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BRIEFLY COMPREHENDING THE SUM AND CONTENTS THEREOF VERY PROFITABLE AND NECESSARY TO BE READY OF ALL TRUE CHRISTEN MEN. Drawn out by M. Coverdale, Anno. 1545.
Suffer afflictions as good and fearful sowdgars of Jesus Christ.
Syeng the life of man, as but a battle or Warfare upon the earth. EPHESIANS 6 <490601> Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. And put on the armor of God, that ye may stand stedfast against the crafty assaults of the devil. For ye must not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against rule, against power, and worldly rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness, for heavenly things. 2CORINTHIANS 10 <471001> Let not your weapons pertaining to this battle be carnal things, but mighty in God, able to cast down strong holds and overthrow the imagination of man, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity all understanding to the obedience of Christ our Lord and God. [This Treatise, as the title expresses, is an abridgement of a small work of Erasmus, entitled, ďEnchiridion militis Christiani, saluberrimis praeceptis refertum, authore D. Erasmo Roterodamo, cui accessit nova mireque utilis Praefatio;Ē but divested of much of its controversial and learned matter, and retaining all which is most spiritual and practical in the original. This edition is printed from a copy of Bishop Coverdaleís work belonging to the Library of Sion College, London.] THE SUM OF THE PROLOGUE.
The preface, prologue, or long epistle, written to the right virtuous and sage Father, Paulus Wolzius, (whom Almighty God even now this last year hath delivered out of this wretched world,) declareth evidently, that though some men have even married themselves to the vain pastimes and pleasures of the world, yet God through adversity (as his accustomed manner is) nurtureth and teacheth his own, chasteneth them, and calleth them to a christian life. To the furtherance whereof, like as every one of us is bound to bestow all his labor and study, so is not he to be cast away, that being weak and frail, not only desireth to be virtuous, but also is fervent in learning the way of godliness; whereof they are the best teachers, that, avoiding the tediousness of huge and great volumes, do instruct men rather to live godly, than to waste their hours in long and vain disputations. For how few soever they be that give themselves to sound doctrine, yet the fear of God, the fruit whereof is eternal salvation, appertaineth unto all men. Neither doth any man attain so nigh unto wisdom, as he that is in love withal, and appeareth not so much learned himself, as he is studious to allure all others (yea, as well friend as foe, as well Turk as Christian,) to godliness; and is not himself overcome with evil, but rather overcometh evil with good. For as it is a christian manís part to save, and not to destroy, so hath the same right true and effectual divinity subdued more people in times past to the kingdom of Christ, than any other artillery, weapon, or ordnance of war. Yea, like as our most cruel enemies may be mollified and won with benefits and kindness, when we seek nothing so much as their health; even so, in seeking their destruction, we may sooner turn into Turks ourselves, than that we shall cause them to become christian men.
Now to consider the corruption of this world, and how far it is out of frame; the darkness, the troublous ruffling, the great tyranny, avarice, and iniquity thereof unpunished; how cold men are in charity, and how greatly given to ambition and lucre; who, lamenting the same, doth not see thousands of occasions for us all to take better hold of Christís doctrine, and to have recourse thereunto? Specially considering, that the cruel Philistines prevail so greatly, and cease not, even now in our time, to stop it up, wringing and wresting it to their filthy purposes; yea, babbling and carping so sore against it, that from fear men dare not drink the living water thereof, but must be fain to take such corrupt liquor as come out of their all-to broken cisterns, even earthly things for heavenly, pelfary of menís inventions instead of Godís holy commandments: which trifles yet shall easily of themselves vanish away, if the light of faith be so kindled in our minds, that we lose not the rule and pattern of Christís love and charity. And doubtless, it shall further the gospel most notably, if they that teach it do excel in the knowledge and life thereof; and if princes, establishing no laws for their own pleasure, delight more to reform their people with mercy than with cruelty, rather to defend them than to oppress them. As for princes, they should without doubt use less oppressing of their people, less warring one against another, and less shedding of blood, if bishops and priests that be about them were not readier to flatter them, than they are sincerely to instruct them in Christís doctrine; which as it manifestly rebuketh covetous Pharisees, hypocrites, and proud rich folks, so doth it openly teach us to do good, and to be meek and gentle of mind even to our enemies. Now though princes make many laws, whereof Christ is not the author, yet as they are to be obeyed when they command that which is just and right, so is it best to suffer them, even when they be evil. As touching the common people, though their estate be low, their understanding gross and weak, and they of devil bound to obey; yet forasmuch as they pertain to the mystical body of Christ, they must be nourished, forborne, and cherished after a fatherly manner, until they wax more strong in Christ. For every one is not like perfect in the kingdom of God. Wherefore he that is called to more excellent of gifts, ought, after the manner of the highest elements, to draw others unto him, and to help, that his inferiors may be transformed into his nature, and not, under the pretense and cloak of virtue, to disagree from the learning of Christ, which is the only mark every man ought to shoot at, and in no wise to change it; to enforce himself to come as often as he can: which, as it is the highest perfection allowed of God, so consisteth it not in the manner or kind of living, not in garments, meats, or drinks, but in the affections and mind.
And like as there is no estate of living, but there be some dangers whereinto it may fall; so ought no man to be displeased, but rather to take it in right good worth, when he is warned thereof: neither is he a condemner of other men, that faithfully sheweth them their duty. And yet can there nothing be free from the cavillation of lewd persons; but whatsoever is spoken, yea, even to the praise of virtue against vice, that same is taken in the most, and judged of them to be of a wrong and sinistral opinion. Yea, of so corrupt and perverse judgments are some, that they count it, even in priests, to be but a small vice, which is most abominable; and also esteem it to be an high virtue, which hath but only the visor and appearance of godliness; thinking themselves better for the ceremonies, rules, and trifles of menís invention, and yet having no conscience at all to slander other men. Neither need men to fear, that the reproving of such abuses doth either subvert religion, or hinder true obedience. For whomsoever the Holy Ghost inspireth, is of his own accord, without any manner of compulsion, ready to obey, yea, even those rulers that be sharp and rough; who nevertheless should no more abuse the obedience of their inferiors, than any man should make his liberty a cloak or cover to his carnal living: which though some do, yet ought not other men therefore to be locked, as Jews, in the bondage of ceremonies.
For the more a man is religious, and given unto true godliness, the less he yieldeth to the ceremonies of menís invention; wherein if no man were snared till he were of perfect experience, then, like as the fewer should be deceived, even so doubtless, according to the desire of all them that be good, the religion of the gospel should be so pleasant unto every man that they should be heartily well content therewith without any other.
And reason it is, that all things give place to the glory of Christ; wherewith Moses rejoiced, that his own honor was defaced and minished, like as also the religions of men should be, if they that profess the gospel did live thereafter. For as they whom we now call religious are nothing like them of the old time, but drowned in hypocrisy and worldly business, yea, nothing better than other temporal men, save only in appearance; even so shall the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience be better kept of him that observeth the profession of holy baptism, than they be of them.
The rest is then, that seeing the confidence in ourselves is most dangerous, we neither disdain them that be feeble, nor foolishly stand in our own conceit, for no diversity of living from other men: but rather, following the counsel of Christ, let us even from our hearts confess, when we have done our best, that ďwe are but unprofitable servants.Ē And to the intent that we may be obedient unto Christ himself, let us be ready, not only to hear them that call us unto him, but also to tolerate and suffer the evil; nevertheless in such sort, that if they command things wicked and contrary to the doctrine of Christ, we rather obey God than men.
THE FIRST CHAPTER.
HOW WE MUST WATCH AND LOOK ABOUT US ALWAYS WHILE WE BE IN THIS LIFE.
Whoso will escape the danger of sin, and prosperously go forward in the way of godliness, must alway consider that this life of man is a perpetual warfare; and must be circumspect, that the world with his delusions and flattering pleasures juggle not his mind from watching, or make him too a careless, as though he had already conquered his enemies. Who, considering that they be so many, as namely, the wicked and crafty devils above us, the world afore and behind us, yea, on the right hand and on the left, as well shaking the wall of our souls with the guns of adversity, as prompting us unto evil with his vain promises; not only because the slippery and crafty serpent layeth a wait, even by our own affections and sensuality to entice and draw our minds unto mortal and deadly pleasures, but also, while we ourselves bear about with us the old earthy Adam, our own most perilous enemy; considering, I say, we have so many deadly enemies, ought we not therefore still to be weaponed and alway to watch?
Why sleep we then so fast, giving ourselves to idleness, to pleasure, to revellings, as though we should rather live in banqueting than in warfare against such enemies? Why will we rather make truce with vice and sin, than with God, with whom the wicked can have no peace, namely, they that not only take part with sin, but unkindly also and wickedly break their appointment made with him? Have we not in holy baptism professed and bound ourselves to fight faithfully ever under the standard of Christ our captain, to whom we owe more than we have to pay? Do not the badges and signs of baptism in us testify, that we are sworn unto him never to forsake him? Whereof the name of Christ also ought to put us in remembrance. Why are we then such renegades, that we not only take part against him which bestowed his own life for us; but do it also in a filthy quarrel, to obtain no other reward than the very death of our souls? If in these mad wars of men the miserable soldiers do jeopard their lives, are pricked and stirred up into courage through the greatness of the pay, through the comfort of the captain, through the cruelness of the enemies, through shame of cowardice, or desire of praise; how much more then should the hope of reward kindle us to have lusty stomachs, when he that shall quit our pain, if we win the field, beholding us, doth not only comfort us in our labors and travails, while we are yet fighting, but also giveth us such reward as excelleth all the senses and wits of man, even blessed immortality and heaven itself! The hope of which reward should by reason inflame the quick courage of gentle stomachs, seeing he that hath promised can never lie nor deceive. And considering he beholdeth us that seeth all things, like as very shame of cowardice at the least way should move us to be lusty in this battle; even so, forasmuch as to be praised of him is very felicity, why jeopard we not our lives to have this praise?
Seeing now we are so circumspect in avoiding the dangers and death of the body, why perceive we not the death of the soul, which is much more cruel? Now even as the body is out of temper when it will keep no meat, so when the word of God seemeth bitter unto us, if our mind rise up against it; if our memory keep it not; if we think not upon it, nor work thereafter; if our soul grudge, or be weak and faint to work the deeds of mercy, to suffer trouble or loss; if the eyes of our mind be waxen so dim, that they see not the clear light of the truth; if our inward ears hear not the voice of God; summa, if we lack all our inward feeling and perceiving of the knowledge of God, it is an evident token, not only that our soul is crazed, but also dead; because God, which is the life thereof, is away. For feeling is a token of life; and like as the body is not alive, if he feel not the pricking of a pin, even so when we are wounded in our soul, and have committed evil, [if] it grieve us not, then is not our soul alive, but dead.
For the which cause also Christ called the Pharisees painted sepulchres, namely, because they bare dead souls about with them. Wherefore, considering that the bodies of good men are the temple of the Holy Ghost, and forasmuch as according to the gospel the mouth speaketh out of the abundance of the heart, no doubt we would speak the lively words of God and work his deeds, if he, our life, were present within our hearts.
Thus, though we fight in strange and wonderful jeopardies, with many violent and subtle adversaries, yet have we causes sufficient to be of good comfort; for though our enemies be grievous, yet have we present help at hand. Though they be many against us, what matter is it, when God is on our side? If he stay us, who can cast us down? As for our enemy, he is no new soldier, but one that was overcome many years agone, and overthrown by the might of Jesus Christ; and he shall now also be subdued in us by the same power, if we, as lively members, remain in Christ our head. For though we be not strong in our own strength, yet in him we shall be able to do all things. If the end and victory of our war depended of fortune, then might we doubt thereof; but it is certain and sure, namely, in the hands of our protector, whose benignity never faileth man.
Wherefore, if we being thankful unto him, that for our salvation first oppressed the tyranny of sin; if we be not careless nor negligent, but with all diligence do our part again, and be of good comfort, we, I say, fighting in this manner, do follow his ensample; neither bearing us to hold upon the grace of God, as they do that be careless, neither casting away the confidence of mind, as do they that mistrust his mercy; then, through his strength, we shall be sure in conclusion to win the field.
THE SECOND CHAPTER.
WHAT MEANS ARE TO BE USED IN THE WAR OF A CHRISTIAN MAN.
Whereas nothing pertaineth more to the war of a christian man, than to know with what weapons he must fight, and to have the same always ready at hand; even so, considering the adversary is never idle, we ought not to cease from war; but if we will fight against the multitude of vices, we ought alway to watch, to have our mind armed, and to take the weapons of defense; but specially to provide us of two, namely, prayer and knowledge, which be the chief armor of a christian man. Perfect prayer lifteth up the mind unto God; knowledge armeth the mind with wholesome precepts and honest opinions. These two cleave so together, that the one cannot lack the other: for as the one maketh intercession, so the other teacheth how we ought to pray, namely, in the name of Jesu; and what we ought to desire, even that which is wholesome for our soulís health. Now though prayer be more excellent, because she talketh familiarly with Almighty God, yet is knowledge no less necessary: which as it ought not to be imperfect, so ought not prayer to be faint, slack, or without quickness; neither can we well perform the great journey that we have to go, without the aid and help of these two means. The use of prayer is not to mumble and babble much, as they do that are not ripe in Godís Spirit. For five words spoken in knowledge are better than ten thousand babbled with the mouth. Neither is it the noise of our lips, but the fervent desire of the mind, that God alloweth. Which fervent prayer, with like study or meditation of the holy scripture, is able as well to put aback the great violence of our enemies, as to make easy our grievous adversity. If we with this heavenly manna and food of God be refreshed in the furtherance of our journey, it shall make us bold and strong to buckle with our enemies. For the doctrine of God, as it only is pure and undefiled, contrary to the nature of menís doctrines; even so to them that, spiritually understanding it, may abide the hearing thereof, there is nothing sweeter nor more pleasant, and therefore the more worthy to be searched and well pondered. This is the river of comfort, the fountain of ease, the well that refresheth the weary, the water of Siloe, where the blind receive their sight: to the study whereof if we apply ourselves wholly, that is, if we exercise our minds continually in the law of God, we shall be so armed, that we need not to fear any assault of our enemies.
Touching the heathen poets and philosophers, if we taste of them measurably, so that we wear not old nor die in them, they are not utterly to be disallowed. Yea, whatsoever they teach well, ought no more to be despised, than was the counsel of Jethro, whom Moses followed. As for such as write uncleanly, we ought either not to touch them, or else not to look too far in them. To be short, all manner of learning should be tasted in due season and measure, with good judgment and discretion, under the correction of Christís doctrine; so that the wisdom of God be above all other, our best beloved, our dove, our sweetheart: which may not be touched, but with clean and washen hands, namely, with high pureness of mind and due reverence. For so coming unto it, we shall see the pleasures, delicacies, and dainties of our blessed spouse, the precious jewels of rich Solomon, even the secret treasure of eternal wisdom. Wherefore, considering the verity of God neither deceiveth, nor is deceived, we ought to give more credit thereunto, than to anything that we do bodily either see or hear.
As considering the interpreters of the holy scripture, we ought not to choose them that teach to brawl and contend, but such as go farthest from the letter; whose godliness and holy life is known, whose learning is more plenteous, and whose exposition is most agreeable to Godís word. Now as we ought to grow unto perfectness and strength in the knowledge thereof, and not still to be children; even so, if we will have it to be savory unto us and to nourish us, we must not read without understanding, as cloisters do, but break the rod, and taste of the sweetness therein; specially considering, that as it is the spirit and not the flesh that quickeneth, so will the Father of heaven be worshipped in the spirit, and not in the bark of the letter. Wherefore though we should not despise the weak, yet ought we to make speed unto more secret mysteries, and to stir up ourselves thereunto by often prayer, till it please God through his Son Jesus Christ to open it that yet is shut unto us.
Now to our purpose: if we, wandering through all doctrines, pick and choose out the best, and by the example of the bee refuse the poison, and suck out only the wholesome and sweet juice, it shall arm our minds the better to a virtuous conversation. But that divine harness, which with no weapon can be pierced, is fetched only out of the armory of holy scripture, wherewith our David, Christ Jesus, brake the forehead of our adversary.
Wherefore if we list to go unto the store-house of Godís scripture, we shall there find the true armor of this war, valiant in God not only to destroy fortresses, and counsels, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the doctrine of God; but also to resist in the day of adversity, and to quench all the hot and fiery weapons of our cruel enemy. Such weapons or armor of light, though we be the refuse and outcasts of the world, hath Almighty God given us, to make us stout and lusty in his wars. For in his armory find we the harness of justice and verity, ďthe buckler of faith, the helmet of health, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:Ē wherewith if we be diligently covered and fenced, there shall no tribulation, straitness, hunger, nakedness, persecution, etc., separate us from the love of God. Such armor, I say, shall holy scripture minister abundantly unto us, if we occupying our time therein do use the same wisely.
THE THIRD CHAPTER.
HOW THAT THE FIRST POINT OF WISDOM IS A ZEAL TO KNOW HIMSELF, OF TWO MANNER OF WISDOMS, THE TRUE AND THE APPARENT.
If we thus war now, intending to obtain the peace which Christ only giveth, we must strongly fight against our own vices, with whom God, our only peace and felicity, is at variance. Of the which felicity they are utterly void, yea, very wretches, filthy and unhappy, that, lying still in the night of ignorance and foolishness, are destitute of his wisdom. If we be wise, we shall be conquerors of the enemy. Wherefore, like as worldly wisdom is foolishness before God, even so if we be wise in him, it ought not to dismay us, when the world judgeth us to be fools, to be deceived, to doat, and to be mad bedlames, because we intend to depart towards Christ. Is not this a miserable blindness, sore to be mourned, when in trifles and things of no value, yea, unto filthiness, and in evil only, we are clear witted, and in things concerning salvation, and in goodness, not to have much more understanding than brute beasts? O how good a thing is it to have knowledge, to be willing to learn and to be obedient unto the truth!
Contrariwise, a very cruel thing is it to lack knowledge; yea, as he is good for nothing which hath no wisdom, so is it a worse thing to disdain to learn. But to withstand and impugn the truth is worst of all, and farthest from grace; namely, when we despise the wisdom of God, and think scorn to be taught of it. For the which cause he himself shall utterly forsake them, and rejoice in their destruction. For to count it madness, when one liveth godly, is a very beastly and devilish wisdom; after the which followeth presumption, blindness of mind, rage and tyranny of affections, and finally, the whole heap of all vices, and liberty to do what one listeth, yea, custom of sin, dazing of the wits, bodily death, and afterward death everlasting. Thus we see that the mother of extreme mischief is worldly wisdom.
But contrariwise, of the wisdom of God come all good things, specially soberness, meekness, the secret joy of a clear conscience, which vanisheth not away, but groweth to eternal gladness and mirth. This wisdom must we require only of God, with fervent prayer, out of the veins of holy scripture. The chief part of it is to know ourselves, which we shall do the better, if we well consider what we be inward and within our skins.
THE FOURTH CHAPTER.
OF THE OUTWARD AND INWARD MAN.
Almighty God made man at the first of diverse parts, coupled with blessed concord; but the serpent, the enemy of peace, put them asunder again with unhappy discord, sowing the poison of dissension between them that were honestly agreed: insomuch that now neither the mind can rule the body without business, neither will the body obey without grudging. For whereas in man there should be such an order, that like as in a prosperous commonalty, for avoiding of debate and strife, the wisest bear most rule, and the subjects obey their officers; this original decree of nature and first example of honesty notwithstanding, the order in man is so troubled, that the subjects will not obey the prince; yea, the corrupt affections and appetites of the flesh strive to be more master than reason itself: which unquiet affections whoso overcometh, the same liveth a blessed life, mounting up to celestial things, and as a king endowed with wisdom, willing and purposing to do nothing amiss, nothing against the judgment of reason, nothing inordinately, nothing frowardly, nothing corruptly.
THE FIFTH CHAPTER.
OF THE DIVERSITY OF AFFECTIONS.
The eternal law, which God hath created in the right reason of man, teacheth him to abhor all corrupt affections, and not to live after them; which thing even the heathen philosophers do also confess. Now, as we are bound surely to know what motions we be most inclined unto, so ought we to understand, that through right reason (which is the power of Godís holy Spirit) the most violent of them may either be repaired, or else turned into virtue. Truth it is, that as some man is more prone unto virtue than some, either by reason of the influence of the celestial bodies, or else of our progenitors, or else of the bringing up in youth, or of the complexion of the body; even so some vices follow the countries, some the complexion of the body, some the age of man; some be appropriated unto kind; and sometime an evil disease of the man is recompensed with another certain contrary good gift or property. As for the vices that are nighest unto virtues, we must amend them and turn them into that virtue which they most nigh resemble. For let a man that is soon provoked unto anger refrain his mind, and he shall be nothing faint-hearted, but bold, yea, and free of speech without dissimulation. The niggard, by the exercise of reason, shall be thrifty and a good husband; the flatterer shall through moderation be courteous and pleasant; the obstinate may be constant, solemnness may be turned to gravity, one full of foolish toys may become a good companion. But in any wise must we beware, that we put not the name of virtue to any manner of vice; as to call cruelty justice, envy zeal.
The way then to felicity is, first, to know ourselves; secondly, to do all things after the judgment of reason, whose mouth must not be out of taste, but without corruption. Now as there is no greater reward than felicity; even so that which unto our only strength is hardest of all to do, is most easy, if we look unto God our helper. Wherefore if we, grounding ourselves upon a sure promise of a perfect life, do forthwith set upon it, and go lustily unto it, no doubt we shall be able to bring it to pass; for to be willing to be a christian man is a great part of Christianity. And though the beginning of a thing be never so hard, yet the way of virtue in process doth wax easy. Shall beasts be more ready to be tamed than we in our minds? Shall we, for the health of our bodies, be ruled by the counsel of a physician, being a man, and not master of our own affections, at the commandment of God himself, to have a quiet conscience all our whole life? Shall we do more to save our bodies from sickness, than to deliver both body and soul from eternal death?
THE SIXTH CHAPTER.
OF THE TWO PARTS OF MAN PROVED BY HOLY SCRIPTURE.
A shame it is, that in this war men be so rude and unexercised, that they know not the diversity between reason and affections. For that the philosophers call reason, the same doth St Paul sometime call the spirit, sometime the inward man, sometime the law of the mind. That they call affection, calleth he sometime the flesh, sometime the body, sometime the outward man, the law of the members, and the body of death. And thus our war is peace, life, and liberty of the soul; but death and bondage of the flesh with all his lusts. Now whereas Plato put two souls in one man, f117 St Paul in one man maketh two men so coupled together, that neither without other can be either in heaven or hell; and again so separated, that the death of the one must be the life of the other. This is the old debate between the two twins, Jacob and Esau, which, or ever they come to light, wrestle together within their motherís womb. Between these two brethren is never joined perfect concord. For Esau hateth Jacob, who, having Esau ever suspected, dare not come within his danger. Which thing should teach us to suspect our own sensual flesh, and alway to eschew the counsel thereof. Yea, meet is it and convenient, that the woman be obedient to the husband, that Isaac be more set by than Ismael, that grace increase, and tyranny of the flesh minish. For when carnal affections wear old, then springeth up the blessed tranquillity of an innocent mind, and sure quietness of the spirit. Let no Ismael therefore, the child of the flesh, deceive us with his pastime and pleasures; but let our Isaac always suspect him, and flee the occasions of sin. For full wild is the flesh; so that the trouble thereof is expedient to the exercise of virtue, to the custody of humility, to nurture us, and to teach us, when we are tempted, first to desire help of God; secondly, that if we be his, no temptation can be dangerous unto us; and finally, against all vain-glory, against so wild and manifold affections to be ever still wrestling. For by such victory we shall be sure of the blessing of God, and obtain grace to be at another time much more surely armed against our enemies; namely, if we halt not on both sides, but lean more to the Spirit of God than to our own carnal affections; which if we manfully subdue unto the end, we shall be sure after these troublous storms to have true quietness, even to see the Lord, to taste and feel how sweet and pleasant he is, and to obtain eternal consolation in him.
THE SEVENTH CHAPTER.
OF THE THREE PARTS OF MAN.
Man, after the mind of Origen, is made of three parts. The first part is the flesh, wherein the malicious serpent through original trespass hath written the law of sin, whereby we be provoked unto filthiness and coupled unto the devil, if we be overcome. The second part is the spirit, wherein we represent the similitude of the nature of God; who after the eternal law of his own mind hath graven therein the law of honesty, whereby we be knit into God, and made one with him. The third part is the soul, partaker of the sensible wits and natural motions, which if she, forsaking the flesh, cleave unto the spirit, becometh spiritual; but if she follow the corrupt affections of the flesh, then joineth she herself unto an harlot, and is made one body with her that, being an evil, strange, flattering, foolish, and babbling woman, breaketh her promise, and forsaketh the husband of her youth. Wherefore if we incline unto the spirit, it maketh us not only blessed, religious, obedient, kind and merciful; but also teacheth us to desire celestial and necessary, pure, perfect, and godly things, to obey God more than men, and though some affections be disguised with visors of virtue, yet not to be deceived with them. If we incline to the flesh, it maketh us beasts, despisers of God, disobedient, unkind, and cruel; yea, and causeth us to desire delicate, pleasant, and filthy things. The rule of true godliness therefore is to lean so nigh unto the spirit, that for any good inclination or virtue we ascribe nothing to ourselves; that we do nothing for our own pleasure or advantage; that for observing of outward things we judge not ourselves better than other men; that we regard more our neighborsí necessity, and be readier to help them, than to keep menís traditions; that our love be chaste and spiritual, and that nothing be so dear unto us as Christ himself.
THE EIGHTH CHAPTER.
CERTAIN GENERAL RULES OF CHRISTIAN LIVING.
Now to guide and convey us out of the blind errors of this world unto the pure and dear light of spiritual living, we must of virtue and godliness make even a craft and occupation; the rules whereof if we do follow and manfully exercise ourselves therein, the Holy Ghost shall bring our purpose forward. These precepts shall do us much good against blindness, against the flesh, and against our own weakness, namely, three evils, that proceeding of original sin remain still in us, to nurture us, and for the increase of virtue. For whereas blindness, cankered with corrupt and evil bringing up, lewd company, froward affections, darkness of vices, and with custom of sin, dimmeth the judgment of reason; so that in the election of things we be deceived, and instead of the best follow the worst: the first point is therefore, that we have knowledge to discern what is to be refused or clean abolished, and what is to be accept. Secondly, whereas the flesh draweth us to inordinate affections, we must hate that which we know to be evil, and love that which is honest, wholesome and good. Thirdly, whereas infirmity overcometh us, either with tediousness or temptation, we must be of good courage, and so continue in the things which we have well begun, that we faint not, and that after we have set our hand to the plough, we look not backward, until we have obtained the crown promised.
THE NINTH CHAPTER.
AGAINST THE EVIL OF IGNORANCE.
THE FIRST RULE.
The first rule must be, that we so judge both of Christ and of his holy scripture, that we be sure how that it greatly pertained to our health, and that though the world be against it, yet nothing that we perceive with our natural senses is or can be so true as it there is read in the scripture, inspired of God himself, brought forth by so many prophets, approved with the blood of so many martyrs, with the consent of all good men so many hundred years, with the doctrine and life of Christ himself, with so many oracles, etc.; which scripture is so agreeable to the equity of nature, and every where so like itself, so ravisheth, reneweth, and altereth the minds of them that take heed thereunto; yea, and telleth of so many great, wonderful, and true things, that if we oft consider the same, it shall stir us up unto more ferventness, both of faith, prayer, and virtue; being sure, that as the reward of vice and of these momentary pleasures is both vexation of mind and eternal punishment, so unto good men shall be given an hundredfold joy of a pure conscience, and finally, everlasting life.
THE TENTH CHAPTER.
THE SECOND RULE.
As the first rule is then, not to doubt in the promises of God, so is the second rule, that we enter in the way of salvation gladly, boldly, and with a good courage; that we be alway ready for Christís sake to lose both life and goods; that we be not negligent, but fervent; that we suffer not the affections of our lovers, the pleasures of this world, the care of our household, the chain of worldly business, to hold us back from the kingdom of heaven. For we must forsake Egypt, that we turn not again to the flesh-pots thereof; so haste out of Sodom, that we look not back; so flee out of Babylon and from the vices thereof, that we do it speedily, without prolonging of the time; that we trust no longer to ourselves, but commit us wholly unto the Lord; that we serve him altogether, and no other master, that we halt not on both legs. For the Lord is so jealous over our souls, that he will have all that he hath redeemed with his blood, and cannot suffer the fellowship of the devil, whom he once overcame by his death. So be there but two ways only, the one of salvation, the other of perdition. The strait way is that we must walk, whereinto though few do enter, yet must we consider, that we are as much bound as other men to lead a christian life, to take Christís cross upon us, and to follow him. For if it belong unto us to live with Christ, and to rise again to eternal life; then belongeth it also unto us to die with him, and to be crucified with him, as touching the world, sin, and carnal desires. Which as it is a hard thing and known unto few, so is it the common and general profession of all christian men, sworn and promised in baptism, the most holy and religious vow of all. And though there be never so few that perfectly follow the head, yet must we all enforce ourselves to come thereto. For of all christian men they are the best, that with stedfast heart and purpose are still minded so to be.
THE ELEVENTH CHAPTER.
THE THIRD RULE.
The third rule is, that we utterly despise and count for thing of nought whatsoever would force us from the way of virtue and of Christ. Which as it is of all other lives the most commodious, so even at the first ceaseth it to be sharp, and in process is made easier, pleasant, and delectable; whereby we go with sure hope, and that without labor, to eternal felicity: whereas these mad men of the world, with their own extreme labor, purchase eternal death. Now though the way of godliness were much more laborious than the way of the world, yet the hope of reward and the comfort of God assuageth the tediousness thereof, and of bitter maketh it sweet. But in the way of the world one care and sorrow springeth of another without any quietness. For nothing is filthier or more laborious than the bondage of Egypt, nothing more grievous than the captivity of Babylon, nothing more intolerable than the yoke of Pharao and Nebuchodonosor. But Christís yoke is pleasant, his burthen is light.
Summa, there lacketh no pleasure where a quiet conscience is; no misery, where an unquiet conscience crucifieth the mind. They that out of the vices of Babylon are converted unto the Lord, have experience hereof, and can tell us, that nothing is more grievous than vice, nothing more easy, more cheerful, or more comfortable than is virtue. Nevertheless, though both the reward and labors of virtue and vice were like, yet were it better to be vexed with Christ, than to swim in pleasure with the devil; which is so filthy, cruel, and deceitful a master, that every man should flee out of his service, wherein is nothing but grievous labor in purchasing, sorrow and thought in losing, yea, many thousand jeopardies, miserable care, perpetual torment, mischance, labor spent in vain, much grief of heart and mind. But whoso endeavoreth himself with sure purpose to come from a vicious world to a good conversation in Christ, obtaineth that he seeketh, changeth trifles with things of more value, yea, silver for gold, flint for precious stone; findeth better friends, for outward pleasures and riches of the body enjoyeth such as be inward, better, purer, and more certain. So that his loss shall be turned to advantage, adversity to solace, rebuke to praise, vexation to comfort, bitter things to sweet, evil to good.
THE TWELFTH CHAPTER.
THE FOURTH RULE.
The fourth rule is, that we have none other mark and ensample of living, save only Christ: who is nothing else save charity, simplicity, innocency, patience, cleanness, and whatsoever himself taught; to whom we direct our journey, if we be so given only unto virtue, that we love and desire nothing but either Christ, or else for Christ; hating, abhorring, flying, and avoiding nothing but only sin, or else for sinís sake. And thus if our eye be pure, all our body shall be bright; for that whatsoever honest or indifferent thing we take in hand, it shall turn to our wealth. As for filthy things, neither advantage; nor punishment should make us to commit them. Mean things, verily, and indifferent ought no further to be desired than they are profitable to a christian living. As for example, conning or learning must be loved for Christís sake; so that when we know him and the secrets of his scripture, we love him in such sort, that opening him unto other, we both take fruit of him ourselves; and if we have knowledge of other sciences, we use them all to his honor. For better is it to have less knowledge and more love, than much to know, and not to love. Thus every thing, so far forth as it helpeth most unto virtue, ought chiefly to be applied. But rather ought we to lack them, than that they should hold us back from Christ; unto whom we ought to haste so fervently, that we should have no leisure to care for other things, whether they be given us, or taken away from us; but even to use the world as though we used it not. After this rule if we examine all our studies and acts, then like as having a craft or occupation, we will not labor to defraud our neighbors, but to find our households and to win them unto Christ; even so, when we fast, pray, or use any such like, we shall not do it for any carnal purpose, but proceed on still, till we come unto Christ, neither going out of the way, nor hoping or suffering any thing that shall not minister unto us some occasion of godliness.
THE THIRTEENTH CHAPTER.
THE FIFTH RULE.
The fifth rule is, that we count it perfect godliness alway to apply ourselves to ascend from things visible to things invisible: which if we do not, then are we no true honorers of God, but plain superstitious. And yet, being strangers in this visible world, whatsoever offereth itself to our sensible powers, we considering it, ought to apply the same either to the world angelical, or else to manners, even unto God, and to the invisible portion of ourselves. And thus the thing that we perceive by our sensible wits shall be unto us an occasion of godliness. Yea, by the light of this visible sun we shall learn that great is the pleasure of the inhabitants of heaven, upon whom the eternal light of God is ever shining: and likewise, by the dark night we shall think how horrible it is, a soul to be destitute of the light of God; and that if the beauty of the body be pleasant, the beauty of the soul is much more honest. For the less feeling we have in things transitory and of the body, and the less we are moved therewith, the more sweetness we find in things pertaining to the Spirit, and the better are we acquainted with things eternal; to the love whereof we ought to arise from things temporal, and in comparison of the other even to despise them, and more to fear the disease, poison, and death of the soul than of the body, flee the wrath of God more than any thunder or lightning. The mystery therefore in all things ought to be looked upon, as well when we consider the outward creatures and works of God, as in the study of his holy scriptures: the spirit whereof, and not the bare letter, must specially be searched out, and the allegories handled, not dreamingly or unfruitfully, neither with subtle disputations, (after the manner of our divines that are too much addict to Aristotle,) but well favoredly, after the ensample of the old doctors. For inasmuch as it is the Spirit that giveth life and liberty, therefore in all manner letters, and in all our acts, we must have respect to the Spirit and fruits thereof, and not to the flesh and his fruits; wishing rather to be privily allowed in the sight of God, than openly in the sight of man; rather to worship God in spirit and verity, than otherwise; rather to eat Christís flesh and drink his blood spiritually, than only with the mouth: rather to be quickened, and to have life in the Spirit, than, hanging St Johnís gospel or an Angus Dei about our necks, to rejoice in any carnal thing, where the Spirit is not present; rather to be one spirit with the Spirit of Christ, to be one body with his, to be a quick member of his church, than without fruit to say or hear many masses; rather to have a clean and sunny mind, and to study to walk with Christ in new life, than to have the body washed, touched with salt, anointed, or sprinkled with holy water; rather to represent and follow the virtuous and blessed doctrine of saints, yea, to counterfeit Christ in them, than to rejoice in touching their relics, to honor their bones, or to be buried in a grey friarís coat; rather to express the lively and very image of Christ, set forth in his own doctrine and living, than to creep to the cross, or to have at home a piece of the wood that it was made of; rather to ascend to more perfectness of the Spirit, to grow in perfect love and charity, and to offer an humble and contrite heart unto God, than to have confidence in carnal things, or superstitious ceremonies, traditions, and inventions of men; rather to do the things that the eyes of God require, than to please the eyes of men; rather to procure the quietness and innocency of the mind, and to seek the nourishment thereof by the true hearing, seeing, and feeling of the word of God on the soul, than by the outward senses of the body; rather with inward medicines to heal the hurts of the soul, and by the wings of love to fly up to the Spirit, than, creeping on the ground with unclean beasts, to be still unlearned in the mysteries of Christ, or to be destitute of the sweet liquors that cometh of him.
THE FOURTEENTH CHAPTER.
THE SIXTH RULE.
The sixth rule is, that varying as much as possible both from the deeds and opinions of the common sort of men, we fit the example of godliness at none, save only at Christ himself, the only true pattern and form of living, the only true path and right high-way. For like as are the opinions wherewith our minds be instructed, such are also our manners and conversation. And therefore christian men, in bringing up their children, should chiefly care, that even from the cradle they be christianly persuaded; and not to learn to sing filthy or wanton songs, to wall or wring their hands for the loss of worldly goods, to recompense evil for evil: for tow is not readier to catch fire than man is disposed unto vice; which chiefly proceedeth of evil opinions, when instead of a sweet thing we embrace that which is sour, and when for it that might do us good we follow our own damage or loss. Wherefore, considering that the common sort of people and their manners now-a-days be most corrupt, and seeing there is no worse author of living than they be; forasmuch, I say, as the flock of good men is but small, yea, vice more regarded than virtue; no estate, no opinion, no name or person of man should move us to tread one path from Christís truth, or from the life of virtue; whereof now-a-days men are more ashamed than were the heathen in times past: yea, to be a right christian man is accounted every where a very vile thing; so vain is the world, and in so great reputation have they it, to be born of noble blood, to be rich, to have their pleasures, to be strong and valiant, to be praised of the world, to be accounted worldly-wise; when in very deed the chiefest nobility of all is to be the child of God, the chiefest riches is to possess him in whom are all things; the chiefest pleasure of all is so to delight in Christ, that we be moved with the love of none other lust; the chiefest strength is, when a man hath so overcome himself, that he can find in his heart to despise all injuries, to recompense good for evil, to pray for them that curse him; the chiefest praise of all is, for godlinessí sake to be mocked and laughed at of evil men, and to be approved of Christ; the chiefest wisdom of all is, to be circumspect in providing for the life to come. Summa, we must not conform ourselves to this world, but so alter our minds, that we hearken and approve not what is the will of men, but what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God. For if we move not the eyes of our heart from Christ, but follow his verity, we shall not go out of the way. If we walk after his light, so that it shine unto us, we shall neither stumble in darkness, nor fall into the blind errors, opinions, or sects of the world.
THE FIFTEENTH CHAPTER.
OPINIONS MEET FOR A CHRISTIAN MAN.
This excellent learning then of Christ must be established in us, that we think us not to be born unto ourselves, but to the honor of God and wealth of all men: so that, loving him again which bestowed himself on us altogether for our redemption, we also for his sake love other men, and abhor their vices; having not only respect to their need, and what we are able to do for them, but also remembering the manifold causes, that by reason should move us to love them, to tender them, to be at one with them, and not to account them as strangers, or to hate them for any alteration of vesture, or of any such trifle; yea, in no wise to despise them, but esteeming their hurt our own; to consider that, whatsoever we have received, it is given us to bestow upon them, and to increase in edifying of them in charity. This learning will induce men to desire no vengeance, but to be the sons of their Father in heaven, to overcome evil with good, to suffer hurt rather than to do it, to forgive other menís offenses, to be gentle in manners; if they be cunning, to forbear and amend the ignorance of the unlearned; if they be rich, to be circumspect in distributing the goods that God hath given them; in poverty, to be as well content as other men; in office, to be more careful and diligent in considering their charge, in noting the manners of evil persons, yet not to despise the profession of virtue; in laboring for a common office, or in executing of the same, to do it alway for the profit of the common, and not for their own singular wealth, being ready, even with the loss of their own life and goods, to defend that which is right; being loth to have pre-eminence, which if it chance unto them, yet to think that they also have a Lord and Master in heaven, even Jesus Christ, and that no man is bound to follow his doctrine more straitly than they; that he will of no man ask more strait accounts than of them; that they lean not to their own wills; that they flatter not themselves in evil; that their manners be such as deserve riches, honor, reverence, dignity, favor, and authority; that they themselves be not guilty in the offenses which they do punish in others; that they despise no man in comparison of themselves; that in bearing rule they would not so much to excel as to profit all men; that they turn not to their own profit the things which are common, but bestow that they have, yea, and themselves also, upon the commonwealth; that in their titles of honor they refer all such things unto God; that in ministering their office they fetch not example of their predecessors or of flatterers, but only of Christ; that they be ready rather to lose their dominions than Christ, who hath a far better thing to give them. For nothing is so comely, so excellent, so glorious to kings, princes, and rulers, as in similitude to draw nigh unto the highest, greatest, and best king, even Jesus Christ; instead of violence to exercise charity, and to be minister unto all men. In conclusion, we must so cleave unto the learning of Christ, and be so circumspect therein, that we cloak not our own vices with other menís faults. For though holy men have sometime done anything not to be followed, (as David, when he committed adultery and murder; Solomon, when he had so many queens and concubines; Noe, when he was drunken; Lot, when he lay with his own daughters; Mary Magdalene, when she sinned so sore; Peter, when he denied the Lord; Paul, when he persecuted the church of God;) yet ought we to do nothing that varieth from Christ; but as we have been like other men in sin, so should we be companions and partners also with them that repent and turn unto God. And as for other menís deeds, we ought not churlishly so much to bark against them, neither with cruelness to fear them, as with softness and apt means to amend them, and allure them unto Christ.
THE SIXTEENTH CHAPTER.
THE SEVENTH RULE.
The seventh rule is, that studying diligently to draw on still as nigh as we can to the beholding of heavenly things, we turn our minds so fervently thereunto, that the very love of Christ cause us to hate all transitory and filthy things, which shall wear the more vile unto us, the more we set by things invisible. Therefore ought we so to press unto the best, that though we be not so perfect in all things as we should, our mind yet be not defiled with grievous offenses, but more receivable of the benefits of God. And though we cannot do so well as holy and blessed men have done before us, yet let us commit no worse things than the heathen, who, though they had no perfect knowledge of God, yet was honesty dearer unto them than either fame, goods, life, or any thing else in the world. And doubtless it shall notably withdraw us from sin, if we ponder well in our minds the incommodities thereof, as infamy, poverty, loss of goods, wasting of time, the hate of good men, grief of mind, miserable unquietness of conscience, with thousands more such like inconveniences. Wherefore better it is that our youth believe this to be the property of sin, than with woeful experience to learn it in themselves. And though we cannot attain to the most excellent virtue, yet shall it profit much, if we, being but in civil or moral virtues, run not headlong into all kind of vices. Notwithstanding, forasmuch as that is not the resting-place and quiet haven of felicity, but a shorter journey thereunto, we must pray still unto God, that he will vouchsafe to pluck us up to better things.
THE SEVENTEENTH CHAPTER.
THE EIGHTH RULE.
The eighth rule, that when the storm of temptation riseth against us, we be not discontented with ourselves, as though God cared not for us, or favored us not; but rather give him thanks, because he instructeth us [as] his own heirs, chasteneth us as his own most singularly beloved children, and proveth us as his own assured friends: which is a token that he loveth us, as he did the apostle Paul, blessed Job, and other holy saints, who, being both great and many, have suffered troubles as well as we.
Why should we then be discouraged, or fall in despair; and not rather do our best to overcome, as they did, considering that we have a faithful God, that will not forsake us, nor suffer us to be tempted above our strength, but make us able to endure?
THE EIGHTEENTH CHAPTER.
THE NINTH RULE.
The ninth rule is, that our mind be alway watching and circumspect against the sudden assault of our enemy; that his temptation, suggestion, and first motion unto sin may be holden down at the beginning, while it is fresh, and be put back to his confusion. For more easily or more surely is he never overcome, than by that means.
THE NINETEENTH CHAPTER.
THE TENTH RULE.
The tenth rule is, that whatsoever the enemy tempteth us, we straightway either hate, abhor, and defy him; or else pray fervently, or get us to some holy occupation, setting our whole minds thereupon; or else to answer the tempter with words of holy scripture: whereof to have some certain sentences ready against those inconveniences that we are most inclined unto, is very profitable in all temptations.
THE TWENTIETH CHAPTER.
THE ELEVENTH RULE.
The eleventh rule is, that in temptation we neither give up our hold, neither, when we are comforted, wax wanton, or stand in our own conceits; but when our enemy stirreth us unto filthy things, to behold not our own feebleness, but to remember that we may do all things in Christ, who biddeth us be of good cheer, for he hath overcome the world. Again, when we have overcome our enemy, or done some good work, we must beware that we ascribe nothing thereof to our own merits, but thank only the free benevolence of God, of whom we receive all things. Thus against this double mischief we shall find double remedies, if we not only in temptation, despairing in our own strength, and trusting in the benevolence of Christ, do flee for succor unto him, but also in our spiritual consolation, humbly confessing our own unworthiness, immediately give him thanks for his benefits.
THE TWENTY-FIRST CHAPTER.
THE TWELFTH RULE.
The twelfth rule is, that when we have avoided the stroke of our enemy, we take his weapon from him, and smite him with his own sword; so that when we are provoked unto evil, we do not only abstain from sin, but thereof also take an occasion of virtue, grow stronger in courage, know our own weakness the better, increase the more in good deeds, and humble ourselves the more in all things. And thus shall temptations be ever the renewing of our holy purpose, and increase of godliness and virtuous living: thus shall we not only vanquish our enemy, but if he begin with us again afresh, he himself shall minister unto us an occasion of godliness.
THE TWENTY-SECOND CHAPTER.
THE THIRTEENTH RULE.
The thirteenth rule is, that in the conflict and battle we be bold and behave ourselves so manfully, as though we should never fight more.
THE TWENTY-THIRD CHAPTER.
THE FOURTEENTH RULE.
The fourteenth rule is, that we favor not ourselves in any one vice, be it never so small. For if we with christian hatred abhor one, we must needs abhor all. Yea, if true, charity have once possessed our hearts, we shall indifferently hate the whole host of evil things, and not flatter ourselves so much as in the least. For though we cannot as yet pluck up the whole generation of vices, nevertheless we must alway, day by day, withdraw somewhat of our evil conditions, and be ever adding something to good manners.
THE TWENTY-FOURTH CHAPTER.
THE FIFTEENTH RULE.
The fifteenth rule is, that in the conflict of temptation we compare not only the bitterness of the fight with the pain which followeth the sin, but also the present sweetness of the sin that enticeth us with the pleasure of the victory hereafter, and with the tranquillity of mind that followeth the same. For as, if we be overcome, there followeth us a more painful and longer grief than we should have had in time of fight, if we had won the victory; even so, if we be conquerors, there followeth us a more great and longer pleasure than was it that carried us into sin, which was overcome.
Which thing he shall lightly judge that hath had experience of both.
Wherefore, if we prove sometime what it is to overcome, the oftener we do it, the more pleasant shall the victory be unto us.
THE TWENTY-FIFTH CHAPTER.
THE SIXTEENTH RULE.
The sixteenth rule is, to have our minds so armed aforehand, that though we be fallen into sin and overcome, we yet despair not, but take thereby occasion of greater courage to wrestle more strongly, to come again quickly to ourselves, to take a good heart unto us, to repair again the rebuke and shame of the fall with new courage and lustiness of virtue, after the ensample of David, Solomon, Peter, Paul, etc., whom God no doubt suffered to fall, lest we, after we are fallen, should despair.
Wherefore, if we rise up quickly with a lusty courage, and go to it afresh, both fiercer and more circumspect, our deadly offenses shall grow in us to a living of godliness, while we love more fervently, that erred afore most shamefully.
THE TWENTY-SIXTH CHAPTER.
THE SEVENTEENTH RULE.
The seventeenth rule is, that against all manner weapons and darts of our most wicked enemy we cast the cross of Christ, and exercise ourselves diligently therein; not after the common manner slenderly, repeating the story of his passion, or honoring the image of the cross, or with a thousand signs of it arming all our body round on every side, or laying up at home some piece of that holy tree, or weeping for sorrow that Christ suffered so great wrong; but, as lively members of our head, to mortify our own affections, and so recording the mystery of the cross, that if we be tickled with ambition, ashamed to be set at nought in this world, tempted with envy, with gluttony, with filthy pleasure, with covetousness, we consider to what vileness Christ our head humbled himself; how kind, loving, and good he is, even to the worst; how he drank eysil and gall; how full of temptation and grief all his whole life was; how poor he became for our sakes. Thus in all temptations shall it not be grievous, but pleasant and delectable unto us, to have oppressed our own affections.
THE TWENTY-SEVENTH CHAPTER.
THE EIGHTEENTH RULE.
The eighteenth rule is, that when any affection moveth us to iniquity, we consider the filthiness of sin and the great dignity of man. For seeing that in other trifles we take advisement with ourselves, reason it were that, or ever we consent unto the fiend, we pondered well this most weighty matter, who made us, in how excellent a state we are set, with how exceeding great price we are bought, to how great felicity we are called, how that for manís sake only God hath forged the marvelous building of this world, brought us into the company of angels, made us his own children, heirs of immortality, members of Christ and of his church, our bodies the temple of the Holy Ghost, our minds the images and habitation of God. On the other side, to consider, that sin is the most filthy pestilence and consumption both of the mind and body, even the deadly poison of the most filthy serpent, and the prest wages of the devilís most miserable service. This, if we take good advisement, we shall see, it were not wisely done, for a momentary and poisoned little short pleasure of sin, to fall from so great dignity into so vile estate.
THE TWENTY-EIGHTH CHAPTER.
THE NINETEENTH RULE.
The nineteenth rule is, that we still have in mind the eternal beneficence of God, and the wicked noisomeness of the devil; namely, with what goodness Almighty God hath made us, with what mercy redeemed us, with what liberty endued us, with what tenderness he daily suffereth and sustaineth us wretched sinners, patiently looking for our amendment; with what joy he receiveth us, when we turn again: contrarily, with how natural hate and envy the cruel father of all mischief did long ago lay wait to our health, into what grievous temptation he hath cast us, imagining daily to draw us into eternal mischief. Thus being mindful of Almighty God and his manifold benefits, we shall not unkindly depart from so noble, so loving, and so beneficial a Father, to make ourselves willfully bound unto the devil, that most filthy and cruel master.
THE TWENTY-NINTH CHAPTER.
THE TWENTIETH RULE.
The twentieth rule is, that we forget not, but alway remember, what great difference is between the reward of virtue and the reward of sin; yea, even in this world are the fruits of them unlike. For like as the end of faith is eternal salvation in heaven, and the reward of sin is everlasting death in hell; even so here in this life godliness bringeth tranquillity and quietness of mind, even a blessed joy of pure and clean conscience, a thing more precious and pleasant than all the world: and contrariwise, a perpetual grief, unquietness, and gnawing of the mind, with a thousand other evils, accompanieth sin and wickedness even in this life.
THE THIRTIETH CHAPTER.
THE TWENTY-FIRST RULE.
The one-and-twentieth rule is, that we consider how full of grief and misery, how short and transitory, this present life is; how on every side death lieth in wait against us, and suddenly catcheth us; how unsure we are of one moment of life; how great peril it is to continue that kind of life, wherein if sudden death should take us, as it often fortuneth, we were but lost for ever.
THE THIRTY-FIRST CHAPTER.
THE TWENTY-SECOND RULE.
The two-and-twentieth rule is, that we, fearing the extreme mischief of impenitency, ponder well, how few of them which have prolonged their lives in iniquity, be truly converted from sin and with due repentance reconciled unto God again. Therefore is it meet that we, being monished, do remember how easy it is to fall into sin, but hard to turn back again.
THE THIRTY-SECOND CHAPTER.
REMEDIES AGAINST CERTAIN VICES; AND FIRST, AGAINST BODILY LUST.
TO resist the lust of the body if we will be well weaponed, we must consider the incommodities thereof; namely, how filthy and beastly it maketh us, how momentary and bitter it is, how it pulleth us from our good name and fame, consumeth our goods, killeth the strength and beauty of the body, decayeth and hurteth health, causeth innumerable and filthy diseases, disfigureth youth, hasteth age, dulleth the wit and sight of the mind, withdraweth us from all honest studies, taketh away the use of reason. Likewise by the hurt that we have seen other have through their voluptuous pleasures, should we learn to avoid the same; and as well by the ensamples of them that are virtuous, as by the great commodities of chastity, to be pure and clean, both in body and mind: considering to how many vain offices they be subject, that put their heads under the girdle of filthy lust; how it is alway coupled with those sins that be greatest, and most in number; how this life vanisheth away faster than smoke; how many that follow such things are taken away by sudden death; how sharp the extreme judgment of God is; how the joy of a pure mind is much sweeter than the pleasure of sin; how great benefits the Lord hath heaped upon us, and all to make us refrain from deadly and mortal pleasures; how he alway beholdeth us, whatsoever we do or think; how greatly obstinacy and frowardness of mind springeth of bodily lust; what great sorrow followeth thereafter; how the more that we are consecrated unto God, yea, the more learned we be, and the more we have received of his gifts, the more unmeet and the more shame it is for us to abuse ourselves, what estate or kind soever we be of.
THE THIRTY-THIRD CHAPTER.
A SHORT RECAPITULATION OF REMEDIES AGAINST THE FLAME OF LUST.
In conclusion, if we will be sure from the enticings of lust, we must be circumspect, avoiding all occasions; moderate in eating, drinking, and sleeping; abstain from pleasures, regard our own death, behold the death of Christ, live with such as be uncorrupted, eschew the communication of wanton persons, flee idle solitariness and sluggish idleness, exercise ourselves in the meditation of celestial things and honest studies, specially of holy scripture, giving ourselves oft and purely unto prayer, most of all when we be tempted.
THE THIRTY-FOURTH CHAPTER.
AGAINST THE VICE OF AVARICE TO resist the vice of covetousness, we must call to remembrance the dignity of the estate of man, to the use whereof Almighty God hath created all things. And though we possess riches, yet must we despise them: yea, so far must we be from all carefulness of our living, that we cloak not our covetousness with the name of necessity; but first seek the kingdom of heaven, and be sure that he, which maketh provision for the lilies of the field and birds of the air, will not suffer us to lack. And as we must abhor willful begging, even so, possessing money, we must set no store thereby, nor love it, but be faithful dispensers of it, and of all that God hath committed unto us: yea, though we lose them, yet not to be sorry therefore; for they are but a burthen, and though they be accounted among good profitable things, yet are they of the lowest sort, and help not unto virtue, whereof the reward is true honor, and not riches; wherewith if any friendship, honor, or pleasure be gotten, it is but false and feigned.
Somewhat therefore shall it move us the less to desire them, if we consider the great incommodities of them; namely, with how sore labor and jeopardy they are gotten, with how great thought and care they are kept, with how great sorrow they are lost, how they are even but sharp thorns, how hard it is for the rich to enter into heaven; how that riches be commonly either unjustly gotten, or else unjustly kept; and how that avarice is plain idolatry before God, whom no man can please that setteth his heart upon mammon.
THE THIRTY-FIFTH CHAPTER.
A SHORT RECAPITULATION OF REMEDIES AGAINST THE VICE OF AVARICE.
In conclusion, if we will resist the vice of avarice, then as we must discern true things from apparent, true commodities from false, so must we with our inward eyes behold Almighty God, who only satisfieth the mind of man. We must remember, not only that we came naked out of our motherís womb, and shall naked go thither again, but also that this present life with all his riches is uncertain; and therefore should we turn our minds from the corrupt manners of the common sort, and rather content ourselves with poverty, considering the fearful woe that Christ threateneth the rich men of this world.
THE THIRTY-SIXTH CHAPTER.
AGAINST AMBITION OR DESIRE OF HONOR.
If ambition vex our minds, we must be surely persuaded, that only to be honor which springeth of virtue, yea, that to be the chief and only honor which is praised of God; and again, that to be no honor, but rebuke, which is given of an ungodly person, for an ungodly person, for a dishonest thing. For the more honor we deserve, the less we desire it, being content with the conscience of well-doing. As for the honors that the common people desire so greatly, they be but vain, because that, as they are given of them that put no difference between honesty and dishonesty, so are they given oft for mean and filthy things, and that to the unworthy. Now if any honor be given unto us, we ought to refer all unto God. Therefore, as nothing is more full of pricks, cares, perils, and sorrows, than the life of great men, so is nothing better than a quiet mean life. For seeing all honor is coupled with great charge, better is it for us, humbling ourselves, to be partakers of mercy, than by ambition to be excluded from the succor of grace. Wherefore, if the ensample of Christ stick fast in our minds, we shall learn the better to despise all worldly honor, and to rejoice only in the cross of Christ. For if we be despised of God and abhorred of his angels, what good shall worldly honors do unto us?
THE THIRTY-SEVENTH CHAPTER.
AGAINST PRIDE OR SWELLING OF THE MIND.
We shall not swell in our minds, if we know ourselves, and account what good thing soever we have to be the gift of God, and not of us; ascribing all evil only unto ourselves. We must remember, how filthy we were conceived and born; how naked, needy, wretched, and miserable we crept into this light; how many diseases, chances, cumbrance, griefs, and troubles this wretched body is in danger unto. For a surer proof of incurable foolishness and lack of understanding is not, than if we stand greatly in our own conceit. Wherefore, if for honor, beauty, cunning, or any such thing, we be moved unto pride, the best is to humble ourselves before God, and to consider our own deformities. In conclusion, it shall chiefly refrain us from pride, if we ponder well, not only what we are in ourselves, how filthy in our birth, and as a bubble of water in all our life, yea, even wormsí meat when we die, but also what Christ became for us.
THE THIRTY-EIGHTH CHAPTER.
AGAINST WRATH AND DESIRE OF VENGEANCE.
When grief of the mind moveth us to be avenged, we must remember that wrath is no manliness, but a very childish, feeble, and vile thing is it to desire vengeance. As for another manís folly, we must little regard it; yea, and beware, lest in avenging his lewdness we become lewder ourselves.
For by revenging is no injury eased, but augmented, and the longer it endureth the more incurable it is. But softness healeth it, and of an enemy maketh a friend. For no man can be hurt of us, except we will, or except we follow the grief of our own minds: yea, we will not stick to forgive him, if we think not scorn to consider the infirmities that moved him to offend us; or if we will do any thing for love or authority of the person, or compare that his offense with his former benefits; or consider how sore and oft we ourselves trespass against God, who shall even as much forgive us as we remit unto our brethren. Which thing if we do, it is a readier way to obtain remission of our sins, than for absolution to repair to Rome, to sail to St James, or to try most large pardons. Wherefore by the ensample of Christ, that suffered so much for us, being his enemies, we should suage our own minds, and pardon other men, yea, even the unworthy. And though we be angry and grieved with another manís vice, yet should we love the person, and harden not our minds against him, but against wrath; being so temperate in ourselves, that we suffer not our own affections to rule us, but overcome evil with goodness, malice with kindness, which is even to follow the perfect love of Christ Jesu. For as it is the property of a wise man to suppress all displeasure, even so to follow the appetite of wrath is not the point of a man, but plainly of beasts, and that of wild beasts: which thing we shall evidently perceive, if we behold our own countenance in a glass when we be angry.
In conclusion, to what evil soever we perceive ourselves to be specially inclined or stirred, whether it be through vice of nature, custom, or evil bringing up; against the assault of such enemies, as against the vice of backbiting, filthy speaking, envy, gluttony, and other like, there must be certain rules written in the table of our mind, which for forgetting must now and then be renewed. And we, as Christís soldiers, must have our mind armed long aforehand with prayer, with noble sayings of wise men, with the doctrine of holy scripture, with ensamples of devout and holy men, and specially of Christ: and in what persons soever we find or perceive the image of Christ, with them to couple ourselves, withdrawing us from the company of other, and making our special and familiar acquaintance with holy St Paul and his doctrine. Imprinted at Ausborch by Adam Anonimus, in the moneth of May, Anno 1545. [Since the foregoing pages were printed off, the Editor has met with a copy of the second edition of the Treatise on the Lordís Supper, with the Order of the Church in Denmark, etc., in the possession of Dr Thackeray, Provost of Kingís College, Cambridge; by whose kindness he is enabled here to supply the part of the Epistle to the Reader which was added in that edition, together with the title-page and colophon.] A Faithful and most Godly treatise concerning the most sacred Sacrament of the blessed body and blood of our savior Christ, compiled by John Calvin, a man of no less learning and literature, then Godly study, and example of living. And translated into Latin by Lacius a man of like excellence. And now last of all, translated into English by a faithful brother, no less desirous to profit for weak brothers then to exercise foe to, lent of for Lord to this honor and glory. In declaration whereof, he hath set before this little book an Epistle to for reader much more effectuous then in for first edition . Whereunto the order that foe Church and congregation of Christ in Denmark doth use at the receiving of Baptism, the Supper of the Lord, and Wedlock; Myles Coverdale.
We must believe that their receiving of it is the application of Christís merits to us. We must believe that they can thereby relieve the souls in the bitter pains of purgatory. We must believe that our being present at this their sacrifice, (as they call it), shall give us good speed in all our affairs, be they never so devilish. We must believe that a priest, (being never so ungodly in his living, never so much subject unto sin, never so much the devilís member), is the minister of God, and that his prayer and sacrifice in the mass is acceptable to God. In fine, we must believe that their masses be of strength to purchase the assistance of God in all dangers, and a present remedy against plague, penury, and all diseases both of man and beast, against wars, robberies, and all incursions of enemies, both bodily and ghostly. How can these assertions stand with the communion of Christís body and blood? Did Christ show the bread to his apostles, and then eat it himself, to certify their consciences thereby? Did he bid any one of them take bread and wine, and show them to the residue of the faithful, so oft as they would communicate his body and blood, and then eat and drink all himself, instead of all the faithful that should be present? I think no man is so much without shame once to think it. But I know the root of their error. They say, that as Christ was the high priest or bishop to minister unto his apostles the communion of his body and blood, which he did indeed offer on the cross to his Father; so did he ordain his apostles, and in them all that should succeed them, priests to offer up the selfsame, (say they), to apply the sacrifice done by Christ with the merits of the same to them that are present thereat, or that shall by any means have it done for them. Oh, blind buzzards! Where are your spiritual eyes become?
Did Christ, being the high priest, distribute the bread to his apostles, to the intent that they, and all other their successors, should show the bread and wine to the people, and then eat and drink all themselves? A man that hath so much ghostly knowledge as the grain of a mustard-seed, would not fail to say, that Christ meant rather that the apostles and priests should distribute the bread and wine among the faithful people, willing them to certify themselves thereby, that they are partakers of the body and blood of Christ. For what saith the text? ďSo oft as ye shall do this, ye shall do it in the remembrance of me.Ē But what was it that they should do in the remembrance of him? Forsooth, divide bread and wine amongst them. The private receiving of the bread and wine therefore can by no means stand with the institution of Christ, which was, that according to his example we should, by the dividing of bread and wine amongst us, certify ourselves that we are all partakers with Christ in his redemption, through the ransom that he paid for us on the cross. How standeth this with our hearing of mass, to the intent to speed the better thereby, when we go about our worldly business, be they honest or unhonest, godly or ungodly? Forsooth, I suppose, even as much as the carrying of bread in a manís purse in the night-time, or in a tempest, serveth to keep him from blasting with evil airs. So that I dare be bold to affirm, that this hearing of mass is no better than mere superstition, and the mass itself so far from the institution of Christ, that it seemeth not to be any part of the commemoration of Christís passion; but a mere invention of man, crept into the church by the subtle suggestion of our most cruel and malicious enemy the devil, who hath always endeavored to poison all the wholesome food of manís soul, as it appeareth right well by the great abuse that this most sacred sacrament is grown unto. This was and ought to be so necessary a food to the soul, that without it no Christian can tarry in Christ, neither have Christ tarrying in him; whereby it is plain, that without this food no soul hath any life in it. For Christ is the life that is in the Christian soul. No less necessary therefore is this food to the souls of the congregation, than the sinews be to the body to hold the joints together. Our adversary therefore could in no case be quiet, till he had poisoned this so necessary food, corrupting therein the virtue and strength to unite and knit the Christians to Christ their head, making it of force to draw them quite from him by putting their confidence in it, trusting to redeem their sins by oft offering up thereof; insomuch that they fell to founding of abbeys, chantries, and anniversaries for the salvation of their souls: for so was it always specified and conditioned in the writings made between the founders of such abbeys, chantries, and anniversaries, and the receivers of the yearly rents given to that use, yea, rather abuse. And in this miserable estate hath it continued even these six hundred years, poisoning the souls of them that should have been fed thereby.
But here must I beware, that our enemy do not poison these words of mine also, causing men to understand me as one that would deny it to be possible for any man to tarry in Christ, or to have Christ tarrying in him, unless he receive these visible sacraments or signs, bread and wine. No doubt, Christian reader, the belief and trust in Christ is the mean whereby Christ tarrieth in us, and we in him. But the belief and trust are established and confirmed by the use of these visible signs. As this belief and trust therefore are necessary to the abiding in Christ, so is the use of these holy sacraments also, for that it is the establishment and confirming of the said belief and trust. To all them, therefore, to whom this belief and trust are necessary, are these sacred sacraments also necessary. Whereupon I conclude, that all Christians, which are of age and discretion to discern the faith in Christ, ought also to use these most holy sacraments to establish and confirm this faith withal. And Christ knowing the weakness of man, and how hard it was to beat into his head the understanding of the high mystery of the participation and communion that all faithful should have in his merits, used these visible signs, that we might in them even with our senses perceive this wonderful distribution of the body and blood of Christ among his faithful, which our gross nature could no more compass without these visible signs, than the carnal and fleshly Jews could, when Christ told them of the eating his flesh and drinking of his blood, by believing in him. To help our weakness therefore, it pleased the almighty wisdom of the Lord to declare unto us by our senses the thing that the same senses caused the Jews to abhor: the manner, I say, of our participation and communion in Christ, and all that ever he deserved for us. For even as we see, that we, being many, are partakers of one loaf of bread by eating thereof, and of one cup of wine by drinking thereof; so are we certified by that participation, that we, being many, believing in Christ, are by that belief made partakers of Christ, and with Christ in all that is his, none otherwise than all the members of one body be partakers of all joys and pleasures that chance to the head. For as the loaf whereof we eat is made of many grains, and the cup of wine whereof we drink is made of many grapes, and yet is but one cup of wine, and the loaf but one loaf; even so are we that believe in Christ but one body with him, and he our head, notwithstanding we be many in number, and of divers nations, estates and conditions. For as in the body be divers members serving to divers uses, so are there in the congregation of Christ, which Paul calleth the body of Christ, divers estates; ďsome apostles, some preachers, and some teachers.Ē And as in the body is no member, whereunto is not appointed his peculiar and necessary office; so in the congregation of Christ is there none estate or condition, but it is profitable, yea, necessary to the other. ďThis is a great mystery,Ē saith Paul, ďthe mystery, I say, of Christ and his congregation;Ē for it is his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. Not that the congregation or church is that natural body that died on the cross, nor we, the members of the same church, the flesh and bones of the same: but for that it was that congregation, it was we, the members of this church, that caused Christ to take our nature upon him, that therein he might satisfy for our sins, making us partakers with him in this satisfaction; and so are we his body and members, that is to say, his body and members were and are the price wherewith we were redeemed out of the captivity and thraldom that we were in. This mystery is great, and far above the beastly manís capacity. But if we will be given to the Spirit, the Spirit shall minister unto us abundantly the understanding thereof. For it is a common phrase or manner of speaking amongst us: when any hath bestowed his money upon any kind of merchandise, we say, Lo, here is my xx li or here are his hundred marks; showing forth the wares that were bought with my xx li or his hundred marks, so that here the thing bought beareth the name of the price. In like manner doth Paul call the congregation redeemed by Christís body, his very body, his flesh, and his bones, because it is the merchandise that was bought with his body, his flesh, and his bones. The most sacred sacraments also of the body and blood of Christ are called his body and blood, because they declare unto us what the body and blood of Christ be unto us, none otherwise than I call this book the supper of the Lord, because it declareth the supper of the Lord. So that here thou mayest see, gentle reader, wherein thou hast been so far and so long deceived. Forsooth, in that thou hast not known nor considered the causes, why these most holy sacraments bear the names of that they represent, shew, or declare unto us; but hast grossly persuaded thyself with the carnal and fleshly Jews, that Christ spake carnally, minding to turn the substance of the bread and wine into the substance of his body and blood, when he said unto his disciples, ďThis is my body.Ē But doubtless, good Christian brother, our most cruel enemy hath in this point uttered even the greatest part of his malicious practice. He hath not failed always to beat into our heads the omnipotency of God, who could by his word make all things of nought; his verity, which will not suffer him to leave ought undone that he saith is or shall be done; and then his words at his last supper, ďThis is my body,Ē etc. Here laboreth he with tooth and nail, as they say, to keep us in the plain letter, that we measure not these words by the scriptures of like phrase. The verity itself, saith he, hath spoken it; wherefore it cannot be otherwise. The only Almighty, which created all things by his word, hath said it: it is not therefore impossible that it should be so. Thou art a christian man, and hast professed to believe all the words of Christ to be true, though thy reason cannot comprehend the manner how. And wilt thou, with the carnal and fleshly Jews, doubt in the performance of the words that thy Savior shall speak?
He said that a virgin should bring forth a child: and wilt not thou believe it, because thou canst not by reason be persuaded that it is possible for a virgin to bring forth a child? What could the obstinate Jews do more, than blindly and obstinately say, ďHow can this man give us his flesh to eat, and his blood to drink.?Ē And wilt thou be as obstinate as they, and think it impossible for him to give thee his flesh, (yea, his very natural flesh), and blood under the form of bread and wine? Oh, subtle serpent! Oh, crafty dissembler! Now changest thou thyself into an angel of light. Thou madest the Jews abhor Christís words, because the law, which they professed, taught them that it was abominable to eat the raw flesh, or drink the blood of any beast, much more of a man. And because they should not consider and understand the spiritual eating of his body, and drinking of his blood by faith, thou puttest them in mind of the corruptible manna that the fathers did eat in wilderness; and that, notwithstanding that bread came from heaven, yet was it not of such lively force that it might preserve the eaters thereof from death. Yea, thou heldest them in opinion, that it was not possible for Christ to give them his flesh to eat, and his blood to drink, after such sort that their stomachs might away withal. Wherefore they said: ďHow can this fellow give us his flesh to eat, and his blood to drink?Ē But here thou comest unto us with the contrary. Thou biddest us believe, that he was able to change bread and wine into his flesh and blood, that we might thereby away with the devouring thereof. Thus thou playest on both hands; with them, because they should not look for any spiritual eating or drinking of Christís flesh and blood; and with us, that we should not regard the spiritual eating and drinking, but that we should most regard the fleshly devouring of the bread and wine: so that neither the Jews neither we can come to the true eating of Christís flesh and drinking of his blood by unfeigned faith in him and his merits.
Here mayest thou plainly see, most dearly beloved in the Lord, by what means our ghostly enemy hath spoiled us of the use of these most precious jewels, the sacraments of Christís body and blood; and how he laboreth daily in his members, the wicked papists, to withhold from us the knowledge of the spiritual eating and drinking of Christ, which beginneth now to spread the world over all. Let us run, therefore, unto our present and only succor in this great danger. To Christ, I say, let us run, most humbly beseeching him, our Savior and Redeemer, plenteously to pour out of his Spirit of knowledge upon us all, that we may daily more and more find out the hid and secret abominations, to the utter extirpation and rooting out of the same. And in the mean time let us pray together, that it may please the Lord to augment the number of his faithful, turning Sauls into Pauls, that the hard hearts may be mollified, by hearing the persecutors preach Christ whom they persecuted. The Spirit of truth be with you all! So be it.
It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing at all. John 6.