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

LET kings, if they had [rather] be Christian in deed than so to be called, give themselves altogether to the wealth of their realms after the ensample of Christ; remembering that the people are God’s, and not theirs; yea, are Christ’s inheritance and possession, bought with his blood. The most despised person in his realm is the king’s brother, and fellow-member with him, and equal with him in the kingdom of God and of Christ. Let him therefore not think himself too good to do them service; neither seek any other thing in them, than a father seeketh in his children, yea, than Christ sought in us. Though that the king, in the temporal regiment, be in the room of God, and representeth God himself, and is without all comparison better than his subjects; yet let him put off that, and become a brother, doing and leaving undone all things in respect of the commonwealth, that all men may see that he seeketh nothing but the profit of his subjects. When a cause that requireth execution is brought before him, then only let him take the person of God on him. Then let him know no creature, but hear all indifferently; whether it be a stranger or one of his own realm, and the small as well as the great; and judge righteously, “for the judgment is the Lord’s.” In time of judgment he is no minister in the kingdom of Christ; he preacheth no gospel, but the sharp law of vengeance. Let him take the holy judges of the old Testament for an ensample, and namely Moses, which in executing the law was merciless; otherwise more than a mother unto them, never avenging his own wrongs, but suffering all things; bearing every man’s weakness, teaching, warning, exhorting, and ever caring for them, and so tenderly loved them, that he desired God either to forgive them, or to damn him with them.

Let the judges also privately, when they have put off the person of a judge, exhort with good counsel, and warn the people, and help that they come not at God’s judgment: but the causes that are brought to them, when they sit in God’s stead, let them judge, and condemn the trespasser under lawful witnesses; and not break up into the consciences of men, after the example of antichrist’s disciples, and compel them either to forswear themselves by the almighty God and by the holy gospel of his merciful promises, or to testify against themselves: which abomination our prelates learned of Caiphas, Matthew 26, saying to Christ, “I adjure or charge thee in the name of the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be Christ, the Son of God.” Let that which is secret to God only, whereof no proof can be made, nor lawful witness brought, abide unto the coming of the Lord, which shall open all secrets. If any malice break forth, that let them judge only. For further authority hath God not given them.

Moses ( Deuteronomy 17) warneth judges to keep them upright, and to look on no man’s person; that is, that they prefer not the high before the low, the great before the small, the rich before poor; his acquaintance, friend, kinsman, countryman, or one of his own nation, before a stranger, a friend or an alien, yea, or one of their own faith before an infidel; but that they look on the cause only, to judge indifferently. For the room that they are in, and the law that they execute, are God’s; which, as he hath made all, and is God of all, and all are his sons, even so is he judge over all, and will have all judged by his law indifferently, and to have the right of his law, and will avenge the wrong done unto the Turk or Saracen. For though they be not under the everlasting testament of God in Christ, as few of us which are called Christian be, and even no more than to whom God hath sent his promises, and poured his Spirit into their hearts to believe them, and through faith [engraved the desire] in their hearts to fulfill the law of love; yet are they under the testament of the law natural, which is the law of every land made for the common wealth there, and for peace and unity, that one may live by another: in which laws the infidels, if they keep them, have promises of worldly things. Whosoever, therefore, hindereth a very infidel from the right of that law, sinneth against God, and of him will God be avenged.

Moreover, Moses warneth them that they receive no gifts, rewards or bribes. For those two points, favoring of one person more than another, and receiving rewards, pervert all right and equity; and is the only pestilence of all judges.

And the kings warneth he, that they have not too many wives, lest their hearts turn away; and that they read alway in the law of God, to learn to fear him, lest their hearts be lift up above their brethren. Which two points, women and pride, the despising of their subjects, which are in very deed their own brethren, are the common pestilence of all princes. Read the stories, and see.

The sheriffs, baily-errants, constables, and such like officers, may let no man that hurteth his neighbor [e]scape, but that they bring them before the judges; except they in the mean time agree with their neighbors, and make them amends.

Let kings defend their subjects from the wrongs of other nations, but pick no quarrels for every trifle: no, let not our most holy father make them no more so drunk with vain names, with caps of maintenance, and like baubles, as it were puppetry for children, to beggar their realms, and to murder their people, for defending of our holy father’s tyranny. If a lawful peace, that standeth with God’s word, be made between prince and prince, and the name of God taken to record, and the body of our Savior broken between them, upon the bond which they have made; that peace, or bond, can our holy father not dispense with, neither loose it with all the keys he hath: no, verily, Christ cannot break it: for he came not to break the law, but to fulfill it.

If any man have broken the law, or a good ordinance, and repent and come to the right way again, then hath Christ power to forgive him: but [license] to break the law can he not give; much more his disciples and vicars, as they call themselves, cannot do it. The keys, whereof they so greatly boast themselves, are no carnal things, but spiritual; and nothing else save knowledge of the law, and of the promises or gospel. If any man, for lack of spiritual feeling, desire authority of men, let him read the old doctors. If any man desire authority of scripture, Christ saith, “Woe be to you lawyers, for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye enter not in yourselves, and them that come in ye forbid:” ( Luke 11) that is, they had blinded the scripture (whose knowledge, as it were a key, letteth into God) with glosses and traditions. Likewise findest thou Matthew 23. As Peter answered in the name of all, so Christ promised him the keys in the person of all. ( Matthew 16) And in the 20th of John he paid them, saying, “Receive the Holy Ghost: whosoever’s sins ye remit, they are remitted” or forgiven; “and whosoever’s sins ye retain, they are retained” or holden. With preaching the promises loose they as many as repent and believe. And for that John saith, “Receive the Holy Ghost.” Luke, in his last chapter, saith, “Then opened he their wits [minds], that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations.” At preaching of the law repent men; and at the preaching of the promises do they believe, and are saved. Peter in the second of the Acts practiced his keys; and by preaching the, law brought the people into the knowledge of themselves, and bound their consciences, so that “they were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter and to the other apostles, What shall we do?” Then brought they forth the key of the sweet promises, saying, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise was made to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar, even as many as the Lord shall call.” Of like ensamples is the Acts full, and Peter’s epistles, and Paul’s epistles, and all the scripture; neither hath our holy father any other authority of Christ, or by the reason of his predecessor, Peter, than to preach God’s word. As Christ compareth the understanding of scripture to a key, so compareth he it to a net, and unto leaven, and unto many other things for certain properties. I marvel, therefore, that they boast not themselves of their net and leaven, as well as of their keys; for they are all one thing. But as Christ biddeth us beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, so beware of their counterfeited keys, and of their false net; which are their traditions and ceremonies, their hypocrisy and false doctrine, wherewith they catch, not souls unto Christ, but authority and riches unto themselves.

Let Christian kings therefore keep their faith and truth, and all lawful promises and bonds, not one with another only, but even with the Turk or whatsoever infidel it be. For so it is right before God; as the scriptures and ensamples of the bible testify. Whosoever voweth an unlawful vow, promiseth an unlawful promise, sweareth an unlawful oath, sinneth against God, and ought therefore to break it. He needeth not sue to Rome for a license; for he hath God’s word, and not a license only, but also a commandment to break it. They therefore that are sworn to be true to cardinals and bishops, that is to say, false unto God, the king, and the realm, may break their oaths lawfully, without grudge of conscience, by the authority of God’s word. In making them they sinned; but in repenting and breaking them they please God highly, and receive forgiveness in Christ.

Let kings take their duty of their subjects:, and that that is necessary to the defense of the realm. Let them rule their realms themselves, with the help of lay-men that are sage, wise, learned, and expert. Is it not a shame above all shames, and a monstrous thing, that no man should be found able to govern a worldly kingdom, save bishops and prelates; that have forsaken the world, and are taken out of the world, and appointed to preach the kingdom of God? Christ saith that his “kingdom is not of this world.” John 18. And, Luke 12, unto the young man, that desired him to bid his brother to give him part of the inheritance, he answered, “Who made me a judge or a divider among you?” “No man that layeth his hand to the plough, and looketh back, is apt for the kingdom of heaven.” (Luke 9) “No man can serve two masters, but he must despise the one.” ( Matthew 6) To preach God’s word is too much for half a man: and to minister a temporal kingdom is too much for half a man also. Either other requireth an whole man. One therefore cannot well do both. He that avengeth himself on every trifle is not meet to preach the patience of Christ, how that a man ought to forgive and to suffer all things. He that is overwhelmed with all manner riches, and doth but seek more daily, is not meet to preach poverty. He that will obey no man is not meet to preach how we ought to obey all men. Peter saith, “It is not meet that we should leave the word of God, and serve at the tables.” (Acts 6) Paul saith in 1 Corinthians 9, “Woe is me if I preach not.” A terrible saying, verily, for popes, cardinals, and bishops! If he had said, ‘Woe be unto me if I fight not and move princes unto war, or if I increase not St Peter’s patrimony,’ as they call it, it had been a more easy saying for them.

Christ forbiddeth his disciples and that oft, (as thou mayest see Matthew 18, and also Matthew 20; Mark 9, and also Mark 10; Luke 9, and also Luke 22; even at his last supper) not only to climb above lords, kings, and emperors in worldly rule, but also to exalt themselves one above another in the kingdom of God: but in vain; for the pope would not hear it, though he had commanded it ten thousand times.

 God’s word should rule only; and not bishops’ decrees, or the pope’s pleasure. That ought they to preach purely and spiritually, and to fashion their lives after, and with all ensample of godly living and long suffering to draw all to Christ; and not to expound the scriptures carnally and worldly, saying, ‘God spake this to Peter, and I am his successor, therefore this authority is mine only;’ and then bring in the tyranny of their fleshly wisdom, In proesentia majoris cessat potestas minoris; that is, in the presence of the greater the less hath no power.There is no brotherhood where such philosophy is taught.

Such philosophy, and so to abuse the scriptures, and to mock with God’s word, is after the manner of the bishop of Rochester’s divinity. For he, in his ‘Sermon of the condemnation of Martin Luther,’ proveth by a shadow of the old Testament, that is, by Moses and Aaron, that Satan and antichrist, our most holy father the pope, is Christ’s vicar and head of Christ’s congregation. Moses, saith he, signifieth Christ; and Aaron the pope. And yet the epistle unto the Hebrews proveth, that the high priest of the old law signifieth Christ; and his offering and his going in once in the year into the inner temple signify the offering wherewith Christ offered himself, and Christ’s going in unto the Father, to be an everlasting mediator or intercessor for us. Nevertheless, Rochester proveth the contrary by a shadow; by a shadow, verily: for in shadows they walk without all shame, and the light will they not come at, but enforce to stop and quench it with all craft and falsehood, lest their abominable juggling should be seen. If any man look in the light of the new Testament, he shall clearly see that that shadow may not be so understood.

Understand therefore, that one thing in the scripture representeth divers things. A serpent figureth Christ in one place, and the devil in another; and a lion doth likewise. Christ by leaven signifieth God’s word in one place; and in another signifieth thereby the traditions of the Pharisees, which soured and altered God’s word for their advantage. Now Moses verily in the said place representeth Christ; and Aaron, which was not yet high priest, represented not Peter only or his successor, as my lord of Rochester would have it, (for Peter was too little to bear Christ’s message unto all the world,) but signifieth every disciple of Christ, and every true preacher of God’s word. For Moses put in Aaron’s mouth what he should say; and Aaron was Moses’s prophet, and spake not his own message, as the pope and bishops do, but that which Moses had received of God and delivered unto him. Exodus 4, and also Exodus 7. So ought every preacher to preach God’s word purely, and neither to add nor minish. A true messenger must do his message truly; and say neither more nor less than he is commanded. Aaron, when he is high priest, and offereth and purgeth the people of their worldly sin which they had fallen in, in touching uncleanly things, and in eating meats forbidden, (as we sin in handling the chalice and the altar stone, and are purged with the bishop’s blessing,) representeth Christ, which purgeth us from all sin in the sight of God: as the epistle unto the Hebrews maketh mention. When Moses was gone up into the mount, and Aaron left behind, and made the golden calf, there Aaron representeth all false preachers, and namely our most holy father the pope; which in like manner maketh us believe in a bull, as the bishop of Rochester full well allegeth the place in his sermon. If the pope be signified by Aaron, and Christ by Moses, why is not the pope as well content with Christ’s law and doctrine, as Aaron was with Moses’? What is the cause that our bishops preach the pope, and not Christ; seeing the apostles preached not Peter, but Christ? Paul saith of himself and his fellow apostles, “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and preach ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake:” (2 Corinthians 4) and, “Let no man rejoice in men, for all things are yours, whether it be Paul, or Apollos, or Peter; whether it be the world, or life, or death; whether they be present things, or things to come; all are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” He leaveth out, Ye are Peter’s, or ye are the pope’s. And in the chapter following he saith, “Let men thuswise esteem us, even the ministers of Christ,” etc. And (2 Corinthians 11) Paul was jealous over his Corinthians, because they fell from Christ, to whom he had married them, and did cleave unto the authority of men; for even then false prophets sought authority in the name of the high apostles: “I am (saith he) jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I coupled you to one man, to make you a chaste virgin to Christ; but I fear lest, as the serpent deceived Eve through his subtlety, even so your wits [minds] should be corrupt from the singleness that is in Christ.” And it followeth: “If he that cometh to you preached another Jesus, or if ye receive another Spirit or another gospel, then might ye well have been content:” that is, ye might have well suffered him to have authority above me: “but I suppose,” saith he, “that I was not behind the high apostles;” meaning in preaching Jesus and his gospel, and in ministering the Spirit. And in the said 2 Corinthians 11 he proveth, by the doctrine of Christ, that he is greater than the high apostles: for Christ saith, to be great in the kingdom of God is to do service and to take pain for other: upon which rule Paul disputeth, saying, “If they be the ministers of Christ, I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prison more plenteously, in death oft,” and so forth. If Paul preached Christ more than Peter, and suffered more for his congregation, then is he greater than Peter, by the testimony of Christ. And in 2 Corinthians 12 he saith, “In nothing was I inferior unto the high apostles: though I be nothing, yet the tokens of an apostle were wrought among you with all patience, with signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” So proved he his authority, and not with a bull from Peter, sealed with cold lead, either with shadows of the old Testament falsely expounded.

Moreover the apostles were sent immediately of Christ; and of Christ received they their authority, as Paul boasteth himself every where. “Christ,” saith he, “sent me to preach the gospel.” 1 Corinthians 1. And, “I received of the Lord that which I delivered unto you.” 1 Corinthians 11. And Galatians 1, “I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me was not after the manner of men, (that is to wit, carnal or fleshly,) neither received I it of man, neither was it taught me, but I received it by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” And Galatians 2, “He that was mighty in Peter in the apostleship over the circumcision, was mighty in me among the gentiles.” And 1 Timothy 1, readest thou likewise. And ( John 20) Christ sent them forth indifferently, and gave them like power: “As my Father sent me,” saith he, “so send I you;” that is, to preach and to suffer, as I have done; and not to conquer empires and kingdoms, and to subdue all temporal power under you with disguised hypocrisy. He gave them the Holy Ghost, to bind and loose indifferently, as thou seest; and afterward he sent forth Paul with like authority, as thou seest in the Acts. And in the last of Matthew saith he: “All power is given me in heaven and in earth; go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe whatsoever I commanded you.” The authority that Christ gave them was to preach; yet not what they would imagine, but what he had commanded. “Lo,” saith he, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” He said not, I go my way, and lo, here is Peter in my stead; but sent them every man to a sundry country, whithersoever the Spirit carried them, and went with them himself. And as he wrought with Peter where he went:, so wrought he with the other where they went; as Paul boasteth of himself unto the Galatians. Seeing now that we have Christ’s doctrine, and Christ’s holy promises, and seeing that Christ is ever present with us his own self; how cometh it that Christ may not reign immediately over us, as well as the pope which cometh never at us? Seeing also that the office of an apostle is to preach only, how can the pope challenge with right any authority, where he preacheth not? How cometh it also that Rochester will not let us be called one congregation by the reason of one God, one Christ, one Spirit, one gospel, one faith, one hope, and one baptism, as well as because of one pope? If any natural beast with his worldly wisdom strive, that one is greater than another, because that in congregations one is sent of another, as we see in the Acts; I answer that Peter sent no man, but was sent himself; and John was sent, and Paul, Silas, and Barnabas were sent. Howbeit such manner sendings are not worldly, as princes send ambassadors; no, nor as friars send their limiters to gather their brotherhoods; which must obey, whether they will or will not. Here all thing is free and willingly. And the Holy Ghost bringeth them together; which maketh their wills free, and ready to bestow themselves upon their neighbor’s profit. And they that come offer themselves, and all that they have, or can do, to serve the Lord and their brethren. And every man, as he is found apt and meet to serve his neighbor, so is he sent or put in office. And of the Holy Ghost are they sent, with the consent of their brethren, and with their own consent also: and God’s word ruleth in that congregation; unto which word every man conformeth his will: and Christ, which is always present, is the head. But as our bishops hear not Christ’s voice, so see they him not present, and therefore make them a God on the earth, of the kind, I suppose, of Aaron’s calf: for he bringeth forth no other fruit but bulls.

Forasmuch also as Christ is as great as Peter, why is not his seat as great as Peter’s? Had the head of the empire been at Jerusalem, there had been no mention made of Peter. It is verily, as Paul saith in the 11th chapter of the second epistle to the Corinthians, “The false apostles are deceitful workers, and fashion themselves like unto the apostles of Christ:” (2 Corinthians 11) that is, the shaven nation preach Christ falsely; yea, under the name of Christ preach themselves, and reign in Christ’s stead: have also taken away the key of knowledge, and wrapped the people in ignorance, and have taught them to believe in themselves, in their traditions and false ceremonies; so that Christ is but a vain name. And after they had put Christ out of his room, they gat themselves to the emperor and kings, and so long ministered their business till they have also put them out of their rooms, and have got their authorities from them, and reign also in their stead; so that the emperor and kings are but vain names and shadows, as Christ is, having nothing to do in the world. Thus reign they, in the stead of God and man, and have all power under them, and do what they list [will].

Let us see another point of our great clerk: a little after the beginning of his sermon, intending to prove that which is clearer than the sun, and serveth no more for his purpose than Ite missa est serveth to prove that our lady was born without original sin; he allegeth a saying that Martin Luther saith, which is this: “If we affirm that any one epistle of Paul or any one place of his epistles pertaineth not unto the universal church, (that is, to all the congregation of them that believe in Christ,) we take away all St Paul’s authority.” Whereupon saith Rochester: “If it be thus of the words of St Paul, much rather it is true of the gospels of Christ and of every place of them.” O malicious blindness! First, note his blindness. He understandeth by this word gospel no more but the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and thinketh not that the Acts of apostles, and the epistles of Peter, of Paul, and of John, and of other like, are also the gospel. Paul calleth his preaching the gospel: Romans 2 and 1 Corinthians 4 and Galatians 1 and 1 Timothy 1. The gospel is every where one, though it be preached of divers, and signifieth glad tidings: that is to wit, an open preaching of Christ, and the holy testament and gracious promises that God hath made in Christ’s blood to all that repent and believe. Now is there more gospel in one epistle of Paul, that is to say, Christ is more clearly preached and more promises rehearsed in one epistle of Paul, than in the three first evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Consider also his maliciousness; how wickedly and how craftily he taketh away the authority of Paul! ‘It is much rather true of the gospels, and of every place in them, than of Paul.’ If that which the four evangelists wrote be truer than that which Paul wrote, then is it not one gospel that they preached, neither one Spirit that taught them. If it be one gospel and one Spirit, how is one truer than the other? Paul proveth his authority to the Galatians and to the Corinthians, because that he received his gospel by revelation of Christ, and not of man; and because that when he communed with Peter and the high apostles of his gospel and preaching, they could improve nothing, neither teach him any thing; and because also that as many were converted, and as great miracles shewed by his preaching as at the preaching of the high apostles; and therefore will be of no less authority than Peter and other high apostles, nor have his gospel of less reputation than theirs.

Finally: that thou mayest know Rochester for ever, and all the remnant by him, what they are within the skin, mark how he playeth bo-peep with the scripture. He allegeth the beginning of the tenth chapter to the Hebrews, Umbram habens lex futurorum benorum, “the law hath but a shadow of things to come;” and immediately expoundeth the figure clean contrary unto the chapter following, and to all the whole epistle; making Aaron a figure of the pope, whom the epistle maketh a figure of Christ.

He allegeth half a text of Paul, “In the latter days some shall depart from the faith, giving heed unto spirits of error and devilish doctrine.” (1 Timothy 4) But it followeth in the text: “Giving attendance, or heed, unto the devilish doctrine of them which speak false through hypocrisy, and have their consciences marked with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with giving thanks.” Which two things who ever did, save the pope, Rochester’s god? making sin in the creatures, which God hath created for man’s use, to be received with thanks. “The kingdom of heaven is not meat and drink,” saith Paul, “but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For whosoever in these things serveth Christ, pleaseth God, and is allowed of men.” Had Rochester, therefore, not a conscience marked with the hot iron of malice, so that he cannot consent unto the will of God and glory of Christ, he would not so have alleged the text; which is contrary to none save themselves.

He allegeth another text of Paul, in the second chapter of his second epistle to the Thessalonians, Erit discessio primum : that is, saith Rochester, before the coming of antichrist there shall be a notable departing from the faith. And Paul saith, “The Lord cometh not, except there come a departing first.” Paul’s meaning is, that the last day cometh not so shortly, but that antichrist shall come first and destroy the faith, and sit in the temple of God, and make all men worship him, and believe in him (as the pope doth); and then shall God’s word come to light again, (as it doth at this time,) and destroy him, and utter his juggling, and then cometh Christ unto judgment. What say ye of this crafty conveyer? Would he spare, suppose ye, to allege and to wrest other doctors pestilently, which feareth not for to juggle with the holy scripture of God, expounding that unto antichrist which Paul speaketh of Christ? No, be ye sure. But even after this manner-wise pervert they the whole scripture and all doctors; wresting them unto their abominable purpose, clean contrary to the meaning of the text, and to the circumstances that go before and after. Which devilish falsehood, lest the laymen should perceive, is the very cause why that they will not suffer the scripture to be had in the English tongue; neither any work to be made that should bring the people to knowledge of the truth.

He allegeth, for the pope’s authority, St Cyprian, St Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, and Origen; of which never one knew of any authority that one bishop should have above another. And St Gregory allegeth he, which would receive no such authority above his brethren, when it was proffered him. As the manner is to call Tully chief of orators for his singular eloquence, and Aristotle chief of philosophers, and Virgil chief of poets, for their singular learning, and not for any authority that they had over other; so was it the manner to call Peter chief of the apostles for his singular activity and boldness, and not that he should be lord over his; brethren, contrary to his own doctrine. Yet compare that chief apostle unto Paul, and he is found a great way inferior. This I say not that I would that any man should make a god of Paul, contrary unto his own learning. Notwithstanding yet this manner of speaking is left unto us of our elders; that when we say the apostle saith so, we understand Paul, for his excellency above other apostles. I would he would tell you how Jerome, Augustine, Bede, Origen, and other doctors, expound this text, “Upon this rock I will build my congregation:” and how they interpret the keys also. Thereto, Pasce, pasce, pasce, which Rochester leaveth without any English, signifieth not poll, sheer, and shave. Upon which text behold the faithful exposition of Bede.

Note also how craftily he would enfeoff the apostles of Christ with their wicked traditions and false ceremonies, which they themselves have feigned; alleging; Paul, 2 Thessalonians 2. I answer, that Paul taught by mouth such things as he wrote in his epistles. And his traditions were the gospel of Christ, and honest manners and living, and such a good order as becometh the doctrine of Christ: as that a woman obey her husband, have her head covered, keep silence, and go womanly and christianly apparelled; that children and servants be in subjection: and that the young obey their elders; that no man eat but he that laboreth and worketh; and that men make an earnest thing of God’s word and of his holy sacraments; and to watch, fast, and pray, and such like as the scripture commandeth: which things he that would break were no christian man. But we may well complain, and cry to God for help, that it is not lawful, for the pope’s tyranny, to teach the people what prayer is, what fasting is, and wherefore it serveth. There were also certain customs alway, which were not commanded in pain of hell, or everlasting damnation; as to watch all night, and to kiss one another: which as soon as the people abused, then they brake them. For which cause the bishops might break many things now in like manner. Paul also, in many things which God had made free, gave pure and faithful counsel; without tangling of any man’s conscience, and without all manner commanding under pain of cursing, pain of excommunication, pain of heresy, pain of burning, pain of deadly sin, pain of hell, and pain of damnation. As thou mayest see, 1 Corinthians 7, where he counselleth the unmarried, the widows, and virgins, that it is good so to abide, if they have the gift of chastity: not to win heaven thereby; (for neither circumcision neither uncircumcision is any thing at all, but the keeping of the commandments is altogether;) but that they might be without trouble, and might also the better wait on God’s word, and freelier serve their brethren: and saith, as a faithful servant, that he had none authority of the Lord to give them any commandment. But, that the apostles gave us any blind ceremonies, whereof we should not know the reason, that I deny, and also defy, as a thing clean contrary unto the learning of Paul everywhere.

For Paul commandeth that no man once speak in the church, that is, in the congregation, but in a tongue that all men understand, except that there be an interpreter by. He commandeth to labor for knowledge, understanding, and feeling; and to beware of superstition, and persuasions of worldly wisdom, philosophy, and of hypocrisy and ceremonies, and of all manner disguising, and to walk in the plain and open truth. “Ye were once darkness,” saith he, “but now are ye light in the Lord; walk therefore as the children of light.” Ephesians 5. How doth Paul also wish them increase of grace in every epistle! How crieth he to God to augment their knowledge; that they should be no more children, wavering with every wind of doctrine; but would vouchsafe to make them full men in Christ, and in the understanding of the mysteries or secrets of Christ, so that it should not be possible for any man to deceive them with any enticing reasons of worldly wisdom, or to beguile them with blind ceremonies, or to lead them out of the way with superstitiousness of disguised hypocrisy!

Unto which full knowledge are the spiritual officers ordained to bring them. Ephesians 4. So far is it away that Christ’s apostles should give them traditions of blind ceremonies, without signification, or of which no man should know the reason; as Rochester, which loveth shadows and darkeness, lieth on them: God stop his blasphemous mouth!

Consider also, how studiously Rochester allegeth Origen, both for his pope, and also to stablish his blind ceremonies withal: which Origen of all heretics is condemned to be the greatest. ‘He is an ancient doctor,’ saith he; yea, ‘and to whom in this point great faith is to be given.’ Yea, verily, Aristotle and Plato, and even very Robin Hood, is to be believed in such a point, that so greatly maintaineth our holy father’s authority, and all his disguisings.

Last of all: as once a crafty thief, when he was espied and followed, cried unto the people, Stop the thief! Stop the thief! and as many, to begin withal, cast first in another man’s teeth that which he feareth should be laid to his own charge; even so Rochester layeth to Martin Luther’s charge the slaying and murdering of Christian men, because they will not believe in his doctrine: which thing Rochester and his brethren have not ceased to do now these certain hundred years, with such malice, that, when they be dead, they rage, burning their bodies; of which some they themselves, of likelihood, killed before secretly. And because that all the world knoweth that Martin Luther slayeth no man, but killeth only with the spiritual sword, the word of God, such cankered consciences as Rochester hath; neither persecuteth, but suffereth persecution; yet Rochester, with a goodly argument proveth that he would do it if he could! And mark, I pray you, what an orator he is, and how vehemently he persuadeth it! Martin Luther hath burned the pope’s decretals; a manifest sign, saith he, that he would have burned the pope’s holiness also, if he had had him! A like argument, which I suppose to be rather true, I make: Rochester and his holy brethren have burnt Christ’s testament; an evident sign, verily, that they would have burnt Christ himself also, if they had had him!

I had almost, verily, left out the chiefest point of all. Rochester, both abominable and shameless, yea, and stark mad with pure malice, and so adased in the brains with spite, that he cannot overcome the truth that he seeth not, or rather careth not what he saith; in the end of his first destruction, I would say instruction, as he calleth it, intending to prove that we are justified through holy works, allegeth half a text of Paul, of the fifth to the Galatians, (as his manner is to juggle and convey craftily,) Fides per dilectionem operans. Which text he thiswise Englisheth: “Faith, which is wrought by love;” and maketh a verb passive of a verb deponent. Rochester will have love to go before, and faith to spring out of love. Thus antichrist turneth the roots of the tree upward. I must first love a bitter medicine, (after Rochester’s doctrine,) and then believe that it is wholesome: when, by natural reason, I first hate a bitter medicine, until I be brought in belief of the physician that it is wholesome, and that the bitterness shall heal me; and then afterward love it, of that belief. Doth the child love the father first, and then believe that he is his son or heir? or rather, because he knoweth that he is his son or heir and beloved, therefore loveth again? John saith, in the third of his first epistle, “See what love the Father hath shewed upon us, that we should be called his sons.” Because we are sons, therefore love we. Now, by faith we are sons, as John saith in the first chapter of his gospel: “He gave them power to be the sons of God, in that they believed on his name.” And Paul saith, in the third chapter of his epistle to the Galatians, “We are all the sons of God by the faith which is in Jesus Christ.” And John, in the said chapter of his epistle, saith, “Hereby perceive we love, that he gave his life for us.” We could see no love, nor cause to love again, except that we believed that he died for us, and that we were saved through his death. And in the chapter following saith John, “Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to make agreement for our sins.” So God sent not his Son for any love that we;had to him; but of the love that he had to us sent he his Son, that we might so love, and love again. Paul likewise, in Romans 7, after that he hath declared the infinite love of God to usward, in that he spared not his own Son, but gave him for us, crieth out, saying, “Who shall separate us from the love of God? Shall persecution, shall a sword? etc.” No, saith he; “I am sure that no creature shall separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord:” as who should say, We see so great love in God to us-ward, in Christ’s death, that though all misfortune should fall on us, we cannot but love again. Now how know we that God loveth us? Verily, by faith. So therefore, though Rochester be a beast faithless, yet ought natural reason to have taught him, that love springeth out of faith and knowledge; and not faith and knowledge out of love. But let us see the text. Paul saith thus: “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision is any thing worth, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh through love;” or which through love is strong or mighty in working; and not which is wrought by love, as the juggler saith. Faith, that loveth God’s commandments, justifieth a man. If thou believe God’s promises in Christ, and love his commandments, then art thou safe. If thou love the commandment, then art thou sure that. thy faith is unfeigned, and that God’s Spirit is in thee.

How faith justifieth before God in the heart; and how love springeth of faith, and compelleth us to work; and how the works justify before the world, and testify what we are, and certify us that our faith is unfeigned, and that the right Spirit of God is in us; see in my book of the Justifying of Faith; and there shalt thou see all thing abundantly. Also of the controversy between Paul and James, see there. Neverthelater, when Rochester saith, if faith only justified, then both the devils and also sinners that lie still in sin should be saved, his argument is not worth a straw.

For neither the devils, nor yet sinners, that continue in sin of purpose and delectation, have any such faith as Paul speaketh of. For Paul’s faith is to believe God’s promises. “Faith,” saith he, Romans 10, “cometh by hearing, and hearing cometh by the word of God.” “And how shall they hear without a preacher, and how shall they preach except they be sent? As it is written,” saith he, “How beautiful are the feet that bring glad tidings of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” Now when sent God any messengers unto the devils, to preach them peace, or any good thing? The devil hath no promise; he is therefore excluded from Paul’s faith. The devil believeth that Christ died, but not that he died for his sins. Neither doth any, that consenteth in the heart to continue in sin, believe that Christ died for him. For to believe that Christ died for us is to see our horrible damnation, and how we were appointed unto eternal pains, and to feel, and to be sure, that we are delivered therefrom through Christ: in that we have power to hate our sins, and to love God’s commandments. All such repent and have their hearts loosed out of captivity and bondage of sin, and are therefore justified through faith in Christ. Wicked sinners have no faith, but imaginations and opinions about Christ; as our schoolmen have in their principles, about which they brawl so fast one with another. It is another thing to believe that the king is rich, and that he is rich unto me, and that my part is therein; and that he will not spare a penny of his riches at my need. When I believe that the king is rich, I am not moved: but when I believe that he is rich for me, and that he will never fail me at my need, then love I; and of love am ready to work unto the uttermost of my power.

But let us return at the last unto our purpose again. What is the cause that laymen cannot now rule, as well as in times past, and as the Turks yet do?

Verily, because that antichrist with the mist of his juggling hath beguiled our eyes, and hath cast a superstitious fear upon the world of christian men, and hath taught them to dread not God and his word, but himself and his word; not God’s law and ordinances, princes and officers which God hath set to rule the world, but his own law and ordinances, traditions and ceremonies, and disguised disciples, which he hath set every where to deceive the world, and to expel the light of God’s word, that his darkness may have room. For we see by daily experience, of certain hundred years long, that he which feareth neither God nor his word, neither regardeth father, mother, master, or Christ himself; which rebelleth against God’s ordinances, riseth against the king’s, and resisteth his officers, dare not once lay hands on one of the pope’s anointed: no, though he slay his father before his face, or do violence unto his brother, or defile his sister, wife, or mother. Like honor give we unto his traditions and ceremonies. What devotion have we when we are blessed (as they call it) with the chalice, or when the bishop lifteth up his holy hand over us? Who dare handle the chalice, touch the altar-stone, or put his hand in the font, or his finger into the holy oil? What reverence give we unto holy water, holy fire, holy bread, holy salt, hallowed bells, holy wax, holy boughs, holy candles, and holy ashes! And last of all, unto the holy candle commit we our souls at our last departing. Yea, and of the very clout which the bishop, or his chaplain that standeth by, knitteth about children’s necks at confirmation, what lay-person dare be so bold as to unloose the knot? Thou wilt say, Do not such things bring the Holy Ghost and put away sin and drive away spirits? I say that a stedfast faith, or belief in Christ and in the promises that God hath sworn to give us for his sake, bringeth the Holy Ghost, as all the scriptures make mention, and as Paul saith, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost through faith, or believing?” Faith is the rock whereon Christ buildeth his congregation; against which, saith Christ, Matthew 16, hellgates shall not prevail. As soon as thou believest in Christ, the Holy Ghost cometh, sin falleth away, and devils fly. When we cast holy water at the devil, or ring the bells, he fleeth as men do from young children, and mocketh with us, to bring us from the true faith, that is in God’s word, unto a superstitious and a false belief of our own imagination. If thou hadst faith and threwest an unhallowed stone at his head, he would earnestly flee, and without mocking; yea, though thou threwest nothing at all, he would not yet abide.

Though that at the beginning miracles were shewed through such ceremonies, to move the infidels to believe the word of God, as thou readest how the apostles anointed the sick with oil, and healed them; and Paul sent his pertelet or jerkin to the sick, and healed them also; yet was it not the ceremony that did the miracle, but faith of the preacher and the truth of God, which had promised to confirm and stablish his gospel with such miracles. Therefore, as soon as the gift of miracles ceased, ought the ceremony to have ceased also; or else if they needs will have a ceremony to signify some promise or benefit of God (which I praise not, but would have God’s word preached every Sunday, for which intent Sundays and holy days were ordained), then let them tell the people what it meaneth; and not set up a bald and a naked ceremony without signification, to make the people believe therein, and to quench the faith that ought to be given unto the word of God.

What helpeth it also that the priest, when he goeth to mass, disguiseth himself with a great part of the passion of Christ, and playeth out the rest under silence, with signs and proffers, with nodding, becking and mowing, as it were jackanapes, when neither he himself, neither any man else [knows[ what he meaneth? Not at all, verily; but hurteth, and that exceedingly; forasmuch as it not only destroyeth the faith, and quencheth the love that should be given unto the commandments, and maketh the people unthankful, in that it bringeth them into such superstition, that they think that they have done abundantly enough for God, yea, and deserved above measure, if they be present once in a day at such mumming; but also maketh the infidels to mock us and abhor us, in that they see nothing but such apes’ play among us, whereof no man can give a reason.

All this cometh to pass to fulfill the prophecy which Christ prophesied; that there shall come in his name, which shall say that they themselves are Christ. That do verily the pope and our holy orders of religion. For they, under the name of Christ, preach themselves, their own word and their own traditions, and teach the people to believe in them. The pope giveth pardons of his full power, of the treasure of the church, and of the merits of saints. The friars likewise make their benefactors (which only they call their brethren and sisters) partakers of their masses, fasting, watchings, prayings, and woolward goings. Yea, and when a novice of the Observants is professed, the father asketh him, Will ye keep the rules of holy St Francis? and he saith, Yea. Will ye so in deed? saith he. The other answereth, ‘Yea, forsooth [in tuth], father. Then saith the father, And I promise you again everlasting life. O blasphemy! If eternal life be due unto the pilled traditions of lousy friars, where is the testament become that God made unto us in Christ’s blood? Christ saith, ‘That there shall come pseudo- Christi;’ which though I, for a consideration, have translated false Christs, keeping the Greek word, yet signifieth it in the English ‘false anointed,’ and ought so to be translated. “There shall come,” saith Christ, “false anointed, and false prophets, and shall do miracles and wonders so greatly, that, if it were possible, the very elect, or chosen, should be brought out of the way.” Compare the pope’s doctrine unto the word of God, and thou shalt find that there hath been, and yet is, a great going out of the way; and that evil men and deceivers (as Paul prophesied 2 Timothy 3) have prevailed, and waxed worse and worse, beguiling other as they are beguiled themselves. Thou tremblest and quakest, saying, Shall God let us go so sore out of the right way? I answer, It is Christ that warneth us; which, as he knew all that should follow, so prophesied he before, and is a true prophet, and his prophecies must needs be fulfilled. GOD anointed his son Jesus with the Holy Ghost, and therefore called him Christ; which is as much to say as anointed. Outwardly he disguised him not; but made him like other men, and sent him into the world to bless us, and to offer himself for us a sacrifice of a sweet savor, to kill the stench of our sins, that God henceforth should smell them no more, nor think on them any more; and to make full and sufficient satisfaction, or amends, for all them that repent, believing the truth of God, and submitting themselves unto his ordinances, both for their sins that they do, have done, and shall do. For sin we through fragility never so oft, yet as soon as we repent and come into the right way again, and unto the testament which God hath made in Christ’s blood, our sins vanish away as smoke in the wind, and as darkness at the coming of light; or as thou castest a little blood, or milk, into the main sea: insomuch that whosoever goeth about to make satisfaction for his sins to God-ward, saying in his heart, This much have I sinned, this much will I do again; or this-wise will I live to make amends withal; or this will I do, to get heaven withal; the same is an infidel, faithless, and damned in his deed-doing, and hath lost his part in Christ’s blood; because he is disobedient unto God’s testament, and setteth up another of his own imagination, unto which he will compel God to obey. If we love God, we have a commandment to love our neighbor also, as saith John in his epistle; and if we have offended him, to make him amends; or if we have not wherewith, to ask him forgiveness, and to do and suffer all things for his sake, to win him to God, and to nourish peace and unity. But to God-ward Christ is an everlasting satisfaction, and ever sufficient. Christ, when he had fulfilled his course, anointed his apostles and disciples with the same Spirit, and sent them forth, without all manner disguising, like other men also, to preach the atonement and peace which Christ had made between God and man. The apostles likewise disguised no man, but chose men anointed with the same Spirit: one to preach the word of God, whom we call, after the Greek tongue, a bishop or a priest; that is, in English, an overseer and an elder. How he was anointed, thou readest, “A bishop or an overseer must be faultless, the husband of one wife.” ( 1 Timothy 3) Many Jews, and also Gentiles, that were converted unto the faith, had at that time divers wives, yet were not compelled to put any of them away; which Paul, because of ensample, would not have preachers, forasmuch as in Christ we return again unto the first ordinance of God, that one man and one woman should go together. “He must be sober, of honest behavior, honestly apparelled, harborous,” that is, ready to lodge strangers; “apt to teach, no drunkard, no fighter, not given to filthy lucre; but gentle, abhorring fighting, abhorring covetousness, and one that ruleth his own household honestly, having children under obedience with all honesty. For if a man cannot rule his own house, how can he care for the congregation of God? He may not be young in the faith,” or, as a man would say, a novice, “lest he swell and fall into the judgment of the evil speaker;” that is, he may not be unlearned in the secrets of the faith: for such are at once stubborn and headstrong, and set not a little by themselves. But, alas! we have above twenty thousand that know no more scripture than is written in their portesses; and among them is he exceedingly well learned that can turn to his service. “He must be well reported of them that are without, lest he fall into rebuke, and into the snare of the evil speaker;” that is, lest the infidels, which yet believe not, should be hurt by him, and driven from the faith, if a man that were defamed were made head or overseer of the congregation.

He must have a wife for two causes: one, that it may thereby be known who is meet for the room. He is unapt for so chargeable an office, which had never household to rule. Another cause is, that chastity is an exceeding seldom gift, and unchastity exceeding perilous for that degree; inasmuch as the people look as well unto the living as unto the preaching, and are hurt at once if the living disagree, and fall from the faith, and believe not the word.

This overseer, because he was taken from his own business and labor, to preach God’s word unto the parish, hath right, by the authority of his office, to challenge an honest living of the parish, as thou mayest see in the evangelists, and also in Paul. For who will have a servant, and will not give him meat, drink, and raiment, and all things necessary? How they would pay him, whether in money, or assign him so much rent, or in tithes, as the guise is now in many countries, was at their liberty.

Likewise in every congregation chose they another after the same ensample, and even so anointed, as it is to see in the said chapter of Paul, and Acts 6; whom, after the Greek word, we call deacon; that is to say in English, a servant or a minister; whose office was to help and assist the priest, and to gather up his duty, and to gather for the poor of the parish, which were destitute of friends, and could not work. Common beggars to run from door to door were not then suffered. On the saints’ days, namely such as had suffered death for the word sake, came men together into the church; and the priest preached unto them, and exhorted them to cleave fast unto the word, and to be strong in the faith, and to fight against the powers of the world, with suffering for their faith’s sake, after the ensample of the saints: and taught them not to believe in the saints, and to trust in their merits, and to make gods of them; but took the saints for an ensample only, and prayed God to give them like faith and trust in his word, and like strength and power to suffer therefore, and to give them so sure hope of the life to come; as thou mayest see in the collects of St Lawrence and of St Stephen in our lady matins. And in such days, as we now offer, so gave they every man his portion according to his ability, and as God put in his heart, to the maintenance of the priest, deacon, and other common ministers, and of the poor, and to find learned men to teach, and so forth. And all was put in the hands of the deacon; as thou mayest see in the life of St Lawrence, and in the histories. And for such purposes gave men lands afterwards, to ease the parishes; and made hospitals, and also places to teach their children, and to bring them up, and to nurture them in God’s word; which lands our monks now devour.