth; we lack but a butcher to pull off the skin.

What get they in their spiritual law, as they call it, in a year, at the Arches and in every diocese? What get the commissaries, and officials with their somners and apparitors, by bawdery in a year? Shall ye not find curates enough which, to flatter the commissaries and officials withal, that they may go quit themselves, shall open unto them the confessions of the richest of their parishes; whom they cite privily, and lay to their charges secretly?

If they desire to know their accusers, ‘Nay,’ say they, ‘the matter is known well enough, and to more than ye are ware of. Come, lay your hand on the book; if ye forswear yourself, we shall bring proofs, we will handle you, we will make an ensample of you.’ Oh, how terrible are they! ‘Come, and swear,’ say they, ‘that you will be obedient unto our injunctions.’ And by that craft wring they their purses, and make them drop, as long as there is a penny in them. In three or four years shall they in those offices get enough to pay for a bishop’s bull. What other thing are these in a realm save horseleeches, and even very maggots, cankers, and caterpillars, which devour no more but all that is green; and those wolves which Paul prophesied should come, and should not spare the flock; and which Christ said should come in lamb’s skins; and bade us beware of them, and judge them by their works?

Though, as I have before sufficiently proved, a christian man must suffer all things, be it never so great unright, as long as it is not against God’s commandment; neither is it lawful for him to cast any burden off his back by his own authority, till God pull it off, which laid it on for our deservings; yet ought the kings everywhere to defend their realms from such oppression, if they were Christians; which is seldom seen, and is a hard thing verily, though not impossible. For, alas! they be captives or ever they be kings, yea, almost ere they be born. No man may be suffered [allowed] about them but flatterers, and such as are first sworn true unto our most holy fathers the bishops; that is to say, false to God and man.

If any of the nobles of the realm be true to the king;, and so bold that he dare counsel him that which should be to his honor and for the wealth of the realm; they will wait a season for him, as men say; they will provide a ghostly father [a Catholic priest] for him. God bring their wickedness to light! There is no mischief whereof they are not the root; nor bloodshed but through their cause, either by their counsel, or in that they preach not true obedience, and teach not the people to fear God. If any faithful servant be in all the court, he shall have twenty spies waiting upon him; he shall be cast out of the court, or, as the saying is, conveyed to Calais, and:made a captain or an ambassador; he shall be kept far enough from the king’s presence.

The kings ought, I say, to remember that they are in God’s stead, and ordained of God, not for themselves, but for the wealth of their subjects.

Let them remember that their subjects are their brethren, their flesh and blood, members of their own body, and even their ownselves in Christ.

Therefore ought they to pity them, and to rid them from such wily tyranny, which increaseth more and more daily. And though that the kings, by the falsehood of the bishops and abbots, be sworn to defend such liberties; yet ought they not to keep their oaths, but to break them; forasmuch as they are unright and clean against God’s ordinance, and even but cruel oppression, contrary unto brotherly love and charity. Moreover the spiritual officer ought to punish no sin; but and if any sin break out, the king is ordained to punish it, and they not; but to preach and exhort them to fear God, and that they sin not.

And let the kings put down some of their tyranny, and turn some unto a common wealth. If the tenth part of such tyranny were given the king yearly, and laid up in the shire-towns, against the realm had need, what would it grow to in certain years? Moreover one king, one law, is God’s ordinance in every realm. Therefore ought not the king to suffer them to have a several law by themselves, and to draw his subjects thither, it is not meet, will they say, that a spiritual man should be judged of a worldly or temporal man. O abomination! see how they divide and separate themselves: if the lay-man be of the world, so is he not of God! If he believe in Christ, then is he a member of Christ, Christ’s brother, Christ’s flesh, Christ’s blood, Christ’s spouse, coheir with Christ, and hath his Spirit in earnest, and is also spiritual. If they would rob us of the Spirit of God, why should they fear to rob us of worldly goods? Because thou art put in office to preach God’s word, art thou therefore no more one of the brethren? Is the mayor of London no more one of the city, because he is the chief officer? Is the king no more of the realm, because he is head thereof? The king is in the room of God; and his law is God’s law, and nothing but the law of nature and natural equity, which God grayed in the hearts of men. Yet antichrist is too good to be judged by the law of God; he must have a new, of his own making, it were meet verily that they went to no law at all. No more needed they, if they would study to preach God’s word truly, and be contented with sufficient, and to be like one of their brethren.

If any question arose about the faith of the scripture, that let them judge by the manifest and open scriptures, not excluding the lay-men: for there are many found among the lay-men, which are as wise as the officers. Or else, when the officer dieth, how could we put another in his room? Wilt thou so teach twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty years, that no man shall have knowledge or judgment in God’s word save thou only? Is it not a shame that we Christians come so oft to church in vain, when he of fourscore years old knoweth no more than he that was born yesterday?

Moreover, when the spiritual officers have excommunicate any man, or have condemned any opinion for heresy; let not the king nor temporal officers punish and slay by and by at their commandment: but let them look on God’s word, and compare their judgment unto the scripture, and see whether it be right or no, and not believe them at the first chop whatsoever they say, namely in things that pertain unto their own authorities and power: for no man is a right judge in his own cause. Why doth Christ command the scripture to be preached unto all creatures, but that it pertaineth unto all men to know them? Christ referreth himself unto the scriptures, John 5. And in Matthew 11, unto the question of John Baptist’s disciples, he answered, “The blind see, the lepers are cleansed, the dead arise again,” etc. meaning that if I do the works which are prophesied that Christ should do when he cometh, why doubt ye whether I be he or no? As who should say, Ask the scripture, whether I be Christ or no, and not myself. How happeneth it then that our prelates will not come to the light also, that we may see whether their works be wrought in God, or no? Why fear they to let the lay-men see what they do?

Why make they all their examinations in darkness? Why examine they not their causes of heresy openly, as the lay-men do their felons and murderers? Wherefore did Christ, and his apostles also, warn us so diligently of Antichrist, and of false prophets that should come? Because that we should slumber or sleep careless? or rather that we should look in the light of the scripture with all diligence, to spy them when they came, and not to suffer ourselves to be deceived and led out of the way? John biddeth judge the spirits. Whereby shall we judge them, but by the scriptures? How shalt thou know whether the prophet be true or false, or whether he speak God’s word, or of his own head, if thou wilt not see the scriptures? Why said David, in the second psalm, “Be learned ye that judge the earth, lest the Lord be angry with you, and ye perish from the right way?” A terrible warning, verily: yea, and look on the stories well, and thou shalt find very few kings, since the beginning of the world, that have not perished from the right way, and that because they would not be learned.

The emperor and kings are nothing now-a-days, but even hangmen unto the pope and bishops, to kill whosoever they condemn without any more ado; as Pilate was unto the scribes and Pharisees and the high bishops, to hang Christ. For as those prelates answered Pilate, when he asked what he had done, “If he were not an evil doer, we would not have brought him unto thee;” as who should say, We are too holy to do any thing amiss, thou mayest believe us well enough: yea, and “his blood on our heads,” said they; kill him hardly, we will bear the charge, our souls for thine: “We have also a law by which he ought to die, for he calleth himself God’s son:” — even so say our prelates, ‘He ought to die by our laws, he speaketh against the church.’ And, ‘Your grace is sworn to defend the liberties and ordinances of the church, and to maintain our most holy father’s authority; our souls for yours, ye shall do a meritorious deed therein.’ Nevertheless, as Pilate escaped not the judgment of God, even so is it to be feared lest our temporal powers shall not. “Wherefore be learned, ye that judge the earth, lest the Lord be angry with you, and ye perish from the right way.”

Who slew the prophets? Who slew Christ? Who slew his apostles? Who the martyrs, and all the righteous that ever were slain? The kings and the temporal sword at the request of the false prophets. They deserved such murder to do, and to have their part with the hypocrites, because they would not be learned, and see the truth themselves. Wherefore suffered the prophets? Because they rebuked the hypocrites which beguiled the world, and namely princes and rulers, and taught them to put their trust in things of vanity, and not in God’s word, and taught them to do such deeds of mercy as were profitable unto no man, but unto the false prophets themselves only; making merchandise of God’s word. Wherefore slew they Christ? Even for rebuking the hypocrites; because he said, “Woe be to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven before men,” (Matthew 23) that is, as it is written, “Ye have taken away the key of knowledge.” (Luke 11) The law of God, which is the key wherewith men bind, and the promises, which are the keys wherewith men loose, have our hypocrites also taken away. They will suffer no man to know God’s word, but burn it, and make heresy of it: yea, and because the people begin to smell their falsehood, they make it treason to the king, and breaking of the king’s peace, to have so much as their Pater noster in English. And instead of God’s law, they bind with their own law: and instead of God’s promises, they loose and justify with pardons and ceremonies, which they themselves have imagined for their own profit. They preach, ‘It were better for thee to eat flesh on Good Friday, than to hate thy neighbor:’ but let any man eat flesh but on a Saturday, or break any other tradition of theirs, and he shall be bound, and not loosed, till he have paid the uttermost farthing, either with shame most vile, or death most cruel. But hate thy neighbor as much as thou wilt, and thou shalt have no rebuke of them; yea, rob him, murder him, and then come to them and welcome. They have a sanctuary for thee, to save thee; yea, and a neck-verse, if thou canst but read a little Latinly, though it be never so sorrily, so that thou be ready to receive the beast’s mark. They care for no understanding: it is enough if thou canst roll up a pair of matins, or an even-song, and mumble a few ceremonies. And because they be rebuked thus, they rage. “Be learned, therefore, ye that judge the world, lest God be angry with you, and ye perish from the right way.” “Woe be to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” saith Christ, Matthew 23: “for ye devour widows’ houses under a color of long prayer.” Our hypocrites rob not the widows only, but knight, squire, lord, duke, king, and emperor, and even the whole world, under the same color; teaching the people to trust in their prayers, and not in Christ, for whose sake God hath forgiven all the sin of the whole world unto as many as repent and believe. They fear them with purgatory, and promise to pray perpetually, lest the lands should ever return home again unto the right heirs. What hast thou bought with robbing thy heirs, or with giving the hypocrites that which thou robbest of other men? Perpetual prayer? Yea, perpetual pain: for they appoint thee no time of deliverance, their prayers are so mighty. The pope for money can empty purgatory when he will. It is, verily, purgatory; for it purgeth and maketh clean riddance: yea, it is hell; for it devoureth all things. His fatherhood sendeth them to heaven with Scala coeli; that is, with a ladder to scale the walls: for by the door, Christ, will they not let them come in. That door have they stopped up; and that because ye should buy ladders of them. For some they pray daily, which gave them perpetuities, and yet make saints of them, receiving offerings in their names, and teaching other to pray to them. None of them, also, which taketh upon them to save other with their prayers, trusteth to be saved thereby themselves; but hire other to pray for them.

Moses taketh record of God, that he took not of any of the people so much as an ass, neither vexed any of them. Samuel, in 1 Kings 12, asked all Israel, Whether he had taken any man’s ox or ass; or had vexed any man, or had taken any gift or reward of any man? and all the people testified, ‘Say:’ yet these two both taught the people, and also prayed for them, as much as our prelates do. Peter, 1 Peter 5, exhorteth the elders to take the oversight of Christ’s flock, not for filthy lucre, but of a good will, even for love. Paul, Acts 20, taketh the priests, or elders, to record, that he had taught repentance and faith, and all the counsel of God; and yet had desired no man’s gold, silver, or vesture, but fed himself with the labor of his hands. And yet these two taught and prayed for the people as much as our prelates do, with whom it goeth after the common saying, ‘No penny, no Paternoster:’ which prelates yet, as they teach not but beat only, so wet [know] they not what prayer meaneth.

Moreover, the law of love, which Christ left among us, is to give, and not to receive. What prayer is it then, that thus robbeth all the world, contrary to that great commandment, which is the end of all commandments, and in which all others are contained? If men should continue to buy prayer four or five hundred years more, as they have done, there would not be a foot of ground in Christendom, neither any worldly thing, which they, that will be called spiritual only, should not possess. And thus all should be called spiritual. “Woe be to you lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens which they are not able to bear, and ye yourselves touch not the packs with one of your fingers,” saith Christ, Luke 11, Our lawyers, verily, have laden us a thousand times more. What spiritual kindred have they made in baptism to let matrimony! besides that they have added certain degrees unto the law natural for the same purpose. What an unbearable burden of chastity do they violently thrust on other men’s backs, and how easily bear they it themselves! How sore a burden, how cruel a hangman, how grievous a torment, yea, and how painful an hell, is this ear-confession unto men’s consciences! For the people are brought in belief, that without that they cannot be saved; insomuch that some fast certain days in the year, and pray certain superstitious prayers all their lives long, that they may not die without confession. In peril of death, if the priest be not by, the shipmen shrive themselves unto the mast. If any be present, they run then every man into his ear: but to God’s promises fly they not, for they know them not. If any man have a death’s wound, he crieth immediately for a priest. If a man die without shrift, many take it for a sign of damnation. Many, by reason of that false belief, die in desperation. Many, for shame, keep back of their confession twenty, thirty years, and think all the while that they be damned.

I knew a poor woman with child, which longed, and, being overcome of her passion, ate flesh on a Friday; which thing she durst not confess in the space of eighteen years, and thought all that while that she had been damned, and yet sinned she not at all. Is not this a sore burden, that so weigheth down the soul unto the bottom of hell? What should I say? A great book were not sufficient to rehearse the snares which they have laid to rob men both of their goods, and also of the trust which they should have in God’s word. “The scribes and Pharisees do all their works to be seen of men. They set abroad their phylacteries, and make long borders on their garments, and love to sit uppermost at feasts, and to have the chief seats in the synagogues;” that is, in the congregations or councils, “and to be called Rabbi;” that is to say, masters, saith Christ, Matthew 23. Behold the deeds of our spirituality, and how many thousand fashions are among them to be known by which, as none is like another, so loveth none another: for every one of them supposeth that all other poll too fast, and make too many captives. Yet to resist Christ are they all agreed, lest they should be all compelled to deliver up their prisoners to him. Behold the monsters, how they are disguised with mitres, crosiers, and hats, with crosses, pillars, and poleaxes, and with three crowns! What names have they? My lord prior, my lord abbot, my lord bishop, my lord archbishop, cardinal, and legate; if it please your fatherhood; if it please your lordship; if it please your grace; if it please your holiness; and innumerable such like. Behold how they are esteemed, and how high they be crept up above all; not into worldly seats only, but into the seat of God, the hearts of men, where they sit above God himself. For both they, and whatsoever they make of their own heads, is more feared and dread than God and his commandments. In them and their deservings put we more trust than in Christ and his merits.

To their promises give we more faith than to the promises which God hath sworn in Christ’s blood.

The hypocrites say unto the kings and lords, ‘These heretics would have us down first, and then you, to make of all common.’ Nay, ye hypocrites and right heretics, approved by open scripture, the kings and lords are down already; and that so low, that they cannot go lower. Ye tread them under your feet, and lead them captive, and have made them your bond-servants to wait on your filthy lusts [desires], and to avenge your malice on every man, contrary unto the right of God’s word. Ye have not only robbed them of their land, authority, honor, and due obedience which ye owe unto them; but also of their wits [minds], so that they are not without understanding in God’s word only, but even in worldly matters, that pertain unto their offices, they are more than children. Ye bear them in hand what ye will, and have brought them even in case like unto them which, when they dance naked in nets, believe they are invisible. We would have them up again, and restored unto the room and authority which God hath given them, and whereof ye have robbed them. And your inward falsehood we do but utter only with the light of God’s word, that your hypocrisy might be seen. “Be learned, therefore, ye that judge the world, lest God be angry with you, and ye perish from the right way.” “Woe be to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the utterside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of bribery and excess,” saith Christ, Matthew 23. Is that which our hypocrites eat and drink, and all their riotous excess, any other thing save robbery, and that which they have falsely gotten with their lying doctrine? “Be learned, therefore, ye that judge the world,” and compel them to make restitution again. “Ye blind guides,” saith Christ, “ye strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.” Matthew 23. Do not our blind guides also stumble at a straw, and leap over a block; making narrow consciences at trifles, and at matters of weight none at all? If any of them happen to swallow his spittle, or any of the water wherewith he washeth his mouth, ere he go to mass; or touch the sacrament with his nose; or if the ass forget to breathe on him, or happen to handle it with any of his fingers which are not anointed; or say ‘Alleluia’ instead of ‘Laus tibi, Domine;’ or ‘Ite, missa est’ instead of ‘Benedicamus Domino;’ or pour too much wine in the chalice; or read the gospel without light; or make not his crosses aright, how trembleth he!

How feareth he! What an horrible sin is committed! I cry God mercy, saith he, and you, my ghostly father. But to hold an whore, or another man’s wife, to buy a benefice, to set one realm at variance with another, and to cause twenty thousand men to die on a day, is but a trifle and a pastime with them!

The Jews boasted themselves of Abraham; and Christ said unto them, John 8.”If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the deeds of Abraham.” Our hypocrites boast themselves of the authority of Peter, and of Paul, and the other apostles clean contrary unto the deeds and doctrine of Peter, Paul, and of all the other apostles; which both obeyed all worldly authority and power, usurping none to themselves, and taught all other to fear the kings and rulers, and to obey them in all things not contrary to the commandment of God; and not to resist them, though they took away life and goods wrongfully; but patiently to abide God’s vengeance. This did our spiritualty never yet, nor taught it. They taught not to fear God in his commandments; but to fear them in their traditions: insomuch that the evil people, which fear not to resist a good king and to rise against him, dare not lay hands on one of them, neither for defiling of wife, daughter, or very mother. When all men lose life and lands, they remain always sure and in safety, and ever win somewhat. For whosoever conquereth other men’s lands unrightfully, ever giveth them part with them. To them is all thing lawful. In all councils and parliaments are they the chief. Without them may no king be crowned, neither until he be sworn to their liberties. All secrets know they, even the very thoughts of men’s hearts. By them all things are ministered. No king nor realm may, through their falsehood, live in peace.

To believe they teach not in Christ, but in them and their disguised hypocrisy. And of them compel they all men to buy redemption and forgiveness of sins. The people’s sin they eat, and thereof wax fat. The more wicked the people are, the more prosperous is their commonwealth.

If kings and great men do amiss, they must build abbeys and colleges; mean men build chantreys; poor find trentals, and brotherhoods, and begging friars. Their own heirs do men disherit, to endote them. All kings are compelled to submit themselves to them. Read the story of king John, and of other kings. They will have their causes avenged, though whole realms should therefore perish. Take from them their disguising; so are they not spiritual. Compare that they have taught us unto the scripture; so are we without faith.

Christ saith, “How can ye believe, which receive glory one of another?” ( John 5) If they that seek to be glorious can have no faith, then are our prelates faithless, verily. And, John 7, he saith: “He that speaketh of himself, seeketh his own glory.”

If to seek glory and honor be a sure token that a man speaketh of his ownself, and doth his own message, and not his master’s; then is the doctrine of our prelates of themselves, and not of God. “Be learned, therefore, ye that judge the earth, lest God be angry with you, and ye perish from the right way.”

Be learned, lest the hypocrites bring the wrath of God upon your heads, and compel you to shed innocent blood; as they have compelled your predecessors to slay the prophets, to kill Christ and his apostles, and all the righteous that since were slain. God’s word pertaineth unto all men; as it pertaineth unto all servants to know their master’s will and pleasure, and to all subjects to know the laws of their prince. Let not the hypocrites do all things secretly. What reason is it that mine enemy should put me in prison at his pleasure, and there diet me, and handle me as he lusteth [[desires]; and judge me himself, and that secretly; and condemn me by a law of his own making, and then deliver me to Pilate to murder me? Let God’s word try every man’s doctrine, and whomsoever God’s word proveth unclean, let him be taken for a leper. One scripture will help to declare another. And the circumstances, that is to say, the places that go before and after, will give light unto the middle text. And the open and manifest scriptures will ever improve the false and wrong exposition of the darker sentences. Let the temporal power, to whom God hath given the sword to take vengeance, look or ever that they leap, and see what they do. Let the causes be disputed before them, and let him that is accused have room to answer for himself. The powers, to whom God hath committed the sword, shall give accounts for every drop of blood that is shed on the earth. Then shall their ignorance not excuse them, nor the saying of the hypocrites help them, ‘My soul for yours, your grace shall do a meritorious deed;’ ‘your grace ought not to hear them;’ ‘it is an old heresy condemned by the church.’ The king ought to look in the scripture, and see whether it were truly condemned or no, if he will punish it. If the king, or his officer for him, will slay me; so ought the king, or his officer, to judge me. The king cannot, but unto his damnation, lend his sword to kill whom he judgeth not by his own laws.

Let him that is accused stand on the one side, and the accuser on the other side; and let the king’s judge sit and judge the cause, if the king will kill, and not be a murderer before God.

Hereof may ye see, not only that our persecution is for the same cause that Christ’s was, and that we say nothing that Christ said not; but also that all persecution is only for rebuking of hypocrisy; that is to say, of man’s righteousness, and of holy deeds, which man hath imagined to please God and to be saved by without God’s word, and beside the testament that God hath made in Christ. If Christ had not rebuked the Pharisees because they taught the people to believe in their traditions and holiness, and in offerings that came to their advantage, and that they taught the widows, and them that had their friends dead, to believe in their prayers, and that through their prayers the dead should be saved; and through that means robbed them both of their goods, and also of the testament and promises that God had made to all that repented in Christ to come; he might have been uncrucified unto this day.

If St Paul also had not preached against circumcision, that it justified not; and that vows, offerings, and ceremonies justified not; and that righteousness, and forgiveness of sins, came not by any deserving of our deeds, but by faith, or believing the promises of God, and by the deserving and merits of Christ only; he might have lived unto this hour. Likewise, if we preached not against pride, covetousness, lechery, extortion, usury, simony, and against the evil living both of the spiritualty as well as of the temporalty, and against inclosings of parks, raising of rents and fines, and of the carrying out of wool out of the realm; we might endure long enough.

But touch the scab of hypocrisy, or pope-holiness, and go about to utter their false doctrine, wherewith they reign as gods in the heart and consciences of men, and rob them not of lands, goods, and authority only, but also of the testament of God, and salvation that is in Christ; then helpeth thee neither God’s word, nor yet if thou didst miracles; but that thou art not an heretic only, and hast the devil within thee, but also a breaker of the king’s peace, and a traitor. But let us return unto our lying signs again.

What signifieth that the prelates are so bloody, and clothed in red? That they be ready every hour to suffer martyrdom for the testimony of God’s word. Is that also not a false sign? When no man dare, for them, once open his mouth to ask a question of God’s word, because they are ready to burn him. What signifieth the poleaxes that are borne before high legates a latere?

Whatsoever false sign they make of them, I care not; but of this I am sure, that as the old hypocrites, when they had slain Christ, set poleaxes to keep him in his sepulcher, that he should not rise again, even so have our hypocrites buried the testament that God made unto us in Christ’s blood; and to keep it down, that it rise not again, is all their study; whereof these poleaxes are the very sign.

Is not that shepherd’s hook, the bishop’s crose, a false sign? Is not that white rochet, that the bishops and canons wear, so like a nun, and so effeminately, a false sign? What other things are their sandals, gloves, mitres, and all the whole pomp of their disguising, than false signs, in which Paul prophesied that they should come? And as Christ warned us to beware of wolves in lamb’s skins, and bade us look rather unto their fruits and deeds than to wonder at their disguisings, run throughout all our holy religions, and thou shalt find them likewise all clothed in falsehood.