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

FORASMUCH as our holy prelates and our ghostly religious, which ought to defend God’s word, speak evil of it, and do all the shame they can to it, and rail on it; and bear their captives in hand, that it causeth insurrection and teacheth the people to disobey their heads and governors, and moveth them to rise against their princes, and to make all common, and to make havock of other men’s goods: therefore have I made this little treatise that followeth, containing all obedience that is of God; in which, whosoever readeth it, shall easily perceive, not the contrary only, and that they lie, but also the very cause of such blasphemy, and what stirreth them so furiously to rage and to belie the truth.

Howbeit it is no new thing unto the word of God to be railed upon, neither is this the first time that hypocrites have ascribed to God’s word the vengeance whereof they themselves were ever cause. For the hypocrites with their false doctrine and idolatry have evermore led the wrath and vengeance of God upon the people, so sore that God could no longer forbear, nor defer his punishment. Yet God, which is always merciful, before he would take vengeance, hath ever sent his true prophets and true preachers, to warn the people that they might repent. But the people for the most part, and namely the heads and rulers, through comfort and persuading of the hypocrites, have ever waxed more hard-hearted than before, and have persecuted the word of God and his prophets. Then God, which is also righteous, hath always poured his plagues upon them without delay; which plagues the hypocrites ascribe unto God’s word, saying, ‘See what mischief is come upon us since this new learning came up, and this new sect, and this new doctrine.’ This seest thou, Jeremiah 44 where the people cried to go to their old idolatry again, saying, “Since we left it, we have been in all necessity and have been consumed with war and hunger.” But the prophet answered them that their idolatry went unto the heart of God, so that he could no longer suffer the maliciousness of their own imaginations or inventions; and that the cause of all such mischiefs was, because they would not hear the voice of the Lord and walk in his law, ordinances, and testimonies. The scribes and the Pharisees laid also to Christ’s charge, Luke 23 that he moved the people to sedition; and said to Pilate, “We have found this fellow perverting the people, and forbidding to pay tribute to Caesar, and saith that he is Christ a king.” And again in the same chapter, “He moveth the people,” said they, “teaching throughout Jewry, and began at Galilee even to this place.” So likewise laid they to the apostles’ charge, as thou mayest see in the Acts. St Cyprian also, and St Augustine, and many other more, made works in defense of the word of God against such blasphemies. So that thou mayest see how that it is no new thing, but an old and accustomed thing with the hypocrites, [against] God’s word and the true preachers of all the mischief which their lying doctrine is the very cause of.

Neverthelater in very deed, after the preaching of God’s word, because it is not truly received, God sendeth great trouble into the world; partly to avenge himself of the tyrants and persecutors of his word, and partly to destroy those worldly people which make of God’s word nothing but a cloak of their fleshly liberty. They are not all good that follow the gospel.

Christ ( Matthew 13) likeneth the kingdom of heaven unto a net cast into the sea, that catcheth fishes both good and bad. The kingdom of heaven is the preaching of the gospel, unto which come both good and bad.

But the good are few. Christ calleth them therefore a “little flock,” Luke 12. For they are ever few that come to the gospel of a true intent, seeking therein nothing but the glory and praise of God, and offering themselves freely and willingly to take adversity with Christ for the gospel’s sake, and for bearing record unto the truth, that all men may hear it. The greatest number come, and ever came, and followed even Christ himself, for a worldly purpose: as thou mayest well see ( John 6), how that almost five thousand followed Christ, and would also have made him a king, because he had well fed them: whom he rebuked, saying, “Ye seek me not because ye saw the miracles but because ye ate of the bread and were filled”; and drove them away from him with hard preaching.

Even so now, as ever, the most part seek liberty. They be glad when they hear the unsatiable covetousness of the spirituality rebuked; when they hear their falsehood and wiles uttered; when tyranny and oppression is preached against; when they hear how kings and all officers should rule christianly and brotherly, and seek no other thing save the wealth of their subjects; and when they hear that they have no such authority of God so to pill and poll as they do, and to raise up taxes and gatherings to maintain their phantasies, and to make war they wot not for what cause. And therefore, because the heads will not so rule, will they also no longer obey; but resist and rise against their evil heads; and one wicked destroyeth another. Yet is God’s word not the cause of this, neither yet the preachers. For though that Christ himself taught all obedience, how that it is not lawful to resist wrong, but for the officer that is appointed thereunto; and how a man must love his very enemy, and pray for them that persecute him, and bless them that curse him; and how that all vengeance must be remitted to God; and that a man must forgive if he will be forgiven of God; yet the people for the most part received it not: they were ever ready to rise, and to fight. For ever when the scribes and Pharisees went about to take Christ, they were afraid of the people. “Not on the holy day,” said they, Matthew 26 “lest any rumor arise among the people”: and, Matthew 21 “They would have taken him but they feared the people”: and Luke 20 Christ asked the Pharisees a question unto which they durst not answer, lest the people should have stoned them.

Last of all: forasmuch as the very disciples and apostles of Christ, after so long hearing of Christ’s doctrine, were yet ready to fight for Christ, clean against Christ’s teaching, (as Peter, Matthew 26 drew his sword, but was rebuked; and, Luke 9 James and John would have had fire to come from heaven to consume the Samaritans, and to avenge the injury of Christ, but were likewise rebuked;) if Christ’s disciples were so long carnal, what wonder is it if we be not all perfect the first day? Yea, inasmuch as we be taught, even of very babes, to kill a Turk, to slay a Jew, to burn an heretic, to fight for the liberties and right of the church, as they call it; yea, and inasmuch as we are brought in belief, if we shed the blood of our even christian, or if the son shed the blood of his father that begat him, for the defense, not of the pope’s godhead only, but also for whatsoever cause it be, yea, though it be for no cause, but that his holiness commandeth it only, that we deserve as much as Christ deserved for us, when he died on the cross; or, if we be slain in the quarrel, that our souls go, nay, fly to heaven, and be there ere our blood be cold: inasmuch, I say, as we have sucked in such bloody imaginations into the bottom of our hearts, even with our mother’s milk, and have been so long hardened therein; what wonder were it, if, while we be yet young in Christ, we thought that it were lawful to fight for the true word of God? Yea, and though a man were thoroughly persuaded that it were not lawful to resist his king, though he would wrongfully take away life and goods; yet might he think that it were lawful to resist the hypocrites, and to rise, not against his king but with his king, to deliver his king out of bondage and captivity, wherein the hypocrites hold him with wiles and falsehood, so that no man may be suffered to come at him, to tell him the truth.

This seest thou, that it is the bloody doctrine of the pope which causeth disobedience, rebellion and insurrection: for he teacheth to fight and to defend his traditions, and whatsoever he dreameth, with fire, water, and sword; and to disobey father, mother, master, lord, king, and emperor; yea, and to invade whatsoever land or nation, that will not receive and admit his godhead: where the peaceable doctrine of Christ teacheth to obey, and to suffer for the word of God, and to remit the vengeance and the defense of the word to God, which is mighty and able to defend it: which also as soon as the word is once openly preached, and testified, or witnessed unto the world, and when he hath given them a season to repent, is ready at once to take vengeance of his enemies, and shooteth arrows with heads dipt in deadly poison at them; and poureth his plagues from heaven down upon them; and sendeth the murrain and pestilence among them; and sinketh the cities of them; and maketh the earth swallow them; and compasseth them in their wiles; and taketh them in their own traps and snares, and casteth them into the pits which they digged for other men; and sendeth them a dazing in the head; and utterly destroyeth them with their own subtle counsel.

Prepare thy mind therefore unto this little treatise; and read it discreetly; and judge it indifferently. And when I allege any scripture, look thou on the text whether I interpret it right: which thou shalt easily perceive by the circumstance and process of them, if thou make Christ the foundation and the ground, and build all on him, and referrest all to him; and findest also that the exposition agreeth unto the common articles of the faith and open scriptures. And God the Father of mercy, which for his truth’s sake raised our Savior Christ up again to justify us, give thee his Spirit, to judge what is righteous in his eyes; and give thee strength to abide by it, and to maintain it with all patience and long-suffering, unto the example and edifying of his congregation, and glory of his name. Amen.