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

THEY divide the scripture into four senses, the literal, tropological, allegorical, and anagogical. The literal sense is become nothing at all: for the pope hath taken it clean away, and hath made it his possession . He hath partly locked it up with the false and counterfeited keys of his traditions, ceremonies, and reigned lies; and partly driveth men from it with violence of sword: for no man dare abide by the literal sense of the text, but under a protestation, ‘If it shall please the pope.’ The tropological sense pertaineth to good manners (say they), and teacheth what we ought to do. The allegory is appropriate to faith; and the anagogical to hope, and things above. Tropological and anagogical are terms of their own feigning, and altogether unnecessary. For they are but allegories, both two of them; and this word allegory comprehendeth them both, and is enough. For tropological is but an allegory of manners; and anagogical, an allegory of hope. And allegory is as much to say as strange speaking, or borrowed speech: as when we say of a wanton child, ‘This sheep hath magots in his tail, he must be anointed with birchen salve;’ which speech I borrow of the shepherds.

Thou shalt understand, therefore, that the scripture hath but one sense, which is the literal sense. And that literal sense is the root and ground of all, and the anchor that never faileth, whereunto if thou cleave, thou canst never err or go out of the way. And if thou leave the literal sense, thou canst not but go out of the way. Neverthelater, the scripture useth proverbs, similitudes, riddles, or allegories, as all other speeches do; but that which the proverb, similitude, riddle, or allegory signifieth, is ever the literal sense, which thou must seek out diligently: as in the English we borrow words and sentences of one thing, and apply them unto another, and give them new significations. We say, ‘Let the sea swell and rise as high as he will, yet hath God appointed how far he shall go:’ meaning that the tyrants shall not do what they would, but that only which God hath appointed them to do. ‘Look ere thou leap:’ whose literal sense is, ‘Do nothing suddenly, or without advisement.’ ‘Cut not the bough that thou standest upon:’ whose literal sense is, ‘Oppress not the commons;’ and is borrowed of hewers. When a thing speedeth not well, we borrow speech, and say, ‘The bishop hath blessed it;’ because that nothing speedeth well that they meddle withal. If the porridge be burned too, or the meat over roasted, we say, ‘The bishop hath put his foot in the pot,’ or, ‘The bishop hath played the cook;’ because the bishops burn whom they lust [desire], and whosoever displeaseth them. ‘He is a pontifical fellow;’ that is, proud and stately. ‘He is popish;’ that is, superstitious and faithless. ‘It is a pastime for a prelate.’ ‘It is a pleasure for a pope.’ ‘He would be free, and yet will not have his head shaven.’ ‘He would that no man should smite him, and yet hath not the pope’s mark.’ And of him that is betrayed, and wotteth [knows] not how, we say, ‘He hath been at shrift.’ ‘She is master parson’s sister’s daughter;’ ‘He is the bishop’s sister’s son;’ ‘He hath a cardinal to his uncle;’ ‘She is a spiritual whore;’ ‘It is the gentlewoman of the parsonage;’ ‘He gave me a Kyrie eleyson. And of her that answereth her husband six words for one, we say, ‘She is a sister of the Charterhouse:’ as who should say, ‘She thinketh that she is not bound to keep silence; their silence shall be a satisfaction for her.’ And of him that will not be saved by Christ’s merits, but by the works of his own imagination, we say, ‘It is a holy-workman.’

Thus borrow we, and feign new speech in every tongue. All fables, prophecies, and riddles, are allegories; as AEsop’s fables, and Merlin’s prophecies; and the interpretation of them are the literal sense.

So in like manner the scripture borroweth words and sentences of all manner things, and maketh proverbs and similitudes, or allegories. As Christ saith, Luke 4, “Physician, heal thyself:” whose interpretation is, ‘Do that at home, which thou dost in strange places;’ and that is the literal sense. So when I say, ‘Christ is a lamb;’ I mean not a lamb that beareth wool, but a meek and a patient lamb, which is beaten for other men’s faults. ‘Christ is a vine;’ not that beareth grapes; but out of whose root the branches that believe suck the Spirit of life, and mercy, and grace, and power to be the sons of God, and to do his will. The similitudes of the gospel are allegories, borrowed of worldly matters, to express spiritual things. The apocalypse, or revelations of John, are allegories whose literal sense is hard to find in many places.

Beyond all this, when we have found out the literal sense of the scripture by the process of the text, or by a like text of another place, then go we, and as the scripture borroweth similitudes of worldly things, even so we again borrow similitudes or allegories of the scripture, and apply them to our purposes; which allegories are no sense of the scripture, but free things besides the scripture, and altogether in the liberty of the Spirit. Which allegories I may not make at all the wild adventures; but must keep me within the compass of the faith, and ever apply mine allegory to Christ, and unto the faith.

Take an ensample: thou hast the story of Peter, how he smote off Malchus’s ear, and how Christ healed it again. There hast thou in the plain text great learning, great fruit, and great edifying, which I pass over because of tediousness. Then come I, when I preach of the law and the gospel, and borrow this ensample, to express the nature of the law and of the gospel, and to paint it unto thee before thine eyes. And of Peter and his sword make I the law, and of Christ the gospel; saying, ‘As Peter’s sword cutteth off the ear, so doth the law: the law damneth, the law killeth, and mangleth the conscience: there is no ear so righteous that can abide the hearing of the law: there is no deed so good but that the law damneth it. But Christ, that is to say, the gospel, the promises and testament that God hath made in Christ, healeth the ear and conscience, which the law hath hurt. The gospel is life, mercy, and forgiveness freely, and altogether an healing plaister. And as Peter doth but hurt and make a wound, where was none before, even so doth the law: for when we think that we are holy and righteous, and full of good deeds; if the law be preached aright, our righteousness and good deeds vanish away, as smoke in the wind, and we are left damnable sinners only. And as thou seest how that Christ healeth not, till Peter had wounded; and as an healing plaister helpeth not, till the corrosive hath troubled the wound; even so the gospel helpeth not, but when the law hath wounded the conscience, and brought the sinner into the knowledge of his sin.’ This allegory proveth nothing, neither can do. For it is not the scripture, but an ensample or a similitude borrowed of the scripture, to declare a text or a conclusion of the scripture more expressly, and to root it and grave it in the heart. For a similitude, or an ensample, doth print a thing much deeper in the wits of a man than doth a plain speaking, and leaveth behind him as it were a sting to prick him forward, and to awake him withal. Moreover, if I could not prove with an open text that which the allegory doth express, then were the allegory a thing to be jested at, and of no greater value than a tale of Robin Hood. This allegory, as touching his first part, is proved by Paul in the 4th chapter of his epistle to the Romans, where he saith, “The law causeth wrath;” and in the 7th chapter to the Romans, “When the law or commandment came, sin revived, and I became dead:” and in the 2nd epistle to the Corinthians, in the third chapter, the law is called “the minister of death and damnation,” etc. And as concerning the second part, Paul saith to the Romans in the 5th chapter , “In that we are justified by faith we are at peace with God.” And in the 2nd epistle to the Corinthians, in the third [chapter] , the gospel is called “the ministration of justifying and of the Spirit.” And, Galatians 3, “The Spirit cometh by preaching of the faith,” etc. Thus doth the literal sense prove the allegory, and bear it, as the foundation beareth the house. And because that allegories prove nothing, therefore are they to be used soberly and seldom, and only where the text offereth thee an allegory.

And of this manner (as I above have done) doth Paul borrow a similitude, a figure or allegory, of Genesis, to express the nature of the law and of the gospel; and by Agar and her son declareth the property of the law, and of her bond-children which will be justified by deeds; and by Sarah and her son declareth the property of the gospel, and of her free children which are justified by faith; and how the children of the law, which believe in their works, persecute the children of the gospel, which believe in the mercy and truth of God and in the testament of his Son Jesus our Lord.

And likewise do we borrow likenesses or allegories of the scripture, as of Pharaoh and Herod, and of the scribes and Pharisees, to express our miserable captivity and persecution under antichrist the pope. The greatest cause of which captivity and the decay of the faith, and this blindness wherein we now are, sprang first of allegories. For Origen and the doctors of his time drew all the scripture unto allegories: whose ensample they that came after followed so long, till they at last forgot the order and process of the text, supposing that the scripture served but to feign allegories upon; insomuch that twenty doctors expound one text twenty ways, as children make descant upon plain song. Then came our sophisters with their anagogical and chopoligical sense, and with an antitheme of half an inch, out of which some of them draw a thread of nine days long. Yea, thou shalt find enough that will preach Christ, and prove whatsoever point of the faith that thou wilt, as well out of a fable of Ovid or any other poet, as out of St John’s gospel or Paul’s epistles. Yea, they are come unto such blindness, that they not only say the literal sense profiteth not, but also that it is hurtful, and noisome, and killeth the soul. Which damnable doctrine they prove by a text of Paul, 2 Corinthians 3, where he saith, “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”

Lo, say they, the literal sense killeth, and the spiritual sense giveth life. We must therefore, say they, seek out some chopological sense.

Here learn what sophistry is, and how blind they are, that thou mayest abhor them and spue them out of thy stomach for ever. Paul by the letter meaneth Moses’s law; which the process of the text following declareth more bright than the sun. But it is not their guise to look on the order of any text; but as they find it in their doctors, so allege they it, and so understand it. Paul maketh a comparison between the law and the gospel; and calleth the law the letter, because it was but letters graven in two tables of cold stone: for the law doth but kill, and damn the consciences, as long as there is no lust [desire] in the heart to do that which the law commandeth.

Contrariwise, he calleth the gospel the administration of the Spirit and of righteousness or justifying. For when Christ is preached, and the promises which God hath made in Christ are believed, the Spirit entereth the heart, and looseth the heart, and giveth lust [desire] to do the law, and maketh the law a lively thing in the heart. Now as soon as the heart lusteth [desires] to do the law, then are we righteous before God, and our sins forgiven. Nevertheless the law of the letter grayed in stone, and not in their hearts, was so glorious, and Moses’s face shone so bright, that the children of Israel could not behold his face for brightness. It was also given in thunder and lightning and terrible signs; so that they for fear came to Moses, and desired him that he would speak to them, and let God speak no more; “Lest we die (said they) if we hear him any more:” as thou mayest see Exodus 20.

Whereupon Paul maketh his comparison, saying: “If the ministration of death through the letters figured in stones was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; why shall not the administration of the Spirit be glorious?”

And again: “If the administration of damnation be glorious, much more shall the administration of righteousness exceed in glory:” that is, if the law that killeth sinners, and helpeth them not, be glorious; then the gospel, which pardoneth sinners, and giveth them power to be the sons of God and to overcome sin, is much more glorious.

God is a Spirit, and all his words are spiritual, His literal sense is spiritual, and all his words are spiritual. When thou readest (Matthew 1.) “She shall bear a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins:” this literal sense is spiritual, and everlasting life unto as many as believe it.

And the literal sense of these words, (Matthew 5.) “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall have mercy,” are spiritual and life; whereby they that are merciful may of right, by the truth and promise of God, challenge mercy. And like is it of these words, Matthew 6 “If you forgive other men their sins, your heavenly Father shall forgive you yours.”

And so is it of all the promises of God. Finally, all God’s words are spiritual, if thou have eyes of God to see the right meaning of the text, and whereunto the scripture pertaineth, and the final end and cause thereof.

All the scripture is either the promises and testament of God in Christ, and stories pertaining thereunto, to strength[en] thy faith; either the law, and stories pertaining thereto, to fear thee from evil doing. There is no story nor gest, seem it never so simple or so vile unto the world, but that thou shalt find therein spirit and life and edifying in the literal sense: for it is God’s scripture, written for thy learning and comfort. There is no clout or rag there, that hath not precious relics wrapt therein of faith, hope, patience and long suffering, and of the truth of God, and also of his righteousness.

pe, patience and long suffering, and of the truth of God, and also of his righteousness. Set before thee the story of Reuben, which defiled his father’s bed. Mark what a cross God suffered to fall on the neck of his elect Jacob. Consider first the shame among the heathen, when as yet there was no more of the whole world within the testament of God, but he and his household. I report me to our prelates, which swear by their honor, whether it were a cross or no. Seest thou not how our wicked builders rage, because they see their buildings burn, now they are tried by the fire of God’s word; and how they stir up the whole world, to quench the word of God, for fear of losing their honor? Then what business had he to pacify his children! Look what ado he had at the defiling of his daughter Dinah. And be thou sure that the brethren there were no more furious for the defiling of their sister, than the sons hero for defiling of their mother. Mark what followed Reuben, to fear other, that they shame not their fathers and mothers. He was cursed, and lost the kingdom, and also the priestdom, and his tribe or generation was ever few in number, as it appeareth in the stories of the bible.

The adultery of David with Bathsheba is an ensample, not to move us to evil; but, if (while we follow the way of righteousness) any chance drive us aside, that we despair not. For if we saw not such infirmities in God’s elect, we, which are so weak and fall so oft, should utterly despair, and think that God had clean forsaken us. It is therefore a sure and an undoubted conclusion, whether we be holy or unholy, we are all sinners. But the difference is, that God’s sinners consent not to their sin. They consent unto the law that is both holy and righteous, and mourn to have their sin taken away. But the devil’s sinners consent unto their sin, and would have the law and hell taken away, and are enemies unto the righteousness of God.

Likewise in the homely gest of Noe, when he was drunk, and lay in his tent with his privy members open, hast thou great edifying in the literal sense. Thou seest what became of the cursed children of wicked Ham, which saw his father’s privy members, and jested thereof unto his brethren.

Thou seest also what blessing fell on Shem and Japhet, which went backward and covered their father’s members, and saw them not. And thirdly, thou seest what infirmity accompanieth God’s elect, be they never so holy, which yet is not imputed unto them: for the faith and trust they have in God swalloweth up all their sins.

Notwithstanding, this text offers us an apt and an handsome allegory or similitude to describe our wicked Ham, antichrist the pope, which many hundred years hath done all the shame that heart can think unto the word of promise, or the word of faith, as Paul calleth it, Romans 10; and the gospel and testament of Christ, wherewith we are begotten; as thou seest, 1 Peter 1: and James 1: And as the cursed children of Ham grew into giants, so mighty and great that the children of Israel seemed but grasshoppers in respect of them; so the cursed sons of our Ham, the pope, his cardinals, bishops, abbots, monks, and friars, are become mighty giants above all power and authority; so that the children of faith, in respect of them, are much less than grasshoppers. They heap mountain upon mountain, and will to heaven by their own strength, by a way of their own making, and not by the way Christ. Neverthelater, those giants, for the wickedness and abominations which they had wrought, did God utterly destroy, part of them by the children of Lot, and part by the children of Esau, and seven nations of them by the children of Israel. So no doubt shall he destroy these for like abominations, and that shortly. For their kingdom is but the kingdom of lies and falsehood; which must needs perish at the coming of the truth of God’s word, as the night vanisheth away at the presence of day. The children of Israel slew not those giants, but the power of God; God’s truth and promises, as thou mayest see in Deuteronomy. So it is not we that shall destroy those giants, as thou mayest see by Paul, (2 Thessalonians 2.) speaking of our Ham, antichrist: “Whom the Lord shall destroy” (saith he) “with the spirit of his mouth,” that is, by the words of truth, “and by the brightness of his coming,” that is, by the preaching of his gospel.

And as I have said of allegories, even so it is of worldly similitudes, which we make either when we preach, either when we expound the scripture.

The similitudes prove nothing, but are made to express more plainly that which is contained in the scripture, and to lead thee into the spiritual understanding of the text: as the similitude of matrimony is taken to express the marriage that is between Christ and our souls, and what exceeding mercy we have there, whereof all the scriptures make mention; and the similitude of the members, how every one of them careth for other, is taken to make thee feel what it is to love thy neighbor as thyself. That preacher therefore, that bringeth a naked similitude to prove that which is contained in no text of scripture, nor followeth of a text, count a deceiver, a leader out of the way, and a false prophet, and beware of his philosophy and persuasions of man’s wisdom, as Paul saith: “My words and my preaching were not with enticing words and persuasions of man’s wisdom, but in shewing of the Spirit and power:” (that is, he preached not dreams, confirming them with similitudes; but God’s word, confirming it with miracles and with working of the Spirit, the which made them feel every thing in their hearts:) “that your faith,” said he, “should not stand in the wisdom of man; but in the power of God.” For the reasons and similitudes of man’s wisdom make no faith, but wavering and uncertain opinions only: one draweth me this way with his argument, another that way, and of what principle thou provest black, another proveth white: and so am I ever uncertain; as, if thou tell me of a thing done in a far land, and another tell me the contrary, I wot [know] not what to believe. But faith is wrought by the power of God; that is, when God’s word is preached, the Spirit entereth thine heart, and maketh thy soul feel it, and maketh thee so sure of it, that neither adversity, nor persecution, nor death, neither hell, nor the powers of hell, neither yet all the pains of hell could once prevail against thee, or move thee from the sure rock of God’s word, that thou shouldst not believe that which God hath sworn.

And Peter saith, “We followed not deceivable fables, when we opened unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; but with our eyes we saw his majesty.” And again, “We have” (saith he) “a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto if ye take heed, as unto a light shining in a dark place, ye do well.” The word of prophecy was the old Testament, which beareth record unto Christ in every place; without which record the apostles made neither similitudes nor arguments of worldly wit. Hereof seest thou, that all the allegories, similitudes, persuasions and arguments, which they bring without scripture, to prove praying to saints, purgatory, ear-confession; and that God will hear thy prayer more in one place than in another; and that it is more meritorious to eat fish than flesh; and that to disguise thyself, and put on this or that manner coat, is more acceptable than to go as God hath made thee; and that widowhood is better than matrimony, and virginity than widowhood; and to prove the assumption of our lady, and that she was born without original sin, yea, and with a kiss (say some), are but false doctrine.

Take an ensample, how they prove that widowhood and virginity exceed matrimony. They bring this worldly similitude: he that taketh most pain for a man deserveth most, and to him a man is most bound; so likewise must it be with God, and so forth. Now the widow and virgin take more pain in resisting their lusts [desires] than the married wife; therefore is their state holier.

First, I say, that in their own sophistry a similitude is the worst and feeblest argument that can be, and proveth least, and soonest deceiveth. Though that one son do more service for his father than another, yet is the father free, and may with right reward them all alike. For though I had a thousand brethren, and did more than they all, yet do I not my duty. The fathers and mothers also care most for the least and weakest, and them that can do least: yea, for the worst care they most, and would spend, not their goods only, but also their blood, to bring them to the right way. And even so is it of the kingdom of Christ, as thou mayest well see in the similitude of the riotous son. Moreover Paul saith, (1 Corinthians 7.) “It is better to marry than to burn.” For the person that burneth cannot quietly serve God, inasmuch as his mind is drawn away, and the thoughts of his heart occupied with wonderful and monstrous imaginations. He can neither see, nor hear, nor read, but that his wits are rapt, and he clean from himself.

And again, saith he, “circumcision is nothing, uncircumcision is nothing; but the keeping of the commandments” is all together. Look wherein thou canst best keep the commandments; thither get thyself and therein abide; whether thou be widow, wife, or maid; and then hast thou all with God. If we have infirmities that draw us from the laws of God, let us cure them with the remedies that God hath made. If thou burn, marry: for God hath promised thee no chastity, as long as thou mayest use the remedy that he hath ordained; no more than he hath promised to slake thine hunger without meat. Now, to ask of God more than he hath promised, cometh of a false faith, and is plain idolatry: and to desire a miracle, where there is natural remedy, is tempting of God. And of pains-taking, this-wise understand. He that taketh pains to keep the commandments of God, is sure thereby that he loveth God, and that he hath God’s Spirit in him. And the more pain a man taketh (I mean patiently and without grudging), the more he loveth God, and the perfecter he is, and nearer unto that health which the souls of all christian men long for, and the more purged from the infirmity and sin that remaineth in the flesh. But to look for any other reward or promotion in heaven, or in the life to come, than that which God hath promised for Christ’s sake, and which Christ hath deserved for us with his pain-taking, is abominable in the sight of God. For Christ only hath purchased the reward; and our pain-taking to keep the commandments doth but purge the sin that remaineth in the flesh, and certify us that we are chosen and sealed with God’s Spirit unto the reward that Christ hath purchased for us.

I was once at the creating of doctors of divinity, where the opponent brought the same reason to prove that the widow had more merit than the virgin; because she had greater pain, forasmuch as she had once proved the pleasures of matrimony. Ego nego , domine doctor , said the respondent: ‘for though the virgin have not proved, yet she imagineth that the pleasure is greater than it is indeed, and therefore is more moved, and hath greater temptation and greater pain.’ Are not these disputers they that Paul speaketh of in the sixth chapter of the first epistle to Timothy? that “they are not content with the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and doctrine of godliness; and therefore know nothing, but waste their brains about questions and strife of words, whereof spring envy, strife and railing of men with corrupt minds, destitute of the truth.”

As pertaining to our lady’s body, where it is, or where the body of Elias, of John the evangelist, and of many other be, pertaineth not to us to know.

One thing are we sure of, that they are where God hath laid them. If they be in heaven, we have never the more in Christ: if they be not there, we have never the less. Our duty is to prepare ourselves unto the commandments, and to be thankful for that which is opened unto us; and not to search the unsearchable secrets of God. Of God’s secrets can we know no more than he openeth unto us. If God shut, who shall open? How then can natural reason come by the knowledge of that which God hath hid unto himself?

Yet let us see one of their reasons wherewith they prove it. The chief reason is this: Every man doth more for his mother, say they, than for other; in like manner must Christ do for his mother; therefore hath she this pre-eminence, that her body is in heaven. And yet Christ, in the 12th chapter of Matthew knoweth her not for his mother, but as far forth as she kept his Father’s commandments. And Paul, in the 2nd epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 5, knoweth not Christ himself fleshly, or after a worldly purpose. Last of all, God is free, and no further bound than he bindeth himself: if he have made her any promise, he is bound; if not, then is he not. Finally, if thou set this above rehearsed chapter of Matthew before thee, where Christ would not know his mother, and the 2nd of John where he rebuked her, and the 2nd of Luke where she lost him, and how negligent she was to leave him behind her at Jerusalem unawares, and to go a day’s journey ere she sought for him; thou mightest resolve many of their reasons which they make of this matter, and that she was without original sin. Read also Erasmus’s Annotations in the said places. And as for me, I commit all such matters unto those idle bellies, which have nought else to do than to move such questions; and give them free liberty to hold what they list [desire], as long as it hurteth not the faith, whether it be so or no: exhorting yet, with Paul, all that will please God, and obtain that salvation that is in Christ, that they give no heed unto unnecessary and brawling disputations, and that they labor for the knowledge of those things without which they cannot be saved. And remember that the sun was given us to guide us in our way and works bodily. Now if thou leave the natural use of the sun, and will look directly on him to see how bright he is, and suchlike curiosity, then will the sun blind thee. So was the scripture given us to guide us in our way and works ghostly. The way is Christ; and the promises in him are our salvation, if we long for them. Now if we shall leave that right use and turn ourselves unto vain questions, and to search the unsearchable secrets of God; then no doubt shall the scripture blind us, as it hath done our schoolmen and our subtle disputers.

And as they are false prophets, which prove with allegories, similitudes, and worldly reasons, that which is no where made mention of in the scripture; even so count them for false prophets which expound the scriptures, drawing them unto a worldly purpose, clean contrary unto the ensample, living, and practicing of Christ and of his apostles, and of all the holy prophets. For, saith Peter, (2 Peter 1.) “No prophecy in the scripture hath any private interpretation. For the scripture came not by the will of man; but the holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” No place of the scripture may have a private exposition; that is, it may not be expounded after the will of man, or after the will of the flesh, or drawn unto a worldly purpose contrary unto the open texts, and the general articles of the faith, and the whole course of the scripture, and contrary to the living and practising of Christ and the apostles and holy prophets. For as they came not by the will of man, so may they not be drawn or expounded after the will of man: but as they came by the Holy Ghost, so must they be expounded and understood by the Holy Ghost. The scripture is that wherewith God draweth us unto him, and not where with we should be led from him. The scriptures spring out of God, and flow unto Christ, and were given to lead us to Christ. Thou must therefore go along by the scripture as by a line, until thou come at Christ, which is the way’s end and resting-place. If any man, therefore, use the scripture to draw thee from Christ, and to nosel thee in any thing save in Christ, the same is a false prophet. And that thou mayest perceive what Peter meaneth, it followeth in the text, “There were false prophets among the people” (whose prophecies were belly-wisdom), “as there shall be false teachers among you, which shall privily bring in damnable sects,” (as thou seest how we are divided into monstrous sects or orders of religion,) “even denying the Lord that hath bought them.” For every one of them taketh on him to sell thee for money that which God in Christ promiseth thee freely. “And many shall follow their damnable ways, by whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of:” as thou seest how the way of truth is become heresy, seditious, or cause of insurrection, and breaking of the king’s peace, and treason unto his highness. “And through covetousness with reigned [feigned] words shall they make merchandise of you.” Covetousness is the conclusion: for covetousness and ambition, that is to say, lucre and desire of honor, is the final end of all false prophets and of all false teachers. Look upon the pope’s false doctrine: what is the end thereof, and what seek they thereby? Wherefore serveth purgatory, but to purge thy purse, and to poll thee, and rob both thee and thy heirs of house and lands, and of all thou hast, that they may be in honor? Serve not pardons for the same purpose?

Whereto pertaineth praying to saints, but to offer unto their bellies?

Wherefore serveth confession, but to sit in thy conscience and to make thee fear and tremble at whatsoever they dream, and that thou worship them as gods? And so forth, in all their traditions, ceremonies, and conjurations, they serve not the Lord, but their bellies.

And of their false expounding the scripture, and drawing it contrary unto the ensample of Christ and the apostles and holy prophets, unto their damnable covetousness and filthy ambition, take an ensample: When Peter saith to Christ, (Matthew 16.) “Thou art the Son of the living God ;” and Christ answered, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my congregation;” by the rock interpret they Peter. And then cometh the pope, and will be Peter’s successor, whether Peter will or will not; yea, whether God will or will not; and though all the scripture say, ‘Nay,’ to any such succession; and saith, ‘Lo, I am the rock, the foundation, and head of Christ’s church.’ Now saith all the scripture, that the rock is Christ, the faith, and God’s word. As Christ saith, (Matthew 7.) “He that heareth my words, and doth thereafter, is like a man that buildeth on a rock.” For the house that is built on God’s word will stand, though heaven should fall.

And, John 15: “Christ is the vine, and we the branches:” so is Christ the rock, the stock, and foundation whereon we be built. And Paul (1 Corinthians 3.) calleth Christ our foundation; and all other, whether it be Peter or Paul, he calleth them our servants, to preach Christ, and to build us on him. If therefore the pope be Peter’s successor, his duty is to preach Christ only; and other authority hath he none. And (2 Corinthians 11.) Paul marrieth us unto Christ, and driveth us from all trust and confidence in man. And, (Ephesians 2.) saith Paul, “Ye are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets; ” that is, on the word which they preached; “Christ being, saith he, the head corner-stone, in whom every building coupled together groweth up into an holy temple in the Lord; in whom also ye are built together and made an habitation for God in the Spirit.” And Peter, in the 2nd of his first epistle, buildeth us on Christ; contrary to the pope, which buildeth us on himself.

Hell gates shall not prevail against it; that is to say, against the congregation that is built upon Christ’s faith, and upon God’s word. Now were the pope the rock, hell gates could not prevail against him: for the house could not stand, if the rock and foundation whereon it is built did perish: but the contrary see we in our popes. For hell gates have prevailed against them many hundred years, and have swallowed them up, if God’s word be true, and the stories that are written of them; yea, or if it be true that we see with our eyes. “I will give thee the keys of heaven,” saith Christ, and not, “I give;” and, John 20, after the resurrection paid it, and gave the keys to them all indifferently. “Whatsoever thou bindest on earth, it shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou loosest on earth, it shall be loosed in heaven.” Of this text maketh the pope what he will; and expoundeth it contrary to all the scripture, contrary to Christ’s practising, and the apostles’, and all the prophets’. Now the scripture giveth record to himself, and ever expoundeth itself by another open text. If the pope then cannot bring for his exposition the practicing of Christ, or of the apostles and prophets, or an open text, then is his exposition false doctrine. Christ expoundeth himself, (Matthew 18.) saying: “If thy brother sin against thee, rebuke him betwixt him and thee alone. If he hear thee, thou hast won thy brother: but if he hear thee not, then take with thee one or two,” and so forth, as it standeth in the text. He concludeth, saying to them all: “Whatsoever ye bind in earth, it shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye loose on earth, it shall be loosed in heaven.”

Where binding is but to rebuke them that sin; and loosing to forgive them that repent. And, “Whose sins ye forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins ye hold, they are holden.” And Paul (1 Corinthians 5.) bindeth; and (2 Corinthians 2.) looseth, after the same manner.

Also this binding and loosing is one power: and as he bindeth, so looseth he; yea, and bindeth first 68 The Obedience of a Christian Man ere he can loose. For who can loose that is not bound? Now whatsoever Peter bindeth, or his successor, (as he will be called and is not, but indeed the very successor of Satan,) is not so to be understood, that Peter, or the pope, hath power to command a man to be in deadly sin, or to be damned, or to go into hell, saying, Be thou in deadly sin; be thou damned; go thou to hell; go thou to purgatory: for that exposition is contrary to the everlasting testament that God hath made unto us in Christ. He sent his Son Christ to loose us from sin, and damnation, and hell; and that to testify unto the world, sent he his disciples. (Acts 1.) Paul also hath no power to destroy, but to edify. 2 Corinthians 10:13 . How can Christ give his disciples power against himself, and against his everlasting testament? Can he send them to preach salvation, and give them power to damn whom they lust [desire]? What mercy and profit have we in Christ’s death, and in his gospel, if the pope, which passeth all men in wickedness, hath power to send whom he will to hell, and to damn whom he lusteth [desires]? We had then no cause, to call him Jesus, that is to say, Savior; but might of right call him destroyer. Wherefore, then, this binding is to be understood as Christ interpreteth it in the places above rehearsed, and as the apostles practiced it, and is nothing but to rebuke men of their sins by preaching the law. A man must first sin against God’s law, ere the pope can bind him: yea, and a man must first sin against God’s law, ere he need to fear the pope’s curse. For cursing and binding are both one; and nothing, saving to rebuke a man of his sins by God’s law. It followeth also, then, that the loosing is of like manner; and is nothing but forgiving of sin to them that repent, through preaching of the promises which God hath made in Christ; in whom only we have all forgiveness of sins, as Christ interpreteth it, and as the apostles and prophets practiced it. So is it a false power that the pope taketh on him, to loose God’s laws; as to give a man licence to put away his wife to whom God hath bound him, and to bind them to chastity, which God commandeth to marry; that is to wit, them that burn and cannot live chaste. It is also a false power to bind that which God’s word maketh free, making sin in the creatures which God hath made for man’s use.

The pope, which so fast looseth and purgeth in purgatory, cannot, with all the loosings and purgations that he hath, either loose or purge our appetites, and lust [desire], and rebellion that is in us against the law of God. And yet the purging of them is the right purgatory. If he cannot purge them that are alive, wherewith purgeth he them that are dead? The apostles know no other ways to purge, but through preaching God’s word, which word only is that that purgeth the heart, as thou mayest see, John 15. “Ye are pure,” saith Christ, “through the word.” Now the pope preacheth not to them whom they feign to lie in purgatory, no more than he doth to us that are alive. How then purgeth he them? The pope is kin to Robin Goodfellow; which sweepeth the house, washeth the dishes, and purgeth all, by night; but when day cometh, there is nothing found clean .

Some man will say, the pope bindeth them not, they bind themselves. I answer, he that bindeth himself to the pope, and had lever [rather] have his life and soul ruled by the pope’s will than by the will of God, and by the pope’s word than by the word of God, is a fool. And he that had lever [rather] be bond than free, is not wise. And he that will not abide in the freedom wherein Christ hath set us, is also mad. And he that maketh deadly sin where none is, and seeketh causes of hatred between him and God, is not in his right wits. Furthermore, no man can bind himself, further than he hath power over himself. He that is under the power of another man, cannot bind himself without licence, as son, daughter, wife, servant, and subject.

Neither canst thou give God that which is not in thy power. Chastity canst thou not give, further than God lendeth it thee: if thou cannot live chaste, thou art bound to marry or to be damned. Last of all, for what purpose thou bindest thyself must be seen. If thou do it to obtain thereby that which Christ hath purchased for thee freely, so art thou an infidel, and hast no part with Christ, and so forth. If thou wilt see more of this matter, look in Deuteronomy, and there shalt thou find it more largely entreated.

Take another ensample of their false expounding the scripture. Christ saith, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat: whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but after their works do not.” Lo, say our sophisters or hypocrites, live we never so abominably, yet is our authority never the less. Do as we teach therefore, (say they,) and not as we do. And yet Christ saith, they sit on Moses’ seat; that is, as long they teach Moses, do as they teach. For the law of Moses is the law of God. But for their own traditions and false doctrine Christ rebuked them, and disobeyed them, and taught other to beware of their leaven. So if our Pharisees sit on Christ’s seat and preach him, we ought to hear them; but when they sit on their own seat, then ought we to beware as well of their pestilent doctrine as of their abominable living.

Likewise where they find mention made of a sword, they turn it unto the pope’s power. The disciples said unto Christ, Luke 22, “Lo, here be two swords.” And Christ answered, “Two is enough.” Lo, say they, the pope hath two swords, the spiritual sword and the temporal sword. And therefore is it lawful for him to fight and make war.

Christ, a little before he went to his passion, asked his disciples, saying, “When I sent you out without all provision, lacked ye any thing? and they said, Nay. And he answered, But now let him that hath a wallet take it with him, and he that hath a scrip likewise; and let him that hath never a sword, sell his coat and buy one:” as who should say, ‘It shall go otherwise now than then. Then ye went forth in faith of my word, and my Father’s promises; and it fed you and made provision for you, and was your sword, and shield, and defender; but now it shall go as thou readest Zechariah 13:”I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.”

Now shall my Father leave me in the hands of the wicked; and ye also shall be forsaken and destitute of faith, and shall trust in yourselves, and in your own provision, and in your own defense.’ Christ gave no commandment; but prophesied what should happen: and they, because they understood him not, answered, “Here are two swords.” And Christ (to make an end of such babbling) answered, “Two is enough.” For if he had commanded every man to buy a sword, how had two been enough? Also, if two were enough, and pertained to the pope only, why ,are they all commanded to buy every man a sword? By the sword, therefore, Christ prophesied, that they should be left unto their own defense. And two swords were enough; yea, never-a-one had been enough: for if every one of them had had ten swords, they would have fled ere midnight.

In the same chapter of Luke, not twelve lines from the foresaid text, the disciples, even at the last supper, asked who should be the greatest. And Christ rebuked them, and said it was an heathenish thing, and there should be no such thing among them, but that the greatest should be as the smallest, and that to be great was to do service as Christ’ did. But this text because it is brighter than the sun, that they can make no sophistry of it, therefore will they not hear it, nor let other know it.

Forasmuch now as thou partly seest the falsehood of our prelates, how all their study is to deceive us and to keep us in darkness, to sit as gods in our consciences, and handle us at their pleasure, and to lead us whither they lust [desire]; therefore I read thee, get thee to God’s word, and thereby try all doctrine, and against that receive nothing; neither any exposition contrary unto the open texts, neither contrary to the general articles of the faith, neither contrary to the living and practicing of Christ and his apostles. And when they cry, ‘Fathers, fathers,’ remember that it were the fathers that blinded and robbed the whole world, and brought us into this captivity, wherein these enforce to keep us still. Furthermore, as they of the old time are fathers to us, so shall these foul monsters be fathers to them that come after us; and the hypocrites that follow us will cry of these and of their doings, ‘Fathers, fathers,’ as these cry ‘Fathers, fathers,’ of them that are past. And as we feel our fathers, so did they that are past feel their fathers: neither were there in the world any other fathers than such as we both see and feel this many hundred years; as their decrees bear record, and the stories and chronicles well testify. If God’s word appeared any where, they agreed all against it. When they had brought that asleep, then strove they one with another about their own traditions, and one pope condemned another’s decrees, and were sometime two, yea, three popes at once. And one bishop went to law with another, and one cursed another for their own fantasies, and such things as they had falsely gotten. And the greatest saints are they that most defended the liberties of the church (as they call it), which they falsely got with blinding kings; neither had the world any rest this many hundred years, for reforming of friars and monks, and ceasing of schisms that were among our clergy. And as for the holy doctors, as Augustine, Hierome, Cyprian, Chrysostomus, and Bede, will they not hear. If they wrote any thing negligently, (as they were men,) that draw they clean contrary to their meaning, and thereof triumph they. Those doctors knew of none authority that one bishop should have above another, neither thought or once dreamed that ever any such should be, or of any such whispering, or of pardons, or scouring of purgatory, as they have feigned.

And when they cry, ‘Miracles, miracles,’ remember that God hath made an everlasting testament with us in Christ’s blood, against which we may receive no miracles; no, neither the preaching of Paul himself, if he came again, by his own teaching to the Galatians, neither yet the preaching of the angels of heaven. Wherefore either they are no miracles but they have feigned them, (as is the miracle that St Peter hallowed Westminster;) or else if there be miracles that confirm doctrine contrary to God’s word, then are they done of the devil, (as the maid of Ipswich and of Kent, ) to prove us whether we will cleave fast to God’s word, and to deceive them that have no love to the truth of God’s word, nor lust [desire] to walk in his laws.

And forasmuch as they to deceive withal arm themselves against them with arguments and persuasions of fleshly wisdom, with worldly similitudes, with shadows, with false allegories, with false expositions of the scripture, contrary unto the living and practicing of Christ and the apostles, with lies and false miracles, with false names, dumb ceremonies, with disguising of hypocrisy, with the authorities of the fathers, and last of all with the violence of the temporal sword; therefore do thou contrariwise arm thyself to defend thee withal, as Paul teacheth in the last chapter of the Ephesians: “Gird on thee the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word, and take to thee the shield of faith:” which is, not to believe a tale of Robin Hood, or Gesta Romanorum, or of the Chronicles, but to believe God’s word that lasteth ever.

And when the pope with his falsehead challengeth temporal authority above king and emperor, set before thee the 25th chapter of St Matthew, where Christ commandeth Peter to put up his sword. And set before thee Paul,2 Corinthians 10th, where he saith, “The weapons of our war are not carnal things, but mighty in God to bring all understanding in captivity under the obedience of Christ;” that is, the weapons are God’s word and doctrine, and not swords of iron and steel. And set before thee the doctrine of Christ and of his apostles, and their practice.

And when the pope challengeth authority over his fellow bishops and over all the congregation of Christ by succession of Peter, set before thee the first of the Acts; where Peter, for all his authority, put no man in the room of Judas; but all the apostles chose two indifferently, and cast lots, desiring God to temper them, that the lot might fall on the most ablest. And (Acts 8.) the apostles sent Peter; and in the 11th call him to reckoning, and to give accounts of that he hath done.

And when the pope’s law commandeth, saying, though that the pope live never so wickedly and draw with him through his evil ensample innumerable thousands into hell, yet see that no man presume to rebuke him, for he is head over all, and no man over him set before thee where Paul rebuketh Peter openly: and see how both to the Corinthians, and also to the Galatians, he will have no superior but God’s word, and he that could teach better by God’s word. And because, when he rehearsed his preaching, and his doings unto the high apostles, they could improve nothing, therefore will he be equal with the best.

And when the friars say, they do more than their duty when they preach, and more than they are bound to: (‘To say our service are we bound, say they, and that is our duty; and to preach is more than we are bound to:’) set thou before thee how that Christ’s blood-shedding hath bound us to love one another with all our might, and to do the uttermost of our power one to another. And Paul saith, 1 Corinthians 9: “Woe be unto me, if I preach not:” yea, woe is unto him that hath wherewith to help his neighbor, and to make him better, and do it not. If they think it more than their duty to preach Christ unto you, then they think it more than their duty to pray that ye should come to the knowledge of Christ. And therefore it is no marvel though they take so great labor, yea, and so great wages also, to keep you still in darkness.

And when they cry furiously, ‘Hold the heretics unto the wall, and if they will not revoke, burn them without any more ado; reason not with them, it is an article condemned by the fathers;’ set thou before thee the saying of Peter, 1 Peter 3. “To all that ask you be ready to give an answer of the hope that is in you, and that with meekness.”

The fathers of the Jews and the bishops, which had as great authority over them as ours have over us, condemned Christ and his doctrine. If it be enough to say the fathers have condemned it, then are the Jews to be holden excused; yea, they are yet in the right way, and we in the false. But and if the Jews be bound to look in the scripture, and to see whether their fathers have done right or wrong; then are we likewise bound to look in the scripture, whether our fathers have done right or wrong, and ought to believe nothing without a reason of the scripture and authority of God’s word.

And of this manner defend thyself against all manner wickedness of our sprites, armed always with God’s word, and with a strong and a stedfast faith thereunto. Without God’s word do nothing. And to his word add nothing; neither pull any thing therefrom, as Moses everywhere teacheth thee. Serve God in the spirit, and thy neighbor with all outward service. Serve God as he hath appointed thee; and not with thy good intent and good zeal. Remember Saul was cast away of God for ever for his good intent. God requireth obedience unto his word; and abhorreth all good intents and good zeals which are without God’s word: for they are nothing else than plain idolatry, and worshipping of false gods. And remember that Christ is the end of all things. He only is our restingplace, and he is our peace. For as there is no salvation in any other name, so is there no peace in any other name. Thou shalt never have rest in thy soul, neither shall the worm of conscience ever cease to gnaw thine heart, till thou come at Christ; till thou hear the glad tidings, how that God for his sake hath forgiven thee all freely. If thou trust in thy works, there is no rest. Thou shalt think, I have not done enough. Have I done it with so great love as I should do? Was I so glad in doing, as I would be to receive help at my need? I have left this or that undone; and such like. If thou trust in confession, then shalt thou think, Have I told all? Have I told all the circumstances? Did I repent enough? Had I as great sorrow in my repentance for my sins, as I had pleasure in doing them? Likewise in our holy pardons and pilgrimages gettest thou no rest. For thou seest that the very gods themselves, which sell their pardon so good cheap, or some whiles give them freely for glory sake, trust not therein themselves. They build colleges, and make perpetuities, to be prayed for for ever; and lade the lips of their beadmen, or chaplains, with so many masses, and diriges, and so long service, that I have known of some that have bid the devil take their founders’ souls, for very impatiency and weariness of so painful labor.

As pertaining to good deeds therefore, do the best thou canst, and desire God to give strength to do better daily; but in Christ put thy trust, and in the pardon and promises that God hath made thee for his sake; and on that rock build thine house, and there dwell. For there only shalt thou be sure from all storms and tempests, and from all wily assaults of our wicked spirits, which study with all falsehead to undermine us. And the God of all mercy give thee grace so to do, unto whom be glory for ever! Amen.