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

CONFESSION is diverse: one followeth true faith inseparably, and is the confessing, and [ac] knowledging with the mouth, wherein we put our trust and confidence. As when we say our Credo, confessing that we trust in God the Father Almighty, and in his truth and promises; and in his Son Jesus, our Lord, and in his merits and descryings; and in the Holy Ghost, and in his power, assistance and guiding. This confession is necessary unto all men that will be saved. For Christ saith, Matthew 10, “He that denieth me before men, him will I deny before my Father that is in heaven.”

And of this confession, saith the holy apostle Paul, in the 10th chapter: “the belief of the heart justifieth; and to [ac]knowledge with the mouth maketh a man safe.” This is a wonderful text for our philosophers, or rather sophisters, our worldly-wise enemies to the wisdom of God, our deep and profound wells without water, our clouds without moisture of rain; that is to say, natural souls without the Spirit of God and feeling of godly things.

To justify, and to make safe, are both one thing. And to confess with the mouth is a good work, and the fruit of a true faith, as all other works are.

If thou repent and believe the promises, then God’s truth justifieth thee; that is, forgiveth thee thy sins, and sealeth thee with his holy Spirit, and maketh thee heir of everlasting life, through Christ’s descryings. Now if thou have true faith, so seest thou the exceeding and infinite love and mercy which God hath showed thee freely in Christ: then must thou needs love again: and love cannot but compel thee to work, and boldly to confess and [ac]knowledge thy Lord Christ, and the trust which thou hast in his word.

And this [ac]knowledge[ment] maketh thee safe; that is, declareth that thou art safe already, certifieth thine heart, and maketh thee feel that thy faith is right, and that God’s Spirit is in thee, as all other good works do. For if, when it cometh unto the point, thou hadst no lust [desire] to work, nor power to confess, how couldest thou presume to think that God’s Spirit were in thee?

Another confession is there, which goeth before faith, and accompanieth repentance. For whosoever repenteth, doth [ac]knowledge his sins in his heart.

And whosoever doth [ac]knowledge his sins, receiveth forgiveness, as saith John, in the first of his first epistle: “If we [ac]knowledge our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness;” that is, because he hath promised, he must for his truth’s sake do it. This confession is necessary all our lives long, as is repentance. And as thou understandest of repentance, so understand of this confession; for it is likewise included in the sacrament of baptism. For we always repent, and always [ac]knowledge or confess our sins unto God, and yet despair not; but remember that we are washed in Christ’s blood: which thing our baptism doth represent and signify unto us.

Shrift in the ear is verily a work of Satan; and that the falsest that ever was wrought, and that most hath devoured the faith. It began among the Greeks, and was not as it is now, to reckon all a man’s sins in the priest’s ear; but to ask counsel of such doubts as men had, as thou mayest see in St Hierome, and in other authors, Neither went they to priests only, which were very few at that time, no more than preached the word of God; for this so great vantage in so many masses saying was not yet found; but went indifferently, where they saw a good and a learned man. And for because of a little knavery, which a deacon at Constantinople played through confession with one of the chief wives of the city, it was laid down again. But we, antichrist’s possession, the more knavery we see grow thereby daily, the more we stablish it. A christian man is a spiritual thing; and hath God’s word in his heart, and God’s Spirit to certify him of all thing. He is not bound to come to any ear. And as for the reasons which they make, [they] are all but persuasions of man’s wisdom. First, as pertaining unto the keys and manner of binding and loosing, is enough above rehearsed, and in other places. Thou mayest also see how the apostles used them in the Acts; and, in Paul’s epistles, how at the preaching of faith the Spirit came, and certified their hearts that they were justified through believing the promises.

When a man feeleth that his heart consenteth unto the law of God, and feeleth himself meek, patient, courteous, and, merciful to his neighbor, altered and fashioned like unto Christ; why should he doubt but that God hath forgiven him, and chosen him, and put his Spirit in him, though he never crome his sin into the priest’s ear?

One blind reason have they, saying, How shall the priest unbind, loose, and forgive the sin which he knoweth not? How did the apostles? The scripture forsake they, and run unto their blind reasons; and draw the scripture unto a carnal purpose. When I have told thee in thine ear all that I have done my life long, in order and with all circumstances after the shamefullest manner, what canst thou do more than preach me the promises, saying, ‘If thou repent and believe, God’s truth shall save thee for Christ’s sake?’ Thou seest not mine heart; thou knowest not whether I repent or no; neither whether I consent to the law, that it is holy, righteous, and good.

Moreover, whether I believe the promises or no, is also unknown to thee.

If thou preach the law and the promises (as the apostles did), so should they that God hath chosen repent, and believe, and be saved, even now as well as then. Howbeit antichrist must know all secrets, to stablish his kingdom, and to work his mysteries withal.

They bring also for them the story of the ten lepers, which is written in Luke 17. Here mark their falsehood, and learn to know them for ever.

The fourteenth Sunday after, the feast of the Trinity, the beginning of the seventh lesson is the saidv gospel; and the eighth and the ninth lessons, with the rest of the seventh, is the exposition of Bede upon the said gospel: where saith Bede, “Of all that Christ healed, of whatsoever disease it were, he sent none unto the priest but the lepers;” and by the lepers interpreteth followers of false doctrine only, which the spiritual officers and the learned men of the congregation ought to examine, and rebuke their learning with God’s word, and to warn the congregation to beware of them. Which, if they were afterward healed by the grace of Christ, ought to come before the congregation, and there openly confess their true faith. But all other vices (saith he) doth God heal within, in the conscience. Though they thiswise read at matins, yet at high mass, if they have any sermon at all, they lie, clean contrary unto this open truth. Neither are they ashamed at all. For why? they walk altogether in darkness.