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

GRACE, peace, and increase of knowledge in our Lord Jesus Christ, be with thee, reader, and with all that call on the name of the Lord unfeignedly and with a pure conscience. Amen.

Let it not make thee despair, neither yet discourage thee, O reader, that it is forbidden thee in pain of life and goods, or that it is made breaking of the king’s peace, or treason unto his highness, to read the word of thy soul’s health. But much rather be bold in the Lord, and comfort thy soul: forasmuch as thou art sure, and hast an evident token through such persecution, that it is the true word of God; which word is ever hated of the world, neither was ever without persecution, (as thou seest in all the stories of the Bible, both of the new Testament and also of the old,) neither can be, no more than the sun can be without his light; and forasmuch as contrariwise thou art sure that the pope’s doctrine is not of God, which (as thou seest) is so agreeable unto the world, and is so received of the world; or which rather so receiveth the world and the pleasures of the world, and seeketh nothing but the possessions of the world, and authority in the world, and to bear a rule in the world; and persecuteth the word of God, and with all wiliness driveth people from it, and with false and sophistical reasons maketh them afraid of it; yea, curseth them, and excommunicateth them, and bringeth them in belief that they be damned if they look on it, and that it is but doctrine to deceive men; and moveth the blind powers of the world to slay with fire, water, and sword, all that cleave unto it: for the world loveth that which is his, and hateth that which is chosen out of the world to serve God in the Spirit, as Christ saith to his disciples, John “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but I have chosen you out of the world, and therefore the world hateth you.”

Another comfort hast thou, that, as the weak powers of the world defend the doctrine of the world, so the mighty power of God defendeth the doctrine of God: which thing thou shalt evidently perceive, if thou call to mind the wonderful deeds which God hath ever wrought for his word in extreme necessity, since the world began, beyond all man’s reason, which are written, (as Paul saith, Romans 15) “for our learning, (and not for our deceiving,) that we through patience and comfort of the scripture might have hope.” The nature of God’s word is to fight against hypocrites.

It began at Abel, and hath ever since continued, and shall, I doubt not, until the last day. And the hypocrites have alway the world on their sides; as thou seest in the time of Christ. They had the elders, that is to wit, the rulers of the Jews on their side; they had Pilate and the emperor’s power on their side; they had Herod also on their side: moreover they brought all their worldly wisdom to pass, and all that they could think, or imagine, to serve for their purpose. First, to fear the people withal, they excommunicated all that believed in him, and put them out of the temple; as thou seest, John 9. Secondly, they found the means to have him condemned by the emperor’s power, and made it treason to Caesar to believe in him. Thirdly, they obtained to have him hanged as a thief or a murderer, which, after their belly-wisdom, was a cause above all causes that no man should believe in him: for the Jews take it for a sure token of everlasting damnation, if a man be hanged; for it is written in their law, Deuteronomy 21 “Cursed is whosoever hangeth on tree.” Moses also in the same place commandeth, if any man be hanged, to take him down the same day and bury him, for fear of polluting or defiling the country; that is, lest they should bring the wrath and curse of God upon them. And therefore the wicked Jews themselves, which with so venomous hate persecuted the doctrine of Christ, and did all the shame that they could do unto him, though they would fain have had Christ to hang still on the cross, and there to rot, (as he should have done by the emperor’s law,) yet for fear of defiling their sabbath, and of bringing the wrath and curse of God upon them, begged of Pilate to take him down, John 19 which was against themselves.

Finally, when they had done all they could, and that they thought sufficient, and when Christ was in the heart of the earth, and so many bills and poleaxes about him to keep him down, and when it was past man’s help, then holp God. When man could not bring him again, God’s truth fetched him again. The oath that God had sworn to Abraham, to David, and to other holy fathers and prophets, raised him up again, to bless and save all that believe in him. Thus became the wisdom of the hypocrites foolishness. Lo, this was written for thy learning and comfort.

How wonderfully were the children of Israel locked in Egypt! In what tribulation, cumbrance, and adversity were they in! The land also that was promised them was far off, and full of great cities, walled with high walls up to the sky, and inhabited with great giants; yet God’s truth brought them out of Egypt, and planted them in the land of the giants. This was also written for our learning: for there is no power against God’s, neither any wisdom against God’s wisdom: he is stronger and wiser than all his enemies. What holp it Pharaoh, to drown the men children? So little (I fear not) shall it at the last help the pope and his bishops, to burn our men children; which manfully confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and that there is no other name given unto men to be saved by, as Peter testifieth, Acts, in the fourth chapter.

Who dried up the Red sea? Who slew Goliath? Who did all those wonderful deeds which thou readest in the bible? Who delivered the Israelites evermore from thraldom and bondage, as soon as they repented and turned to God? Faith verily, and God’s truth, and the trust in the promises which he had made. Read the 11th to the Hebrews for thy consolation.

When the children of Israel were ready to despair, for the greatness and the multitude of the giants, Moses comforted them ever, saying, Remember what your Lord God hath done for you in Egypt, his wonderful plagues, his miracles, his wonders, his mighty hand, his stretched out arm, and what he hath done for you hitherto. He shall destroy them; he shall take their hearts from them, and make them fear and flee before you. He shall storm them, and stir up a tempest among them, and scatter them, and bring them to nought. He hath sworn; he is true; he will fulfill the promises that he hath made unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is written for our learning: for verily he is a true God; and is our God as well as theirs; and his promises are with us, as well as with them; and he present with us, as well as he was with them. If we ask, we shall obtain; if we knock, he will open; if we seek, we shall find; if we thirst, his truth shall fulfill our [desire].

Christ is with us until the world’s end. Let his little flock be bold therefore

For if God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us, be they bishops, cardinals, popes, or whatsoever names they will?

Mark this also, if God send thee to the sea, and promise to go with thee, and to bring thee safe to land, he will raise up a tempest against thee, to prove whether thou wilt abide by his word, and that thou mayest feel thy faith, and perceive his goodness. For if it were always fair weather, and thou never brought into such jeopardy, whence his mercy only delivered thee, thy faith should be but a presumption, and thou shouldest be ever unthankful to God and merciless unto thy neighbor.

If God promise riches, the way thereto is poverty. Whom he loveth, him he chasteneth: whom he exalteth, he casteth, down: whom he saveth, he damneth first. He bringeth no man to heaven, except he send him to hell first. If he promise life, he slayeth first: when he buildeth, he casteth all down first. He is no patcher; he cannot build on another man’s foundation.He will not work until all be past remedy, and brought unto such a case, that men may see, how that his hand, his power, his mercy, his goodness and truth, hath wrought altogether. He will let no man be partaker with him of his praise and glory. His works are wonderful, and contrary unto man’s works. Who ever, saving he, delivered his own Son, his only Son, his dear Son, unto the death, and that for his enemies’ sake, to win his enemy, to overcome him with love, that he might see love, and love again, and of love to do likewise to other men, and to overcome them with well doing?

Joseph saw the sun and the moon and the eleven stars worshipping him. :Nevertheless, ere that came to pass, God laid him where he could neither see sun nor moon, neither any star of the sky, and that many years; and also undeserved; to nurture him, to humble, to meek, and to teach him God’s ways, and to make him apt and meet for the room and honor against he came to it; that he might perceive and feel that it came of God, and that he might be strong in the spirit to minister it godly.

He promised the children of Israel a land with rivers of milk and honey; but brought them for the space of forty years into a land, where not only rivers of milk and honey were not, but where so much as a drop of water was not; to nurture them, and to teach them, as a father doth his son, and to do them good at the latter end; and that they might be strong in their spirit and souls, to use his gifts and benefits godly and after his will.

He promised David a kingdom, and immediately stirred up king Saul against him to persecute him; to hunt him, as men do hares with greyhounds, and to ferret him out of every hole, and that for the space of many years; to tame him, to meek him, to kill his lusts [desires]; to make him feel other men’s diseases; to make him merciful; to make him understand that he was made king to minister and to score [serve] his brethren, and that he should not think that his subjects were made to minister unto his [desires], and that it were lawful for him to take away from them life and goods at his pleasure.

Oh that our kings were so nurtured now-a-days! Which our holy bishops teach of a far other manner, saying, Your grace shall take your pleasure; yea, take what pleasure you list, spare nothing; we shall dispense with you; we have power, we are God’s vicars: and let us alone with the realm, we shall take pain for you, and see that nothing be well: your grace shall but defend the faith only.

Let us, therefore, look diligently whereunto we are called, that we deceive not ourselves. We are called, not to dispute, as the pope’s disciples do; but to die with Christ, that we may live with him; and to suffer with him, that we may reign with him. We be called unto a kingdom that must be won with suffering only, as a sick man winneth health. God, is he that doth all things for us, and fighteth for us; and we do but suffer only. Christ saith, “As my Father sent me, so send I you;” John and, “If they persecute me, then shall they persecute you.” ( John 15) And Christ saith, “I send you forth as sheep among wolves.” ( Matthew 10) The sheep fight not; but the shepherd fighteth for them, and careth for them. “Be harmless as doves, therefore,” saith Christ, “and wise as serpents.” The doves imagine no defense, nor seek to avenge themselves.

The serpent’s wisdom is, to keep his head, and those parts wherein his life resteth. Christ is our head; and God’s word is that wherein our life resteth.

To cleave, therefore, fast unto Christ, and unto those promises which God hath made us for his sake, is our wisdom. “Beware of men,” saith he; “for they shall deliver you up unto their councils, and shall scourge you; and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake. The brother shall betray, or deliver, the brother to death, and the father the son; and the children shall rise against father and mother, and put them to death.” Hear what Christ saith more: “The disciple is not greater than his master; neither the servant greater, or better, than his lord. If they have called the good man of the house Beelzebub, how much rather shall they call his household servants so!” And, Luke 14 saith Christ: “Which of you, disposed to build a tower, sitteth not down first and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to perform it? Lest when he hath laid the foundation, and then not able to perform it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to make an end: so likewise none of you, that forsaketh not all that he hath, can be my disciple.” Whosoever, therefore, casteth not this aforehand, ‘I must jeopard life, goods, honor, worship, and all that there is, for Christ’s sake,’ deceiveth himself, and maketh a mock of himself unto the godless hypocrites and infidels. “No man can serve two masters, God and mammon;” that is to say, wicked riches also. Matthew 6. Thou must love Christ above all things: but that doest thou not, if thou be not ready to forsake all for his sake: if thou have forsaken all for his sake, then art thou sure that thou lovest him.

Tribulation is our right baptism; and is signified by plunging into the water. “We that are baptized in the name of Christ,” saith Paul, “are baptized to die with him.”

The Spirit through tribulation purgeth us, and killeth our fleshly wit, our worldly understanding, and belly-wisdom, and filleth us full of the wisdom of God. Tribulation is a blessing that cometh of God, as witnesseth Christ: “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Is not this a comfortable word? Who ought not rather to choose, and desire to be blessed with Christ, in a little tribulation, than to be cursed perpetually with the world for a little pleasure?

Prosperity is a right curse, and a thing that God giveth to his enemies. “Woe be to you rich,” saith Christ, Luke 6 “lo, ye have your consolation: woe be to you that are full, for ye shall hunger: woe be to you that laugh, for ye shall weep: woe be to you when men praise you, for so did their fathers unto the false prophets:” yea, and so have our fathers done unto the false hypocrites. The hypocrites, with worldly preaching, have not gotten the praise only, but even the possessions also, and the dominion and rule of the whole world.

Tribulation for righteousness is not a blessing only, but also a gift that God giveth unto none save his special friends. The apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer rebuke for Christ’s sake. And Paul, in the second epistle and third chapter to Timothy, saith, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution:” and, Philippians 1 he saith, “Unto you it is given, not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for his sake.” 

Here seest thou that it is God’s gift, to suffer for Christ’s sake. And Peter in the fourth chapter of his first epistle saith: “Happy are ye if ye suffer for the name of Christ; for the glorious Spirit of God resteth in you.” Is it not an happy thing, to be sure that thou art sealed with God’s Spirit to everlasting life? And, verily, thou art sure thereof, if thou suffer patiently for his sake. By suffering art thou sure; but by persecuting canst thou never be sure: for Paul, Romans 5 saith, “Tribulation maketh feeling;” that is, it maketh us feel the goodness of God, and his help, and the working of his Spirit. And, the twelfth chapter The Obedience of a Christian Man of the second epistle to the Corinthians, the Lord said unto Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect through weakness.” Lo, Christ is never strong in us till we be weak. As our strength abateth, so groweth the strength of Christ in us: when we are clean emptied of our own strength, then are we full of Christ’s strength: and look, how much of our own strength remaineth in us, so much lacketh there of the strength of Christ. “Therefore,” saith Paul, in the said place in the second epistle to the Corinthians, “very gladly will I rejoice in my weakness, that the strength of Christ may dwell in me.

Therefore have I delectation,” saith Paul, “in infirmities, in rebukes, in need, in persecutions, and in anguish for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong.” Meaning, that the weakness of the flesh is the strength of the Spirit. And by flesh understand wit, wisdom, and all that is in a man before the Spirit of God come; and whatsoever springeth not of the Spirit of God, and of God’s word. And of like testimonies is all the scripture full.

Behold, God setteth before us a blessing and also a curse: a blessing, verily, and that a glorious and an everlasting, if we suffer tribulation and adversity with our Lord and Savior Christ; and an everlasting curse, if, for a little pleasure sake, we withdraw ourselves from the chastising and nurture of God, wherewith he teacheth all his sons, and fashioneth them after his godly will, and maketh them perfect (as he did Christ), and maketh them apt and meet vessels to receive his grace and his Spirit, that they might perceive and feel the exceeding mercy which we have in Christ, and the innumerable blessings and the unspeakable inheritance, whereto we are called and chosen, and sealed in our Savior Jesus Christ, unto whom be praise for ever. Amen.

Finally: whom God chooseth to reign everlastingly with Christ, him sealeth he with his mighty Spirit, and poureth strength into his heart, to suffer afflictions also with Christ for bearing witness unto the truth. And this is the difference between the children of God and of salvation, and between the children of the devil and of damnation: that the children of God have power in their hearts to suffer for God’s word; which is their life and salvation, their hope and trust, and whereby they live in the soul and spirit before God. And the children of the devil in time of adversity fly from Christ, whom they followed feignedly, their hearts not sealed with his holy and mighty Spirit; and get them to the standard of their right father the devil, and take his wages, the pleasures of this world, which are the earnest of everlasting damnation: which conclusion the twelfth chapter to the Hebrews well confirmeth, saying, “My son, despise not thou the chastising of the Lord, neither faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth, him he chastiseth; yea, and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” Lo, persecution and adversity for the truth’s sake is God’s scourge, and God’s rod, and pertaineth unto all his children indifferently: for when he said, he scourgeth every son, he maketh none exception.

Moreover saith the text: “If ye shall endure chastising, God offereth himself unto you as unto sons. What son is it that the Father chastiseth not? If ye be not under correction, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.”

Forasmuch, then, as we must needs be baptized in tribulations, and through the Red sea, and a great and a fearful wilderness, and a land of cruel giants, into our natural country; yea, and inasmuch as it is a plain earnest that there is no other way into the kingdom of life than through persecution, and suffering of pain, and of very death, after the ensample of Christ; therefore let us arm our souls with the comfort of the scriptures: how that God is ever ready at hand, in time of need, to help us; and how that such tyrants and persecutors are but God’s scourge, and his rod to chastise us.

And as the father hath alway, in time of correction, the rod fast in his hand, so that the rod doth nothing but as the father moveth it; even so hath God all tyrants in his hand, and letteth them not do whatsoever they would, but as much only as he appointeth them to do, and as far forth as it is necessary for us. And as, when the child submitteth himself unto his father’s correction and nurture, and humbleth himself altogether unto the will of his father, then the rod is taken away; even so, when we are come unto the knowledge of the right way, and have forsaken our own will, and offer ourselves clean unto the will of God, to walk which way soever he will have us, then turneth he the tyrants; or else, if they enforce to persecute us any further, he putteth them out of the way, according unto the comfortable ensamples of the scripture.

Moreover, let us arm our souls with the promises both of help and assistance, and also of the glorious reward that followeth. “Great is your reward in heaven,” saith Christ, Matthew 5; and, “He that knowledgeth me before men, him will I knowledge before my Father that is in heaven;” and, “Call on me in time of tribulation, and I will deliver thee,” Psalm 50; and, “Behold the eyes of the Lord are over them, that fear him, and over them that trust in his mercy, to deliver their souls from death, and to feed them in time of hunger.” Psalm 33. And in Psalm 34 saith David: “The Lord is nigh them that are The Obedience of a Christian Man troubled in their hearts, and the meek in spirit will he save. The tribulations of the righteous are many, and out of them all will the Lord deliver them. The Lord keepeth all the bones of them, so that not one of them shall be bruised. The Lord shall redeem the souls of his servants.” And of such like consolation are all the psalms full. Would to God when ye read them ye understood them! And, Matthew 10 “When they deliver you, take no thought what ye shall say; it shall be given you the same hour what ye shall say: for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” “The very hairs of your head are numbered,” saith Christ also, Matthew 10. If God care for our hairs, he much more careth for our souls, which he hath sealed with his holy Spirit. Therefore saith Peter, “Cast all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” ( 1 Peter 5) And Paul, 1 Corinthians 10 saith: “God is true, he will not suffer you to be tempted above your might.”

And Psalm 55 “Cast thy care upon the Lord.”

Let thy care be to prepare thyself with all thy strength, for to walk which way he will have thee; and to believe that he will go with thee, and assist thee, and strengthen thee against all tyrants, and deliver thee out of all tribulation. But what way, or by what means he will do it, that commit unto him and his godly pleasure and wisdom, and cast that care upon him.

And though it seem never so unlikely, or never so impossible unto natural reason, yet believe stedfastly that he will do it: and then shall he (according to his old use) change the course of the world, even in the twinkling of an eye, and come suddenly upon our giants, as a thief in the night, and compass them in their wiles and worldly wisdom. “When they cry, Peace and all is safe, then shall their sorrows begin, as the pangs of a woman that travaileth with child:” and then shall he destroy them, and deliver thee, unto the glorious praise of his mercy and truth. Amen.

And as pertaining unto them that despise God’s word, counting it as a fantasy or a dream; and to them also that for fear of a little persecution fall from it, set this before thine eyes; how God, since the beginning of the world, before a general plague, ever sent his true prophets and preachers of his word, to warn the people, and gave them time to repent. But they, for the greatest part of them, hardened their hearts, and persecuted the word that was sent to save them. And then God destroyed them utterly, and took them clean from the earth. As thou seest what followed the preaching of Noe in the old world; what followed the preaching of Lot among the Sodomites; and the preaching of Moses and Aaron among the Egyptians; and that suddenly, against all possibility of man’s wit.

Moreover, as oft as the children of Israel fell from God to the worshipping of images, he sent his prophets unto them; and they persecuted and waxed hard-hearted: and then he sent them into all places of the world captive.

Last of all, he sent his own Son to them, and they waxed more hardhearted than ever before: and see what a fearful example of his wrath and cruel vengeance he hath made of them to all the world, now almost fifteen hundred years.

Unto the old Britons also (which dwelled where our nation doth now) preached Gildas; and rebuked them of their wickedness, and prophesied both to the spiritual (as they will be called) and unto the laymen also, what vengeance would follow, except they repented. But they waxed hardhearted; and God sent his plagues and pestilences among them, and sent their enemies in upon them on every side, and destroyed them utterly.

Mark also, how Christ threateneth them that forsake him, for whatsoever cause it be; whether for fear, either for shame, either for loss of honor, friends, life, or goods. “He that denieth me before men, him will I deny before my Father that is in heaven. He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me.” All this he saith Matthew 10. And in Mark 8 he saith: “Whosoever is ashamed of me, or my words, among this adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed when he cometh in the glory of his Father with his holy angels.”

And Luke 9 also: “None that layeth his hand to the plough, and looketh back, is meet for the kingdom of heaven.”

Nevertheless yet, if any man have resisted ignorantly, as Paul did, let him look on the truth which Paul wrote after he came to knowledge. Also, if any man clean against his heart (but overcome with the weakness of the flesh), for fear of persecution, have denied, as Peter did, or have delivered his book, or put it away secretly; let him (if he repent,) come again, and take better hold, and not despair, or take it for a sign that God hath forsaken him. For God ofttimes taketh his strength even from his very elect, when they either trust in their own strength, or are negligent to call to him for his strength. And that doth he to teach them, and to make them feel, that in that fire of tribulation, for his word’s sake, nothing can endure and abide save his work, and that strength only which he hath promised. For the which strength The Obedience of a Christian Man he will have us to pray unto him night and day, with all instance.

That thou mayest perceive how that the scripture ought to be in the mother tongue, and that the reasons which our spirits make for the contrary, are but sophistry and false wiles to fear thee from the light, that thou mightest follow them blindfold, and be their captive to honor their ceremonies, and to offer to their belly:

First, God gave the children of Israel a law by the hand of Moses in their mother tongue; and all the prophets wrote in their mother tongue, and all the psalms were in the mother tongue. And there was Christ but figured, and described in ceremonies, in riddles, and parables, and in dark prophecies. What is the cause that we may not have the old Testament, with the new also, which is the light of the old, and wherein is openly declared, before the eyes, that which there was darkly prophesied? I can imagine no cause verily, except it be that we should not see the work of antichrist and juggling of hypocrites. What should be the cause that we, which walk in the broad day, should not see as well as they that walked in the night; or that we should not see as well at noon, as they did in the twilight? Came Christ to make the world more blind? By this means Christ is the darkness of the world, and not the light, as he saith himself.

Moreover Moses saith, Deuteronomy “Hear, Israel; let these words which I command thee this day stick fast in thine heart, and whet them on thy children, and talk of them as thou sittest in thine house, and as thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up; and bind them for a token to thine hand, and let them be a remembrance between thine eyes, and write them on the posts and gates of thine house.”

This was commanded generally unto all men. How cometh it that God’s word pertaineth less unto us, than unto them? Yea, how cometh it, that our Moseses [the Catholic Chrch] forbid us, and command us the contrary; and threaten us if we do, and will not that we once speak of God’s word? How can we [know] God’s word (that is, to put it in practice, use and exercise) upon our children and household, when we are violently kept from it and know it not? How can we (as Peter commandeth) give a reason of our hope; when we [know] not what it is that God hath promised, or what to hope? Moses also commandeth in the said chapter, if the son ask what the testimonies, laws, and observances of the Lord mean, that the father teach him. If our children ask what our ceremonies (which are more than the Jews’ [traditions] were) mean; no father can tell his son. And in the eleventh chapter he repeateth all again, for fear of forgetting.

They will say haply, the scripture requireth a pure mind and a quiet mind; and therefore the lay-man, because he is altogether cumbered with worldly business, cannot understand them. If that be the cause, then it is a plain case that our prelates understand not the scriptures themselves: for no layman is so tangled with worldly business as they are. The great things of the world are ministered by them; neither do the lay-people any great thing, but at their assignment. ‘If the scripture were in the mother tongue,’ they will say, ‘then would the lay-people understand it, every man after his own ways.’ Wherefore serveth the curate, but to teach him the right way? Wherefore were the holy days made, but that the people should come and learn? Are ye not abominable schoolmasters, in that ye take so great wages, if ye will not teach? If ye would teach, how could ye do it so well, and with so great profit, as when the lay -people have the scripture before them in their mother tongue? For then should they see, by the order of the text, whether thou jugglest or not: and then would they believe it, because it is the scripture of God, though thy living be never so abominable. Where now, because your living and your preaching are so contrary, and because they grope out in every sermon your open and manifest lies, and smell your unsatiable covetousness, they believe you not when you preach truth. But, alas! the curates themselves (for the most part) [know] no more what the new or old Testament meaneth, than do the Turks: neither know they of any more than that they read at mass, matins, and evensong, which yet they understand not: neither care they, but even to mumble up so much every day, as the pie and popinjay speak, they [know] not what, to fill their bellies withal. If they will not let the lay-man have the word of God in his mother tongue, yet let the priests have it; which for a great part of them do understand no Latin at all, but sing, and say, and patter all day, with the lips only, that which the heart understandeth not.

Christ commandeth to search the scriptures. John 5. Though that miracles bare record unto his doctrine, yet desired he no faith to be given either to his doctrine, or to his miracles, without record of the scripture.

When Paul preached, Acts 17 the other searched the scriptures daily, whether they were as he alleged them. Why shall not I likewise see, whether it be the scripture that thou allegest? Yea, why shall I not see the scripture, and the circumstances, and what goeth before and after; that I may know The Obedience of a Christian Man whether thine interpretation be the right sense, or whether thou jugglest, and drawest the scripture violently unto thy carnal and fleshly purpose; or whether thou be about to teach me, or to deceive me?

Christ saith, that there shall come false prophets in his name, and say that they themselves are Christ; that is, they shall so preach Christ that men must believe in them, in their holiness, and things of their imagination, without God’s word: yea, and that Against-Christ, or Antichrist, that shall come, is nothing but such false prophets, that shall juggle with the scripture, and beguile the people with false interpretations, as all the false prophets, scribes, and Pharisees did in the old testament. How shall I know whether ye are that Against-Christ, or false prophets, or no, seeing ye will not let me see how ye allege the scriptures? Christ saith, “By their deeds ye shall know them.” Now when we look on your deeds, we see that ye are all sworn together, and have separated yourselves from the lay-people, and have a several kingdom among yourselves, and several laws of your own making; wherewith ye violently bind the lay-people, that never consented unto the making of them. A thousand things forbid ye, which Christ made free; and dispense with them again for money: neither is there any exception at all, but lack of money. Ye have a secret council by yourselves.

All other men’s secrets and counsels know yet and no man yours. Ye seek but honor, riches, promotion, authority, and to reign over all, and will obey no man. If the father give you ought of courtesy, ye will compel the son to give it violently, whether he will or not, by craft of your own laws. These deeds are against Christ.

When a whole parish of us hire a schoolmaster to teach our children, what reason is it that we should be compelled to pay this schoolmaster his wages, and he should have license to go where he will, and to dwell in another country, and to leave our children untaught? Doth not the pope so? Have we not given our tithes of courtesy unto one, for to teach us God’s word; and cometh not the pope, and compelleth us to pay it violently, to them that never teach? Maketh he not one parson, which never cometh at us? Yea, one shall have five or six, or as many as he can get, and [does not know] oftentimes where never one of them standeth. Another is made vicar, to whom he giveth a dispensation to go where he will, and to set in a parish priest, which can but minister a sort of dumb ceremonies. And he, because he hath most labor and least profit, polleth on his part; and setteth here a mass-penny, there a trental, yonder dirige-money, and for his beadroll, with a confession-penny and such like. And thus are we never taught, and are yet nevertheless compelled; yea, compelled to hire many costly schoolmasters. These deeds are verily against Christ. Shall we therefore judge you by your deeds, as Christ commandeth? So are ye false prophets, and the disciples of Antichrist, or Against-Christ.

The sermons which thou readest in the Acts of the apostles, and all that the apostles preached, were no doubt preached in the mother tongue. Why then might they not be written in the mother tongue? As, if one of us preach a good sermon, why may it not be written? Saint Jerom also translated the bible into his mother tongue: why may not we also? They will say it cannot be translated into our tongue, it is so rude. It is not so rude as they are false liars. For the Greek tongue agreeth more with the English than with the Latin. And the properties of the Hebrew tongue agreeth a thousand times more with the English than with the Latin. The manner of speaking is both one; so that in a thousand places thou needest not but to translate it into the English, word for word; when thou must seek a compass in the Latin, and yet shall have much work to translate it well-favoredly, so that it have the same grace and sweetness, sense and pure understanding with it in the Latin, and as it hath in the Hebrew. A thousand parts better may it be translated into the English, than into the Latin. Yea, and except my memory fail me, and that I have forgotten what I read when I was a child, thou shalt find in the English chronicle, how that king Adelstone caused the holy scripture to be translated into the tongue that then was in England, and how the prelates exhorted him thereto. Moreover, seeing that one of you ever preacheth contrary to another; and when two of you meet, the one disputeth and brawleth with the other, as it were two scolds; and forasmuch as one holdeth this doctor, and another that; one followeth Duns, another St Thomas, another Bonaventure, Alexander de Hales, Raymond, Lyre, Brygot, Dorbel, Holcot, Gorram, Trumbett, Hugo de Sancto Victore, De Monte Regio, De Nova Villa, De Media Villa, and such like out of number; so that if thou hadst but of every author one book, thou couldst not pile them up in any warehouse in London, and every author is one contrary unto another. In so great diversity of spirits, how shall I know who lieth, and who sayeth truth? Whereby shall I try and judge them?

Verily by God’s word, which only is true. But how shall I that do, when thou wilt not let me see scripture?

Nay, say they, the scripture is so hard, that thou couldst never understand it but by the doctors. That is, I must measure the [yardstick] by the cloth.

Here be twenty cloths of divers lengths and of divers breadths: how shall I be sure of the length of the meteyard by them? I suppose, rather, I must be first sure of the length of the meteyard, and thereby measure and judge of the cloths. If I must first believe the doctor, then is the doctor first true, and the truth of the scripture dependeth of his truth; and so the truth of God springeth of the truth of man. Thus antichrist turneth the roots of the trees upward. What is the cause that we damn some of Origen’s works, and allow some? How know we that some is heresy and some not? By the scripture, I [think]. How know we that St Augustine (which is the best, or one of the best, that ever wrote upon the scripture) wrote many things amiss at the beginning, as many other doctors do? Verily, by the scriptures; as he himself well perceived afterward, when he looked more diligently upon them, and revoked many things again. He wrote of many things which he understood not when he was newly converted, ere he had thoroughly seen the scriptures; and followed the opinions of Plato, and the common persuasions of man’s wisdom that were then famous.

They will say yet more shamefully, that no man can understand the scriptures without philautia , that is to say, philosophy. A man must be first well seen in Aristotle, ere he can understand the scripture, say they.

Aristotle’s doctrine is, that the world was without beginning, and shall be without end; and that the first man never was, and the last shall never be; and that God doth all of necessity, neither careth what we do, neither will ask any accounts of that we do. Without this doctrine, how could we understand the scripture, that saith, God created the world of nought; and God worketh all things of his free will, and for a secret purpose; and that we shall all rise again, and that God will have accounts of all that we have done in this life! Aristotle saith, Give a man a law, and he hath power of himself to do or fulfill the law, and becometh righteous with working righteously. But Paul, and all the scripture saith, That the law doth but utter sin only, and helpeth not: neither hath any man power to do the law, till the Spirit of God be given him through faith in Christ. Is it not a madness then to say, that we could not understand the scripture without Aristotle? Aristotle’s righteousness, and all his virtues, spring of man’s free will. And a Turk, and every infidel and idolater, may be righteous and virtuous with that righteousness and those virtues. Moreover, Aristotle’s felicity and blessedness standeth in avoiding of all tribulations; and in riches, health, honor, worship, friends, and authority; which felicity pleaseth our spiritualty well. Now, without these, and a thousand such like points, couldst thou not understand scripture, which saith, That righteousness cometh by Christ, and not of man’s will; and how that virtues are the fruits and the gift of God’s Spirit; and that Christ blesseth us in tribulations, persecution, and adversity! How, I say, couldst thou understand the scripture without philosophy, inasmuch as Paul, in the second to the Colossians, warned them to ‘beware lest any man should spoil them’ (that is to say, rob them of their faith in Christ) ‘through philosophy and deceitful vanities, and through the traditions of men, and ordinances after the world, and not after Christ?’

By this means, then, thou wilt that no man teach another; but that every man take the scripture, and learn by himself. Nay, verily, so say I not.

Nevertheless, seeing that ye will not teach, if any man thirst for the truth, and read the scripture by himself, desiring God to open the door of knowledge unto him, God for his truth’s sake will and must teach him.

Howbeit, my meaning is, that as a master teacheth his apprentice to know all the points of the [yardstick]; first, how many inches, how many feet, and the half-yard, the quarter, and the nail; and then teacheth him to [measure] other things thereby: even so will I that ye teach the people God’s law, and what obedience God requireth of us to father and mother, master, lord, king, and all superiors, and with what friendly love he commandeth one to love another; and teach them to know that natural venom and birth-poison, which moveth the very hearts of us to rebel against the ordinances and will of God; and prove that no man is righteous in the sight of God, but that we are all damned by the law: and then, when thou hast meeked them and feared them with the law, teach them the testament and promises which God hath made unto us in Christ, and how much he loveth us in Christ; and teach them the principles and the ground of the faith, and what the sacraments signify: and then shall the Spirit work with thy preaching, and make them feel. So would it come to pass, that as we know by natural wit what followeth of a true principle of natural reason; even so, by the principles of the faith, and by the plain scriptures, and by the circumstances of the text, should we judge all men’s exposition, and all men’s doctrine, and should receive the best, and refuse the worst. I would have you to teach them also the properties and manner of speakings of the scripture, and how to expound proverbs and similitudes. And then, if they go abroad and walk by the fields and meadows of all manner doctors and philosophers, they could catch no harm: they should discern the poison from the honey, and bring home nothing but that which is wholesome.

But now do ye clean contrary: ye drive them from God’s word, and will let no man come thereto, until he have been two years master of art. First, they nosel them in sophistry, and in benefundatum . And there corrupt they their judgments with apparent arguments, and with alleging unto them texts of logic, of natural philautia, of metaphysic, and moral philosophy, and of all manner books of Aristotle, and of all manner [of doctrines] which they yet never saw. Moreover, one holdeth this, another that; one is a Real, another a Nominal. What wonderful dreams have they of their predicaments, universals, second intentions, quiddities, hoecceities, and relatives; and whether species fundata in chimera be vera species; and whether this proposition be true, Non ens est aliquid ; whether ens be oequivocum , or univocum . Ens is a voice only, say some. Ens is univocum , saith another, and descendeth into ens creatum , and into ens increatum , per modos intrinsecos . When they have thiswise brawled eight, ten, or twelve or more years, and after that their judgments are utterly corrupt, then they begin their divinity; not at the scripture, but every man taketh a sundry doctor; which doctors are as sundry and as divers, the one contrary unto the other, as there are divers fashions and monstrous shapes, none like another, among our sects of religion. Every religion, every university, and almost every man, hath a sundry divinity. :Now whatsoever opinions every man findeth with his doctor, that is his gospel, and that only is true with him; and that holdeth he all his life long: and every man, to maintain his doctor withal, corrupteth the scripture, and fashioneth it after his own imagination, as a potter doth his clay. Of what text thou provest hell, will another prove purgatory; another limbo patrum ; and another the assumption of our lady: and another shall prove of the same text that an ape hath a tail. And of what text the gray friar proveth that our lady was without original sin, of the same shall the black friar prove that she was conceived in original sin. And all this do they with apparent reasons, with false similitudes and likenesses, and with arguments and persuasions of man’s wisdom. Now there is no other division or heresy in the world save man’s wisdom, and when man’s foolish wisdom interpreteth the scripture. Man’s wisdom scattereth, divideth, and maketh sects; while the wisdom of one is that a white coat is best to serve God in, and another saith a black, and another a gray, another a blue; and while one saith that God will hear your prayer in this place, another saith in that place; and while one saith this place is holier, and another that place is holier; and this religion is holier than that; and this saint is greater with God than that; and an hundred thousand like things. Man’s wisdom is plain idolatry: neither is there any other idolatry than to imagine of God after man’s wisdom. God is not man’s imagination; but that only which he saith of himself. God is nothing but his law and his promises; that is to say, that which he biddeth thee to do, and that which he biddeth thee believe and hope. God is but his word, as Christ saith, John 8 “I am that I say unto you;” that is to say, That which I preach am I; my words are spirit and life.

God is that only which he testifieth of himself; and to imagine any other thing of God than that, is damnable idolatry. Therefore saith the hundred and eighteenth psalm, “Happy are they which search the testimonies of the Lord;” that is to say, that which God testifieth and witnesseth unto us.

But how shall I that do, when ye will not let me have his testimonies, or witnesses, in a tongue which I understand? Will ye resist God? Will ye forbid him to give his Spirit unto the lay as well as unto you? Hath he not made the English tongue? Why forbid ye him to speak in the English tongue then, as well as in the Latin?

Finally, that this threatening and forbidding the lay people to read the scripture is not for the love of your souls (which they care for as the fox doth for the geese), is evident, and clearer than the sun; inasmuch as they permit and suffer you to read Robin Hood, and Bevis of Hampton, Hercules, Hector and Troilus, with a thousand histories and fables of love and wantonness, and of ribaldry, as filthy as heart can think, to corrupt the minds of youth withal, clean contrary to the doctrine of Christ and of his apostles: for Paul saith, “See that fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, be not once named among you, as it becometh saints; neither filthiness, neither foolish talking nor jesting, which are not comely: for this ye know, that no whoremonger, either unclean person, or covetous person, which is the worshipper of images, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” And after saith he, “Through such things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of unbelief.” Now seeing they permit you freely to read those things which corrupt your minds and rob you of the kingdom of God and Christ, and bring the wrath of God upon you, how is this forbidding for love of your souls?

A thousand reasons more might be made, as thou mayest see in Paraclesis Erasmi , and in his preface to the Paraphrase of Matthew , unto which they should be compelled to hold their peace, or to give shameful answers. But I hope that these are sufficient unto them that thirst the truth.

God for his mercy and truth shall well open them more, yea, and other secrets of his godly wisdom, if they be diligent to cry unto him; which grace grant God. Amen.


Visit William Tyndale's main page HERE