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THE FAMOUS PREACHER AND WORTHY MARTYR OF CHRIST AND HIS GOSPEL. F1 [Foxe, Acts and Mon. p. 1297, etc. edit. 1563.] Now after the life of the reverend father in God, D. Nicolas Ridley, and also his conference with master Latimer, with other his letters written in prison, followeth likewise the life and doings of this worthy and old practiced soldier of Christ, master Hugh Latimer, who was the son of one Hugh Latimer, of Thirkesson, in the county of Leicester, a husbandman of a good and wealthy estimation, where also he was born and brought up, until he was of the age of four years or thereabout. At which time his parents (having him as then left for their only son, with six other daughters), seeing his ready, prompt, and sharp wit, purposed to train him up in erudition and knowledge of good literature; wherein he so profited in his youth, at the common schools of his own country, that at the age of fourteen years he was sent to the university of Cambridge where, after some continuance of exercises in other things, he gave himself to the study of such divinity as the ignorance of that age did suffer. Zealous he was then in the popish religion, and therewith so scrupulous, as himself confesseth, that being a priest and using to say mass, he was so servile an observer of the Romish decrees, that he had thought he had never sufficiently mingled his massing wine with water; and moreover, that he should never be damned, if he were once a professed friar, with divers such superstitious fantasies. Whereupon in this blind zeal he was a very enemy to the professors of Christ’s gospel, as his oration made, when he proceeded bachelor of divinity in the said university of Cambridge, against Philip Melancthon and his works, did plainly declare. But such was the goodness and merciful purpose of God, that where he thought by that his oration to have utterly defaced the professors of the gospel and true church of Christ, he was himself, by a member of the same, prettily, yet godly, catched in the blessed net of God’s word. For master Thomas Bilney (of whom mention is made before), being at that time a trier out of Satan’s subtleties, and a secret overthrower of antichrist’s kingdom, and seeing master Latimer to have a zeal in his ways, although without knowledge, was stricken with a brotherly pity towards him, and bethought what means he might best win this his zealous, yet ignorant, brother to the true knowledge of Christ.
And therefore, after a short time, he came to master Latimer’s study, and desired him to hear him make his confession. Which thing he willingly granted with the hearing whereof he was, by the good Spirit of God, so touched, that hereupon he forsook his former studying of the school doctors, and other such fooleries, and became a true scholar in the true divinity, as he himself confesseth, as well in his conference with master Ridley, as also in his first sermon made upon the Pater noster. So that, whereas before he was an enemy, and almost a persecutor of Christ, he was now an earnest seeker after him, changing his old manner of calumnying into a diligent kind of conferring, both with master Bilney and others, with whom he was often and greatly conversant. After this his winning to Christ, he was not satisfied with his own conversion only, but like a true disciple of the blessed Samaritan, pitied the misery of others; and therefore he became both a public preacher, and also a private instructor to the rest of his brethren within the university, by the space of two years; spending his time partly in the Latin tongue amongst the learned, and partly amongst the simple people in his natural and vulgar language. Howbeit, as Satan never sleepeth, when he seeth his kingdom begin to decay, so likewise now seeing that this worthy member of Christ would be a shrewd shaker thereof, he raised up his children to molest and trouble him. Amongst these there was an Augustine friar, who took occasion upon certain sermons that master Latimer made about Christenmas, 1529, as well in the church of St. Edward, as also in St.
Augustine’s, within the university of Cambridge, to inveigh against him, for that master Latimer, in the said sermons, alluding to the common usage of the season, gave the people certain cards out of the 5th, 6th, and 7th chapters of St. Matthew, whereupon they might, not only then, but always else, occupy their time. For the chief, as their triumphing card, he limited the heart, as the principal firing that they should serve God withal whereby he quite overthrew all hypocritical and external ceremonies, not tending to the necessary beautifying of God’s holy word and sacraments.
The handling of this matter was so apt for the time, and so pleasantly applied of Latimer, that not only it declared a singular towardness of wit in him that preached, but also wrought in the hearers much fruit, to the overthrow of popish superstition and setting up of perfect religion. For on the Sunday before Christenmas-day, coming to the church, and causing the bell to be tolled to a sermon, entereth into the pulpit. Upon the text of the gospel read that day in the church, Tu quis es? etc. in delivering his cards as is above-said, he made the heart to be triumph, exhorting and inviting all men thereby to serve the Lord with inward heart and true affection, and not with outward ceremonies; adding moreover to the praise of that triumph, that though it were never so small, yet it would make up the best coat card beside in the bunch, yea, though it were the king of clubs, etc.; meaning thereby how the Lord would be worshipped and served in simplicity of the heart and verity, wherein consisteth true christian religion, and not in the outward deeds of the letter only, or in the glistering shew of man’s traditions, of pardons, pilgrimages, ceremonies, vows, devotions, voluntary works, and works of crogation, foundations, oblations, the pope’s supremacy, etc.; so that all these either be needless, where the other is present, or else be of small estimation in comparison thereof.
The copy and effect of these his sermons, although they were neither fully extracted, neither did they all come to our hands, yet so many as came to our hands, I thought here to set abroad, for that I would wish nothing of that man, which may be gotten, to be suppressed.
This preaching of, master Latimer, as it was then fruitful and plausible to all honest and good natures, so again, it was as odious to the contrary part, such as were his adversaries, of whom was then in Cambridge a great number, that preached against him, as the bishop of Ely, who then in the King’s college preached against him; D. Watson, Master of Christ’s college; D. Notaris, Master of Clare hall; D. Philo, Master of Michael-house; D. Metcalfe, Master of St. John’s; D. Blith, of the King’s hall; D. Bullock, Master of Queens’ college; D. Cliffe, of Clement hostel; D. Donnes, of Jesus college; D. Palmes, Master of St. Nicholas hostel; Bayne of St. John’s, bachelor of divinity, and after doctor. All these adversaries did master Latimer sustain but especially a black friar, the prior of our Lady friars, called then Domine Labia, was a great doer against him; who about the same time of Christmas, when master Latimer brought forth his christian cards, to deface belike the doings of the said Latimer, he brought out his Christmas dice, casting there to his audience cinque and quatre; meaning by the cinque five places in the New Testament, and the four doctors by the quatre; by which his cinque quatre he would prove that it was not expedient the scripture to be in English, lest the ignorant and vulgar sort, through the occasion thereof, might happily be brought in danger to leave their vocation, or else to run into some inconvenience as the plowman, when he heareth this in the gospel, “No man that layeth his hand on the plow, and looketh back, is meet for the kingdom of God,” might peradventure hearing this, cease from his plow. Likewise the baker, when he heareth that “a little leaven corrupteth a whole lump” of dough, may percase leave our bread unleavened, and so our bodies shall be unseasoned. And the simple man, when he heareth in the gospel, “If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee,” may make himself blind, and so fill the world full of beggars. These, with other more, this clerkly friar brought out, to the number of five, to prove his purpose. To whom master Latimer answereth again briefly, requiring no more but this, that the scripture may be so long in English, until the people thus do as he hath said, and he would ask no more.
Notwithstanding the withstanding of this friar, and the malice of all his enemies, master Latimer, with master Bilney, continued yet in Cambridge a certain space, where he with the said Bilney used much to confer and company together, insomuch that the place where they most used to walk in the fields, was called long after the heretics’ hill.
The society of these two, as it was much noted of many in that university, so it was full of many good examples to all such as would follow their doings, both in visiting the prisoners, in relieving the needy, in feeding the hungry; whereof somewhat is before-mentioned in the history of master Bilney. In a place of his sermons this master Latimer maketh mention of a certain history which happened about this time in Cambridge between them two, and a certain woman, then prisoner in the castle or tower of Cambridge, which I thought here not unworthy to be touched. The history is this: it so chanceth that after master Latimer had been acquainted with the foresaid master Bilney, he went with him to visit the prisoners in the tower in Cambridge; and being there, among other prisoners, there was a woman which was accused that she had killed her own child, which act she plainly and steadfastly denied. Whereby it gave them occasion to search for the matter; and at length they found that her husband loved her not, and therefore sought all means he could to make her away: the matter was thus.
A child of hers had been sick a whole year, and at length died in harvesttime, as it were in a consumption: which when it was gone, she went to have her neighbors to help her to the burial, but all were in harvest abroad, whereby she was enforced with heaviness of heart alone to prepare the child to the burial: her husband coming home, and not loving her, accused her of murdering the child. This was the cause of her trouble; and master Latimer, by earnest inquisition, of conscience thought the woman not guilty. Then immediately after was he called to preach before king Henry the Eighth at Windsor; where, after his sermon, the king’s majesty sent for him, and talked with him familiarly. At which time master Latimer finding opportunity, kneeled down, opened his whole matter to the king, and begged her pardon; which the king most graciously granted, and gave it him at his return homeward. The mean time the woman was delivered of a child in prison, whose godfather master Latimer was, and mistress Cheke godmother. But all that while he would not tell her of the pardon, but labored to have her confess the truth of the matter. At length time came when she looked to suffer; and master Latimer came, as he was wont, to instruct her: unto whom she made great lamentation and moan to be purified before her suffering; for she thought to be damned, if she should suffer without purification. Then master Bilney being with master Latimer, both told her that that law was made to the Jews, and not to us, and how women be as well in the favor of God before they be purified as after; and rather it was appointed for a civil and politic law, for natural honesty sake, than that they should any thing the more be purified from sin thereby, etc. So thus they travailed with this woman till they had brought her to good trade, and then at length shewed her the king’s pardon, and let her go.
This good act, among many other at this time, happened in Cambridge by master Latimer and master Bilney but this was not alone, for many more like matters were wrought by them, if all were known, whereof partly some are touched before, such especially as concern master Bilney, mention whereof is above expressed; but as it is commonly seen in the natural course of things, that as the fire beginneth more to kindle, so the more [smoke] ariseth withal, in much like condition it happened with master Latimer, whose towardness the more it began to spring, his virtues seen, and his doings to be known, the more his adversaries began to spurn and kindle against him.
After M. Latimer had thus travailed in preaching and teaching in the university of Cambridge, about the space of two years, at length he was called up to the cardinal for heresy, by the procurement of certain of the said university; where he was content to subscribe and grant to such articles and illations as then they propounded unto him, etc. After that he returned to the university again, where shortly after, by the means of D.
Buttes, the king’s physician, a singular good man, and a special favorer of good proceedings, he was in the number of them which labored for the maintenance of the king’s supremacy. Then went he to the court, where he remained a certain time in the said D. Buttes’ chamber, preaching then in London very often. At last, being weary of the court, having a benefice offered by the king, at the suit of the lord Cromwell and D. Buttes, was glad thereof, seeking by that means to be rid out of the court, wherewith in no case he could agree: so having a grant of the benefice, he was glad thereof, and contrary to the mind of D. Buttes, would needs enjoy the same.
This benefice was in Wiltshire, under the diocese of Sarum, the name of which town was called West Kington. Where this good preacher did exercise himself with much diligence of teaching to instruct his flock; and not only them, his diligence extended also to all the country about. In fine, his diligence was so great, his preaching so mighty, the manner of his teaching so zealous, that there in like sort he could not escape without enemies. So true it is that St. Paul doth forewarn us: “Whosoever will live virtuously shall suffer persecution.” It so chanced, as he there preaching upon the virgin, Christ’s mother, whom we call our lady, had thereupon declared his mind, referring and reducing all to Christ only our Savior, certain popish priests being therewith offended, sought and wrought much trouble against him, drawing articles against him, both concerning the matter of our lady, as also of other points of doctrine, as of praying to saints, of purgatory, etc. Unto the which articles, thus conceived against him, he answereth again at large.
Amongst many other impugners and adversaries, whereof there was no small sort, which did infest this good man in sermons, some also there were which attempted the pen against him. In the number of whom was one D. Sherwode, who upon the same occasion of preaching of the Virgin Mary (or, as they thought, against our lady) did invade him with his pen, writing against him. f3 In this letter you hear mention is made of a citation, sent down to master Latimer, for him to appear at London before the bishop of London.
Upon this citation master Latimer, although he did appeal to his own ordinary, requiring by him to be ordered, yet all that notwithstanding he was had up to London before Warham the archbishop of Canterbury, and the bishop of London, where he was greatly molested and detained a long space from his cure at home. There he, being called thrice every week before the said bishops to make answer for his preaching, had certain articles or propositions drawn out and laid to him, whereunto they required him to subscribe. At length he, not only perceiving their practical proceedings, but also much grieved with their troublesome unquietness, which neither would preach themselves, nor yet suffer him to preach and to do his duty, writeth to some one prelate or other, partly excusing his infirmity, whereby he could not appear at their commandment, partly expostulating with them for so troubling and detaining him from his duty-doing, and that for no just cause, but only for preaching the truth against certain vain abuses crept into religion, much needful to be spoken against. Which all may appear by his epistle sent to a certain bishop or archbishop, whose name here is not expressed.
To these articles whether he did subscribe or no, it is uncertain. It appeareth by his epistle above written to the bishop, that he durst not consent unto them, where he writeth in these words: Hinc ego nudis sententiis subscribere non audeo, quia popularis superstitionis diutius duraturoe, quoad possum, auctorculus esse nolo, etc. But yet, whether he was compelled afterward to agree, through the cruel handling of the bishops, it is in doubt. By the words and the title in Tonstal’s register prefixed before the articles, it may seem that he subscribed: the words of the registers be these: Hugo Latimerus in sacra Theologia Bacc. in universitate Cantab. coram Cant. Archiepiscopo, Johan. Lond. Episcopo, reliquaque concione apud Westmonast. vocatus, confessus est, et recognovit fidem suam, sic sentiendo ut sequitur, in his artic. 21. die Martii. Anno. 1531. If these words be true, it may be so thought that he subscribed. And whether he so did, no great matter nor marvel, the iniquity of the time being such, that either he must needs so do, or else abide the bishop’s blessing, that is, cruel sentence of death, which he at that time (as himself confessed, preaching at Stamford) was loath to sustain, for such matters as these were, unless it were for articles necessary of his belief; by which his words I conjecture rather that he did subscribe at length, albeit it was long before he could be brought so to do. Yet this by the way, it is to be noted, concerning the crafty and deceitful handling of these bishops in his examinations, what subtle devices they used the same time to entrap him in their snares. The story he sheweth forth himself in a certain sermon preached at Stamford anno 1550, October 9. f6 And thus hitherto you have heard declared the manifold troubles of this godly preacher, in the time not only of his being in the university, but especially at his benefice, as by his own sermons and letters here above expressed may appear. Here followeth another letter of his writing unto king Henry, where with most christian boldness he persuadeth the king, that the scriptures and other good wholesome books in the English tongue may be permitted to the people; which books the bishops at that time, wickedly conspiring together, went about by a public and authentic instrument to suppress.
Thus have we discoursed and run over hitherto the laborious travails, the painful adventures, and dangerous hazards, and manifold plunges, which this true-hearted and holy servant of God suffered among the pope’s friends, and God’s enemies, for the gospel’s sake. In the which so great and so many dangers it had been impossible for him to have escaped and to have continued so long, had not the almighty helping hand of the Highest, as he stirred him up, so preserved him through the favor and power of his prince; who with much favor embraced him, and with his mere power sometime rescued and delivered him out of the crooked claws of his enemies; moreover at length also, through the procurement partly of Doctor Buttes, partly of good Cromwell, whom we mentioned before, advanced him to the degree and dignity of a bishop, making him the bishop of Worcester, which so continued a few years, instructing his diocese according to the duty of a diligent and vigilant pastor with wholesome doctrine, and example of perfect conversation, duly agreeing to the same. It were a long matter to stand particularly upon such parts as might here be brought in to the commendations of his pains, study, readiness, and continual carefulness in teaching, preaching, exhorting, visiting, correcting, and reforming, either as his ability could serve, or else the time would bear. But the days then were so dangerous and variable, that he could not in all things do that he would: yet what he might do, that he performed to the uttermost of his strength; so that although he could not utterly extinguish all the sparkling relics of old superstition, yet he so wrought, that though they could not be taken away, yet they should be used with as little hurt and with as much profit as might be. As, for example, in this thing as in divers other it did appear, that when it could not be avoided, but holy water and holy bread must needs be received, yet he so prepared and instructed them of his diocese with such informations and lessons, that in receiving thereof superstition should be excluded, and some remembrance taken thereby, teaching and charging the ministers of his diocese, in delivering the holy bread and holy water, to say these words following.
By this it may be considered, what the diligent care of this bishop was in doing the duty of a faithful pastor among his flock. And moreover it is to be thought that also he would have brought more things to pass, if the time then had answered to his desire for he was not ignorant how the institution of holy water and holy bread not only had no ground in scripture, but also how full of profane exorcisms and conjurations they were, contrary to the rule and learning of the gospel. Thus this good man with much diligence behaved himself in his diocese; but as before, both in the university and at his benefice, he was tossed and turmoiled by wicked and evil-disposed persons, so in his bishopric also he was not all clear and void of some that sought his trouble. As among many other evil-willers, one especially there was, and that no small person, which accused him then to the king for his sermons. The story, because he sheweth himself in a sermon of his before King Edward, I thought therefore to use his own words, which be these. f9 Besides this, divers other conflicts and combats this godly bishop sustained in his own country and diocese, in taking the cause of right and equity against oppression and wrong. As, for another example, there was at that time not far from the diocese of Worcester a certain justice of peace, whom here I will not name, being a good man afterward, and now deceased. This justice, in purchasing of certain land for his brother, or for himself, went about to injure or damnify a poor man, who maketh his complaint to master Latimer: he first hearing, then tendering his rightful cause, writeth to the said gentleman, exhorting him in private letters to remember himself, to consider the cause, and to abstain from injury. The justice of peace, not content withal, as the fashion of men is grieved to be told of their fault, sendeth word again, in great displeasure, that he will not so take it at his hands, with such threatening words, etc. Master Latimer, hearing this, answered again by writing; the copy of which his letter I thought not unworthy here of setting out, either that the virtue of that gracious man may appear more at large, or that other bishops may take by him example of like stomach in like causes, or that injurious oppressors may thereby take some fruit of his wholesome admonition.
The tenor of his letter written to the gentleman is this.
It were a large and a long process to story all the doings, travails, and writings of this christian bishop, neither have we expressed all that came to our hands; but this I thought sufficient to testify of the goodness of this man. Thus he continued in this laborious function of a bishop the space of certain years, till the coming in of the six articles, and altering of religion. Then being distressed through the straitness of time, so that either he must lose the quiet of a good conscience, or else must forsake his bishopric, he did of his own free accord resign and renounce his pastorship. At which time also Shaxton, bishop of Salisbury, resigned also with him his bishopric. And so these two remained a great space unbishopped, keeping silence till the time of king Edward of blessed memory. And yet neither did Latimer all this while escape without danger and molestation, as there was no part or portion of his life, in what state soever he stood, clearly free and void of all perturbations. For a little after he had renounced his bishopric, first, he was almost slain, but sore bruised with the fall of a tree. Then coming up to London for remedy, he was molested and troubled of the bishops; whereby he was again in no little danger, and at length was cast into the Tower, where he continually remained prisoner till the time that blessed king Edward entered his crown, by means whereof the golden mouth of this preacher, long shut up before, was now opened again. And so he beginning afresh to set forth his plow again, continued all the time of the said king laboring in the Lord’s harvest most fruitfully, discharging his talent, as well in divers other places of this realm, as in Stamford, and before the duchess of Suffolk, whose sermons be extant and set forth in print, as also at London in the convocation-house; and especially before the king at the court, in the same place of the inward garden, which was before applied to lascivious and courtly pastimes, there he dispensed the fruitful word of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, preaching there before the king and his whole court, to the edification of many.
In this his painful travail he occupied himself all king Edward’s days, preaching for the most part every Sunday twice, to no small shame of all other loitering and unpreaching prelates, which occupy great rooms, and do little good and that so much more to their shame, because he being a sore bruised man by the fall of the tree, mentioned a little before, and above sixty-seven years of age, took so little ease and care of sparing himself, to do the people good. Not to speak of here his indefatigable travail and diligence in his own private studies, who, notwithstanding both his years and other pains in preaching, every morning ordinarily, winter and summer, about two of the clock in the morning was at his book most diligently. So careful was his heart of the preservation of the church, and the good success of the gospel, his letters can testify, wherewith he continually admonished such as then were in authority of their duty, and assisted them with his godly counsel. As the diligence of this man of God never ceased, all the time of king Edward, to profit the church both publicly and privately; so among other doings in him to be noted, this is not lightly to be over-passed, but worthily to be observed, that God not only gave unto him his Spirit plenteously and comfortably to preach his word unto his church, but also by the same Spirit he did most evidently prophesy of all those kinds of plagues which afterward ensued, so plainly, that if England ever had a prophet, he might seem to be one. And as touching himself, he ever affirmed that the preaching of the gospel would cost him his life, to the which he no less cheerfully prepared himself, than certainly he was persuaded that Winchester was kept in the tower for the same purpose, as the event did too truly prove the same. For after the death of the said blessed king Edward, not long after queen Mary was proclaimed, a pursuivant was sent down, by the doing, no doubt, of Winchester, into the country, to call him up: of whose coming although master Latimer lacked no forewarning, being premonished about six hours before by one John Carless, (whose story hereafter followeth,) yet so far was it that he thought to escape, that he prepared himself towards his journey before the said pursuivant came to his house. At the which thing when the pursuivant marveled, seeing him so prepared towards his journey, he said unto him: “My friend, you be a welcome messenger to me; and be it known unto you, and to the whole world, that I go as willingly to London at this present, being called by my prince to render a reckoning of my doctrine, as ever I was to any place in the world. And I doubt not, but that God, as he hath made me worthy to preach his word before two excellent princes, so he will able me to witness the same unto the third, either to her comfort or discomfort eternally,” etc. At the which time the pursuivant, when he had delivered his letters, departed, affirming that he had commandment not to tarry for him. By whose sudden departure it was manifest that they would not have him to appear, but rather to have fled out of the realm. They knew that his constancy should deface them in their popery, and confirm the godly in the truth.
Thus master Latimer being sent for, and coming up to London through Smithfield, where merely he said that Smithfield had long groaned for him, was brought before the council; where he patiently bearing all the mocks and taunts given him by the scornful papists, was cast again into the Tower; where being assisted with the heavenly grace of Christ, sustained most patient imprisonment a long time, notwithstanding the cruel and unmerciful handling of the lordly papists, which thought then their kingdom would never fall: yet he shewed himself not only patient, but also cheerful, in and above all that which they could or would work against him; yea, such a valiant spirit the Lord gave him, that he was able not only to despise the terribleness of prisons and torments, but also to deride and laugh to scorn the doings of his enemies. It is not unknown to the ears of many what he answered to the lieutenant, being then in the Tower. For when the lieutenant’s man upon a time came to him, the aged father, kept without fire in the frosty winter, and well nigh starved for cold, merely bade the man tell his master, that if he did not look the better to him, perchance he would deceive him.
The lieutenant, hearing this, bethought himself of these words, and fearing lest that indeed he thought to make some escape, began to look more straitly to his prisoner. And so coming to him, beginneth to charge him with his words, reciting the same unto him which his man had told him before; how that if he were not better looked unto, perchance he would deceive them, etc. “Yea, master lieutenant, so I said,” quod he, “for you look, I think, that I should burn but except you let me have some fire, I am like to deceive your expectation; for I am like here to starve for cold.”
Many such-like answers and reasons, merry, but savory, proceeding not from a vain mind, but from a constant and quiet reason, proceeded from that man, declaring a firm and stable heart, little passing for all this great blustering of such termagants, but rather deluding the same. Neither is it easy to say whether the doings and proceedings of the papists were more to be lamented for their detestable absurdity of grave persons, or else more to be scorned and derided for their so trifling and extreme folly.
What Democritus or Calphurnius could abstain from laughter, beholding only the fashion of their mass from the beginning to the latter end, with such turning, returning, half turning and whole turning, such kissing, blissing, crouching, becking, crossing, knocking, ducking, washing, rinsing, lifting, touching, fingering, whispering, stopping, dipping, bowing, licking, wiping, sleeping, shifting, with an hundred things more?
What wise man, I say, seeing such toyish gauds, can keep from laughter?
And what be all the pope’s doings, with the whole circumstance of his religion and manner of his popelings, but matters almost to be laughed at, etc.? But to return again where as we left. Thus master Latimer passing a long time in the Tower with as much patience as a man in his case could do, from thence he was transported to Oxford, with doctor Cranmer archbishop of Canterbury, and master Ridley bishop of London, there to dispute upon articles sent down from Gardiner bishop of Winchester, as is before touched; the manner and order of which disputations between them and the university doctors is also before sufficiently expressed.
Where also it is declared, how and by whom the said Latimer, with his other fellow-prisoners, were condemned after the disputations, and so committed again to the prison, where they continued from the month of April above-mentioned to this present month of October where they were most godly occupied, either with brotherly conference, or with fervent prayer, or with fruitful writing. Albeit master Latimer, by reason of the feebleness of his age, wrote least of them all in this latter time of his imprisonment. But in prayer he was fervently occupied, wherein oftentimes so long he continued kneeling, that he was not able to rise without help; and amongst other things, these were three principal matters he prayed for. First, that as God had appointed him to be a preacher of his word, so also he would give him grace to stand to his doctrine until his death, that he might give his heart-blood for the same.
Secondly, that God of his mercy would restore his gospel to England once again; and these words, ‘once again,’ ‘once again,’ he did so inculcate and beat into the ears of the Lord God, as though he had seen God before him, and spoken to him face to face. The third matter was, to pray for the preservation of the queen’s majesty that now is; whom in his prayer he was wont accustomably to name, and even with tears desired God to make her a comfort to his comfortless realm of England. These were the matters he prayed for so earnestly; neither were these things of him desired in vain, as the good success thereof after following did declare. For the Lord most graciously did grant all these his requests.
First, concerning profession, even in the most extremity the Lord graciously assisted him. For when he stood at the stake without Bocardogate at Oxford, and the tormentors about to set the fire upon him, and upon the learned and godly bishop master Ridley, he lifted up his eyes towards heaven with an amiable and comfortable countenance, saying these words: Fidelis est Deus, qui non sinit nos tentari supra id quod possumus; “God is faithful, which doth not suffer us to be tempted above our strength.” And so afterwards by and by shed his blood in the cause of Christ; the which blood ran out of his heart in such abundance, that all those that were present, being godly, did marvel to see the most part of the blood in his body so to be gathered to his heart, and with such violence to gush out, his body being opened by the force of the fire by the which thing God most graciously granted his request, which was that he might shed his heart-blood in the defense of the gospel.
How mercifully the Lord heard his second request, in restoring his gospel once again to this realm, these present days can bear record. And what then shall England say now for her defense, which, so mercifully visited and refreshed with the word of God, so unthankfully considereth either her own misery past, or the great benefit of God now present? The Lord be merciful unto us!
Again, concerning his third request, it seemeth likewise most effectuously granted, to the great praise of God, the furtherance of his gospel, and to the unspeakable comfort of this realm. For whether at the request of his prayer, or of other God’s holy saints, or whether God was moved with the cry of his whole church, the truth is, that when all was deplorate and in a desperate case, and so desperate that the enemies mightily flourished and triumphed, God’s word banished, Spaniards received, no place left for Christ’s servants to cover their heads, — suddenly the Lord called to remembrance his mercy, and forgetting our former iniquity, made an end of all these miseries, and wrought a marvelous change of things, at the change whereof she was appointed and anointed, for whom this grayheaded father Latimer so earnestly prayed in his imprisonment; through whose true, natural, and imperial crown the brightness of God’s word was set up again to confound the dark and false-visored kingdom of antichrist, the true temple of Christ re-edified, the captivity of sorrowful Christians released, which so long was wished for in the prayers of so many good men, specially of this faithful and true servant of the Lord, master Latimer. The same God, which at the request of his holy and faithful saints hath poured upon us such benefits of his mercy, peace, and tranquillity, assist our most virtuous and christian prince and her subjects, that every one in his state and calling we may so serve his glory, and walk in their wholesome example, that we lose not that which they have obtained, but may proceed in all faithfulness to build and keep up the house and temple of the Lord, to the advancing of his glory, and our everlasting comfort in him! And thus much concerning the prayers of master Latimer, to the which prayers only he gave himself, as I said, in this his latter imprisonment for else we read but little that he did write at Oxford, save only a few lines to one mistress Wilkinson of London, a godly matron, an exile also for the gospel sake, and by whom divers of God’s saints and learned bishops, as master Hooper the bishop of Hereford, master Coverdale, master Latimer, master Cranmer, with many more, were graciously supported and relieved, the copy and effect of which letter here followeth.
And thus hast thou, gentle reader, the whole life both of master Ridley and of master Latimer, two worthy doers in the church of Christ, severally and by themselves set forth and described to thee, with all their doings, writings, disputations, sufferings, their painful travails, faithful preachings, studious service in Christ’s church, their patient imprisonment, and constant fortitude in that which they had taught, with all other their proceedings from time to time, since their first institution to this present year and month of queen Mary, being the month of October, anno 1555. In the which month they were both brought forth together to their final examination and execution. Wherefore, as we have heretofore declared both their lives severally and distinctly one from the other, so now joining them both together, as they both joined together in one cause and kind of suffering, so will we by the grace of Christ prosecute the rest that remaineth concerning their latter examination, disgrading, and constant martyrdom, with the order and manner also of the commissioners, to wit, master White, bishop of Lincoln, master Brockes, bishop of Gloucester, with others, and what were their words, their objections, their orations set out as it was, and what again were the answers of these men to the same, as in process here followeth to be seen. f12 LATIMER’S FIRST CONVERSION AT CAMBRIDGE. [Printed by Strype, Eccl. Mem. 3, 1:368, Oxf. Harl. MS. No. 422, Art. 12.] When as it pleased Almighty God to call Mr. Hugh Latimer unto the knowledge of the truth of God’s holy word by the godly lecture of divinity, read by Mr. Geo. Stafford in the university school at Cambridge, and of a Saul had, as it were, made him a very Paul; for otherwise, all the days of his life he had bestowed his time in the labyrinth study of the school-doctors, as in Dunce, Derbell, Tho. of Aquine, Hugo de Victore, with such like; insomuch that, being mightily affected that way, he of purpose (perceiving the youth of the university inclined to the reading of the scriptures, leaving off those tedious authors and kinds of study, being a bachelor of divinity, and for his gravity and years preferred to the keeping of the University Cross, which no man had to do withal but such an one as in sanctimony of life excelled other) came into the Sophany school among the youth, there gathered together of daily custom to keep their sophanis and disputations; and there most eloquently made to them an oration, dissuading them from this newfangled kind of study of the scriptures, and vehemently persuaded them to the study of the school-authors, which he did, not long before that he was so mercifully called to the contrary. And as he felt, by this his divine vocation, that all his other study little profited him, but was rather a stumbling-block unto him then intending to preach to the world the sincere doctrine of the gospel; so he mightily, tracting no time, preached daily in the university of Cambridge, both in English and ad clerum, to the great admiration of all men that aforetime had known him of a contrary severe opinion. Insomuch that bishop West, then bishop of Ely, hearing of this Mr. Latimer’s conversion, determined with himself to come to hear him preach; but that should be sudden, and withouten any intelligence to be given to Latimer. And so it came to pass, that on a time when Mr. Latimer had prepared to preach in the university church a sermon ad clerum, in Latin, the bishop, hearing thereof, came secretly and suddenly from Ely, and entered into the university church, accompanied with certain men of worship (Latimer being then well entered into his sermon); whose approach being honorable, Latimer gave place, and surceased from farther speaking until the bishop and his retinue were quietly placed. That done, after a good pause, Latimer beginneth to speak to his auditory after this sort: “It is of congruence meet” (quoth he) “that a new auditory, namely being more honorable, requireth a new theme, being a new argument to entreat of. Therefore it behooveth me now to divert from mine intended purpose, and somewhat to entreat of the honorable estate of a bishop. Therefore let this be the theme, (quoth he) Christus existens pontifex futurorum bonorum, etc.” This text he so fruitfully handled, expounding every word, and setting forth the office of Christ so sincerely, as the true and perfect pattern unto all other bishops that should succeed him in his church, that the bishop then present might well think of himself that he, nor none of his fellows, were of that race of bishops which Christ meant to have succeed in his church, but rather of the fellowship of Caiaphas and Annas.
Latimer, I heartily thank you for your good sermon; assuring you that, if you will do one thing at my request, I will kneel down and kiss your foot for the good admonition that I have received of your sermon; assuring you that I never heard mine office so well and so substantially declared before this time.” “What is your lordship’s pleasure that I should do for you?” quoth Mr. Latimer. “Marry,” quoth the bishop, “that you will preach me, in this place, one sermon against Martin Luther and his doctrine.” Said then Mr. Latimer again, “My lord, I am not acquainted with the doctrine of Luther; nor are we permitted here to read his works; and therefore it were but a vain thing for me to refute his doctrine, not understanding what he hath written, nor what opinion he holdeth. Sure I am,” quoth Latimer, “that I have preached before you this day no man’s doctrine, but only the doctrine of God out of the scriptures.
And if Luther do none otherwise than I have done, there needeth no confutation of his doctrine. Otherwise, when I understand that he doth teach against the scripture, I will be ready with all my heart to confound his doctrine, as much as lieth in me.” “Well, well, Mr. Latimer, I perceive that you somewhat smell of the pan; you will repent this gear one day.”
And so the bishop, never a whit amended by the sermon, practiced with Mr. Latimer from that day forwards to put him to silence; insomuch that grievous complaint was made of him by divers papists of the university, as by Mr. Tirrell [fellow of the king’s hall] and others, unto cardinal Wolsey, that he preached very seditious doctrine, infecting the youth of the university with Luther’s opinions. Whereupon the cardinal sent for him to York place; and there attending upon the cardinal’s pleasure he was called before him into his inner chamber by the sound of a little bell, which the cardinal used to ring when any person should come or approach unto him. When Mr. Latimer was before him, he well advised him, and said, “Is your name Latimer?” “Yea, forsooth,” quoth Latimer. “You seem,” quoth the cardinal, “that you are of good years nor no babe, but one that should wisely and soberly use yourself in all your doings; and yet it is reported to me of you, that you are much infected with this new fantastical doctrine of Luther and such like heretics; that you do very much harm among the youth, and other light heads, with your doctrine.”
Said Mr. Latimer again, “Your grace is misinformed; for I ought to have some more knowledge than to be so simply reported of, by reason that I have studied in my time both of the ancient doctors of the church and also of the school-doctors.” “Marry, that is well said,” quoth the cardinal; “I am glad to hear that of you; and therefore,” quoth the cardinal, “Mr. doctor Capon, and you Mr. doctor Marshal, (both being there present,) say you somewhat to Mr. Latimer touching some question in Dunce.” Whereupon Dr. Capon propounded a question to Mr. Latimer.
Mr. Latimer, being fresh then of memory, and not discontinued from study as those two doctors had been answered very roundly; somewhat helping them to cite their own allegations rightly, where they had not truly nor perfectly alleged them. The cardinal, perceiving the ripe and ready answering of Latimer, said, “What mean you, my masters, to bring such a man before me into accusation? I had thought that he had been some light-headed fellow that never studied such kind of doctrine as the school-doctors are. I pray thee, Latimer, tell me the cause why the bishop of Ely and other doth mislike thy preachings tell me the truth, and I will bear with thee upon amendment.” Quoth Latimer, “Your grace must understand that the bishop of Ely cannot favor me, for that not long ago I preached before him in Cambridge a sermon of this text, Christus existens pontifex, etc., wherein I described the office of a bishop so uprightly as I might, according to the text, that never after he could abide me; but hath not only forbidden me to preach in his diocese, but also found the means to inhibit me from preaching in the university.” “I pray you tell me,” quoth the cardinal, “what thou didst preach before him upon that text?” Mr. Latimer plainly and simply (committing his cause unto Almighty God, who is director of princes’ hearts) declared unto the cardinal the whole effect of his sermon preached before the bishop of Ely.
The cardinal, nothing at all misliking the doctrine of the word of God that Latimer had preached, said unto him, “Did you not preach any other doctrine than you have rehearsed?” “No, surely,” said Latimer. And, examining thoroughly with the doctors what else could be objected against him, the cardinal said unto Mr. Latimer, “If the bishop of Ely cannot abide such doctrine as you have here repeated, you shall have my license, and shall preach it unto his beard, let him say what he will.” And thereupon, after a gentle monition given unto Mr. Latimer, the cardinal discharged him with his license home to preach throughout England.
Now, when Latimer came to Cambridge, every man thought there that he had been utterly put to silence. Notwithstanding, the next holiday after, he entered into the pulpit, and shewed his license, contrary to all men’s expectation. Not long after, it chanced the cardinal to fall into the king’s displeasure; whereupon divers report that Mr. Latimer’s license was extincted. Mr. Latimer, answering thereunto in the pulpit, said, “Where ye think that my license decayeth with my lord cardinal’s temporal fall, I take it nothing so. For he being, I trust, reconciled to God from his pomp and vanities, I now set more by his license than ever I did before, when he was in his most felicity.”
Some facts, which the Editor overlooked at the time, lead him to believe that the examination of Lambert, mentioned Vol. 1, p. 10 should have been placed at least a year earlier in the history of Bishop Latimer.
THE SIXTH SERMON, PREACHED ON THE FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1552, BY MASTER HUGH LATIMER.
Romans 13:8,9. Owe nothing to any man but this, that ye love one another: for he that loveth another fulfilleth the law. For this commandment, Thou shalt not commit adultery: Thou shalt not kill: Thou shalt not steal: Thou shalt not bear false witness: Thou shalt not lust, and so forth; if there be any other commandment, it is all comprehended in this saying.
As for the first part of this epistle, we have spoken of it before. For St.
Paul entreateth of love; and I told you how that love is a thing which we owe one to another; and we are never quit of this debt, we can never discharge ourselves of it for as long as we live we are in that debt. I will not tarry now to entreat of it; for I told you, since I came into this country, certain special properties of this love. Therefore, I will only desire you to consider, that this love is the livery of Christ; they that have this livery be his servants. Again, they that have it not, be the servants of the devil; for Christ saith, “By this they shall know that ye be my disciples, if ye love one another.” They that bear ill will, hatred, and malice, to their neighbors be the devil’s servants. And whatsoever such men do that hate their neighbors, pleaseth not God; God abhorreth it; they and all their doings stink before him. For if we would go about to sacrifice and offer unto God a great part of our substance, if we lack love, it is all to no purpose; he abhorreth all our doings therefore our Savior giveth us warning, that we shall know that our doings please not God when we are out of charity with our neighbor, have grieved, or injured him. These be his words: “Therefore if thou offerest thy gift at the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave thy offering before the altar, and go thy way first, and be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” For certain it is, that when we be without love and charity, we please not God at all, neither in sacrifices or any manner of things. Therefore I desire you, call to remembrance what I said at the same time when I entreated of love; for I tell you God will not be mocked: it is not enough to pretend a love and charity with our mouth, and to speak fair, and in our hearts to hate our neighbor; this is naught. We should not only speak well by our neighbor, but also we should love him indeed; we should help him in his need; should forgive him with all our hearts, when he hath done any thing against us: for if he needeth help, and I help him not, being able, then my love is not perfect. For the right love sheweth herself by the outward works like as St. James saith, “Shew me thy faith by thy works;” so I say unto you, shew your love by your works. Now to the other matters. “This also, we know the season, how that it is time that we should now awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is passed, the day is come nigh let us therefore cast away the deeds of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light; let us walk honestly, as it were in the day-light; not in eating and drinking, neither in chambering and wantonness, neither in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts of it.”
Here St. Paul requireth a great thing of us, namely, that we should awake from sleep. He argueth of the circumstances of the time. But that sleep of which he speaketh is specially a spiritual sleep, the sleep of the soul: yet we may learn by this text, that too much sluggishness of the body is naught and wicked; to spend that good time which God hath given us to do good in, to spend it, I say, in sleeping. For we ought to keep a measure, as well in sleeping as in eating and drinking; and we please God as well in sleeping our natural sleep, as in eating and drinking; but we must see that we keep a measure, that we give ourselves not to much sluggishness. For like as we may not abuse meat and drink, so we may not abuse sleeping, to turn our natural sleep into sluggishness. But St.
Paul speaketh here specially of the sleep of the soul; that is, of sin and wickedness, which is called in scripture sleep or darkness, from which sleep St. Paul would have us to rise. “For our salvation is come nearer.”
How chanceth it that St. Paul saith, that our salvation is come nearer? Do we not believe now as the prophets and patriarchs did? and how is then our salvation come nearer? You must understand that there be two times from the beginning: the first time was from the beginning of the world till Christ’s coming; the other time is since he came. For when he came, he wrought the work of our salvation, and taught us the way to heaven; suffered that pain for us which we should have suffered in hell world without end, and rose again from the death, declaring his resurrection unto his disciples; and so ascended into heaven, where he sitteth at the right hand of God his Father, where he with his intercession applieth unto us which believe in him his passion and all his merits; so that all that believe in him shall be quit from their sins. For his passion is profitable only unto them that believe: notwithstanding that his death might be sufficient for all the whole world, yet for all that no man shall enjoy that same benefit, but only they that believe in him; that put their hope, trust, and confidence in him. Now therefore St. Paul saith, “Our salvation is come nearer,” because Christ is come already, and maketh intercession for us. All they that were before his coming, as the patriarchs and prophets, and all other faithful, they believed that he should come, but so do not we believe that he is come already, and hath fulfilled all things.
The Jews, which are at our time, believe that he shall come but they tarry in vain; their faith is a deceitful faith, because it is against God’s word; for Christ is not to be looked for to come again and suffer. No, not so; but he will come again to judge both the quick and the dead.
Our Savior Christ was revealed long before he came to, suffer. First in Paradise, when God spake of the woman’s seed; and said, Conteret caput serpentis , “The seed of the woman shall break the serpent’s head.” And this was a gospel, a glad tidings: for the serpent had deceived Adam and Eve, and brought them from their felicity, to which they were created: so that Adam and Eve could not help themselves, nor amend the matter.
Now then cometh God with his gospel, and promiseth that there shall be one born of a woman, which shall quash the serpent’s head; and this was a gospel. And no doubt as many as did believe these words, and did put their hope in the seed of the woman, and believed to be delivered from their sins through that seed, — as many, I say, as believed so, were saved; as Seth, Enoch, and other good and godly men, which were at that time but there was not a great number of those; for the most part ever was the worst.
Further, this gospel was revealed unto Abraham, when God did promise him, saying, In semine tuo benedicentur omnes gentes ; “In thy seed all nations shall be blessed” so that it appeared, that without Christ we are under the curse of God; and again, by Christ we have the benediction of God. Likewise, this gospel was opened unto David, and all the holy prophets. They spake of this gospel, and taught the people to look for their Savior; but their sayings and prophecies were somewhat dark and obscure. Now when he came and dwelt amongst us, and shewed us the way to heaven, with his own mouth he taught us this gospel, and suffered his painful passion for us this was a more clearer revelation than the prophets had. Therefore Christ our Savior saith to his disciples, “Happy are the eyes which see those things which ye see for I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them, and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” But wherefore were they called blessed? That they saw him? Then, if the blessedness stand in the outward seeing, then Adam and Eve, and all the prophets were not blessed, but cursed. If the blessedness standeth in the bodily sight, then the brute beasts were blessed which saw him; the ass whereupon he rode was blessed; yea, his very enemies, Annas and Caiaphas, and Pilate, and other that consented unto his death, were blessed. But it is not so ye must understand that our Savior in that manner of speaking putteth only a difference between the tunes. For at that time when he was here on earth, he was more clear revealed than afore, when he was only promised to come. When he did miracles, cast out devils, healed the sick, it was a more clearer revelation than when God said, Semen mulieris conteret caput serpentis ; “The seed of the woman shall break the head of the serpent.” When John Baptist pointed and shewed him with his finger, it could be better understood than the prophecies which were spoken of him. Therefore, this blessedness whereof Christ speaketh, and St. Paul, when he saith that “our salvation is come nearer,” must be understood of the diversity of the time for Christ was clearer revealed in the end of the world than before. But as touching the blessedness which we have by Christ, it was alike at all times; for it stood Adam in good stead to believe the first promise which God made unto him, and he was as well saved by it, in believing that Christ should come, as we be which believe that he is come, and hath suffered for us. So, likewise, the prophets were saved ill believing that he should come and suffer, and deliver mankind by his most painful death.
But now, since he is come indeed, and hath overcome the devil, and redeemed our sins, suffered the pains, not for his own sake, but for our sakes; (for he himself had no sin at all, he suffered to deliver us from everlasting damnation; he took our sins, and gave us his righteousness;) now, since that all these things are done and fulfilled, therefore saith Paul, Propius nos est salus nunc, quam tunc cum credebatur; “Our salvation is come nearer now, than when we believed:” taking occasion of the time, to move us to rise from our sleep; as who say, “Christ is come now, he hath fulfilled all things, of which things the prophets have spoken; now therefore arise from your sins.” The same sleep of which St. Paul speaketh here, is the sleep of sin, a spiritual sleep, not a natural sleep of the body as for the natural sleep, it is lawful for us to sleep and to take our rest, when we do it measurably; not too much setting aside our business, whereunto God hath called us, and do nothing but play the sluggards when we do so, then we do naught, and sin against God.
But I pray you, what is sin? I think there be many which can commit sin, and do wickedly; but I think there be but few of those which know what is sin. Therefore I will tell you what is sin: all that that is done against the laws of God, contrary to his will and pleasure, that is sin and wickedness.
Now there be two manner of laws. There be general laws, pertaining to every man and woman, and there be special laws. The general laws are comprehended in the ten commandments, which ten commandments are comprehended in the law of love, “Thou shalt love God with all thy heart, etc. And thy neighbor as thyself.” These be general laws. Now then there be special laws, which teach us how every man and woman shall live in their calling, whereunto God hath called them. These laws teach how magistrates shall do their duty; execute justice, punish the wicked, defend the good; to see that the commonwealth be well ordered, and governed; that the people live godly, every man in his calling. So likewise married folk have their special calling and laws. There is appointed in scripture how the man shall nourish his wife, rule her with all lenity and friendliness: the woman, likewise, shall obey her husband, be loving and kind towards him. So masters ought to do according unto their calling; that is, to rule their house well and godly; to see that their servants be well occupied, and to let them have their meat, and drink, and wages. So servants have their laws; that is, to obey their masters; to do diligently all business whatsoever their masters command unto them, so far as it is not against God for when a master will command unto his servants to do such things, which are against God, then the servant ought not to obey, to do those things.
When ye will know now, whether ye have sinned or not, see and consider these laws, and then go into thy heart and consider thy living, how thou hast spent all thy days: if thou dost so, no doubt thou shalt find innumerable sins done against these laws. For the law of God is a glass, wherein a man may see his spots and filthiness therefore, when we see them, let us abhor them and leave them; let us be sorry for that which is passed, and let us take a good purpose to leave all sins from henceforward.
And this is it that St. Paul saith, “Let us arise from the sleep of sin and wickedness, for our salvation is come nearer; our Savior he is clearly opened unto us; he hath suffered for us already, and fulfilled the law to the uttermost, and so by his fulfilling taken away the curse of the law.”
But there be two manner of sins: there is a deadly sin, and a venial sin; that is, sins that be pardonable, and sins that be not pardonable. Now how shall we know which be venial sins, or which be not? for it is good to know them, and so to keep us from them. When ye will know which be deadly sins or not, you must first understand, that there be two manner of men: when I say men, I understand also women, that is, all mankind and so doth scripture understand women by this word men; for else we should not find in scripture that we should baptize women, for the scripture saith, Baptizate eos , “Baptize them.” He speaketh in the masculine gender only. Also Nisi quis renatus fuerit ex spiritu et aqua, “Except a man be born again through spirit and water.” Here is made no mention of women, yet they be understood in it for the salvation and everlasting life pertaineth as well unto faithful women as it doth unto faithful men; for he suffered as well for the women, as he did for the men.
God would have them both to be saved, the men and the women: so ye see that this word men signifieth or containeth both kinds, the men and the women, at some times, though not always. But I say there be two manner of men: some there be that be not justified, not regenerate, nor yet in the state of salvation; that is to say, not God’s servants: they lack the renovation or regeneration; they be not come yet to Christ. Now these persons that be not come yet to Christ, or if they were come to Christ, be fallen again from him, and so lost their justification, (as there be many of us, which when we fall willingly into sin against conscience, we lose the favor of God, our salvation, and finally the Holy Ghost;) all they now that be out of the favor of God, and are not sorry for it, sin grieveth them not, they purpose to go forward in it; all those that intend not to leave their sins, are out of the favor of God, and so all their works, whatsoever they do, be deadly sins for as long as they be in purpose to sin, they sin deadly in all their doings. Therefore, when we will speak of the diversity of sins, we must speak of those that be faithful, that be regenerated and made new, and clean from their sins through Christ.
Every sin that is committed against God not wittingly, nor willingly; not consenting unto it: those be venial sins. As for an ensample: I see a fair woman, I am moved in my heart to sin with her, to commit the act of lechery with her: such thoughts rise out of my heart, but I consent not unto them; I withstand these ill motions, I follow the ensample of that godly young man, Joseph; I consider in what estate I am, namely, a temple of God, and that I should lose the Holy Ghost; on such wise I withstand my ill lusts and appetites, yet this motion in my heart is sin; this ill lust which riseth up; but it is a venial sin, it is not a mortal sin, because I consent not unto it, I withstand it; and such venial sins the just man committeth daily. For scripture saith, Septies cadit justus , “The righteous man falleth seven times;” that is, oftentimes: for his works are not so perfect as they ought to be. For I pray you, who is he that loveth his neighbor so perfectly and vehemently as he ought to do? Now this imperfection is sin, but it is a venial sin, not a mortal: therefore he that feeleth his imperfections, feeleth the ill motions in his heart, but followeth them not, consenteth not unto the wickedness to do them; these be venial sins, which shall not be imputed unto us to our damnation.
So all the ill thoughts that rise up in our hearts are venial, as long as we consent not unto them, to fulfill them with the deed. I put the case, Joseph had not resisted the temptations of his master’s wife, but had followed her, and fulfilled the act of lechery with her; had weighed the matter after a worldly fashion, thinking, “I have my mistress’s favor already, and so by that mean I shall have my master’s favor too; nobody knowing of it.” Now if he had done so, this act had been a deadly sin; for any act that is done against the law of God willingly and wittingly, is a deadly sin. And that man or woman that committeth such an act, loseth the Holy Ghost and the remission of sins; and so becometh the child of the devil, being before the child of God. For a regenerate man or woman, that believeth, ought to have dominion over sin; but as soon as sin hath rule over him, he is gone: for she leadeth him to delectation of it, and from delectation to consenting, and so from consenting to the act itself.
And so ye may perceive which be they that sin deadly, and what is the deadly sin; namely, that he sinneth deadly that wittingly falleth in sin: therefore it is a perilous thing to be in such an estate, to be in the state f42 of damnation and everlasting perdition. Let us follow, therefore, this good warning which St. Paul giveth us here; let us rise from the sleep of sin; let us take a hearty purpose to leave all wickedness. But may we do so? May we rise from sin? Yes, that we may for God hath provided a remedy for us. What is that? Forsooth penance; we must have the staff of penance, and rise up withal. And this penance is such a salve, that it healeth all sores if a man have done all the world’s sin, yet when he taketh this staff of penance in his hand, that is to say, when he is sorry for it, and intendeth to leave them, no doubt he may recover; and God is that same physician which useth but one manner of salve to all manner of sores.
We read in the gospel of Luke, that when Pilate had done a notable murder, and had mingled the blood of certain Jews with their own sacrifices, now some came and told Christ what Pilate had done: our Savior maketh them answer, saying, “I tell you, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise so perish.” As who say, “Whatsoever Pilate hath done, see you that ye do penance, and amend your naughty livings, or else ye shall all be destroyed.” This was a good quip that he giveth unto the Jews, which were ready to speak of other men’s faults, but of their own faults they made no mention; as it is our nature, to be more readier to reprove other men’s faults than our own; but our Savior he commandeth them to look home, to see to themselves. And this penance is the chiefest thing in all the scripture. John Baptist when he began to preach, his sermon was, Poenitentiam agite , “Do penance:” so likewise Christ saith, Poenitentiam agite, et credite evangelio, “Do penance, and believe the gospel.” But wherein standeth the right penance, and what is penance? Answer:
Penance is a turning from sin unto God, a waking up from this sleep of which St. Paul speaketh here. But wherein consisteth this penance? The right penance consisteth in three points: the first is contrition; that is, I must acknowledge myself that I have transgressed God’s most holy laws and commandments. I must confess myself to be faulty and guilty; I must be sorry for it, abhor myself and my wickedness. When I am now in that case, then I shall see nothing but hell and everlasting damnation before me, as long as I look upon myself and upon the law of God. For the law of God, when it is preached, bringeth us to the knowledge of our sins: for it is like as a glass which sheweth us the spots in our faces, that is, the sins in our hearts. But we may not tarry here only in the law and ourselves; for if we do, we shall come to desperation. Therefore, the first point is to acknowledge our sins, and to be sorry for the same; but, as I said before, we must not tarry here: for Judas was come so far, he had this point; he was, no doubt, a sorrowful man as any can be in the world: but it was to no purpose; he was lost for all his sorrowfulness: therefore we must have another point.
What is that? Marry, faith, belief: we must believe Christ, we must know that our Savior is come into this world to save sinners: therefore he is called Jesus, because “he shall save his people from their sins;” as the angel of God himself withesseth. And this faith must not be only a general faith, but it must be a special faith. For the devil himself hath a general faith: he believeth that Christ is come into this world, and hath made a reconciliation between God and man; he knoweth that there shall be remission of our sins, but he believeth not that he shall have part of it; that his wickedness shall be forgiven unto him, this he believeth not; he hath but a general faith. But I say that every one of us must have a special faith: I must believe for myself, that his blood was shed for me. I must believe that when Christ saith, “Come to me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will ease you;” here I must believe that Christ calleth me unto him, that I should come and receive everlasting life at his hands.
With such a special faith I do apply his passion unto me. In that prayer that our Savior made when he was going to his death, “I pray not for them alone,” saith he, “but for them also which shall believe in me through their preaching, that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; and that they also may be one in us “ so that Christ prayeth for us as well as for his apostles, if we believe in him; and so Christ’s prayer and our belief bringeth the salve unto our souls. Therefore I ought to believe, and so through faith apply Christ’s merits unto me: for God requireth a special faith of every one of us, as well as he did of David, when the prophet Nathan came unto him and said, Abstulit Dominus peccatum tuum , “The Lord hath taken away thy wickedness;” which words of the prophet David believed and so according unto his belief it happened unto him. For David had not such a contrition or penance as Judas had: for Judas indeed had a contrition, he was sorry for his sins, but without faith. David was sorry for his sins, but he joined faith unto it; he believed steadfastly, without all doubting, that God would be merciful unto him. Abstulit Dominus , “The Lord hath taken away thy sins;” and God required of him that he should believe those words. Now, like as he required of David to believe his words, so also he requireth of us too, that we should believe him for like as David was remedied through his faith in God, so shall we be remedied also, if we believe as he did and God will be as glad of us when we repent and leave our sins, as he was of David; and will also that we should be partakers of the merits of Christ.
So ye have heard now these two points which pertain to the right penance: the first is contrition; when we acknowledge our sins, be sorry for them, and that they grieve us very sore. The second point is faith; when we believe that God will be merciful unto us, and through his Son forgive us our wickedness, and not impute the same to our eternal destruction. But yet there is another point left behind, which is this, that I must have an earnest purpose to leave sin, and to avoid all wickedness as far forth as I am able to do. I must wrestle with sin. I must not suffer the devil to have the victory over me though he be very subtle and crafty, yet I must withstand him; I must disallow his instinctions and suggestions. I must not suffer sin to bear rule over me for no doubt, if we will fight and strive, we may have the victory over this serpent; for Christ our Savior hath promised unto us his help and comfort: therefore St. James saith, Resistite diabolo, et fugiet a vobis ; “Withstand the devil, and he shall fly from you.” For at his first coming he is very weak; so that we are able, if we will take heed and fight, to overcome him: but if we suffer him to enter once, to possess our hearts, then he is very strong, so that he with great labor can scant be brought out again. For he entereth first by ill thoughts: then when he hath cast us in ill thoughts, if we withstand not, by and by followeth delectation: if we suffer that, then cometh consenting; and so from consenting to the very act: and afterward from one mischief unto another. Therefore it is a common saying, Principiis obsta , “Resist the beginnings:” for when we suffer him once to enter, no doubt it is a perilous thing, we are then in jeopardy of everlasting death.
So ye have heard now wherein standeth right penance. First we must know and acknowledge our sins, be sorry for them, and lament them in our hearts. Then the second point is faith: we must believe that Christ will be merciful unto us, and forgive us our sins, and not impute them unto us. Thirdly, we must have an earnest purpose to leave all sins and wickedness, and no more commit the same. And then ever be persuaded in thy heart, that they that have a good-will and an earnest mind to leave sin, that God will strengthen them, and he will help them. But and if we by and bye, at the first clap, give place unto the devil, and follow his mischievous suggestions, then we may be sure that we highly displease God our heavenly Father, if we forsake him so soon. Therefore St.
Paul saith, Ne regnet igitur peccatum in vestro mortali corpore ; “Let not sin bear rule in your mortal bodies:” be not led with sin, but fight against it. When we do so, it is impossible but we shall have help at God’s hand.
As touching confession I tell you, that they that can be content with the general absolution which every minister of God’s word giveth in his sermons, when he pronounceth that all that be sorry for their sins, and believe in Christ, seek help and remedy by him, and afterward intend to amend their lives, and avoid sin and wickedness, all these that be so minded shall have remission of their sins; now, I say, they that can be content with this general absolution, it is well: but they that are not satisfied with it, they may go to some godly learned minister, which is able to instruct and comfort them with the word of God, to minister that same unto them to their contentation and quieting of their consciences.
As for satisfaction, or absolution for our sins, there is none but in Christ: we cannot make amends for our sins but only by believing in him which suffered for us. For he hath made the mends for all our sins by his painful passion and blood-shedding. And herein standeth our absolution or remission of our sins, namely, when we believe in him, and look to be saved through his death; none other satisfaction we are able to make. But I tell you, that if any man or woman hath stolen or purloined away somewhat from his neighbor, that man or woman is bound to make restitution and amends. And this restitution is so necessary, that we shall not look for forgiveness of our sins at Christ’s hand, except this restitution be made first; else the satisfaction of Christ will not serve us: for God will have us to restore or make amends unto our neighbor, whom we have hurt, deceived, or have in any manner of ways taken from him wrongfully his goods, whatsoever it be.
By this now that I have said ye may perceive, what manner of sleeping is this of which St. Paul speaketh here, namely, the sleep of sin. When we live and spend our time in wickedness, then we sleep that deadly sleep which bringeth eternal damnation with him. And again, ye have heard how you shall rise up from that sleep, how ye shall fight and wrestle with sin, not suffer her to be the ruler over you. Let us therefore begin even now, while God giveth us so good and convenient a time; let us tarry no longer; let us awake from this deadly sleep of sin, which bringeth f49 eternal death and everlasting pains and sorrows: let us therefore rise to a godly life, and continue in the same till to the end.
These things St. Paul speaketh generally to all men, and against all manner of sins; but now he cometh to specialties. And first he sheweth what we shall not do, then afterward he telleth us what we shall do: “Not in eating and drinking, neither in chambering and wantonness, neither in strife and envying.” I marvel that the English is so translated, “In eating and drinking:” the Latin exemplar hath, “Non in comessationibus,” that is to say, “Not in too much eating and drinking;” for no doubt God alloweth eating and drinking, so that it be done measurably and thankfully. In the beginning of the world, before God punished the world with the flood, when he destroyed all mankind and beasts, save only Noah, that good father; in the beginning, I say, mankind ate nothing but herbs, and roots, and sallads, and such gear as they could get: but after the flood God gave unto mankind liberty to eat all manner of clean beasts, all that had fife, be it fish or flesh. And this was done for this cause, that the earth was not so fruitful, nor brought not forth so wholesome herbs after the flood, as she did before the flood: therefore God allowed unto man all manner of meat, be it fish or flesh; yet it must be done measurably. But seeing I have occasion to speak of eating, I will entreat somewhat of it, and tell you what liberties we have by God’s word.
Truly we be allowed by God’s word to eat all manner of meat, be it fish or flesh, that be wholesome for to eat. But ye must understand that there be certain hedges, over which we ought not to leap; but rather keep ourselves within those same hedges. Now the first hedge is this, Carnem cum sanguine ne comederitis, “Ye shall not eat the flesh with the blood;” that is to say, we shall not eat raw flesh: for if we should be allowed to eat raw flesh, it should engender in us a certain cruelness, so that at the length one should eat another. And so all the writers expound this place: so that God forbiddeth here that mankind, or man’s flesh, may not be eaten. We read in the books of the Kings, and so likewise in Josephus, f51 that certain women had eaten their own children, at the time when Jerusalem was besieged: which thing no doubt displeased God, and they did naughtily in so doing. For mankind may not be eaten: therefore the first hedge is, that we must abstain from raw flesh, and so likewise from man’s flesh; one may not eat another. Neither yet we may not shed blood of private authority: a man may not kill another; but the magistrate he hath the sword committed unto him from God; he may shed blood when he seeth cause why; he may take away the wicked from amongst the people, and punish him according unto his doing or deserving.
Now will ye say, “I perceive, when I eat not raw flesh or man’s flesh, then I may eat all manner of flesh, or fish, howsoever I can get it.” But I tell thee, my friend, not so: you may not eat your neighbor’s sheep, nor steal his fishes out of his pool and eat them: ye may not do so, for there is a hedge made, for that God saith, Non facies furtum , “Thou shalt do no theft:” here am I hedged in, so that I may not eat my neighbor’s meat, but it must be my own meat. I must have gotten it uprightly, or else by buying, or else by inheritance, or else that it be given unto me: I may not steal it from my neighbor; when I leap over this hedge, then I sin damnably.
Now then ye will say, “So it be my own, then I may eat of it as much as I will.” No, not so; there is another hedge. I may not commit gluttony with my own meat; for so it is written, Attendite vobis a crapula et ebrietate, “Take heed of gluttony and drunkenness.” Here is a hedge; we may not eat too much; for when we do, we displease God highly. So ye see that we may not eat of our own meat as much as we would, but rather we must keep a measure; for it is a great sin to abuse or waste the gifts of God, and to play the glutton with it. When one man consumeth as much as would serve three or four, that is an abominable thing before God; for God giveth us his creatures, not to abuse them, but to use them to our necessity and need. Let every one, therefore, have a measure, and let no man abuse the gifts of God. One man sometimes eateth more than another; we are not all alike: but for all that we ought to keep us within this hedge; that is, to take no more than sufficeth our nature; for they that abuse the gifts of God, no doubt they greatly displease God by so doing. For it is an ill-favored thing, when a man eateth or drinketh too much at a time. Sometimes, indeed, it happeneth that a man drinketh too much; but every good and godly man will take heed to himself; when he once hath taken too much he will beware afterward. We read in scripture of Noah, that good man, which was the first that planted vineyards after the flood; he was once drunken, before he knew the strength and the nature of wine, and so lay in the tent uncovered. Now one of his sons, whose name was Cham, seeing his father lying naked, went and told his brethren of it, and so made a mocking-stock of his father. Therefore Noah, when he arose and had digested his wine, and knowing what his son had done unto him, cursed him: but we read not that Noah was drunken afterward at any time more. Therefore if ye have been drunken at any time, take heed henceforward, and leave off; abuse not the good creatures of God.
Now then ye will say, “If I take them measurably, then I may eat all manner of meat at all times and everywhere.” No, not so; there is another hedge behind: ye must have a respect to your own conscience, and to your neighbor’s. For I may eat no manner of meat against my conscience, neither may I eat my meat in presence of my neighbor, whereby he might be offended; for I ought to have respect unto him, as St. Paul plainly sheweth, saying, “I know and am assured by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself, but unto him that judgeth it to be common, to him it is common: if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably; destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.” As for an ensample: when I should come into the north country, where they be not taught, and there I should call for my eggs on a Friday or for flesh, then I should do haughtily; for I should destroy him for whom Christ did suffer. Therefore I must beware that I offend no man’s conscience, but rather travail with him first, and shew him the truth: when my neighbor is taught, and knoweth the truth, and will not believe it, but will abide by his old Mumpsimus then I may eat, not regarding him: for he is an obstinate fellow, he will not believe God’s word. And though he be offended with me, yet it is but a pharisaical offense, like as the Pharisees were offended with Christ our Savior: the fault was not in Christ, but in themselves. So, I say, I must have a respect to my neighbor’s conscience, and then to my own conscience.
But yet there is another hedge behind; that is, civil laws, the king’s statutes and ordinances, which are God’s laws; forasmuch as we ought to obey them as well as God’s laws and commandments. St. Paul saith, “Let every soul submit himself unto the authority of the higher power; for there is no power but it is of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: but they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” Now, therefore, we dwell in a realm, where it hath pleased the king’s majesty to make an Act, that all his subjects shall abstain from flesh upon Fridays and Saturdays, and other days which are expressed in the Act: unto which law we ought to obey, and that for conscience’ sake, except we have a privilege, or be excepted by the same law. And although scripture commandeth me not to abstain from flesh upon Fridays and Saturdays, yet for all that, seeing there is civil law and ordinance made by the king’s majesty, and his most honorable council, we ought to obey all their ordinances, except they be against God.
These be the hedges wherein we must keep ourselves. Therefore I desire you, in God’s behalf, consider what I have said unto you, how ye shall order yourselves, how ye shall not eat raw flesh: that is, ye shall not be cruel towards your neighbor: also you shall not steal your meat from your neighbor, but let it be your own meat, and then ye shall take of it measurably also, ye shall not offend your neighbor’s conscience: also, ye shall keep you within the laws of the realm.
Now to the matter again. St. Paul saith, we shall take heed of too much eating and drinking; and I have shewed you, how ye shall keep you within the hedges which are appointed in God’s laws. Let us, therefore, take heed now, and let us rise up from the sleep of sin: whatsoever we have done before, let us rise up now, while we have time; every man go into his own heart, and there when he findeth any thing amiss, let him rise up from that sleep, and tarry not in it: if thou remain lying, thou shalt repent it everlastingly. “Neither in chambering and wantonness.” Beware of St. Paul’s nots and nons. For when he saith non, we cannot make it yea: if we do contrary to his sayings, we shall repent it. Beware therefore of “chambering.” What is this? Marry, he understandeth by this word “chambering” all manner of wantonness. I will not tarry long in rehearsing them; let every man and woman go into his own conscience, and let them consider that God requireth honesty in all things. St. Paul useth this word “chambering;” for when folks will be wanton, they get themselves in corners: but for all that God he seeth them, he will find them out one day, they cannot hide themselves from his face. I will speak no farther of it, for with honesty no man can speak of such vile vices; and St. Paul commandeth us that we shall not speak any vile words: therefore by this word “chambering” understand the circumstances of whoredom and lechery and filthy living, which St. Paul forbiddeth here, and would have that nobody should give occasion unto the other to such filthiness. “Neither in strife, nor envying.” Envy is a foul. and abominable vice, which vice doth more harm unto him that envieth another than unto him which is envied. King Saul he had this spirit of envy; therefore he had never rest day nor night, he could not abide when any man spake well of David. And this spirit of envying is more directly against charity than any other sin is: for St. Paul saith, Caritas non invidet , “Charity envieth not:” therefore take it so, that he that envieth another is no child of God; all his works, whatsoever he doeth, are the devil’s service; he pleaseth God with nothing as long as he is an envious person. Who would be so mad now, as to be in such an estate, that he would suffer the devil to bear so much rule over him? No wise nor godly man will be in this estate: for it is an ill estate to be out of the favor of God, to be without remission of sin.
Now ye have heard what we shall not do: we shall not too much eat and drink, and so abuse the gifts of God; we shall not have pleasure in chambering, that is, in wantonness; neither shall we be envious persons; for if we be, we be out of charity, and so be out of the favor of God. f60 Now followeth what we should do. “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Every man and woman ought to put on Christ: and all they that have that apparel on their backs, they are well; nothing can hurt them, neither heat nor cold, nor wind nor rain. Here I might have occasion to speak against this excess of apparel, which is used now every where, which thing is disallowed in scripture. There be some that will be conformable unto others, they will do as others do; but they consider not with themselves, whether others do well or not. There be laws made and certain statutes, how every one in his estate shall be appareled; but, God knoweth, the statutes are not put in execution. St. Paul he commandeth us to put on Christ, to leave these gorgeous apparels: he that is decked with Christ is well. And first we be decked with Christ in our baptism, where we promise to forsake the devil with all his works. Now when we keep this promise, and leave wickedness, and do that which Christ our Savior requireth of us, then we be decked with him; then we have the wedding-garment; and though we be very poor, and have but a russet coat, yet we are well, when we are decked with him. There be a great many which go very gay in velvet and satin; but for all that, I fear they have not Christ upon them, for all their gorgeous apparel. I say not this to condemn rich men or their riches; for no doubt poor and rich may have Christ upon them, if they will follow him and live as he commandeth them to live. For if we have Christ upon us, we will not make provision for the flesh; we will not set our hearts upon these worldly trifles, to get riches to cherish this body withal. As we read of the rich man in the gospel, which thought he had enough for many years; he had pulled down his old barns, and had set up new ones which were greater and larger than the other; and when all things were ready after his mind and pleasure, then he said to himself, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” But what saith God unto him? “Thou fool,” saith God, “this night they will fetch away thy soul again from thee; then whose shall these things be which thou hast provided? So it is with him that gathereth riches to himself, and is not rich toward God.” I will not say otherwise but a man may make provision for his house, and ought to make the same: but to make such provision to set aside God’s word and serving of him, that is naught; to set the heart so upon the riches, as though there were no heaven nor hell. How can we be so foolish to set so much by this world, knowing that it shall endure but a little while? For we know by scripture, and all learned men affirm the same, that the world was made to endure six thousand years. Now, of these six thousand be passed already five thousand five hundred and fiftytwo, and yet this time which is left shall be shortened for the elect’s sake, as Christ himself witnesseth.
Therefore let us remember that the time is very short, let us study to amend our lives: let us not be so careful for this world, for the end of it no doubt is at hand; and though the general day come not by and bye, yet our end will not be far off; death will come one day and strip us out of our coat, he will take his pleasure of us. It is a marvelous thing to see, there be some which have lived in this world forty or fifty years, and yet they lack time: when death cometh, they be not ready. But I will require you for God’s sake, rise up from your sleep of sin and wickedness; make yourselves ready; set all things in an order, so that ye may be ready whensoever death shall come and fetch you: for die we must, there is no remedy; we must leave one day this world; for we are not created of God to the end that we should abide here always. Therefore let us repent betime of our wicked life; for God will not the death of a sinner, but rather that he shall turn from his wickedness and live. Vivo ego, nolo mortem peccatoris, sed ut convertatur, et vivat; “As truly as I live, saith God, I will not the death of a sinner, but rather that he shall turn from his wickedness and live.” These are most comfortable words; for now we may be sure that when we will leave our sins and wickedness, and turn unto him with all our hearts earnestly, then he will turn himself unto us, and will shew himself a loving father. And to the intent that we should believe this, he sweareth an oath we ought to believe God without an oath, yet he sweareth to make us more surer. What will he have us to do?
Surely, to rise up from this sleep of sin, to leave wickedness, to forsake all hatred and malice, that we have had towards our neighbors; to turn from envying, from stealing, and make restitution; from slothfulness to diligence and painfulness, from gluttony and drunkenness to soberness and abstinence, from chambering and filthy living to an honest and pure life; and so, finally, from all kinds of vices to virtue and godliness; and whatsoever hath been in times past, be sorry for it; cry God mercy, and believe in Christ, and rise up from sleep; do no more wickedly, but live as God would have thee to live.
Now I will bring in here a notable sentence, and a comfortable saying, and then I will make an end: Justitia justi non liberabit ipsum in quacunque die peccaverit; et impietas impii non nocebit ei in quacunque die conversus fuerit ab impietate sua ; “The righteousness of the righteous shall not save him, whensoever he turneth away unfaithfully:” again, “the wickedness of the wicked shall not hurt him, whensoever he turneth from his ungodliness. And the righteousness of the righteous shall not save him whensoever he sinneth. If I say unto the righteous that he shall surely live; and so he trusteth to his own righteousness, and doth sin, then shall his righteousness be no more thought upon, but in the wickedness that he hath done he shall die. Again, if I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die, and so he turn from his sins, and doth the thing that is lawful and right: then he shall surely live;” that is to say, all his sins which he hath done before shall not hurt him. Here ye hear what promises God hath made us, when we will rise from the sleep of our sins, and leave the affections of the flesh, and do such things as he hath appointed unto us in his laws; if we do so, then we shall surely live and not die: — that is to say, we shall attain after this corporal life to everlasting life; which grant us God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Amen.
THE SERMON PREACHED UPON SAINT ANDREW’S DAY, 1552, BY MASTER HUGH LATIMER.
Matthew 4:18,19,20. As Jesus walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brethren, Simon which was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishers: and he said unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men: and they straightway left their nets and followed him.
This is the gospel which is read in the church this day: and it sheweth unto us how our Savior called four persons to his company; namely, Peter and Andrew, James and John, which were all fishers by their occupation. This was their general vocation; but now Christ our Savior called them to a more special vocation. They were fishers still, but they fished no more for fish in the water, but they must fish now for men, with the net which was prepared to the same purpose, namely, with the gospel; for the gospel is the net wherewith the apostles fished after they came to Christ, but specially after his departing out of this world: then they went and fished throughout the whole world. And of these fishers was spoken a great while ago by the prophet: for so it is written, Ecce ego mittam piscatores multos, dicit Dominus, et piscabuntur eos; et post haec mittam eis venatores multos, et venabuntur eos de omni monte et de omni colle et de cavernis petrarum ; “Behold, saith the Lord, I will send out many fishers to take them; and after that will I send hunters to hunt them out from all mountains and hills, and out of the caves of stone.” By these words God signified by his prophets, how those fishers, that is, the apostles, should preach the gospel, and take the people therewith, (that is, all they that should believe,) and so bring them to God. It is commonly seen that fishers and hunters be very painful people both; they spare no labor to catch their game, because they be so desirous and so greedy over their game, that they care not for pains. Therefore our Savior chose fishers, because of these properties, that they should be painful and spare no labor; and then that they should be greedy to catch men, and to take them with the net of God’s word, to turn the people from wickedness to God. Ye see by daily experience, what pain fishers and hunters take; how the fisher watcheth day and night at his net, and is ever ready to take all such fishes that he can get, and come in his way.
So, likewise, the hunter runneth hither and thither after his game; leapeth over hedges, and creepeth through rough bushes; and all this labor he esteemeth for nothing, because he is so desirous to obtain his prey, and catch his venison. So all our prelates, bishops, and curates, parsons and vicars, should be as painful and greedy in casting their nets; that is to say, in preaching God’s word; in shewing unto the people the way to everlasting life; in exhorting them to leave their sins and wickedness. This ought to be done of them, for thereunto they be called of God; such a charge they have. But the most part of them set, now-a-days, aside this fishing; they put away this net; they take other business in hand: they will rather be surveyors or receivers, or clerks in the kitchen, than to cast out this net: they have the living of fishers, but they fish not, they are otherways occupied. But it should not be so: God will plague and most heinously punish them for so doing. They shall be called to make account one day, where they shall not be able to make answer for their misbehaviors, for not casting out this net of God’s word, for suffering the people to go to the devil, and they call them not again, they admonish them not. Their perishing grieveth them not; but the day will come when they shall repent from the bottom of their hearts; but then it will be too late: then they shall receive their well deserved punishment for their negligence and slothfulness, for taking their living of the people, and not teaching them.
The evangelists speak diversely of the calling of these four men, Peter, Andrew, James, and John. Matthew saith, that “Jesus called them, and they immediately left their nets, and followed him.” Luke saith, that our Savior “stood by the lake of Genezareth, and there he saw two ships standing by the lake side, and he entered in one of these ships, which was Peter’s, and desired him that he would thrust it a little from the land: and so he taught the people; and after that, when he had made an end of speaking, he said to Simon Peter, Cast out thy net in the deep: and Simon answered, We have labored all night and have taken nothing; nevertheless at thy commandment I will loose forth the net. And when they had cast it out, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes. Now Peter, seeing such a multitude of fishes, was beyond himself, and fell down at Jesus’s knees, saying, Lord, go from me, for I am a sinful man: for he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draft of the fishes which they had taken.
And there were also James and John the sons of Zebedee. And Jesus said unto Peter, Fear not, from henceforth thou shalt catch men: and they brought the ships to land, and forsook all, and followed him.” So ye hear how Luke describeth this story, in what manner of ways Christ called them; and though he make no mention of Andrew, yet it was like that he was amongst them too, with Peter, John, and James. The evangelist John, in the first chapter, describeth this matter of another manner of ways, but it pertaineth all to one end and to one effect: for it was most like, that they were called first to come in acquaintance with Christ, and afterwards to be his disciples; and so in the end to be his apostles, which should teach and instruct the whole world. John the evangelist saith, that Andrew was a disciple of John Baptist: and when he had seen his master point to Christ with his finger, saying, Ecce Agnus Dei, qui tollit peccata mundi , “Lo the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world;” — (they used in the law to offer lambs for the pacifying of God: now John called Christ the right Lamb which should take away indeed all the sins of the world:) now when Andrew heard whereunto Christ was come, he forsook his master John, and came to Christ; and fell in acquaintance with him, asked him where he dwelled; and finding his brother Simon Peter, he told him of Christ, and brought him to him. He brought him not to John, but to Christ: and so should we do too; we should bring to Christ as many as we could, with good exhortations and admonitions. Now Christ seeing Peter, said unto him, “Thou art Simon the son of Jonas; thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone:” signifying that Peter should be a steadfast fellow; not wavering hither and thither.
So ye see how diversely the evangelists speak of the calling of these four apostles, Peter, Andrew, James, and John: therefore it is like they were called more than one time: they were called first to come to acquaintance with him, then afterward to be his disciples; and so at the last to be his apostles, and teachers of the whole world. For we read in the gospel of St. Luke, that our Savior, when he would choose apostles which should teach others, he continued a whole night in prayer, desiring God to give him worthy men which he might send. Where we have a good monition, how careful they should be that ought to choose men and set them in offices; how they should call upon God, that they might have worthy men. For it appeared by our Savior, that he was very loath to have unworthy men; insomuch that he ceased not all night to cry unto God, that he might have worthy men, which he might send; and such men as might be able to tell the truth, and when they had done, to stand unto it.
For when a preacher preacheth the truth, but afterward is fearful, and dare not stand unto it, is afraid of men, this preacher shall do but little good: or when he preacheth the truth, and is a wicked liver, after that he hath done, this man shall do but little good: he shall not edify, but rather destroy, when his words are good, and his living contrary unto the same.
Therefore I would wish of God, that all they that should choose officers, would give themselves most earnestly to prayer; desiring God, that they may choose such men as may do good in the commonwealth, amongst the flock of God! And I would wish, that there should be none other officers, but such as be called thereunto lawfully; for no man ought to seek for promotions, to bear rule, to be an officer; but we should tarry our vocation till God call us; we should have a calling of God. But it is to be lamented how inordinately all things be done. For I fear me, that there hath been but very few offices in England but they have been either bought or sold: for I have heard say many times, that some paid great sums of money for their offices. No man can persuade me that these men intend to do good in the commonwealth, which buy their offices for they intend to get that money again which they have laid out, and afterward to scrape for purchasing. But such ambitious men that offer themselves, they should be refused, they should not be suffered to live in a commonwealth; for they be ambitious and covetous. We read that Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law, gave unto Moses counsel to choose men to offices, and that same counsel that Jethro gave was God’s counsel; God spake by the mouth of Jethro. Now what saith Jethro, or God by Jethro, what manner of men would he choose to offices, to serve the commonwealth? “Thou shalt seek out,” saith Jethro, “amongst all the people, men of activity, and such as fear God; true men, hating covetousness; and make them heads over the people, etc.” Jethro would not have him to take those which offer themselves, or which buy their offices with money and fair speaking: no, no; he would none of that gear, he would not have such fellows. But I pray you, how many officers are sought out now-a-days? I think but very few; the most part offer themselves before they be called: but it should not be so; justices of peace, sheriffs, and other officers, they should be sought out, they should be called thereunto; they should not come before they be sent for. Now when they be sought out, what manner of men should they be? Men of wisdom and “of activity;” that is to say, men of knowledge and understanding, which be able to execute that office: and “such as fear God;” for no doubt he must have the fear of God in his heart that shall be an officer; or else he shall never well execute his office; he shall soon be corrupted with gifts or rewards. Further, he must be “a true man;” such a one whom a man may trust by his words: he must be his word’s master; he may not be a dissembler, a liar, or a false dealer. And last of all, he must be a “hater of covetousness.” A man of activity and knowledge; a man that feareth God, a true man, and a man which hateth covetousness: he must not only not be covetous, but he must be a “hater of covetousness.” Now, when he must hate covetousness, then he must needs be far off from that foul vice of covetousness and immoderate desire to have goods. This is the duty of every officer; so he shall be disposed before he be admitted thereunto. But whether they be so or not, let others judge: it is seen by daily experience what they be, a great part of them. I fear me, that if Jethro should see them, their doings would mislike him; he would say, “These are not such men as I have appointed.”
And so likewise they that be of the spirituality, the clergymen, they must not run themselves, they must tarry till they be called. They must not flatter for benefices; and therefore the king and his most honorable council must take heed, and not set up those which call themselves intend not to do good, nor to profit the people; but only they seek to feed themselves, and to fill their coffers. And so likewise all patrons that have to give benefices, they should take heed and beware of such fellows, which seek for benefices, which come before they be called. For such fellows intend not to feed the people with the wholesome doctrine of the word of God; but rather they seek to be fed of the people; to have their ease, for that they look for. If they were minded to do good unto the people of God, they would tarry till God did call them, and then, when they be called, do their duties: but to run without the calling of God, is a manifest token that they have another respect; that they are worldlyminded; and therefore God complaineth by the prophet, saying, Multi currebant quos ego non mittebam ; “There were many of those that ran before I sent them, which were not sent by me.” Therefore I will desire patrons to take heed upon what manner of men they bestow their benefices; for it is a great charge, a great burthen before God to be a patron. For every patron, when he doth not diligently endeavor himself to place a good and godly man in his benefice, which is in his hands, but is slothful, and careth not what manner of man he taketh; or else is covetous, and will have it himself, and hire a Sir John Lack-Latin, which shall say service so that the people shall be nothing edified; no doubt that patron shall make answer before God, for not doing of his duty. And look, how many soever perish in that same parish because of lack of teaching, the patron is guilty of them; and he must make answer for them before God. Therefore it appeareth most manifestly, that patrons may not follow friendships, or other affections: but they must see that God’s honor be promoted, that they place such men as may be able to teach and instruct the people. f73 Now to the matter. These men, Peter, Andrew, James, and John, they were called from catching of fishes to the catching of men: they had a calling, they ran not before they were called: but we do not so; we order the matter as though God saw us not: and no doubt there be some that think in their hearts, “What, shall I tarry till God call me? Then peradventure I shall never be called, and so I shall never get any thing.”
But these be unfaithful men; they consider not that God seeth us every where: in what corner soever we be, God seeth us, and can fetch us if it please him that we should be officers, or be curates, or such-like things. Therefore, thou runner, tarry till thou art called; run not before the time. John Baptist, that holy man, he would not take upon to come before he was bidden. Where was he? Verily, in the wilderness; he made no suit, I warrant you, for any office; he tarried till God called him: for Luke saith, “The word of the Lord came unto John, being in the wilderness.” It is no marvel that God fetched him out of the wilderness; for there is no corner in the whole world where any man can hide himself from his presence. Therefore when he will have a man, he can call him, though he be hid in corners; for the prophet saith, Deus in altis habitat, sed humilia respicit ; “God dwelleth aloft, but yet he seeth those things which be here in the lowest parts of the earth: he dwelleth in heaven, but for all that he overseeth all the whole earth, and what therein is.” For though we were cast down in a deep pit, or dungeon, as Jeremie the prophet was, yet for all that he can see us, he will not forget us; for he looketh down upon those things that be below. Therefore let no man think in his heart, I must put myself forward, I must seek to bring myself aloft. No, no: consider rather that God seeketh thee, that he can bring thee aloft when it pleaseth him; when it is to the furtherance of his glory, and to the salvation of thy soul. John Baptist made no suit for that office, namely, to be a preacher, and to baptize the people; yet for all that God sought him out, God called him thereunto: God would have him in this office of preaching.
So likewise Joseph, when he was in Egypt, sold of his own brethren, where he served with a great man, a great officer he was, Putiphar was his name: now when he had been a while with him, his mistress, perceiving his beauty, cast her love upon him, and so would have him to be naught with her: but Joseph, being a man that feared God, would not follow her, but rather withstood her beastly lusts, ran his ways, and left his cloak behind him; and so afterward, through false accusations, he was cast into prison. Think ye now that God saw him not? Yes, yes, he saw him; though he was in the dark prison, yet he saw him. For when it seemed him good, he brought him out again of the prison, and made him lord and ruler over all Egypt: though he lay in a dungeon, though he could make no suit for his office, yet God, when it pleased him, could call him thereunto. Therefore, let us learn here, by the ensample of this good Joseph, let us learn, I say, that when we be meet, and that God will have us to bear offices, he will call us thereunto by lawful means, by his magistrates; he will not forget us, for he seeth us in every corner; he can pick us out, when it is his will and pleasure.
Moses, that great friend of God, what was his occupation? Verily, he was a shepherd, he kept his father-in-law’s sheep; and though he was in a great wilderness, where there was no body about him, yet it pleased God to call him, and to make him a captain over his people Israel. And this Moses was very loath to go, to take such a great charge upon him; yet at the length he went, because it was the calling of God. Therefore let us follow this ensample of Moses: let us not take in hand any office, except we be called thereunto of God; except we have a lawful calling. Our Savior commandeth his disciples, and also us, that we shall “pray unto God, that he will send laborers into his harvest;” that is to say, that he will send preachers. Whereby it appeareth, that our Savior would that no person should take upon him that office, except he be sent of God, except God call him thereunto.
King Saul, though he was a wicked man in his end, yet he was made a great king of God; for what was his father? No very great man, I tell you: and Saul, his son, went to seek his father’s asses, and so by chance, because he could not find the asses, he came to the prophet Samuel, which by and bye, before he departed from him, anointed him to be king over Israel, God commanding him so to do. Now this Saul, the son of Cis, did not seek for it; it came never in his heart to think that he should be king; insomuch that he hideth himself when Samuel would proclaim him king before the whole congregation: yet for all that, he could not hide himself so but God spieth him out; and so finally brought him to the kingdom. Here ye see most manifestly, that when God will have a thing to be done, he can find such means, whereby it must needs be done; yea, contrary to our expectation. Wherefore should now any of us go about to thrust ourselves into offices without the calling of God?
And no doubt they that do so, shew themselves to have no faith in God at all; they trust not God; they think they shall bring all matters to pass by their own power and wits: but it is seen that such fellows speed ever ill, that will take in hand to exalt themselves, without any lawful calling.
David, that godly man and holy prophet of God, what was he? Marry, a keeper of sheep: he thought not that he should be king, till he was called thereunto of God. But, I pray you, what was Jonas the prophet? Was he not in the bottom of the great sea, in the belly of a great and horrible whale? What happened unto him? Saw not God him? Yes, yes, he saw him; he had not forgotten him, he called him out again, and so sendeth him to Nineveh, to preach unto them, and teach them penance, to leave their sinful life. Now God would have him to that office, therefore he called him; and was able to do it, though he lay even in the horrible fish’s belly.
Now therefore let us well consider this, that when God will have a man to bear an office, he can and is able to fetch him, wheresoever he be: and that man that is so called of God to any office, no doubt God will work with him; he will prosper all his doings; he will defend him from all his enemies; he will not let him perish. But and if any man take in hand an office whereunto he is not called, no doubt, that man shall have no good luck; God will not prosper him. And not only that, but he will extremely punish that man that will take in hand an office whereunto he is not called of God; which seeketh promotions, or goeth about to promote himself: as we have an example in the book of Numbers, that when Corath, Dathan, and Abiram, would not be content with their vocation, whereunto they were called of God, but would climb higher and promote themselves, what happened? The ground clave asunder, and swallowed them up, with wife and children, and all that they had; this was their end, this reward they had for their ambition. Whereby it appeareth, that God will that every man shall keep himself in his vocation, till he be further called of God. We read further in the books of the kings, that when David would bring in the ark of God into his city, as they were going with it, there was one, Oza by name, he fearing lest the ark should fall, because the oxen stumbled, went and held it up with his hands, which was against his vocation; for he was not appointed thereunto, for it was the office of the Levites to keep the ark, nobody else should come near unto it. Now what happened? God struck him by and bye to death, because he took upon him an office unto which he was not called. Yet, after man’s reason, this Oza had done a good work in keeping the ark from falling; but what then? God will that his order shall be kept, which he hath appointed in his word. Further, we read in the bible of a king who was called Uzia, which would take upon him the office of a priest, to offer incense unto the Lord, whereunto he was not called of God, but would do it of his own voluntary will; would promote himself to the office of the high priest; being not called of God thereunto. But what followed? How sped he?
These be ensamples now, which should make us afraid, if we had any fear of God in our hearts, to promote ourselves. And we should learn here to beware of that pestilent poison of ambition, which poison (ambition, I say,) hath been the cause of the perishing of many a man: for this ambition is the most perilous thing that can be in the world. For an ambitious man is able to subvert and disturb a whole commonwealth: as it most plainly appeared by the Rhodians; which Rhodians at our time were very mighty, and of great estimation through all the world. Now what was their destruction? Truly, ambition; through ambition this mighty island of the Rhodes was lost, and came into the hands of the Turks. For the Chronicle sheweth, that before their destruction, when all things were well yet, the grand Master of Rhodes died. Now there was one called Andrew Admirall, a Portingall, he desired to be grand Master: he was an ambitious man, he went about to promote himself, before he was called of God: but for all that, he missed his purpose, so that he was not chosen; for there was one chosen whom they call Philippe de Vyllers.
But what doth this Andrew? Because he could not bring his purpose to pass, he sendeth letters to the great Turk, signifying, that if he would come, he would help him to get the island; which afterwards he did: but yet it cost him his life; for his treason was espied, and so he received a reward according unto his doings. f83 So ye may perceive by this ensample, which was done in our time, how ungracious a thing this ambition is: for no doubt where there is ambition, there is division; where there is division, there followeth desolation; and so finally destruction: even according unto our Savior’s saying, “Every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to nought; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand, etc.”
Well, Andrew, Peter, James, and John, were not ambitious, they tarried their calling: so I would wish that every man would follow their ensamples, and tarry for their vocation, and not thrust themselves in till they be called of God. For, no doubt, vocation hath no fellow; for he that cometh by the calling of God to an office, he may be sure that his adversaries shall not prevail against him, as long as he doth the office of his calling. An ensample we have in our Savior: he was sent from God into this world, to teach us the way to heaven. Now in what peril and danger was he, as long as he was here. When he began to preach at Nazareth amongst his kinsfolks, he displeased them so that they went and took him, and were minded to cast him headlong from the rock, whereupon their city was builded: but when it came to the point, he went away from amongst them, because his hour was not come yet; he had not yet fulfilled or executed that office whereunto God had sent him. So likewise we read by the evangelist John, that the Jews many a time took up stones to stone him, but they could not. And how many times sent they their men to take him! yet for all that they could not prevail against him. And these things are not written for Christ’s sake, but for our sake; that we should learn thereby, that when we do diligently our office whereunto God hath called us, then no doubt our enemies shall as little prevail against us, as they prevailed against Christ; for God will be as careful for us as he was for Christ. And this appeareth most manifestly in the apostle Paul: I pray you, in what danger and peril was he! How mighty and strong enemies had he, which took in hand to rid him out of the way! Yet for all that God delivered him. Wherefore? Because Paul was called and ordained of God to that office: and therefore God ever delivered him out of all troubles, because Paul did according unto his calling.
Peter, when Herod that tyrant had killed James with the sword, and cast him into prison, so that he thought he should die by and bye, yet God delivered him wonderfully. And no doubt this is not written for Peter’s sake, but also to our comfort; so that we shall be sure, that when we follow our vocation, being lawfully called unto it, God will aid and assist us in all our troubles; whatsoever shall happen unto us, he will be present and help us. Therefore take this for a certain rule, that no man with following of his vocation, and doing his duty, shall shorten his life; for it is not the following of our vocation that shall shorten our life.
We read in the gospel, that when Christ saith unto his disciples, “Let us go up into Jewry again;” his disciples made answer unto him, saying, “Master, the Jews sought lately to stone thee, and wilt thou go thither again? Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours of the day? If a man walketh in the day, he stumbleth not: but if a man walketh in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.” With these words our Savior signifieth, that he that walketh in the day, that is to say, he that walketh truly and uprightly in his vocation whereunto God hath called him, that man shall not stumble; he shall not shorten his life, till the twelfth hour cometh; that is to say, till it pleaseth God to take him out of this world.
I pray God give unto us such hearts, that we may be content to live in our calling, and not to gape further! And first, we must walk in the general vocation; and after that, when God calleth us, leave the general calling, and follow the special: if we would walk so, we should be sure that our enemy should not prevail against us: and though we die, yet our death shall be nothing else but an entrance into everlasting life. Again, we shall be sure, that if we will follow our vocations, we shall lack nothing, we shall have all things necessary to our bodily sustenance. And this appeareth by many ensamples. When our Savior sendeth out those seventy men before him to preach the gospel, having no money in their purses, nor any thing whereupon to live; when they came home again, he asked them, “Whether they had lacked any thing?” They said, “No.” For they did as Christ had commanded unto them; therefore they lacked nothing: and so it followeth, that they that will follow their vocations shall lack nothing.
Jacob, that holy patriarch, had a vocation to go into Mesopotamia; for his father and mother commanded him to do so, because they feared lest Esau his brother should have killed him. Now when he went thither, he confessed that he had nothing but a staff upon his back; but following his calling, God brought him again with great droves of all manner of cattle.
Further, when the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they had a vocation; for God commanded Moses to bring them out of Egypt: now he brought them in the wilderness, where there was no corn, nor any thing to live upon. What doth God? He sendeth them bread from heaven, rather than they should lack, and water out of the rock. And this is written to our instruction. Therefore God saith, Non solo pane, etc ., “Man shall not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” For whensoever a man applieth that vocation which God hath appointed for him, no doubt he shall not be disappointed of living, he shall have enough. Therefore our Savior Christ saith, Quoerite primo regnum Dei, et justitiam ejus, et cetera omnia adjicientur vobis ; “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all other things shall be ministered unto you.” That is to say, let us live godly, as he hath appointed unto us: as for other things, Jacta super Dominum curam, et ipse faciet; “Cast thy care upon the Lord, and he will make it;” he will finish all things, for he is able to make a good end of all matters: therefore saith the prophet, Timete Dominum, omnes sancti ejus , “Fear the Lord, all ye his saints:” Non est inopia timentibus eum , “They that fear the Lord, they shall not come to any poverty.” Alack, what a pitiful thing is it, that we will not believe these fatherly promises which God hath made unto us in his word! What a great sin is it to mistrust God’s promises! For to mistrust his promises is as much as to make him a liar; when we will not believe him.
Every man hath his vocation: as these men here were fishers, so every man hath his faculty wherein he was brought up: but and if there come a special vocation, then we must leave that vocation which we have had before, and apply that whereunto we be called specially, as these apostles did. They were fishers, but as soon as they were called to another vocation, they left their fishings. But ever remember, that when we have a vocation, we regard most above all the special points in the same, and see that we do them rather than the accidents. As for an ensample: unto great men God alloweth hunting and hawking at some times; but it is not their chiefest duty whereunto God hath called them: for he would not that they should give themselves only to hawking and hunting, and to do nothing else. No, not so; but rather they ought to consider the chiefest point than the accidents. Hawking and hunting is but an accessory thing; but the chiefest thing to which God hath ordained them is to execute justice, to see that the honor and glory of God be set abroad: this is the chiefest point in their calling, and not hawking and hunting, which is but an accident. So, likewise, a serving man may use shooting, or other pastimes; but if a serving man would do nothing else but shoot, setting aside his master’s business, this man no doubt should not do well: for a serving man’s duty is to wait upon his master; and though he may shoot sometimes, yet his special and chiefest duty is to serve his master in his business.
Our Savior went once abroad, and by the way as he went, he said to one, “Follow me:” the fellow made answer, saying, “Let me first bury my father.” Our Savior said unto him again, “Let the dead bury their dead, and come thou and follow me.” Where our Savior teacheth us, that when we have a special vocation, we shall forsake the general: for to bury father and mother is a godly deed, for God commanded to honor father and mother; yet when we have such a special calling as this man had, we must leave all other vocations. For our Savior would rather have the dead to bury the dead, than that this man should forsake or set aside his vocation. But our spirituality, what do they? Forsooth, some be occupied with worldly businesses, some be clerks of the kitchen, surveyors, or receivers; which no doubt is wicked, and they must make a heavy account for it. For their special calling is to fish, to preach the word of God, and to bring the people from ignorance unto the knowledge of God’s word: this they ought to do.
Abraham, the patriarch, had a vocation, when God called him out of his country; this was a vocation. So likewise, when God commanded him to offer his son, he was ready and willing to do it: for because God had commanded him, he made no excuses, but went and followed his vocation most diligently and earnestly. But this I would have you to note well; that they that have but general vocations, may not follow those which have special vocations. As if we would follow the ensample of Abraham, we may not. Abraham had a special vocation of God to offer his son: therefore they that afterward followed the ensample of Abraham, and burned their children, they did naughtily; for they had no commandment of God to do so.
Phinees, that godly man, seeing one of the great men of Israel do wickedly with a naughty woman, went thither and killed them both, whilst they were yet doing the act of lechery. Now in so doing he pleased God, and is highly commended of God for it: shall we now follow the ensample of Phinees? Shall we kill a man by and bye when he doth wickedly? No, not so; we have no such commandment of God as Phinees had; for he had a special calling, a secret inspiration of God to do such a thing: we, which have no such calling, may not follow him, for we ought to kill nobody; the magistrates shall redress all matters. So to preach God’s word it is a good thing, and God will have that there shall be some which do it: but for all that a man may not take upon him to preach God’s word, except he be called unto it. When he doth it, he doth not well, though he have learning and wisdom to be a preacher; yet for all that he ought not to come himself without any lawful calling: for it was no doubt a good thing to keep the ark from falling; yet for all that Oza was stricken to death because he took in hand to meddle with it without any commission.
We have a general vocation, which is this, In sudore vultus tui vesceris pane tuo ; “In the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat thy bread, till thou be turned again into the ground, out of which thou wast taken.” This text doth charge all us to labor, rich and poor, no man excepted; but he must labor that labor which God hath appointed for him to do: for God loveth not slothfulness, he will have us to labor, to do our business: and upon the holy-day he will have us to cease from bodily labor; but for all that he will not have us to be idle, but to hear his word, to visit sick folks and prisoners. These are holy-days’ work, which God requireth of us; therefore we may not be let of those works with bodily labor: we must set aside bodily labor, and feed our souls upon Sundays in hearing of God’s most holy word, and in receiving his holy sacraments. So, I say, labor is commanded unto us, unto every one, no man excepted. All Adam’s children are bound to labor; for that which was said unto Adam, is said likewise unto us: and our Savior himself teacheth us to labor, when he saith to Peter, Duc in altum , “Lead thy boat into the deep;” and, Relaxate ad capturam , “spread out thy net to catch.” Here Christ commanded Peter to do his duty, to follow his occupation. Now he that commanded Peter, saying, “Cast out thy net,” he commandeth also us, every one in his estate, to do the business of his calling. He will have the farmer to follow his trade, to till the ground, to sow, etc., and yet it is God that giveth the increase of the labor. For we may not think, as though we by our labor may get somewhat; no, not so: we must labor indeed, but we must pray him to send the increase; for except he bless our labor, no doubt we shall labor all in vain. The ordinary way, whereby God sendeth us our food is labor; yet for all that we must not set our hearts upon our labor, nor trust therein, but only hang upon God.
It is written, Egestatem operatur manus remissa ; “A hand that will not labor,” saith scripture, “shall come to poverty:” that is to say, that man or that woman that will not labor, will not do the work of his vocation, shall not prosper in this world: but a diligent hand, a man that will labor, Almighty God will send him increase, he shall have enough. So that certain it is, that we must labor; for St. Paul saith, Qui non laborat non manducet; “He that laboreth not, let him not eat.” I would wish that this commandment of St. Paul were kept in England, that these idle lubbers that will not labor, that they should not eat neither: for no doubt, if they were served so, it would make them to apply their bodies to a better use than they do.
St Paul, in the second epistle to the Thessalonians, the last chapter, saith: “We have heard say, that there are some which walk amongst you inordinately, working not at all, but being busy-bodies. Them that are such we command and exhort, by our Lord Jesu Christ, that they work with quietness, and eat their own bread.” In these words we may note two things: first, that every one of us ought to labor, and do the office of his calling: secondarily, we may note here, that a preacher may speak by hearsay, as St. Paul doth here. I spake unto you since I came into this country by hearsay: for I heard say, that there were some homely thieves, some pickers in this worshipful house; which no doubt is a miserable thing, that in such a house things should be so purloined away: therefore I exhorted you at the same time to beware of it, and to make restitution.
Now since, there were some of you which were offended with me, because I spake by hearsay: they said I slandered the house in speaking so. But I tell you, that I slandered nobody at that time; I spake but only to the amendment of the guilty; and therefore the guiltless must give leave unto the preacher to reprove sin and wickedness. For the preacher when he reproveth sin, he slandereth not the guiltless, but he seeketh only the amendment of the guilty. Therefore God saith by the prophet, Annuncia populo scelera illorum ; “Shew unto the people their sins.”
There is a common saying, that when a horse is rubbed on the gall, he will kick: when a man casteth a stone among dogs, he that is hit will cry: so it is with such fellows too; belike they be guilty, because they cannot suffer to be againsaid. I remember the prophet Isaiah, in what manner of wise he reproved the sins of the people, saying, Argentum tuum versum est in scoriam ; “Thy silver is turned into dross.” So no doubt the fall of the money hath been here in England the undoing of men. Et vinum tuum mixtum est aqua ; “And thy wine is mingled with water.” Here the prophet speaketh generally: and he goeth forth, saying, Principes tui, etc. “Thy princes are wicked, and companions of thieves, they love rewards altogether: as for the fatherless, they help them not to right; neither will they let the widow’s cause come before them.” These be sore words, spoken generally against all the princes, where I doubt not but there were some good amongst them; yet for all that the prophet slandereth them not, for he speaketh not against the good, but against the wicked, he meaneth not the guiltless. For such a manner of speaking is used in the scripture, to speak by the universal, meaning a great number, but yet not all, only those that be guilty; therefore such manner of speaking is no slander. Therefore I said at the same time, as St. Paul saith to the Thessalonians, “I hear say, that there be some amongst you that will not labor:” so I said, I hear say, that there be some amongst you, which are given to picking and stealing; and so I shewed you the danger of it, and told you how you should make restitution secretly, without any open shame: for it is no shame to forsake sin, and to come to godliness. For no doubt restitution must be made either in effect, or affect: that is to say, when thou art able, then thou must make it in effect; when thou art not able, then thou must be sorry for it in thy heart, and ask God forgiveness.
This I told you at the same time, where I slandered nobody: therefore I would wish that ye would expound my words now forwards better than ye have hitherto.
Now to the matter again. If a man should ask this question, saying, “We are all bound to work for our livings, but I pray you by whom cometh the gain of our works? Who giveth the increase of it?” There be some kind of people which think, that they bring all things to pass by their labor; they think they get their livings with their own hand-work.
Some again there be, which think that the increase of their labor cometh by the devil; that he increaseth and blesseth their labors. But think ye that any body will say so, that his increase cometh by the devil? No, I warrant you, they will not say so with their mouth; yet, for all that, their conversation and living sheweth it to be so indeed. For all they that live of usury, they have their gains by the devil. So likewise all they that sell false wares, or sell by false weight, or use any manner of falsehood, they be in the devil’s service, they have his livery; therefore they seek all their gains at his hands, through false and deceitful dealing; and so it appeareth that the devil is the increase of their gains. And, no doubt, the devil taketh upon him to be lord over all things in earth, as it plainly appeareth by the gospel of Matthew, where he took in hand to tempt Christ our Savior, and brought him upon a high hill, where he shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world, saying, Haec omnia dabo tibi, si prostratus adoraveris me ; “All these things I will give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” By these words it appeareth, that the devil beareth himself in hand to be lord and ruler over the whole world: but in very deed, he hath not so much as a goose feather by right. And yet for all that, he hath many children here upon earth, which hang upon him, and seek their increase by him, through falsehood and deceit. Therefore such worldlings have a common saying amongst them; they say, “When a man will be rich, he must set his soul behind the door:” that is to say, he must use falsehood and deceit. And therefore, I fear me, there be many thousands in the world which set their souls behind the doors. The merchant commonly in every city doth teach his prentice to sell false wares: so that a man may say to all cities, as Isaiah saith to Jerusalem, Argentum tuum versum est in scoriam ; “Thy silver is turned into dross;” thy ware is false; thou hast a delight in falsehood and deceit; thou gettest thy goods per fas et nefas, “by lawful and unlawful means.” But the increase that the godly man hath, cometh of God; as the scripture saith, Benedictio Dei facit divitem , “The blessing of God maketh rich.”
Now there be some that will say, “If the blessing or the increase come not of my labor, then I will not labor at all; I will tarry till God sendeth me my food, for he is able to feed me without my labor or travail.” No, we must labor, for so are we commanded to do; but we must look for the increase at God’s hands: like as Peter did; he labored the whole night, yet he took nothing at all, till Christ came. And yet this is not a certain rule, he that much laboreth, shall have much. For though a man labor much, yet for all that he shall have no more than God hath appointed him to have; for even as it pleaseth God, so he shall have. Nam Domini est terra et plenitudo ejus ; “For the earth is the Lord’s, and all that is therein;” and when we have much, then we are accountable for much. For no doubt we must make a reckoning for that which we receive at God’s hands.
Now to make an end: I desire you, let us consider our general vocation, that is to say, let us labor every one in that estate wherein God hath set him: and as for the increase, let us look for it at God’s hands, and let us be content with that which God shall send us; for he knoweth what is best for us. If we have victum et vestitum , “meat, and drink, and clothing, let us be content withal;” for we cannot tell when death will come, and make an end of all together. For happy shall he be whom the Lord, when he cometh, shall find well occupied in his vocation!
And if we have special vocations, let us set aside the general, and apply the special points of our vocation, rather than the accidents; and let us labor in our calling, and yet not think to get any thing by it, but rather trust in God, and seek the increase at his hands. Let us look for his benediction; then it shall go well with us: but, above all things, beware of falsehood, for with falsehood we serve the devil. But, as I told you before, I fear me the devil hath a great number of servants in England.
The almighty God grant us grace to live so here in this world, and to apply our business in such wise, that he may be glorified amongst us; so that we may finally come to that felicity which he hath prepared for us! Amen.
THE EIGHTH SERMON OF MASTER DOCTOR LATIMERR THE SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1552.
Luke 21:25-28. And there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon, and in the stars, and in the earth: the people shall be at their wit’s end through despair; the sea and the water shall roar, and men’s hearts shall fail them for fear, and for looking after those things which shall come on the earth.
For the powers of heaven shall move: and then shall they see the Son of man come in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth near.
This gospel is read this day in the church, and it shall be for our lesson. It is taken out of the twenty-first chapter of Luke, and it maketh mention of the glorious coming of our Savior Christ, how and in what manner of form he shall come: for, as the scripture withesseth, we shall all come before the judgment of Christ, and there receive every one according unto his deserts; after his works he shall be rewarded of Christ, which shall be at that time their judge: and there shall be signs and tokens before his glorious and fearful coming; for then he shall come to judgment. His first coming into this world was to suffer his painful passion, and to deliver mankind out of the bondage and dominion of the devil. But when he cometh again he will come of another manner of wise than he did the first time: for he will come with great power and might, with the host of heaven, with all the angels of God, and so sit at the audit and judge all men. And this is most certain, that he will come; but we cannot tell when, or at what time his coming shall be. For the day of his coming is hidden from us, to that end that we should be ready at all times. Therefore, I desire you, for God’s sake, make you ready; put not off your preparation.
For seeing that we be certain that danger and peril shall come upon us, all they that be wise and godly will prepare themselves, lest they be taken suddenly unawares, or unready. And therefore, I say, this day is hidden from us, to the intent that we ever should be ready. For if we should know the day or the hour, at what time he would come, no doubt we would be careless, we would take our pleasure as long as we might, till at such time as we should depart. And therefore, lest we should be made careless, this day is hidden from us: for the angels of God themselves know not the hour or moment of this great and fearful day. Neither did Christ himself know it as he was man; but as he is God he knoweth all things; nothing can be hid from him, as he saith himself: Pater commonstrat mihi omnia ; “The Father sheweth me all things.” Therefore his knowledge is infinite, else he were not very God. But as concerning his manhood, he knew not that time; for he was a very natural man, sin excepted: therefore like as he was content to suffer heat and cold, to be weary and hungry; like as he was content to suffer such things, so he was content, as concerning his manhood, to be ignorant of that day. He had perfect knowledge to do his Father’s commission, to instruct us, and teach us the way to heaven; but it was not his commission to tell us the hour of this day. Therefore he knew not this day, to tell us of it any thing, as concerning when it should be. For as far forth as ignorance is a painful thing unto man, so far forth he was content to be ignorant; like as he did suffer other things.
I will rather spend the time in exhorting you to make ready against that day, to prepare yourselves, than curiously to recite or expound the signs thereof, which shall go before this fearful day. “And there shall be signs in the sun and moon, etc.” There be some learned men which expound those tokens of the destruction of Jerusalem, but that is not the matter: if they have gone before the destruction of Jerusalem, then they have gone before the end of the world, and so admonish us to make ready, to leave sin, lest we be taken with it. As touching the Jews, our Savior Christ wept over them, and threatened them what should come upon them, because they despised him, and would not receive God’s holy word, and leave their sins; like as we do, which take our own pleasure, care little for him or his word: we cannot suffer when our faults are told us; we repine and grudge at it, like as the Jews did. Therefore our Savior, knowing what should come upon them, wept over the city, prophesying that it should so be destroyed; that one stone should not be left upon another: and so it came to pass according unto his word. For Titus, the son of Vespasian, which was emperor at that time, destroyed that same city Jerusalem utterly, like a forty years after the death of our Savior Christ. But wherefore were they so destroyed? Because they would not believe the sayings of our Savior Christ: they would take their pleasures; they would follow their forefathers, as our papists are wont to say. When they cannot defend themselves with scripture, then they will defend themselves with the ignorance of their forefathers; much like unto the Jews, which could not away with the doctrine of our Savior, because it was disagreeing from the customs and traditions of their forefathers. But what happened? Their destruction fell upon them before they perceived it, and destroyed the most part of them full miserably, God knoweth: and not only that, but, as the story doth shew, they that were left, and not brought to destruction, were so vilely handled, and so despised amongst all men, that thirty were sold for a penny; and so by that means they were scattered throughout all the world; and in every country where they came, they were made slaves and tributaries, and shall be so till to the end of the world. For scripture saith, Hierusalem calcabitur a gentibus, donec implebuntur tempora gentium ; “Jerusalem shall be trodden under the feet, till the times of the gentiles be fulfilled.” By this prophecy is signified that the Jews never shall come together again, to inhabit Jerusalem and Jewry, and to bear rule there, as they have done: for by this word calcabitur is signified as much as, it shall be inhabited, it shall be under the dominion of the gentiles.
Now which are gentiles? Answer; all the people in the whole world are gentiles, be it whatsoever they will, except the Jews: all other are gentiles. We Englishmen are gentiles; so are likewise the Frenchmen, Dutchmen, and other nations; all are gentiles. Now the prophet saith, that Jerusalem shall not be inhabited, donec implebuntur tempora gentium , “till the times of the gentiles be fulfilled;” that is to say, till all they are come into the world which are appointed of God to come; that is to say, they shall never come together again till to the end of the world.
Wherefore? Because they were stiff-necked, that they would not be ruled by God’s most holy word, but despised it, and lived according unto their own fantasies and vanities: like as we do now-a-days the most part of us. Therefore we may reckon that it shall go with us one day as it went, with them, which are made now outcasts of the whole world; every man despiseth them, and regardeth them for nothing, for they have no dominion more; no king, nor ruler, no cities, nor policy. And though Jerusalem be builded again, yet the Jews shall have it no more, they shall never have dominion over it; but the gentiles, they shall have it, it shall be in their hands. And this is the meaning of this prophecy against the Jews, and this God hath performed hitherto; for the Jews have many times attempted to build it again, yet for all that they were not able to bring it to pass: for God’s word will not nor cannot be falsified; for the wrath of God hangeth upon their heads, because of their wickedness, wherewith they have provoked God. Further, you must understand, that not only Jews were at Jerusalem, but they were scattered throughout all the world; in every country were some; and therefore they were not all destroyed when Jerusalem was destroyed but for all that they were cursed in the sight of God, so that they should not inhabit any more that city.
We read in stories that in the days of the emperor Adrian the Jews gathered themselves together out of all cities, a wonderful number of men, all the Jews which could be gotten, to the intent that they might get Jerusalem again; which Jerusalem was at that time in the emperor’s hands, and therefore they made great preparations to have it again but what doth the emperor? He gathered together a great and strong host, and made against them, and in the end scattered them; so that they were without any hope afterward to recover that city again. After which things the emperor made a proclamation, that not one Jew should come into the city, neither to buy or to sell; yea, and furthermore, to the intent that they should be without any hope of recovery, he changed the name of the city, and called it Aelia. So that by this story it most manifestly appeareth, that the word of God cannot be falsified by any man’s power or cunning; for though they had a strong and mighty host, yet, for all that, God, which is the ruler of things, confounded them, so that they could bring nothing to pass after their minds, as they would have it, but rather were banished further from the city. For they were in worse case after this fighting, than they had been before; for they had an access unto the city before, which liberty afterward they lost.
After that in Julianus the emperor’s time, which emperor was an apostate, for he had been a Christian, and after he came to be emperor, he forsook the christian faith, and all goodness and godliness; and not only that, but he did all that he could to vanquish and pull down Christ’s true religion, and therefore he went about to set up the Jews again, and gave them liberties to gather themselves together, and to return again to Jerusalem; and not only gave them this liberty, but also he helped them with all manner of things, that they might bring to pass their purpose; and so upon that the Jews gathered themselves together with an infinite number of people, and went to Jerusalem, and so began to make preparations for the building of the temple, and so finally laid the foundation. The story saith, that this host of the Jews was a wonderful rich host; for their mattocks and spades, and the other instruments which they occupied to the building of the temple were made of fine silver.
So these Jews had the emperor’s favor, his aid and help: they were rich, and able to set up their kingdom again, and so falsify the word of God, after man’s reason; for they lacked no worldly things. But what doth God? When he saw that no man would withstand them; to verify his word, he sendeth a wind, a strong hurling wind, which blew away all their provisions which were made by them for the building of the temple; all the sand and mortar, and such like things, which men use in such buildings; and after that there came such an earthquake, that they were almost out of their wits. And this was not enough, but there came also fire, and burned up all their works; and so finally they were scattered again one from another. F103 So by these stories it manifestly appeareth, that no man’s power is able to stand against God, or to disappoint him of his purposes: for Christ our Savior had told them, that they should never come to their rule again.
And so his words are verified till this day, and shall be still to the world’s end: for he saith, Caelum et terra peribunt, verbum autem meum non peribit ; “Heaven and earth shall perish, but my word shall endure for ever.” A man would think, that there were nothing so durable as heaven and earth is; yet for all that they shall rather perish than that the word of God should be falsified. And this appeared in the Jews, which though they had the aid and help of this great emperor, and the mighty power of this world, yet for all that they brought nothing to pass at all, for God was able to confound them; and so, no doubt, he will confound all his f104 enemies till the end of the world for he is as able to verify his words now, as he was then. I would have you to consider well the causes wherefore they were cast away from God, and were made a mocking-stock unto the whole world. Wherefore, I say? Verily, for their wicked and sinful lives. Seeing then that they were cast out of their land, it shall be meet for us to take heed; for no doubt this is written for our instruction, to give us warning, as the epistle which is read of this day exhorteth us.
Now God hath fulfilled his word as touching the destruction of Jerusalem: he hath made true his word of wrath; think ye not that he will fulfill his word of mercy too? Yes, no doubt; ye may be sure of it, that he which promised that if we believe in Christ we shall be saved, he will as well execute and bring to pass that word, as he hath brought to pass the word of his wrath and indignation over the Jews. The temple which was at Jerusalem, was called the temple of God; the people was God’s people: but when they would not come unto him, and live according as he would have them to live, he cast them away, and utterly destroyed their dominions and kingdoms, and made them slaves and bondmen for ever. And, no doubt, this is written for our instruction and warning: for no doubt, when we follow them in their wickedness, despise God’s word, regard it as nothing, but live rather according unto our fantasies and appetites, than after his word, no doubt we shall receive like reward with them. And though God tarry long, yet it shall be to our greater destruction: for his longanimity and long tarrying for our amendment shall increase, augment, and make greater our punishment and damnation. But if we will leave sin and wickedness, and study to live according unto his will and commandments, no doubt he will fulfill his promises which he hath made unto us of everlasting life; for we have his warrant in scripture, therefore we ought not to doubt of it: for so he saith, Sic Deus dilexit mundum , “So entirely hath God loved the world, that he sent his only-begotten Son, to that end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have life everlasting.” This is now a f106 comfortable thing, and a great promise, which God maketh unto the whole world. And, no doubt, he is as able to fulfill that promise of grace, as he was able to fulfill his wrathful word against the Jews. So likewise he saith, Vivo ego, dicit Dominus, nolo mortem peccatoris, sed ut convertatur et vivat ; “As truly as I live, saith the Lord God, I will not the death of a sinner, but rather that he shall turn and live.” It is not his pleasure when we be damned, therefore he sweareth an oath: we ought to believe him without an oath; yet to satisfy our minds, and to the intent that we should believe him, and be the better assured of his good will towards us, he sweareth an oath. Now therefore, if we will follow him and leave our wicked living, convert and turn ourselves unto him, be f108 sorry for that which is past, and intend to amend our life now forward; if we do so, no doubt we shall live with him everlastingly, world without end. Therefore let every one of us go into his own heart, and where he findeth that he hath been a wicked man, an ireful man, a covetous or slothful man, let him repent and be sorry for it, and take a good purpose to leave that same sin wherein he hath lain before. Let us not do as the Jews did, which were stiff-necked: they would not leave their sins, they had a pleasure in the same, they would follow their old traditions, refusing the word of God: therefore their destruction came worthily upon them. And therefore, I say, let us not follow them, lest we receive such a reward as they had; lest everlasting destruction come upon us, and so we be cast out of the favor of God, and finally lost world without end. “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, and in the earth.” There be some which think that there shall be great eclipses, against the course of nature; and ye know that there hath been strange f111 things seen in the element divers times. Sometimes men have seen a ring about the sun; sometimes there hath been seen three suns at once; and such like things hath been seen in times past which no doubt signifies that this fearful day is not far off, in which Christ will come with his heavenly host, to judge and reward every one of us according unto his deserts. “And the people shall be at their wits’ end through despair:” men shall be wonderous fearful; they shall pine away for fear: and no doubt they shall be good men, which shall be thus troubled, with such a fear of this day: for you know the worldlings care not for that day; yea, they will scant believe that there shall be such a day, that there shall be another world, or at the least way they would not wish that there should be another world. Therefore they shall be godly men which shall be so used, to be tokens unto the world. And no doubt there hath been here in England many already, which have been so vexed and turmoiled with such fear. That same Master Bilney, which was burnt here in England for God’s word sake, was induced and persuaded by his friends to bear a fagot, at the time when the cardinal was aloft and bore the swing. Now when that same Bilney came to Cambridge again, a whole year after, he was in such an anguish and agony, so that nothing did him good, neither eating nor drinking, nor any other communication of God’s word; for he thought that all the whole scriptures were against him, and sounded to his condemnation. So that I many a time communed with him, (for I was familiarly acquainted with him;) but all things whatsoever any man could allege to his comfort, seemed unto him to make against him. Yet for all that, afterwards he came again: God endued him with such strength and perfectness of faith, that he not only confessed his faith, the gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ, but also suffered his body to be burnt for that same gospel’s sake, which we now preach in England. Martin Luther, that wonderful instrument of God, through whom God hath opened the light of his holy word unto the world, which was a long time hid in corners and neglected, he writeth of himself, that he hath been sometimes in such an agony of the spirit, that he felt nothing but trembling and fearfulness. And I myself know two or three at this present hour which be in this case.
But as concerning the ungodly, they say, Pax et tuta omnia, all things are well with them; they care for no more but for this world: like as in the flood time, they were careless at all, they thought all things were cocksure, till at such time when the flood fell upon their heads. And so it is at this time with the ungodly too: they care not for this day of judgment, it grieveth them not, till it fall upon their heads one day. It is said in scripture that God “leadeth into hell, and bringeth up again:” and so it is with such fearful men; for God doth cast them into hell, he hideth himself from them; but at the length he bringeth them out again, and stablisheth them with a constant faith, so that they may be sure of their salvation and everlasting life. I knew once a woman that was seventeen years in such an exercise and fear, but at the length she recovered again; and God endued her with a strong and steadfast faith in the end. Therefore, no doubt, these be warnings wherewith the Almighty God warneth us to make ready against that horrible and fearful day; which day, no doubt, is not far off. For the world was ordained of God to endure, as scripture and all learned men agree, six thousand years: now of this number are gone five thousand five hundred fifty-two, so that there is left only four hundred and fifty lacking two and this is but a little time; and yet this time shall be shortened, as scripture plainly witnesseth, for the elect’s sake: so that peradventure it may come in my days, as old as I am; or in our children’s days. Therefore let us begin to strive and fight betimes with sin: let us not set all our hearts and minds upon this world; for, no doubt, this day, whensoever it shall come, will be wondrous fearful unto all mankind, and specially unto the wicked. There will be great alterations at that day; there will be hurly burly, like as ye see in a man when he dieth.
What deformity appeareth; how he stretcheth out all his members; what a winding is there, so that all his body cometh out of frame! So will it be at this fearful, horrible day: there will be such alterations of the earth, and the element; they will lose their former nature, and be endued with another nature. “And then shall they see the Son of man come in a cloud with power and great glory.” Certain it is, that he shall come to judge, but we cannot tell the time when he will come: therefore, seeing that he will come, let us make ready, lest he find us unprepared. And take this for a rule, that as he findeth us, so he shall judge us. St. Paul to the Thessalonians, when he speaketh of the resurrection of the good, saith, “That at the same day the trumpet shall blow, and all shall rise which died since the world began; then they that shall be found alive upon the earth shall be changed suddenly, and shall be rapt up into the air, and so meet Christ our Savior.” All those, I say, that be content to strive and fight with sin, that will not be ruled by sin, these shall in such wise be taken up in the air and meet with Christ, and so shall come down with him again. But as for the other sort, which be wicked, and have a delight in wickedness, and will not leave it, but rather go forwards in all mischief, they shall be left upon the earth with the devils, until they be judged. And after that they have received their sentence, they shall go to hell with the devil and all his angels, and there be punished for their sins in hellish fire, world without end: for so it is written, Vermis eorum non moritur ; “Their worm dieth not.” “The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light.” Ye shall not take these words so, as though the sun and moon should be obscured or darkened, their light being taken from them. But it is to be understood, that through the brightness of his glory they shall be obscured and darkened. The sun, no doubt, will shine, but her light shall not be seen, because of the brightness of his glory; like as when ye set a burning candle in the sun, the candle burneth indeed, but her light is not seen, because of the brightness of the sun. So it will be at that time with the sun: for though she be the brightest and dearest creature above all others, yet for all that, Christ with his glory and majesty will obscure her; for his light, that he shall bring with him, shall be so bright that the other shall not be seen. And this his coming shall be wonderful comfortable and joyful unto them which are prepared, or chosen to everlasting life: unto them, I say, that be content to leave their sins and wickedness here in this world, and live conformable to God and his holy word; which are not proud or stout; not covetous, or whoremongers; or if they have been so, they will leave it, and do no more so; they are sorry for it from the bottom of their hearts. Also, they that forsake all manner of falsehood, or slothfulness, and all manner of vices, as gluttony, lechery, swearing; and all that be content to wrestle with sin; they, I say f118 shall rejoice at that time and be merry beyond all measure. And this is the thing wherefore all godly and faithful people pray in this petition, Adveniat regnum tuum ; “Thy kingdom come:” they desire of God the Almighty, that his kingdom, that is to say, the last day may come; that they may be once delivered from their sins, and live with him everlastingly world without end.
As for the other part, this shall be a heavy and fearful coming unto them that intend not to leave their sins and wickedness, but rather will take their pleasures here, in this world: it shall be a heinous sentence unto them, when he shall say unto them, Ite maledicti in ignem aeternum ; “Go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which is prepared for the devil and all his angels. Get you hence from me; for ye might have been saved, but ye would not; ye despised my words and commandments; ye regarded more your own pleasure than that which I had commanded you. Hence, therefore, get you hence to the devil and all his angels, after whose will and commandments ye have lived; his reward therefore ye shall have.” Of such manner Christ our Savior will talk with the ungodly, and in the end send them to everlasting damnation. And this shall be an heavy burden for them: and though they can cloak and hide their sins in this world, yet for all that God will open their wickedness and filthy living at that day, where all the world shall know it, and where they shall not be able to hide themselves or their sins.
This day will be like unto a parliament. Ye know, when things are amiss in a realm, or out of order, all they that be good-hearted, that love godliness, they wish for a parliament: these would fain have that all the rulers of the realm should come together, and bring all things in good order again. For ye know that parliaments are kept only for this purpose, that things which be amiss may be amended. And so it will be at this last day, at this general parliament, where God himself with all his heavenly power will be present, and oversee all things, and hear all causes, so that nothing shall escape him: for then all these things which the devil hath brought out of order, they shall be amended; and the devil shall not be able afterward to corrupt them any further; but all things shall be well for ever. Let us, therefore, ever have in fresh remembrance this day, that it will be a heavy day unto them that be wicked; and again, a joyful, pleasant day unto them that have no delight in wickedness. Therefore Christ saith, Erigite capita vestra , “When ye see these things, then hold up your heads;” that is to say, “Be merry and rejoice:” for ye know, when we be merrily disposed, we hold up our heads, and laugh. So Christ biddeth us to hold up our heads, that is to say, to be merry; “for our redemption is come near.” So Christ comforteth us, and maketh us to hold up our heads, for our redemption is come nearer than it was before.
What! Hath he not redeemed us before by his death and passion? How chanceth it then, that our redemption is come nearer? Truly Christ redeemed us before, indeed, by his death and passion yet it appeareth not unto us who it is that shall be saved or damned; for we see the good and the bad bear both the name of Christians. Good and bad, faithful and unfaithful, are baptized in the name of Christ; so likewise they go to the communion; so that there is no great difference here in this world between the elect and reprobate: for the very unfaithful give alms, and do such outward acts which seem unto us to be good, and to be done with a good heart, when it is nothing less. So that, I say, we cannot tell, as long as we be here in this world, which be elect, and which not. But at the last day, then it shall appear who is he that shall be saved; and again, who shall be damned. And therefore Christ saith, “our redemption draweth near;” that is to say, it shall appear unto the whole world that we be the children of God. Therefore his coming will be a glad and joyful coming unto the faithful, for they shall be the children of God; they shall be delivered and rid out of all miseries and calamities. But the unfaithful shall fall to desperation at that day: they that take their pleasures here, they that remember not this day, they shall be condemned with the irrevocable and unchangeable judgment of God. And they shall not need any men of law, to go about to defend or discern their causes. No, no; the men of law shall not be troubled at that day in defending of other men’s causes; but rather they themselves shall be called to make an account for their doings, and there they shall be judged; so that they shall not be able to speak any thing against it, for their own hearts and consciences shall and will condemn them.
And though this great and general day come not in our time, yet let us consider that we shall die, and that we have but a short time to live here in this world. And as we die, so we shall rise again. If we die in the state of damnation, we shall rise in that same estate: again, if we die in the state of salvation, we shall rise again in that same estate, and come to everlasting felicity, both soul and body. For if we die now in the state of salvation, then at the last general day of judgment we shall hear this joyful sentence, proceeding out of the mouth of our Savior Christ, when he shall say, Venite, benedicti Patris mei, possidete regnum paratum vobis ab exordio mundi; “Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess that kingdom which is prepared for you from the beginning of the world.”
And though we have much misery here in this world, though it goeth hard with us, though we must bite on the bridle, yet for all that we must be content; for we shall be sure of our deliverance, we shall be sure that our salvation is not far off. And, no doubt, they that will wrestle with sin, and strive and fight with it, they shall have the assistance of God; he will help them, he will not forsake them; he will strengthen them, so that they shall be able to live uprightly: and though they shall not be able to fulfill the laws of God to the uttermost, yet for all that God will take their doings in good part for Christ his Son’s sake, in whose name all faithful people do their good works; and so for his sake they be acceptable unto God, and in the end they shall be delivered out of all miseries and troubles, and come to the bliss of everlasting joy and felicity.
I pray God, that we may be of the number of those, which shall hear this joyful and most comfortable voice of Christ our Savior when he will say, Venite, benedicti Patris, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom which is prepared for you before the foundation of the world was laid!” There be a great number amongst the christian people, which in the Lord’s prayer, when they pray, “Thy kingdom come,” pray that this day may come; but yet, for all that, they are drowned in the world: they say the words with their lips, but they cannot tell what is the meaning of it; they speak it only with their tongue: which saying indeed is to no purpose. But that man or woman that saith these words, “Thy kingdom come,” with a faithful heart, no doubt he desireth in very deed that God will come to judgment, and amend all things in this world, and to pull down Satan, that old serpent, under our feet. But there be a great number of us which be not ready. Some have lived in this world fifty years, some sixty; yet for all that they be nothing prepared towards his coming; they think ever he will not come yet. But I tell you that though his general coming be not yet, yet for all that he will come one day, and take us out of this world. And, no doubt, as he findeth us, so we shall have: if he find us ready, and in the state of salvation, no doubt we shall be saved for ever, world without end. Again, if he find us in the state of damnation, we shall be damned world without end: there is no remedy, after we be once past this world; no penance will help then, nor nothing that man is able to do for us. Therefore it is meet for every one of us to take heed betimes. Let us not tarry too long with our amendment, lest peradventure we shall come too short; for no doubt we shall be rewarded according unto our deserts.
But there be some, and hath been a great number of us, which have trusted in masses and pilgrimages, in setting up candles, and such like foolishness; but I tell you, all this gear will not help, it is to no purpose: for if all the masses which were said in all Christendom since the mass began, if all these masses, I say, were bestowed upon one man to bring him out of the state of damnation, it were all to no purpose and to no effect. Therefore let us not put our hope and trust in such fooleries; for if we do, no doubt we shall deceive ourselves. Again, there be some people which defer and delay their amendments of life, till such time as they shall die; then they take in hand to leave sin, when they are not able to do any more: they will take their pleasure as long as they be able to have it; they think it be time enough to repent at the last hour, when they shall depart, and forsake this world. Such people do very naughtily; and no doubt they be in a dangerous state: for they are not sure whether they shall have at that same last time grace, or not, to repent and be sorry for their sins.
Peradventure their hearts shall be so hardened in sin and wickedness, that they shall not be able to repent or be sorry for their faults. Therefore, the best and surest way is to repent betimes, while we have time; and to be sorry for our wickedness, and to take an earnest mind and purpose to leave sin. If we do so, then no doubt we shall be taken up with Christ, and dwell with him in heaven everlastingly, in great honor and glory, where we shall have such joy, which no tongue can express, no eyes hath seen, nor ears hath heard the inestimable felicities and treasures which God hath laid up for his faithful. And like as our pleasure and joy shall be inestimable, if we repent betimes and leave sin; so likewise the pains of them that will not leave sin, but ever go forward in the same, shall be inestimable and intolerable; their pains shall be intolerable, and yet they shall bear them. Therefore let every man take heed how he spendeth his time, how he taketh his pleasure in this world; for like as the general great day shall be uncertain, so also our particular day, when we shall depart this world, shall be uncertain. Peradventure some of us shall die to-morrow or the next day: therefore it shall be meet and necessary for us to make ready, lest we be taken suddenly unawares. “And then shall they see the Son of man come in a cloud with power and great glory.” St. Paul to the Thessalonians setteth out the coming of Christ and our resurrection; but he speaketh in the same place only of the rising of the good and faithful that shall be saved. But the holy scripture in other places witnesseth, that the wicked shall rise too, and shall receive their sentence of Christ, and so go to hell, where they shall be punished world without end. Now St. Paul’s words be these: “This say we unto you in the word of the Lord, that we which shall live and shall remain in the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which sleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, and the voice of the archangel and trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall arise first: then we which shall live, even we which shall remain, shall be caught up with them also in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort yourselves one another with these words.” By these words of St. Paul it appeareth, that they which died in the beginning of the world shall be as soon by Christ as they which shall be alive here at the time of his coming. I would have you to note well the manner of speaking which St. Paul useth: he speaketh like as if the last day should have been come in his time. Now, when St. Paul thought that this day should have been come in his time, how much more shall we think that it shall be in our time! For no doubt he will come, and it is not long thereunto; as it appeareth by all scriptures which make mention of this day. It will come, but it shall come suddenly, unawares, “as a thief in the night.” For a thief, when he intendeth a robbery, to rob a man’s house, to break up his chests, and take away his goods, he giveth him not warning; he letteth not the good man of the house know at what time he intendeth to come; but rather he intendeth to spy such a time that no man shall be ware of him. So, no doubt, this last day will come one day suddenly upon our heads, before we be ware of it; like as the fire fell down from heaven upon the Sodomites unlooked for: they thought that all things were well, therefore they took their pleasures, till at such time when the fire fell down from heaven and burned them up all, with all their substance and goods. So likewise as it happened unto the first world, which would not amend their lives, but followed their carnal lusts and appetites; God sent the flood upon their heads, and so destroyed them all together. Therefore let us take heed lest this great day do fall upon us, like as the flood and fire fell upon the world, and upon the Sodomites. St.
Jerome, that holy man, writeth in a place, that he thought ever he heard this trumpet of God and the archangel blow. I would wish that we would follow the ensample of Jerome in that point; that we would be so fearful lest this day come upon us unawares! “And he shewed them a similitude: Behold the fig-tree, and all the trees; when they shoot forth their buds, ye see and know of your ownselves that summer is then near at hand.” So when ye see the tokens which shall go before this fearful day, it is time to make ready. But here a man might ask a question, saying, “I pray you, wherein standeth this preparation?
How shall I make me ready?” About this matter hath been great strife; for there hath been an infinite number, and there be some yet at this time, which think that this readiness standeth in masses, in setting up candles, in going of pilgrimage; and in such like gear they thought to be made ready towards that day, and so to be made worthy to stand before the Son of man, that is, before our Savior Christ. But I tell you, this was not the right way to make ready. Christ our Savior he sheweth us how we shall make ready ourselves, saying: “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcome with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this world, and so this day come upon you unawares: for as a snare shall it come upon all them that dwell upon the face of the whole world.
Here Christ sheweth wherein this preparation standeth; namely, in keeping ourselves from superfluous eating and drinking, and in watching and praying. For how cometh it to pass that the whole world is so deceitful and false? Because every man would fain fare well; every one loveth to have good meat and drink, and to go gaily. And when they have not wherewith to get such things, then they fall to picking and stealing, and to falsehood, and so deceive their neighbors. But our Savior he giveth us warning that we shall eat and drink measurably and soberly, every one according to his estate and measure. Further, we ought not to be careful for this life: we should labor and do our business diligently, every one in that estate in which God hath set him; and let us trust in God, which no doubt will send us increase of our labor.
Therefore Christ addeth, saying, Vigilate et orate , “Watch and pray” as who say, “Be ever in a readiness, lest ye be taken unawares.” But those sluggards, which spend their time vainly in eating and drinking and sleeping, they please not God; for he commandeth us to watch, to be mindful, to take heed to ourselves, lest the devil, or the world, or our own flesh, get the victory over us. We are allowed to take our natural sleep; for it is as necessary for us as meat and drink, and we please God as well in that same as we please him when we take our food. But we must take heed that we do it according as he hath appointed us: for like as he hath not ordained meat and drink to the end that we should play the glutton with it, so likewise the sleep is not ordained, that we should give ourselves to sluggishness or over-much sleeping; for no doubt, when we do so, we shall displease God most highly. For Christ saith not in vain, “Watch and pray.” He would have us to be watchers, to have at all times in remembrance his coming, and to give ourselves to prayer, to that end that we may be able to stand before him at this great and fearful day: meaning, that we should not trust in ourselves, but call upon God, saying, “Lord God Almighty, thou hast promised to come and judge the quick and the dead! We beseech thee give us thy grace and Holy Ghost, that we may live so according unto thy holy commandments, that when thou comest, thou havest not cause to bestow thy fearful anger, but rather thy loving kindness and mercy upon us!” So likewise, when we go to bed, we should desire God that we sleep not in the sleep of sin and wickedness; but rather that we may leave them, and follow his will and pleasure, that we be not led with the desires of this wicked world. Such an earnest mind we should have towards him, so watchful we should be.
For I tell you, it is not a trifling matter; it is not a money matter: for our eternal salvation and our damnation hangeth upon it. Our nature is to do all things that is possible for us, to get silver and gold: how much more then should we endeavor ourselves to make ready towards this day, when it shall not be a money matter, but a soul matter! For at that day it will appear most manifestly who they are that shall enjoy everlasting life, and who shall be thrust into hell. Now as long as we be in this world, we have all one baptism; we go all to the Lord’s supper; we bear all the name of Christians: but then it will appear who are the right Christians; and, again, who are the hypocrites or dissemblers.
Well, I pray God grant us such hearts, that we may look diligently about us, and make ready against his fearful and joyful coming; — fearful to them that delight in sin and wickedness, and will not leave them; and joyful unto them that repent, forsake their sins, and believe in him: which, no doubt, will come in great honor and glory, and will make all his faithful like unto him, and will say unto them that be chosen to everlasting life, Venite, benedicti Patris mei ; “Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess that kingdom which is prepared for you from the beginning of the world!” Again, to the wicked, which will not live according unto his will and pleasure, but follow their own appetites, he will say, Ite, maledicti, in ignem aeternum ; “Go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” O, what a horrible thing will this be, to depart from him which is the fountain of all goodness and mercy, without whom is no consolation, comfort nor rest, but eternal sorrow and everlasting death!
For God’s sake, I require you let us consider this, that we may be amongst them which shall hear Venite , “Come to me;” that we may be amongst them which shall enjoy eternal life! And no doubt we shall be amongst them, if we will be content to leave sin and wickedness, and strive with it, and let it not have the rule and governance over us. When we have done any man wrong, or have taken away his good from him wrongfully, if we be content to restore it again; (for no doubt restitution must be made, as I told you many a time before: Restitutiones famae et rerum sunt opera debita , “Restitution of a man’s goods, or his name, must needs be made:” for in that point agree all the writers new and old: they say that restitutions must needs be made, either in effect or affect. For this is a sure probation, that this man or woman is not right sorry for his sins and wickedness, that is not content to make restitution when he hath taken away things unlawfully, against conscience, from his neighbor:) therefore he that is content to leave his sins, and to make restitution of such things which he hath taken away wrongfully from his neighbor, sheweth himself to be a very penitent man: so likewise they that live in soberness, abuse not the gifts of God, but use them with thanksgiving. Item, he that liveth chastely, keepeth himself from filthiness, and, when he feeleth that he hath not the gift of chastity, marrieth in the fear of God, according unto his ordinance, maketh ready for that day. And as concerning young folks, all the writers agree that, with a mean diligence, young folk may live chaste: when they be well governed and ruled, and kept from idleness, then it is no great matter for them to live chaste, as long as they be in growing. But such young persons must beware, above all things, of foul and filthy talk; for it is as St. Paul saith, Corrumpunt bonos mores colloquia prava , “Foul and filthy talks destroy good manners and good bringing up.” And then, again, young folks must beware of overmuch eating and drinking; for St.
Jerome saith, “He that is a great drinker of wine, I will never believe that he is a chaste man.” Therefore let young unmarried folk beware of drinking: and then, again, of idleness; for when the devil findeth them idle, he entereth with them, and they are soon overcome. Therefore let them ever be well occupied till they come to age, and then let them be married in the Lord; for the scripture most highly praiseth marriage. St. Paul saith, Honorabile conjugium inter omnes ; “Marriage is honorable amongst all men.”
Further, let us take heed of swearing: for we may not swear at all, and we may swear by nothing but by God; by whom we may not swear, except it be a great urgent cause; except I be called thereunto by a magistrate; and when I am called so, then I must swear by nobody else, save only by God. Therefore they that are so used to swearing do very naught, and no doubt God’s vengeance hangeth over their heads. For certain it is, that he which is a great swearer is also a great liar. But, as I said before, they that will leave such wickedness, and will live conformable unto God’s word, and then believe in Christ our Savior, trust and believe to be cleansed from their sins through his death and passion, no doubt they shall hear this joyful sentence of Christ our Savior, “Come to me, ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom which is prepared for you from the beginning of the world.” We esteem it to be a great thing to have a kingdom in this world, to be a ruler, to be aloft, and bear the swing: how much more then should we regard this kingdom, which Christ our Savior offereth unto us, which kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, where there shall be no end of joy and felicity! Therefore all they that will be content to follow our Savior’s steps, to suffer with him here in this world, and bear the cross after him, they shall reign with him in everlasting glory and honor. Which grant us God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Amen.
THE SERMON OF MASTER DOCTOR LATIMER, PREACHED ON THE THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1552.
When John being in prison heard the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that shall come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto him, Go and shew John again what ye have heard and seen, etc.
This is read in the church this day, and it shall serve us this day for our lesson. It beginneth thus: “When John being in prison heard the works of Christ.” And here is to be had in consideration, of whom he had heard these wonderful works, which our Savior did, for he could not hear it without a teller; somebody told him of it. The evangelist Saint Luke in the seventh chapter doth shew, how and by whom John Baptist heard such things which our Savior Christ did; namely, by his own disciples.
For when our Savior had raised up the widow’s son, which was dead at Nain, the disciples of John came by and bye unto John their master, and told him all things; namely how Christ raised up that same young man which had been dead already. And this is a thing to be marveled at, that John had so much liberty, that his disciples could come to him, and speak with him; Herod, the king, being a cruel man, a heathen king, a miscreant, a man of unbelief. No doubt it is a great matter, that his disciples could have liberty to speak with him; for a man would think that no man should have been permitted to come near him. For I know that in christian realms some being cast into prison for the truth’s sake, for God’s word sake, have not been suffered that their friends should have come near unto them. And here it appeareth most manifestly, that christian princes have sometimes more cruelly and extremely used God’s preachers than the gentiles used their preachers, sent unto them from God to teach them: they were more straitly holden, and more extremely handled than John was. So we read, likewise, of St. Paul, which was cast into prison at Rome by that wicked and cruel tyrant, the emperor Nero; which emperor, though he was a cruel tyrant, a wicked man, and a venomous persecutor of God’s church and his holy word, yet, for all that, Paul had liberty to speak with every one that would come unto him, and commune with him: so that there came unto him who would; and they might speak with him what they would. For St. Luke saith, in the last chapter of the Acts, these words: “And Paul dwelt two years full in his lodging, and received all that came in unto him; preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus with all confidence, no man forbidding him.” Here by these words we may perceive, that Paul had liberty to say his mind, and to commune with his friends; he was not so straitly kept. But we see, and have had experience, that preachers which profess the same word, which Paul taught, are more straitly handled in christian realms, than in times past they were, when the rulers and princes were not Christians. Christian princes be more earnest to extinguish God’s word and his true religion, than the heathen were which knew not, or would not know God.
But here ye may ask, what manner of works were these which our Savior had done in the presence of John’s disciples, which, by and bye, afterward went and told their master of it; what special things had our Savior wrought? Answer: Luke, the evangelist, sheweth a great and marvellous act, which Christ our Savior had done immediately as John’s disciples came unto him. The story is this: “When Christ went into a city which is called Nain, and many of his disciples following him, and much people, when he was come nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, which was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and much people of the city went with her.” And here you may note, by the way, that these citizens had their burying-place without the city, which no doubt is a laudable thing: and I do marvel that London, being so rich a city, hath not a burying-place without; for no doubt it is an unwholesome thing to bury within the city, specially at such a time when there be great sicknesses, so that many die together. I think, verily, that many a man taketh his death in Paul’s church-yard: and this I speak of experience; for I myself, when I have been there in some mornings to hear the sermons, have felt such an ill-favored, unwholesome savor, that I was the worse for it a great while after. And I think no less but it be the occasion of much sickness and diseases: therefore the citizens of Nain had a good and laudable custom, to bury the corpses without the city, which ensample we may follow.
Now when our Savior saw this corpse, and the widow, which was now a miserable and sorrowful woman, for she had lost first her husband, and afterward her son in whom she had all her hope and comfort in this world; him she had lost now, therefore she was sorrowful, and not without cause. But what doth our Savior? Verily he comforted her, saying, “Weep not.” Here may all widows, which are destitute of comfort in this world, here, I say, they may learn to trust in Christ, and to seek aid and help by him. For no doubt, like as he hath comforted this miserable widow, so he will comfort and help all them that call upon him in their need and necessity. For his hand is not abbreviated, or his power diminished; he is as strong, as rich, and as mighty as ever he was: therefore let widows learn here to seek aid and help by him. Now, when he had comforted her with his words, he came nigh, and touched the coffin; and they that bare the coffin stood still. “And he said, Adolescens, tibi dico, surge; ‘Young man, I say unto thee, arise.’ And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak.” Now upon this there went such a rumor throughout all the countries, so that every man marveled at it. And John’s disciples went to their master, and told him of it, what wonderful things he did. Note here, that when we hear that our Savior is a doer of such wonderful supernatural works, it shall be a wondrous great comfort unto us. For by this his deed it appeared manifestly, that he is a master over death, and hath power to command him; so that death is in his dominion. For to raise a man up, whom death hath devoured already, is as much as to command death. But I tell you, Death is such an arrogant fellow and proud, yea, and of so great might and strength, that he will give no man place, nor submit himself to any man, save only unto God: unto him he must obey, and humble himself before his divine majesty.
And therefore it appeareth here, that our Savior is very God, because Death, that stout fellow, must obey him; he is not able to withstand or disobey his commandments: which is a most comfortable thing unto us that believe in such a Savior, which hath power over death. And therefore, if he hath power over death, then we shall be sure that death shall, or cannot hurt us which believe in him: for when we believe in him, he is able to defend us from death, hell, and the devil; so that they shall not be able, with all their might or power, to hurt us, or do us any mischief; but we shall have life everlasting. For he saith, Qui credit in me, etsi mortuus fuerit, vivet ; “He that believeth in me, and though he die, yet he shall live.” That is to say, “Though he depart out of this natural bodily life, yet for all that, he shall live everlastingly with me, world without end.” This is now an exceeding comfort to all christian people; for they may be assured that when they believe in Christ, and Christ taketh their parts, there shall be nothing neither in heaven nor in earth, that shall be able to hurt them, or let them of their salvation: and so we learn by this wonderful miracle which our Savior did before all the multitude, that he proved himself to be very God, and one that hath power over death.
But peradventure ye will say, “No: it followeth not, he raised up the dead, therefore he is very God; for we read in the Old Testament, that Elias and Elisa, these holy prophets of God, did such works too: they raised up the dead as well as he; and yet for all that they were not gods, but sinful men as we be: though they had such a special gift of God, yet they were not gods, nor yet took upon them to be gods.
In the mean season I will move another question, which is this: What should move John’s disciples to come and tell him the miracles which Christ our Savior did? Think ye, came they with a good will to set out Christ, and to magnify his doings; or came they with an ill will, with envious heart, which they bare towards Christ? Answer: They came with an ill will and envious heart which they bare against Christ; as it appeareth most manifestly by the circumstances being well considered.
For ye must understand, that John had very much ado to bring his disciples to Christ: they thought that Christ and his doings, his conversation, were nothing in comparison of John. For John’s strait life which he led in the wilderness, made such a shew and outward glistering, that our Savior was regarded for nothing in comparison of him. For our Savior led not so hard and strait a life as John did: he ate and drank, and would come to men’s tables when he was bidden; he would keep company with everybody, rich and poor, whosoever received him, and would believe in him: but John was ever in the wilderness, out of the company of all men. Therefore the disciples of John, they much more regarded John their master, than Christ their Savior. And therefore they ever lay upon John, in exhorting him, that he would take upon him to be Christ and the Savior of the world. And when they had heard of any miracles that Christ had done, they by and bye came unto their master, and told him of it disdainfully; as who say, “Thus and thus, we have heard that Christ hath done, wherefore shewest not thou thyself too? Wherefore workest thou not as well miracles as Christ doth? Every man speaketh of him; do thou somewhat too, that the people may know thee to be a great man, as well as Christ.” We read in the gospel of Matthew, that John’s disciples came once to Christ, and quarreled with him; saying, Cur nos et Pharisaei jejunamus frequenter, discipuli autem tui non jejunant? “Wherefore fast we and the Pharisees so many times, but thy disciples fast not at all?” They thought in their own opinions, that John’s life was a great deal more to be esteemed than Christ’s, because John’s life was more painful in the outward shew of the world; therefore it grieved them, that Christ should be more esteemed than John. So that we may perceive by John’s disciples, that they had a good zeal, sed non secundum scientiam, “but not according unto knowledge.” For it is a good thing for a servant to love his master; but John’s disciples did naught, in that they envied Christ, and went about to stir up their master to take upon him to be Christ.
Now John, intending to correct and amend their false opinion, which they had in Christ and in him; (for they regarded him too much, and Christ, which was to be most regarded, him esteemed they for nothing in comparison of John;) therefore John, that good and faithful man, seeing the ignorance of his disciples, playeth a wise part: for hearing them talk of the wonderful works which Christ our Saviour did, he sendeth them to Christ with this question, “Art thou he that shall come, or shall we look for another?”
If we look only upon the outward shew of these words, a man might think that John himself was doubtful whether Christ were the Savior of the world or not, because he sendeth his disciples to ask such a question of him. But ye must understand, that it was not done for John’s sake, to ask such a question, but rather for his disciples’ sake. For John thought that this should be the way to bring them to a good trade, namely, to send them to Christ. For as for John himself, he doubted not; he knew that Christ was the Savior of the world; he knew it, I say, whilst he was yet in his mother’s womb. For we read in the gospel of Luke, that after the angel came unto Mary and brought her such tidings, she arose, and went through the mountains, and came to Jerusalem to Elizabeth her cousin; and as she saluted her, the evangelist saith, Saliit infans in utero suo , “The infant, which was John, leapt in his mother’s belly.” So that John, being in his mother’s belly, yet knew Christ, which should be born out of the virgin Mary. After that, we read in the third chapter of Matthew, when John should baptize Christ, he said unto Christ, Ego potius, etc. “I have more need to be baptized of thee, than thou of me.”
So that it manifestly appeareth that John doubted not of Christ, but knew most certainly that he was the eternal Son of God, and the Redeemer which was promised unto the fathers to come into the world. For it was told him from above, that upon whomsoever he should see the Holy Ghost coming down from heaven visibly, that same was he; which afterward happened: for John, after he had baptized him, saw the Holy Ghost come down in a form of a dove. Further, John pointed him with his finger, saying, Ecce Agnus Dei qui tollit peccata mundi; “See the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” So, I say, it is most evident, that John himself doubted not, for he knew it assuredly that Christ was the Savior; but he did it only to remedy the doubts of his disciples. Now when John’s disciples came to Christ, they did their message, saying, Es tu ille, qui venturus est, an alium expectamus? “Art thou he that shall come, or shall we look for another?” What doth Christ?
He made not answer with words, but with deeds. He made not much ado in setting out himself with great words, but he shewed himself to be Christ indeed: for he did such miracles which no man else could do but only he which was both very God and man. I would wish of God that we would do so too; that when we be asked a question, whether we be Christians, whether we have the gospel, the true word of God, or not? I would wish, I say, that we could shew our faith by our works and godly conversation, like as he shewed himself to be Christ by his acts and deeds. But, I tell you, we be far otherwise; our acts and deeds disagree far from our profession. For we are wicked; we care not for God’s laws, nor his words; we profess with our mouth that we be the haters of sins, but our conversation sheweth that we love sin, that we follow the same, that we have a delight in it. So it appeareth, that our words and deeds agree not: we have God’s holy word in our mouth, but we follow the will and pleasure of the devil in our outward conversation and living. But Christ he did not so; for he shewed himself by his outward works and conversation, that he was very Christ the Savior of the world. So we should do too: we should live so uprightly, so godly, that every one might know us by our outward conversation to be very Christians. We should so hate and abhor sins, that no man justly might or could disallow our doings.
But what manner of works doth Christ, whereby he sheweth himself to be the very Messias and Savior of the world? Answer: He healeth all manner of diseased folks, the blind, the lame, the lepers, and all other which would come unto him, and desire help at his hands. And finally, he preached the gospel, this joyful tidings, unto the poor; unto them Christ preached the gospel. But, I pray you, how chanted it, that he saith, Pauperes evangelizantur , “The poor receive the gospel? Answer:
Because the most part of the rich men in this world despise and condemn the gospel; they esteem it for nothing. Why, wherefore despise they the gospel? Because they put their hope, trust, and confidence in their riches.
For the most part of the rich men in this world (I will not say all) do either put their hope in their riches; or else they come haughtily by their riches; or else they keep it ill: they heap them up together, or else they spend them ill. So that it is a very rare thing to find a godly rich man: for commonly they are given to gather and to make heaps, and to forget the poor in the mean season, whom they ought to relieve; or else, when they spend them, they spend them naughtily, not as God hath appointed unto them, namely, to help their poor and needy neighbor; but rather to use them to excess, wantonness and pleasure. Therefore Christ saith, “The poor receive the gospel;” for they are most meet thereunto; they are all comfortless in this world, and so most meet to receive the gospel.
The prophets, long afore hand, had prophesied of these works, which Christ, when he should come, should do: for so it is written, “God cometh his own self, and will deliver you: then shall the eyes of the blind be lightened, and the ears of the deaf opened; then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the dumb man’s tongue shall give thanks: in the wilderness also there shall be well-springs.” This text of the prophet witnesseth, that Christ is very God; for he hath done such tokens and miracles of which the prophet speaketh. Now, in the same prophet it is further written, how that Christ should preach the gospel unto the poor comfortless people; for so he saith, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, for the Lord hath anointed me to preach good things unto the poor; that I might bind up the wounded hearts; that I might preach deliverance to the captive, and open the prison to them that are bound; that I might declare the acceptable year of the Lord.” Here the prophet prophesied that when Christ should come, he should be a worker of such acts, and a preacher which should preach the gospel unto the poor: and therefore now, when the disciples of John came unto him, demanding of him whether he were Christ or not, he answered by his works. Like as he saith in another place in the gospel, to the Pharisees: “The works which I do bear witness of me.” As who say, “I prove myself what I am by my works.” Again he saith, “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.” So that most manifestly he proveth himself to be that prophet, which was spoken of before by the prophets, and other holy men of God.
This is a very notable saying, and most comfortable; to all troubled consciences. Jesus hath done many things which are not written, but these are written that we should believe him to be Christ; that that Jesus, Mary’s son, that was born at Bethlehem, and nourished at Nazareth, that he is the Savior of mankind; and so in believing in him we shall have life everlasting. So that there was never none that believed in Christ, which was lost, but all believers were saved: therefore it is not to be doubted, but that if we will believe, we shall be saved too.
We read in a book which is entitled Vitae Patrum , “The Lives of the Fathers,” — in that same book we read that there was once a great holy man (as he seemed to all the world), worthy to be taken up into heaven: now that man had many disciples, and at a time he fell sick; and in his sickness he fell in a great agony of his conscience, insomuch that he could not tell in the world what to do. Now his disciples standing about him, and seeing him in this case, they said unto him: “How chanceth it that ye are so troubled, father? For certainly, there was nobody so good a liver, so holy as ye have been: therefore you have not need to fear; for no doubt but you shall come to heaven.” The old father made them answer again, saying: “Though I have lived uprightly, yet for all that it will not help me: I lack something yet.” And so he did indeed; for certainly, if he had followed the counsel of his disciples, and had put his trust in his godly conversation, no doubt he should have been gone to the devil. For though we are commanded to do good works, and we ought to do them, yet for all that we must beware how we do them: when we do them to the end to be saved by them, then we do them not as we ought to do; then we thrust Christ out of his seat and majesty. For indeed the kingdom of God is merited, but not by us. Christ, he merited the kingdom of heaven for us through his most painful death and passion. There hath been many perfect men among the heathen, which lived very well and uprightly, as concerning their outward conversation; but for all that they went to the devil in the end, because they knew not Christ: for so saith scripture, “Whosoever believeth not in the Son he is judged already.”
Therefore let us learn to know Christ, and to believe in him; for knowledge must go before the belief. We must first hear the word of God and know it; and afterward we must believe the same; and then we must wrestle and strive with sin and wickedness, as much as it is possible for us, and so live well and godly, and do all manner of good works which God hath commanded us in his holy laws; and then we shall be rewarded in everlasting life, but not with everlasting life; for that everlasting life is a gift of God, a free gift given freely unto men through Christ.
Now, when the disciples of John were come to Christ, and had done their errand, had asked him whether he were Christ or not, our Savior said unto them, “Go and shew John again what ye have heard and seen.” And here we may learn by the way, what a patient man our Savior Christ was, which could so well bear with the grossness of John’s disciples: for they had heard before many times, of John their master, that Christ was the Savior of the world, yet they could not believe it; and so with their unbelief they came to Christ, which refused them not, nor yet reviled them, but entreating them most lovingly and gently, beareth with their weakness, leaving us an ensample to do so too. For we may learn here by his ensample, not to be hasty, but to bear with our neighbors. Though they be not by and bye as we would have them to be, yet we should not by and bye revile them, or banish them out of our company, as obstinate fellows; but rather bear with their weakness, like as Christ heareth with the disciples of John.
Now to my question which I moved before. How could the works which our Savior did in raising up the dead, how could they prove him to be the Savior of the world, which was promised of God by his holy prophets, when other holy men did the same works as well as he? And this must be answered too; we may have no doubts in that matter. For when we doubt whether he be the very Savior or not, then we cast down the foundation of our faith, and so bring ourselves to the very pit of hell. Therefore this shall be my answer: Elias and Elisa raised up dead bodies, to prove by such miracles, that they were the right ministers of the living God, and that their doctrine was the true doctrine and the very word of God: to that end did they their miracles; but they never said, “We be Christs,” or, “We be the sons of God, yea, and very Gods.” No, no; they never took upon them such things. But our Savior, when he did the same works, he took upon him to be Christ, to be the Savior of the world, to be the natural Son of God; and so to the confirmation of such his sayings he did such works. Therefore he saith, “I am the bread of life.” Also, Ego sum resurrectio et vita; “I am the resurrection and the life.” Also, f150 Ego sum via, veritas, et vita; “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Yea, and when he talked with the woman at the well, she said unto him, “When the Messias cometh, he shall teach us all things.” Then he saith unto her, “I am he that speaketh unto thee: I am that same Messias which was to come, and promised of God; I am he.” Further, he saith, Venite ad me, omnes qui laboratis ; “Come to me, all ye that labor and are laden, and I will ease you.” So it appeareth that Christ is the very Savior of the world, because he did the deeds of our Savior: and then again, he took upon him to be he indeed, and openly confessed it.
Further, the time giveth it that Christ should come: for so it was prophesied of the good holy father and patriarch Jacob. When he blessed his sons, he said: “The scepter shall not depart from Juda, and a law-giver from between his feet, until Schilo come: and unto him shall the gatherings of the people be.” Now at that time, when our Savior was come, the scepter was taken from Juda: for all Jewry was under the dominion of the Romans; therefore Schilo must needs come. So it appeareth, that by the reason of the time Christ must needs come at the same season. So likewise Daniel in his vision shewed, that after sixty-two weeks should Christ be slain, and they shall have no pleasure in him. So ye see that, by the reason of the time, he must needs be the right Savior of all mankind.
Again, Christ raised up the dead, and healed the sick in his own name, by his own authority: so did not the prophets, or the apostles; for they did it not in their own strength, but by the help of God. St. Peter raised up Dorcas, that good godly woman, but not by his own power: but Christ our Savior he did all things, tanquam auctoritatem habens , “as he that had authority.” Adolescens, tibi dico, surge ; “Young man, I say unto thee, arise.” So his works which he did by his own divine power proved him to be very God, and the same Savior which was promised unto the world.
Now when our Savior had told the disciples of John his works and miracles which he did, he addeth a pretty clause, and giveth them a goodly privy nip, saying, Et beatus qui non fuerit offensus in me ; “And blessed is he that is not offended by me.” Here he touched them, he rubbeth them at the gall. He did not mean John, for John was not offended; but he did mean them themselves, for they were offended because of his familiar and mean conversation. But ye will say, how can a man be hurt by him from whom cometh no hurt at all? I tell you, John’s disciples were hurt of Christ; and yet the fault was not in Christ, but in them. Christ lived a common life; he was a good familiar man; he ate and drank as others did; he came to men’s tables when he was called, insomuch that some called him a glosser: therefore the disciples of John, seeing his simple life, were offended with him. But, I pray you, should Christ have forsaken his manner of living and follow the life of John, because some were offended with him? No, not so. It was Scandalum acceptum et non datum ; “They took offenses themselves, he gave them none.” He did according unto his calling, as he was appointed of his Father.
Here I have occasion to speak of offenses. Scandalum is slander; but it hath another signification with us, it is taken for an offense or hurt. Ye may define it so: an offense is when I say or do any thing great or small, or speak any word, whereby my neighbor is made the worse. But this offense is of two manner of ways: first, when I do well, and another man is offended with my well-doings. This is Scandalum acceptum: he taketh offense, I give him none. Again, Scandalum datum is, when I do wickedly, and with my ill ensample hurt my neighbor: this is offense given. There were many at our Savior’s time which were offended with him, because he preached the word of God and rebuked sins; but Christ saith, Sinite illos , “Let them alone.” Care not for them, let them be offended as long as they will; we may not leave the preaching of the truth for offenses’ sake, because my neighbor cannot away with it. No, not so: let us say the truth, having a calling, as indeed every man hath a calling, and most specially preachers. We read in the gospel of John, when our Savior saith unto his disciples and to the other people, Nisi comederitis , “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, ye shall have no life in you:” by these sayings of Christ were many offended with him, insomuch that the greatest number went from him, and forsook him; they could not abide him. Now, was Christ to be blamed for that, because he said so?
When Moses came into Egypt, what inconveniences happened because of his coming; insomuch that almost the whole land perished! Was he faulty? No; for he did nothing but that which God commanded him. But the Egyptians, they were obstinate, they would not obey the voice of God; therefore Moses hurt them not, but they hurt themselves with their infidelity and obstinate heart.
So ye see, that we may not leave the truth to be unspoken, or an honest deed to be undone, because some will be offended with it. As for an ensample, here is a priest which perceiveth by himself that he hath not the gift of chastity, and therefore would fain marry; but he is afraid that some of his parishioners should be offended with his marriage. Now, shall he leave his marriage because some will be offended with him? No, that he shall not: let the priest instruct his parishioners, tell them out of the word of God, that it is as lawful for him to marry, as well as for another man. After that he hath taught them, if they will not believe him, or refuse his doctrine, let him marry, and care not for their offenses. I told you before, that there be two manner of offenses, “Scandalum datum ” and “Scandalum acceptum .” “Scandalum datum ” is, when I offend my neighbor by my wickedness, by my outrageousness and inordinate living: “Scandalum acceptum ,” when he is offended with me, when I do a good deed. But for all that, we ought not to leave an honest act, because of another man’s offenses. But I tell you, it is a perilous thing, and a heinous sin to do such a thing, whereby my neighbor shall be made the worse by my wicked ensample. As we have an ensample of Jeroboam, which offended all Israel: for he went and set up two golden calves, by which act he gave occasion to the whole people to commit idolatry against God; and this was a heinous horrible sin; for of it came wonderful mischief after. So likewise we read of a great man in scripture, which is called Zamri, which gave an ill ensample in committing lechery openly with a whore; whom Phinees that godly man killed: for his act of lechery was a stumbling-block to all the people of Israel. So ye see that “scandalum datum ” is a wicked act, which I do, whereby my neighbor is made the worse. Therefore I pray you, for God’s sake, beware of such offenses: for so it is written in the gospel of Matthew, Vae homini per quem scandala veniunt ; “Wo be unto that man or woman by whom offenses come!” Therefore I say, let us beware; let us keep ourselves within the hedges of God’s holy word, so that all our doings may be agreeable unto the same; and then, if when we agree with God’s word, the world will needs be offended with us, let us not care for that, for they hurt not us, but themselves. Let us, therefore, take good heed to ourselves, lest we do any thing whereby our neighbor might be offended: for our Savior saith, “Whosoever doth offend one of these little ones, which believe in me, it were better for him that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the deep of the sea.” f159 Therefore let parents take heed how they speak in the presence of their children; and masters ought to take heed how they give ensamples unto their servants: for there be some masters and parents, that will speak so lecherously and filthy before their children and servants, that it is out of measure: and not only that, but they will also swear in the presence of their children; yea, they will teach them to swear. But note our Savior, how earnestly he commanded us to beware of swearing: therefore parents ought to take heed, and specially such as be rulers over houses, or be officers: if they do swear, all the household will swear too, for it is commonly seen that the servant followeth the behaviors of his master, when they be ill; but the servants are not so hasty to follow their masters in goodness. And this swearing is so come in an use, that we can say nothing at all, but we must swear thereunto, by God, or by my faith, or such like gear. But there be some which, when they be reprehended because of their swearing, they will say, “Men will not believe me except I swear;” which is a token that they have been great liars. For every true man is to be believed without swearing: and therefore take this for a certain rule; — that when a man is not ashamed, or hath not a conscience to break this law of God, that is, to swear, he will not be ashamed, neither have any conscience to lie, to do against the commandment. For because swearing is as well forbidden as lying, and lying as swearing; therefore he that maketh no conscience in the one, will make less conscience in the other. I myself have had sometimes in use to say in my earnest matters, “Yea, by St. Mary,” and such like things; which indeed is naught: for we are commanded not to swear at all. Therefore woe be unto them that swear, that offend their neighbors or their children by swearing, or other wickedness! For it were better that a mill-stone were hanged about our neck than to offend any body: that is to say, he were better to be killed bodily, to suffer extreme punishment bodily: for they that offend, they be killers of their neighbors. But we are faulty, the most part of us, two manner of ways: first, we will be offended when there is no offense given; and, again, we will be bold to do that thing whereby our neighbor may be justly offended. But he that is a charitable man, will not be lightly offended; for certainly it is a great fault to be rashly offended, and to judge our neighbor’s doings to be naught and wicked, afore we know the truth of the matter: for we cannot see the hearts of men. Therefore, as long as the thing is not openly wicked, let us not he offended. Again, if the thing be necessary and good, let us not fear offenses; yet we must take heed that we walk charitably. We have a liberty in the gospel, yet we must take heed that we use that same liberty aright, according unto the rule of charity; for St. Paul saith, Omnia mihi licent, sed non omnia conducunt ; “All things are allowed unto me, but not all things are expedient.” I must bear with him that is weak in faith. As for an ensample, we may eat flesh upon Fridays by God’s word, if there were not a law made by the king and his most honorable council: if there were no law, I say, then I might eat flesh upon Friday; yet for all that we must use our liberty so that the use of it may edify our neighbor, or intermit it when it may do harm. So like as my liberty must be subject to charity, so my charity must be agreeable to the sincerity of the faith; for we may by no means leave the truth, leave God’s word, which we must most steadfastly keep. We have a law that saith, Ab omni specie mala abstinete ; “Abstain from all shew of evil.” So that it is not a small matter to be a Christian. We read a story, that one Attalus and Blandina were cast into prison for God’s religion’s sake; in which prison there were some which would not eat flesh, nor drink wine. Now the same Attalus was instructed of God, that he should monish those prisoners of their rigorousness; which Attalus did, and so at the length brought them to leave their foolishness. But we cannot do so here in England; for our indifferency is taken away by a law. If there were no such law, then we might eat as well flesh upon Fridays as upon holidays.
And this law is but a matter of policy, not of religion or holiness; and we ought to live according unto the laws of the realm, made by the king’s majesty: for in all manner of things we ought to keep ourselves within the hedges of the laws; in eating and drinking, in apparel, in pastimes.
Finally, our whole conversation should be agreeable unto the laws.
For scripture saith, that we should be obedient to all manner of ordinances, made by the lawful magistrate: therefore we must spend our life, and take our pastime so that it may stand with the order of the realm.
Oh that we would have in consideration these offenses, to take heed of giving offenses! And again, to beware of hastiness, or rashness to judge or condemn our brother; for to be offended hastily is against charity! But the world is so full of offenses, and so ready to be offended, that I think if our Savior were here upon earth again, as he hath been bodily, and should talk with a woman at the well as he did once, I think that there would some be found amongst us, which would be offended with him; they would think that he had been naught with her: but I pray you, beware of rash offenses and rash judgments. If my neighbor doth somewhat whereby I am offended, let me go unto him and speak with him; but to judge him by and bye without knowledge, that same is naught. And further, we must follow this rule, Nemo quod suum est quaerat, sed quod alterius ; “No man shall seek his own profit, but his neighbor’s.” I must use my liberty so that my neighbor be not hurt by it, but rather edified. So did St. Paul when he circumcised Timothy; and at another time, when he perceived that the people were stout in defending the ceremonies of the law, he would not circumcise Titus.
Now, when the disciples of John were gone, then he beginneth to speak to the people of John Baptist: for our Savior had a respect to John, to his estimation, lest the people should think that John were in doubt of him, whether he were Christ or not. “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? a reed that is shaken of the wind?” There was once an old man which counselled a young man, that he should be like as a reed, he should be ruled as the world goeth; for a reed never breaketh, but it followeth the wind which way soever it bloweth, and the oak-tree sometimes breaketh because she will not bend. But Christ speaketh these words to the great commendation of John, because of his steadfastness. There be many reeds now-a-days in the world, many men will go with the world: but religion ought not to be subject unto policy, but rather policy unto religion. I fear me there shall be a great number of us reeds, when there shall come a persecution, that we must suffer for God’s word sake: I fear me there will be a great many that will change, which will not be constant as John was. When a man is in the wrong or erroneous way, then he may and should change: but “persistite ,” saith St. Paul; we must endure and stand steadfast in that which is good and right: in God’s word we should stand fast, but not in popery. So that first we must see that we be right, and afterward we must stand. This is a great praise wherewith our Savior praised John; for it is no small matter to be praised of him which knoweth the least thoughts of all men. “Or what went ye out to see? a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses.” Here in these words our Savior condemned not fine gear, as silk, satin, or velvet: for there is nothing so costly but it may be worn; but not of every body. Kings and great men are allowed to wear such fine gear; but John he was a clergyman, it behoved not him to wear such gear. Peradventure if he had been a flatterer, as some be now-a-days, then he might have gotten such gear; but John, knowing his office, knew well enough that it behooved not him to wear such fine gear. But how our clergymen wear them, and with what conscience, I cannot tell: but I can tell it behooveth not unto them to wear such delicate things. St. Peter doth disallow gorgeousness in women: how much more then in men! For a man would think that women should have more liberty in such trifles: but holy scripture disalloweth it; and not only in women, but also in men. For he nameth women, because they are more given to that vanity than men be. For scripture useth some times by this word women to understand men too.
Here were a good place to speak against our clergymen which go so gallantly now-a-days. I hear say that some of them wear velvet shoes and velvet slippers. Such fellows are more meet to dance the morrice-dance than to be admitted to preach. I pray God amend such worldly fellows; for else they be not meet to be preachers!
Answer: Inscrutabilia sunt judicia altissimi ; “The judgments of the most Highest are inscrutable:” God can use them to good purposes; therefore he saith, Necesse est ut scandala veniant , “It is necessary that there be offense.” Then ye will say, “Why should we then be damned for offenses, when offenses are needful?” Answer: When we do ill, we shall receive our reward for our illness; for it is no thanks to us, when God can use them to good purposes: we ought to be punished when we do naught.
Therefore the best is to beware and take heed of offenses, and all other ungodliness; and live uprightly in the fear of God: so that we may inherit the life everlasting, which he hath prepared for us from the beginning of the world. Which grant us God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, one God and three persons, now and ever, world without end! Amen.
A SERMON MADE ON CHRISTMAS-DAY, BY MASTER HUGH LATIMER, AT BEXTERLY, F168 DECEMBER 1552.
This gospel maketh special mention of the nativity of our Savior Jesus Christ; declaring how Mary, with her husband Joseph, came, after the commandment of the emperor, from Nazareth unto Bethlehem, the city of David, of whose lineage and tribe she was; what miseries and calamities she suffered by the way; and how poor and miserable she was, having nothing that pertained to a woman being in her case, you may right well consider: and as touching his nativity, his poverty; how he was born in a stable among beasts, lacking all manner of necessary things which appertained to young children; insomuch that he had neither cradle nor clouts. Wherefore Mary, his mother, wrapped him, as it is most like, in her own apparel, and laid him in a manger; where he was shewed, not to the rulers of this world, neither to kings, potentates, or bishops, but rather to simple shepherds, and poor servants keeping their sheep in the field. To these poor wretches the angel of God was sent, which proclaimed these great things unto them, saying: “Be not afraid, for behold, I bring you tidings of great gladness, that shall come to all people: for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord,” etc.
This is the greatest comfort in the world, to know that our Savior is born, that he is abroad, and at hand unto every one that calleth upon him. What greater gladness can be unto a man that feeleth his sin, and seeth his damnation before his eyes? Unto such a man nothing is more acceptable than to hear that there is a Savior, which will help him and heal his sores.
The angel bade them go unto Bethlehem, and to search for the child: and forthwith a great many of angels came together rejoicing, singing, and praising God for our sakes, that the Redeemer of mankind was born into the world. For without him nothing availeth in the sight of God the Father. Without him no man can praise God; because it hath pleased God for his Son’s sake only, to shew himself favorable and loving unto mankind, and to receive only that prayer which is made unto him in the name of Christ, our Savior. Therefore all those which come without him before God, shall be rejected as persons rebellious against God and his constitutions. For the will, pleasure, and counsel of God is, to receive only those which come to him in the name of his Son, our Savior; which know themselves, lament their own sins, and confess their own naughtiness and wickedness, and put their whole trust and confidence only in the Son of God, the Redeemer of mankind, as the angels themselves testify.
Here in this gospel note, that here was singing and rejoicing for the great and unspeakable goodness and mercy of Almighty God the Father, whom it pleased to redeem mankind through the death of his only, natural, and most dearly beloved Son, our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ; very God and very man; the Son of God, after his Godhead; the Son of Mary after his manhood, which he hath taken upon him for man’s sake; to redeem and deliver the same from all misery, and to set him at unity with God, the Father; and, finally, to bring him to everlasting life.
Now it followeth in the text, “As soon as the angels were gone from them,” etc. Mark here, that the angels, as soon as they had done their business, they returned unto their master which had sent them. By the which all good and godly servants may learn, that whensoever their masters send them on their business, they ought to do the same diligently, and quickly to return again to their masters; not spending the time in loitering and lewdness, as the common sort of servants do in these days, clean contrary to the example of these angels of God, which returned to God immediately after their message was done. And would to God that all servants would consider this, and keep in remembrance these angels of God! For if this were well considered, there would not be so great complaints of the lewd service of servants, as there is every where. God amend it!
We read here that the angels appeared visibly and in sight: by the which we shall consider, that whensoever or wheresoever the word of God is preached, there are the angels present, which keep in safe custody all those which receive the word of God, and study to live after it: for St.
Paul calleth them Administratores Spiritus , “The administrators and servants of the Spirit.” Therefore seeing the angels are present, it is meet for us to come with great reverence to the word of God, where himself with his angels are present. “The angels return to heaven,” etc. Here I will not dispute before you, where heaven is, nor how many heavens there be. Such obscure questions appertain not to you that are ignorant and unlearned. For this is sufficient for you to know, that wheresoever God doth exhibit and shew himself, there is heaven. God is every where, as he saith, Caelum et terrain impleo. But wheresoever most apparently he exhibiteth himself to his saints and angels, the same properly is called heaven: and thither went these angels, after they had done their message, to wait upon the Lord; ready to go and do all that which he would command them. Wherein you may learn the great love and kindness of God, the heavenly Father, which hath made and created them for our sakes, to this end, that they should defend and keep us from our strong and mighty enemy, the prince of this world, the devil, whose power passeth all man’s power; insomuch that, except God did preserve us from him by the ministration of his obedient angels, we should all perish both soul and body. But thanks be unto God, which never ceaseth to provide for us, to preserve both our souls and bodies! But mark here, that we are not bound to call upon the angels, when we hear that they serve us; but rather to give God thanks in them, that he hath vouchsafed to set such watchmen about us. Therefore learn only to hope and trust in the Lord, and give laud and thanks unto him, like as the angels themselves do, singing with great pleasant voice, as Luke saith. This is enough of the angels. Now let us come to the shepherds. “The shepherds said one to another, Let us go unto Bethlehem, and see these things which we hear say is happened, that the Lord hath shewed unto us.” Here note the faith of these poor shepherds, which believed the saying of the angels so steadfastly, that they were ready to go and do after the commandment of the said angels. They did not as many of us do, which are so slothful that we will not scant abide one hour to hear the word of God: and when we have heard the same, we believe it not, we regard it not; it goeth in at one ear and out at the other.
Where fore it is not to be marveled that God is angry with us; seeing we are so forgetful and unthankful for his great and exceeding benefits shewed unto us in these latter days of the world. This is a comfortable place for servants, which should be more diligent in their business than they be; considering that God regardeth them so much, that he is content to open his great and high mysteries unto servants first, setting aside all kings and rulers in this world, which are only esteemed in the sight of men. Here therefore learn, O ye servants, and consider that God no less regardeth you than the greatest lords in the world, if you live after his commandments; which is, that you shall serve your masters truly and uprightly, and not with a reigned heart. “Let us go to Bethlehem,” saith the shepherds. Here is to be noted in these shepherds a great charity among themselves, in that one exhorteth another to go to follow the word of God. Many folks now-a-days agree and exhort themselves to do wickedly, to steal, to pick, and to do all lewdness: but to exhort their neighbors to any goodness, as those shepherds did, they will not agree. Therefore let us not be ashamed to learn of these poor shepherds; to follow their examples. When we hear the word of God let one exhort another to follow the same: and let us agree in goodness; to seek Christ and to follow him according to his word; and then we shall find him. Let the curate exhort his parishioners to follow the commandments of God: let the householder exhort his wife, children, servants, and family to the seeking of Christ: let every neighbor exhort another to goodness; yea, let every one consider that no one person is born into the world for his own sake, but for the commonwealth sake. Let us, therefore, walk charitably; not seeking our own commodities, but the honor and glory of God, and the wealth of our even Christian; with exhortations, admonitions, and prayers one for another, that the name of God may be magnified among us, and his will known and fulfilled, Of these poor shepherds we may learn much goodness; yea, the best doctor of divinity need not be ashamed to earn of them, and to follow their ensamples, which are now saints in heaven, and the inheritors of everlasting life. But yet we must beware that we go not too far. For we may not make gods of them, nor call upon them, as we have been taught in times past; because God will be called upon, honored, and worshipped alone: he may not suffer any to be fellow with him; as he himself saith, “I give mine honor to none.”
Therefore we must call upon him only, and seek all manner of comfort at his hand, which is the fountain of all goodness; and not at the saints. But if thou wilt needs worship them, will you hear how you shall worship them? Live godly and uprightly after their ensample; follow their charitable life and steadfast faith; then you worship them as they ought to be worshipped. But to call upon them is not a worship, but a detestable idolatry; because, as I said before, we must call upon God only, and not saints. For when we call upon them, we make them gods; and then we put God out of his seat, and place them in it: which manner of doing God cannot suffer unpunished; and therefore beware.
Further, we learn in this gospel the nature of very true and unfeigned faith. These shepherds, as soon as the angels were gone from them, they laid their heads together and consulted what was to be done: and at the length with one consent concluded to forsake and set aside all their flocks of sheep and cattle, and to go unto Bethlehem to seek the Savior. Here appeareth their excellent, marvellous, and great faith; for they were in peril of body and goods. To leave a flock of sheep a whole night without a shepherd could not be done without great danger; for that the same country, as is said before, brought forth many wild and harmful beasts, ready to devour the whole flock of sheep in one night: as we read of a lion that killed a prophet, but not without the sufferance of God: also of the lion which Samson killed, when he went to see his new married wife: also, we read in the scripture, of two bears that killed at one instant fortytwo young children, that mocked the prophet Eliseus. So that it appeareth, partly by the holy scripture, and partly by other writers (as Josephus), that the same country is full of such manner of devouring beasts. Therefore to leave a flock of sheep without a shepherd was a great matter for them to do, which were but servants, and were bound to make amends for all that should happen to be lost; as we read of Jacob, which ever made good out of his own flock unto Laban, his father-in-law, when any thing had been lost. So it appeareth that these shepherds were in peril of body and goods; for if they had not been able to make amends, then they themselves should have been sold to perpetual slavery and bondage, like horses or brute beasts. But faith, when it is not reigned, feareth no peril nor danger: a faithful man knoweth that God is able to defend him, and to help him in all tribulation. And here is verified the saying of our Savior Christ, that “whosoever shall lose his life, shall find it.” These shepherds put their lives in adventure, yea, they put themselves in the greatest peril that might be; but at the length they found the Savior, which restored to them their souls, and bodies, and everlasting life.
Here we may learn to be hearty, and to do manfully for the gospel’s sake; believing undoubtedly that God is able, and will preserve us in the midst of all our tribulations, so that we do that which is our duty to do: that is, to live and die in God’s quarrel, and so to forsake ourselves, that we may find him which will give us life everlasting. Further, here may all those be ashamed which set so much by this world, that they cannot find in their hearts to forego one farthing for God’s sake. Such shall receive their judgment of these shepherds, that were so hearty in God’s cause, and not without peril of their lives. Therefore return, O thou covetous heart, return to God, amend thy life: consider the momentary and short time that thou hast here to live; and that when thou shalt depart hence, thou must be judged after thine own wickedness. And the more careful thou art to keep thy money and substance, the sooner shalt thou lose both that and thy soul also, which is the greatest treasure above all other. “They came with haste unto Bethlehem,” etc. Here let every man learn quickly to go about his business to the which God hath appointed him; and especially servants may learn here to do their business truly and speedily; not spending the time in vain going up and down, when their masters are absent; but rather to be diligent, knowing that they serve not only their bodily master, but Christ himself, as St. Paul saith. Therefore consider this, O ye servants, and know that God will reward you for your well doing; and, again, punish you for your slothfulness and deceitful doings. “They found Mary and Joseph, and the babe laid in a manger, according to the saying of the angel,” etc. Here let every man follow the ensample of the angel, which told the shepherds no lies: so let every man be upright in his talk, and talk nothing abroad, except he be sure that it be so. For when you do otherwise, you follow not this angel. Make no manner of promise, neither great nor small, except you be able to keep it. Above all things, beware of perjury and lies, which are abominable in the sight of God; as the prophet saith, Odisti qui loquuntur mendacium linguis suis ; that is to say, “Thou hatest those, O God, that speak lies with their tongue.” But God knoweth that many things are now promised, and nothing performed. Every man is more liberal in speech than in deed; whereas it should be contrary. Likewise, servants are not angels when they deal deceitfully with their masters, and when they are slothful in their doings, not regarding their promise made unto their masters. For they promise to serve diligently in all manner of business; which, God knoweth, is not kept by a great many of servants: yea, there is none serve as they ought for to do; therefore all such are not angels. “The same Mary, Joseph, and the babe,” etc. Here we may not take heed of the order of this speech or writing; as, Mary is set before her child: ergo, she hath more authority than her child hath. As the bishop of Rome maketh an argument, saying: Peter is ever first named before the apostles; ergo, he is the principal and chief apostle, and all the other are subjects unto him. Which manner of reasoning is false. For after that reasoning, Mary should be more esteemed than our Savior; which were abominable and clean against the verity of the scripture: and therefore the setting and placing of names in scripture is not to be observed, nor no arguments may be made after that manner, which be set first or last. “They find Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in a manger.” Here is the faith of the shepherds proved. They had heard a voice from heaven which promised unto them a Savior; and now when they come, they find nothing but a poor infant lying in a manger. This was a great matter to them: for they thought they should have found him keeping a state after his name, that is, like a Savior; but they found a poor child, which, after man’s reason, was not able to help himself. Notwithstanding, they had conceived such a strong and hearty faith, which faith preserved them from all such outward storms and offenses. By the which we may learn of these shepherds, not to be offended with the poor kingdom that our Savior kept in this world: for we see, most commonly, that the rich and wealthy of this world despise and condemn the word of God. Let us therefore be despised in this world with Christ, our King, that we may have afterward with him everlasting life, when the proud and sturdy fellows shall be thrust into everlasting fire. For these shepherds were not offended with the poverty of our Savior, and did therefore stay and meddle no further; but they went forth and preached and talked of it to other folks; which thing they could not do without peril of their lives. For the Pharisees and spirituality were so stubborn, that they would suffer none other doctrine to be taught than their own fantasies; as it appeared afterward, when they killed Christ himself, and after him a great number of the apostles: yet for all that these poor shepherds were content to lose their lives in God’s quarrel. Therefore they go and teach their neighbors and others, how the Messias and Savior of the world was born of a virgin; and how the angel of God had opened it unto them. But what followed of their teaching, or what became of it? It begot a wondering and a gazing: every body marveled at it, and was desirous to talk of it, because it was a new matter; as we see in this our time, a great number of people pretend the gospel, and bear the name of gospellers, because it is a new thing, and therefore it is the more pleasant unto them. So was it at that same time: every body would talk of it in all places, but there were few or none that believed. For we read not that any of them went forth to seek the child, and so to confirm his or their faith; no, there was none. It was but a talk, and so they used it. Wherein you may note the unfaithfulness and unthankfulhess of this world, which will not receive the great benefits of God offered unto us. The shepherds told them how the angel of God had opened the matter to them, but the foolish people would not believe it. And even so at this time: the preachers go abroad, and shew unto the people what God hath done for them; how he hath delivered them from sin, death, and hell; but the people are so blinded with unthankfulness, that they will not believe the benefits of God, nor receive them, but make a gazing and a wondering at the matter.
She did not as our well-spoken dames do; she took not in hand to preach: she knew that silence in a woman is a great virtue; therefore she made nothing of the matter. She boasted not of her stock, to be of the lineage of noble king David; neither did she praise her own child, but would rather hear him to be praised of another. She tarried until the Lord himself had opened the matter: neither would she be too hasty in promoting herself to honor. Here may all women learn to follow the ensample of Mary; to leave their talk and vain speaking, and to keep silence. For what was the cause of the fall of mankind, but the unmeasurable talk of Eve, which took in hand to reason the matter with the serpent? She thought herself very learned, and able to convince him.
So are there too many now which take too much upon them. Such women may learn here of Mary to keep their tongues in better order. All women commonly make much of the mother of Christ; yea, some call upon her: but for all that they will not follow her ensample and goodness.
Further, here is to be noted the temptation and trial wherewith Mary was tempted and tried. She heard of the angel that she should bring forth a Savior, whose kingdom should last for ever. And now that he is born, there cometh nobody to visit him but poor shepherds: which seemed strange unto her, and such as might make her much to marvel at the matter, and to overthrow her faith. But Mary comforted herself with the word and promise of God, which was, that her son should reign for ever.
This she believed, and therefore took no harm of the said temptation or trial, but rather much good; for this visitation of the shepherds was an establishment of her faith, and a great increase of the same. And here is verified the saying of St. Paul: Bonis omnia cooperantur in bonum ; that is, “All things work for the best to them that love God.”
Further, by these shepherds we learn, that God is not partial: he hath not respect to any person, neither to the rich, wise, nor mighty; but he delighteth in those which are meek and lowly in spirit: unto such God openeth himself, as Christ saith, Ago tibi gratias, Pater ; “I thank thee, heavenly Father, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise men of this world, and hast opened them unto the simple.” Which saying of Christ is verified now upon us; for God hath hidden the divine mysteries of his word from the pope, cardinals, bishops, and the great learned of this world, and hath opened it unto us. Therefore let us be thankful for his innumerable benefits poured upon us so richly and abundantly. Let us follow therefore the ensample of these shepherds. Let us come to Bethlehem, that is, to Christ, with an earnest mind and hearty zeal to hear the word of God, and then follow it indeed; for not the hearer shall be saved, but the doer and follower thereof, as he saith: “Not those that call me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of God, but those which do the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Wherefore let us follow the word of God; let us glorify and magnify his holy name in all our works and conversations, wherein consisteth the very thankfullness and true service which we owe unto him. “And the shepherds returned landing and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen,” etc. They were not made religious men, nor monks; but returned again to their business and to their occupation.
Where we learn every man to follow his occupation and vocation, and not to leave the same, except God call him from it to another: for God would have every man to live in that order that he hath ordained for him.
We read a pretty story of St. Anthony, which, being in the wilderness, led there a very hard and strait life, insomuch that none at that time did the like: to whom came a voice from heaven, saying, “Anthony, thou art not so perfect as is a cobbler that dwelleth at Alexandria.” Anthony, hearing this, rose up forthwith, and took his staff, and went till he came to Alexandria, where he found the cobbler. The cobbler was astonished to see so reverend a father come to his house. Then Anthony said unto him, “Come and tell me thy whole conversation, and how thou spendest thy time?” “Sir,” said the cobbler, “as for me, good works have I none, for my life is but simple and slender; I am but a poor cobbler. In the morning when I rise, I pray for the whole city wherein I dwell, specially for all such neighbors and poor friends as I have: after, I set me at my labor, where I spend the whole day in getting my living; and I keep me from all falsehood, for I hate nothing so much as I do deceitfulness: wherefore, when I make to any man a promise, I keep it and do it truly. And so I spend my time poorly, with my wife and children, whom I teach and instruct, as far as my wit will serve me, to fear and dread God.
And this is the sum of my simple life.” In this story, you see how God loveth those that follow their vocation and live uprightly, without any falsehood in their dealing. This Anthony was a great holy man; yet this cobbler was as much esteemed before God as he.
Here I might take occasion to speak of all estates, and what pertaineth to every one of them; but the time is past. I will make an end, without any rehearsal or recital of that which is already said. The Lord of heaven and earth make us diligent and ready to do his will, and live after his commandment; and so to come finally to everlasting life, through Christ our Lord; to whom, with God the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, for ever and ever, world without end! Amen, Amen.
A SERMON, PREACHED ON SAINT STEPHEN’S DAY, BY MASTER HUGH LATIMER, AT GRIMSTHORPE, AN. 1552.
And it fortuned that while they were there, her time was come that she should be delivered: and she brought forth her first-begotten son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
I Shewed you yesterday, right worshipful audience, what was the occasion that Mary, the mother of Christ our Savior and Redeemer, came to Bethlehem, where as it was prophesied that he should be born. The occasion was this: Octavius, being emperor over that great empire of Rome, at that time when Christ should be born, (as it was prophesied he should be born while the second temple stood;) now this Octavius sent out a general proclamation, that all countries underneath his dominion should be taxed, and to give him a certain money. Now God intended another thing. Octavius with this proclamation sought nothing but to fill his purse, and to make money; but God sought occasion that way to fulfill his prophecy: for it was prophesied a long time, that Christ should be born before at Bethlehem. Now she could not come thither except by some occasion; and therefore this was the occasion, namely, that she should come and be taxed, and pay a certain money to the officers. And here we shall consider and weigh the obedience that Mary, the mother of Christ, and her husband shewed toward the magistrates; that she was content to take such a great journey in hand with her husband Joseph, to shew herself obedient unto the magistrates. And here I took occasion the last time to speak somewhat of obedience, how we ought to shew ourselves obedient in all things which be not against God. I think of this matter we cannot speak too much; for it is a thing most necessary to be known. For if the parents of our Savior were content to be obedient unto a heathen king, how much more should we shew ourselves obedient unto our natural king, which feedeth us with the holy word of God, and seeketh not alone our bodily health and wealth, but also the health of the soul! How much more ought we to reverence him and honor him, which not tyrannously ruleth over us, as Octavius did over the Jews, but most lovingly governeth and ruleth us, seeking not his own commodities, but our good estate!
Now by this occasion, as I told you, namely, to shew themselves obedient, came Joseph and Mary unto Bethlehem; a long journey, and poor folks, and peradventure on foot: for we read of no great horses that she had, as our great ladies have now-a-days; for truly she had no such jolly gear. Now he that would shew the good behavior that was between them two, he must surely have much time. We read of no falling out between them, or any ill behavior that was between them. Wherefore all husbands may learn by Joseph to do their duties toward their wives; and again, all wives may learn by her.
Well, she was great with child, and was now come to Bethlehem. A wonderful thing to consider the works of God! The emperor Octavius served God’s purpose, and yet knew nothing of him; for he knew not what manner of man was born at that time when his proclamation was sent out. But John Baptist, that went before our Savior Christ, he shewed what manner of man Christ was, when he said, Ecce Agnus Dei, qui tollit peccata mundi ; “Lo! the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.” By these words is shewed to what end Christ was sent into the world, namely, to take away sins. And before this, Zachary, the father of John Baptist, fell out in praising of God, saying, Benedictus Deus Israel , “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up a horn of salvation.” Now if Zachary because of the birth of John rejoiced in God, how much more should we laud and praise God, that Christ our Savior himself is born! for John Baptist was the precursor. He was but a servant of God; yet Zachary his father so much rejoiced in him. How much, I say, shall we praise God, that the Lord above all lords hath taken upon him our humanity, and is made man, for this great benefit! that he would vouchsafe to humble himself so much, as to take our nature upon him, for this cause, to deliver us out of the hands of the old serpent, the devil, in whose kingdom and dominion all mankind should have been, if this Savior had not come into the world! And thus his first coming is but very poorly, without any jollity or pomp; but his second coming (as I have told you many a time before) shall be a glorious coming, a beautiful coming: for he shall come accompanied with all his angels; he shall come with such clearness, that the sun and the moon shall be darkened at his coming. Not that the sun itself of her substance shall be darkened: no, not so; for she shall give her light, but it shall not be seen for this great light and clearness wherein our Savior shall appear. Now at the first he is come, not with glory or majesty, but with great poverty and misery, which he hath sustained for our sakes.
We have here to consider the great benefits of God, the almighty Father, that it hath pleased him, through his great goodness and love which he bare towards us which were his enemies, that it hath pleased him, I say, to give unto us for our sakes his only Son into these miseries and calamities, and to suffer him to take our nature upon him, and to deliver us with his most painful and grievous passion. We cannot express the worthiness of it; but though we are not able to express it, yet we must do as much as we can.
Now for to come to the knowledge of this benefit, you must consider, first, what he was before he was incarnate and made man: for when we know what he was before he was made man, then we shall know what he hath done for us. Now, therefore, you must know, that he was the natural Son of God, yea, God himself, the Lord and King over heaven and earth; through whom all things were made and created, and by whom all things are kept and sustained, ruled, and governed. That same God, that same Son of God, refused not to humble himself far beyond all measure, to take upon him such a vile nature; for he was made very man. You must not think as the Arians did, which said that he was not a very man, nor suffered very pains upon the cross, but had a fantastical body. And I know where there was one of such an erroneous opinion, not many years ago; he belonged to a great man at that time. Therefore, I say, we must beware of this opinion, and believe steadfastly that he was a very natural man, sin excepted. Again, we must believe that he was God’s Son, not by adoption, as we be; for we all be adopted and taken for the children of God. But he was before the world began with God, the very natural Son of God, and God himself; very God’s Son without a mother, like as he was very man without a father. I will prove him to be very God, because we are commanded to call upon him. :Now ye know that to call upon God is to honor God. And God saith in his word that he will give his honor unto nobody; but Christ hath the honor of God, therefore he must needs be very God. And here we have occasion to be sorry that we have called upon the saints; and so deprived God of his honor and dignity, and made them Deos tutelares, tutelary gods. But Christ is he on whom we must call, and put our confidence in: for it is written, Adorabunt eum omnes reges terrae ; “All the kings of the world shall honor him, and call upon his name.” And therefore here it appeareth most manifestly that he is very God, coequal unto the Father after his divinity.
You have heard this day, in the service of St. Stephen, how he called upon Christ, saying, Domine Jesu, suscipe spiritum meum ; “Lord Jesus, take thou my spirit.” The Jews stoned him, but he made his prayer, saying, Domine Jesu, suscipe spiritum meum ; “Lord Jesu, take my spirit;” lifting up his eyes unto heaven, signifying that Christ is very God; which thing, no doubt, St. Stephen would not have done, if Christ had not been very God. Now, this day is St. Stephen’s day, which was put to death because he rebuked the stubbornness of the wicked priests and bishops; which bishops stirred up false witnesses against him, and so stoned him: but well is he that ever he was born. Now, therefore, if you will worship St. Stephen, I will tell you how ye shall worship him.
Consider his faith and heartiness which he had in God’s cause, and pray unto God that thou mayest have such a strong faith too, that thou mayest be ready to forsake the world, and suffer for the word of God, like as he hath. And, further, pray unto God that thou mayest have such a strong faith to pray unto him, as St. Stephen had. This is the right worshipping of St. Stephen, to follow his ensample, and not to call upon him. But I marvel much how it chanced that upon this day we were wont to let our horses blood: it is like as though St. Stephen had some great government over the horses, which thing no doubt is a vain invention of man. We ought to commit ourselves, and all that we have, under the governance of God, and not to be so foolish as to commit them unto saints. God grant us that we may say with a good faith, from the bottom of our hearts, Domine Jesu, suscipe spiritum nostrum, “Lord Jesu, receive our spirits!”
Further, Christ himself shewed most manifestly what he was, for he hath witnesses enough; the Father, the Holy Ghost, John Baptist, and the works which he did: and finally he himself witnesseth what he is; for he saith, Qui credit in me habet vitam aeternam ; “He that believeth in me hath everlasting life.” Here is evidently shewed by his own words what he was, namely, the Redeemer of mankind, and very God; for nobody can give everlasting life save only God. But Christ giveth everlasting life; ergo, he is very natural God. Item, in another place he saith, Quemadmodum Pater mortuos suscitat, sic et Filius ; “Like as the Father raised up the dead, so doth the Son too.” Where it most manifestly appeareth that he is equal unto the Father; they work their works together unseparably. This I say unto you to the intent that you should consider with yourselves what Christ hath been before he took our nature upon him: and again, to consider what he hath done for us, and how exceedingly he hath humbled himself.
Now I will shew you what man is of his own nature, left unto himself; but I will not speak of that singular Son of man, which was Christ, for he had two natures in unity of persons: he was very God and very man; he was a privileged man from all other men; that man never sinned, therefore I speak not of him: I speak of the nature which mankind hath inherited of Adam after he had sinned; for as he was, that is, a sinful wicked man, disobedient unto the word of God, such he brought into the world. Now what is man, what is the nature of the son of Adam? I speak not of Christ, for he was not born of the seed of Adam. When we know what man is, then we shall perceive what great benefit we have received of God, the Father Almighty, in that he hath sent his only Son to be a sacrifice for us, and to help us out of the estate of damnation, and to remedy this impureness of our nature. Now this our nature David, the holy king and prophet, describeth with few words, saying, Ecce iniquitatatibus natus sum et in peccatis concepit ; “Lo, in iniquity am I born, and in sin hath my mother conceived me.” Which words are not so to be understood as though the act of generation, and the lawful use of matrimony, be defiled and unclean before God. He speaketh not here of the lawful bed-company that is between married folks: for this hath his warrant in scripture, in God’s book; therefore he speaketh not here of the company that is between man and wife: but he will signify by his words what he had inherited of his parents, of Adam, namely, sin and wickedness: and he speaketh not of himself only, but of all mankind. He painteth us out in our own color; shewing that all we be contaminate, from our birth, with sin, and so should justly be firebrands in hell world without end. This the holy prophet shewed in these words, to put us in remembrance of our own wretchedness; to teach us to despair of our own holiness and righteousness; and to seek our help and comfort by that Messias whom God hath promised our forefathers, and now hath fulfilled the same promise.
Another scripture signifieth unto us further, what we be of ourselves, of our own nature: for it is written, Omnis homo mendax , “All men are liars;” therefore man is not clean, but full of falsehood and deceit, and all manner of sin and wickedness: yet we may learn what we be of our own nature, namely, poisoned and corrupt with all manner of uncleanness.
Another scripture we have, which sheweth us in the same thing: f195 Dominus de caelo despexit, et omnes declinaverunt, simul inutiles facti sunt ; “The Lord looked down from heaven, to see whether any man be that did well; but they are all declined, they were all naught together.” God looked down to consider whether there were some that had understanding of him, or not. What brought he to pass? What found he when he made inquisition? Marry this, Omnes declinaverunt , “All men have declined from God; there was not one that did good, no not one.”
Here we may perceive what we be of ourselves, of our own nature. And, again, here we may see what Christ, the Son of God, hath done for us; what inestimable benefits we have received at his hands, namely, to suffer for us and to cleanse us from all our sins and wickedness; to make us just before the face of God; to purge us from all iniquity, as well from original sin as actual: for if he had not done so, we should never have been able to escape the wrath of God. For, Quicquid natus ex carne caro est , “Whatsoever is born of flesh is flesh;” that is to say, is sinful, wicked, and so destitute of the glory of God, and the child of the devil. If Christ had not been come and cleansed our filthiness, if he had not suffered death for us, we had perished. Now afore he suffered, he was born and lived a great while in the miserable world; or else he could not have suffered if he had not been born, for no man can suffer before he be alive. Further, it is written in God’s book, Conclusit Deus omnes sub peccato, ut omnium misereatur ; “God hath concluded all mankind under sin;” so that all mankind was sinful, and destitute of the favor of God, save only Christ.
Wherefore, I pray you, have I rehearsed all these scriptures? Marry, to this intent I have rehearsed them, to bring :you to knowledge how great need we have had of Christ: for no doubt if we had not had him, all mankind should have been damned, yea, the best of us, world without end. But that we have deliverance, that the kingdom of heaven is opened unto us, that same brought he to pass with his passion; for he took upon him our nature, and so deserved for us everlasting life: for by him we have it, and therefore we must thank him for it, we must to him give all honor and praise.
It is a great unity between the two natures in Christ, between the manhood and Godhead: for the body and the soul make a man, but the manhood and the Godhead are joined so together, they make but one Christ, and yet they are not confounded; so that the Godhead is not turned into the manhood, neither the manhood into the Godhead. And thus Christ, which was very God and very man, died not for himself nor of necessity, for death had no right unto him, because he was without sin; but he died for our sakes, willingly, without any compulsion, moved by the great love that he bare unto man: and therefore he saith, Nemo tollit animam meam a me, sed ego repono illam ; “No man taketh away my life, but I myself put it away; but I will receive it again. I am willing to die, for with my dying I will destroy the kingdom of the devil; and by my death all mankind shall be saved.” And here he shewed himself what he was, namely, very God; for he had power over death, and not death over him: and so he died not by compulsion nor necessity, but willingly; for it was his will and pleasure to help us, and deliver us from our wretchedness; for nothing could help us else but the death of the eternal Son of God.
And here you may note, by the way, what a heinous thing sin is before the face of God; how he abhorreth sin, that he would be with nothing reconciled, save only with the death of his Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.
And this shall make us to hate sin, and avoid all occasions of sin, and not to fall willingly and wittingly into all kinds of sin again; but rather to live uprightly and godly, according unto his will and commandment: seeing that he beareth such a loving and fatherly heart towards us, that he spared not his only Son, but gave him even to the most vile and painfullest death for our sakes, for our sins and wickedness’ sake.
David, that holy man, when he considered this great benefit, what saith he? He fell out into these words, Quid retribuam Domino pro omnibus quae tribuit mihi ? “What shall I give unto the Lord for all those things which he hath given unto me?” Then he made himself answer, and saith, Nomen Domini invocabo , “I will call upon the name of the Lord:” Calicem salutaris accipiam , “I will take up the cup of health;” that is to say, “I will bear his cross, that he shall lay upon me, willingly, without any grudge and murmuring.” Now, therefore, let us say so too: “O Lord, what shall we give unto thee again? What amends shall we make thee, seeing thou hast given us thine only natural Son, which took upon him a vile nature, and suffered most painful death?” For that we have a brother in heaven, what shall we now do? How shall we shew ourselves thankful? Marry, Nomen Domini invocabimus , “We will call upon the name of the Lord:” we will praise him for all his goodness; we will shew ourselves thankful with a godly, upright conversation. Calicem salutaris accipiemus , “We will take the cup of health; we will bear all calamities and crosses, that thou shalt lay upon us, willingly, without any grudging.”
This is all that we can do; and when the devil cometh and tempteth us, as no doubt he will not sleep, we shall defy him, knowing that we have a brother in heaven which hath overcome him and all his power: therefore we shall not need to fear him, or care for him, though he be busy with us, and tempt us in all manner of things, to bring us to destruction. Let us defy him, and give God thanks which so mercifully hath dealt with us, and delivered us from all our sins. Let us take the cross meekly, whatsoever it be; though it be in misery or poverty, or other calamities.
Let us be content withal; for they be but examinations and proofs, to provoke us to call upon God, when we feel the burden: and, no doubt, we shall be heard when we call as we ought to do, that is to say, with a faithful heart; then, no doubt, he will take them away, so that we shall be no more troubled with them; or else he will mitigate and assuage them in such sort, that we shall be able to bear the burden of them. “And she brought forth her first-begotten Son.” These words, after the outward appearance, sound as though Mary the mother of Christ had more sons than Christ. And there was an heretic which steadfastly said, that Mary had more sons after she had brought forth Christ: and here he took his arguments, saying, “We read in scripture that Christ had brethren, which argueth that Mary had more sons besides Christ.” Which, indeed, is a foolish argument against all learning: for we must consider the phrases of the Hebrew tongue. The Jews in their tongue call all those which are kinsmen brethren; and so the kinsmen of our Savior were called his brethren, after the manner of their language; not that they had one mother, or that Mary had more sons but Christ: therefore these heretics go far wide to prove that Mary had more sons besides Christ, because we read that he had brethren. Let them consider the propriety of the Hebrew tongue; then they shall soon perceive how fond and foolish their arguments be.
The second argument which these fond fellows make is this: the Evangelist saith, “And she brought forth her first-begotten son.” By these words they will prove, ergo , she had more than one son: Christ was the first-begotten, but she had more beside him. Here I would have them to consider this word primogenitum , which signifieth him qui primo aperuit vulvam , “him that first opened the womb:” but she had no more, neither before nor after, but was a clear virgin before she brought forth, and after she brought forth him she remained a virgin. And therefore these heretics do wrongfully violate, toss, and turmoil the scriptures of God, according to their own fantasies and foolish minds.
Another argument they make, taken out of the first chapter of Matthew, where the Evangelist saith, Et non cognovit illam donec peperisset filium suum primogenitum ; “And Joseph took his wife, and knew her not till she had brought forth her first-begotten son.” Hereupon they make this argument: “Joseph knew her not till she had brought forth her first son; ergo ,” they say, “he knew her after:” which no doubt is a foolish argument. For the mind of the Evangelist, when he declared Christ to be the first son of Mary, was to prove that he was the son of a virgin, according to the prophecy that was of him, and not to declare that Mary had more children after him, as some do fantasy. For we, in our English tongue, have such a manner of speaking, when we say, “I will never forgive him so long as I live:” or when we be ill-entreated in a city, we say, “I will no more come thither so long as I live.” By which manner of speaking we do not signify that we will come thither after our death, or forgive after our death. No. And so likewise it is here; when he saith, “He knew her not until she had brought forth her first-begotten son.” It followeth not, ergo , that he knew her after. Like as it followeth not when I say, I will do this thing no more so long as I live, ergo , I will do it after I am dead. And here you may perceive how foolishly and fondly these heretics have handled the scripture.
Now let us go forward, and consider his great extreme poverty. They came to Bethlehem, where they could get never a lodging in no inn, and so were compelled to lie in a stable; and there Mary the mother of Christ brought forth that blessed child, through whom, and in whom, all the nations of the earth are and shall be blessed: and there “she wrapped him in swaddling-clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Here began the misery of the Lord above all lords, even at his first coming into this world, when he was laid in a manger; as soon as he was born, to taste poverty and miseries; to make amends for our sins and wickedness, and so to take away from us the wrath of God, the heavenly Father, which lay upon all mankind so heavy, that we should all have been condemned world without end, if this child had not been born into this world.
And here we may learn by this poverty to comfort ourselves, when God sendeth poverty unto us; and not to think, because we are poor, ergo , God hateth us, or will condemn us; but rather consider with ourselves, and call to remembrance the poverty of Christ, our Savior. He was the beloved Son of God, and God himself; and yet he was content to be born in misery, and to sustain most vile poverty, and penury of all manner of those things which are required necessarily to the sustentation of this life.
Which indeed is not so; for those whom God loveth he punisheth.
Ensamples we have in David, what troubles, calamities, and miseries he had; and yet God loved him, insomuch that he called him a man after his heart’s desire. But though he was well-beloved of God, yet he must taste of miseries and calamities, of which he had not a little: but he ever sticked unto God, who delivered him out of all his trouble.
Now some will say, when they hear what poverty our Savior suffered, and how Mary his mother was compelled to take a stable for lack of a better lodging; some will say now, “O what a wicked city was this!
What a cruel people was this!” But when we consider all things well, we shall find that we be even as wicked as they were. For are not we given now-a-days to covetousness, so that we regard not the poor and miserable people? Seek we not our own commodities, and despise and neglect the poor? Therefore if thou wilt cry out upon the Bethlehemites, then cry out on thyself; for thou art as wicked, yea, more wicked than they were. For the most part of all Bethlehem knew nothing of our Savior Christ that he was born; but we know it, therefore we are inexcusable. God hath sent unto us his preachers, which teach us the way to heaven; they shew us wherein standeth our redemption; they exhort us to godliness, to do good works, to be pitiful, and liberal unto the poor, to help them, and comfort them: but what do we? Marry, we despise the preachers, we abhor their doctrine, and so consequently refuse Christ himself: for he saith, Qui vos suscipit, me suscipit ; “He that receiveth you, receiveth me.” This Christ speaketh by his preachers: therefore, as I said before, we need not to cry out against Bethlehem, but let us cry out on ourselves; for we are as ill, in all points, as they were.
But I warrant you, there was many a jolly damsel at that time in Bethlehem, yet amongst them all there was not one found that would humble herself so much as once to go see poor Mary in the stable, and to comfort her. No, no; they were too fine to take so much pains. I warrant you, they had bracelets and vardingals; and were trimmed with all manner of fine raiment; like as there be many now-a-days amongst us, which study nothing else but how they may devise fine raiment: and in the mean season they suffer poor Mary to lie in the stable; that is to say, the poor people of God they suffer to perish for lack of necessaries. But what was her swaddling-clothes wherein she laid the King of heaven and earth?
No doubt it was poor gear; peradventure it was her kercher which she took from her head, or such like gear; for I think Mary had not much fine linen; she was not trimmed up as our women be now-a-days. I think indeed Mary had never a vardingal; for she used no such superfluities as our fine damsels do now-a-days: for in the old time women were content with honest and single garments. Now they have found out these roundabouts; they were not invented then; the devil was not so cunning to make such gear, he found it out afterward. Therefore Mary had it not. I will say this, and yet not judge other bodies hearts’ but only speak after daily appearance and experience: no doubt it is nothing but a token of fair pride to wear such vardingals; and I therefore think that every godly woman should set them aside. It was not for nought that St. Paul advertised all women to give a good ensample of sadness, soberness, and godliness, in setting aside all wantonness and pride. And he speaketh of such instruments of pride as was used in his time: Non tortis crinibus , “Not with laying out the hair artificially;” Non plicatura capillorum , “Not with laying out the tussocks.” I doubt not but if vardingals had been used in that time, St. Paul would have spoken against them too, like as he spake against other things which women used at that time, to shew their wantonness and foolishness. Therefore, as I said before, seeing that God abhorreth all pride, and vardingals are nothing else but an instrument of pride; I would wish that women would follow the counsel of St. Paul, and set aside such gorgeous apparel, and rather study to please God, than to set their mind upon pride: or else, when they will not follow the counsel of St. Paul, let them scrape out those words wherewith he forbiddeth them their proudness; else the words of St. Paul will condemn them at the last day. I say no more; wise folks will do wisely; the words of St. Paul are not written for nothing: if they will do after his mind, they must set aside their foolish vardingals: but if they will go forward in their foolishness and pride, the reward which they shall have at the end shall not be taken from them.
Here is a question to be moved. Who fetched water to wash the child after it was born into the world, and who made a fire? It is like that Joseph himself did such things; for, as I told you before, those fine damsels thought it scorn to do any such thing unto Mary; notwithstanding that she had brought into the world the Lord over heaven and earth.
Alack! shall we murmur and grudge against God when we be in distress or poverty? Shall we cry out against him, seeing that Christ the Savior of the world himself was handled so extremely? Therefore let us learn to be patient in all our troubles; let us be content with all that God shall send us: if we do so, he will plenteously reward us in everlasting life.
Which honor exceedeth the dignity of the angels. For though the angels are better in substance, yet we are better in the benefit: for “Christ took not upon him the nature of angels, but he took our nature upon him,” man’s nature, I say. Oh, what an exceeding thing is this! Oh, how much are we bound to give him thanks for these his profound and inestimable benefits! We read a story, (take it as you will, though it be not a true story:) The devil came once into the church whilst the priest was saying mass; and when he was at these words, Et homo factus est , the devil looked about him, and seeing no man kneel down, or bow his knees, he strake one of them in the face, saying, “What! will you not reverence him for this great benefit which he hath done unto you? I tell you, if he had taken upon him our nature, as he hath taken upon him yours, we would more reverence him than ye do.” This story is prettily devised; for we should reverence him; we should honor him, and shew ourselves thankful for his inestimable benefits that he hath shewed upon us miserable wretched sinners, in taking upon him our nature.
Now the same Christ was born, as this day, of the virgin Mary, very man except sin; for sin hath not defiled his flesh: for he was not begotten of the seed of man, after the manner of other men, but by the power of the Holy Ghost. Mary was his very natural mother, and he was born to that end that he might deliver us from our sins and wickedness. To whom, with God the Father, and the Holy Ghost, be praise and honor everlastingly, world without end! Amen.
A SERMON PREACHED BY MASTER HUGH LATIMER, ON SAINT JOHN EVANGELIST’S DAY, AT GRIMSTHORPE, ANNO 1552.
Luke 2:8-12 And there were in the same region shepherds abiding in the field, and watching their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord stood hard by them, and the brightness of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. But the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, that shall come unto all the people; for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And take this for a sign, you shall find the child swaddled and laid in a manger, etc.
Yesterday I entreated somewhat of the nativity of Christ our Savior. And you have heard by what occasion Mary, his mother, came to Bethlehem with her husband Joseph, namely, to shew obedience, as all subjects ought to do, to their governors. You hear what good chance she had in that she was obedient; and so all those that be obedient to their rulers and governors, according to the ordinance of God, they shall have good speed. Now what happened unto Mary? She brought forth the Savior of the world. Oh, what good chance was this! And here we learn, that it is a good thing for every one to keep him in that order as God hath appointed him. Mary with her husband Joseph were subjects, and therefore, in doing their duties, in obeying the magistrate, they pleased God: which ensample of Mary and Joseph should occasion all us to follow them in their doing; and if we do so, we shall please God. There is one thing I did forget, the last time when I spake of obedience, which is, an objection that some do make, when they are required to do their duties to the magistrates. I told you at that time, that we must bear willingly those burdens which are laid upon us, considering that God commanded us so to do: and then, again, that he hath delivered us from that great burden of our sins, which should have thrust us into everlasting damnation; willing and commanding us to bear, with a good will, such little burdens as the magistrates shall lay upon us. Again, I told you, at the same time, that whosoever beareth with a good will the common burden of this realm, they shall be blessed in all things: it shall not be a diminishing of their stocks, but it shall be rather an increase than a diminishing.
Now cometh the objection that some make: they say, “To bear the common burden is not an increase, but a diminishing and hurt; for there hath been many burdens in England, as the burdens of the fall of money: therefore that is not so as you say; for I know that some have lost so much, that they cannot recover the same again so long as they live.” And, indeed, I know myself a man that lost eight score pounds by the fall of money; yet as for that man, he took it well, and I doubt not but God will work with him, so that it shall be nothing to his hurt. But to answer this carnal man, which maketh such a carnal objection against the promise of God: I deny not but that there be some, which indeed shall never recover that which they have lost. But I tell you what is the cause: the cause is not in God, or in his promises or fidelity, but the fault is in themselves. As thus: you must understand that where God requireth a thing to be done, he will have it done with a good-will, with a merry heart, with a loving countenance. Now there be many of us which do it indeed, but with cursing and banning; so that, though they be no rebels outwardly, yet they rebel in their hearts. Unto such fellows God is not bound to keep his promise, for he made them no promise; but unto them that do it with a willing heart, and loving countenance, be hath promised increase. And they that do it with an ill will, they rather provoke God to anger, than that they should receive any benefit of him. For St. Paul commandeth us to obey the magistrates, Non propter iram, sed propter conscientiam , “Not for fear of their punishment, but rather for conscience sake, for God’s sake, in respect of God, of whom we have all things, who willeth us to do so.” So that they that do it with an ill will, and afterward having no increase, are not able to recover again, the fault is in themselves, and not in God; for they obey not for conscience sake, as St. Paul would have them do, but rather for fear of punishment.
Yesterday, also, I shewed you the commodities which we receive by the coming of Christ; and, again, the discommodities if he should not have come; namely, that we should have been lost for ever, world without end.
To this end I spake of such things, to give you occasion to consider his goodness and wonderful benefits, and to shew yourselves thankful towards him. Further, I shewed you what he was before he took our vile nature upon him; namely, the eternal Son of God the Father; begotten before the world began; equal to his Father in power and dignity: he took our vile nature upon him, was made very man, to the end that he might deliver man from the curse of God and eternal damnation. Then, I shewed you what we be without God, without this Savior; namely, cursed and banished out from everlasting life to everlasting damnation.
This we are, without him, of our own nature; for we can do nothing but commit sin, and are not able to make amends for the least sin that we commit: but he, our Savior, I say, hath made satisfaction upon the cross for the sins of all mankind. Then, again, I told you how we should follow the ensample of David, which when he considered the great benefits of God, burst out in these words, saying, Quid retribuam Domino pro omnibus quae tribuit mihi ? “What shall I give unto the Lord for all that which he hath given unto me?” Then he concludeth and saith, Accipiam calicem salutaris , “I will take the chalice of health;” that is, I will bear all the crosses which the Lord shall lay upon me. And so we must do when we consider the great benefits which God hath done unto us: then we must be content with all our hearts to bear such crosses as he shall lay upon us, and to shew ourselves thankful with a godly and honest life, for that he suffered for us; which passion he suffered, not compelled thereunto, but willingly he suffered it, moved by that great love which he bare towards us. Therefore, let us shew ourselves thankful: let us take all calamities and miseries that he shall lay upon us willingly: and in all these crosses let us call upon him, and take in good worth whatsoever it shall please him to lay upon us. This is the chiefest honor that we can do unto him.
Now let us a little better consider his poverty, which he suffered as soon as he was born. We read not that Mary his mother had any midwife when she was delivered of him. And here we have occasion to speak of midwives. The same office of a midwife is a necessary office; but I would wish the bishops would see better unto them, that they might be better instructed in God’s word: for no doubt these midwives are the occasion of much superstition and dishonoring of God. The fault is, because they are not instructed in the word of God; and therefore, when the women be in travailing, and so in peril of their lives, they cause them to call upon our Lady: which no doubt is very idolatry, and dishonoring of God; for we ought not to call upon any creature; we must call only upon God alone; unto him only pertaineth that honor.
Further, I told you that our Savior Christ was formed and framed of the most poorest flesh; and he became the natural son of Mary, and she also was his natural mother. I told you, the last time, of one Joan of Kent f220 which was in this foolish opinion, that she should say our Savior was not very man, and had not received flesh of his mother Mary: and yet she could shew no reason why she should believe so. Her opinion was this, as I told you before. The Son of God, said she, penetrated through her, as through a glass, taking no substance of her. But our creed teacheth us contrariwise; for we say, Natus ex Maria Virgine , “Born of the Virgin Mary:” so this foolish woman denied the common creed, and said that our Savior had a fantastical body; which is most untrue, as it appeareth evidently in the epistle to the Hebrews, where St. Paul plainly saith, that Christ was made of the woman, that he took his flesh from the woman.
And though Mary had a prerogative, as she had indeed, namely, that she knew no man, that she was a virgin; yet her prerogative took not away the very humanity of Christ. She alone, above all other women, had this prerogative, to be a virgin, and yet to bring forth a child: the Holy Ghost did supply the office of a father; she was filled with the Holy Ghost: but he was her natural son in all other points; but yet this his humanity was preserved from all sin and wickedness. In all other things he was very man, and she his very natural mother. And no doubt she had a great belly, as it appeared in the first chapter of Matthew, where the evangelist saith, Inventa est gravida , “She was found with child;” and so Joseph seeing it, could not but suspect her, and therefore was minded to go away from her, if he had not been admonished by the angel: but being in this perplexity, the angel came unto him, saying, Ne timeas , “Fear not, Joseph, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. She shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus.” So here appeared plainly that Mary was big with child, after the manner of all other women: for we may not make him a fantastical body, but a very body, having flesh, blood, and bones, as our bodies have; and I think that Mary travailed after the manner of other women. I doubt not but she had pains as other women have; for I think she was obedient unto that law, which was made by God himself, In dolore paries filios tuos , “In sorrow and pain thou shalt, bring forth thy children.” For she kept other laws too, to which she was not bound, to which she had no need; as of purification; and he of circumcision: so that it is to be pre-supposed, seeing she obeyed other laws, she obeyed this law too, to shew and to signify unto the whole world her obedience. Therefore they that will go about and say that she brought him forth without pain, not after the manner of other women, they seem to do more hurt than good: for so we might come in doubt whether he had a very body or not.
Now the evangelist saith there was no place in the inn, they had no room to refresh themselves: for the innkeepers took only those which were able to pay for their good cheer; they would not meddle with such beggarly folk as Joseph and Mary his wife were. And here we may learn, by the ensample of Joseph and Mary, to take all things in good part, and to be content with poverty and miseries. Let us follow their ensample. We read not that they grudged or murmured against God; but they were content to take all things in good worth, though they could get never a lodging in the whole city; so that they were fain to take a stable there, to repose themselves. And, as some writers say, it was a common stable in the market-set, as some towns have common stables for the folk that come to the market; for they are not able to spend money in the inn, and therefore they set their cattle there. But this is no certainty, whether it was such a common stable or not; but this is certain that they were in great poverty and misery; no doubt of that. Therefore, you poor folk, comfort yourselves with this ensample, though you have no houses after your mind: consider that Mary, the mother of Christ, lacked a lodging, and that in her greatest need. But I tell you where you may have houses enough, and that good cheap; for little money you may have them. In dome Patris mei sunt multae habitationes ; “In the house of my Father be many dwelling-places.” There you may have them, they are offered you in Christ, and through Christ; ye need not to give money for them.
Therefore, I would not have you in any wise to grudge or murmur because ye lack houses; for no doubt, if we will be content with that that God sendeth unto us, and be thankful unto him, houses or no houses in this world, we shall be sure that we shall lack no houses in the other world.
Now you hear how Mary, the mother of Christ, brought forth her son into this world in a stable. But here I would not have you to think that Mary was saved because she brought forth Christ; no, not so. She was saved because she believed in him; because she set her hope and confidence in him. She doubted not but that he should take away her sins, and all the world’s sins; so that she was not only his mother after the flesh, but she was his spiritual mother: she believed in him; she seeketh neither salvation by her own works.
There was once a woman, when she heard our Savior make a sermon, she thought him to be a wonderful man: she could no longer hold her tongue, but burst out into these words, saying, Beatus venter qui to portavit, et ubera quae suxisti ; “Blessed is that womb that hath borne thee, and happy are the teats that gave thee suck:” that is to say, Happy is that woman that hath such a son. But what answer made our Savior unto her? Quin imo beati qui audiunt verbum Dei, et custodiunt illud ; “But blessed are those that hear the word of God and keep the same.” For Mary was not justified nor saved because she was his natural mother; for if she had not believed in him, she should never have obtained the felicity of heaven: though she was a singular woman, yet if she had only staid at that, all had been to no purpose. But she was otherwise his mother with believing him to be the Son of the eternal God, and the Savior of the world, according to the promise made of God the Father himself in Paradise; namely, that “the Seed of the woman should break the serpent’s head.” And in such wise all we may be the mother, sister, and brethren of Christ.
Furthermore, we read in the gospel of St. Matthew, that once she was pricked with vain-glory; for when he was preaching, she came and would needs speak with him, for she would have been known to be his mother: which doing of hers no doubt had a smell of ambition. And it is good for us to know such things, for so we may comfort ourselves; when we hear that the very mother of Christ had sins, and yet was saved, we shall be saved too. God is as merciful as ever he was: so we shall comfort and keep ourselves from despair. But, I pray you, what answer made he unto her, when she interrupted his sermon? “Who is my mother? And who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hands over his disciples, and said, Behold my mother, and my brethren: for whosoever doth my Father’s will that is in heaven, the same is my brother, sister, and mother.” Here you see, that he would not be led by the affections of his mother, and set aside his calling. This ensample all we ought to follow, and specially preachers: they may not preach after affection; they shall not rule the word of God, but they must be ruled by the same. Likewise we read in the gospel of John, that when he was at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, and his mother too, and there was wine lacking, she would take upon her to appoint him what he should do saying, Vinum non habent ; “They have no wine, thou must needs help.” But what answer made he unto her? Mulier, quid mihi est tecum ? “Woman, what have I to do with thee?
Shall I be at your commandment?” Here you see that Christ would not bear with his mother in her folly. Which ensample we ought to follow: we shall not bear or comfort any man in his sins and wickedness, but admonish him; nor flatter him against our conscience, as some do, which will not displease, but rather allow things against their own conscience.
But our Savior did not so; he would not bear with his own mother: therefore, as I told you before, she was not only his carnal mother, but by faith she believed in him. And so ought we to do, if we will be saved: for when we believe in him, undoubtedly then we conceive Christ; then we be his mother; then we shall reign with him world without end.
Now followeth in the text, “And there were shepherds in the same region,” etc. You know there is a common saying, Ignoti nulla cupido ; “When a body knoweth not a thing, he desireth it not greatly:” so it had been with us, if this birth of our Savior should have been hid from us; we should not have desired the same, and he had done unto us no good at all. Therefore it must needs be known; it must needs be opened. Now here the evangelist beginneth to shew to whom this birth was opened at the first, and through whom it was first published; who were the first preachers; which were the angels of God, they were the first preachers.
And here you may perceive what is the office of the angels of God, namely, to serve, to keep us; and therefore St. Paul calleth them, administratorios spiritus , “serving spirits.” But now you will say, how chanced it that the angels teach not us as well as they did the shepherds?
Sirs, you must understand, that God hath appointed another office, other officers, which shall teach us the way to heaven; which way to heaven was opened first by the angel. He told the shepherds that Christ the Savior was born: but now God sheweth unto us the self-same sermon of the angel by and through his ministers, which teach us the same. But, I pray you, to whom was the nativity of Christ first opened? To the bishops, or great lords which were at that time at Bethlehem? or to those jolly damsels with their vardingals, with their roundabouts, or with their bracelets? No, no: they had so many lets to trim and dress themselves, that they could have no time to hear of the nativity of Christ: their minds were so occupied otherwise, that they were not allowed to hear of them.
But his nativity was revealed first to the shepherds: and it was revealed unto them in the night-time, when every-body was at rest; then they heard the joyful tidings of the Savior of the world. For these shepherds were keeping their sheep in the night-season from the wolf or other beasts, and from the fox: for the sheep in that country do lamb two times in the year and therefore it was needful for the sheep to have a shepherd to keep them. And here note the diligence of these shepherds: for whether the sheep were their own, or whether they were servants, I cannot tell, for it is not expressed in the book; but it is most like they were servants, and their masters had put them in trust to keep their sheep. Now if these shepherds had been deceitful fellows, that when their masters had put them in trust to keep their sheep, they had been drinking in the alehouse all night, as some of our servants do now-a-days, surely the angels had not appeared unto them, to have told them this great joy and good tidings. And here all servants may learn by these shepherds to serve truly and diligently unto their masters: in what business soever they are set to do, let them be painful and diligent, like as Jacob was unto his master Laban. Oh, what a painful, faithful, and trusty man was he! He was day and night at his work, keeping his sheep truly, as he was put in trust to do: and when any chance happened that any thing was lost, he made it good, and restored it again of his own. So likewise was Eleazarus a painful man, a faithful and trusty servant. Such a servant was Joseph in Egypt to his master Putiphar. So likewise was Daniel unto his master, the king. But, I pray you, where are these servants now-a-days? Indeed I fear me, there be but very few of such faithful servants.
Now these shepherds, I say, they watch the whole night, they attend upon their vocation; they do according to their calling; they keep their sheep: they run not hither and thither, spending the time in vain, and neglecting their office and calling. No, they did not so. Here, by these shepherds, all men may learn to attend upon their offices and callings. I would wish that clergymen, — the curates, parsons, and vicars, the bishops, and all other spiritual persons, would learn this lesson by these poor shepherds; which is this, to abide by their flocks and by their sheep, to tarry amongst them, to be careful over them; not to run hither and thither after their own pleasure, but to tarry by their benefices and feed their sheep with the food of God’s word; and to keep hospitality, and so to feed them both soul and body. For I tell you these poor unlearned shepherds shall condemn many a stout and great learned clerk: for these shepherds had but the care and charge over brute beasts, and yet were diligent to keep them, and to feed them; and the other have the cure over God’s lambs, which he bought with the death of his Son, and yet they are so careless, so negligent, so slothful over them: yea, and the most part intendeth not to feed the sheep, but they long to be fed of the sheep.
They seek only their own pleasures, their own pastimes, they care for no more. But what said Christ to Peter? What said he? Peter, amas me ? “Peter, lovest thou me?” Peter made answer, “Yes:” “Then feed my sheep.” And so the third time he commanded Peter to feed his sheep. But our clergymen do declare plainly that they love not Christ, because they feed not his flock. If they had an earnest love to Christ, no doubt they would shew their love; they would feed his sheep. But it is a thing to be lamented, that the prelates and other spiritual persons will not attend upon their offices: they will not be amongst their flocks, but rather will run hither and thither, here and there, where they are not called; and, in the mean season, leave them at adventure of whom they take their living.
Yea, and furthermore, some will rather be clerks of kitchens, or take other offices upon. them besides that which they have already: but with what conscience these same do so, I cannot tell. I fear they shall not be able to make answer at the last day for their follies, as concerning that matter: for this office is such a heavy and weighty office that it requireth a whole man. Yea, and let every curate or parson keep his cure to which God hath appointed him, and let him do the best that he can; yet, I tell you, he cannot choose but the devil will have some: for the devil sleepeth not; he goeth about day and night to seek whom he may devour.
Again, I will not be so precise, but I say a man may be away from his benefice for a little while, having urgent and lawful causes; yet I would not allow him to tarry long: for a curate or whatsoever he be, having a cure committed unto him of God to feed, cannot be from them with a safe conscience. He may not run hither and thither after his own pleasure, but must wait upon his office: for, no doubt, the devil will be wonderful busy when the preacher or curate is from his cure. Moses, that worthy man and faithful minister of God, was away from his people, which was to him committed, but two days; but what came of it? Marry, they committed idolatry in his absence: this came of it; which, no doubt, they would not have done, if he had been present: yet he was not faulty, for he was called by God himself. I would wish all curates and parsons would tarry at their cures, till they be called from it as Moses was called: for certain it is, that as many as perish in his absence, he must make answer for them before God. Si non locutus fueris ; “If thou dost not reprove them, if thou dost not teach them, they shall die, but I will require their blood at thy hand,” saith God. Again, if thy parish be stout and hardnecked, and will not hear the word of God, nor pass of it, yet the curate doing that which pertaineth unto him to do, he is discharged before God; and their blood shall be upon their own heads. But it is required of a curate to be with them, to exhort and admonish them. Therefore St. Peter saith, Pascite quantum in vobis est gregem Christi , “Feed as much as in you lieth the flock of Christ.” Then they may not be from their flock, for they cannot feed them being absent: and therefore those fellows that neglect or set aside their own cures, and run here and there before they be called, are no doubt in great danger; and they do against the ordinance of God. Therefore let them not be ashamed to learn of these shepherds here, to abide by their flock, till such time as God shall call them, like as he called these shepherds. I will not say, but they may be from it, but no longer than these shepherds; that is to say, no longer than they have lawful business. And here God doth consecrate every man’s vocation; that he that feareth God, loveth his word, and liveth according unto the same, he shall be acceptable unto God; though he be a poor shepherd, or cobbler, that is not the matter.
The evangelist saith, “And there were in that same region shepherds abiding in the field.” Oh, what fidelity was in these men! They would not deceive their masters, or put their sheep in jeopardy, but they were content to watch all the whole night. And, lo! the angel of the Lord stood hard by them. The angel of God was a preacher at that time; the people and audience were the shepherds: but they were greatly astonied (sic); they knew not what God intended to do. But the angel said unto them, Nolite timere , “Fear not.” As who say, “Ye have no cause to be afraid, when you know how the matter goeth; for I come to bring you word that the light is come into the world.” For Christ is the light, the life, the resurrection, the way to heaven; when we believe in lama, the gates of hell shall not prevail against us. The sermon of the angel was this, Ecce , “Lo!” When this word, Ecce, “Lo,” is set in scripture, then ever followeth a great and weighty matter after it. And therefore he required audience and silence. He would have: them to bear it away and note it well, what he would say unto them: Annuncio vobis gaudium magnum ; “I bring you tidings of great joy, that shall come to all people.” I bring you good news, which pertaineth unto all the world, if they will receive it: but they that will not, if they refuse the offer of God, then they themselves are the cause of their own damnation. The let is not in God, but in themselves. Quia vobis natus est hodie , “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior.” This was a good angel, and he was already in the state of salvation. Therefore he saith, “Unto you is born a Savior.” He saith not, Unto us; for the good angels of God are in the state of salvation already. Therefore Christ suffered not for them, nor saved, them, but us.
As for the other angels, the angels of darkness, the devil I say, they are without hope of salvation: and therefore Christ suffered not for them, but only for mankind, which was lost by the craft of the old serpent the devil.
The fall of the devil was this. When Lucifer, which was at the same season the greatest angel in heaven, when he perceived that the Son of God would become man, he fell into such an enviousness against man, and in such a hatred and proudness against God, because the Son of God would not take his nature upon him; he fell therefore into such a pride, that he would set his seat above God, or like God, saying, Similis ero Altissimo , “I will be like unto the Highest.” But what was his end? He was cast down from heaven, he and all his fellows with all their whole company. And here they be amongst us, to let us of our salvation, and to occasion us to sin and to do wickedly before the face of the Lord. And no doubt this is a great matter, if we had grace to consider it, and to beware of his instinctions; for he knoweth that it is the will of God that we should be saved, and this grieveth him: but the good angels they rejoice when we do well, when we receive the word of God and follow it; but the devil waxeth sorry, he cannot abide that, in no wise; for he knoweth that if we should receive God’s word, it should be to the destruction and hindrance of his kingdom. After that when Christ was born into the world, he did what he could to rid him out of the way; therefore he stirred up all the Jews against him: but after that he perceived that his death should be our deliverance from our everlasting death, he did what he could to let his death; and therefore he stirred up Mistress Pilate, which took a nap in the morning, as such fine damsels are wont to do, that she should not suffer her husband to give sentence against Christ.
For, as I told you, when he perceived that it was to his destruction, he would let it, and did what he could with hand and foot to stop it. But yet he was not able to disannul the counsel and purpose of God.
Further, it is not enough to believe Christ to be a Savior, but you must know what manner of Saviour he is; how far forth he saveth: and therefore you must understand that he was not such a Savior as Moses was, which saved the people of Israel from hunger and thirst in the wilderness, but could not deliver them from everlasting death. Christ therefore, our Savior, is such a Savior which saved us from eternal damnation, from the power of the devil, and all our enemies. The angel of god himself shewed us what manner of Savior Christ is, in the first of Matthew, saying, Quia salvum fadiet populum suum a peccatis suis ; “For he shall save his people from their sins,” So we must believe him to be such a Savior which released us from our sins; as well our original as actual wickedness. But the papists, as is most manifest, make him but half a Savior; for they think that they with their good works must help him to save them half. So they blaspheme him, and take away his dignity; for he only hath merited with his painful passion to be a Savior of the whole world, that is, to deliver all them that believe in him from their sins and wickedness. This we must believe undoubtedly, that he was born into this world to save mankind from their sins. Again, we must not only believe that he is a Savior of mankind, but also that he is my Savior, and thy Savior. I must have such a trust and hope in him, that he will save me from all my sin and wickedness: so every man must have a special faith.
We must apply his passion unto us, every one to himself. For when it is not applied unto us with a special faith. We must apply his passion unto us, every one to himself. For when it is not applied unto us with a special faith. We must apply his passion unto us, every one to himself. For when it is not applied unto us with a special faith, it is to no purpose: for what commodity have I, when I believe Christ saved St. Peter, and St. Paul, and other good men, and go no further? Therefore I must have a special faith; I must believe that he saved them, and also will save me, and forgive me my sins.
The Jews, that same obstinate people, think that the Messias, the Savior, for whom they long, shall be a great ruler in this world, shall have the swing in this world; no man shall be able to withstand him: so they believe that their Savior shall be a great king in the world; which is contrary to the most holy, infallible word of God. Again, the papists, as I told you before, make him but a half Savior: for they think and believe that Christ is a Savior; but how? Marry, thus: they say that all they that have lived well in this world, have deserved heaven with their good works; with almsgiving, and other such works merited everlasting life: and therefore, when they die, they shall be received of Christ, and he shall give them everlasting life, which they in their life-time have deserved with their own deeds: so that our Savior shall be, after their sayings, only a judge. He shall judge which be those which have deserved heaven, and them he shall receive into everlasting life; and so he shall give unto every one according to his merits. Such a Savior the papists make him.
But, I pray you, if it should be so as they say, which of us should be saved? Whose works are so perfect that they should be able to deserve heaven? For, I tell you, heaven and everlasting life is a more precious thing than can be deserved with our doings, with our outward works.
And therefore the papists deprave Christ, and spoil him of his honor and dignity: for he is another manner of Savior than they fantasy him to be; for he reputeth all them for just, holy, and acceptable before God, which believe in him, which put their trust, hope, and confidence in him: for by his passion, which he hath suffered, he merited that as many as believe in him shall be as well justified by him, as though they themselves had never done any sin, and as though they themselves had fulfilled the law to the uttermost. For we, without him, are under the curse of the law; the law condemneth us; the law is not able to help us; and yet the imperfection is not in the law, but in us: for the law itself is holy and good, but we are not able to keep it, and so the law condemneth us; but Christ with his death hath delivered us from the curse of the law. He hath set us at liberty, and promiseth that when we believe in him, we shall not perish; the law shall not condemn us. Therefore let us study to believe in Christ. Let us put all our hope, trust, and confidence only in him; let us patch him with nothing: for, as I told you before, our merits are not able to deserve everlasting life: it is too precious a thing to be merited by man.
It is his doing only. God hath given him unto us to be our deliverer, and to give us everlasting life. O what a joyful thing was this! What a comfortable thing is it, that, we know now that neither the devil, hell, or any thing in heaven or earth, shall be able to condemn us when we believe in Christ!
Now to our matter. The angel, after he had told them these good tidings, how the King of all kings was born, he gave them a sign or token whereby they should know him; and saith, Reperietis infantem jacentem in praesepe, “Ye shall find the babe lying in a manger.” This was a goodly sign. Indeed, if we consider the matter well, it was enough to make them astonished, and to cast down their belief, to tell them first of a great Savior, and then to say, that they should find him in a stable, lying in a manger. But the wisdom of God is not according to the wisdom of this world. He went not about to please the foolish of this world, but his counsel was to deliver the world by his Son; which should not come in riches and great pomp, but in poverty and in rags. His kingdom in this world should be a weak kingdom. And so his disciples afterward were taken out of the lowest sort of men. They were poor fishers, and the most vilest men in this world; as St. Paul saith, “Excrementa mundi , “Outcasts of the world.” And so shall all his disciples be, all they that will be saved by him; and specially the preachers of his holy word shall be excrementa , they shall be outcasts. When they will go about to reprove sin, as a preacher should do, as their office requireth, arguere mundum de peccato , “to rebuke the world of sin;” I warrant you that man shall have little favor in this world. So, I say, God hath no respect of persons: though they be vile before this world, and counted for nothing, yet he is content to work his will with them and through them, as here in these shepherds appeared: though they were poor, yet the angel opened unto them such things which were hidden from these glorious prelates and stubborn bishops, which in all time do but little good, for they disdain to preach Jesum crucifixum.
Now, like as he was born in rags, so the converting of the whole world is by rags, by things which are most vile in this world. For to go to the matter: what is so common as water? Every foul ditch is full of it: yet we wash our remission of our sins by baptism: for like as he was found in rags, so we must find him by baptism. There we begin; we are washed with water; and then the words are added: for we are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost, whereby the baptism receiveth his strength. Now this sacrament of baptism is a thing of great weight; for it ascertaineth and assureth us, that like as the water washeth the body and cleanseth it, so the blood of Christ our Savior cleanseth and washeth it from all filth and uncleanness of sins. So likewise go to the Lord’s supper: when the bread is consecrated, when the words are spoken over it, then it is such an office that it beareth the name of the body and blood of Christ. Like as the magistrates because of their office are called Dii , “Gods;” so the bread presenteth his body, so that we go unto it worthily, and receive it with a good faith. Then we be assured that we feed upon him spiritually. And like as the bread nourisheth the body, so the soul feedeth upon the very body and blood of Christ by faith, by believing him to be a Savior which delivered man from his sin.
And so it appeareth that we may not seek Christ in the glistering of this world: for what is so common as water? what is so common as bread and wine? Yet he promised to be found there, when he is sought with a faithful heart. So will you have Christ? Where shall you find him? Not in the jollities of this world, but in rags, in the poor people. Have you any poor people amongst you in your town or city? Seek him there amongst the rags, there shall you find him. And I will prove it on this wise. He saith himself with his own mouth, “Whatsoever ye do to these little ones, minimis, that do ye unto me.” By these words appeareth manifestly, that whatsoever ye do unto the poor people which are despised in this world, ye do it to himself. Therefore I say yet again, when ye will seek Christ, seek him in the rags, seek him in the manger amongst the poor folk: there you shall find him. But you must understand that when I speak of poverty, I speak not of this willful poverty of the monks and friars; for that same was an hypocritical poverty; that same poverty was full of all manner of delicate things. Nihil habeant, et tamen omnia habeant ; “They had nothing, and yet they had all.” They were wise enough; they could make shift for themselves, I warrant you: therefore I speak not of that poverty; for it was a wicked, abominable, and hypocritical poverty. But I speak of the very poor and needy flock of Christ, which have not wherewith to live in this world. Those I would have you to refresh, to cherish, to help them with your superfluity. Amongst that poor company seek Christ, and no doubt you shall find him.
Now to make an end: consider what I have said, how Christ was born, in what poverty, and in what misery. Remember what manner of Savior he is; namely, a perfect Savior, which sayeth and healeth all our sorrows, when we believe in him. I told you where you should seek him, namely, amongst the poor; there he will be found.
The Almighty God give us grace to live and believe so, that we may attain to that felicity which he hath promised by his Son, our Savior! To whom, with God the Father and the Holy Ghost, be honor world without end! Amen.
A SERMON PREACHED BY MASTER HUGH LATIMER ON TWELFTH DAY, AT GRIMSTHORPE, ANNO 1553.
Matthew 2:1,2 . <400201> When Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Jewry, in the time of Herod the king; Behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? We have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
RIGHT worshipful, you heard the gospel read before you, which gospel is the beginning of the second chapter of Matthew, and it comprehendeth good matters. It speaketh of the Epiphany of Christ; how our Savior was opened, by the providence of God, to the gentiles. Notwithstanding, I intend not to tarry long in that gospel, or to entreat of it; for, if ye remember, I promised you the last Sunday FA1 three things: first, I promised you, that I would speak generally of the circumcision, what it is, and what it signifieth: secondly, I promised you to speak of the circumcision of our Savior Christ, and how it chanced that he would be circumcised: thirdly, I promised you to speak of his manhood. Now you know, at the same time, I did not perform my promise, because I had no time; therefore I intend now, by the help of God, to perform that which I then promised. But yet, because the gospel containeth so good matter, I cannot go over it, but shew you certain specialties which are contained in it. FA2 The evangelist Matthew in this gospel goeth about to prove, that Jesus was this FA3 Messias which was spoken of so much beforetimes by the prophets: and this he doth, by the place where he was born, namely, at Bethlehem; and also by the time, namely, when Herod was king over the Jews. But here be no Jews; therefore it needeth not to entreat of this matter.
Furthermore, here we shall note the simplicity and heartiness of these men, which came a great way out of their countries, where the prophet Daniel had been beforetimes; for no doubt but they had learned of Daniel, that there should a Messias come. Therefore now, when they perceived by the star that he is FA4 born, they are ready to forsake their countries, and come into Jewry, such FA5 a great way, to make inquisition for him; and there go very simply to work, casting no peril. They ask openly at Jerusalem for him, saying, Ubi est Rex? “Where is he that is born king of the Jews?” Here you must understand, that after Pompey the Great had subdued the Jews, in process of time Herod had gotten the rule over them, by the means and appointment of the emperor: which Herod was not a Jew, but an Idumean; a cruel, wicked, and forecasting man; for he trusted not constantly upon the Jews. He was ever afraid he should be deprived of his kingdom. Now at that time, when this wicked man had the rule, these wise men came into the city, and inquired for the king of the Jews; and openly protested their faith which they had in Christ. They were nothing afraid of Herod; for they had such a trust and confidence in God, that they knew he was able to FA6 deliver them from his hands.
But worldly-wise men will say, they were but fools to put themselves in danger FA7 without need: they might have asked for him secretly, so that the king might not have heard of it. Such is the wisdom of these FA8 which have no faith nor confidence in God: they will not abide any peril for God’s sake; they seek rather FA9 all corners to hide themselves in, rather than they will profess God’s word openly. I pray you note and mark well their words: they say, “We are come to worship him; to do homage to him, to acknowledge him to be our Lord.” Then, again, note the words of Herod: he saith unto them, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I may come and worship him also.” Lo here, what a fox was this Herod! Who can judge of man’s words, except God which knoweth the hearts of men?
Note another thing, which is this: as soon as this was published, that these strangers were come, asking for the king of the Jews, “Herod was troubled,” saith the text, “and all Jerusalem with him.” This was a strange thing, that Jerusalem should be troubled, which longed so long time for that king, for that Messias, for that Savior. But they were even as we are: they cared not for God’s word; they sought nothing but their ease, and to be at rest; they cared not greatly for religion; they thought, if we receive him, we shall have trouble with him, therefore it is better for us to leave him, and to let him alone, rather than to disquiet ourselves: they were even right merchantmen; they sought nothing but to save their substance in this world; this was all that they looked for: therefore they were troubled when they heard that Christ was born.
They were well seen in the law and the prophets, after the letter, and therefore by and bye made answer unto him, saying, “At Bethlehem Judah he shall be born;” for so it is written in the fifth chapter of Micah, Et tu, Bethlehem Juda, “And thou, Bethlehem Judah, thou art not the least concerning the princes of Judah; for out of thee shall come the captain that shall govern my people Israel.” After that Herod had heard this, he called the wise men, and bade them that they should “go and search out the child, and when they had found him, they should bring him word again, that he might come and worship him also.” O what a fox is this! There hath been many such foxes in England, specially in the time of persecution; which pretended great holiness and zeal to God-ward with their will, FA10 but their hearts are poisoned with the cruelty of Herod.
Now as soon as they were out of the city, the star appeared unto them again, and went before them till it came to the place, where it stood still.
But yet you must understand, that our Savior was born in a stable, but Joseph had gotten a house in process of time, so that they found him not in the stable. There be some learned men that think, that these wise men came a year or two after his birth FA11 , for they came a great way: and when they had found him, they did homage unto him, and acknowledged him to be the Lord; and declared their faith that they had in him, and brought FA12 him gold, frankincense and myrrh. And here is to be noted the provision of God: there was nobody, that we read of, which gave any thing unto him; yet God could stir up the hearts of those strangers to shew their liberality towards him. They bring gold, which signified him to be the right king above all kings; and like as gold exceedeth all other metals, so gold signified him to be the king above all kings, and that the doctrine of him is the very true doctrine. Frankincense signified the prayer of the faithful, which maketh a good savor before God, for he greatly delighteth therein: myrrh, which they offered, signified [the] afflictions of those which confess Christ.
But here, as I told you before, you must note God’s provision; for now Mary and Joseph must be gone to Egypt, see what provision God made for them: he sent them gold and other treasures out of a far country.
Again, how God so wonderfully preserved those wise men, which were going again to Herod, if they had not been admonished by the angel of God. Therefore learn here, that they that believe in God, and put their hope and trust in him, shall be provided for: God will not forget them.
God Almighty made this promise unto Abraham, saying, Ego ero Deus tuus, et seminis tui post to; “I will be thy God, and the God of FA14 thy seed after thee.” This was the promise of God, which promise was confirmed by that sign and outward token of circumcision. Now the covenant or promise of God abideth; but the circumcision, which was the sign of it, is gone and taken away by the coming of Christ, and instead thereof is ordained baptism. This you have heard the last time, when I told you that circumcision was not only a mark or naked token, whereby men might know a Jew from a gentile, but it had a further signification; namely, that like as the privy member was circumcised, the foreskin cut off, so the heart of every man must be circumcised, and the foreskin of all wickedness cut off, or pulled away: like as our baptism is not only ordained for that cause, to know a Christian from a Turk or heathen, but it hath a further signification; it signifieth that we must wash away the old Adam, forsake and set aside all carnal lusts and desires, and put on Christ; receive him with a pure heart, and study to live and go forward in all goodness, according unto his will and commandment. So, I say, at that time circumcision was not only an outward bare token, but had an inward signification; namely, that the heart of man should be circumcised from all sin, and cleansed from all wickedness.
Now come to the point: circumcision at that time was a certain, sure, infallible, and effectual token of God’s goodwill towards them to whom it was given: for as many as did believe the covenant of God, it did ascertain them of the good-will of God towards them, that they should be delivered out of all their troubles and adversities, and that they should be sure of the help of God. An example we have in that good young man Jonathan: he comforted himself with his circumcision, saying to his weapon-bearer, Veni, transeamus ad incircumcisos; “Come, let us go to these uncircumcised.” As though he had said, “Come, let us go, we have circumcision; God hath promised to be our God to aid and help us, and deliver us out of all our troubles and calamities.” And so went on he and his weapon FA15 -bearer only, and set upon them, and killed a great number of them that same day: which victory happened by the occasion of this faithful Jonathan, the king’s son. So likewise did David, when he should fight against Goliah the Philistine, he saith, Quis est ille incircumcisus? “What is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should revile the host of the living God?” So they exhorted themselves, and confirmed their faith with this circumcision. So FA16 let us ever consider, in what trouble and calamity soever we be, let us remember that we be baptized; that God hath promised to help us, to deliver us from all our sins and wickedness, to be our God. FA17 And again, let us consider our promise which we have made unto him; namely, that we will forsake sin, the devil, and all his crafts and illusions, and cleave unto God only: and so by the remembrance of this, we shall be more ready and earnest to strive and fight against the devil.
Now let us come to the circumcision of our Savior Christ. A man might marvel how it came to pass that our Savior would be circumcised, being, as he was indeed, Ipsissima justitia, “The righteousness itself.” What needeth him FA18 to be circumcised? For he was no sinner, nor had need that his faith should be confirmed by circumcision; being very God, and the material Son of God. Again, to do a thing that needeth not, it is but lost labor and the time ill-spent. And St Paul saith, Si circumcidamini, Christus vobis nihil proderit; “If FA19 you be circumcised, Christ doth you no good; you need not look FA20 to be saved by him.” To make answer to these questions: first, I would not have you to think that Christ, being but eight days old, knew not whereabouts his parents went; what they did when they circumcised him. Yes, yes; he knew it well enough: for though he was but a child, yet he was such a child that had no fellow; for, as St Paul witnesseth, Plenitude divinitatis habitabat in illo corporaliter; “The abundancy of the Godhead dwelt in him corporally.” God dwelleth in all them that be faithful, spiritually; for we be the temples of God: but in Christ he dwelleth corporally; that is to say, he with the plenteousness of his Godhead dwelleth in Christ. You must understand that Christ hath a soul and body, and united with his divinity; therefore it is said that he dwelleth in Christ corporally. Now he, being very God, would not have been circumcised against his will, but he did it voluntarily. As for the saying of St Paul, Si circumcidamini, Christus nihil vobis proderit, it hath his understanding: for St Paul in that place speaketh not of the outward work of circumcision, but against that wicked opinion which the gentiles had; for they thought that circumcision was a work meriting remission of sins; which opinion took away the office of Christ. Now St.
The causes wherefore Christ our Savior would be circumcised are these: first, because he would be a testimony that the old law was God’s law; and for that time they were the very laws of God, and therefore he suffered himself to be circumcised, notwithstanding that he had no need of it: but this is but a secondary cause. Another cause is, to be obedient unto common orders: therefore he would suffer rather to be circumcised, than to give an occasion of hurly-burly or uproar: for the will of the Father was, that subjects should obey magistrates, and keep orders. Subjecti estote cuivis humanae potestati; “Be obedient unto them.”
Look, what laws and ordinances are made by the magistrates, we ought to obey them. Therefore we must consider ever, in all our doings, what be the laws of the realm, and according unto the same we must live. And this is to be understood as well in spiritual matters as temporal matters; so far forth as their laws be not against God and his word. When they will move us to do any thing against God, then we may say, Oportet magis obedire Domino quam hominibus; “We must more be obedient unto God than unto man:” yet we may not withstand them with stoutness, or rise up against them, but suffer whatsoever they shall do unto us; for we may for nothing in the world rebel against the office of God, that is to say, against the magistrate.
Now, Christ himself giveth an ensample of this obedience; and no doubt it was a painful thing to be circumcised, as it appeared by a notable act in the first book of Moses. When Jacob, that holy man, was coming home again, out of Mesopotamia, with his wives and children and all his substance, as he came by the way, he pitched his tents about the Sechemites, Now he had a daughter called Dina, which gazing damsel went about to see the countries, and so came into the town among the strangers. Now the governor’s son of the city, seeing her to be a fair maiden, cast his love upon her; and went and took her and ravished her, and afterward made suit unto Jacob, her father, and got her to FA21 his wife. At the length, after much ado, they agreed upon that, that he, his father, and all his people should be circmncised: which was done; for upon a day all their males were circumcised. And here was a religion of policy: they were circumcised, not for God’s sake, to acknowledge him to be their God, but only to satisfy the request of a foolish, wanton young man; as we read in Chronicles of such religion of policy. Now what happened? The third day, when their sores were very great, two of Jacob’s sons went into the city, and slew all together, men, women, and children; and took their sister away again. Here by this appeared what pain it was, that FA22 they were not able to withstand or defend themselves. But our Savior he was well content to suffer that great pain.
But these causes are not the chiefest; but there hangeth more of it. St.
Paul shewed the chiefest cause in the epistle to the Galatians, saying: Postquam venit plenitudo temperis, misit Deus Filium suum factum ex muliere; “After that the fullness of the time came, FA23 God sent FA24 his Son made of a woman.” This is the principal cause; for “when the fullness of time was come,”—as God will have all things done in a convenient time, and the same time must be appointed by him, and not by us,—when the time was full come, then God sendeth his Son made of a woman. “Made of a woman,” he saith; which signifieth that Christ took the substance of his body of the woman. In all things he was like unto other children, except that he had no carnal father, and was without sin; else he was very man: for we may make FA25 him so spiritual, that we should deny his humanity. No, not so; he was very man, and was bound to the law. To what end? Ut cos qui legi erant obnoxii liberaret; “That he might deliver us from the law, to the which we were bound;” and that we might receive the right of the children of God by adoption, through God’s goodness, by his deserving; that we might have, through his fulfilling of the law, remission of sins and eternal life. These are his gifts, which he hath deserved with his keeping of the law.
Thus you see to what end he was circumcised, and wherefore he kept the law; namely, to deliver us from the condemnation of it. For if he had not kept the law, the law had such power, that it should FA26 have condemned us all: for so it is written, Maledictus qui non manserit in omnibus; “Cursed be he that abideth not by all that which is written in this FA27 law.”
So that the least cogitation that we have against that FA27 law of God, bringeth this curse upon our heads: so that there was never man, nor shall be one, that could remedy himself by this law; for it is spiritual; it may not be fulfilled but by the Spirit. It requireth us to be clean from all spot of sin, from all ill thoughts, words, and deeds: but we be carnal, and as St.
Therefore he concludeth thus: Ex operibus legis nemo justificabitur; “And by the works of the law no man can be justified.” For you must consider the works of the law, how they ought to be done; and again, how we do them. As Christ did them, they merit; for he did them perfectly, as they ought to be done: but as we do them, they condemn; and yet the lack is not in the law, but in us. The law for FA28 itself is holy and good, but we are not able to keep it; and therefore we must seek our righteousness, not in the law, but in Christ, which hath fulfilled that FA29 same, and given us freely his fulfilling.
And this is the chiefest cause wherefore Christ would fulfill the law. But all the papists think themselves to be saved by the law: and I myself have been of that dangerous, perilous, and damnable opinion, till I was thirty years of age. So long I had walked in darkness, and in the shadow of death! And, no doubt, he that departeth from FA30 this world in this opinion, he shall never come to heaven. For when we well consider the works of the law, which the law requireth, and again, how we do them, we shall find that we may not be justified by our doings: for the flesh reigneth in us; it beareth rule and letteth FA31 the Spirit, and so we never fulfill the law. Certain it is that they that believe in Christ have the Holy Ghost, which ruleth and governeth them: yet for all that there be a great many lacks in them; so that if they would go about to be saved by their works, they should come too short; for their works are not able to answer the requests of the law. And so Christ should be but a judge, which should give FA32 every one according to his merits, and should not deserve for us. If we had no other help but that, then we should go all to the devil. But God, the everlasting, be praised, we have a remedy and a sure helper! Christ, the Son of the living God, hath fulfilled the law for us, to deliver us from sin. Such is the office of Christ, to deliver us from the law and the wrath of it. The law required FA33 a perfect righteousness and holiness: now all they that believe in Christ, they are holy and righteous, for he hath fulfilled the law for us which believe in him: we be reputed just through faith in Christ. What required FA33 the law of us?
Marry, righteousness and holiness. This we have, we are righteous; but how? Not by our works, for our works are not able to make us just, and deliver us from our sins; but we are just by this, that our sins are pardoned unto us through faith FA34 which we have in Christ our Savior: for he, through his fulfilling of the law, took away the curse of the law from our heads. Qui de peccato condemnavit peccatum, “He took away the power of the sin.” Sin is made no sin.
I desire you in the reverence of God to bear away this one sentence, which I will tell you now; FA35 for it shall be good stay FA36 against the temptations of the devil. The sentence is this: Quod lex praestare non potuerat, “That the law could not do, for it was letted by the flesh:” what can the law do when it hath no let? Marry, it can justify. Sed infirmabatur per carnem; that is to say, “by the infirmity of our flesh” man was not able to do it; the lack was in us: for we are wicked, and the law is holy and good. Now that which we lacked, that same hath God fulfilled and supplied, misso Filio suo; in that he hath sent his Son to supply that which man’s works could not do: and with his fulfilling of the law and painful death he merited, that as many as believe in him, though they had done all the sins of the world, yet shall they not be damned, but are righteous before the face of God, believing in Christ; so that remission of sins and everlasting life may be sought no where else but only in Christ. Qui proprio Filio non pepercit, sed dedit illum pro nobis, “He that spared not his only Son, but gave him for us, why should he not have given us all things with him?” FA37 By this text it appeareth, that he which hath Christ hath all things. He hath Christ’s fulfilling of the law; he hath remission of his sins; and so, consequently, everlasting life. Is not this a comfort? What greater consolation, comfort, and heart’s-ease can there be in heaven and earth, than that; namely, to be sure of the remission of thy sins, and that Christ bound himself unto the law, to that end that he might fulfill it to the uttermost? This, I say, is the greatest comfort; specially when the devil goeth in hand with us, and casteth FA38 our sins in our teeth: as, no doubt, he forgetteth them not, but hath them (as they say)at his finger’s-end; when he will so go to work with us, saying, “Sir, FA39 thou art damned; thou art a sinful wicked man, FA40 thou hast not kept God’s most holy commandments: God must needs judge thee according unto his law.”
Now then, when I have the grace to have in remembrance the circumcision of Christ; when I remember that Christ hath fulfilled the law for me; that he was circumcised; that he will stand between me and my damnation; when I look not upon my works, to be saved by them, but only by Christ; when I stick unto him; when I believe that my soul is washed and made clean through his blood;—then I have all his goodness, for God hath given him unto me: and when I believe in him, I apply all his benefits unto me. I pray God, the Almighty, to give us FA41 such a heart that we may believe in him, for he is finis legis, “the end of the law;” perfunctio legis, “the fulfilling of the same, to the salvation of all that believe on him!” What can be more comfortable? Therefore let us believe in him and be thankful.
Now I must needs speak a word or two of good works, lest, peradventure, some of you be offended with me. I told you before wherein standeth our righteousness; namely in this, that our unrighteousness is forgiven us: for we must needs confess, that the best works that we do have need of remission of sins, and so not meritorious; for they be not perfect as they ought to be; and therefore we live of borrowing. We have no proper righteousness of our own; but wo borrow, that is to say, we take the righteousness of Christ, which he offered freely to as many as believe in him. And this treasure of his righteousness is not wasted or spent; he hath enough for all the world, yea, if this were a thousand worlds. Therefore, when we have been wicked, let us be sorry for our wickedness, and come to Christ, and call for forgiveness; and then take a good earnest purpose to leave sin.
There is a common saying amongst us here in England, “Everything is, say they, as it is taken;” which indeed is not so: for every thing is as it is, howsoever it be taken. But in some manner of ways FA42 it is true, as in this matter: we of ourselves are unjust, our works are unperfect, and so disagreeable unto God’s laws; yet for Christ’s sake we be taken for just, and our works are allowable before God: not that they be so indeed for themselves, but they be taken well for his sake. God hath a pleasure in our works; though they be not so perfectly done as they ought to be, yet they please him, and he delighteth in them, and he will reward them in everlasting life. We have them not by our merits, but by Christ. And yet this sentence is true, Reddit unicuique juxta opera; “He will reward every one according to his deserving:” he will reward our good works in everlasting life, but not with everlasting life: for our works are not so much worth, nor ought not so to be esteemed as to get heaven; for it is written, Coeli gloria donum Dei, “The kingdom of heaven is the gift of God.” So likewise St. Paul saith, Gratis enim estis salvati per fidem absque operibus, “Ye are saved freely without works.” Therefore, when ye ask, “Are they saved?” Say, “yes.” How? Marry, gratis, freely: and here is all our comfort to stay our consciences.
But, I tell you, we are bound to walk in good works; for to that end we are come to Christ, to leave sin, to live uprightly, and so to be saved by him: but you must be sure to what end you must work; you must know how to esteem your good works. As if I fast and give alms, and think to be saved by it, I thrust Christ out of his seat: what am I the better when I do so? ButIFA43 tell you how ye shall do them. First, consider with yourselves how God hath delivered you out of the hands of the devil.
Now to shew yourselves thankful, and in consideration that he commandeth you to do good works, ye must do them; and therefore we wrestle with sin. When the devil tempteth me, or in any wise moveth me to wickedness, then I must withstand, disallow and reprove it; and when he hath gotten at any time the victory, we must rise again, and beware FA44 afterward. And when I feel myself feeble and weak, what shall I do?
Marry, FA45 call upon God; for he hath promised that he will help: there was never man yet, nor never shall be, but he either hath or shall find ease and comfort at God’s hand, if he call unto FA46 him with a faithful heart.
For, as St. Paul saith, Benedictus est Deus qui non sinet vos temptari, supra quod ferre potestis: “God is true,” saith he, “he will not suffer us to be tempted further than we may bear.” If therefore we would once enter into a practice to overcome the devil, it were but an easy thing for us to do, if every one in his calling would direct his ways to Godward, and to do good works: as the parents in their calling, to live quietly and godly together, and to bring up their youth in godliness: so likewise masters should shew good ensamples, to keep their servants in good order, to keep them from idleness and wickedness. FA47 These are good works, when every one doth his calling, as God hath appointed him to do: but they must be done to that end, to shew ourselves thankful; and therefore they are called in scripture sacrifices of thanksgiving: not to win heaven withal; for if I should do so, I should deny Christ my Savior, despise and tread him under my feet. For to what purpose suffered he, when I shall with my good works get FA48 heaven?—as the papists do, which deny him indeed; for they think to get heaven with their pilgrimages, and with running hither and thither. I pray you, note this; we must first be made good, before we can do good: we must first be made just, before our works please God: for when we are justified by faith in Christ, and are made good by him, then cometh our duty; that is, to do good works, to make a declaration of our thankfulness.
I have troubled you a good while, and somewhat the longer, because I had much pleasure to comfort myself in it. In times past we were wont to run hither and thither, to this saint and to that saint; but it is all but figleaves what man can do. Therefore let us stick to Christ, which is the right, perfect, and absolute Savior, and able to deliver us from all our sins; and not only able to do it, but also willing. He offereth himself unto us: therefore, I say, let us believe in him, and afterward shew our thankfulness through an honest, godly conversation and living; so that his holy name may be praised amongst us, and that they that know him not as yet, may be FA49 brought to the knowledge of him through our godly conversation. The Almighty God, whose kingdom is everlasting, give us his grace FA50 ! To whom, with God the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory now and ever, world without end. Amen.
A SERMON PREACHED BY MASTER HUGH LATIMER, THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, ANNO 1552.
HERE in this gospel is to be noted, how Mary the mother of Christ FB1 went to Jerusalem, having her husband, and the child Jesus, which was twelve years of age, in her company, etc. But before I come to this gospel, I will rehearse unto you something which I took in hand last holyday, FB2 where I, taking occasion of the gospel that was read the same day, made mention how Jesus the Son of God, and Savior of the world, was born in Bethlehem; and how God opened his birth unto the gentiles; which were the three wise men, commonly called the three kings of Collen: but they were not kings, as the fond opinion of the common people is, but they were religious men, and men that feared God; yea, and as some great learned men gather, they were of the remnant of those which Daniel the prophet had taught, and instructed in the knowledge of God and of his will. For Daniel, being in captivity, bare great rule among the gentiles, as it appeareth in his book of prophecy; and therefore was able to set forth and promote the true religion of God, which was known at that time only among the Jews: which knowledge these wise men had; and had also a special understanding of astronomy. And now they, seeing the star, perceived that it was not a common thing, but a token that the greatest king was born, of whom they had heard their forefathers talk; and therefore they came to Jerusalem, and inquired for this king, etc.
The last holy-day I had no time to entreat of this matter fully, and therefore I intend to speak somewhat of it at this time. And first of this word, “Jesus,” what it is.
The evangelist saith here, “When Jesus was born.” What is “Jesus?” Jesus is an Hebrew word, and signifieth, in our English tongue, a Savior and Redeemer of all mankind, born into this world. This title and name, “to save,” pertaineth properly and principally unto him: for he sayeth us, else we had been lost for ever. Notwithstanding, the name of savior is used in common speech; as the king is called a savior, for he sayeth his subjects from all danger and harm that may ensue of the enemies. Likewise, the physician is accounted a savior; for he sayeth the sick man from the danger of his disease with good and wholesome medicines. So fathers and mothers are saviors; for they save their children from bodily harm, that may happen unto them. So bridges, leading over the waters, are saviors; for they save us from the water. Likewise ships and boats, great and small vessels upon the seas, are saviors; for they save us from the fury, rage, and tempest of the sea. So judges are saviors; for they save, or at least should save, the people from wrong and oppression. But all this is not a perfect saving: for what availeth it to be saved from sickness, calamities, and oppression, when we shall be condemned after our death both body and soul for ever to remain with the devil and his angels? We must therefore come to Jesus, which is the right and true Savior: “And he it is that hath saved us from sin.” Whom hath he saved? His people. Who are his people? All that believe in him, and put their whole trust in him; and those that seek help and salvation at his hands: all such are his people. How saved he them? First, by magistrates, he saved the poor from oppression and wrong: the children he saved through the tuition of the parents, from danger and peril: by physicians he sayeth from sickness and diseases: but from sin he sayeth only through his passion and bloodshedding.
Therefore he may be called, and is, the very right Savior; for it is he that sayeth from all infelicity all his faithful people: and his salvation is sufficient to satisfy for all the world as concerning itself; but as concerning us, he saved no more than such as put their trust in him. And as many as believe in him shall be saved; the other shall be cast out as infidels into everlasting damnation; not for lack of salvation, but for infidelity and lack of faith, which is the only cause of their damnation.
He saved us, from what? Even from sin. Now when he saved us from sin, then he saved us from the wrath of God, from affliction and calamities, from hell and death, and from damnation and everlasting pain: for sin is the cause and fountain of all mischief. Take away sin, then all other calamities wherein mankind is wrapped, are taken away, and clean gone and dispersed: therefore he, saving us from sin, saved us from all affliction. But how doth he save us from sin? In this manner: that sin shall not condemn us, sin shall not have the victory over us. He saved us not so, that we should be without sin, that no sin should be left in our hearts.
No, he saved us not so; for all manner of imperfections remain in us, yea, in the best of us; so that if God should enter into judgment with us, we should all be damned. For there are none, FB3 nor ever was any man born into this world, which could say, “I am clean from sin,” except Jesus Christ. Therefore he saved us not so from sin, in taking clean away the same, FB4 that we should not FB5 be inclined to it; but rather, the power and strength of the same sin he hath so vanquished, that it shall not be able to condemn those which believe in him: for sin is remitted, and not imputed unto the believers.
So likewise he saved us from sin, not taking it clean away, but rather the strength and force of the same: so he saved us from other calamities, not taking the same clean away, but rather the power of the same; so that no calamity nor misery should be able to hurt us that are in Christ Jesus. And likewise he saved us from death; not that we should not die, but that death should have no victory over us, nor condemn us; but rather to be a way and entrance into salvation and everlasting life: for death is a gate to enter into everlasting life. No man can come to everlasting life, but he must first die bodily; but this death cannot hurt the faithful, for they are exempted from all danger through the death and passion of Jesus Christ, our Savior, which with his death hath overcome our death.
Here is to be noted the error of the Jews, which believed that this Savior should be a temporal king and ruler, and deliver them out of the hands of the Romans: for the Jews at that time were under the governance of the Romans; subdued by Pompeius, the great and valiant captain, as Josephus, FB6 a great and learned man amongst the Jews, and Titus Livius, FB7 do witness. Therefore they believed that this Savior should not only set them at liberty, but should subdue all nations; so that the Jews only, with their Savior, should be the rulers of all the whole world, and that the whole world should serve them. This was at the same time, and is yet still, the opinion of the Jews; which will not learn nor understand, that Jesus saved them and us, not from the power of the Romans, but from sin, death, the devil and hell; and set us at liberty, and made us filii Dei, the children of God, and the inheritors of life everlasting.
The papists, which are the very enemies of Christ, make him to be a Savior after their own fantasy, and not after the word of God; wherein he declareth himself, and set out and opened his mind unto us. They follow, I say, not the scripture, which is the very leader to God, but regard more their own inventions; and therefore they make him a Savior after this fashion. They consider how there shall be, after the general resurrection, a general judgment, where all mankind shall be gathered together to receive their judgment: then shall Christ, say the papists, sit as a judge, having power over heaven and earth: and all those that have done well in this world, and have steadfastly prayed upon their beads, and have gone a pilgrimage, etc., and so with their good works have deserved heaven and everlasting life,—those, say they, that have merited with their own good works, shall be received of Christ, and admitted to everlasting salvation.
As for the other, that have not merited everlasting life, [they] shall be cast into everlasting darkness: for Christ will not suffer wicked sinners to be taken into heaven, but rather receive those which deserve. And so it appeareth, that they esteem our Savior not to be a Redeemer, but only a judge; which shall give sentence over the wicked to go into everlasting fire, and the good he will call to everlasting felicity.
And this is the opinion of the papists, as concerning our Savior; which opinion is most detestable, abominable, and filthy in the sight of God. For it diminisheth the passion of Christ; it taketh away the power and strength of the same passion; it defileth the honor and glory of Christ; it forsaketh and denieth Christ, and all his benefits. For if we shall be judged after our own deservings, we shall be damned everlastingly. Therefore, learn here, every good Christian, to abhor this most detestable and dangerous poison of the papists, which go about to thrust Christ out of his seat: learn here, I say, to leave all papistry, and to stick only to the word of God, which teacheth thee that Christ is not only a judge, but a justifier; a giver of salvation, and a taker away of sin; for he purchased our salvation through his painful death, and we receive the same through believing in him; as St Paul teacheth us, saying, Gratis estis justificati per fidem, “Freely ye are justified through faith.” In these words of St. Paul, all merits and estimation of works are excluded and clean taken away. For if it were for our works’ sake, then it were not freely: but St. Paul saith, “freely.”
Whether will you now believe St. Paul, or the papists? It is better for you to believe St. Paul, rather than those most wicked and covetous papists; which seek nothing but their own wealth, and not your salvation.
But if any of you will ask now, How shall I come by my salvation? How shall I get everlasting life? I answer: If you believe with an unfeigned heart that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world, and took upon him our flesh of the virgin Mary; and suffered under Pontius Pilate, in the city of Jerusalem, most FB8 painful death and passion upon the cross; and was hanged between two thieves, for our sins’ sake: for in him was no sin, “neither,” as the prophet Isaiah saith, “was there found in his mouth any guile or deceit.” For he was a Lamb undefiled, and therefore suffered not for his own sake, but for our sake; and with his suffering hath taken away all our sins and wickedness, and hath made us, which were the children of the devil, the children of God; fulfilling the law for us to the uttermost; giving us freely as a gift his fulfilling to be ours, so that we are now fulfillers of the law by his fulfilling: so that the law may not condemn us, for he hath fulfilled it, that we, believing in him, are fulfillers of the law, and just before the face of God. For Christ with his passion hath deserved, that all that believe in him shall be saved, not through their own good works, but through his passion.
Here thou seest whereupon hangeth thy salvation; namely, believing in the Son of God, which hath prepared and gotten heaven for all those that believe in him, and live uprightly according to his word. For we must do good works, and God requireth them of us: but yet we may not put our trust in them, nor think to get heaven with the same; for our works are wicked and evil, and the best of them be imperfect. As for those which are evil, no man is so foolish to think to get heaven with evil doing. And as concerning our good works, they are unperfect, and not so agreeable to the law of God, who requireth most perfect works: by the which appeareth, that the best works which are done by man are hateful before God, and therefore not able to get or deserve salvation. Wherefore we must be justified, not through our good works, but through the passion of Christ; and so live by a free justification and righteousness in Christ Jesu. Whosoever thus believeth, mistrusting himself and his own doings, and trusting in the merits of Christ, he shall get the victory over death, the devil, and hell; so that they shall not hurt him, neither all their powers [be] able to stand against any of those which are in Christ Jesu.
Therefore, when thou art in sickness, and feelest that the end of thy bodily life approacheth, and that the devil with his assaults cometh FB9 to tempt thee, and have thy soul, and so to bring thee to everlasting confusion; then withstand him strongly in faith; namely, when he bringeth thee low: for he is an old doctor, and very well learned in the scripture, as it appeareth in the fourth chapter of Matthew, where he reasoned with Christ. So will he reason with thee, saying: “Sir, it is written in the law, that all those which have not fulfilled the law to the uttermost, shall be condemned. Now thou hast not fulfilled it, but hast been wicked, and a transgressor of it; thou FB10 art mine; and therefore thou shalt go to hell, and there to be punished world without end.” Against such temptations and assaults of the devil, we must fight on this wise, and answer: “I acknowledge myself to be a sinner most miserable, and filthy in the sight of God, and therefore, as of myself, I should be damned, according to thy saying: but there is yet one thing behind, that is this, I know and believe without all doubt, that God hath sent his Son into the world, which suffered a most painful and shameful death for me; and fulfilled the law wherewith thou wouldest condemn me: yea, he hath given me, as a gift, his fulfilling, so that I am now reckoned a fulfiller of the law before God.
Therefore avoid, thou most cruel enemy, avoid; for I know that my Redeemer liveth, which hath taken away all my sin and wickedness, and set me at unity with God his heavenly Father, and made me a lawful inheritor of everlasting life.”
Whoso in such wise fighteth with the devil, shall have the victory, for he is not able to stand against Christ; and it appeareth throughout all the scripture most plainly and manifestly, that the power of the devil is vanquished, when the word of God is used against him: and not alonely in the scripture, both new and old Testament, but also in other writings.
For Eusebius Pamphilius FB11 hath many stories, wherein is mentioned the impotency of the devil. And at; this time we have a story, written by a Spaniard in the Latin tongue, and affirmed by many godly and well learned men: which story happened in a town of Germany; FB12 where a poor husbandman, lying sore sick and ready to die, they that kept him company in the chamber where he lay, saw a man of great stature, and very horrible to look upon, his eyes being all fiery, coming into the chamber. This terrible devil, tutoring himself unto the sick body, said, “Sir, thou must die this day, and I am come hither to fetch thy soul; for that pertaineth unto me.” The sick man answered with a good countenance, saying, “I am ready to depart whensoever I shall be called of my Lord, which gave unto me my soul, and put the same into my body: therefore unto him only will I deliver it, and not unto thee; for he hath delivered my soul from thy power with the precious blood of his only Son.” Then said the devil, “Thou art laden with many sins, and I am come hither to write them together.” And forth he draweth out of his bosom pen, ink, and paper, setting himself at the table, that stood there, ready to write. The sick man hearing his mind, and perceiving his intent, said: “I know myself laden with many sins; but yet I believe that the same are taken away through the passion and suffering of Christ, through whom I steadfastly believe that the heavenly Father is pleased with me: but yet, if thou wilt write my sins, thou mayest do it, and then write thus, that all my righteousness is as cloth stained with the flowers of a woman.
Therefore I cannot stand in the judgment of God.” The devil, sitting at the table, wrote this with a good will; and desired the sick man to go forward in confessing and numbering his sins. Then the sick man, alleging the scriptures, saith, “That the eternal and living God promised, saying, ‘For mine own sake only I take away your iniquities.’ Further, Thou, O God, hast promised, that ‘though our sins be as red as the scarlet, thou wilt make them as white as snow.’” But these words he wrote not; but instantly desired him to go forward as he had begun. The sick man, with great sorrow and heaviness, cried out, saying, “The Son of God appeared to that end, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” And after these words the devil vanished out of sight; and shortly after the sick man departed unto the living God. Here you see how the devil will go to work with us, when we are sick: therefore let us learn now when we are in health to know God and his word, that we may withstand this horrible enemy; knowing that we shall have the victory through Christ our Savior, in whom and by whom God is pleased with us, and taketh in good part all our doings.
We have a common saying amongst us, “Every thing is as it is taken.”
We read of king Henry the seventh, at a time as he was served with a cup of drink, a gentleman that brought the cup, in making obeisance, the cover fell to the ground: the king, seeing his folly, saith, “Sir, is this well done?” “Yea, Sir,” said he, “if your majesty take it well.”
With this pretty answer the king was pacified. So it is with us, as touching our salvation. Our works are unperfect, but God taketh the same well for Christ’s sake: he will not impute unto us the imperfectness of our works, for all our imperfections and sins are drowned in the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ; and whosoever believeth the same stedfastly, shall not perish. But we must be sure of it: we may not doubt, but be certain that Christ hath destroyed the works of Satan; that is, he hath taken his power from him, so that he can do us no more harm. And we must certainly believe his promises, which are, that we shall have life everlasting in believing in him; and being sure of his promises, then are we sure of our salvation. Here you see, that we must seek our salvation, not in our works, but in Christ. For if we look upon our works, we shall never be sure: as I said before, they be evil and imperfect; and evil works deserve anger, and imperfect works are punishable, and not acceptable; and therefore they deserve no heaven, but rather punishment.
But you will say, “Seeing we can get nothing with good works, we will do nothing at all; or else do such works as shall best please us; seeing we shall have no rewards for our well-doings.” I answer: we are commanded, by God’s word, to apply ourselves to goodness, every one in his calling; but we must not do it to the end to deserve heaven thereby: we must do good works to shew ourselves thankful for all his benefits, which he hath poured upon us, and in respect of God’s commandment; considering that God willeth us to do well, not to make a merit of it; for this were a denying of Christ, to say, “I will live well and deserve heaven.” This is a damnable opinion: let us rather think thus, “I will live well to shew myself thankful towards my loving God, and Christ my Redeemer.”
Further, in this gospel is to be noted the earnestness of these three men which were but gentiles, as you have heard before. These men were not double-hearted, speaking one thing with their tongues, and thinking another thing in their hearts. No; they are none such: but they openly profess wherefore they come, and say, “Where is this new-born king of the Jews? for we have seen his star, and are come to worship him.” This is a great matter for them to do. For the Jews at that time had a king whose name was Herod, not a Jew born, but an Idumean, which was not their lawful nor natural king, but somewhat with craft and subtilty, and somewhat with power, had gotten the crown and the kingdom. Now the men came inquiring for the lawful king, which was newly born; which thing they could not do without danger of their lives. But here appeareth, that faith feareth no danger. They had seen the star, and they were sure and certain in their hearts, that the King of kings was born: and they believed that this king was able to deliver them out of trouble; and this confidence and faith in God made them hearty to go and inquire without any dissembling for this new king, not fearing the old, etc.
Herod, hearing these news, was much troubled; for he was afraid the matter would go against him, and that he should be thrust out of his seat: which had been a great displeasure unto him; for he was not minded to give place to any other king, with his good will. And all FB13 the citizens were sore dismayed; for they would rather have rest and quietness, and serve the old, than to receive the new, with peril of their goods and bodies. So we see at this day, where this gospel is preached, and this new king proclaimed, there are more which had rather be in quietness and serve the devil, than to stand in jeopardy of their lives and serve God; and so they esteem this world more than God, his word, and their own salvation.
The said Herod, as soon as he heard these tidings, sent for the bishops and learned, and inquired of them where Christ should be born. The bishops were well seen in the prophets and the law, and made answer forthwith, that Christ should be born at Bethlehem. Herod, hearing that, sent for the wise men, to examine them better of the matter; asking them what time they had seen the star? And after he had reasoned enough with them, he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.” See what a crafty fox this Herod was, as our Savior called him! He made a pretense like as if he were willing to give over his kingdom, and to give place unto the new king. Such was his pretense outwardly; but his heart was poisoned with the poison of cruelness and ambition, so that he was minded to have killed this child as soon as he might get him: which his intent appeared afterward. For he, hearing that the wise men were returned another way into their country, sent by and bye his guard, and killed all the children that were two years of age and under at Bethlehem, and in the country. But for all his cruelty, God was able to preserve Christ, that he should not be slain amongst these children. Therefore the angel giveth Joseph warning that he should go into Egypt. Here learn to trust in God; for adversus altissimum non est consilium, that is, “Against the Almighty prevaileth no counsel.” This Herod thought himself wiser than God and the whole world; yet for all that he was much deceived: for he could neither destroy the wise men, nor Christ, with all his wit and counsel: “the Lord that sitteth above laughed him to scorn;” he brought his counsel to nought, and he delivered them out of his hands. So undoubtedly he will do with us. He will deliver us out of all our troubles, and from all our enemies whensoever they shall oppress us, if we do put our trust in him.
Now after they were departed from Herod, they go their ways seeking the child. And as soon as they came out of the city, they see the star, which guided them until they came unto the house where Jesus was, with his mother, and Joseph his father in the law. And when these men came thither, what did they? They worshipped him. Note here, they worshipped him, saith the evangelist. Here is confounded and overthrown the foolish opinion and doctrine of the papists, which would have us to worship a creature before the Creator; Mary before her Son. These wise men do not so; they worship not Mary; and wherefore? Because God only is to be worshipped: but Mary is not God; therefore they worship not her, but him, which is the very natural Son of God, yea, God himself, and yet very man. And therefore, if it had been allowed or commanded that Mary the mother of Christ should have been called upon and worshipped, surely then had these wise men been greatly to blame: but they knew that Mary was a blessed woman, above all women, FB14 and yet not such a one as should be called upon and worshipped. Let all those learn here, that are so foolish, that they will call rather upon Mary, on whom they have no commandment to call, than upon God who hath commanded us to call upon him; as he saith every where in the Psalms, Invoca me in die tribulationis, “Call upon me in the time of thy trouble, and I will hear thee.”
They gave him gifts, gold, myrrh, and frankincense. Gold they gave him to signify his kingdom; myrrh, to signify his mortality; frankincense, to signify his priesthood. And afterward they departed another way into their countries, by the admonition of the angel. After their departure Joseph, with Mary and the child, fled into Egypt, for fear of Herod, which was minded to destroy the child. Where you learn to know the wonderful provision that God ever maketh for those that put their trust in him; for to the intent they might have wherewith to bear their costs for such a journey, God moved their hearts, that they should give him gold.
Learn, I say, here to put your trust in God, and to have a good confidence in him; for he is such a loving father to those that trust in him, that he will not suffer them to have lack or need of any thing in this world, of food and necessary things; for he careth for us that believe in him, as well as for Mary and her Son. Therefore he will not suffer us to have lack of that is needful to soul or body; for the king and prophet David saith, Nunquam vidi justum derelictum; that is, “I have never seen the just man forsaken or rejected of God, nor cast away.” No, saith he, I have never seen the just man perish for lack of necessary things. But what is a just man? He is just that believeth in our Savior: for, as you have heard before, those who believe in Christ are justified before God; they are clean delivered from all sins, and therefore may be called just, for so they are in the sight of God: such, saith the prophet, he hath never seen forsaken of God.
But for all this, we may not tempt God; we must labor and do our business, every one in his vocation and order wherein God hath called him. Labor thou, and God will bless thee, and increase thy labors; so that thou shalt have no lack of necessary things, so long as thou walkest uprightly in thy vocation; like as he provided for Mary and her child. But yet thou must labor and do thy business, as it is written: Labores manuum tuarum edes, et bene tibi erit; “Be content to work for thy living, and it shall go well with thee, and thou shalt have enough, for I will make thee a living:” which promise of God is surely a comfortable thing, but little regarded of the people; for they do like as there were no God, and deceive and oppress one another.
Every man scrapeth for himself; ever in fear that he shall lack, nothing regarding that promise of God. But God is yet alive; and surely he will most grievously punish such wicked unthankfulness and mistrust of his word and promise. What might be more comfortable unto us, if we had grace to believe it, than his loving promises, wherein he sheweth himself a loving Father? David saith, Juvenis fui, et senui; “I have been young, and now am old; but yet I never saw the righteous lack bread.” Here learn, O man, to have respect to God-ward: esteem the word of God and his promises as they are, that is, most certain and true: believe them; hang upon them; labor and do thy business truly, et bene tibi erit, “and it shall be well with thee.” Thou shalt have enough; thou shalt have a storehouse that never shall be empty, that is, thy labor: for the poor man’s treasure-house is his labor and travail; and he is more sure of his living than the rich: for God’s promises cannot be stolen by any thief. God promiseth him a living, that truly laboreth, and putteth his trust in him.
But the rich man is not sure of his riches, for a thief may come and steal them; or else the same may perish by fire, or one way or other: therefore the poor faithful man is more sure of his living, than if he had the same in his chest; for God’s promises are not vain; they are most certain. And happy are those which believe the same; they shall have not only in this world enough, but afterward everlasting life, without all sorrow and misery!
Thus much I was minded to tell you of this gospel: now let us return to the gospel of this day, wherein I will note two or three short notes; for I will not trouble you much longer, because the time is much spent. “And when he was twelve years old,” etc. God Almighty had commanded in his law, Deuteronomy, the sixteenth chapter, that all the males should come together three times in the year, for these three causes:—the first was, that they should learn to trust in God, and not in their own strength: and it was a great matter unto them to leave the land void. As if we Englishmen had commandment to come all to London, and leave our country, were it not to be feared that the country should be hurt either by the Scots or Frenchmen in our absence? Surely, I think it were very dangerous. So at that time the Jews had great and mortal enemies round about them, yet God commanded them to leave the land void: as who would say, “Come you together after my commandment, and let me alone with your enemies; I will keep them from you that they shall not hurt you.” And this was the first cause why he would have them come together.
The second cause was, that they should learn the law and commandments of God: for there was the chief temple of the Jews; and all the spiritualty of the whole land were there gathered together, and taught the people the law, and how they should walk before God: and this was the second cause.
The third cause of their coming together was for acquaintance sake; for God would have them knit together in earnest love and charity. And therefore he willed them to come together, that they that dwelled on the one side of the land might be acquainted with them that dwelled on the other side; so that there might be a perfect love between them: for God hateth nothing more than discord. And these are the causes why they were commanded to come together every year three times.
Now at this time Mary went with her husband Joseph. Belike she was desirous to hear the word of God, which made her to take so great a journey in hand; for she was not commanded by the law to be there, for women were at their liberty to go or tarry. Here note the painfulness of Mary, that she was content to go so great a journey for God’s sake. I fear, this journey of hers will condemn a great many of us, which will not go out of the door to hear God’s word. Therefore learn here, first, to love and embrace God’s word: secondly, to follow all good orders: thirdly, to be content to go with thy neighbors every holy-day to the church; for it is a good and godly order, and God will have it so. But peradventure you will say unto me, “How chance you go not to the service upon the holy-days?” I have none other excuse but this, namely, that I shall go thither in vain. Mary went thither to hear the word of God; and if I might hear the word of God there, I would go thither with a good will. But first, the parson of the church is ignorant and unable to teach the word of God, neither beareth he any good will to the word of God; therefore it were better for me to teach my family at home, than to go thither and spend my time in vain, and so lose my labor. This I have to allege for myself, that if the curate were as he ought to be, I would not be from the church upon the holy-day.
Jesus and Mary, with all their neighbors, were at Jerusalem: and after they had done their business, they came home again; Mary in the company of other women, and Joseph her husband in the company of men: but Jesus the child was left behind; for Mary thought he was with his father, and Joseph thought he was with his mother. At night, when they were met together, she asked him, and he asked her, for the child; for before they were not aware that they had lost him. O, what sorrow and tribulation rose then in their hearts! I think no tongue can shew what pain and sorrow this mother felt in her heart for the loss of her child: for she thought thus, “God hath rejected me, and therefore hath taken my son from me: I shall no more find him. Alas, that ever I was born, that I should lose my son, whom I heard say should be the Savior of the world!
This Savior is lost now through my negligence and slothfulness. What shall I do? Where shall I seek him?” In this great heaviness she turned back again to Jerusalem, inquiring for him by the way amongst their friends and acquaintance; but he could neither be heard of nor found, until they came to Jerusalem, where they found him amongst the doctors and learned men, arguing with them, and posing them. Here is to be noted a negligence in Mary and Joseph: therefore they which go about to make Mary to be without sin are much deceived; for here it appeareth plainly that Mary was in fault. Here, also, all parents may learn to be diligent and careful about their children. The commonsort of parents are either too careful for their children, or else too negligent. But the right carefulness that you should have over your children, is, first to consider that God hath appointed his angels to keep and save your children from all peril and danger that may happen unto them, as it plainly appeareth daily; for surely a child is in many dangers of his life daily, but the angel of God keepeth them. And therefore the parents should not be too careful, neither yet too negligent; for they should consider, that it is the will, pleasure, and commandment of Almighty God, that they should keep their children in safe custody, and to preserve them, as much as in them lieth, from all danger and harm. Further, here is to be noted, that this fault and sin of Mary was not set out to holden us to sin, but rather to keep us from desperation when we have sinned; making this reckoning, Hath God pardoned his saints and forgiven their faults? Then he will be merciful unto me, and forgive my sin. So by their ensample we may strengthen our faith, and not to take boldness of them to sin.
After that they found him, Mary beginneth to quarrel with him, saying, “Son, why hast thou done this unto us?” Here she speaketh like a mother, and is very quick with him. But he made her as quick an answer, saying, “Know ye not that I must do the business of my Father?” etc. We learn here, how far forth children are bound to obey their parents; namely, so far as the same may stand with godliness. If they will have us go further, and pluck us from true religion and the serving of God, make them this answer, Oportet magis obedire Deo quam hominibus ; that is, “We ought rather to obey God than men; for otherwise we are not bound to obey our parents,” etc. Here not only children may learn, but subjects and servants, to obey their king and masters, so far as it may stand with God’s pleasure; and further to go we ought not.
The child went home with them, and was obedient to them. Although partly he had signified unto them wherefore he was sent into the world, namely, to teach men the way to heaven; yet he remained with them in his obedience from this time, being of the age of twelve years, unto the age of thirty years. And in this mean time (as it is to be thought) he exercised his father’s occupation, which was a carpenter. This is a wonderful thing, that the Savior of the world, and the King above all kings, was not ashamed to labor; yea, and to use so simple an occupation, Here he did sanctify all manner of occupations, exhorting and teaching us with this ensample every man to follow and keep the state whereunto FB15 God hath called him; and then we shall have living enough in this world, doing well and after his pleasure; and in the world to come life everlasting, which Christ by his death and passion hath deserved for us. To whom, with God the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, both now and for ever! Amen.
A SERMON PREACHED BY MASTER HUGH LATIMER, THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, THE 17 TH DAY OF JANUARY, ANNO 1552.
John 2:1. <420201> And upon the third day there was a marriage in Cana, a city of Galilee, and Mary the mother of Jesus was there. “THE third day,” that was the third day after he came into Galilee; for before he was in Jewry, and now was come into Galilee. And there was a marriage the third day after his coming, and Mary his mother was present, and, as it was most like, she was there as an helper; for she was no bidden guest; but Christ was called unto it, with his disciples, being thirty years of age: at which time he began to preach the kingdom of God; but as yet he had done no miracles, except that which he did when he was twelve years of age; that was, he disputed in the temple with the doctors; which certainly was a miracle: but this now was the first that he did after his preaching. And now, being a preacher, he beginneth to confirm all his doctrine with miracles, to get himself authority, and to allure his audience to believe; and therefore he set forth his power by miracles.
And here, peradventure, some will say, How happeneth it that there are no miracles done in these days by such as are preachers of the word of God? I answer: The word of God is already confirmed by miracles; partly by Christ himself, and partly by the apostles and saints. Therefore they which now preach the same word need no miracles for the confirmation thereof; for the same is sufficiently confirmed already. Now to the gospel. “There was a marriage,” saith the evangelist. This is a comfortable place for all married folks: for it here appeareth that marriage is a most honorable and acceptable thing in the sight of God; yea, God Almighty himself is the author of it, as the scripture saith, “Those that God hath joined together man shall not separate;” meaning that all those that come together by the appointment of God and his holy institution, such shall not man separate, nor put asunder. Here all those which go about marriage, may learn to examine their consciences; and to be sure that it is the pleasure and will of God that man and wife should marry and dwell together. And they which are married already may comfort themselves in all afflictions, adversities, and miseries that come by marriage; namely, that they are in the favor of God, and that God hath joined them together in that estate; which estate although it bring with it great affliction and tribulation, (as we may see by Adam and Eve when they were in Paradise, where God grievously punished their sins: for before the fall the wife had like power with her husband Adam, and was in like dignity with him; but after the fall came the commandment of God to the man, saying, “In the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat thy bread;” which is a great bondage unto man; for in this compaction is contained the whole burthen and charge laid upon the man’s back; that is to say, that he hath the charge over his household, to provide for their livings and sustenance with his labor and occupation: and unto the woman he said, “In sorrow and pain thou shalt bring forth thy children, and thou shalt be in obedience to thy husband; he shall govern thee, and thou shalt not have thine own will nor liberty:” which is a great matter, for women have many and great sorrows and pains in travail with children, and other calamities; and being before at liberty, must now be obedient to their husbands; which also seemeth a great pain and burthen unto them: but for all this) they may comfort themselves with the word of God, and think in their hearts, and say: “O God, thou hast brought us together in the estate of matrimony; it was thy ordinance and pleasure that we should join together: now therefore be merciful unto us; forsake us not, which live in thy ordinance and after thy commandments: pour thy Spirit into our hearts, that we may bear and suffer all these miseries which thou layest upon our necks.” And in this manner married folks may comfort themselves with the word of God in all their adversities, because they are sure that marriage is a thing that pleaseth God.
Here learn to abhor the abominable opinion of the papists, which hold that marriage is not an holy thing; and that the ministers of the word of God be defiled through marriage, if they enter into the same: which is an abominable doctrine, and clean against God and his word. Therefore St Paul seeing beforehand in the Spirit, FC1 “In the latter times there shall come deceivers, and false teachers, which should teach doctrinam daemoniorum, that is, the doctrine of devils, forbidding marriage:” which prophecy of St. Paul is verified now, in this our time, in the papists; for they say and teach, that marriage is not lawful to every man; despising also the ordinance of God. Therefore their doctrine may be called; as it is indeed, the doctrine of the devil: against which doctrine St. Paul made a proclamation, saying, Honorabile conjugium inter omnes ; “Marriage is lawful, honorable, and most godly among all men; and as for adulterers and fornicators, God shall judge them.” This St. Paul speaketh by occasion, seeing in spirit that there would come such papists as would pervert the ordinance of God, and say that marriage was unholy; and that a man may not marry in Lent, for it is a holy time; as though marriage were unholy and filthy. But here ye may see it is the very ordinance of God, and is commended by Christ himself; for he cometh unto it, and with his presence he sanctifieth it. And not only that, but he did a miracle at this marriage; whereby he confirmed marriage to be good, holy, and acceptable before God. Therefore all those that go about marriage ought to know that it is good, holy, and lawful before God. Only thus I admonish you, have a respect to God-ward; that is to say, endeavor yourself so that God may be with you at your marriage, and that Christ be one of the guests; for if he be there, you shall have no lack of any thing. And to signify that he would help them that lacked, he did a miracle at this marriage: he remedied what lacked; wine lacked, and forthwith he turned water into wine.
Here note, that it is lawful for poor men sometimes to be merry, specially at a marriage: for these were but poor men, yet they had wine at the marriage; where their common drink was but water, but now at the wedding they had wine, because they might be merry at the solemnity of God’s ordinance. Which as it is lawful, so let it be done honestly and godly, as becometh christian men.
Further, we learn here that the saints in heaven have been sinners: for after St. Augustine’s mind, FC2 Mary was here moved with vain-glory, and went about to provoke Christ to do some new thing; not seeking the honor of God, but her own glory, that it might be said she had a son that could do this and that. But here we must take heed, that we use well their ensample, not thinking after this manner, The saints of God have sinned, and yet have been saved; and therefore I will sin, and nevertheless I shall be saved: for so to think were very detestable, and a great abuse. But we must rather comfort ourselves by their sins, saying, when the devil tempteth us, and goeth about to bring us to confusion, then let us call to remembrance, that the saints of God have been sinners, and yet are saved; and that God will be likewise as merciful to us, and will forgive us our sins. And therefore let us not despair, but put our trust in him, and hope and believe in him, and in no wise to shrink from him for he is as merciful as ever he was, and he will pardon and remit our sins: he is as mighty as ever he was, and therefore may do it: wherefore I will seek unto him, like as Mary Magdalene and other his saints have done, and therefore are saved. In this manner let us use ensamples of the saints to our comfort, and not to embolden us to sin.
Further, let us here learn by the mother of Christ, whither we shall run for help, when we are in necessity and distress. Mary perceived that there was lack of wine, and had therefore pity over her poor friends: now in this distress, whither runneth she for her help? even to Christ himself.
Then let us follow her ensample. Art thou poor? Run to Christ, and call upon God in the name of Christ: ask forgiveness of thy sins in his name, and God will hear thee, and grant thy petition; for he hath promised, that all that come to him in the name of Christ, shall lack nothing, neither shall they be rejected of him.
Here also note, further, the great charity that was in Mary the mother of Christ, which prayed for her friends, namely in the time of their lack and necessity, saying, oi+non oujk ej>consi, Vinum non habent; that is, “They have no wine.” As who should say, “They are poor honest folks; and have here an honest company at their marriage; now they lack wine, I pray you help.” She was not long in bibble-babble, with saying she wist not what, but saith at one word, “Help, for it is need.” She doth not, as our papists do, which prittle-prattle a whole day upon their beads, saying our lady’s psalter; but she only saith, “They have no wine; help,” etc.
Christ answered, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” Here appeareth the great faith that Mary had in our Savior Jesus Christ her son: for notwithstanding she had received of him this hard and sharp answer, yet she despaired not, but commanded the serving-men to do all that he should command them. Here let us learn not to despair in the help of God, though we be not heard and obtain our petition at the first; as many do, which call upon God a day or two, and obtain not, then they despair and give over. But we may not so do; we must tarry for the Lord, as the prophet David saith, and not give over: we must call upon him with a strong faith in Christ Jesus our Mediator, without intermission; not doubting but that he will help us. Therefore tarry for the Lord, as the prophet David saith, and give not over in haste; but continue and abide his godly will and pleasure, and doubt not but he will hear thee. “Woman?” What a thing was this, to call his mother “Woman!” These words might not only sound to the dishonesty of his mother, but also to his own rebuke: for it might be judged, that he was one that neither loved nor reverenced his mother, in calling her, “Woman.” To this objection this answer may be made: Christ, as long as he was under the government of his mother, did all his duty as appertained unto him; but now being a preacher and a common person, serving in the common ministry, he is not bound to be ruled by his mother; neither did it appertain to his mother, either to appoint him what he should do, or when he should do it: and therefore this seemed a great presumption in her, and therefore he answered her so sharply. St. Augustine saith, that Mary was moved with vain-glory, to get some praise of the miracle of her son. Here is to be noted, how far we are bound to obey father and mother; which is, so far as the same may stand with godliness. If they require of us any thing that is against God, we shall answer them as our Savior Christ answered his mother, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” For here our Savior in a certain manner sheweth, that he would not be led with affection. As at another time when he was making a sermon, there came one interrupting him, and said, “Thy mother and thy brethren would speak with thee;” then Christ stretched out his hands and said, “Whosoever doth the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my mother and brethren:” and at another time another woman hearing him cried out, saying, “Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps that gave thee suck: he answered and said, Blessed are those which hear the word of God, and follow the same:” so at this time he made such an answer unto his mother, signifying that he would not be led by her affections; and also would shew, that he was not only her son, but he was “the Son of God.” “Six waterpots of stone,” etc. The six pots were filled with water to wash withal: for the Jews occupy much washing; as when they went to market, coming home they washed themselves, lest they should be defiled; so this water was set there, partly for washing, and partly to drink. And here we may learn, that when Christ is bidden to our marriage, there shall lack nothing; for he will turn the sour water into sweet wine. For water signifieth all such anguishes, calamities and miseries as happen by marriages: and all such kind of water, that is, all such calamities and miseries, he turned into wine; that is, he sendeth comfort, he sendeth his Spirit, that maketh those miseries, that were before very bitter, most sweet and pleasant: the same Spirit of God comforteth the heart, and keepeth it from desperation. Also, we may, learn here by this marriage, to keep a good order in ours business: here, as one appointed had the oversight of all, so we may not let every body be rulers; but to keep good order in all our business, let some rule, and some be ruled. “They filled them up to the brim,” etc. This was all done that the miracle might be known; not seeking his own honor and glory, but rather the honor and glory of God his Father, and our wealth and salvation; and to allure and bring us to have faith in him; and to teach us to put our trust in him; and, also, to bring us from carefulness of this life, unto the consideration of the life to come. This is a comfortable story: this miracle of our Savior, whereby he sheweth that whosoever believeth and trusteth him, shall not lack any thing. For, as a very learned man saith, If a laboring man should see all that he gathereth and spendeth in a year in a chest, it would not find him half a year: yet it findeth him; God multiplieth it day by day, and so he will do unto all them that believe and trust in him.
Now you have heard in this gospel, beside other good matters, of marriage, how holy a thing it is, how it is the ordinance of God himself: also, how we shall take marriage in hand, namely, call Christ unto it, and let him be one of the guests, and then all things will be well; for without him nothing will be aught. Marriage is like a school-house, where you shall have occasion of patience, and occasion of love. Now except Christ be in this school-house of marriage, you cannot be patient in trouble; neither can you truly love; neither can you do any thing acceptable unto him. FC3 Wherefore, whosoever will take in hand marriage, let him take it so in hand that it may redound to the honor and glory of God: then will he be there, and turn the water into wine; that is to say, he will mitigate and assuage all calamities and miseries with his Spirit and grace; so that no adversity shall hurt us in this world, and in the world to come we shall have life everlasting. Which grant us God the Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior; to whom, with God and the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory, world without end! Amen.
A SERMON PREACHED BY MASTER HUGH LATIMER, THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, THE 24 TH DAY OF JANUARY, ANNO 1552.
Cure descendisset autcm de monte, ecce leprosus. [When he was come down from the mountain, much people followed him. And behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand and touched him, saying, I will, be thou clean. And instantly his leprosy was cleansed.] THIS is a notable miracle, and a most comfortable history: which though it were done upon a lazar man only, yet the doctrine of the same appertaineth to us and to all men; and so shall it do unto the end of the world. For St Paul saith, Quaecunque scripta sunt, ad nostram eruditionem scripta sunt; “Whatsoever is written, is written for our instruction.” Therefore if we will consider and ponder this story well, we shall find much matter in it to our great comfort and edifying. “When he was come down,” etc. He had been upon the mountain making a sermon, the which is contained in the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of this Evangelist; which sermon is very notable, and containeth the sum of a Christian man’s life: at the which sermon the people were greatly astonished, and much marveled. Whereby you may note the strength and efficacy of the word of God; which word, if it light upon good ground, that is, upon a good heart that will receive it, it turneth with his strength the same, and bringeth a marvelling; like as it happened unto this people which had received the word, and marveled at it. Also, you may note here the inconstancy of the people; which now greatly esteemed and regarded our Savior and his word, and shortly after consented to his death, by persuasion of the bishops: which was a great and heinous wickedness in the face of God. Therefore let us not follow their ensample, neither let us be persuaded by any man living to forsake God and his word; but rather let us suffer death for it. Howbeit, I fear me, that if there should come a persecution, there would be a great number of those which now speak fair of the gospel, like unto this people; for I fear me, they would soon be persuaded by the papistical priests to do and say against Christ, to forsake his word, and deny the gospel: like as these people did; forgetting clean, and setting aside all that which they had heard of our Savior upon the mountain. Let us therefore, I say, beware; and let us knowledge the great love of God our heavenly Father, shewed unto us FG1 in these latter days, in opening his blessed word unto us so plainly, that none, except he be willful and obstinate, but he may understand the same: the which is as great a benefit as may be. And happy are we if we consider this great goodness of God, and shew ourselves thankful unto him by godly living, and honest conversation, according to his commandment! And in this gospel is specially to be noted the great love and kindness of Christ our Savior toward mankind, which first preached unto the people, and taught them the way unto everlasting life, and then came down and healed the diseased man: that is, he first succored our souls, and afterward comforted our bodies.
There cometh a leper unto him, saying, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst help me.” This lazar, or leper, took Christ to be a Savior, and therefore he cometh to him for help. So let us come unto him, for he is the Savior of mankind; and he is the only helper that succoreth both our bodies and souls. He sayeth our souls by his word, if when we hear the same we believe it. The salvation of our bodies shall appear at the last day, where soul and body shall come together, and there shall be rewarded: so that if the soul be saved, the body is saved; for soul and body shall go together; and so he sayeth both our bodies and souls. Note here, also, the behavior of this lazar-man; for by his ensample the best doctor in divinity need not be ashamed to learn: for in him appeareth a marvellous strong faith and confidence that he had in Christ; for he doubted not but that Christ was able to help him: neither mistrusted he his goodness and mercy.
Therefore faith hath moved him to come to Christ, and to desire help of him. And note here, also, the love and great charity of our Savior Christ, which first he shewed to the whole multitude, in teaching of them so earnestly and diligently the way to everlasting life; and then he extended his great compassion and mercy unto this leper, whom all men abhorred, because of his filthiness and uncleanness: but Christ abhorred him not; yea, he is content not only to hear his request, and to talk with him, but also laid his hands upon his filthy body. O how great a kindness was this!
O what a wonderful thing is this, that the King of all kings talketh here most familiarly with a poor wretch and filthy leper! O what profound and incomprehensible love beareth he unto us! It is esteemed a great thing, when a king vouchsafeth to talk with a poor man, being one of his subjects: what a great thing then is this, when that the King of all kings, yea, the Ruler of heaven and earth, talketh with a poor man, heareth his request, and mercifully granteth the same! This evangelist saith, “Behold, there came a leper, and worshipped him;” but another evangelist saith, “he fell upon his knees before him.” These are gestures and behaviors, which signify a reverence done unto him, or a subjection, or submission.
For although our Savior went like a poor man, yet this leper had conceived such a faith and trust in him, that he had no respect of his outward appearance, but followed his faith; which faith told him, that this was the Savior. Therefore he set aside all outward shew, and came with great reverence unto him, desiring his help. And here you may learn good manners: for it is a good sight, and very commendable, and is also the commandment of God, that we should give honor to those to whom honor belongeth; specially preachers ought to be reverenced, and that for their office’ sake, for they are the officers of God, and God’s treasurers.
And such as are proud persons may be ashamed by this leper: for this is certain and true, that a proud heart prayeth never well, and therefore is hated before God. Wherefore, amongst other vices, beware of pride and stoutness. For what was the cause that Lucifer, being the fairest angel in heaven, was made the most horrible devil, and cast down from heaven into hell? Pride only was the cause thereof. Therefore St Augustine hath a pretty saying: Quemcunque superbum esse videris, diaboli filium esse ne dubites; that is to say, “Whensoever thou seest a proud man, doubt not but he is the son of the devil.” Let us learn here therefore by this leper, to have a humble and meek spirit.
Moreover, this man was a leper and a miserable man, one despised of all men, and an outcast. For it was commanded in the law of God, that no man should keep company with a leper: therefore it appeareth that he was in great misery. But what doth he? Whither runneth he for help or succor? Even to Christ, for to him only he runneth; not to witchcraft or sorcery, FG2 as ungodly men FG3 do; but he seeketh for comfort of our Savior. Now, when thou art in distress, in misery, in sickness, in poverty, or any other calamity, follow the ensample of this leper; run to Christ; seek help and comfort only at his hands; and then thou shalt be delivered and made safe, like as he was delivered after he came to Christ.
But what brought he with him? Even his faith. He believed that Christ was able to help him, and therefore according to his faith it happened unto him. Then it shall be necessary for thee to bring faith with thee; for without faith thou canst get nothing at his hands: bring therefore, I say, faith with thee; believe that he is able to help thee, and that he is merciful, and will help thee. And when thou comest furnished with such a faith, surely thou shalt be heard: thou shalt find him a loving Father, and a faithful friend, and a Redeemer of thee out of all tribulation. For faith is like a hand wherewith we receive the benefits of God; and except we take his benefits with the hand of faith, we shall never have them.
Here, in this gospel, you may learn the right use of scripture: for when you shall hear and read such stories as this is, you may not think that such stories and acts done by our Savior are but temporal; but you must consider that they are done for our sake, and for our instruction and teaching. Therefore, when you hear such stories, you must consider eternal things which are set before your eyes by such stories; and so we must apply them to ourselves. As for ensample; here is a lazar, and he calleth upon Christ with a good faith, and was healed. You will say, “What is that unto us?” Even as he was a leper of his body, so are we lepers of FG4 our souls. He was unclean in his body, and we are unclean in our souls. He was healed by believing in Christ; so we must be healed by him, or else perish eternally. Therefore, if thou wilt not perish, then call upon him as this lazar did, and thou shalt be holpen and cleansed of thy leprosy, that is, from all thy sin. So, I say, we must apply the scriptures unto us, and take out some good thing to strengthen our faith withal, and to edify ourselves with the word of God.
Whoredom, lechery, and other uncleanness: also, for despising and abusing of poor men and strangers. What is this to us now? We learn in this story, how that God will not suffer sin, nor wilful sinners; but he will punish the same either here, or else in the world to come, or else in both: he will not let them go unpunished. Therefore, when we hear this story, we may learn to avoid sin and all wickedness, and to live uprightly and godly: and this we learn by that story, which is an ensample of God’s wrath and indignation FG5 against sin.
Take another ensample of faith. We read in the scripture, that Abraham believed God, and his faith justified him. Now when I hear this, I must apply it to myself in this manner. Abraham believed God, and his faith justified him; I will believe in God and follow his word, then shall I also be justified: for St. Paul saith, that the same believing of Abraham is not written for Abraham’s sake, but for our sakes; to teach us that God will justify us if we believe in him, and punish us when we are unfaithful, etc.
Now note here how this [man] came; see how humbly and meekly he cometh, and what a good and strong faith he had in Christ: which faith appeared by his coming; for if he had been without faith, he would not have come unto him, because our Savior kept but a mean estate, not a king’s court; he was poor, and therefore the more despised of the misbelievers. But this man believed, and therefore he came unto him.
Learn therefore by his ensample, to go to Christ in what affliction soever we be. Let us run to him, and pray unto God for his sake. Allege him; put him before thee; and beware that thou call not upon any creature or saint: for that is a great wickedness before God, in praying to saints; for with the saints we have nothing to do, but to keep in memory and follow their godly life and righteous living. But our prayer must be made unto Christ only, like as this man doth here in this gospel.
But peradventure you will say, he was upon the earth when this man called upon him, and therefore he was so soon heard. I answer: He promised to his disciples after his resurrection, that he would be with us to the end of the whole world: FG6 his words be true, for he cannot be made a liar; therefore we must believe him, and no doubt but he will be present with us whensoever we call upon him. Call upon him therefore, and not upon saints; for if we call upon saints, we make them gods. For if I call upon St. Paul here, and another man that is a thousand miles off calleth upon him also, then we make him like unto God, to be everywhere, to hear and see all things; which is against all scripture: for God only is omnipotent, that is, he only is almighty, and he is everywhere, and seeth all things, and so doth no creature else. Therefore those which do attribute such things as appertain to God only, that is our Creator, to any creature, they do haughtily and wickedly, and shall be punished for it in hell-fire, except they amend and be sorry for their faults.
But what was this man’s prayer? Did he pray upon his beads, and say our lady’s psalter? No, no; he was never brought up in any such popish schools. What said he? Domine, si vis, potes me sanare; “If thou wilt, O Lord, thou canst make me cleap, and put away my disease.” This is but a short prayer, but it containeth much: for first it teacheth how we should pray unto God; namely, conditionally in our outward and bodily things, that is to say, when it pleaseth him: and so did our Savior himself pray unto his heavenly Father, saying, Si vis, Pater, transeat a me calix iste; “If thou wilt, Father, let this cup pass from me.” So we should do, when we are in any manner of tribulation or sickness, that is, pray unto God conditionally, saying, “O Lord God, if it please thee, and if it may stand with thy honor and glory, and the salvation of my soul, help and deliver me.” We must put the matter to him, for he knoweth best what is good for us. Peradventure he seeth, that if we should be without affliction, we would be wanton, wicked, and proud; and so sin against him, and damn our souls; and then it were better for us to be in sickness than in health.
Therefore we must desire help, if it please him; that is to say, when it appertaineth to our salvation: or else it were a thousand times better to be sick still, than to be out of sickness, and fall from God and all goodness: he therefore knoweth best what is good for us. Trust him; be content to be ruled by him; he shall and will order the matter so, that thou shalt find him a loving Father unto thee, like as this man did here.
Secondarily, this prayer expresseth the faith that this poor man had in Christ: for he saith, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst help me.” “If thou wilt,” saith he, noting him to be omnipotent and almighty. And in these words he expresseth the divinity of Christ our Savior, “If thou wilt.” He believeth him to be able to help him: so we should do in our prayers. We must believe that he may and will help us; as it appeareth by this man, which was whole straightway. Also it appeareth, partly by the confession and faith of this man, and partly by the end of the matter, that he was made perfectly whole. So we shall be healed from our diseases, when we come unto him with such a faith as this man did and specially if we call so earnestly upon him. But, O Lord, what slothfulness is in our hearts! How slender a faith have we! How unperfect and cold is our prayer! so that it is no marvel that it is not heard of God. But we must always consider that God is able to save us, and believe undoubtedly that he will save us.
So that when I am sick, as is said before, I may doubt whether God will deliver me from my sickness, or no; but I may not doubt of everlasting life, Therefore, if I be sick, I must pray as this man, Domine, si vis, “Lord, if thou wilt;” conditionally. For peradventure, FG7 when I come out of my sickness, I shall become more wicked and ungodly; which God knowing, keepeth me still in sickness: and so it is better for me to be in sickness still, than whole. So we may learn here to call upon God conditionally. As for our general salvation, which is the salvation of our souls, we may not doubt in that, nor call for it conditionally; but apprehend God by his promise, saying, “Lord, thou hast promised that all that believe in thee shall be saved: Lord, for thy mercy and promise’ sake, and for thy death and passion’ sake, take away my sin; wash me with the blood which thou hast shed upon the cross, and hast promised that all that believe shall be saved through thee. Now, Lord, for thy promise’ sake, help me. I believe, O Lord, help my infirmity and increase my faith.” As touching thy bodily health, put it to his good-will, and offer thyself unto him, saying, “Lord, I am thy creature, thou hast given unto me soul and body: my body is sick now, when it pleaseth thee help me; if not, give me grace to bear patiently this thy visitation: for in like manner didst thou visit thy holy martyrs which suffered great calamity; FG8 and they desired to be delivered, but thou deliveredst them not bodily, but yet thou savedst them after their death. So I trust thou wilt with me.” Now, how came it to pass that this leper had such a great faith and confidence in our Savior? Truly, by hearing the word of God; for he had heard our Savior say, “Come unto me, all ye that are laden and oppressed with miseries, and I will refresh you.” This he had heard and believed; therefore he came boldly unto him, desiring him of help: and so here is verified the saying of St. Paul, Fides ex auditu, “Faith cometh by hearing.” The ordinary way to get faith is through the hearing the word of God: for the word of God is of such a power, that it entereth and pierceth the heart of man that heareth it earnestly; as it doth well appear in this leper. We read in the Acts of the Apostles, that when St. Paul had made a long sermon at Antioch, there believed, saith the Evangelist, “as many as were ordained to life everlasting:” with the which saying a great number of people have been offended, and have said, “We perceive, that only those shall come to believe, and so to everlasting life, which are chosen of God unto it: therefore it is no matter whatsoever we do; for if we be chosen to everlasting life, we shall have it.” And so they have opened a door unto themselves of all wickedness and carnal liberty, against the true meaning of the scripture. For if the most part be damned, the fault is not in God, but in themselves: for it is written, Deus vult omnes homines salvos fieri; “God would that all men should be saved:” but they themselves procure their own damnation, and despise the passion of Christ by their own wicked and inordinate living. Here we may learn to keep us from all curious and dangerous questions: when we hear that some be chosen and some be damned, let us have good hope that we shall be amongst the chosen, and live after this hope; that is, uprightly and godly; then thou shalt not be deceived. Think that God hath chosen those that believe in Christ, and that Christ is the book of life. If thou believest in him, then thou art written in the book of life, and shalt be saved. So we need not go about to trouble ourselves with curious questions of the predestination of God. But let us rather endeavor ourselves that we may be in Christ; for when we be in him, then are we well, and then we may be sure that we are ordained to everlasting life.
But you will say, How shall I know that I am in the book of life? How shall I try myself to be elect of God to everlasting life? I answer: First we may know, that we may one time be in the book, and another time come out again; as it appeareth by David, which was written in the book of life: but when he sinned, he at that same time was out of the book of the favor of God, until he had repented and was sorry for his faults. So we may be in the book one time, and afterward, when we forget God and his word and do wickedly, we come out of the book; that is, out of Christ, which is the book. And in that book are written all believers. But I will tell you how you shall know when you are in the book; and there are three special notes whereby ye may know the same. The first note is, if you know your sin, and feel your own wretchedness and filthiness, which is a great matter; for the most part of people are so drowned in sin, that they no more feel the same; for sin grieveth them no more, according to the saying of Salomon, Impius cure in medium peccatorum venit, contemnit; that is, “The ungodly man, when he entereth into the midst of all sin and mischief, despiseth the same; he regardeth sin nothing at all, neither is he sorry for it.” But, as I said, the first note is, when you know your sins, and feel the same; then are they heavy unto you and grieve you. Then follows the second point, which is faith in Christ; that is, when you believe most steadfastly and undoubtedly, that God our heavenly Father through his Son will deliver you from your sins: when you believe, I say, that the blood of our Savior is shed for you, for the cleansing and putting away of your sins; and believing this most steadfastly with an unfeigned heart, then you have the second point. The third point is, when you have an earnest desire to amendment and hatred against sin; study to live after God’s will and commandments, as much as is possible for you to do, then have you the third point. And when you find these three points to be in you; namely, first, when you know your sin and be sorry for the same; and afterward believe to be saved through the passion of Jesus Christ; and thirdly, have an earnest desire to leave sin, and to fly the same; when you find these three things in your hearts, then you may be sure that your names are written in the book: and you may be sure also, that you are elect and predestinate to everlasting life. And, again, when you see not your wickedness, and that sin grieveth you not, neither have you faith or hope in our Savior; and therefore are careless and study not for amendment of life; then you are in a heavy case, and then you have cause to be sorry, and to lament your wretchedness: for truly you are not in the book of life; but the devil hath power over you as long as ye are in such a state. Here you see now, how you shall try yourselves whether you be in the book of life or no, etc. “Lord, if FG9 thou wilt,” etc. I learn here, that a few words spoken with faith is better than a long bibble-babble. For right prayer standeth not in many words, or long babbling. Right prayer requireth the whole heart; for there is no greater thing in the world than right prayer. For prayer, joined with faith, is the instrument wherewith we receive the benefits of God.
Now, when faith and prayer are joined together, it is impossible but God heareth it; for they must needs go together; for else it availeth nothing, except faith be joined with it; as Christ said unto the centurion, Juxta fidem tuam fiat tibi; “According to thy faith be it unto thee.”
Here I might take occasion to entreat of prayer, if the time would serve.
But to be short: three things may move us to pray. First, the commandment of God, which biddeth us to call upon him in the day of our trouble: which commandment hath no less authority than this, “Thou shalt not kill:” the selfsame God that saith, “Thou shalt not kill,” the selfsame saith, “Thou shalt pray;” that is, “Thou shalt call upon me.”
Whereby it appeareth, that we seem damnable when we intermit prayers.
The second cause that should move us is the promise of God; for he promiseth us every where in the scripture, that he will hear us when we call upon him: which promise is not to be despised, for he saith, Petite, et dabitur vobis, “Ask, and it shall be given you;” Quicquid petieritis Patrem in nomine meo dabitur vobis; that is, “Whatsoever you shall desire of my Father in my name, it shall be given unto you.” Such promises ought to allure us to pray without intermission. The third cause is the ensample of all the prophets, the saints of God, that move us thereunto. For Moses, leading the people out of Egypt, after that he came at the Red sea, Pharaoh with his power followed at his back; and on both sides there were great hills, and before him the great sea. Then Moses, being in such danger, cried unto God, not speaking many words, but lifting up his heart unto God. Then God said unto him, “Why criest thou?” Here you see that Moses fighteth only with his prayer against his enemies: so should we fight against our enemies, the devil, the world, and the flesh, with earnest and fervent prayer. Likewise Joshua being in great distress, (for his people had lost the victory, and his enemies had gotten the upper hand of him,) what doth he? He crieth unto God. So doth David the king: as it appeareth throughout all the psalms, how fervent is he in prayer, giving us an ensample to follow him.
Thus much I thought good to speak of prayer, and to move you thereunto; for I fear there are many of you that little regard the same. All such may learn here to be more diligent and earnest in prayer than they have been; especially considering that it is the commandment of God that we shall pray. Also, we have great store of the promises of God, that we shall be heard: also, the ensample of good and godly men may move us thereunto: for if they FG10 found ease with their prayers, we shall find the like.
But now to return to the text: Tetigit eum, “Christ touched him.” Here appeareth the friendliness and kindness of our Savior Christ: he is not so proud as the common sort of lords be, that none may speak with them.
No, no; he is friendly. FG11 The poor man came to speak with him, and he forthwith came to him and spake with him: wherefore all lords and men in authority need not be ashamed to learn here of our Savior Christ, to be gentle and meek of spirit to the poor people. It is also to be considered, that our Savior did against the law outwardly; for there was a law that no man should touch a leper man, yet Christ touched this man. Where you must consider, that civil laws and statutes must be ordered by charity: for this act of Christ was against the words of the law, but not against the law itself. This law was made to that end, that no man should be hurt or defiled by a leper; but Christ touched this man, and was not hurt himself, but cleansed him that was hurt already. And here we learn rather to follow the mind of the law, than the rigor of the words; and to bring charity with us, which is an interpreter of the law; for else we may miss by extremity. Further, what meant it that Christ touched him with his hand? And how chanced it that his word and hand went together?
Because he would shew and declare unto us the profitableness of his flesh, how it was a flesh by the which all we should be saved; so that no salvation may be looked for, except by him, and except he be eaten and drunken. Again, sometimes he healed by his word and divine power only, as it appeareth by the servant of the centurion; to signify unto us, that it were not necessary for us to have him here bodily always: and to assure us of his help without his bodily presence, he said, Expedit vobis ut abeam; “It is good for you that I go from you.” And so, to signify his power, he used the authority of his word, both in his presence and absence. Therefore we may be certain and sure, that he can and will help us with power FG12 divine when we call upon him, as well absent as present; for he is every where, and will be with us unto the end of the world, as he promised unto his apostles after his resurrection, saying, “Lo, I will be with you until the end of the world:” which is the greatest comfort that may be unto a christian heart; for it is a stay to all trouble.
We read further, that he sent him to the priest, and commandeth him that he should tell no man. What meant he by this? He would have him not to be his own judge. There was a law that the leprosy should be examined by the priest, and that the priest should give the sentence whether the leper were clean or unclean. Now Christ would not have this man to be his own judge, and to pronounce himself clean; but biddeth him to go to the ordinary. And this he did for two considerations: the first was, to convince the Jews with their own wickedness, in that they would not believe in him, but despised and maliced him. Therefore he sent this man unto them, which had been infected with leprosy, so that when they pronounced him clean, they might perceive their own wickedness and obstinacy, which would not believe. The second cause was, for the observation of the law, and for that he would give none occasion to carnal liberty. He would have every man in his order, as well the magistrates as the subjects: where we may learn to follow his ensample, to keep all good laws and orders, and the rather, for that Christ himself kept them.
Here our papists make ado with their auricular confession, proving the same by this place. For they say Christ sent this man unto the priest to fetch there his absolution; and therefore we must go also unto the priest, and, after confession, receive of him absolution of all our sins. But yet we must take heed, say they, that we forget nothing: for all those sins that are forgotten, may not be forgiven. And so they bind the consciences of men, persuading them that when their sins were all numbered and confessed, it was well. And hereby they took clean away the passion of Christ. For they made this numbering of sins to be a merit; and so they came to all the secrets that were in men’s hearts: so that emperor nor king could say or do, nor think anything in his heart, but they knew it; and so applied all the purposes and intents of princes to their own commodities. And this was the fruit of their auricular confession. But to speak of right and true confession, I would to God it were kept in England; for it is a good thing. And those which find themselves grieved in conscience might go to a learned man, and there fetch of him comfort of the word of God, and so to come to a quiet conscience: which is better and more to be regarded than all the riches of the world. And surely it grieveth me much that such confessions are not kept in England, etc.
Now to make an end. You have heard in this gospel of divers things which I will not rehearse; but I would have you to keep in remembrance the great faith that this man had in our Savior, which faith restored him to his health again; and learn by him to believe as he did, that our Savior will restore unto us the health of soul and body. Also, note here the great love that our Savior bare unto this man; steadfastly believing that he will be like loving unto thee, when thou callest upon him with earnest prayer.
For prayer, as I have told you, is all together: for prayer with faith goeth through the clouds. But it is a great matter to pray; it is ars artium, that is, an art above all arts. Let us therefore give ourselves to prayer and godly living, so that his name may be glorified in us both now and ever! Amen.
A SERMON PREACHED BY MASTER HUGH LATIMER, THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, AND THE LAST DAY OF JANUARY, ANNO 1552.
Matthew 8:23-26. Et cum esset ingressus navem, sequuti sunt eum discipuli sui: ecce, motus magnus ortus est in mari, etc.
And he entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And behold there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with waves; and he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us, we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the sea: and there followed a great calm.
HERE in this gospel we have a notable story, and a wonderful miracle which our Savior did, being with his disciples upon the sea; which story is written for our doctrine and instruction, that we may comfort ourselves withal, when we are in like trouble in the tempests of this world. For we may learn here many good things, if we consider the story itself, and the circumstance thereof. The evangelist saith, that our Savior, accompanied with his disciples, went into a ship, where he laid himself upon a pillow and slept; which sleep signified his very manhood, as you shall hear afterward. Now whilst he lay thus asleep, lo, there arose suddenly so great and horrible a tempest, that they thought they should all have perished out of hand; such a fearful weather lighted upon them. The disciples, being sore astonished at this horrible weather, wist not what to do. At the last they remembering themselves ran to our Savior, which lay there asleep, crying, “Lord, we perish:” or else the evangelist: Mark saith, “Lord, carest thou not that we perish?” He, being awaked, first rebuked them because of their unbelief: after that he rebuked the wind, and commanded the tempest to leave off and cease. The disciples, seeing before the horrible tempest, and now the sudden calmness made through his word, marveled much; for they never had seen before such things.
They had never heard that at any time any man might, or had power to rule the sea and the wind before this time; and therefore they were astonished at it; and every one of them said, “O, what a man is this, which ruleth with his word the sea and the wind!” This is the sum of this gospel, which containeth many good things for our instruction, learning, and comfort.
First, we may learn here, that the ship signified the congregation of Christ and his church. The disciples being in the ship are preserved through Christ: so all those which are in the church of Christ shall be saved and preserved by him. The others, which are without this church, shall be damned and perish.
Learn here also, by the ensample of the disciples of Christ, two things: the first, not to presume too much; that is to say, not to stand in thine own conceit, thinking thyself to be perfect in faith: secondly, not to despair because of thy imperfections. The disciples thought themselves perfect and strong in faith, before they came into this tempest; but what doth our Savior? Perceiving their presumptions, he sendeth a tempest to bring them to the knowledge of themselves; and then they, feeling the weakness of their faith, ran to our Savior crying for help. Whereby every man may learn, not to think too much of himself: and when he feeleth himself very weak, he may not despair, but run to Christ, like as these disciples did; which, although their heart was weak and feeble, yet were they preserved.
Moreover, we learn here that our Savior Christ is both very God and very man. His Godhead appeared in that the wind and waters obeyed him, and reformed themselves according to his word. For what king or emperor is in the whole world, that can or may command the wind or seas? None at all: yes, if the whole world should be set together with all their power and wits, they should not be able to do any such thing. Therefore learn here to know the majesty of Christ, his power and stay, and to believe him to be very God. Secondly, learn here to know his manhood: for the evangelist saith, “He slept;” which signifieth his very manhood; and that all things were in him that are in us, except sin; and that he can have compassion with us, for that he himself hath been in all miseries and troubles as well as we, as St. Paul testifieth to the Hebrews. He slept here for weariness; he eateth, he drinketh, he wept; and in him are all these infirmities, and chiefly for two causes: first, to signify unto us his very manhood; secondarily, to comfort us with the ensample. When we are in trouble and miseries, we shall think and know that our Savior Christ will have compassion over us; for he himself hath tasted of all trouble, and therefore he will be the more inclined to help and assist us with his holy Spirit.
Also, we may note here, that the disciples of our Savior have passed many a time before upon the water, and yet they were never so troubled, nor in such danger. What meaneth this, that they are in trouble now, when our Savior is with them, and never before when they were not with him? For it was no dangerous water, it was but a little pond. What meaneth it then, that this marvelous tempest so suddenly arose? It signifieth that all those that believe in Christ, and take his part, and study to live after his will and commandment, and forsake the world and all wickedness, all such, I say, must have much trouble and affliction. For it is the will of God, that those which seek to be saved, shall be proved and tried through the fire of tribulation: as it appeareth here by the disciples, who were never before in such trouble and danger; for they had ever good luck, as the most part of these worldlings commonly have, for all things go well with them, and after their mind: but as soon as they receive Christ into their ship, that is, as soon as they believe in him, and receive his word, they shall have trouble and affliction. Whereof we have a great number of ensamples in the scriptures, that plainly teach us not to seek good cheer by the gospel in this world, but rather misery and adversity.
But the most part of gospellers are contrary-minded; for they seek good cheer and promotions through the gospel: which is an horrible abuse of God’s most holy word. Moses, that excellent prophet of God, as long as he was in Pharaoh’s house, he was well; he had all things after his mind: but as soon as God called him to be his minister, and to do him service, all things were turned: that is, all sweet things were made sour; all the great cheer was gone; so that he was compelled by necessity to keep sheep, where before he was a prince, and an inheritor of the crown of Egypt. Here you see how God doth exercise his which appertain to everlasting life, Also St. Paul, as long as he was without Christ, was in great authority and estimation among the Jews; insomuch as he had letters of authority to afflict and put in prison all those which held of Christ: but after that he once came to Christ, what had he? Afflictions and miseries plenty; as it appeareth through all the Acts of the Apostles, and his Epistles; where also it appeareth, that he had a most irksome and painful life; namely, as soon as he came to the knowledge of Christ and his gospel. Also the Israelites, as long as they were in Egypt, serving for the most part false gods, they had no lack of meat FD1 or drink: but as soon as they came again to the knowledge of God, they were in great misery, lacking all manner of necessaries; insomuch that they say, as Jeremy the prophet reporteth, “We will turn again to the queen of heaven,” etc. Now come to our time: we see daily that they that take part with Christ and his gospel, are most commonly nothing regarded in this world. The world and they cannot agree together, for they love godliness, and the other love wickedness; FD2 which two can never be set together.
But there are very few, God knoweth, that take part with Christ; for every man will rather apply himself after the world, and have quietness and a merry life, than to forsake the same, and to have trouble with Christ and his flock: but what reward they shall have, it will appear in the end.
A man may marvel how God can suffer his to be so punished and afflicted in this world; and again, the wicked to have ever the upper hand, and to be merry in this world: because God and the devil are two Lords, most repugnant in conditions. For God is good, just, merciful and liberal, and kind towards his; offering unto them which live after his will life everlasting: but the devil is a most wicked minister, unmerciful and cruel; rewarding his servants with everlasting pain and damnation. Now these two Lords have their servants. God suffereth his to be much afflicted and plagued, for these two causes. The first is, though they be justified before God through the passion of our Savior, yet remaineth a great many of sins and imperfections within them. Now, to put in remembrance how abominable a thing sin is in the face of God, he sendeth unto them calamities and miseries, to teach them to beware of sin, and to live uprightly and holily. FD3 Secondarily, to teach them to pray and call upon God. And thirdly, to teach us to know ourselves. For when we be in prosperity and wealth, we think we have faith, and that all things are safe; but when there cometh affliction, then our imperfection appeareth: therefore God sendeth affliction, to verify the saying of St. Peter, Judicium Dei a domo Dei incipit ; “The judgment of God beginneth at the house of God.” As for the wicked, for the most part, he letteth them alone until they come to their death-bed; and then they shall find all their wickedness together, and suffer punishment world without end. By the afflictions of the household of God appeareth most plainly the power and strength of God. For Christ confoundeth the devil with his weak members; as it appeareth daily, how God giveth unto such as have his Spirit power to suffer death for his word’s sake: and so he confoundeth the devil and all his members, as it appeareth in John Baptist, and Christ himself. For the devil thought that Christ, after he hanged upon the cross, had been destroyed and clean overcome; but it was clean contrary.
Thus you see the causes wherefore God suffereth his to be in tribulation and affliction. Now, when we have affliction, we must pray unto him to take away the same from us; but this prayer must be but conditionally,— when it shall please him: as we have ensample of David the king, which when he was driven out of his kingdom by Absalom his son, he said, Si Dominus volet, reducet me. Therefore then, being in sickness, follow the ensample of David: call upon him for deliverance conditionally. But, above all things, beware of murmuring and rebelling against God; for he will have us obedient to his will and pleasure. The best service that thou canst do, is to take the FD4 cross patiently, which God hath laid upon thee.
Some men, when they be sick, say, “It grieveth my heart that I do spend my time so idly; for if I were whole, I might do much good.” These are much deceived; for they cannot spend their time better than when they suffer the cross that God hath laid upon them, and bear the same willingly and obediently. For, as I said before, it is the best service that we can do to God, when we bear our afflictions and troubles well and godly: yet we may pray that he will be merciful unto us, and not lay more upon us than we are able to bear, according to his promises.
Also note here, in necessity whither went the disciples? Even to Christ, being asleep. We think that he is asleep, if he hear us not so soon as we call upon him; but for all that he sleepeth not: Non dormitabit, neque dormiet, qui custodit Israel. He is called a helper in due time. But here learn, by the ensample of the disciples, whither thou shalt run in thy distress; namely, to Christ, (for he is the right helper,) and not to his saints: for when I call upon any creature, I commit most abominable idolatry. For this is one apparent and great argument to make Christ God, if we call upon him as St Stephen did; who said, Domine Jesu, suscipe spiritum meum; that is, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit:” for invocation declareth an omnipotency: so that when I call upon saints, I make them omnipotent, and so I make them gods: for omnipotency pertaineth properly and principally only to God. And therefore beware that you call upon no creature, but upon God only: for if you do the contrary, you do against God most wickedly.
Here is also to be noted, that the very saints of God have but little faith: they have little, but yet they have some. They are not altogether without faith, for they that are altogether without faith are in an evil case; for they are, and remain in the kingdom and dominion FD5 of the devil. The disciples had but a little faith; yet they go and waken Christ, and desire his help. And here note also, that he is not angry for wakening of him, but he blamed them for their unbelief: which is a very comfortable doctrine for us, that when we feel ourselves weak in faith, we shall not despair, but rather run to him, for he will increase our faith. Some think themselves to have very much faith, when they have none at all: and, again, some think themselves to have none, when they have some: therefore it is needful for us to pray without intermission, Domine, adauge nobis fidem, “Lord, increase our faith;” adjuva incredulitatem meam, “O Lord, FD6 help my unbelief.”
Here learn, by the ensample of our Savior, not to flatter with any body when they do naughtily and wickedly: for Christ, perceiving his disciples to be unbelievers, flattered them not, but told them plainly, and rebuked them for their faults. Also, we may here learn not to be too hasty with our neighbors when they do fall; but to bear with them, like as our Savior did bear with his disciples. He thrusteth them not away because of their unbelief: so a we may not give over our neighbor when he is fallen, for a he may rise again.
Now to make an end. Here learn, by the ensample of these disciples, to run to Christ when thou art in tribulation. Seek help at his hand: and if thou have not a perfect faith, yet despair not; for he is merciful, loving, and kind unto all that call upon him: to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, both now and ever, world without end! Amen.
A SERMON PREACHED BY EASTER HUGH LATIMER, THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, THE 7 TH DAY OF FEBRUARY, ANNO 1552.
Matthew 13:24-30. Simile factum est regnum coelorum homini qui seminat bonum semen in agro suo; cum antem dormirent homines, venit inimicus ejus, et superseminavit, etc. [The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way, etc.] THIS is a parable, or similitude, wherein our Savior compared the kingdom of God, that is, the preaching of his word, wherein consisteth the salvation of mankind, unto an husbandman that soweth good seed in his field. But before we come unto the matter, you shall first learn to understand what is this word “parable,” which is a Greek word, and used in the Latin and English tongue. Parabola est rerum dissimilium comparatio; that is to say, “A parable is a comparison of two things that are unlike outwardly.” But, in effect, they signify but one thing, for they do appertain to one end; as in this place Christ compared the word of God unto a sower: which two things are unlike, but yet they teach one thing; for like as the seed is sown in the earth, so is the word of God sown in our hearts. And thus much of this word “parable.”
The sum of this gospel is: first, he speaketh of a husbandman that soweth good seed; after that he maketh mention of an enemy that soweth evil seed. And these two manner of seeds, that is, the husbandman’s seed that was good, and the enemy’s seed which was naught, came up both together: so that the enemy was as busy as the other in sowing his evil seed. And while he was busy in sowing it, it was unknown. And at the first springing up it seemeth all to be good seed: but at the length the servant of this husbandman perceived the evil seed sown amongst the good; therefore he came and told his master, shewing him all the matter, and required leave to gather the evil seed from amongst the other. The husbandman himself said, Inimicus homo hoc fecit; “Our enemy hath done this; but for all that, let it alone until the harvest, and then will I separate the good from the evil.” This is the sum of this gospel.
First, note that he saith, Dormientibus hominibus, “When every body was asleep, then he came and sowed his seed.” Who are these sleepers? The bishops and prelates, the slothful and careless curates and ministers: they with their negligence give the devil leave to sow his, for they sow not their seed; that is, they preach not the word of God; they instruct not the people with wholesome doctrine; and so they give place to the devil to sow his seed. For when the devil cometh, and findeth the heart of man not weaponed nor garnished with the word of God, he forthwith possesseth the same, and so getteth victory through the slothfulness of the spiritualty; which they shall one day grievously repent. For the whole scripture, that is to say, both the old and new Testament, is full of threatenings of such negligent and slothful pastors; and they shall make an heavy and grievous account one day, when no excuse shall serve, but extreme punishment shall follow for a reward of their slothfulness.
This gospel giveth occasion to speak of many things: for our Savior himself expoundeth this parable unto his disciples after the people were gone from him, and that he was come into the house. For the disciples were not so bold as to ask him of the understanding of this parable in the presence of the people: whereby we may learn good manner, to use in every thing a good and convenient time. Also, we may here learn to search and inquire earnestly, and with great diligence, for the true understanding of God’s word. And when you hear a sermon, and are in doubt of something, inquire for it, and be desirous to learn; for it is written, Omni habenti dabitur, “Whosoever hath, unto him shall be given;” et abundabit, “and he shall have abundance.” What meaneth this saying? When we hear the word of God, and have tasted somewhat thereof, and are afterwards desirous to go forward more and more, then shall we have further knowledge; for God will give us of his grace, to come to further understanding. And so the saying of our Savior shall be fulfilled in us.
Now when our Savior had heard the request of his disciples, he performeth their desire, and beginneth to expound unto them the parable, saying: “I am he that soweth the good seed,” Inimicus homo, that is, “the adversary, the devil, soweth FE1 evil seed.” Here our Savior, good people, maketh known that he goeth about to do us good; but the devil doth the clean contrary, and he seeketh to spoil and destroy us with his filthy and naughty seed of false doctrine. The field here is the whole world. The harvest is the end of the world. The reapers are the angels of God, which are his servants: for like as every lord or master hath his servants to wait upon him, and to do his commandments, so the angels of God wait upon him to do his commandments. The angels at the time of the harvest shall gather first offendicula; that is, all such as have been evil and given occasion of wickedness, and go forward in the same without repentance or amendment of their lives. All such, I say, shall be gathered together and cast in caminum ignis, “into the chimney of fire, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For in the end of this wicked world all such as have lived in the delectations and pleasures of the same, and have not foughten with the lusts and pleasures of their flesh, but are proud and stubborn; or bear hatred and malice unto their neighbor; or be covetous persons; also, all naughty servants that do not their duties; and all those that use falsehood in buying and selling, and care not for their neighbors, but sell unto them false wares, or otherwise deceive them; all these are called offendicula mundi, “the offenders FE2 of this world :” and all such shall be cast into the “chimney, FE3 where shall be weeping, and walling, and gnashing of teeth.”
In like manner, all idle persons that will not work for their living, but go about loitering and be chargeable unto others; and also drunken persons, that abuse the benefits of God in dishonesting themselves, so that they lose the use of reason, and their natural wits wherewith God hath endued them, and make themselves like swine and beasts; also those which break wedlock, and despise matrimony, that is instituted of God himself; hereunto add all swearers, all usurers, all liars, and deceivers: all these are called the seed of the devil; and so they are the devil’s creatures through their own wickedness. But yet it is true that wicked men have their souls and bodies of God, for he is their Creator and Maker: but they themselves, in forsaking God and his laws, and following the devil and his instructions, make themselves members of the devil, and become his seed; therefore they shall be cast out in the last day into everlasting fire, when the trumpet shall blow, and the angels shall come and gather all offendicula from amongst the elect of God.
The form of judgment shall be in this wise: Christ our, Savior at the day of judgment, being appointed of God, shall come down with great triumph and honor; accompanied with all his angels, and saints, that departed in faith out of this world beforetimes: they shall come with him now, and all the elect shall be gathered to him, and there they shall see the judgment; but they themselves shall not be judged, but shall be like as judges with him. After that the elect are separated from the wicked, he shall give a most horrible and dreadful sentence unto the wicked; commanding his angels to east them into everlasting fire, where they shall have such torments as no tongue can express. Therefore our Savior, desirous to set out the pains of hell unto us, and to make us afraid thereof, calleth it fire, yea, a burning and unquenchable fire. For like as there is no pain so grievous to a man as is fire, so the pains of hell passeth all the pains that may be imagined of any man. There shall be sobbing and sighing, weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; which are the tokens of unspeakable pains and griefs, that shall come upon those that die in the state of damnation. For you must understand that there are but two places appointed of Almighty God for all mankind; that is, heaven and hell. And in what state soever a man dieth in, in the same he shall arise again; for there shall be no alteration or change. Those which die repentantly and are sorry for their sins, cry God mercy, be ashamed of their own wickedness, and believe with all their hearts that God will be merciful unto them through the passion of our Savior Christ, — those which die in such a faith shall come into everlasting life and felicity; and shall also rise in the last day in the state of salvation. For look, as you die, so shall you arise. Whosoever departeth out of this world without a repentant heart, and hath been a malicious and envious man, and a hater of the word of God, and so continueth and will not repent, and be sorry, and call upon God with a good faith, or hath no faith at all,—that man shall come to everlasting damnation; and so he shall arise again at the last day: for there is nothing that can help him out of his damnation, or hinder him of his salvation. For when a man dieth without faith in Christ, all the masses in the world are not able to relieve him: and, to conclude, all the travails that we have had in time past by seeking of remedy by purgatory, and all the great costs and expenses that may be bestowed upon any soul lying in the state of damnation, it can avail nothing, neither can it do any good. For, as I said before, the judgments of God are immutable; that is, as you die, so shall you rise. If thou die in the state of salvation, thou shalt rise so again, and receive thy body, and remain in salvation. Again, if thou die in damnation, thou shalt rise in the same estate, and receive thy body, and return again to the same estate, and be punished world without end with unspeakable pains and torments. For our natural fire, in comparison to hell-fire, is like a fire painted on a wall; for that shall be so extreme, that no man is able to express the terrible horror and grief thereof.
O what a pitiful thing is it, that man will not consider this, and leave the sin and pleasure of this world, and live godly; but is so blind and mad, that he will rather have a momentary, and a very short and small pleasure, than hearken to the will and pleasure of Almighty God! That might avoid everlasting pain and we, and give unto him everlasting felicity. For that a great many of us are damned, the fault is not in God; for Deus vult omnes homilies salvos fieri , “God would have all men be saved:” but the fault is in ourselves, and in our own madness, that had rather have damnation than salvation. Therefore, good people, consider these terrible pains in your minds, which are prepared for the wicked and ungodly: avoid all wickedness and sin; set before your eyes the wonderful joy and felicity, and the innumerable treasures which God hath laid up for you that fear and love him, and live after his will and commandments: for no tongue can express, no eye hath seen, no heart can comprehend nor conceive the great felicity that God hath prepared for his elect and chosen, as St. Paul witnesseth. Consider therefore, I say, these most excellent treasures, and endeavor yourselves to obtain the fruition of the same. Continue not, neither abide or wallow too long in your sins, like as a swine lieth in the mire: make no delay to repent your sin, and to amend your life; for you are not so sure FE4 to have repentance in the end. It is a common saying, Poenitentia sera rare vera: therefore consider this thing with yourself betimes, and study to amend your life; for what availeth it to have all the pleasures of the world for awhile, and after that to have everlasting pain and infelicity?
Therefore let every one go into his own conscience, when he findeth himself unready: for all such as, through the goodness of God, have received faith, and then wrestle with sin, consent not unto it, but are sorry for it when they fall, and do not abide nor dwell in the same, but rise up again forthwith, and call for forgiveness thereof through the merits of our Savior Jesus Christ,—all such are called just: that is to say, all that die with a repentant heart, and are sorry that they have sinned, and are minded, if God give them longer time to live, that they will amend all faults, and lead a new life; then are they just, but not through their own merits or good works. For if God should enter into judgment with us, none are able to stand before his face; neither any of his saints may be found just, neither St. John Baptist, St. Peter, nor St. Paul, no, nor the mother of our Savior Christ herself is not just, if she should be judged after the rigor of the law. For all are, and must be, justified by the justification of our Savior Christ; and so we must be justified, and not through our own well-doings, but our justice standeth in this, that our unrighteousness is forgiven us through the righteousness of Christ; for if we believe in him, then are we made righteous. For he fulfilled the law, and afterward granted the same to be ours, if we believe that his fulfilling is our fulfilling: for St Paul FE5 saith, Qui proprio Filio non pepercit ; “He hath not spared his own Son, but hath given him for us; and how then may it be, but we should have all things with him?” Therefore it must needs follow, that when he gave us his only Son, he gave us also his righteousness, and his fulfilling of the law. So it appeareth that we are justified by the free gift of God, and not of ourselves, nor by our merits: but the righteousness of Christ is accounted to be our righteousness, and through the same we obtain everlasting life, and not through our own doings: for, as I said before, if God should enter into judgment with us, we should be damned.
And yet you may not utterly set aside the doing of good works: but specially look that you have always oil in readiness for your lamps; or else you may not come to the wedding, but shall be shut out, and thrust into everlasting darkness. This oil is faith in Christ, which if you lack, then all things are unsavory before the face of God. But a great many of people are much deceived; for they think themselves to have faith when indeed they have it not. Some peradventure will say, “How shall I know whether I have faith or not?” Truly, thou shalt find this in thee, if thou have no mind to leave sin, then sin grieveth thee not, but art content to go forward in the same, and thou alelightest in it, and hatest it not, neither feelest thou what sin is; when thou art in such a case, then thou hast no faith, and therefore like to perish everlastingly. For that man that is sore sick, and yet feeleth not his sickness, he is in great danger, for he hath lost all his senses: so that man which hath gone so far in sin, that he feeleth his sin no more, is like to be damned, for he is without faith.
Again, that man is in good case, that can be content to fight and strive with sin, and to withstand the devil and his temptations; and calleth for the help of God, and believeth that God will help him, and make him strong to fight, That man shall not be overcome by the devil. And whosoever feeleth this in his heart, and so wrestleth with sin, may be sure that he hath faith, and is in the favor of God.
But if thou wilt have a trial of thy faith, then do this: examine thyself toward thine enemy: he doth thee harm, he slandereth thee, or taketh away thy living from thee; how shalt thou now use thyself towards such a man? If thou canst find in thy heart to pray for him, to love him with all thine heart, and forgive him with a good will all that he hath sinned against thee; if thou canst find this readiness in thy heart, then thou art one of those which have faith, if thou wouldest him to be saved as well as thyself. And if thou canst do this, thou mayest argue that thy sin is forgiven thee, and that thou art none of those that shall be cast out, but shall be received and placed among the number of the godly, and shall enjoy with them everlasting life. For St. Paul saith FE6 that “Those that are just,” that is, those that are justified by faith, and exercise faith in their living and conversation, fulgebunt tanquam sol, “they shall shine like unto the sun in the kingdom of God;” that is to say, they shall be in exceeding great honor and glory. For like as the sun exceedeth in brightness all other creatures of God, and is beautiful in the eyes of every man; so shall all the faithful be beautiful and endued with honor and glory, although in this world they be but outcasts, and accounted as expurgamenta mundi; but in the other world, when the angels shall gather together the wicked, and cast them into the fire, then shall the elect shine as the sun in the kingdom of God. For no man can express the honor and glory that they shall have, which will be content to suffer all things for God’s sake, and to reform themselves after his will; or are content to be told of their faults, and glad to amend the same, and humble themselves under the mighty hand of God.
Also, the householder said unto his servants, “Let them alone until harvest.” Here we may learn, that the preachers and ministers of the word of God have not authority to compel the people with violence to goodness, though they be wicked: but only with the word of God they shall admonish them, not to pull the wicked out by the throat; for that is not their duty. All things must be done according as God hath appointed.
God hath appointed the magistrates to punish the wicked: for so he saith, Auferes malum e medio populi; “Thou shalt take away the evil from amongst the people;” Non misereris ejus, “Thou shalt have no pity of him.” If he be a thief, an adulterer, or an whoremonger, away with him.
But when our Savior saith, “Let them grow,” he speaketh not of the civil magistrates, for it is their duty to pull them out; but he signifieth, that there will be such wickedness for all the magistrates; and teacheth, that the ecclesiastical power is ordained, not to pull out the wicked with the sword, but only to admonish them with the word of God, which is called gladius Spiritus, that is, “the sword of the Spirit.” So did John Baptist, saying, Quis vobis subministravit ut fugeretis a ventura ira? that is, “Who hath taught you to fly from the wrath of God that is at hand?” So did Peter in the Acts: Quem vos crucifixistis, “Whom you have crucified,” he said unto the Jews. What followeth? They were compuncti corde. Contrition and repentance followed by and bye, as soon as the word was preached unto them. Therefore they said, Viri fratres, etc., “Brethren, what shall we do? How shall we be made clean from our sins, that we may be saved?” Then he sendeth them to Christ. So that it appeareth in this gospel, and by these ensamples, that the preacher hath none other sword, but the sword of the word of God: with that sword he may strike them. He may rebuke their wicked living; and further he ought not to go. But kings and magistrates, they have power to punish with the sword the obstinate and vicious livers, and to put them to due punishment.
Now to make an end with this one lesson, which is: if thou dwellest in a town where are some wicked men, that will not be reformed, nor in any wise will amend their lives, as there are commonly in every town some; run not thou therefore out of the town, but tarry there still, and exercise thy patience amongst them; exhorting them, whensoever occasion serveth, to amendment. And do not, as the fondness of the monkery first did: for they at the first made so great account of the holiness of their good life, that they could not be content to live and abide in cities and towns, where sinners and wicked doers were, but thought to amend the matter, and therefore ran out into the wilderness; where they fell into great inconveniences. For some despised the communion of the body and blood of our Savior Christ; and some fell into other errors. FE7 So God punished them for their foolishness and uncharitableness. We are born into this world, not for our own sakes only, but for our even Christians’ sake. They, forgetting this commandment of love and charity, ran away from their neighbors, like beasts and wild horses, that cannot abide the company of men. So the anabaptists in our time, following their ensample, segregated themselves from the company of other men; and therefore God gave them reprobum sensum, that is a pervert judgment.
Therefore, when thou dwellest in an evil town or parish, follow not the ensample of the monks or anabaptists; but remember that Lot, dwelling in the midst of the Sodomites, was nevertheless preserved from the wrath of God; and such will preserve them FE8 in the midst of the wicked. But for all that, thou must not flatter them in their evil doings and naughty livings; but rebuke their sins and wickedness, and in no wise consent unto them. Then it will be well with thee here in this world, and in the world to come thou shalt have life everlasting: FE9 which grant, both to you and me, God the Father, the Son, and God the Holy Ghost! Amen.
A SERMON PREACHED BY MASTER HUGH LATIMER, ON THE SUNDAY CALLED SEPTUAGESIMA, THE 14 TH DAY OF FEBRUARY, ANNO 1552.
Matthew 20:14. Simile est regnum coelorum patrifamilias, qui exiit primo diluculo ad conducendure operarios in vineam suam, etc. [The kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that was an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard, etc.] THIS parable is written by the evangelist Matthew in the twentieth chapter, and is very dark and hard to be understand; yea, there is no harder piece of scripture written by any evangelist. Therefore it may well be called hard meat: not meat for mowers, nor ignorant people, which be not exercised in the word of God. And yet there is none other diversity in this scripture, than is in any other. For though many scriptures have diverse expositions (as is well to be allowed of, so long as they keep them in the tenor of the catholic faith), yet they pertain all to one end and effect, and they be all alike. Therefore, although this parable be harder to understand than the other, at the first hearing or reading, yet when we shall well advise and consider the same, we shall find it agreeable unto all the other.
Now to come to the matter. There are some learned men which apply this parable unto the ages of man. FF1 For a man-child, when he is born, first he is a child; afterward he becometh a lad; then a young man; and after that a perfect man; and in process of time he becometh an old man; and at length a cripple and impotent. Some there be that apply it to the ages of the world: as from Adam to Noah was the first hour; from Noah to Abraham; from Abraham to David; from David to Christ; from Christ to the end of the world. Some there are which would have an allegory of it.
But all agree in this point, namely, that it is not requisite in a p parable to expound every word of the same. For every parable hath certum statum, “a certain scope,” to the which we must have a respect; and not go about to set all words together, or to make a gloss for the same: for it is enough for us when we have the meaning of the principal scope; and more needeth not.
Now to the principal cause and end to the which our Savior hath had a respect in this parable, is that he will teach us hereby, that all christian people are equal in all things appertaining to the kingdom of Christ. So that we have one Christ, one Redeemer, one baptism, and one gospel, one supper of the Lord, and one kingdom of heaven. So that the poorest man, and most miserable that is in the world, may call God his Father, and Christ his Redeemer, as well as the greatest king or emperor in the world. And this is the scope of this parable, wherein Christ teacheth us this equality. And if this now were considered, the whole parable will be easily and soon understand.
Here is declared unto us, that some labored the whole day, which were hired for a penny; that is, of our money ten pence: for like as we have a piece of money which we call a shilling, and is in value twelve pence, so the Jews had a piece that they called denarium, and that was in value ten of our pence. The first company wrought twelve hours; and the other wrought, some nine hours, some six hours, and some three hours, and some but one hour. Brow when evening was come, and the time of payment drew on, the householder said to his steward, “Go, and give every man alike, and begin at those that came last.” And when the other, that came early in the morning, perceived that they should have no more than those that had wrought but one hour, they murmured against the householder, saying, “Shall they FF2 which have labored but one hour, have as much as we that have wrought the whole day?” The householder, perceiving their malicious mind, said to one of them, “Friend, wherefore grudgest thou? Is it not lawful for me to do with mine own what pleaseth me? Have I not given thee that I promised thee? Content thyself therefore, and go thy way; for it hath pleased me to give unto this man which hath wrought but one hour as much as unto thee.” This is the sum of this parable, which he concludeth with this sentence, Primi erunt novissimi et novissimi primi; “The first shall be the last, and the last first.”
First consider, Who are these murmurers? The merit-mongers, which esteem their own works so much, that they think heaven scant sufficient to recompense their good deeds; namely, for putting themselves to pain with saying of our lady’s psalter, and gadding on pilgrimage, and suchlike trifles. These are the murmurers; for they think themselves holier than all the world, and therefore worthy to receive a greater reward than other men. But such men are much deceived, and are in a false opinion; and, if they abide and continue therein, it shall FF3 bring them to the fire of hell. For man’s salvation cannot be gotten by any work; because the scripture saith, Vita aeterna donurn Dei; “Life everlasting is the gift of God.” True it is, that God requireth good works of us, and commandeth us to avoid all wickedness. But for all that, we may not do our good works to the end to get heaven withal; but rather to shew ourselves thankful for that which Christ hath done for us, who with his passion hath opened heaven unto all believers; that is, to all those that put their hope and trust not in their deeds, but in his death and passion, and study to live well and godly; and yet not to make merits of their own works, as though they should have everlasting life for them; as our monks and friars, and all our religious persons were wont to do, and therefore may rightly be called murmurers: for they had so great store of merits, that they sold some of them unto other men. And many men spent a great part of their substance to buy their merits, and to be a brother of their houses; or to obtain one of their coats or cowls to be buried in. FF4 But there is a great difference between the judgment of God and the judgment of this world.
They in this world were accounted most holy above all men, and so most worthy to be primi; but before God they shall be novissimi, when their hypocrisy and wickedness shall be opened. And thus much I thought to say of murmurers.
Now I will go about to apply all the parts of this parable: for, as I said before, it is enough for us if we know the chief point and scope of the parable, which is, that there shall be one equality in all the things that appertain to Christ: insomuch that the rulers of this realm hath no better a God, no better sacraments, and no better a gospel, than the poorest in this world; yea, the poorest man hath as good right to Christ and his benefits, as the greatest man in the world. This is comfortable to every one; and specially to such as are in miseries, poverty, or other calamities: which if it were well considered, we would not be so desirous to come aloft, and to get riches, honor and dignities in this world, as we now are; nor yet so malicious one against another as we be. For we would ever make this reckoning with ourselves, each man in his vocation: the servant would think thus with himself: “I am a servant; poor and miserable, and must live after the pleasure of my master, I may not have my free-will; but what then? I am sure that I have as good a God as my master hath; and I am sure that my service and business pleaseth God as much (when I do it with a good faith) as the preacher’s or curate’s, in preaching or saying of FF5 service.” For we must understand, that God esteemeth not the diversity of the works, but he hath respect unto the faith: for a poor man which doth his business in faith, is as acceptable unto God, and hath as good right to the death and merits of Christ, as the greatest man in the world. So go through all estates: whosoever applieth his business with faith, considering that God willeth him so to do, surely the same is most beloved of God. If this were well considered and printed in our hearts, all ambition and desire of promotions, all covetousness, and other vices, would depart out of our hearts. For it is the greatest comfort that may be unto poor people, (specially such as are nothing regarded in this world,) if they consider that God loveth them, as well as the richest in the world, it must needs be a great comfort unto them.
But there be some that say, that this sentence primi et novissimi, “the first shall be last,” is the very substance of the parable. And here you shall understand, that our Savior Christ took occasion to put forth this parable, when there came a young man demanding of him, in the nineteenth chapter of this evangelist, saying, “What shall I do to come to everlasting life?” Our Savior, after he had taught him the commandments of God, bade him “go, and sell all that he had, and give to the poor; and come and follow him.” He, hearing this, went away heavily, for his heart was cold.
And then our Savior spake very terribly against rich men, sayng, “It is more easy for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” A camel est funis nauticus, that is, a great cable of a ship; which is more likelier than a beast that is called a camel. The disciples hearing this, said, “Who then can be saved?”
He made them answer, saying, Omnia possibilia sunt Deo; “God is almighty, and that which is impossible to men, is possible with God:” signifying, that he condemneth not all rich men, but only those that set their hearts upon riches; that care not how they get them; and when they have them, they abuse them to the satisfying of their own carnal appetites and fleshly delights and pleasures, and not to the honor of God. And again, such riches as are justly, rightly, and godly gotten, those are the good creatures of God; being rightly used to the glory of God, and comfort of their neighbors; not hoarding nor heaping them up, to make treasures of them. For riches are indifferent, and are not evil of themselves; but they are made evil, when our heart is set upon them, and that we put hope in them; for that is an abominable thing before the face of God. Now, after these words spoken by our Savior Christ, Peter cometh forth, saying, “Lo, we have forsaken all that we had; what shall be our reward?” Peter had forsaken all that he had; which was but little in substance, but yet it was a great matter to him, for he had no more but that little: like to the widow which cast into the treasury two mites, yet our Savior praised her gift above all that gave before her. Here thou learnest, that when thou hast but little, yet give of the same little; as Tobias teacheth his son; for it is as acceptable unto God, as though it were a greater thing. So Peter, in forsaking his old boat and net, was allowed as much before God, as if he had forsaken all the riches in the world: therefore he shall have a great reward for his old boat; for Christ saith, that he shall be one of them that shall sit and judge the twelve tribes of Israel: and to signify them to be more than the others, he giveth them the name of judges; meaning, that they shall condemn the world: like as Almighty God speaketh of the queen of Sheba, that in the last day she shall arise and condemn the Jews that would not hear Christ, and she came so great a journey to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Then he answered and said, “Whosoever leaveth father, or mother, or brethren, for my sake, shall receive an hundred-fold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” Now what is this, to leave father and mother? When my father or mother will hinder or let me in any goodness, or would persuade me from the honoring of God and faith in Christ; then I must forsake, and rather lose the favor and good-will of my father and mother, than to forsake God and his holy word.
And now Christ addeth and saith, “The first shall be the last, and the last shall be the first ;” alluding to St. Peter’s saying, that soundeth as though Peter looked for a reward for his deeds: and that is it which is the let of all together. If a man come to the gospel, and heareth the same, and after hath a respect to reward, such a man shall be ultimus, that is, “the last.”
If these sayings Were well considered of us, surely we would not have such a number of vain gospellers, as we now have; that seek nothing but their own commodities, under the name and color of the gospel.
Moreover, he teacheth us to be meek and lowly, and not think much of ourselves; for those that are greatly esteemed in their own eyes, they are the least before God. “For he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted ;” according to the scripture, which saith, Deus superbis resistit, humilibus autem dat gratiam ; “God resisteth the proud, and advanceth the humble and meek.” And this is it that he saith, “the first shall be the last;” teaching us to be careful, and not to stand in our own conceit, but ever to mistrust ourselves: as St. Paul teacheth, saying, Qui stat, videat ne cadat, “Whosoever standeth, let him take heed he fall not:” and therefore we may not put trust in ourselves, but rather in God. Further, in this saying of our Savior is comprehended a great comfort: for those that are accounted of the world to be the most vilest slaves and abject, may by this saying have a hope to be made the first and the principallest: for although they be never so low, yet they may arise again, and become the highest. And so this is to us a comfortable sentence, which strengtheneth our faith, and keepeth us from desperation and falling from God. And at the end he saith, Multi sunt vocati, pauci veto electi; that is, “Many are called, and few are chosen.” These words of our Savior are very hard to understand, and therefore it is not good to be too curious in them, as some vain fellows do; FF6 who, seeking carnal liberty, pervert, toss, and turn the word of God, after their own mind and purpose. Such, I say, when they read these words, make their reckoning thus, saying: “What need I to mortify my body with abstaining from all sin and wickedness? I perceive God hath chosen some, and some are rejected. Now if I be in the number of the chosen, I cannot be damned: but if I be accounted among the condemned number, then I cannot be saved: for God’s judgments are immutable.” Such foolish and wicked reasons some have; which bringeth them either to desperation, or else to carnal liberty.
But if thou art desirous to know whether thou art chosen to everlasting life, thou mayest not begin with God: for God is too high, thou canst not comprehend him. The judgments of God are unknown to man; therefore thou mayest not begin there: but begin with Christ, and learn to know Christ, and wherefore he came; namely, that he came to save sinners, and made himself a subject to the law, and a fulfiller of the same, to deliver us from the wrath and danger thereof; and therefore was crucified for our sins, and rose again to shew and teach us the way to heaven, and by his resurrection to teach us to arise from sin: so also his resurrection teacheth and admonisheth us of the general resurrection. He sitteth at the flight hand of God, and maketh intercession for us; and giveth us the Holy Ghost, that comforteth and strengtheneth our faith, and daily assureth us of our salvation. Consider, I say, Christ and his coming; and then begin to try thyself, whether thou art in the book of life or not. If thou findest thyself in Christ, then thou art sure of everlasting life. If thou be without him, then thou art in an evil case. For it is written, Nemo venit ad Patrem nisi per me; that is, “No man cometh unto the Father but through me.” Therefore if thou knowest Christ, then thou mayest know further of thy election. But when we are about this matter, and are troubled within ourselves, whether we be elect or no, we must ever have this maxim or principal rule before our eyes; namely, that God beareth a goodwill towards us. God loveth us; God beareth a fatherly heart towards us. But you will say, “How shall I know that? Or how shall I believe that?” We may know God’s will towards us through Christ: God hath opened himself unto us by his Son Christ: for so saith John, the evangelist, Filius, qui est in sinu Patris, ipse revelavit; that is, “The Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath revealed.” Therefore we may perceive his good-will and love towards us: he hath sent the same his Son into this world, which hath suffered most painful death for us. Shall I now think that God hateth me? Or shall I doubt of his love towards me?
Here you see how you shall avoid the scrupulous and most dangerous question of the predestination of God. For if thou wilt inquire his counsels, and enter into his consistory, thy wit will deceive thee; for thou shalt not FF7 be able to search the counsels of God. But if thou begin with Christ, and consider his coming into the world, and dost believe that God hath sent him for thy sake, to suffer for thee, and deliver thee from sin, death, the devil and hell; then, when thou art so armed with the knowledge of Christ, then, I say this simple question cannot hurt thee; for thou art in the book of life, which is Christ himself.
Also we learn by this sentence, Multi sunt vocati, that “many are called,” that the preaching of the gospel is universal; that it pertaineth to all mankind; that it is written, In omnem terram exivit sonus eorum, “Through the whole earth their sound is heard.” Now seeing that the gospel is universal, it appeareth that he would have all mankind saved; and that the fault is not in him, if we be damned. For it is written thus, Deus vult omnes homines salvos fieri; “God would have all men to be saved:” his salvation is sufficient to save all mankind; but we are so wicked of ourselves that we refuse the same, and we will not take it, when it is offered unto us: and therefore he saith, Pauci vero electi, “Few are chosen;” that is, few have pleasure and delight in it: for the most part are weary of it, they cannot abide it. And there are some that hear it, but they will abide no danger for it: they love more their riches and possessions than the word of God. And therefore, pauci sunt electi; there are but a few that stick heartily unto it, and can find in their hearts to forego this world for God’s sake and his holy word. There are some now-a-days that will not be reprehended by the gospel; they think themselves better than it. Some, again, are so stubborn, that they will rather forswear themselves, than confess their sins and wickedness. Such men are [the] cause of their own damnation; for God would have them saved, but they refuse it: like as did Judas, the traitor, whom Christ would have had to be saved, but he refused his salvation; he refused to follow the doctrine of his master Christ. And so, whosoever heareth the word of God, and followeth it, the same is elect by him: and again, whosoever refuseth to hear the word of God, and follow the same, is damned. So that our election is sure if we follow the word of God.
Here is now taught you, how to try out your election, namely, in Christ; for Christ is the accounting book and register of God: even in the same book, that is, Christ, are written all the names of the elect. Therefore we cannot find our election in ourselves, neither yet in the high counsel of God: for inscrutabilia sunt judicia Altissimi. Where shall I then find my election? In the counting book of God, which is Christ: for thus it is written, Sic Deus dilexit mundum, that is, “God hath so entirely loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to that end, that all that believe in him should not perish, but have life everlasting.” Whereby appeareth most plainly, that Christ is the book of life; and that all that believe in him are in the same book, and so are chosen to everlasting life: for only those are ordained which believe. Therefore, when thou hast faith in Christ, then thou art in the book of life, and so art thou sure of thine election. And again, if thou be without Christ, and have no faith in him, neither art sorry for thy wickedness, nor have a mind and purpose to leave and forsake sin, but rather exercise and use the same; then thou art not in the book of life, as long as thou art in such a case: and therefore shalt thou go into everlasting fire, namely, if thou die in thy wickedness and sin, without repentance.
But there are none so wicked, but he may have a remedy. What is that?
Enter into thine own heart, and search the secrets of the same. Consider thine own life, and how thou hast spent thy days. And if thou find in thyself all manner of uncleanness and abominable sins, and so seest thy damnation before thine eyes, what shalt thou then do? Confess the same unto thy Lord God. Be sorry that thou hast offended so loving a Father, and ask mercy of him in the name of Christ; and believe stedfastly that he will be merciful unto thee, in respect of his only Son which suffered death for thee; and then have a good purpose to leave all sin and wickedness, and to withstand and resist the affections of thine own flesh, which ever fight against the Spirit, and to live uprightly and godly, after the will and commandment of thy heavenly Father. If thou go thus to work, surely thou shalt be heard. Thy sins shall be forgiven thee. God will shew himself true in his promise; for to that end he hath sent his only Son into this world, that he might save sinners.
Consider therefore, I say, wherefore Christ came into this world: consider also the great hatred and wrath that God beareth against sin; and again, consider his great love shewed unto thee, in that he sent his only Son to suffer most cruel death, rather than that thou shouldst be damned everlastingly. Consider therefore this great love of