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

SUBDEACON, deacon, priest, bishop, cardinal, patriarch, and pope, be names of offices and service, or should be, and not sacraments. There is no promise coupled therewith. If they minister their offices truly, it is a sign that Christ’s Spirit is in them; if not, that the devil is in them. Are these, all sacraments, or which one of them? Or what thing in them is that holy sign or sacrament? The shaving, or the anointing? What also is the promise that is signified thereby? But what word printeth in them that character, that spiritual seal? O dreamers and natural beasts, without the seal of the Spirit of God; but sealed with the mark of the beast and with cankered consciences!

There is a word called in Latin sacerdos, in Greek hiereus, in Hebrew cohan, that is, a minister, an officer, a sacrificer or a priest; as Aaron was a priest, and sacrificed for the people, and was a mediator between God and them. And in the English should it have had some other name than priest. But Antichrist hath deceived us with unknown and strange terms, to bring us into confusion and superstitious blindness. Of that manner is Christ a priest for ever; and all we priests through him, and need no more of any such priest on earth, to be a mean [way] for us unto God . For Christ hath brought us all into the inner temple, within the veil or forehanging, and unto the mercy-stool of God, and hath coupled us unto God; where we offer, every man for himself, the desires and petitions of his heart, and sacrifice and kill the lusts [desires] and appetites of his flesh, with prayer, fasting, and all manner godly living. Another word is there in Greek, called presbyter, in Latin senior, in English an elder, and is nothing but an officer to teach, and not to be a mediator between God and us. This needeth no anointing of man. They of the old Testament were anointed with oil, to signify the anointing of Christ, and of us through Christ, with the Holy Ghost. Thiswise is no man priest, but he that is chosen; save as in time of necessity every person christeneth, so may every man teach his wife and household, and the wife her children.

So in time of need, if I see my brother sin, I may between him and me rebuke him, and damn his deed by the law of God; and may also comfort them that are in despair, with the promises of God; and save them if they believe.

By a priest then, in the new Testament, understand nothing but an elder to teach the younger, and to bring them unto the full knowledge and understanding of Christ, and to minister the sacraments which Christ ordained, which is also nothing but to preach Christ’s promises. And by them that give all their study to quench the light of truth, and to hold the people in darkness, understand the disciples of Satan and messengers of antichrist, whatsoever names they have, or whatsoever they call themselves. And as concerning that our spirituality (as they will be called) make themselves holier than the lay-people, and take so great lands and goods to pray for them, and promise them pardons and forgiveness of sins, or absolution, without preaching of Christ’s promises, [it] is falsehood, and the working of antichrist; and (as I have said) the ravening of those wolves which Paul ( Acts 20.) prophesied should come after his departing, not sparing the flock. Their doctrine is that merchandise whereof Peter speaketh, saying: “Through covetousness shall they with reigned words make merchandise of you.” ( 2 Peter 2) And their reasons, wherewith they prove their doctrine, are (as saith Paul, Timothy 6.) “Superfluous disputings, arguings or brawlings of men with corrupt minds, and destitute of truth, which think that lucre is godliness.”

But Christ saith, Matthew 7, “By their fruits shalt thou know them;” that is, by their filthy covetousness, and shameless ambition, and drunken desire of honor, contrary unto the ensample and doctrine of Christ and of his apostles. Christ said to Peter, the last chapter of John: “Feed my sheep:” and not, ‘Shear thy flock.’ And Peter saith, ( 1 Peter 5.) “Not being lords over the parishens.” But these shear, and are become lords.

Paul saith, 2 Corinthians 2, “Not that we be lords over your faith:” but these will be lords; and compel us to believe whatsoever they lust [desire], without any witness of scripture, yea, clean contrary to the scripture; when the open text rebuketh it. Paul saith, “It is better to give, than to receive,” ( Acts 20) but these do nothing in the world but lay snares to catch and receive whatsoever cometh, as it were the gaping mouth of hell. And Corinthians 12, “I seek not yours, but you:” but these seek not you to Christ, but yours to themselves; and therefore, lest their deeds should be rebuked, will not come at the light.

Nevertheless the truth is, that we are all equally beloved in Christ, and God hath sworn to all indifferently. According, therefore, as every man believeth God’s promises, longeth for them, and is diligent to pray unto God to fulfill them, so is his prayer heard; and as good is the prayer of a cobbler as of a cardinal, and of a butcher as of a bishop; and the blessing of a baker that knoweth the truth is as good as the blessing of our most holy father the pope. And by blessing understand not the wagging of the pope’s or bishop’s hand over thine head, but prayer; as when we say, ‘God make thee a good man,’ ‘Christ put his Spirit in thee,’ or ‘Give thee grace and power to walk in the truth, and to follow his commandments,’ etc.: as Rebecca’s friends blessed her when she departed, ( Genesis 24) saying, “Thou art our sister: grow unto thousand thousands, and thy seed possess the gates of their enemies:” and as Isaac blessed Jacob, ( Genesis 27) saying, “God give thee of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, abundance of corn, wine and oil,” etc.: and, ( Genesis 28) “Almighty God bless thee, and make thee grow, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a great multitude of people, and give to thee and to thy seed after thee the blessings of Abraham; that thou mayest possess the land wherein thou art a stranger, which he promised to thy grandfather:”] and such like.

Last of all, one singular doubt they have: what maketh the priest; the anointing, or putting on of the hands, or what other ceremony, or what words? About which they brawl and scold, one ready to tear out another’s throat. One saith this, and another that; but they cannot agree. Neither can any of them make so strong a reason which another cannot improve: for they are all out of the way, and without the Spirit of God, to judge spiritual things, Howbeit to this I answer, that when Christ called twelve up into the mountain, and chose them, then immediately, without any anointing or ceremony, were they his apostles; that is to wit, ministers chosen to be sent to preach his testament unto all the whole world. And after the resurrection, when he had opened their wits, and given them knowledge, to understand the secrets of his testament, and how to bind and loose, and what he would have them to do in all things; then he sent them forth with a commandment to preach, and bind the unbelieving that continue in sin, and to loose the believing that repent. And that commandment, or charge, made them bishops, priests, popes, and all thing. If they say that Christ made them priests at his maundy, or last supper, when he said, “Do this in the remembrance of me;” I answer, Though the apostles wist not then what he meant, yet I will not strive nor say thereagainst, Neverthelater the commandment and the charge, which he gave them, made them priests.

And, Acts 1, when Matthias was chosen by lot, it is not to be doubted but that the apostles, after their common manner, prayed for him, that God would give him grace to minister his office truly; and put their hands on him, and exhorted him, and gave him charge to be diligent and faithful; and then was he as great as the best. And, Acts 6, when the disciples that believed had chosen six deacons to minister to the widows, the apostles prayed and put their hands on them, and admitted them without more ado. 

Their putting on of hands was not after the manner of the dumb blessing of our holy bishops, with two fingers; but they spake unto them, and told them their duty, and gave them a charge, and warned them to be faithful in the Lord’s business: as we choose temporal officers, and read their duty to them, and they promise to be faithful ministers, and then are admitted.

Neither is there any other manner or ceremony at all required in making of our spiritual officers, than to choose an able person, and then to rehearse him his duty, and give him his charge, and so to put him in his room. And as for that other solemn doubt, as they call it, Whether Judas was a priest or no? I care not what he then was; but of this I am sure, that he is now not only priest, but also bishop, cardinal, and pope.