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

ANTICHRIST shall not only come with lying signs, and disguised with falsehood, but also with lying miracles and wonders, saith Paul in the said place, 2 Thessalonians 2, All the true miracles which are of God, are showed (as I above rehearsed) to move us to hear God’s word, and to stablish our faith therein, and to confirm the truth of God’s promises, that we might without all doubting believe them. For God’s word through faith bringeth the Spirit into our hearts and also life, as Christ saith, John 6, “The words which I speak are spirit and life.” The word also purgeth us and cleanseth us, as Christ saith, John 15, “Ye are clean by the means of the word.” Paul saith, 1 Timothy 2 , “One God, one Mediator” (that is to say, advocate, intercessor, or an at-one-maker) “between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, which gave himself a ransom for all men.” Peter saith of Christ, Acts 4, “Neither is there health in any other: neither yet also any other name given unto men wherein we must be saved.” So now Christ is our peace, our redemption or ransom for our sins, our righteousness, satisfaction, and “all the promises of God are yea and Amen in him,” Corinthians 1. And we, for the great and infinite love which God hath to us in Christ, love him again, love also his laws, and love one another.

And the deeds which we henceforth do, do we not to make satisfaction, or to obtain heaven; but to succor our neighbor, to tame the flesh, that we may wax perfect and strong men in Christ, and to be thankful to God again for his mercy, and to glorify his name.

Contrariwise the miracles of antichrist are done to pull thee from the word of God, and from believing his promises, and from Christ, and to put thy trust in a man, or a ceremony wherein God’s word is not. As soon as God’s word is believed, the faith spread abroad, then cease the miracles of God. But the miracles of antichrist, because they are wrought by the devil, to quench the faith, grow daily more and more; neither shall cease, until the world’s end, among them that believe not God’s word and promises. Seest thou not how God loosed and sent forth all the devils in the old world among the heathen or gentiles? and how the devils wrought miracles, and spake to them in every image? Even so shall the devil work falsehood by one craft or another, until the world’s end, among them that believe not God’s word. For the judgment and damnation of him that hath no lust [desire] to hear the truth, is to hear lies, and to be stablished and grounded therein through false miracles; and he that will not see is worthy to be blind; and he that biddeth the Spirit of God go from him, is worthy to be without him. Paul, Peter, and all true apostles preached Christ only. And the miracles did but confirm and stablish their preaching, and those everlasting promises and eternal testament that God had made between man and him in Christ’s blood: and the miracles did testify also that they were true servants of Christ. Paul preached not himself; he taught not any man to trust in him or his holiness, or in Peter or in any ceremony, but in the promises which God hath sworn only: yea, he mightily resisteth all such false doctrine, both to the Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, and every where. If this be true (as it is true and nothing more true), that if Paul had preached himself, or taught any man to believe in his holiness or prayer, or in any thing save in the promises that God hath made and sworn to give us for Christ’s sake, he had been a false prophet; why am not I also a false prophet, if I teach thee to trust in Paul, or in his holiness or prayer, or in any thing save in God’s word, as Paul did?

If Paul were here and loved me, (as he loved them of his time to whom he was sent, and to whom he was a servant to preach Christ,) what good could he do for me or wish me, but preach Christ and pray to God for me, to open mine heart, to give me his Spirit, and to bring me unto the full knowledge of Christ? unto which port or haven when I am once come, I am as safe as Paul, fellow with Paul, joint heir with Paul of all the promises of God, and God’s truth heareth my prayer as well as Paul’s . I also now could not but love Paul, and wish him good, and pray for him, that God would strengthen him in all his temptations and give him victory, as he would do for me. Nevertheless there are many weak and young consciences always in the congregation, which they that have the office to preach ought to teach, and not to deceive them.

What prayers pray our clergy for us, which stop us and exclude us from Christ, and seek all the means possible to keep us from knowledge of Christ? They compel us to hire friars, monks, nuns, canons, and priests, and to buy their abominable merits, and to hire the saints that are dead to pray for us; for the very saints have they made hirelings also, because that their offerings come to their profit. What pray all those? That we might come to the knowledge of Christ, as the apostles did? Nay, verily. For it is plain case, that all they which enforce to keep us from Christ, pray not that we might come to the knowledge of Christ. And as for the saints, (whose prayer was, when they were alive, that we might be grounded, established and strengthened in Christ only,) if it were of God that we should this wise worship them, contrary unto their own doctrine, I dare be bold to affirm, that by the means of their prayers we should have been brought long ago unto the knowledge of God and Christ again, though that these beasts had done their worst to let it. Let us therefore set our hearts at rest in Christ and in God’s promises, for so I think it best; and let us take the saints for an ensample only, and let us do as they both taught and did.

Let us set God’s promises before our eyes, and desire him for his mercy and for Christ’s sake to fulfill them. And he is as true as ever he was, and will do it as well as ever he did; for to us are the promises made as well as to them.

Moreover, the end of God’s miracles is good; the end to these miracles are evil. For the offerings, which are the cause of the miracles, do but minister and maintain vice, sin, and all abomination, and are given to them that have too much; so that for very abundance they foam out their own shame, and corrupt the whole world with the stench of their filthiness.

Thereto “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” “Faith cometh by hearing God’s word.” When now thou fastest or doest any thing in the worship of any saint, believing to come to the favor of God or to be saved thereby; if thou have God’s word, then is it true faith and shall save thee. If thou have not God’s word, then it is a false faith, superstitiousness, and idolatry, and damnable sin.

Also in the collects of the saints, with which we pray God to save us through the merits or deservings of the saints, (which saints yet were not saved by their own deservings themselves) we say, per Christum Dominum nostrum ; that is, for Christ our Lord’s sake. We say, ‘Save us, good Lord, through the saints’ merits for Christ’s sake.’ How can he save us through the saints’ merits for Christ’s sake, and for his deserving merits and love? Take an example. A gentleman saith unto me, ‘I will do the uttermost of my power for thee, for the love which I owe unto thy father.

Though thou hast never done me pleasure, yet I love thy father well: thy father is my friend, and hath deserved that I do all that I can for thee, etc.’

Here is a testament and a promise made unto me in the love of my father only. If I come to the said gentleman in the name of one of his servants which I never saw, never spake with, neither have any acquaintance at all with, and say, ‘Sir, I pray you be good master unto me in such a cause: I have not deserved that thou shouldest so do; nevertheless I pray you do it for such a servant’s sake: yea, I pray you for the love that you owe to my father, do that for me for such a servant’s sake:’ if I this wise made my petition, would not men think that I came late out of St Patrick’s purgatory and had left my wits behind me? This do we. For the testament and promises are all made unto us in Christ: and we desire God to fulfill his promises for the saints’ sake; yea, that he will for Christ’s sake do it for the saints’ sake. 

They have also martyrs, which never preached God’s word, neither died therefore; but for privileges and liberties, which they falsely purchased, contrary unto God’s ordinances. Yea, and such saints, though they be dead, yet rob now as fast as ever they did, neither are less covetous now than when they were alive. I doubt not but that they will make a saint of my lord cardinal after the death of us that be alive, and know his juggling and crafty conveyance; and will shrine him gloriously for his mightily defending of the right of the holy church, except we be diligent to leave a commemoration of that Nimrod behind us.

The reasons wherewith they prove their doctrine are but fleshly, and, as Paul calleth them, “enticing words of man’s wisdom ;” that is to wit, sophistry, and brawling arguments of men with corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, whose God is their belly, unto which idol whosoever offereth not, the same is an heretic, and worthy to be burnt. ‘The saint was great with God when he was alive, as it appeareth by the miracles which God shewed for him; he must therefore be great now,’ say they. This reason appeareth wisdom; but it is very foolishness with God.

For the miracle was not shewed that thou should put thy trust in the saint, but in the word which the saint preached; which word, if thou believest, would save thee, as God hath promised and sworn, and would make thee also great with God, as it did the saint. ‘If a man have a matter with a great man, or a king, he must go first unto one of his mean servants, and then higher and higher till he come at the king.’ This enticing argument is but a blind reason of man’s wit. It is not like in the kingdom of the world, and in the kingdom of God and Christ.

With kings, for the most part, we have none acquaintance: neither promise.

They be also most commonly merciless. Moreover, if they promise, they are yet men, as unconstant as are other people, and as untrue. But with God, if we have belief, we are accounted, and have an open way in unto him by the door Christ, which is never shut, but through unbelief; neither is there any porter to keep any man out “By him,” saith Paul, Ephesians 2. that is to say, by Christ, “we have an open way in unto the Father. So are ye now no more strangers and foreigners (saith he), but citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” God hath also made us promises, and hath sworn; yea, hath made a testament or a covenant, and hath bound himself, and hath sealed his obligation with Christ’s blood, and confirmed it with miracles. He is also merciful and kind; and complaineth that we will not come unto him. He is mighty and able to perform that he promiseth. He is true, and cannot be but true, as he cannot be but God. Therefore is it not like with the king and God. ‘We be sinners,’ say they, ‘ God will not hear us.’ Behold how they flee from God, as from a tyrant merciless. Whom a man counteth most merciful, unto him he soonest fleeth. But these teachers dare not come at God. Why? For they are the children of Cain. If the saints love whom God hateth, then God and his saints are divided. When thou prayest to the saints, how do they know, except that God, whom thou countest merciless, tell them? If God be so cruel, and so hateth thee, it is not likely that he will tell the saints that thou prayest unto them.

When they say, ‘We be sinners:’ I answer, that Christ is no sinner, save a satisfaction and an offering for sin. Take Christ from the saints, and what are they? What is Paul without Christ? Is he any thing save a blasphemer, a persecutor, a murderer, and a shedder of christian blood? But as soon as he came to Christ, he was no more a sinner, but a minister of righteousness: he went not to Rome to take penance upon him, but went and preached unto his brethren the same mercy, which he had received free, without doing penance, or hiring of saints, or of monks or friars. Moreover, if it be God’s word that thou should put thy trust in the saints’ merits or prayers, then be bold; for God’s word shall defend thee, and save thee. If it be but thine own reason, then fear: for God commandeth by Moses, Deuteronomy 12 saying, “What I command you, that observe and do, and put nothing to, nor take ought therefrom;” yea, and Moses warneth straitly in an hundred places, that we do that only which God commandeth, and which seemeth good and righteous in his sight, and not in our own sight. For nothing bringeth the wrath of God so soon and so sore on a man, as the idolatry of his own imagination.

Last of all, these arguments are contrary to the arguments of Christ and of his apostles. Christ disputeth, Luke 11 saying: “If the son ask the father bread, will he give him a stone? or if he ask him fish, will he give him a serpent?” and so forth. “If ye then,” saith he, “which are evil can give good gifts to your children, how much rather shall your heavenly Father give a good Spirit unto them that ask him!” And a little before, in the same chapter, he saith: “If a man came never so out of season to his neighbor to borrow bread, even when he is in his chamber, and the door shut, and all his servants with him; nevertheless yet, if he continue knocking and praying, he will rise and give him as much as he needeth, though not for love, yet to be rid of him, that he may have rest.” As who should say, What will God do, if a man pray him; seeing that prayer overcometh an evil man? “Ask,” therefore, saith he, “and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. ” And Luke 18, he putteth forth the parable, or similitude, of the wicked judge, which was overcome with the importunate prayer of the widow; and concludeth, saying: “Hear what the wicked judge did. And shall not God avenge his elect, which cry unto him night and day?” Whether, therefore, we complain of the intolerable oppression and persecution that we suffer, or of the flesh that cumbereth and resisteth the Spirit, God is merciful to hear us and to help us. Seest thou not also, how Christ cureth many, and casteth out devils out of many, unspoken to? how shall he not help, if he be desired and spoken to?

When the old Pharisees (whose nature is to drive sinners from Christ) asked Christ why he did eat with publicans and sinners? Christ answered, “That the whole needed not the physician, but the sick; ” that is, he came to have conversation with sinners to heal them. He was a gift given unto sinners, and a treasure to pay their debts. And Christ sent the complaining and disdaining Pharisees to the prophet Oseas, saying: “Go and learn what this meaneth, I desire (or require) mercy, and not sacrifice.” As who should say, Ye Pharisees love sacrifice and offering for to feed that god your bellies withal; but God commandeth to be merciful. Sinners are ever captives, and a prey to the Pharisees and hypocrites, for to offer unto their bellies, and to buy merits, pardons, and forgiveness of sins of them. And therefore fear they them away from Christ with arguments of their bellywisdom.

For he that receiveth forgiveness free of Christ, will buy no forgiveness of them. “I came,” saith Christ, “to call, not the righteous, but the sinners unto repentance.” The Pharisees are righteous, and therefore have no part with Christ, neither need they; for they are gods themselves, and saviors. But sinners, that repent, pertain to Christ. If we repent, Christ hath made satisfaction for us already. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that none that believe on him should perish, but should have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that; the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him shall not be damned; but he that believeth not is damned already.” (John 3) Paul, Romans 5, saith, “Because we are justified through faith, we are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” that is, because that God, which cannot lie, hath promised and sworn to be merciful unto us, and to forgive us for Christ’s sake, we believe, and are at peace in our consciences; we run not hither and thither for pardon; we trust not in this friar nor that monk, neither in any thing, save in the word of God only: as a child, when his father threateneth him for his fault, hath never rest till he hear the word of mercy and forgiveness of his father’s mouth again; but as soon as he heareth his father say, Go thy way, do me no more so, I forgive thee this fault, then is his heart at rest; then is he at peace; then runneth he to no man to make intercession for him; neither, though there come any false merchant, saying, ‘What wilt thou give me, and I will obtain pardon of thy father for thee?’ will he suffer himself to be beguiled. No, he will not buy of a wily fox that which his father hath given him freely.

It followeth, “God setteth out his love, that he hath to us;” (that is, he maketh it appear, that men may perceive love if they be not more than stock blind:) “inasmuch (saith Paul) as, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more now, (saith he,) seeing we are justified by his blood, shall we be preserved from wrath through him: for if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more, seeing we are reconciled, we shall be preserved by his life.” As who should say, If God loved us, when we knew him not, much more loveth he us now we know him. If he were merciful to us while we hated his law, how much more merciful will he be now, seeing we love it, and desire strength to fulfill it! And in the 8th he argueth: “If God spared not his own Son, but gave him for us all, how shall he not with him give us all things also?”

Christ prayed, John 17, not for the apostles only, but also for as many as should believe through their preaching, and was heard. Whatsoever we ask in his name, the Father giveth us. Christ is also as merciful as the saints.

Why go we not straightway unto him? Verily, because we feel not the mercy of God, neither believe his truth. ‘God will, at the leastway (say they), hear us the sooner for the saints’ sake.’ Then loveth he the saints better than Christ and his own truth. Heareth he us for the saints’ sake? So heareth he us not for his mercy: for merits and mercy cannot stand together.

Finally: If thou put any trust in thine own deeds, or in the deeds of any other man, of any saint, then minishest thou the truth, mercy, and goodness of God. For if God look unto thy works, or unto the works of any other man, or goodness of the saint; then doth he not all things of pure mercy and of his goodness, and for the truth’s sake, which he hath sworn in Christ. Now saith Paul, “Not of the righteous deeds which we did, but of his mercy saved he us.” (Titus 3) Our blind disputers will say, ‘If our good deeds justify us not; if God look not on our good deeds, neither regard them, nor love us the better for them, what need we to do good deeds? I answer, God looketh on our good deeds, and loveth them; yet loveth us not for their sakes. God loveth us first in Christ, of his goodness and mercy, and poureth his Spirit into us, and giveth us power to do good deeds. And because he loveth us, he forgiveth us our evil deeds, which we do of frailty, and not of purpose, or for the nonce. Our good deeds do but testify only that we are justified and beloved. For except we were beloved, and had God’s Spirit, we could neither do, nor yet consent unto any good deed. Antichrist turneth the roots of the trees upward. He maketh the goodness of God the branches, and our goodness the roots. We must be first good, after antichrist’s doctrine, and move God, and compel him to be good again for our goodness’ sake: so must God’s goodness spring out of our goodness. Nay, verily; God’s goodness is the root of all goodness; and our goodness, if we have any, springeth out of his goodness.