PREVIOUS CHAPTER - NEXT CHAPTER - HELP - FB - TWITTER - GR VIDEOS - GR FORUMS - GR YOUTUBE
THOUGH a man had a precious jewel and a rich, yet if he wist not the value thereof, nor wherefore it served, he were neither the better nor richer of a straw. Even so, though we read the scripture, and babble of it never so much, yet if we know not the use of it, and wherefore it was given, and what is therein to be sought, it profiteth us nothing at all. It is not enough, therefore, to read and talk of it only, but we must also desire God, day and night instantly, to open our eyes, and to make us understand and feel wherefore the scripture was given, that we, may apply the medicine of the scripture, every man to his own sores; unless that we intend to be idle disputers, and brawlers about vain words, ever gnawing upon the bitter bark without, and never attaining unto the sweet pith within, and persecuting one another in defending of lewd imaginations and fantasies of our own invention.
Paul, in the third of the second epistle to Timothy <550301> , saith, “that the scripture is good to teach,” (for that ought men to teach, and not dreams of their own making, as the pope doth,) “and also to improve;” for the scripture is the touchstone that trieth all doctrines, and by that we know the false from the true. And in the 15th to the Ephesians <491501> he calleth it “the sword of the Spirit,” because it killeth hypocrites, and uttereth and improveth their false inventions. And in the 15th to the Romans <451501> he saith, “All that are written are written for our learning; that we through patience and comfort of the scripture might have hope:” that is, the ensamples that are in the scripture comfort us in all our tribulations, and make us to put our trust in God, and patiently to abide his leisure. And in the 10th of the first to the Corinthians <461001> he bringeth in examples of the scripture to fear us, and to bridle the flesh, that we cast not the yoke of the law of God from off our necks, and fall to lusting and doing of evil.
So now the scripture is a light, and sheweth us the true way, both what to do and what to hope for; and a defense from all error, and a comfort in adversity that we despair not, and feareth us in prosperity that we sin not.
Seek therefore in the scripture as thou readest it, first the law, what God commandeth us to do; and secondarily, the praises, which God promiseth us again, namely in Christ Jesus our Lord. Then seek ensamples, first of comfort, how God, purgeth all them, that submit themselves to walk in his ways, (in the purgatory of tribulation, delivering them yet at the latter end, and never suffering any of them to perish that cleave fast to his promises.
And, finally, note the ensamples which are written to fear the flesh, that we sin not: that is, how God suffereth the ungodly and wicked sinners that resist God, and refuse to follow him, to continue in their wickedness; ever waxing worse and worse, until their sin be so sore increased, and so abominable, that if they should longer endure they would corrupt the very elect. But for the elect’s sake God sendeth them preachers. Nevertheless they harden their hearts against the truth, and God destroyeth them utterly, and beginneth the world anew.* This comfort shalt thou evermore find in the plain text and literal sense.
Neither is there any story so homely, so rude, yea, or so vile (as it seemeth outward), wherein is not exceeding great comfort. And when some, which seem to themselves great clerks, say, ‘They wot not what more profit is in many gests of the scripture, if they be read without an allegory, than in a tale of Robin Hood:’ say thou, ‘That they were written for our consolation and comfort; that we despair not, if such like happen unto us. We be not holier than Noe, though he were once drunk; neither better beloved than Jacob, though his own son defiled his bed. We be not holier than Lot, though his daughters through ignorance deceived him; nor, peradventure, holier than those daughters. Neither are we holier than David, though he brake wedlock, and upon the same committed abominable murder. All those men have witness of the scripture that they pleased God, and were good men, both before that those things chanced them, and also after.
Nevertheless such things happened them for our ensample, not that we should counterfeit their evil; brut if, while we fight with ourselves, enforcing to walk in the law of God as they did, we yet fall likewise, that we despair not, but come again to the laws of God, and take better hold.’
We read, since the time of Christ’s death, of virgins that have been brought unto the common stews, and there defiled; and of martyrs that have been bound, and whores have abused their bodies. Why? The judgments of God are bottomless. Such things partly for ensamples; partly, God through sin healeth sin. Pride can neither be healed, nor yet appear, but through such horrible deeds. Peradventure they were of the pope’s sect, and rejoiced fleshly; thinking that heaven came by deeds, and not by Christ, and that the outward deed justified them and made them holy, and not the inward spirit received by faith, and the consent of the heart unto the laws of God.
As thou readest, therefore, think that every syllable pertaineth to thine own self, and suck out the pith of the scripture, and arm thyself against all assaults. First note with strong faith the power of God, in creating all of nought; then mark the grievous fall of Adam, and of us all in him, through the light regarding of the commandment of God. In the 4th chapter, God turneth him unto Abel, and then to his offering, but not to Cain and his offering: where thou seest that though the deeds of the evil appear outwardly as glorious as the deeds of the good, yet in the sight of God, which looketh on the heart, the deed is good because of the man, and not the man good because of his deed. In the 6th, God sendeth Noe to preach to the wicked, and giveth them space to repent: they wax hard-hearted, God bringeth them to nought, and yet sayeth Noe, even by the same water by which he destroyed them. Mark also what followed the pride of the building of the tower of Babel.
Consider how God sendeth forth Abraham out of his own country into a strange land, full of wicked people, and gave him but a bare promise with him, that he would bless him and defend him. Abraham believed, and that word saved and delivered him in all perils: so that we see how that man’s life is not maintained by bread only, as Christ saith, but much rather by believing the promises of God. Behold how soberly, and how circumspectly, both Abraham and also Isaac behave themselves among the infidels. Abraham buyeth that which might have been given him for nought, to cut off occasions. Isaac, when his wells which he had digged were taken from him, giveth room and resisteth not. Moreover, they ear and sow, and feed their cattle, and make confederations, and take perpetual truce, and do all outward things even as they do which have no faith; for God hath not made us to be idle in this world. Every man must work godly and truly, to the uttermost of the power that God hath given him; and yet not trust therein, but in God’s word or promise, and God will work with us, and bring that we do to good effect: and then, when our power will extend no further, God’s promises will work all alone.
How many things also resisted the promises of God to Jacob! And yet Jacob conjureth God with his own promises, saying, “O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, O Lord, which saidest unto me, Return unto thine own country, and unto the place where thou wast born, and I will do thee good; I am not worthy of the least of those mercies, nor of that truth which thou hast done to thy servant: I went out but with a staff, and come home with two droves: deliver me out of the hands of my brother Esau, for I fear him greatly,” etc. And God delivered him, and will likewise all that call unto his promises with a repenting heart, were they never so great sinners. Mark also the weak infirmities of the man. He loveth one wife more than another, one son more than another. And see how God purgeth him. Esau threateneth him; Laban beguileth him; the beloved wife is long barren; his daughter is ravished; his wife is defiled, and that of his own son. Rachel dieth, Joseph is taken away, yea, and, as he supposed, rent of wild beasts. And yet how glorious was his end! Note the weakness of his children, yea, and the sin of them, and how God through their own wickedness saved them. These ensamples teach us, that a man is not at once perfect the first day he beginneth to live well. They that be strong, therefore, must suffer with the weak, and help to keep them in unity and peace one with another, until they be stronger.
Note what the brethren said when they were attached in Egypt: “We have verily sinned (said they) against our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us, and would not hear him; and therefore is this tribulation come upon us.” By which ensample thou seest how that conscience of evil doings findeth men out at last, but namely in tribulation and adversity: there temptation, and also desperation, yea, and the very pains of hell, find us out: there the soul feeleth the fierce wrath of God, and wisheth mountains to fall on her, and to hide her (if it were possible) from the angry face of God.
Mark also, how great evils follow of how little an occasion. Dinah goeth but forth alone to see the daughters of the country, and how great mischief and trouble followed! Jacob loved but one son more than another, and how grievous murder followed in their hearts! These are ensamples for our learning, to teach us to walk warily and circumspectly in the world of weak people, that we give no man occasions of evil.
Finally, see what God promised Joseph in his dreams. Those promises accompanied him always, and went down with him even into the deep dungeon, and brought him up again, and never forsook him, till all that was promised was fulfilled. These are ensamples written for our learning (as Paul saith), to teach us to trust in God in the strong fire of tribulation and purgatory of our flesh; and that they which submit themselves to follow God, should note and mark such things: for their learning and comfort is the fruit of the scripture, and cause why it was written. And with such a purpose to read it, is the way to everlasting life, and to those joyful blessings that are promised unto all nations in the Seed of Abraham; which Seed is Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be honor and praise for ever, and unto God our Father through him. Amen. [The passage mentioned in note 2. p. 399, as forming part of this prologue in its earliest editions, and as having had a few sentences, more closely connected with the subject of Genesis, inserted in its place in Day, stands as follows in Tyndale’s Pentateuch of 1534.] Seek therefore in the scripture, as thou readest it, chiefly and above all, the covenants made between God and us; that is to say, the law and commandments which God commandeth us to do; and then the mercy promised unto all them that submit themselves unto the law. For all the promises throughout the whole scripture do include a covenant: that is, God bindeth himself to fulfill that mercy unto thee only if thou wilt endeavor thyself to keep his laws; so that no man hath his part in the mercy of God, save he only that loveth his law, and consenteth that it is righteous and good, and fain would do it, and ever mourneth because he now and then breaketh it through infirmity, or doth it not so perfectly as his heart would.
And let love interpret the law, that thou understand this to be the final end of the law, and the whole cause why the law was given; even to bring thee to the knowledge of God, how that he hath done all things for thee, that thou mightest love him again with all thine heart, and thy neighbor for his sake as thyself, and as Christ loved thee: because thy neighbor is the son of God also, and created unto his likeness as thou art, and bought with as dear blood as art thou. Whosoever feeleth in his heart that every man ought to love his neighbor as Christ loved him, and consenteth thereto, and enforceth to come thereto, the same only understandeth the law aright, and can interpret it. And he that submitteth not himself, in the degree he is in, to seek: his neighbor’s profit as Christ did his, can never understand the law, though it be interpreted to him; for that love is the light of the law, to understand it by.
And behold how righteous, how honest, and how due a thing it is by nature, that every man love his neighbor unfeignedly even as himself, for his Father’s sake. For it is the father’s great shame and his high displeasure, if one brother hurt another. If one brother be hurt of another, he may not avenge himself, but must complain to his father, or to them that have authority of his father, to rule in his absence. Even so if any of God’s children be hurt by any of his brethren, he may not avenge himself with hand or heart. God must avenge. And the governors and ministers of the law that God hath ordained to rule us by, concerning our outward conversation of one with another, they must avenge. If they will not avenge, but rather maintain wrong and be oppressors themselves, then must we tarry patiently till God come, which is ever ready to reap tyrants off the face of the earth, as soon as their sins are ripe.
Consider also what wrath, vengeance, and plagues God threateneth to them that are rebellious and disobedient.
Then go to and read the stories of the bible for thy learning and comfort, and see every thing practiced before thine eyes; for according to those ensamples shall it go with thee and all men until the world’s end: so that into whatsoever case or state a man may be brought, according to whatsoever ensample of the bible it be, his end shall be according as he there seeth and readeth. As God there warneth ere he smite, and suffereth long ere he take extreme vengeance, so shall he do with us. As they that turn are there received to mercy, and they that maliciously resist perish utterly, so shall it be with us. As they that resist the counsel of God perish through their own counsel, so shall it be with us until the world’s end. As it went with their kings and rulers’ so shall it go with ours. As it was with their common people, so shall it be with ours. As it was with their spiritual officers, so shall it be with ours. As it was with their true prophets, so shall it be with ours until the world’s end. As they had ever among them false prophets and true, and as their false persecuted the true, and moved the princes to slay them, so shall it be with us until the end of the world. As there was among them but a few true-hearted to God, so shall it be among us; and as their idolatry was, so shall ours be, until the end of the world.
A TABLE, EXPOUNDING CERTAIN WORDS IN THE FIRST BOOK OF MOSES, CALLED GENESIS.
Bisse . Fine white, whether it be silk or linen.
BLESS. God’s blessings are his gifts: as in the first chapter he blessed them, saying, “Grow and multiply, and have dominion,” etc. And in the ninth chapter he blessed Noah and his sons, and gave them dominion over all beasts, and authority to eat them. And God blessed Abraham with cattle and other riches. And Jacob desired Esau to receive the blessing which he brought him, that is, the present and gift. God blessed the seventh day; that is, gave it a preeminence, that men should rest therein from bodily labor, and learn to know the will of God and his laws, and how to work their works godly all the week after. God also blesseth all nations in Abraham’s Seed; that is, he turneth his love and favour unto them, and giveth them his Spirit and knowledge of the true way, and lust and power to walk therein, and all for Christ’s sake, Abraham’s son.
Cain . So is it written in Hebrew. Notwithstanding, whether we call him Cain, or Caim, it maketh no matter, so we understand the meaning. Every land hath his-manner: that we call John, the Welshmen call Evan, the Dutch Haunce. Such difference is between the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin; and that maketh them that translate out of the Hebrew vary in names from them that translate out of Latin or Greek. CURSE. God’s curse is the taking away of his benefits; as God cursed the earth, and made it barren. So now hunger, dearth, war, pestilence, and such like, are yet right curses, and signs of the wrath of God unto the unbelievers; but unto them that know Christ they are very blessings, and that wholesome cross and true purgatory of our flesh, through which all must go that will live godly and be saved: as thou readest, (Matthew 5:1 <400501> ). “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake,” etc.
Eden . Pleasure.
Firmament . The sky. Faith , is the believing of God’s promises, and a sure trust in the goodness and truth of God: which faith justified Abraham, and was the mother of all his good works which he, afterwards did. For faith is the goodness of all works in the sight of God. Good works are things of God’s commandment, wrought in faith; and to sew a shoe at the commandment of God, to do thy neighbor service withal, with faith to be saved by Christ, as God promiseth us, is much better than to build an abbey of thine own imagination, trusting to be saved by the reigned works of hypocrites. Jacob robbed Laban his uncle; Moses robbed the Egyptians; and Abraham is about to slay and burn his own son: and all are holy works, because they are wrought in faith at God’s commandment. To steal, rob, and murder, are no holy works before worldly people; but unto them that have their trust in God they are holy, when God commandeth them. What God commandeth not, getteth no reward with God. Holy works of men’s imaginations receive their reward here, as Christ testifieth, Matthew 6:1 <400601> . Howbeit, of faith and works I have spoken abundantly in Mammon. Let him that desireth more seek there.
Grace . Favour: as Noah found grace; that is to say, found favor and love.
HAM andCAM all one. Jehovah , is God’s name; neither is any creature so called; and it is as much to say as, One that is of himself, and dependeth of nothing. Moreover, as oft as thou seestLORD in great letters (except there be any error in the printing), it is in Hebrew Jehovah, Thou that art; or, lie that is. MARSHAL. In Hebrew he is called Sartabaim: as thou wouldest say, Lord of the slaughtermen. And though that Tabaim be taken for cooks in many places, (for the cooks did slay the beasts themselves in those days,) yet it may be taken for them that put men to execution also. And that I thought it should here best signify, inasmuch as he had the oversight of the king’s prison, and the king’s prisoners, were they never so great men, were under his custody: and therefore I call him chief marshal; an officer, as it were the lieutenant of the Tower, or master of the Marshalsea.
Siloh , after some, is as much to say as sent; and after some, happy; and after some, it signifieth Messias, that is to say, anointed, and that we call Christ after the Greek word. And it is a prophecy of Christ; for after all the other tribes were in captivity, and their kingdom destroyed, yet the tribe of Judah had a ruler of the same blood, even unto the coming of Christ: and about the coming of Christ the Romans conquered them, and the emperor gave the kingdom of the tribe Judah unto, which was a stranger, even an Edomite, of the generation of Esau.
Testament ; that is, an appointment made between God and man, and God’s promises. And sacrament is a sign representing such appointment and promises; as the rainbow representeth the promise made to Noe, that God will no more drown the world. And circumcision representeth the promises of God to Abraham, on the one side; and that Abraham and his seed should circumcise, and cut off the lusts of their flesh, on the other side, to walk in the ways of the Lord: as baptism, which is come in the room thereof, now signifieth on the one side, how that all that repent and believe are washed in Christ’s blood; and on the other side, how that the same must quench and drown the lusts of the flesh, to follow the steps of Christ.
Tyrants . “There were tyrants in the earth in those days, for the sons of God saw the daughters of men,” etc. The sons of God were the prophets’ children, which, though they succeeded their fathers, fell yet from the right way; and through falsehood of hypocrisy subdued the world under them, and became tyrants; as the successors of the apostles have played with us.
Vapor . A dewy mist, as the smoke of a seething pot. WALK. TO walk with God is to live godly, and to walk in his commandments. Enos walked with God, and was no more seen; he lived godly, and died. God took him away; that is, God hid his body as he did Moses and Aaron’s, lest haply they should have made an idol of him; for he was a great preacher and a holy man.
Zaphnath Panenea . Words of Egypt are they (as I suppose); and as much to say as, ‘a man to whom secret things be opened;’ or ‘an expounder of secret things,’ as some interpret it. That Joseph brought the Egyptians into such a subjection, would seem unto some a very cruel deed: howbeit, it was a very equal way; for they paid but the fifth part of that that grew on the ground, and therewith were they quit of all duties, both of rent, custom, tribute, and toll; and the king therewith found them lords, and all ministers, and defended them. We now pay half so much unto the priests only, beside their other crafty exactions.
Then pay we rent yearly, though there grow never so little on the ground; and yet, when the king calleth, pay we never the less. So that if we look indifferently, their condition was easier than ours; and but even, a very indifferent way both for the common people, and the king also.
See, therefore, that thou look not on the ensamples of the scripture with worldly eyes, lest thou prefer Cain before Abel, Ismael before Isaac, Esau before Jacob, Reuben before Judah, Zarah before Phares, Manasses before Ephraim, and even the worst before the best, as the manner of the world is.
A PROLOGUE INTO THE SECOND BOOK OF MOSES, CALLED EXODUS.
OF the preface upon Genesis mayest thou understand how to behave thyself in this book also, and in all other books of the scripture. Cleave unto the text and plain story, s, and endeavor thyself to search out the meaning of all that is described therein, and the true sense of all manner of speakings of the scripture; of proverbs, similitudes, and borrowed speech, whereof I entreated in the end of The Obedience; and beware of subtle allegories.
And note every thing earnestly, as things pertaining unto thine own heart and soul.
For as God used himself unto them of the old Testament, even so shall he unto the world’s end use himself unto us which have received his holy scripture, and the testimony of his Son Jesus. As God doth all things here for them that believe his promises, and hearken unto his commandments, and with patience cleave unto him, and walk with him; even so shall he do for us, if we receive the witness of Christ with a strong faith, and endure patiently, following his steps. And on the other side, as they that fell from the promise of God through unbelief, and from his law and ordinances through impatiency of their own lusts, were forsaken of God, and so perished; even so. shall we, as many as do likewise, and as many as mock with the doctrine of Christ, and make a cloak of it to live fleshly, and to follow our lusts.
Note thereto, how God is found true at the last; and how, when all is past remedy, and brought into desperation, he then fulfilleth his promises, and that by an abject and a castaway, a despised and a refused person; yea, and by a way impossible to believe.
The cause of all captivity of God’s people is this the world ever hated them for their faith and trust which they have in God; but in vain, until they fall from the faith of the promises, and love of the law and ordinances of God, and put their trust in holy deeds of their own finding, and live altogether at their own lust and pleasure, without regard of God, or respect of their neighbor. Then God forsaketh us, and sendeth us into captivity for our dishonoring of his name and despising of our neighbor. But the world persecuteth us for our faith in Christ only, (as the pope now doth,) and not for our wicked living. For in his kingdom thou mayest quietly, and with license, and under a protection, do whatsoever abomination thy heart lusteth; but God persecuteth us because we abuse his holy testament, and because that, when we know the truth, we follow it not.
Note, also, the mighty hand of the Lord, how he playeth with his adversaries, and provoketh them, and stirreth them up a little and a little, and delivereth not his people in an hour; that. both the patience of his elect, and also the worldly wit and wily policy of the wicked, wherewith they do fight against God, might appear.
Mark the long-suffering and soft patience of Moses, and how he loveth the people, and is ever between the wrath of God and them, and is ready to live and die with them, and to be put out of the book that God had written for their sakes, (as Paul for his brethren, Romans 9:1 <450901> .) and how he taketh his own wrongs patiently, and never avengeth himself. And make not Moses a figure of Christ, with Rochester; but an ensample unto all princes, and to all that are in authority, how to rule unto God’s pleasure and ‘unto their neighbor’s profit. For there is not a perfecter life in this world, both to the honor of God and profit of his neighbor, nor yet a greater cross, than to rule christianly. And of Aaron also see that thou make no figure of Christ, until he come unto his sacrificing; but an ensample unto all preachers of God’s word, that they add nothing unto God’s word, or take ought therefrom.
Note also, how God sendeth his promise to the people, and Moses confirmeth it with miracles, and the people believe: but when temptation cometh, they fall into unbelief, and few bide standing. Where thou seest that all be not Christians, that will be so called, and that the cross trieth the true from the reigned; for if the cross were not, Christ should have disciples enough. Whereof also thou seest, what an excellent gift of God true faith is, and impossible to be had without the Spirit of God. For it is above all natural power, that a man, in time of temptation, when God scourgeth him, should believe then steadfastly how that God loveth him, and careth for him, and hath prepared all good things for him, and that that scourging is an earnest that God hath elect and chosen him.
Note how oft Moses stirreth them up to believe and to trust in God, putting them in remembrance alway in time of temptation of the miracles and wonders which God had wrought before-time in their eye-sight. How diligently also forbiddeth he all that might withdraw their hearts from God!
To put nought to God’s word, to take nought therefrom; to do only that which is right in the sight of the Lord; that they should make no manner image, to kneel down before it; yea, that they should make none altar of hewed stone, for fear; of images; to flee the heathen idolatries utterly, and to destroy their idols, and cut down their groves where they worshipped; and that they should not take the daughters of them unto their sons, nor give their daughters to the sons of them: and that whosoever moved any of them to worship false gods, howsoever nigh of kin he were, they must accuse him, and bring him to death; yea, and wheresoever they heard of man, woman, or city that worshipped false gods, they must slay them, and destroy the city for ever, and not build it again; and all because they should worship nothing but God, nor put confidence in any thing, save in his word.
Yea, and how warneth he to beware of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment, necromancy, and all crafts of the devil, and of dreamers, soothsayers, and of miracle-doers to destroy his word, and that they should suffer none such to live. Thou wilt haply say, ‘They tell a man the truth.’ What then? God will that we care not to know what shall come. He will have us care only to keep his commandments, and to commit all chances unto him. He hath promised to care for us, and to keep us from all evil. All things are in his hand; he can remedy all things; and will, for his truth’s sake, if we pray him. In his promises only will he have us trust, and there rest, and to seek no farther.
How also doth he provoke them to love; .ever rehearsing the benefits of God done to them already, and the godly promises that were to come! And how goodly laws of love giveth he, to help one another; and that a man should not hate his neighbor in his heart, but love him as himself, Leviticus 19:1. And what a charge giveth he in every place over the poor and needy, over the stranger, friendless and widow I And when he desireth to shew mercy, rehearseth withal the benefits of God done to them at their need, that they might see a cause, at the least way in God, to shew mercy of very love unto their neighbors at their need.
Also there is no law so simple in appearance throughout all the five books of Moses, but that there is a great reason of the making thereof, if a man search diligently. As that a man is forbid to seeth a kid in his mother’s milk, moveth us unto compassion, and to be pitiful. As doth also that a man should not offer the sire, or dam, and the young both in one day. (Leviticus 22:1 <032201> .) For it might seem a cruel thing, in as much as his mother’s milk is, as it were, his blood: wherefore God will not have him sod therein; but will have a man shew courtesy upon the very beasts: as in another place he commandeth that we muzzle not the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn, (which manner of threshing is used in hot countries,)and that because we should much rather not grudge to be liberal and kind unto men that do us service. Or haply, God would have no such wanton meat used among his people: for the kid of itself is nourishing, and the goat’s milk is restorative; and both together might be too rank, and therefore forbidden; or some other like cause there was.
Of the ceremonies, sacrifices, and tabernacle, with all his glory and pomp, understand that they were not permitted only, but also commanded of God; to lead the people in the shadows of Moses and night of the old testament, until the light of Christ and day of the new testament were come: as children are led in the fantasies of youth, until the discretion of man’s age be come upon them. And all was done to keep them from idolatry.
The tabernacle was ordained to the intent they might have a place appointed them to do their sacrifices openly in the sight of the people, and namely, of the priests which waited thereon; that it might be seen that they did all things according to God’s word, and not after the idolatry of their own imagination. And the costliness of the tabernacle, and the beauty also pertained thereunto, that they should see nothing so beautiful among the heathen, but that they should see more beautiful and wonderful at home; because they should not be moved to follow them.
And in like manner, the divers fashions of sacrifices and ceremonies was to occupy their minds, that they should have no lust to follow the heathen; and the multitude of them was, that they should have so much to do in keeping them, that they should have no leisure to imagine other of their own: yea, and that God’s word might be thereby in all that they did, that they might have their faith and trust in God, which he cannot have that followeth either his own inventions, or traditions of men’s making, without God’s word.
Finally: God hath two testaments, the old and the new. The old testament is those temporal promises which God made the children of Israel, of a good land, and that he would defend them, and of wealth and prosperity, and of temporal blessings, of which thou readest over all the law of Moses, but namely Leviticus 26:1 <032601> . and Deuteronomy 28:1 <052801> , and the avoiding of all threatenings and curses, of which thou readest likewise every where, but specially in the two books above rehearsed, and the avoiding of all punishment ordained for the transgressors of the law.
And the old testament was built altogether upon the keeping of the law and ceremonies; and was the reward of keeping of them in this life only, and reached no farther than this life and this world: as thou readest, Leviticus 18:1 <031801> .”A man that doth them shall live therein;” which text Paul rehearseth, Romans 10:1 <451001> . and Galatians 3:1 <480301> . that is, he that keepeth them shall have this life glorious, according to all the promises and blessings of the law, and shall avoid both all temporal punishment of the law, with all the threatenings and cursings also. For neither the law, even of the ten commandments, nor yet the ceremonies, justified in the heart before God, or purified unto the life to come: insomuch that Moses at his death, even forty years after the law and ceremonies were given, complaineth, saying, “God hath not given you an heart to understand, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear unto this day.” As who should say, God hath given you ceremonies, but ye know not the use of them; and hath given you a law, but hath not written it in your hearts.
Paul answereth them, that it was given to utter sin only, and to make it appear: as a corrosive is laid unto an old sore, not to heal it, but to stir it up, and make the disease alive; that a man might feel in what jeopardy he is, and how nigh death, and not aware; and to make a way unto the healing plaister.
Even so saith Paul, Galatians in.” The law was given because of transgression,” (that is, to make the sin alive, that it might be felt and seen,) “until the seed came unto whom it was promised:” that is to say, until the children of faith came, or until Christ, that Seed in whom God promised Abraham that all nations of the world should be blessed, came.
That is, the law was given to utter sin, death, damnation, t and curse, and to drive us unto Christ, in whom forgiveness, life, justifying, and blessings were promised; that we might see so great love of God to usward in Christ, that we, hence forth overcome with kindness, might love again, and of love keep the commandments.
Now he that goeth about to quiet his conscience and to justify himself with the law, doth but heal his wounds with fretting corrosives. And he that goeth about to purchase grace with ceremonies, doth but suck the alepole to quench his thirst; inasmuch as the ceremonies were not given to justify the heart, but to signify the justifying and forgiveness that is in Christ’s blood.
Of the ceremonies, that they justify not, thou readest Hebrews 10:1. “It is impossible that sin should be done away with the blood of oxen and goats.” And of the law thou readest, Galatians in. “If there had been a law given that could have quickened,” or given life, “then had righteousness, or justifying, “come by the law indeed.” Now the law not only quickeneth not the heart, but also woundeth it with conscience of sin, and ministereth death and damnation unto her, 2 Corinthians 3:1 <470301> . so that she must needs die and be damned, except she find other remedy, So far it is off that she is justified, or holpen by the law.
The new testament is those everlasting promises which are made us in Christ the Lord throughout all the scripture. And that testament is built on faith, and not in works. For it is not said of that testament, He that worketh shall live; but, “he that. believeth shall live:” as thou readest, John in. “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that none which believe in him should perish, but have life everlasting.”
And when this testament is preached and believed, the Spirit entereth the heart, and quickeneth it, and giveth her life, and justifieth her. The Spirit also maketh the law a lively thing in the heart; so that a man bringeth forth good works of his own accord, without compulsion of the law, without fear of threatenings or cursings, yea, and without all manner respect or love unto any temporal pleasure, but of the very power of the Spirit, received through faith, as thou readest, John 1:1. “He gave them power to be the sons of God, in that they believed on his name.”
And of that power they work; so that he which hath the Spirit of Christ is now no more a child: he neither learneth nor worketh now any longer for pain of the rod, or for fear of bugs or pleasure of apples, but doth all things of his own courage; as Christ saith, (John 7:1 <430701> ). “He that believeth on me shall have rivers of living waters flowing out of his belly:” that is, all good works and all gifts of grace spring’ out of him naturally, and by their own accord. Thou needest not to wrest good works out of him, as a man would wring verjuice out of crabs: nay, they flow naturally out of him, as springs out of rocks.
The new testament was ever, even from the beginning, of the world. For there were always promises of Christ to come, by faith in which promises the elect were then justified inwardly before God, as outwardly before the world by keeping of the law and ceremonies.
And in conclusion, as thou seest blessings or cursings follow the keeping or breaking of the law of Moses; even so, naturally, do the blessings or cursings follow the keeping or breaking of the law of nature, out of which spring all our temporal laws. So that, when the people keep the temporal laws of their land, temporal prosperity, and all manner of such temporal blessings as thou readest of in Moses, do accompany them, and fall upon them. And, contrariwise, when they sin unpunished, and when the rulers have no respect unto natural equity or honesty; then God sendeth his curses among them, as hunger, dearth, murrain, baning, pestilence, war, oppression, with strange and wonderful diseases, and new kinds of misfortune and evil luck.
If any man ask me, seeing that faith justifieth me, ‘Why I work?’ I answer, ‘Love compelleth me.’ For as long as my soul feeleth what love God hath shewed me in Christ, I cannot but love God again, and his will and commandments, and of love work them, nor can they seem hard unto me. I think not myself better for my working, nor seek heaven, nor an higher place in heaven, because of it. For a Christian worketh to make his weak brother perfecter, and not to seek an higher place in heaven. I compare not myself unto him that worketh not. No, he that worketh not today, shall have grace to turn and to work tomorrow; and in the mean season I pity him, and pray for him. If I had wrought the will of God these thousand years, and another had wrought the will of the devil as long, and this day turn and be as we”. willing to suffer with Christ as I, he hath this day overtaken me, and is as far come as I, and shall have as much reward as I: and I envy him not, but rejoice most of all, as of lost treasure found. For if I be of God, I have these thousand years suffered to win him, for to come and praise the name of God with me. These thousand years I have prayed, sorrowed, longed, sighed, and sought for that which I have this day found; and therefore rejoice with all my might, and praise God for his grace and mercy.
A TABLE, EXPOUNDING CERTAIN WORDS OF THE SECOND BOOK OF MOSES.
Ark . A coffer, or chest, as our shrines, save it was fiat; and the sample of our shrines was taken thereof.
Booth . An house made of boughs.
Brestlap , or brestflap, is such a flap as thou seest in the breast of a cope.
Consecrate . To appoint a thing to holy uses.
Geeras . In weight as it were an English halfpenny, or somewhat more.
Heave-offerings. Because they were hoven up before the Lord.
House . He made them houses; that is, he made a kindred, or a multitude of people to spring out of them; as we say the house of David, for the kindred of David.
Peace-offering. Offering of thanksgiving of devotion, and not for conscience of sin and trespass.
Pollute . Defile.
Reconcile . To make at one, and to bring in grace or favor.
Shewbread . Because it was always in the sight and presence of the Lord. (chap. 25.)
Taberbacle . A house made tentwise, or as a pavilion.
Waive-offering. Because they were waiven in the priest’s hands to divers quarters.
Worship . By worshipping, whether it be in the old Testament or new, understand the bowing of a man’s self upon the ground: as we ofttimes, as we kneel in our prayers, bow ourselves, and lie on our arms and hands, with our face to the ground. Of this word, I WILL BE, cometh the name of God, Jehovah, which we interpret Lord; and is as much to say as, I am that I am. (chap. in.)
That I here call a sheep, in Hebrew is a word indifferent to a sheep and a goat both. (chapter 12.)
The Lamb was called passover, that the very name itself should put them in remembrance what it signified; for the signs that God ordained either signified the benefits done, or promises to come, and were not dumb, as the signs of our dumb god the pope.
Jehovah Nissi . The Lord is he that exalteth me. (chap. 17.) *
A PROLOGUE INTO THE THIRD BOOK OF MOSES CALLED LEVITICUS.
THE ceremonies which are described in the book following were chiefly ordained of God (as I said in the end of the prologue upon Exodus,) to occupy the minds of that people the Israelites, and to keep them from serving of God after the imagination of their own blind zeal and good intent; that their consciences might be stablished, and they sure that they pleased God therein; which were impossible, if a man did of his own head that which was not commanded of God, nor depended of any appointment made between him and God. Such ceremonies were unto them as an ABC, to learn to spell and read; and as a nurse, to feed them with milk and pap, and to speak unto them after their own capacity, and to lisp the words unto them, according as the babes and children of that age might sound them again. For all that were before Christ were in the infancy and childhood of the world, and saw that sun, which we see openly, but through a cloud, and had but feeble and weak imaginations of Christ, as children have of men’s deeds, a few prophets, except, which yet described him unto others in sacrifices and ceremonies, likenesses, riddles, proverbs, and dark and strange speaking, until the full age were come, that God would shew him openly unto the whole world, and deliver them from their shadows and cloud-light, and the heathen out of their dead sleep of stark blind ignorance. And as the shadow vanisheth away at the coming of the light, even so do the ceremonies and sacrifices at the coming of Christ; and are henceforth no more necessary than a token left in remembrance of a bargain is necessary when the bargain is fulfilled. And though they seem plain childish, yet they be not altogether fruitless; as the puppets and twenty manner of trifles, which mothers permit unto their young children, be not all in vain. For albeit that such fantasies be permitted to satisfy the children’s lusts, yet in that they are the mother’s gift, and be done in place and time at her commandment, they keep the children in awe, and make them know the mother, and also make them more apt against a more stronger age to obey in things of greater earnest.
And moreover, though sacrifices and ceremonies can be no ground or foundation to build upon; that is, though we can prove nought with them, yet when we have once found out Christ and his mysteries, then we may borrow figures, that is to say allegories, similitudes, or examples, to open Christ, and the secrets of God hid in Christ, even unto the quick, and to declare them more lively and sensibly with them than with all the words in the world. For similitudes have more virtue and power with them than bare words, and lead a man’s wits farther into the pith and marrow and spiritual understanding of the thing, than all the words that can be imagined. And though also that all the ceremonies and sacrifices have, as it were, a starlight of Christ, yet some there be that have, as it were, the light of the broad day, a little before the sun-rising; and express him, and the circumstances and virtue of his death so plainly, as if we should play his passion on a scaffold, or in a stage-play, openly before the eyes of the people; as the scape-goat, the brasen serpent, the ox burnt without the host, the passover lamb, etc.: insomuch that I am fully persuaded, and cannot but believe, that God had shewed Moses the secrets of Christ, and the very manner of his death beforehand, and commanded him to ordain them for the confirmation of our faith, which are now in the clear day-light.
And I believe also that the prophets, which followed Moses to confirm his prophecies, and to maintain his doctrine unto Christ’s coming, were moved by such things to search farther of Christ’s secrets. And though God would not have the secrets of Christ generally known, save unto a few familiar friends, which in that infancy he made of man’s wit to help the other babes; yet as they had a general promise that one of the seed of Abraham should come and bless them, even so they had a general faith that God would by the same man save, them, though they wist not by what means: as the very apostles, when it was oft told them, yet they could never comprehend it, till it was fulfilled in deed.
And beyond all this, their sacrifices and ceremonies, as far forth as the promises annexed unto them extend, so far forth they saved them and justified them, and stood them in the same stead as our sacraments do us; not by the power of the sacrifice or deed itself, but by the virtue of the faith in the promise, which the sacrifice or ceremony preached, and whereof it was a token or sign. For the ceremonies and sacrifices were left with them, and commanded them, to keep the promise in remembrance, and to wake up their faith: as it is not enough to send many on errands, and to tell them what they shall do; but they must have a remembrance with them, and it be but a ring of a rush about one of their fingers; and as it is not enough to make a bargain with words only, but we must put thereto an oath, and give earnest to confirm the faith of the person with whom it is made; and in like manner if a man promise, whatsoever trifle it be, it is not believed except he hold up his finger also; such is the weakness of the world: and therefore Christ him, self used oftentimes divers ceremonies in curing the sick, to stir up their faith withal. As for example: it was not the blood of the lamb that saved them in Egypt, when the angel smote the Egyptians, but the mercy of God and his truth, whereof that blood was a token and remembrance, to stir up their faiths withal. For though God make a promise, yet it sayeth none finally but them that long for it, and pray God with a strong faith to fulfill it, for his mercy and truth only, and knowledge their unworthiness.
And even so our sacraments (if they be truly ministered) preach Christ unto us, and lead our faiths unto Christ; by which faith our sins are done away, and not by the deed or work of the sacrament. For as it was impossible that the blood of calves should put away sin; even so is it impossible that the water of the river should wash our hearts, Nevertheless the sacraments cleanse us, and absolve us of our sins, as the priests do in preaching of repentance and faith, for which cause either other of them were ordained; but if they preach not, whether it be the priest or the sacrament, so profit they not.
And if a man allege Christ, John in the third chapter, saying, “Except a man be born again of water and of the Holy Ghost, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” and will therefore that the Holy Ghost be present in the water, and therefore the very deed or work doth put away sin; then I will send him unto Paul, which asketh his Galatians, whether they received the Holy Ghost by the deed of the law, or by preaching of faith; and there concludeth that the Holy Ghost accompanieth the preaching of faith, and with the word of faith entereth the heart and purgeth it: which thou mayest also understand by St Paul saying, “Ye are born anew out of the water through the word.” So now if baptism preach me the washing in Christ’s blood, so doth the Holy Ghost accompany it; and that deed of preaching through faith doth put away my sins. For the Holy Ghost is no dumb God, nor no God that goeth a mumming. If a man say of the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood, that it is a sacrifice as well for the dead as for the quick, and therefore the very deed itself justifieth and putteth away sin; I answer, that a sacrifice is the slaying of the body of a beast, or a man: wherefore, if it be a sacrifice, then is Christ’s body there slain, and his blood there shed; but that is not so. And therefore it is properly no sacrifice, but a sacrament, and a memorial of that everlasting sacrifice once for all, which he offered upon the cross now upon a fifteen hundred years ago; and preacheth only unto them that are alive. And as for them that be dead, it is as profitable unto them as is a candle in a lanthern without light unto them that walk by the way in dark night; and as the gospel song in Latin is unto them that understand none at all, and as a sermon preached to him that is dead, and heareth it not. It preacheth unto them that are alive only: for they that be dead, if they died in the faith which that sacrament preacheth, they be safe, and are past all jeopardy. For when they were alive, their hearts loved the law of God, and therefore sinned not, and were sorry that their members sinned, and ever moved to sin; and therefore through faith it was forgiven them. And now their sinful members be dead, so that they can now sin no more; wherefore it is unto them that be dead neither sacrament nor sacrifice. But under the pretense of their soul-health, it is a servant unto our spiritualty’s holy covetousness; and an extortioner; and a builder of abbeys, colleges, chauntries and cathedral churches, with false-gotten goods; a pickpurse, a poller, and a bottomless bag.
Some man would haply say, that the prayers of the mass help much, not the living only, but also the dead. Of the hot fire of their fervent prayer, which consumeth faster than all the world is able to bring sacrifice, I have said sufficiently in other places. Howbeit it is not possible to bring me in belief that the prayer, which helpeth her own master unto no virtue, should purchase me the forgiveness of sins. If I saw that their prayers had obtained them grace to live such a life as God’s word did not rebuke, then could I soon be borne in hand that, whatsoever they asked of God, their prayers should not be in vain. But now what good can he wish me in his prayers, that envieth me Christ, the food and the life of my soul? What good can he wish me, whose heart cleaveth asunder for pain, when I am taught to repent of my evil?
Furthermore, because that few know the use of the old Testament, and the most part think it nothing necessary but to make allegories, which they feign every man after his own brain at all wild adventure, without any certain rule; therefore (though I have spoken of them in another place,) yet, lest the book come not to all men’s hands that shall read this, I will speak of them here also a word or twain.
We had need to take heed every where that we be not beguiled with false allegories, whether they be drawn out of the new Testament or the old, either out of any other story, or of the creatures of the world, but namely in this book. Here a man had need to put on all his spectacles, and to arm himself against invisible spirits.
First, allegories prove nothing; and by allegories understand examples or similitudes borrowed of strange matters, and of another thing than that thou entreatest of. As though circumcision be a figure of baptism, yet thou canst not prove baptism by circumcision. For this argument were very feeble: the Israelites were circumcised, therefore we must be baptized. And in like manner, though the offering of Isaac were a figure or ensample of the resurrection, yet is this argument naught: Abraham would have offered Isaac, but God delivered him from death; therefore we shall rise again; and so forth in all other.
But the very use of allegories is to declare and open a text, that it may be the better perceived and understood. As when I have a clear text of Christ and the apostles; that I must be baptized, then I may borrow an example of circumcision to express the nature, power, and fruit, or effect of baptism.
For as circumcision was unto them a common badge, signifying that they were all soldiers of God, to war his war, and separating them from all other Nations, disobedient unto God: even so baptism is our common badge, and sure earnest and perpetual memorial, that we pertain unto Christ, and are separated from all that are not Christ’s. And as circumcision was a token certifying them that they were received unto the favor of God, and their sins forgiven them; even so baptism certifieth us that we are washed in the blood of Christ, and received to favor for his sake: and as circumcision signified unto them the cutting away of their own lusts, and slaying of their free-will, as they call it, to follow the will of God; even so baptism signifieth unto us repentance, and the mortifying of our unruly members and body of sin, to walk in a new life, and so forth.
And likewise, though that the saving of Noe, and of them that were with him in the ship, through water, is a figure, that is to say an example and likeness, of baptism, as Peter maketh it, (1 Peter 3:1 <600301> .) yet I cannot prove baptism therewith, save describe it only. For as the ship saved them in the water through faith, in that they believed God, and as the other that would not believe Noe perished; even so baptism sayeth us through the word of faith which it preacheth, when all the world of the unbelieving perish. And Paul (1 Corinthians 10:1 <461001> .) maketh the sea and the cloud a figure of baptism; by which, and a thousand more, I might declare it, but not prove it. Paul also in the said place maketh the rock, out of which Moses brought water unto the children of Israel, a figure or ensample of Christ; not to prove Christ (for that were impossible,) but to describe Christ only; even as Christ himself (John 3:1 <430301> .) borroweth a similitude or figure of the brasen serpent, to lead Nicodemus from his earthly imagination into the spiritual understanding of Christ, saying: “As Moses lifted up a serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that none that believe in him perish, but have everlasting life.” By which similitude the virtue of Christ’s death is better described than thou couldest declare it with a thousand words. For as those murmurers against God, as soon as they repented, were healed of their deadly wounds, through looking on the brasen serpent only, without medicine or any other help, yea, and without any other reason but that God hath said it should be so; and not to murmur again, but to leave their murmuring: even so all that repent, and believe in Christ, are saved from everlasting death, of pure grace, without, and before, their good works; and not to sin again, but to fight against sin, and henceforth to sin no more.
Even so with the ceremonies of this book thou canst prove nothing, save describe and declare only the putting away of our sins through the death of Christ. For Christ is Aaron and Aaron’s sons, and all that offer the sacrifice to purge sin. And Christ is all manner offering that is offered: he is the ox, the sheep, the goat, the kid, and lamb; he is the ox that is burnt without the host, and the scape-goat that carried all the sin of the people away into the wilderness: for as they purged the people from their worldly uncleannesses through blood of the sacrifices, even so doth Christ purge us from the uncleannesses of everlasting death with his own blood; and as their worldly sins could no otherwise be purged, than by blood of sacrifices, even so can our sins be no otherwise forgiven than through the blood of Christ. All the deeds in the world, save the blood of Christ, can purchase no forgiveness of sins; for our deeds do but help our neighbor, and mortify the flesh, and help that we sin no more: but and if we have sinned, it must be freely forgiven through the blood of Christ, or remain for ever.
And in like manner of the lepers thou canst prove nothing: thou canst never conjure out confession thence, howbeit thou hast an handsome example there to open the binding and loosing of our priests with the key of God’s word; for as they made no man a leper, even so ours have no power to command any man to be in sin, or to go to purgatory or hell. And therefore (inasmuch as binding and loosing is one power) as those priests healed no man; even so ours cannot of their invisible and dumb power drive any man’s sins away, or deliver him from hell or reigned purgatory. Howbeit if they preached God’s word purely, which is the authority that Christ gave them, then they should bind and loose, kill and make alive again, make unclean and clean again, and send to hell and fetch thence again; so mighty is God’s word. For if they preached the law of God, they should bind the consciences of sinners with the bonds of the pains of hell, and bring them unto repentance: and then if they preached unto them the mercy that is in Christ, they should loose them and quiet their raging consciences, and certify them of the favor of God, and that their sins be forgiven.
Finally, beware of allegories; for there is not a more handsome or apt thing to beguile withal than an allegory; nor a more subtle and pestilent thing in the, world to persuade a false matter, than an allegory. And contrariwise; there is not a better, vehementer, or mightier thing to make a man understand withal, than an allegory. For allegories make a man quickwitted, and print wisdom in him, and make it to abide, where bare words go but in at the one ear, and out at the other. As this, with such like sayings: ‘Put salt to all your sacrifices,’ instead of this sentence, ‘Do all your deeds with discretion,’ greeteth’ and biteth (if it be understood) more than plain words. And when I say, instead of these words, ‘Boast not yourself of your good deeds,’ ‘Eat not the blood nor the fat of your sacrifice;’ there is as great difference between them as there is distance between heaven and earth. For the life and beauty of all good deeds is of God, and we are but the carrion-lean; we are only the instrument whereby God worketh only, but the power is his: as God created Paul anew, poured his wisdom into him, gave him might, and promised him that his grace should never fail him, etc., and all without descryings, except that murdering the saints, and making them curse and rail on Christ, be meritorious. Now, as it is death to eat the blood or fat of any sacrifice, is it not (think ye) damnable to rob God of his honor, and to glorify myself with his honor?
THE PROLOGUE INTO THE FOURTH BOOK OF MOSES CALLED NUMERI.
IN the second and third book they received the law; and in this fourth they begin to work and to practice. Of which practicing ye see many good ensamples of unbelief, and what f free-will doth, when she taketh in hand to keep the law of her own power, without help of faith in the promises of God; how she leaveth her masters’ carcasses by the way in the wilderness, and bringeth them not into the land of rest. “Why could they not enter in? Because of their unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:1 <580301> .)
For had they believed, so had they been under grace, and their old sins had been forgiven them; and power should have been given them to have fulfilled the law thenceforth, and they should have been kept from all temptations that had been too strong for them. For it is written, (John 1:1 <430101> .) “He gave them power to be the sons of God, through believing in his name.”
Now to be the son of God is to love God and his commandments, and to walk in his way, after the ensample of his Son Christ. But these people took upon them to work without faith, as thou seest in the 14th of this book, where they would fight, and also did, without the word of promise; even when they were warned that they should not. And in the 16th again, they would please God with their holy, faithless works, (for where God’s word is not, there can be no faith;) but the fire of God consumed their holy works, as it did Nadab and Abihu. (Leviticus 10:1 <031001> .) And from these unbelievers turn thine eyes unto the Pharisees, which, before the coming of Christ ill his flesh, had laid the foundation of free-will after the same ensample: whereon they built holy works after their own imagination, without faith of the word, so fervently that for the great zeal of them they slew the king of all holy works, and the lord of free-will; which only through his grace maketh the will free, and looseth her from bondage of sin, and giveth her love and lust unto the laws of God, and power to fulfill them. And so through their holy works done by the power of free-will, they excluded themselves out of the holy rest of forgiveness of sins by faith in the blood of Christ.
And then look on our hypocrites, which in like manner, following the doctrine of Aristotle, and other heathen pagans, have against all the scripture set up free-will again; unto whose power they ascribe the keeping of the commandments of God. For they have set up willful poverty of another manner than any is commanded of God: and, the chastity of matrimony utterly defied, they have set up another willful chastity not required of God, which they swear, vow, and. profess to give God, whether he will give it them or no; and compel all their disciples thereunto, saying that it is in the power of every man’s free-will to observe it, contrary to Christ and his apostle Paul.
And what is become of their willful poverty? hath it not robbed the whole world, and brought all under them? Can there be either king, or emperor, or of whatsoever degree it be, except he will hold of them, and be sworn unto them to be their servant, to go and come at their lust, and to defend their quarrels, be they false or true? Their willful poverty hath already eaten up the whole world, and is yet still greedier than ever it was, insomuch that ten worlds more were not enough to satisfy the hunger thereof.
And as for their willful obedience, what is. it but the disobedience and the defiance both of all the laws of God and man; insomuch that if any prince begin to execute any law of man upon them, they curse him unto the bottom of hell, and proclaim him no right king, and that his lords ought no longer to obey him; and interdict his common people, as they were heathen Turks or Saracens? And if any man preach them God’s law, him they make an heretic and burn him to ashes. And instead of God’s law and man’s, they have set up one of their own imagination, which they observe with dispensations.
And yet in these works they have so great confidence, that they not only trust to be saved thereby, and to be higher in heaven than they that be saved through Christ, but also promise to all other forgiveness of their sins through the merits of the same; wherein they rest, and teach other to rest also, excluding the whole world from the rest of forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ’s blood.
And now, seeing that faith only letteth a man in unto rest, and unbelief excludeth him, what is the cause of this unbelief? Verily, no sin that the world seeth, but a pope-holiness, and a righteousness of their own imagination. As Paul saith, Romans 10. they be ignorant of the righteousness wherewith God justifieth, and have set up a righteousness of their own making, through which they be disobedient unto the righteousness of God. And Christ rebuketh not the Pharisees for gross sins which the world saw, but for those holy deeds which so bleared the eyes of the world, that they were taken as gods; even for long prayers, for fasting, for tithing so diligently that they left not so much as their herbs untithed, for their cleanness in washing before meat, and for washing of cups, dishes, and all manner vessels, for building the prophets’ sepulchres, and for keeping the holy day, and for turning the heathen unto the faith, and for giving of alms. For unto such holy deeds they ascribed righteousness, and therefore when the righteousness of God was preached unto them they could not but persecute it, the devil was so strong in them: which thing Christ well describeth, (Luke 11 <421101> .) saying, “That after the devil is cast out, he cometh again, and findeth his house swept, and made gay, and then taketh seven worse than himself and dwelleth therein; and so is the end of that man worse than the beginning.”
That is, when they be a little cleansed from gross sins which the world seeth, and then made gay in their own sight with the righteousness of traditions, then cometh seven, that is to say, the whole power of the devil: for seven with the Hebrews signifieth a multitude without number, and the extremity of a thing, and is a speech borrowed (I suppose) out of Leviticus, where is so oft mention made of seven. Where I would say, I will punish thee, that all the world shall take an ensample of thee; there the Jew would say, “I will circumcise thee or baptize thee seven times.” And so here by seven is meant all the devils of hell, and all the might and power of the devil. For unto what further blindness could all the devils in hell bring them, than to make them believe that they were justified through their own good works? For when they once believed that they were purged from their sins, and made righteous through their own holy works, what room was there left for the righteousness that is in Christ’s blood-shedding? And therefore when they be fallen into this blindness, they cannot but hate and persecute the light. And the more clear and evidently their deeds be rebuked, the furiouser and maliciouser blind are they, until they break out into open blasphemy and sinning against the Holy Ghost, which is the malicious persecuting of the clear truth, so manifestly proved that they cannot once hish against it: as the Pharisees persecuted Christ, because he rebuked their holy deeds; and when he proved his doctrine with the scripture and miracles, yet though they could not improve him, not reason against him, they taught that the scripture must have some other meaning, because his interpretation undermined their foundation, and plucked up by the roots the sects which they had planted; and they ascribed also his miracles to the devil. And in like manner, though our hypocrites cannot deny but this is the scripture, yet because there can be no other sense gathered thereof, but that overthroweth their buildings, therefore they ever think that it hath some other meaning than as the words sound; and that no man understandeth it, or understood it since the time of the apostles. Or if they think that some that wrote upon it, since the apostles, understood it, they yet think that we, in like manner as we understand not the text itself, so we understand not the meaning of the words of that doctor. For when thou layest the justifying of holy works, and deniest the justifying of faith, how canst thou understand St Paul, Peter, John, and the Acts of the apostles, or any scripture at all, seeing the justifying of faith is almost all that they intend to prove?
Finally, concerning vows, whereof thou readest in the 30th chapter, there may be many questions, whereunto I answer shortly, that we ought to put salt to all our offerings; that is, we ought to minister knowledge in all our works, and to do nothing whereof we could not give a reason out of God’s words. We be now in the day-light, and all the secrets of God, and all his counsel and will is opened unto us; and he that was promised should come and bless us, is come already, and hath shed his blood for us, and hath blessed us with all manner blessings, and hath obtained all grace for us, and in him we have all. Wherefore God henceforth will receive no more sacrifices of beasts of us, as thou readest, Hebrews 10 <581001> . If thou burn unto God the blood or fat of beasts, to obtain forgiveness of sins thereby, or that God should the better hear thy request, then thou dost wrong unto the blood of Christ, and Christ unto thee is dead in vain. For in him God hath promised not forgiveness of sins only, but also what. soever we ask to keep us from sin and temptation withal. And what if thou burn frankincense unto him, what if thou burn a candle, what if thou burn thy chastity or virginity unto him for the same purpose, dost thou not like rebuke unto Christ’s blood? Moreover, if thou offer gold, silver, or any other good for the same intent, is there any difference? And even so, if thou go in pilgrimage, or fastest, or goest woolward, or sprinklest thyself with holy water, or else whatsoever deed it is, or observest whatsoever ceremony it be, for like meaning, then it is like abomination. We must therefore bring the salt of the knowledge of God’s word with all our sacrifices, or else we shall make no sweet savor unto God thereof.
Thou wilt ask me, Shall I vow nothing at all? Yes, God’s commandment, which thou hast vowed in thy baptism. For what intent? Verily, for the love of Christ which hath bought thee with his blood, and made thee son and heir of God with him, that thou shouldest wait on his will and commandments, and purify thy members according to the same doctrine that hath purified thine heart: for if the knowledge of God’s word hath not purified thine heart, so that thou consentest unto the law of God that it is righteous and good, and sorrowest that thy members move thee unto the contrary, so hast thou no part with Christ. For if thou repent not of thy sin, so it is impossible that thou shouldest believe that Christ had delivered thee from the danger thereof. If thou believe not that Christ hath delivered thee, so is it impossible that thou shouldest love God’s commandments. If thou love not the commandments, so is Christ’s Spirit not in thee, which is the earnest of forgiveness of sin and of salvation.
For scripture teacheth, first repentance, then faith in Christ, that for his sake sin is forgiven to them that repent; then good works, which are nothing save the commandment of God only. And the commandments are nothing else save the helping of our neighbors at their need, and the taming of our members, that they might be pure also, as the heart is pure through hate of vice and love of virtue, as God’s word teacheth us: which works must proceed out of the faith; that is, I must do them for the love which I have to God for that great mercy which he hath shewed me in Christ, or else I do them not in the sight of God. And that I faint not in the pain of the slaying of the sin that is in my flesh, mine help is the promise of the assistance of the power of God, and the comfort of the reward to come; which reward I ascribe unto the goodness, mercy, and truth, of the promiser that hath chosen me, called me, taught me, and given me the earnest thereof; and not unto the merits of my doings or sufferings: for all that I do and suffer is but the way to the reward, and not the deserving thereof. As if the king’s grace should promise me to defend me at home in mine own realm, yet the way thither is through the sea, wherein I might haply suffer no little trouble. And yet for all that, if I might live in rest when I come thither, I would think, and so would others say, that my pains were well rewarded; which reward and benefit I would not proudly ascribe unto the merits of my pains taken by the way, but unto the goodness, mercifulness, and constant truth of the king’s grace whose gift it is, and to whom the praise and thanks thereof belongeth of duty and right. So now a reward is a gift, given freely of the goodness of the giver, and not of the deservings of the receiver. Thus it appeareth, that if I vow, whatsoever it be, for any other purpose than to tame my members, and. to be an ensample of virtue and edifying unto my neighbor, my sacrifice is unsavory, and clean without salt, and my lamp without oil, and I one of the foolish virgins, and shall be shut out from the feast of the bridegroom, when I think myself most sure to enter in.
If I vow voluntary poverty, this must be my purpose, that I will be content with a competent living, which cometh unto me either by succession of mine elders, or which I get truly with my labor in ministering, and doing service unto the commonwealth, in one office or in another, or in one occupation or other, because that riches and honor shall not corrupt my mind, and draw mine heart from God; and to give an example of virtue and edifying unto other; and that my neighbor may have a living by me as well as I. If I make a cloak of dissimulation of my vow, laying a net of reigned beggary to catch superfluous abundance of riches, and high degree and authority, and through the estimation of false holiness to feed and maintain my slothful idleness with the sweat, labor, lands, and rents of other men, after the example of our spiritualty, robbing them of their faiths, and God of his honor; turning unto mine hypocrisy that confidence which should be given unto the promises of God only; am I not a wily fox, and a ravening wolf in a lamb’s skin, and a painted sepulcher fair without and filthy within? In like manner, though I seek no worldly promotion thereby, yet if I do it to be justified therewith, and to get an higher place in heaven; thinking that I do it of my own natural strength, and of the natural power of my free-will, and that every man hath might even so to do, and that they do it not is their fault and negligence, and so, with the proud Pharisee, in comparison of myself despise the sinful publicans; what other thing do I than eat the blood and fat of my sacrifice, devouring that myself which should be offered unto God alone and his Christ? And shortly, whatsoever a man doth of his natural gifts, of his natural wit, wisdom, understanding, reason, will, and good intent, before he be otherwise and clean contrary taught of God’s Spirit, and have received other wit, understanding, reason and will, is flesh, worldly, and wrought in abominable blindness; with which a man can but seek himself, his own profit, glory and honor, even in very spiritual matters. As if I were alone in a wilderness, where no man were to seek profit or praise of, yet, if I would seek heaven of God there, I could, of mine own natural gifts, seek it no other ways than for the merits and descryings of my good works, and to enter therein by another way than by the door Christ, which were very theft; for Christ is Lord over all, and whatsoever any man will have of God, he must have it given him freely for Christ’s sake. Now to have heaven for mine own deserving, is mine own praise, and not Christ’s. For I cannot have it by favor and grace in Christ, and by mine own merits also; for free giving and deserving cannot stand together.
If thou wilt vow of thy goods unto God, thou must put salt unto this sacrifice; that is, thou must minister knowledge in this deed, as Peter teacheth, 2 Peter 1 <610101> . Thou must put oil of God’s word in thy lamp, and do it according to knowledge, if thou wait for the coming of the bridegroom to enter in with him into his rest. But thou peradventure wilt hang it about the image, to move men to devotion. Devotion is a fervent love unto God’s commandments, and a desire to be with God and with his everlasting promises. Now shall the sight of such riches as are shewed at St Thomas’s shrine, or at Walsingham, move a man to love the commandments of God better, and to desire to be loosed from his flesh and to be with God; or shall it not rather make his poor heart sigh, because he hath no such at home, and to wish part of it in another place? The priest shall have it in God’s stead. Shall the priest have it? If the priest be bought with Christ’s blood, then he is Christ’s servant, and not his own; and ought therefore to feed Christ’s flock with Christ’s doctrine, and to minister Christ’s sacraments unto them purely, for very love, and not for filthy lucre’s sake, or to be lord over them, as Peter teacheth, 1 Peter 5 <600501> ., and Paul, Acts 20 <442001> . Beside this, Christ is ours, and is a gift given us; and we be heirs of Christ, and of all that is Christ’s. Wherefore the priest’s doctrine is ours, and we heirs of it; it is the food of our souls. Therefore if he minister it not truly and freely unto us, without selling, he is a thief and a soul-murderer: and even so is he, if he take upon him to feed us, and have not wherewith. And for a like conclusion, because we also with all that we have be Christ’s, therefore is the priest heir with us also of all that we have received of God; whereof inasmuch as the priest waiteth on the word of God, and is our servant therein, therefore of right we are his debtors, and owe him a sufficient living of our goods, and even thereto a wife of our daughters owe we unto him, if he require her. And now when we have appointed him a sufficient living, whether r in tithes, rents, or in yearly wages, he ought to be content and to require no more, nor yet to receive any more; but to be an ensample of soberness and of despising worldly things, unto the ensample of his parishioners.
Wilt thou vow to offer unto the poor people? That is pleasant in the sight of God, for they be left here to do our alms upon, in Christ’s stead; and they be the right heirs of all our abundance and overplus. Moreover we must have a school to teach God’s word in (though it needeth not to be so costly); and therefore it is lawful to vow unto the building or maintenance thereof, and unto the helping of all good works. And we ought to vow to pay custom, toll, rent, and all manner duties, and whatsoever we owe; for that is God’s commandment.
If thou wilt vow pilgrimage, thou must put salt thereto in like manner, if it shall be accepted: if thou vow to go and visit the poor, or to hear God’s word, or whatsoever edifieth thy soul unto love, and good works after knowledge, or whatsoever God commandeth, it is well done, and a sacrifice that savoreth well. Ye will haply say, that ye will go to this or that place, because God hath chosen one place more than another, and will hear your petition more in one place than another. As for your prayer, it must be according to God’s word: ye may not desire God to take vengeance on him whom God’s word teacheth you to pity and to pray for. And as for the other gloss, that God will hear you more in one place than in another, I suppose it sal infatuatum, salt unsavory; for if it were wisdom, how could we excuse the death of Stephen, Acts 7 <440701> . which died for that article, that God dwelleth not in temples made with hands? We that believe in God are the temple of God, saith Paul. If a man love God, and keep his word, he is the temple of God, and hath God presently dwelling in him: as witnesseth Christ John 14th <431401> , saying, “If a man love me, he will keep my word, and then my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and dwell with him.”
If thou believe in Christ, and hast the promises which God hath made thee in thine heart, then go on pilgrimage unto thine own heart, and there pray, and God will hear thee for his mercy and truth’s sake, and for his Son Christ’s sake, and not for a few stones’ sake. What careth God for the temple? The very beasts, in that they have life in them, be much better than an heap of stones couched together.
Moreover there be causes wherefore many persons may better live chaste at one time than at another. Many may live chaste at twenty and thirty, for certain cold diseases following them, which at forty, when their health is come, cannot do so. Many be occupied with wild fantasies in their youth, that they care not for marriage, which same, when they be waxen sad, shall be greatly desirous. It is a dangerous thing to make sin where none is; and to forswear the benefit of God and to bind thyself under pain of damnation of thy soul, that thou wouldest not use the remedy that God hath created, if need required.
Another thing is this: beware that thou get thee not a false reigned chastity, made with the ungodly persuasions of St Jerome, or of Ovid in his filthy book of the remedy against love; lest, when through such imaginations thou hast utterly despised, defied and abhorred all womankind, thou come into such case through the fierce wrath of God, that thou canst neither live chaste, nor find in thy heart to marry, and so be compelled to fall into the abomination of the pope, against nature and kind.
Moreover, God is a wise father, and knoweth all the infirmities of his children, and also merciful; and therefore hath created a remedy without sin, and given thereto his favor and blessing. Let us not be wiser than God with our imaginations, nor tempt him; for as godly chastity is not every man’s gift, even so he that hath it today hath not power to continue it at his own pleasure, neither hath God promised to give it him still, and to cure his infirmities without his natural remedy; no more than he hath promised to slake his hunger without meat, or thirst without drink. Wherefore either let all things bide free as wise God hath created them, and neither vow that which God [requireth not, nor forswear that which God] permitteth thee with his favor and blessing also: or else, if thou wilt needs vow, then vow godly and under a condition, that thou wilt continue chaste so long as God giveth thee that gift, and as long as neither thine own necessity, neither charity toward thy neighbor, nor the authority of them under whose power thou art, drive thee unto the contrary.
The purpose of thy vow must be salted also with the wisdom of God. Thou mayest not vow to be justified thereby, or to make satisfaction for thy sins, or to win heaven or an higher place; for then didst thou wrong unto the blood of Christ, and thy vow were plain idolatry and abominable in the sight of God. Thy vow must be only unto the furtherance of the commandments of God; which are (as I have said) nothing but the taming of thy members, and the service of thy neighbor: that is, if thou think thy back too weak for the burden of wedlock, and that thou canst not rule thy wife, children, servants, and make provision for them godly, and without overmuch busying and unquieting thyself, and drowning thyself in worldly business unchristianly, or that thou canst serve thy neighbor in some office better being chaste than married; and then thy vow is good and lawful. And even so must thou vow abstinence of meats and drinks, so far forth as it is profitable unto thy neighbors, and unto the taming of thy flesh; but thou mayest vow neither of them unto the slaying of thy body: as Paul commandeth Timothy to drink wine, and no more water, because of his diseases. Thou wilt say that Timothy had not haply forsworn wine. I think the same; and that the apostles forsware not wedlock, though many of them lived chaste; neither yet any meat or drink, though they abstained from them; and that it were good for us to follow their example. Howbeit though I vow, and swear, and think on none exception, yet is the breaking of God’s commandments except, and all chances that hang of God: as if I swear to be in a certain place at a certain hour, to make a love-day, without exception, yet if the king in the meantime command me another way. I must go by God’s commandment, and yet break not mine oath. And in like case, if my father and mother be sick and require my presence, or if my wife, children, or household be visited, that my assistance be required, or if my neighbor’s house be a fire at the same hour, and a thousand such chances; in which all I break mine oath, and am not forsworn, and so forth.
Read God’s word diligently and with a good heart, and it shall teach thee all things.
A PROLOGUE INTO THE FIFTH BOOK OF MOSES CALLED DEUTEROMONY.
THIS is a book worthy to be read in, day and night, and never to be out of hands: for it is the most excellent of all the books of Moses. It is easy also and light, and a very pure gospel, that is to wit, a preaching of faith and love: deducing the love to God out of faith, and the love of a man’s neighbor out of the love of God. Herein also thou mayest learn right meditation or contemplation, which is, nothing else save the calling to mind, and a repeating in the heart, of the glorious and wonderful deeds of God, and of his terrible handling of his enemies and merciful entreating of them that come when he calleth them; which thing this book doth, and almost nothing else.
In the four first chapters he rehearseth the benefits of God done unto them, to provoke them to love, and his mighty deeds done above all natural power, and beyond all natural capacity of faith, that they might believe God, and trust in him and in his strength. And thirdly he rehearseth the fierce plagues of God upon his enemies, and on them which through impatience and unbelief fell from him; partly to tame and abate the appetites of the flesh which alway fight against the Spirit, and partly to bridle the wide raging lusts of them in whom was no Spirit; that though they had no power to do good of love, yet at the least way they should abstain from outward evil for fear of wrath, and cruel vengeance which should fall upon them and shortly find them, out, if they cast up God’s nurture, and run at riot beyond his laws and ordinances.
Moreover he chargeth them to put nought to, nor take ought away from God’s words, but to be diligent only to, keep them in remembrance, and in the heart, and to teach their children for fear of forgetting; and to beware either of making imagery, or of bowing themselves unto images, saying, “Ye saw no image when God spake unto you, but; heard a voice only, and that voice keep, and thereunto cleave; for it is your life, and it shall save you.” And finally, if (as the frailty of all flesh is) they shall have fallen from God, and he have brought them into trouble, adversity, and cumbrance and all necessity; yet if they repent and turn, he promiseth them, that God shall remember his mercy, and receive them to grace again.
In the fifth he repeateth the ten commandments; and, that they might see a cause to do them of love, he biddeth them remember that they were bound in Egypt and how God delivered them with a mighty hand and a stretched out arm, to serve him, and to keep his commandments: as Paul saith that we are bought with Christ’s blood, and therefore are his servants, and not our own, and ought to seek his will and honor only, and to love and serve one another for his sake.
In the sixth he setteth out the fountain of all commandments: that is, that they believe how that there is but one God that doth all, and therefore ought only to be loved with all the heart, all the soul, and all the might. For love only is the fulfilling of the commandments, as Paul also saith unto the Romans, and Galatians likewise. He warneth them also that they forget not the commandments, but reach them their children; and to shew their children also how God delivered them out of the bondage of the Egyptians, to serve him and his commandments, that the children might see a cause to work of love likewise.
The seventh is altogether of faith: he removeth all occasions that might withdraw them from the faith, and pulleth them also from all confidence in themselves, and stirreth them up to trust in God boldly and only.
Of the eighth chapter thou seest how that the cause of all temptation is, that a man might see his own heart. For when I am brought into that extremity, that I must either suffer or forsake God, then I shall feel how much I believe and trust in him, and how much I love him. In like manner, if my brother do me evil for my good, then if I love him when there is no cause in him, I see that my love was of God; and even so if I then hate him, I feel and perceive that my love was but worldly. And finally, he stirreth them to the faith and love of God, and driveth them from all confidence of their own selves.
In the ninth also he moveth them unto faith, and to put their trust in God; and draweth them from confidence of themselves, by rehearsing all the wickedness which they had wrought from the first day he knew them unto that same day. And in the end he repeateth how he conjured God in Horeb, and overcame him with prayer; where thou mayest learn the right manner to pray.
In the tenth he reckoneth up the pith of all laws, and the keeping of the law in the heart; which is to fear God, love him, and serve him with all their heart, soul and might, and keep his commandments of love. And he sheweth a reason why they should that do: even because God is Lord of heaven and earth, and hath also done all for them of his own goodness, without their deserving. And then out of the a love unto God he bringeth the love unto a man’s neighbor, saying, God is Lord above all lords, and loveth all his servants indifferently, as well the poor and feeble, and the stranger, n as the rich and mighty, and therefore will that we love the poor and the stranger. And he addeth a cause, For ye were strangers, and God delivered you, and hath brought you unto a land where ye be at home. “Love the stranger therefore” for his sake.
In the eleventh he exhorteth them to love and fear God; and rehearseth the terrible deeds of God upon his enemies, and on them that rebelled against him. And he testifieth unto them both what Will follow, if they love and fear God, and what also if they despise him and break his commandment.
In the twelfth he commandeth to put out of the way all that might be an occasion to hurt the faith, and forbiddeth to do ought after their own minds, or to alter the word of God.
In the thirteenth he forbiddeth to hearken unto ought save unto God’s word: no, though he which counselleth contrary should come with miracles; as Paul doth unto the Galatians.
In the fourteenth the beasts are forbidden, partly for uncleanness of them, and partly to cause hate between the heathen and them; that they have no conversation together, in that one abhorreth what the other eateth. Unto this fifteenth chapter all pertain unto faith and love chiefly: and in this fifteenth he beginneth to entreat more specially of things pertaining unto the commonwealth, and equity; and exhorteth unto the love of a man’s neighbor. And in the sixteenth, among other, he forgetteth not the same.
And in the seventeenth he entreateth of right and equity chiefly; insomuch that, when he looketh unto faith and unto the punishment of idolaters, he yet endeth in a law of love and, equity: forbidding to condemn any man under less than two witnesses at the least, and commandeth to bring the trespasser unto the open gate of the city, where all men go in and out, that all men might hear the cause and see that he had but right. But the pope hath found a better way; even to appose him without any accuser, and that secretly, that no man know whether he have right or no, either hear his articles or answer; for fear lest the people should search whether it were so or no.
In the eighteenth he forbiddeth all false and devilish crafts that hurt true faith. Moreover because the people could not hear the voice of the law spoken to them in fire, he promiseth them another prophet to bring them better tidings; which was spoken of Christ our Savior.
The nineteenth, and so forth unto the end of the twenty-seventh, is almost altogether of love unto our neighbors, and of laws, of equity and honesty, with now and then a respect unto faith.
The twenty-eighth is a terrible chapter, and to be trembled at. A christian man’s heart might well bleed for sorrow at the reading of it, for fear of the wrath that is like to come upon us, according unto all the curses which thou there readest. For according unto these curses hath God dealt with all nations, after they were fallen into the abominations of blindness.
The twenty-ninth is like terrible, with a godly lesson in the end, that we should leave searching of God’s secrets, and give diligence to walk according to that he hath opened unto us. For the keeping of the commandments of God teacheth wisdom, as thou mayest see in the same chapter, where Moses saith, Keep the commandments, that ye may understand what ye ought to do. But to search God’s secrets blindeth a man; as it is well proved by the swarms of our sophisters, whose wise books are now, when we look in the scripture, found but full of foolishness.
A TABLE EXPOUNDING CERTAIN WORDS OF THE FIFTH BOOK OF MOSES CALLED DEUTERONOMY. FF50
Avims . A kind of giants; and the word signifieth crooked, unright, or wicked. Belial . Wicked, or wickedness; he that hath cast the yoke of God off his neck, and will not obey God. Bruterer . Prophesier, or soothsayer. ENIMS. A kind of giants so called, because they were terrible and cruel; for Emim signifieth terribleness. Enacke . A kind of giants, so called haply because they wore chains about their necks; for enach is such a chain as men wear about their necks. Horims . A kind of giants, and signifieth noble; because that of pride they called themselves nobles, or gentles. Rock . God is called a rock, because both he and his word lasteth for ever. Whet them on thy Children. That is, exercise thy children in them, and put them in ure. Zamzumims . A kind of giants; and signifieth mischievous, or that be always imagining.
PROLOGUE OF THE PROPHET JONAS.
IN the preface to Sir Thomas More’s ‘Confutacion of Tyndale’s Answer to his Dialogue,’ he concludes his list of books ‘made in the English tongue’ by Tyndale, as follows: ‘Then have we Jonas made out by Tyndale, a book that whose delight therein shall stand in peril that Jonas was never so swallowed up with the whale, as by the delight of that book a man’s soul may be so swallowed up by the devil, that he shall never have the grace to get out again. Then have we by Tyndale also the answer to my dialogue.’
The title-page of this Confutation bears the date of 1532; but Mr.
Anderson has also found ‘Jonas in English,’ at the end of a list of books denounced by Stokesley, bishop of London, on the third of December, 1531, in Lambeth MS. No. 306, fol. 65. These notices of it are sufficient to justify our fixing upon the early part of 1531 as the probable date of the publication of the Prologue to Jonah. But whether it was published along with an English translation of Jonah by its author, or without that accompaniment, must still be reckoned doubtful. Mr. Anderson says, that ‘it contains abundant internal evidence, that the prophetical book was appended.’ (Annals of Engl. Bib. B. I. section 8. Vol. I. p. 289, note 47.)
But he allows that ‘no copy of this edition,’ that is, of an edition containing both the Prologue and text, ‘is known to exist.’ And on the other hand, in the bible called Matthew’s bible, published in 1537, whose editors were obviously desirous to use Tyndale’s translations for every portion of scripture which he had rendered into English, whether previously published or not, we find that the text of Jonah is from Coverdale’s translation, which they were fain to employ in so much of the scripture as Tyndale had not translated. The preference thus manifested for Tyndale’s versions, in a bible dedicated to Henry VIII. by editors who must have been aware of the king’s dislike to him, would not have been shown by them, if they had not felt that his translations had an undeniable claim to be preferred before Coverdale’s, on the plain ground that he had made his translations directly from the inspired original text, whilst Coverdale, according to his own title-page, had but ‘translated from the Douche and Latyn,’ or, in other words, from Luther’s German Bible and the Vulgate. It is therefore contrary to all probability that editors, whom the fear of provoking their willful sovereign could not withhold from manifesting their esteem for Tyndale’s translations, and who must have taken steps unknown to us to procure, as they did, his unpublished versions of the books from Joshua to the second of Chronicles, both inclusive, would have preferred reprinting Coverdale’s translation of Jonah, if there had been a translation of that prophet published by Tyndale, and well known to all persons interested in such subjects, as the Prologue to Jonah certainly was.
It is surely much more reasonable to believe, that when More and Stokesley spoke of what Tyndale had published in 1531, as ‘Jonah in English,’ there was no more intended than when the former said, ‘Then have we by Tyndale the Wicked Mammona,’ videlicet, his treatise on that parable. The same may be said of the mention of both in a catalogue of prohibited books, printed in the first edition of Foxe’s Acts and Mons. pp. 573-4, but omitted in subsequent editions, as if Foxe thought it too inaccurate for readmission. They there stand together as follows: ‘Item, a book called the prophet Jonas, teaching to understand the right use of Scripture. Item, a treatise of the justification by faith only, otherwise called The Parable of the Wicked Mammon.’ The enemies of the truth were only thinking of Tyndale’s doctrines, when they denounced his publications. On the other hand, there seems to have been such a general consciousness of a similarity between the work to which Jonah had been called, and that which the reformers undertook, as occasioned the issue of a remarkable number of separate editions of this prophet. If Tyndale was thereby led to select the history of Jonah for his theme, it appears from Masch’s Le Long, that bibliographers have been able to collect a list of two and twenty editions of Jonah, with Latin versions or paraphrases, besides the vernacular versions, printed during the ago of the Reformation and before its progress was brought to a pause.
The copies of the Prologue compared with Day’s folio for the present reprint are those contained in a Bible of the date of 1549, in the Baptists’ College, at Bristol, and the Bible printed by Nicolas Hyll, vi. May, MDLI. in the same collection; marked 24, B, in Mr. Anderson’s Catalogue.]
THE PROLOGUE TO THE PROPHET JONAS.
AS the envious Philistines stopped the wells of Abraham, and filled them up with earth, to put the memorial out of mind, to the intent that they might challenge the ground; even so the fleshly-minded hypocrites stop up the veins of life, which are in the scripture, with the earth of their traditions, false similitudes, and lying allegories; and that of like zeal, to make the scripture their own possession and merchandise, and so shut up the kingdom of heaven, which is God’s word; neither entering in themselves, nor suffering them that would.
The scripture hath a body without; and within a soul, spirit, and life. It hath without a bark, a shell, and as it were an hard bone, for the fleshly-minded to gnaw upon: and within it hath pith, kernel, marrow, and all sweetness for God’s elect, which he hath chosen to give them his Spirit, and to write his law, and the faith of his Son, in their hearts.
The scripture containeth three things in it: first, the law, to condemn all flesh; secondarily, the gospel, that is to say, promises of mercy for all that repent and acknowledge their sins at the preaching of the law, and consent in their hearts that the law is good, and submit themselves to be scholars to learn to keep the law, and to learn to believe the mercy that is promised them; and thirdly, the stories and lives of those scholars, both what chances fortuned them, and also by what means their schoolmaster taught them and made them perfect, and how he tried the true from the false.
When the hypocrites come to the law, they put glosses; to, and make no more of it than of a worldly law, which is satisfied with the outward work, and which a Turk may also fulfill: when yet God’s law never ceaseth to condemn a man, until it be written in his heart, and until he keep it naturally without compulsion, and all other respect, save only of pure love to God and his neighbor; as he naturally eateth when he is an hungered, without compulsion and all other respect, save to slake his hunger only. And when they come to the gospel, there they mingle their leaven, and say,’ God now receiveth us no more to mercy, but of mercy receiveth us to penance;’ that is to wit, holy deeds that make them fat bellies, and us their captives both in soul and body. And yet they feign their idol the pope so merciful, I, that if thou make a little money glister in his Balaam’s eyes, there is neither penance, nor purgatory, nor any fasting at all, but to fly to heaven as swift as a thought, and at the twinkling of an eye.
And the lives, stories, and gests of men, which are: contained in the bible, they read as things no more pertaining unto them than a tale of Robin Hood:. and as things they wet not whereto they serve, save to feign false descant and juggling allegories, to stablish their kingdom withal. And one of the chiefest and fleshliest studies they have is to magnify the saints above measure and above the truth; and with their poetry to make them greater then ever God made them. And if they find any infirmity or sin ascribed unto the saints, that they excuse with all diligence, diminishing the glory of the mercy of God, and robbing, wretched sinners of all their comfort; and think thereby to flatter the saints, and to obtain their favor, and to make special advocates of them, even as a man would obtain the favor of worldly tyrants: as they also feign the saints more cruel than ever was any heathen man, and more wreakful and vengeable than the poets feign their gods, or their furies that torment the souls in hell, if their evens be not fasted, and their images visited and saluted with a pater-noster (which prayer only our lips be acquainted with, our hearts understanding none at all) and worshipped with a candle, and the offering of our devotion in the place which they have chosen to hear supplications and meek petitions of their clients therein.
But thou, reader, think of the law of God, how that it is altogether spiritual, and so spiritual that it is never fulfilled with deeds or works, until they flow out of thine heart, with as great love toward thine neighbor, for no deserving of his, yea, though he be thine enemy, as Christ loved thee, and died for thee, for no deserving of thine, but even when thou wast his enemy; and in the mean time, throughout all our infancy and childhood in Christ, till we be grown up into perfect men, in the full knowledge of Christ, and full love of Christ again, and of our neighbors for his sake, after the example of his love to us, remembering that the fulfilling of the law is a fast faith in Christ’s blood, coupled with our profession, and submitting ourselves to do better.
And of the gospel, or promises, which thou meetest in the scripture, believe fast that God will fulfill them unto thee, and that unto the uttermost jot, at the repentance of thine heart, when thou turnest to him and forsakest evil, even of his goodness and fatherly mercy unto thee, and not for thy flattering him with hypocritish works of thine own feigning: so that a fast faith only, without respect of all works, is the forgiveness both of the sin which we did in time of ignorance with lust and consent to sin, and also of that sin which we do by chance, and of frailty, after that we are come to knowledge, and have professed the law out of our hearts. And all deeds serve only for to help our neighbors, and to tame our flesh, that we fall not to sin again, and to exercise our souls in virtue; and not to make satisfaction to God-ward for the sin that is once past.
And all other stories of the bible, without exception, are the practising of the law and of the gospel; and are true and faithful ensamples, and sure earnest that God will even so deal with us, as he did with them, in all infirmities, in all temptations, and in all like cases and chances. Wherein ye see on the one side how fatherly and tenderly, and with all compassion, God entreateth his elect, which submit themselves as scholars, to learn to walk in the ways of his laws, and to keep them of love. If they forgat themselves at a time, he would stir them up again with all mercy: if they fell and hurt themselves, he healed them again with all compassion and tenderness of heart. He hath oft brought great tribulation and adversity upon his elect; but all of fatherly love only, to teach them, and to make them see their own hearts, and the sin that there lay hid, that they might afterward feel his mercy. For his mercy waited upon them, to rid them out again, as soon as they were learned, and come to the knowledge of their own hearts; so that he never cast man away, how deep soever he had sinned, save them only which had first cast the yoke of his laws from their necks, with utter defiance and malice of heart.
Which ensamples how comfortable are they for us, when we be fallen into sin, and God is come upon us with a scourge, that we despair not, but repent with full hope of mercy, after the ensamples of mercy that are gone before! And therefore they were written for our learning, as testifieth Paul, Romans 15 <451501> . to comfort us, that we might the better put our hope and trust in God, when we see how merciful he hath been in times past unto our weak brethren that are gone before, in all their adversities, need, temptations, yea, and horrible sins into which they now and then fell.
And on the other side, ye see how they that hardened their hearts, and sinned of malice, and refused mercy that was offered them, and had no power to repent, perished at the latter end, with all confusion and shame, mercilessly. Which ensamples are very good, and necessary to keep us in awe and dread in time of prosperity, as thou mayest see by Paul, 1 Corinthians 10 <461001> . that we abide in the fear of God, and wax not wild, and fall to vanities, and so sin and provoke God, and bring his wrath upon us.
And thirdly, ye see in the practice, how as God is merciful and longsuffering, even so were all his true prophets and preachers; bearing the infirmities of their weak brethren, and their own wrongs and injuries, with all patience and long-suffering, never casting any of them off their backs, until they sinned against the Holy Ghost, maliciously persecuting the open and manifest truth: contrary unto the ensample of the pope, which in sinning against God, and to quench the truth of his Holy Spirit, is ever chief captain and trumpet-blower to set other at work, and seeketh only his own freedom, liberty, privilege, wealth, prosperity, profit, pleasure, pastime, honor and glory, with the bondage, thraldom, captivity, misery, wretchedness, and vile subjection of his brethren; and in his own cause is so fervent, so stiff and cruel, that he will not suffer one word spoken against his false majesty, wily inventions, and juggling hypocrisy, to be unavenged, though all Christendom should be set together by the ears, and should cost he cared not how many hundred thousand their lives.
Now, that thou mayest read Jonas fruitfully, and not as a poet’s fable, but as an obligation between God and thy soul, as an earnest-penny given thee of God, that he will help thee in time of need, if thou turn to him, and as the word of God, the only food and life of thy soul, this mark and note.
First count Jonas the friend of God, and a man chosen of God, to testify his name unto the world; but yet a young scholar, weak and rude, after the fashion of the apostles while Christ was with them yet bodily, which, though Christ taught them ever to be meek and to humble themselves, yet oft strove among themselves who should be greatest. The sons of Zebedee would sit the one on the right hand of Christ, the other on the left. They would pray that fire might descend from heaven, and censure,. the Samaritans. When Christ asked, “Who say men that I am?” Peter answered, “Thou art the Son of the living God;” as though Peter had been as perfect as an angel. But immediately after, when Christ preached unto them of his death and passion, Peter was angry and rebuked Christ, and thought earnestly that he had raved, and not wist what he said; as at another time, when Christ was so fervently busied in healing the people that he had no leisure to eat, they went out to hold him, supposing that he had been beside himself. And one that cast out devils in Christ’s name they forbade, because he waited not on them; so glorious were they yet.
And though Christ taught alway to forgive, yet Peter, after long going to school, asked whether men should seven times; thinking that eight times had been too much. And at the last supper Peter would have died with Christ; but yet within few hours after he denied him, both cowardly and shamefully. And after the same manner, though he had so long heard that no man might avenge himself, but rather turn the other cheek to, than to smite again; yet when Christ was in taking, Peter asked whether it were lawful to smite with the sword, and tarried none answer, but laid on rashly.
So that though, when we come first unto knowledge of the truth, and that peace is made between God and us, we love his laws, and believe and trust in him as in our father, and have good hearts unto him, and be born anew in the Spirit, yet we are but children and young scholars, weak and feeble; and must have leisure to grow in the Spirit, in knowledge, love, and in the deeds thereof, as young children must have time to grow in their bodies.
And God, our father and schoolmaster, feedeth us and teacheth us according unto the capacity of our stomachs, and maketh us to grow and wax perfect, and fineth and trieth us as gold in the fire of temptations and tribulations; as Moses witnesseth, Deuteronomy 8 <050801> . saying: “Remember all the way by which the Lord thy God carried thee this forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to tempt, or provoke thee, that it might be known what were in thine heart. He brought thee into adversity, and made thee an hungered, and then fed thee with manna, which neither thou nor yet thy fathers ever knew of, to teach that man liveth not by bread only, but by all that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
For the promises of God are life unto all that cleave unto them, much more than is bread and bodily sustenance; as the journey of the children of Israel out of Egypt into the land promised them ministereth thee notable ensamples, and that abundantly, as doth all the rest of the bible also.
God, therefore, to teach Jonas, and to show him his own heart, and to make him perfect, and to instruct us also by his ensample, sent him out of the land of Israel, where he was a prophet, to go among the heathen people, and to the greatest and mightiest city of the world then, called Niniveh, to preach that, within forty days they should all perish for their sins, and that the city should be overthrown. Which message the free will of Jonas had as much power to do as the weakest-hearted woman in the world hath power, if she were commanded, to leap into a tub of living snakes and adders: as haply, if God had commanded Sarah to have sacrificed her son Isaac, as he did Abraham, she would have disputed with him ere she had done it; or though she were strong enough, yet many an holy saint could not have found in their hearts, but would have run away from the presence of the commandment of God with Jonas, if they had been so strongly tempted.
For Jonas thought of this manner: Lo, I am here a prophet unto God’s people the Israelites, which, though they have God’s word testified unto them daily, yet despise it, and’, worship God under the likeness of calves, and after all manner fashions, save after his own word; and therefore are of all nations the worst, and most worthy of punishment: and yet God, for love of few that are among them, and for his name’s sake, spareth and defendeth them. How then should God take so cruel vengeance on so great a multitude of them to whom his name was never preached, and therefore are not the tenth part so evil as these? If I shall therefore go preach, so shall I lie and shame myself, and God thereto, and make them the more to despise God, and set the less by him, and to be the more cruel unto his people.
And upon that imagination he fled from the face or presence of God; that is, out of the country where God was worshipped in, and from the prosecuting of God’s commandment; and thought, I will get me another way, among the heathen people, and be no more a prophet, but live at, rest and out of all cumbrance. Nevertheless, the God of all mercy,’ which careth for his elect children, and turneth all unto good to them, and smiteth them to heal them again, and killeth them to make them live again, and playeth with them (as a father doth sometime with his young ignorant children), and tempteth them, and proveth them to make them see their own hearts, provided for Jonas how all things should be.
When Jonas entered into the ship, he laid him down to sleep, and to take his rest: that is, his conscience was tossed between the commandment of God, which sent him to Niniveh, and his fleshly wisdom, that dissuaded and counselled him the contrary, and at the last prevailed against the commandment, and carried him another way, as a ship caught between two streams; and as poets feign the mother of Meleager to be between divers affections, while to avenge her brother’s death she sought to slay her own son. Whereupon for very pain and tediousness he lay down to sleep, for to put the commandment, which so gnew and fretted his conscience, out of mind; as the nature of all wicked is, when they have sinned a good to seek all means with riot, revel, and pastime, to drive the remembrance of sin out of their thoughts; or, as Adam did, to cover their nakedness with aprons of pope-holy works. But God awoke him out of his dream, and set his sins before his face.
For when the lot had caught Jonas, then be sure that his sins came to remembrance again, and that his conscience raged no less than the waves of the sea. And then he thought that he only was a sinner, and the heathen that were in the ship none in respect of him; and thought also, as verily as he was fled from God, that as verily God had cast him away. For the sight of the rod maketh the natural child not only to see and to knowledge his fault, but also to forget all his father’s old mercy and kindness. And then he confessed his sin openly, and had yet lever perish alone, than that the other should have perished with him for his sake; and so, of very desperation to have lived any longer, he bade east him into the sea betimes, except they would be lost also.
To speak of lots, how far forth they are lawful, is a light question. First, to use them for the breaking of strife, (as when partners, their goods as equally divided as they can, take every man his part by lot, to avoid all suspicion of deceitfulness; and as the apostles, in the first of the Acts, when they sought another to succeed Judas the traitor, and two persons were presented, then, to break strife, and to satisfy all parties, did cast lots whether should be admitted, desiring God to temper them, and to take whom he knew most meet, seeing they wist not whether to prefer, or haply could not all agree on either,) is lawful, and in all like cases. But to abuse them unto the tempting of God, and to compel him therewith to utter things whereof we stand in doubt, when we have no commandment of him so to do, as these heathen here did, though God turned it unto his glory, cannot be but evil.
The heathen shipment, astonied at the sight of the miracle, feared God, prayed to him, offered sacrifice, and vowed vows. And I doubt not but that some of them, or haply all, came thereby unto the true knowledge and true worshipping of God, and were won to God in their souls. And thus God, which is infinite merciful in all his ways, wrought their soul’s health out of the infirmity of Jonas; even of his good will and purpose, and love, wherewith he loved them before the world was made, and not of chance, as it appeareth unto the eyes of the ignorant.
And that Jonas was three days and three nights in the belly of his fish, we cannot thereby prove unto the Jews and infidels, or unto any man, that Christ must therefore die, and be buried, and rise again: but we use the ensample and likeness to strength the faith of the weak. For he that believeth the one, cannot doubt in the other: inasmuch as the hand of God was no less mighty in preserving Jonas alive against all natural possibility, and in delivering him safe out of his fish, than in raising up Christ again out of his sepulcher. And we may describe the power and virtue of the resurrection thereby, as Christ himself borroweth the similitude thereto, Matthew 12 <401201> . saying unto the Jews that came about him, and desired a sign or a wonder from heaven, to certify them that he was Christ: “This evil and wedlock-breaking nation” (which break the wedlock of faith, where-with they be married unto God, and believe in their false works,) “seek a sign; but there shall no sign be given them, save the sign of the prophet Jonas. For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, even so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Which was a watch-word (as we say), and a sharp threatening unto the Jews, and as much to say as thus: ‘Ye hard-hearted Jews seek a sign; lo, this shall be your sign. As Jonas was raised out of the sepulcher of his fish, and then sent unto the Ninivites to preach that they should perish; even so shall I rise again out of my sepulcher, and come and preach repentance unto you. See, therefore, when ye see the sign, that ye repent, or else ye shall surely perish, and not escape. For though the infirmities which ye now see in my flesh be a let unto your fathers, ye shall then be without excuse when ye see so great a miracle, and so great power of God shed out upon you.’ And so Christ came again after the resurrection in his Spirit, and preached repentance unto them by the mouth of his apostles and disciples, and with miracles of the Holy Ghost. And all that repented not perished shortly after, and the rest [were] carried away captive into all quarters of the world for an example, as ye see unto this day.
And in like manner, since the world began, wheresoever repentance was offered and not received, there God took cruel vengeance immediately: as ye see in the flood of Nee, in the overthrowing of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all the country about; and as ye see of Egypt, of the Amorites, Canaanites, and afterward of the very Israelites; and then, at the last, of the Jews too, and of the Assyrians and Babylonians; and so throughout all the empires of the world.
Gildas preached repentance unto the old Britains that inhabited England.
They repented not, and therefore God sent in their enemies upon them on every side, and destroyed them up, and gave the land unto other nations. And great vengeance hath been taken in that land for sin since that time.
Wickliffe preached repentance unto our fathers not long since. They repented not; for their hearts were indurate, and their eyes blinded with their own pope-holy righteousness, wherewith they had made their souls gay against the receiving again of the wicked spirit, that bringeth seven worse than himself with him, and maketh the latter end worse than the beginning: for in open sins there is hope of repentance, but in holy hypocrisy none at all. But what followed? They slew their true and right king, and set up three wrong kings a row, under which all the noble blood was slain up, and half the commons thereto, what in France, and ‘what with their own sword, in fighting among themselves for the crown; and the cities and towns decayed, and the land brought half into a wilderness, in respect of that it was before.
And now Christ, to preach repentance, is risen yet once again out of his sepulcher, in which the pope had buried him, and kept him down with his pillars and poleaxes, and all disguisings of hypocrisy, with guile, wiles and falsehood, and with the sword of all princes, which he had blinded with his false merchandise. And as I doubt not of the ensamples that are past, so am I sure that great wrath will follow, except repentance turn it back again, and cease it.
When Jonas had been in the fish’s belly a space, and the rage of his conscience was somewhat quieted and suaged, and he come to himself again, and had received a little hope, the qualms and pangs of desperation which went over his heart half overcome, he prayed; as he maketh mention in the text, saying, “Jonas prayed unto the Lord his God out of the belly of the fish.” But the words of that prayer are not here set. The prayer that here standeth, in the text, is the prayer of praise and thanksgiving, which he prayed and wrote when he was escaped, and past all jeopardy: in the end of which prayer he saith, “I will sacrifice with the voice of thanks giving, and pay that I have vowed; that saving cometh of the Lord.” For verily, to confess out of the heart that all benefits come of God, even out of the goodness of his mercy, and not deserving of our deeds, is the only sacrifice that pleaseth God; and to believe that all the Jews vowed in their circumcision, as we in our baptism; which vow Jonas, now being taught with experience, promiseth to pay. For those outward sacrifices of beasts, unto which Jonas had haply ascribed too much before, were but feeble and childish things, and not ordained that the works of themselves should be a service unto the people; but to put them in remembrance of this inward sacrifice of thanks and of faith, to trust and believe in God the only Savior: which signification, when it was away, they were abominable, and devilish idolatry and image-service; as our ceremonies and sacraments are become now, to all that trust and believe in the work of them, and are not taught the significations, to edify their souls with knowledge and the doctrine of God.
When Jonas was east upon land again, then his will was free, and had power to go whither God sent him, and to do what God bade, his own imaginations laid apart. For he had been at a new school, yea, and in a furnace, where he was purged of much refuse and dross of fleshly wisdom, which resisted the wisdom of God, and led Jonas’s will contrary unto the will of God. For as far as we be blind in Adam, we cannot but seek and will our own profit, pleasure, and glory; and as far as we be taught in the Spirit, we cannot but seek and will the pleasure and glory of God only.
And as [to] the three days’ journey of Niniveh, whether it were in length, or to go round about it, or through all the streets, I commit unto the discretion of other men. But I think that it was then the greatest city of the, world.
And that Jonas went a day’s journey in the city: I suppose he did it not in one day, but went fair and easily; preaching here a sermon, and there another, and rebuked the sin of the people, for which they must perish.
And when thou art come unto the repentance of the Ninivites, there hast thou sure earnest, that howsoever angry God be, yet he remembereth mercy unto all that truly repent and believe in mercy: which ensample our Savior Christ also casteth in the teeth of the indurate Jews, saying, “The Ninivites shall rise in judgment with this nation, and condemn them; for they repented at the preaching of Jonas, and behold a greater than Jonas is here:” meaning of himself, at whose preaching yet, though it were never so mighty to pierce the heart, and for all his miracles thereto, the hard-hearted Jews could not repent; when the heathen Ninivites repented at the bare preaching of Jonas, rebuking their sins without any miracle at all. Why? For the Jews had leavened the spiritual law of God, and with their glosses had made it altogether earthly and fleshly, and so had set a veil or covering on Moses’s face, to shadow and darken the glorious brightness of his countenance. It was sin to steal; but to rob widows’ houses under a color of long praying, and to poll in the name of offerings, and to snare the people with intolerable constitutions against all love, to catch their money out of their purses, was no sin at all.
To smite father and mother was sin; but to withdraw help from them at their need, for blind zeal of offering, unto the profit of the holy Pharisees, was then as meritorious, as it is now to let all thy kin choose whether they will sink or swim, while thou buildest and makest goodly foundations for holy people, which thou hast chosen to be thy Christ, for to supple thy soul with the oil of their sweet blessings; and to be thy Jesus, for to save thy soul from the purgatory of the blood that only purgeth sin, with their watching, fasting, woolward-going, and rising at midnight, etc., wherewith yet they purge not themselves from their covetousness, pride, lechery, or any vice that thou seest among the lay-people.
It was great sin for Christ to heal the people on the sabbath-day, unto the glory of God his Father; but none at all for them to help their cattle, unto their own profit.
The high prelates so defended the right of holy church, and so feared the people with the curse of God and terrible pains of hell, that no man durst leave the vilest herb in his garden untithed. And the offerings and things dedicate unto God, for the profit of his holy vicars, were in such estimation and reverence, that it was a much greater sin to swear truly by them, than to forswear thyself by God. What vengeance then of God, and how terrible and cruel damnation, think ye, preached they to fall on them that had stolen so the holy things? And yet saith Christ, that righteousness and faith, in keeping promise, mercy, and indifferent judgment, were utterly trodden under foot, and clean despised of those blessed fathers, which so mightily maintained Aaron’s patrimony, and had made it so prosperous, and environed it, and walled it about on every side with the fear of God, that no man durst touch it.
It was great holiness to garnish the sepulchres of the prophets, and to condemn their own fathers for slaying of them; and yet were they themselves, for blind zeal of their own constitutions, as ready as their fathers to slay whosoever testified unto them the same truth which the prophets testified unto their fathers. So that Christ compareth all the righteousness of those holy patriarchs unto the outward beauty of a painted sepulcher, full of stench and all uncleanness within.
And finally, to beguile a man’s neighbor in subtle bargaining, and to wrap and compass him in with cautels of the law, was then as it is now in the kingdom of the pope: by the reason whereof they excluded the law of love out of their hearts, and consequently all true repentance; for how could they repent of that they could not see to be sin?
And on the other side they had set up a righteousness of holy works to cleanse their souls withal; as the pope sanctifieth us with holy oil, holy bread, holy salt, holy candles, holy dumb ceremonies, and holy dumb blessings, and with whatsoever holiness thou wilt, save with the holiness of God’s word; which only speaketh unto the heart, and sheweth the soul his filthiness and uncleanness of sin, and leadeth her by the way of repentance unto the fountain of Christ’s blood, to wash it away through faith. By the reason of which false righteousness they were disobedient unto the righteousness of God, which is the forgiveness of sin in Christ’s blood, and could not believe it. And so, through fleshly interpreting the law, and false imagined righteousness, their hearts were hardened, and made as stony as clay in a hot furnace of fire, that they could receive neither repentance, nor faith, or any manner of grace at all.
But the heathen Ninivites, though they were blinded with lusts a good yet were in those two points uncorrupt and unhardened; and therefore, with the only preaching of Jonas, came unto the knowledge of their sins, and confessed them, and repented truly, and turned every man from his evil deeds, and declared their sorrow of heart and true repentance with their deeds, which they did out of faith and hope of forgiveness; chastising their bodies with prayer and fasting, and with taking all pleasures from the flesh; trusting, as God was angry for their wickedness, even so should he forgive them of his mercy, if they repented, and forsook their misliving.
And in the last end of all thou hast yet a goodly ensample of learning, to see how earthy Jonas is still, for all his trying in the whale’s belly. He was so sore displeased because the Ninivites perished not, that he was weary of his life, and wished after death, for very sorrow that he had lest the glory of his prophesying, in that his prophecy came not to pass. But God rebuked him with a likeness, saying, ‘It grieveth thine heart for the loss of a vile shrub, or spray, whereon thou bestowedst no labor or cost, neither was it thine handywork. How much more then should it grieve mine heart the loss of so great a multitude of innocents as are in Niniveh, which are all mine hands’ work? Nay, Jonas, I am God over all, and father as well unto the heathen as unto the Jews, and merciful to all, and warn ere I smite; neither threat I so cruelly by any prophet, but that I will forgive, if they repent and ask mercy; neither, on the other side, whatsoever I promise will I fulfill it, save for their sakes only which trust in me, and submit themselves to keep my laws of very love, as natural children.’
On this manner to read the scripture is the right use thereof, and why the Holy Ghost caused it to be written: that is, that thou first sack out the law that God will have thee to do, interpreting it spiritually, without gloss or covering the brightness of Moses’s face; so that thou feel in thine heart how that it is damnable sin before God not to love thy neighbor that is thine enemy as purely as Christ loved thee; and that not to love thy neighbor in thine heart is to have committed already all sin against him.
And therefore, until that love be come, thou must knowledge unfeignedly that there is sin in the best deed thou doest; and it must earnestly grieve thine heart, and thou must wash all thy good deeds in Christ’s blood, ere they can be pure, and an acceptable sacrifice unto God, and must desire, God the Father for his sake to take thy deeds a worth, and to pardon the imperfectness of them, and to give thee power to do them better, and with more fervent love.
Which two points, that is to wit, the law spiritually interpreted, how that all is damnable sin that is not; unfeigned love out of the ground and bottom of the heart, after the ensample of Christ’s love to us, because we be all equally created and formed of one God our Father, and indifferently bought and redeemed with one blood of our Savior Jesus Christ; and that the promises be given unto a repenting soul, that thirsteth and longeth after them, of the pure and fatherly mercy of God, through our faith only, without all deserving of our deeds or merits of our works, but for Christ’s sake alone, and for the merits and deservings of his works, death, and passions that he suffered altogether for us, and not for himself: which two points, I say, if they be written in thine heart, are the keys which so open all the scripture unto thee, that no creature can lock thee out, and with which thou shalt go in and out, and find pasture and food everywhere. And if these lessons be not written in thine heart, then is all the scripture shut up as a kernel in the shell, so that thou mayest read it, and commune of it, and rehearse all the stories of it, and dispute wittily, and be a profound sophister, and yet understand not one jot thereof.
And thirdly, that thou take the stories and lives which are contained in the bible for sure and undoubted ensamples that God so will deal with us unto the world’s end.
Herewith, reader, farewell; and be commended unto God, and unto the grace of his Spirit. And first see that thou stop not thine ears unto the calling of God, and harden not thine heart, beguiled with fleshly interpreting of the law, and false imagined and hypocritish righteousness, and so the Ninivites rise with thee at the day of judgment, and condemn thee.
And secondarily, if thou find ought amiss, when thou seest thyself in the glass of God’s word, think it necessary wisdom to amend the same betimes, monished and warned by the ensamples of other men, rather than to tarry until thou be beaten also.
And thirdly, if it shall so chance that the wild lusts of thy flesh shall blind thee, and carry thee clean away with them for a time; yet at the latter end, when the God of all mercy shall have compassed thee in on every side with temptations, tribulation, adversities and cumbrance, to bring thee home again unto thine own heart, and to set thy sins which thou wouldest so fain cover, and put out of mind with delectation of voluptuous pastimes, before the eyes of thy conscience; then call the faithful ensample of Jonas and all like stories unto thy remembrance, and with Jonas turn unto thy Father that smote thee, not to cast thee away, but to lay a corrosive and a fretting plaster unto the boil that lay hid and fret inward, to draw the disease out, and to make it appear, that thou mightest feel thy sickness and the danger thereof, and come and receive the healing plaster of mercy.
And forget not that whatsoever ensample of mercy hath shewed since the beginning of the world, the same is promised thee, if thou wilt in like manner turn again, and receive it as they did; and with Jonas be aknowen of thy sin, and confess it, and knowledge it unto thy Father.
And as the law which fretteth thy conscience is in thine heart, and is none outward thing, even so seek within thy heart the plaster of mercy, the promises of forgiveness in our Savior Jesus Christ, according unto all the ensamples of mercy that are gone before.
And with Jonas let them that wait on vanities, and seek God here and there, and in every temple save in their hearts, go, and seek thou the testament of God in thine heart. For in thine heart is the word of the law; and in thine heart is, the word of faith in the promises of mercy in Jesus Christ: so that if thou confess with a repenting heart and knowledge, and surely believe that Jesus is Lord over all sin, thou art safe.
And finally, when the rage of thy conscience is ceased, and quieted with fast faith in the promises of mercy, then offer with Jonas the offering of praise and thanksgiving, and’, pay the vow of thy baptism, that God only sayeth, of his only mercy and goodness; that is, believe steadfastly, and preach constantly, that it is God only that smiteth, and God only that healeth: ascribing the cause of thy tribulation unto thine own sin, and the cause of thy deliverance unto the mercy of God.
And beware of the leaven that saith, we have power in our free-will, before the preaching of the gospel, to deserve grace, to keep the law of congruity, or God to be unrighteous. And say with John in the first [chapter], that as the law was given by Moses, even so grace to fulfill it is given by Christ.
And when they say our deeds with grace deserve heaven, say thou with Paul, (Romans 6 <450601> .) that “everlasting life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord;” and that (John 1 <430101> .) we be made sons by faith; and therefore (Romans 8 <450801> .) “heirs of God with Christ.” And say, that we receive all of God through faith, that followeth repentance; and. that we do not our works unto God, but either unto ourselves, to slay the sin that remaineth in the flesh, and to wax perfect; either unto our neighbors, which do as much for us again in other things. And when a man exceedeth in gifts of grace, let him understand that they be given him, as well for his weak brethren, as for himself: as though all the bread be committed unto the panter yet for his fellows with him, which give the thanks unto their lord, and recompense the panter again with other kind of service in their offices. And when they say that Christ hath made no satisfaction for the sin we do after our baptism; say thou with the doctrine of Paul, that in our baptism we receive the merits of Christ’s death through repentance and faith, of which two baptism is the sign: and though when we sin of frailty after our baptism, we receive the sign no more, yet we be renewed again through repentanco, and faith in Christ’s blood; of which twain that sign of baptism, ever continued among us in baptizing our young children, doth ever keep us in mind, and call us back again unto our profession, if we be gone astray, and promiseth us forgiveness. Neither can actual sin be washed away with our works, but with Christ’s blood; neither can there be any other sacrifice, or satisfaction to Godward for them, save Christ’s blood: forasmuch as we can do No works unto God, but receive only of his mercy with our repenting faith, through Jesus Christ our Lord and only Savior: unto whom, and unto God our Father through him, and unto his holy Spirit, that only purgeth, sanctifieth, and washeth us in the innocent blood of our redemption, be praise for ever. Amen.
THE PROLOGUES UPON THE GOSPELS AND EPISTLES.
Tyndale’s New Test., printed at Antwerp in 1534, by Martin Emperour; a 4to. New Test. of 1536, unnoticed by Mr. Anderson, but described in the printed catalogue of the Test. and Bibles in the collection of Lea Wilson, Esq.: and a New Test. of Coverdale, of the date of 1538, in which all Tyndale’s prologues are inserted, but not with perfect faithfulness; for its editor has suppressed here and there a sentence or a clause that bore too hard on popery to be palatable to the ruling powers of that date.
The full title of the 4to. is, “The Newe Testament yet once agayne corrected by Willyam Tindale, whereunto is added a necessary table wherein easily and lightely may be founde any storye contayned in the gospells of S. Matthew, S. Marke, S. Luke, S. John and in the Actes of the Apostles. Jesus sayde, Marke xvi., Go ye into all the worlde and preache the glad tydinges to all creatures: and he that beleveth and is baptised, shal be saved. Prynted in the yere of our Lord God MD and XXXVI.”]
PROLOGUE UPON THE GOSPEL OF ST MATTHEW.
HERE hast thou, most dear reader, the new Testament, or covenant made with us of God in Christ’s blood, which I have looked over again, now at the last, with all diligence, and compared it unto the Greek, and have weeded out of it many faults, which lack of help at the beginning, and oversight, did sow therein If aught seem changed, or not altogether agreeing with the Greek, let the finder of the fault consider the Hebrew phrase or manner of speech, left in the Greek words; whose preterperfect tense and present tense are oft both one, and the fixture tense is the optative mood also, and the future tense oft the imperative mood in the active voice, and in the passive ever. Likewise person for person, number for number, and interrogation for a conditional, and such like, is with the Hebrews a common usage. I have also in many places set light in the margin to understand the text by. If any man find faults either with the translation, or aught beside, (which is easier for many to do than so well to have translated it themselves of their own pregnant wits at the beginning, without an ensample,) to the same it shall be lawful to translate it themselves, and to put what they lust thereto. If I shall perceive, either by myself or by information of other, that aught be escaped me, or might more plainly be translated, I will shortly after cause it to be amended. Howbeit, in many places methinketh it better to put a declaration in the margin, than to run too far from the text. And in many places, where the text seemeth at the first chop hard to be understood, yet the circumstances before and after, and often reading together, make it plain enough.
Moreover, because the kingdom of heaven, which is the scripture and word of God, may be so locked up that he which readeth or heareth it cannot understand it, as Christ testifieth how that the scribes and Pharisees had so shut it up (Matthew 23 <402301> .), and had taken away the key of knowledge (Luke 11 <421101> .), that the Jews, which thought themselves within, were yet so locked out, and are to this day, that they can understand no sentence of the scripture unto their salvation, though they can rehearse the texts every where, and dispute, thereof as subtilly as the popish doctors of Duns’s dark learning, which with their sophistry served us as the Pharisees did the Jews: therefore, that I might be found faithful to my Father and Lord, in distributing unto my brethren and fellows of one faith their due and necessary food, so dressing it and seasoning it, that the weak stomachs may receive ‘it also, and be the better for it; I thought it my duty, most dear reader, to warn thee before, and to shew thee the right way in, and to give thee the true key to open it withal, and to arm thee against false prophets and malicious hypocrites; whose perpetual study is to blind the scripture with glosses, and there to lock it up where it should save the soul, and to make us shoot at a wrong mark, to put our trust in those things that profit their bellies only, and slay our souls.
The right way, yea, and the only way, to understand the scripture unto salvation, is that we earnestly and above all, things search for the profession of our baptism, or covenants! made between God and us. As, for an example, Christ saith, (Matthew 5 <400501> .) “Happy are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
Lo, here God hath made a covenant with us, to be merciful unto us, if we will be merciful one to another; so that the man which sheweth mercy unto his neighbor may be bold to trust in God for mercy at all needs: and contrariwise, judgment without mercy shall be to him that sheweth not mercy. So now, if he that sheweth no mercy trust in God for mercy, his faith is carnal and worldly, and but vain presumption: for God hath promised mercy only to the merciful. And therefore the merciless have not God’s word that they shall have God’s mercy, but, contrariwise, that they shall have judgment without mercy. And, (Matthew 6 <400601> .) “If ye shall forgive men their faults, your heavenly Father shall forgive you; but and if ye shall not forgive men their faults, no more shall your Father forgive you your faults.”
Here also, by the virtue and strength of this covenant, wherewith God of his mercy hath bound himself to us unworthy, he that forgiveth his neighbor, when he returneth and amendeth, may be bold to believe and trust in God for remission of whatsoever he hath done amiss. And contrariwise, he that will not forgive, cannot but despair of forgiveness in the end, and fear judgment without mercy.
The general covenant, wherein all other are, comprehended and included, is this: If we meek ourselves to God, to keep all his laws, after the example of Christ, then God hath bound himself unto us, to keep and make good all the mercies promised in Christ throughout all the scripture.
All the whole law, which was given to utter our corrupt nature, is comprehended in the ten commandments. And the ten commandments are comprehended in these two, Love God and thy neighbor. And he that loveth his neighbor, in God and Christ, fulfilleth these two; and consequently the ten; and finally all the other. Now if we love our neighbors in God and Christ, that is to wit, if we be loving, kind, and merciful to them, because God hath created them unto his likeness, and Christ hath redeemed them and bought them with his blood, then may we be bold to trust in God, through Christ and his deserving, for all mercy. For God hath promised and bound himself to us, to shew us all mercy, and to be a Father almighty to us, so that we shall not need to fear the power of all our adversaries.
Now if any man, that submitteth not himself to keep the commandments, do think that he hath any faith in God, the same man’s faith is vain, worldly, damnable, devilish, and plain presumption, as is above said, and is no faith that can justify, or be accepted before God. And that is it that James meaneth in his epistle. For “how can a man believe,” saith Paul, “without a preacher?” (Romans 10 <451001> .) Now read all the scripture, and see where God sent any to preach mercy to any, save unto them only that repent, and turn to God with all their hearts, to keep his commandments.
Unto the disobedient, that will not turn, is threatened wrath, vengeance, and damnation, according to all the terrible acts and fearful examples of the bible.
Wherefore I have ever noted the covenants in the margins, and also the promises. Moreover, where thou findest a promise, and no covenant expressed therewith, there must thou understand a covenant; that we, when we be received to grace, know it to be our duty to keep the law. As for an example, when the scripture saith, (Matthew 7 <400701> .) “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you;” it is to be understood, if that when thy neighbor asketh, seeketh, or knocketh unto thee, thou then show him the same mercy which thou desirest of God, then hath God bound himself to help thee again, and else not.
Also you see that two things are required to be in a christian man. The first is a steadfast faith and trust in; almighty God, to obtain all the mercy that he hath promised us through the deserving and merits of Christ’s blood only, without all respect to our own works. And the other is, that we forsake evil and turn to God, to keep his laws, and to fight against ourselves and our corrupt nature perpetually, that we may do the will of God every day better and better.
This have I said, most dear reader, to warn thee, lest thou shouldest be deceived, and shouldest not only read the scriptures in vain and to no profit, but also unto thy greater damnation. For the nature of God’s word is, that whosoever read it, or hear it reasoned and disputed before him, it will, begin immediately to make him every day better and better, till he be grown into a perfect man in the knowledge of Christ and love of the law of God; or else make him worse and worse, till he be hardened that he openly resist the Spirit of God, and then blaspheme after the example of Pharao, Korah, Abiram, Balaam, Judas, Simon Magus, and such other. This to be even so, the words of Christ (John 3 <430301> .) do well confirm: “This is condemnation,” saith he; “the light is come into the world, but the men loved darkness more than light, for their deeds were evil.” Behold, when the light of God’s word cometh to a man, whether he read it or hear it preached and testified, and he yet have no love thereto, to fashion his life thereafter, but consenteth still unto his old deeds of ignorance; then beginneth his just damnation immediately, and he is henceforth without excuse, in that he refused mercy offered him. For God offereth mercy upon the condition that he will mend his living; but he will not come under the covenant; and from that hour forward he waxeth worse and worse, God taking his Spirit of mercy and grace from him, for his unthankfulness’ sake. And Paul writeth, (Romans 1 <450101> .) that the heathen, because when they knew God, they had no lust to honor him with godly living, therefore God poured his wrath upon them, and took his Spirit from them, and gave them up to their hearts’ lusts, to serve sin, from iniquity to iniquity, till they were thoroughly hardened and past repentance. And Pharao, because when the word of God was in his country, and God’s people scattered throughout all his land, and yet he neither loved them nor it; therefore God gave him up, and in taking his Spirit of grace from him so hardened his heart with covetousness, that afterward no miracle could convert him.
Hereunto pertaineth the parable of the talents. (Matthew 25 <405501> .) The Lord commandeth the talent to be taken away from the evil and slothful servant, and to bind him hand and foot, and to cast him into utter darkness, and to give the talent unto him that had ten, saying, “To all that have more shall be given; but from him that hath not, that he hath shall be taken from him.”
That, is to say, he that hath a good heart towards the word of God, and a set purpose to fashion his deeds thereafter, and to garnish it with godly living, and to testify it to other, the same shall increase daily more and more in the grace of Christ. But he that loveth it not, to live thereafter and to edify other, the same shall lose the grace of true knowledge, and be blinded again, and every day wax worse and worse, and blinder and blinder, till he be an utter enemy of the word of God, and his heart so hardened, that it shall be impossible to convert him. And (Luke 12 <421201> .) the servant that knoweth his master’s will, and prepareth not himself, shall be beaten with many stripes, that is, shall have greater damnation. And (Matthew 7 <400701> .) all that hear the word of God, and do not thereafter, build on sand; that is, as the foundation laid on sand cannot resist violence of water, but is undermined and overthrown, even so the faith of them that have no lust nor love to the law of God, builded upon the sand of their own imaginations, and not on the rock of God’s word, according to his covenants, turneth to desperation in time of tribulation, and when God cometh to judge.
And the vineyard (Matthew 21 <402101> .) planted and hired out to the husbandmen, that would not render to the lord of the fruit in due time, and therefore was taken from them, and hired out to other, doth confirm the same. For Christ saith to the Jews, “The kingdom of heaven shall be taken from you, and given to a nation that will bring forth the fruits thereof:” as it is come to pass. For the Jews have lost the spiritual knowledge of God, and of his commandments, and also of all the scripture, so that they can understand nothing godly. And the door is so locked up, that all their knocking is in vain, though many of them take great pain for God’s sake.
And (Luke 13 <421301> .) the fig-tree that beareth no fruit is commanded to be plucked up. And, finally, hereto pertaineth, with infinite other, the terrible parable of the unclean spirit, (Luke 11 <421101> .)which, after he is cast out, when he cometh and findeth his house swept and garnished, taketh to him seven, worse than himself, and cometh and entereth in and dwelleth there, and so is the end of the man worse than the beginning. The Jews, they had cleansed themselves with God’s word from all outward idolatry, and worshipping of idols; but their hearts remained still faithless to God-ward, and toward his mercy and truth, and therefore without love also and lust to his law, and to their neighbors for his sake; and through false trust in their own works (to which heresy the child of perdition, the wicked bishop of Rome, with his lawyers, hath brought us Christians) were more abominable idolaters than before, and became ten times worse in the end than at the beginning. For the first idolatry was soon spied, and easy to be rebuked of the prophets by the scripture; but the latter is more subtle to beguile withal, and a hundred times of more difficulty to be weeded out of men’s hearts.
This also is a conclusion, nothing more certain, or more proved by the testimony and examples of the scripture, that if any that favoreth the word of God be so weak that he cannot chaste his flesh, him will the Lord chastise and scourge every day sharper and sharper with tribulation and misfortune, that nothing shall prosper with him, but all shall go against him, whatsoever he take in hand; and the Lord will visit him with poverty, with sicknesses, and diseases, and shall plague him with plague upon plague, each more loathsome, terrible, and fearful than other, till he be at utter defiance with his flesh. Let us, therefore, that have now at this time our eyes opened again, through the tender mercy of God, keep a mean. Let us so put our trust in the mercy of God through Christ, that we know it our duty to keep the law of God, and to love our neighbors for their Father’s sake which created them, and for their Lord’s sake which redeemed them, and bought them so dearly with his blood. Let us walk in the fear of God, and have our eyes open unto both parts of God’s covenants, being certified that none shall be partaker of the mercy save he that will fight against the flesh, to keep the law. And let us arm ourselves with this remembrance, that as Christ’s works justify from sin, and set us in the favor of God, so our own deeds, through working of the Spirit of God, help us to continue in the favor and the grace into which Christ hath brought us; and that we can no longer continue in favor and grace, than our hearts are set to keep the law.
Furthermore, concerning the law of God, this is a general conclusion, that the whole law, whether they be ceremonies, sacrifices, yea, or sacraments either, or precepts of equity between man and man, throughout all degrees of the world, all were given for our profit and necessity only, and not for any need that God hath of our keeping them, or that his joy is increased thereby, or that the deed, for the deed itself, doth please him: that is, all that God requireth of us, when we be at one with him, and do put our trust in him, and love him, is, that we love every man his neighbor, to pity him, and to have compassion on him in all his needs, and to be merciful unto him. This to be even so, Christ testifieth in the seventh of Matthew, “This is the law and the prophets:” that is, to do as thou wouldest be done to, (according, I mean, to the doctrine of the scripture,) and not to do that thou wouldest not have done to thee, is all that the law requireth and the prophets. And Paul to the Romans (13 <451301> .) affirmeth also, that “love is the fulfilling of the law,” and that he which loveth, doth of his own accord all that the law requireth, And (1 Timothy 1 <540101> .) Paul saith, that “the love of a pure heart, and good conscience, and faith unfeigned, is the end” and fulfilling of the law. For faith unfeigned in Christ’s blood causeth thee to love for Christ’s sake; which love is the pure love’, only and the only cause of a good conscience. For then is the conscience pure, when the eye looketh to Christ in all her deeds, to do them for his sake, and not for her own singular advantage, or any other wicked purpose. And John, both in his gospel and also epistles, never speaketh of any other law, than to love one another purely, affirming that we have God himself dwelling in us, and all that God desireth, if we love one the other.
Seeing then that faith to God, and love and mercifulness to our neighbors, is all that the law requireth, therefore of necessity the law must be understood and interpreted by them: so that all inferior laws are to be kept and observed, as long as they be servants to faith and love; and then to be broken immediately, if through any occasion they hurt either the faith which we should have to God-ward in the confidence of Christ’s blood, or the love which we owe to our neighbors for Christ’s sake. And therefore, when the blind Pharisees murmured and grudged at him and his disciples, that they brake the sabbath-day and traditions of the elders, and that he himself did eat with publicans and sinners, he answered, (Matthew 9 <400901> .) alleging Esaias the prophet, “Go rather and learn what this meaneth, I require mercy, and not sacrifice.” And, (Matthew 12 <401201> .) “O that ye wist what this meaneth, I require mercy, and not sacrifice.” For only love and mercifulness understandeth the law, and else nothing. And he(that hath not that written in his heart, shall never under’, stand the law; no, though all the angels of heaven went’ about to teach him. And he that hath that graven in his heart, shall not only understand the law, but also shall do, of his own inclination, all that is required of the law, though never law had been given; as all mothers do of themselves, without law, unto their children all that can be required by any law; love overcoming all pain, grief, tediousness,, or loathsomeness. And even so, no doubt, if we had continued in our first state of innocency, we should ever have fulfilled the law without compulsion of the law. And because the law (which is a doctrine that, through teaching every man his duty, doth utter our corrupt nature) is sufficiently described by Moses, therefore is little mention made thereof in the new testament, save of love only, wherein all the law is included; as seldom mention is made of the new testament in the old law, save here and there are promises made unto them, that Christ should come and bless them and deliver them, and that the gospel and new testament should be preached and published unto all nations.
THE GOSPEL AND THE TWO TESTAMENTS.
TheGOSPEL is glad tidings of mercy and grace, and that our corrupt nature shall be healed again for Christ’s sake, and for the merits of his descryings only; yet on that condition, that we will turn to God, to learn to keep his laws spiritually, that is to say, of love for his sake, and will also suffer the curing of our infirmities. The new testament is as much to say as a new covenant. The old testament is an old temporal covenant, made between God and the carnal children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, otherwise called Israel, upon the deeds and the observing of a temporal law; where the reward of the keeping is temporal life, and prosperity in the land of Canaan; and the breaking is rewarded with temporal death and punishment.
But the new testament is an everlasting covenant made unto the children of God, through faith in Christ, upon the deservings of Christ; where eternal life is promised to all that believe, and death to all that are unbelieving. My deeds, if I keep the law, are rewarded with temporal promises of this life; but if I believe in Christ, Christ’s deeds have purchased for me the eternal promise of the everlasting life. If I commit nothing worthy of death, I deserve to my reward that no mail kill me; if I hurt no man, I am worthy that no man hurt me. If I help my neighbor, I am worthy that he help me again, etc. So that with outward deeds, with which I serve other men, I deserve that other men do like to me in this world; and they extend no further. But Christ’s deeds extend to life everlasting unto all that believe, etc.
These be sufficient in this place concerning the law and the gospel, new testament and old; so that, as there is but one God, one Christ, one faith, and one baptism, even so understand thou that there is but one gospel, though many write it, and many preach it. For all preach the same Christ, and bring the same glad tidings. And thereto Paul’s epistles, with the gospel of John, and his first epistle, and the first epistle of St Peter, are most pure gospel, and most plainly and richly describe the glory of the grace of Christ. If ye require more of the law, seek in the prologue to the Romans, and in other places where it is sufficiently entreated of.
CONCERNING this word REPENTANCE, or (as they used) “penance,” the Hebrew hath in the old testament generally’: bwc (sob ), turn, or be converted: for which the translation that we take for St Jerome’s hath most part converti ‘to turn, to be converted,’ and sometime agere poenitentiam .
And the Greek in the new Testament hath perpetually metavoe>w , to turn in the heart and mind, and to come to the right knowledge, and to a man’s right wit again. For which metanoe>w St Jerome’s translation hath sometime ago poenitentiam , ‘I do repent;’ sometime poeniteo, ‘I repent;’ sometime poeniteor , ‘I am repentant;’ sometime habeo poenitentiam , ‘I have repentance;’ sometime poenitet me , ‘it repenteth me.’ And Erasmus useth much this word resipisco , ‘I come to myself, or to my right mind again.’ And the very sense, and signification both of the Hebrew and also of the Greek word is, to be converted and to turn to God with all the heart, to know his will, and to live according to his laws; and to be cured of our corrupt nature with the oil of his Spirit, and wine of obedience to his doctrine. Which conversion or turning, if it be unfeigned, these four do accompany it and are included therein. Confession, not in the priest’s ear, (for that is but man’s invention,) but to God in the heart, and before all the congregation of God; how that we be sinners and sinful, and that our whole nature is corrupt, and inclined to sin and all unrighteousness, and therefore evil, wicked, and damnable; and his law holy and just, by which our sinful nature is rebuked: and also to our neighbors, if we have offended any person particularly. Then contrition, sorrowfulness that we be such damnable sinners, and not only have sinned, but are wholly inclined to sin still. Thirdly, faith (of which our old doctors have made no mention at all in the description of their penance), that God for Christ’s sake doth forgive us, and receive us to mercy, and is at one with us, and will heal our corrupt nature. And fourthly, satisfaction, or amends-making, not to God with holy works, but to my neighbor whom I have hurt, and to the congregation of God, whom I have offended, if any open crime be found in me; and submitting of a man’s self unto the congregation or church of Christ, and to the officers of the same, to have his life corrected and governed henceforth of them, according to the true doctrine of the church of Christ. And note this, that as satisfaction or amends-making is counted righteousness before the world, and a purging of sin, so that the world, when I have made a full mends, hath no further to complain; even so faith in Christ’s blood is counted righteousness and a purging of all sin before God.
Moreover, he that sinneth against his brother, sinneth also against his Father, almighty God: and as the sin committed against his brother is purged before the world with making amends or asking forgiveness, even: so is the sin committed against God purged through faith in Christ’s blood only. For Christ saith, ( John 8.) “Except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins:” that is to say, ‘If ye think that there is any other sacrifice or satisfaction to God-ward, than me, ye remain ever in sin before God, howsoever righteous ye appear before the world.’ Wherefore now, whether ye call this (meta>noia ) repentance, conversion, or turning again to God, either amending, etc.; or whether ye say, ‘Repent, be converted, turn to God, amend your living,’ or what ye lust; I am content, so ye understand what is meant thereby, as I have now declared.
IN the old Testament the temporal heads and rulers of the Jews, which had the governance over the lay or common people, are called elders, as ye may see in the four evangelists. Out of which custom Paul in his epistle, and also Peter, called the prelates and spiritual governors, which are bishops and priests, elders. Now, whether ye call them elders or priests, it is to me all one, so that ye understand that they be officers and servants of the word of God: unto the which all men, both high and low, that will not rebel against Christ, must obey, as long they preach and rule truly, and no longer.
THE OFFICE OF ALL ESTATES.
A BISHOP must be faultless, the husband of one wife, honestly apparelled, harberous, apt to teach, not drunken, no fighter, not given to filthy lucre, but gentle, abhorring fighting, abhorring covetousness, and one that ruleth his own house honestly, having children under obedience with all honesty.
YE that are rulers in the earth, see that you love righteousness, and that you commit none unrighteousness in judgment. THOU shalt not favor the poor, nor honor the mighty, but shall judge thy neighbor righteously.
A PROLOGUE UPON THE GOSPEL OF ST MARK.
OF Mark, read (Acts 12 <441201> .) how Peter, after he was loosed out of prison by the angel, came to Mark’s mother’s house, where many of the disciples were praying for his deliverance. And Paul and Barnabas took him with them from Jerusalem, and brought him to Antioch, Acts 12 <441201> , and Acts 13 <441301> . Paul and Barnabas took Mark with them when they were sent to preach; from whom he also departed, as it appeareth in the said chapter, and returned to Jerusalem again. And, Acts 15 <441501> . Paul and Barnabas were at variance about him; Paul not willing to take him with them, because he forsook them in their first journey. Notwithstanding yet, when Paul wrote the epistle to the Colossians, Mark was with him, as he saith in the fourth chapter; of whom Paul also testifieth, both that he was Barnabas’ sister’s son, and also his fellow-worker in the kingdom of God.
And, 2 Timothy 4 <550401> ., Paul commandeth Timothy to bring Mark with him, affirming that he was needful to him to minister to him. Finally, he was also with Peter when he wrote his first epistle, and so familiar, that Peter calleth him his son: whereof ye see of whom he learned his gospel, even of the very apostles, with whom he had his continual conversation; and also of what authority his writing is, and how worthy of credence.
A PROLOGUE UPON THE GOSPEL OF ST LUKE.
LUCAS was Paul’s companion, at the leastway from the 16th of the Acts forth, and with him in all his tribulation; and he went with Paul at his last going up to Jerusalem. And from thence he followed Paul to Caesarea, where he lay two years in prison; and from Caesarea he went with Paul to Rome, where he lay two other years in prison. And he was with Paul when he wrote to the Colossians, as he testifieth in the fourth chapter, saying, “The beloved Lucas the physician saluteth you;” and he was with Paul when he wrote the second epistle to Timothy, as he saith in the fourth chapter, saying, “Only Lucas is with me:” whereby ye see the authority of the man, and of what credence and reverence his writing is worthy of, and thereto of whom he learned the story of his gospel; as he himself saith, how that he learned it and searched it out with all diligence of them that saw it, and were also partakers at the doing. And as for the Acts of the Apostles, he himself was at the doing of them, at the least of the most part, and had his part therein, and therefore wrote of his own experience.
A PROLOGUE UPON THE GOSPEL OF ST JOHN.
JOHN, what he was, is manifest by the three first evangelists: first, Christ’s apostle, and that one of the chief: then, Christ’s nigh kinsman, and for his singular innocency and softness singularly beloved, and of singular familiarity with Christ, and ever one of the three witnesses of most secret things. The cause of his writing was certain heresies that arose in his time, namely two; of which one denied Christ to be very God, and the other to be very man and to be come in the very flesh and nature of man. Against the which two heresies he wrote both his gospel and also his first epistle; and in the beginning of his gospel saith, that “the Word” or thing “was at the beginning, and was with God, and was also very God;” and that “all things were created by it;” and that “it was also made flesh,” that is to say, became very man; and “he dwelt among us,” saith he, “and we saw his glory.” And in the beginning of his epistle he saith, “We shew you of the thing that was from the beginning, which also we heard, saw with our eyes, and our hands handled.” And again, “We shew you everlasting life; that was with the Father, and appeared to us, and we heard and saw it,” etc. In that he saith that it was from the beginning, and that it was eternal life, and that it was with God, he affirmeth him to be very God. And that he saith, “We heard, saw, and felt,” he witnesseth that he was very man also. John also wrote last, and therefore touched not the story that the other had compiled, but writeth most of faith, and promises, and of the sermons of Christ.
This be sufficient concerning the four evangelists and their authority and worthiness to be believed.
A PROLOGUE UPON THE EPISTLE OF ST PAUL TO THE ROMANS.
This prologue is called ‘an introduction to Paul’s epistle to the Romans,’ in a list of forbidden books given by Foxe, Vol. IV. p. 667, London, 1837; and Sir Thomas More says of it: “Then have ye his [Tyndale’s] introduction into St Paul’s epistle, with which he introduceth and bringeth his readers into a false understanding of St Paul, making them, among many other heresies, believe that St Paul were in the mind that only faith were alway sufficient for salvation, and that men’s good works were nothing worth, nor could no thanks deserve, nor no reward in heaven, though they were wrought in grace. And these things teacheth Tyndale as the mind of St Paul; when St Paul saith himself that they which so misconstrue him, to the depraving of men’s good works, be well worthy damnation.” Pref. to Confutacion, 1532. Dr Robert Ridley, prebendary of St Paul’s, had taken angry notice of it at an earlier date. In writing to archbishop Warham’s chaplain, Henry Golde, afterwards implicated in the affair of the Kentish ram, who pretended to have revelations from heaven, he enumerates the “Introduction into the epistle of Paul to the Romans,” with the Prologue afterwards called the Pathway, as proving Tyndale and Roye to be manifest Lutherans, and as teaching “altogether most poisoned and abhorrable heresies that can be thought.” The date of this letter is Feb. 1527; and the Prologue to the Romans appears to have been published by Tyndale, as a separate pamphlet, in 1526. It might have given this opponent of the reformation more ground for calling Tyndale a Lutheran than either More or he seems to have been aware; for the greater part of it is in fact a paraphrase, and sometimes a literal translation, of Luther’s preface to the Romans, a Latin version of which had been published in 1523, with this title: “Praefatio methodica totius Scripturae in epistola ad Romanos, vernacula Martini Lutheri in Latinum versa; per Justum Jonam.”
The passages more or less closely copied from Luther will be distinguished’. with quotation marks in this reprint: and the marginal notes are to be understood as taken from Day’s folio: for there are no margins to. this prologue in the Testaments collated by the editor; and though there are several in the copy of this prologue introduced into Matthewe’s Bible, first ed. of 1537, which has also been collated, they are generally different from Day’s.]
A PROLOGUE UPON THE EPISTLE OF ST PAUL TO THE ROMANS.
‘FORASMUCH as this epistle is the principal and most excellent part of the new Testament and most pure evangelion’, that is to say, glad tidings, and that we call gospel, and also is a light and a way unto the whole scripture; I think it meet ‘that every christian man not only know it, by rote and without the book, but also exercise himself therein evermore continually, as with the daily bread of the soul. No man verily can read it too oft, or study it too well; for the more it is studied, the easier it is; the more it is chewed, the pleasanter it is; and the more groundly it is searched, the preciouser things are found in it,’ so great treasure of spiritual things lieth hid therein ‘I will therefore bestow my labor and diligence, through this little preface or prologue, to prepare a way in thereunto, so far forth as God shall give me grace, that it may be the better understood of every man: for it hath been hitherto evil darkened with glosses and wonderful dreams of sophisters, that no man could spy out the intent and meaning of it; which nevertheless of itself is a bright light, and sufficient to give light unto all the scripture.’ ‘First, We must mark diligently the manner of speaking of the apostle, and above all things know what Paul meaneth by these words, the law, sin, grace, faith, righteousness, flesh, spirit, and such like; or else, read thou it ever so oft, thou shalt but lose thy labor. This word LAW may not be understood here after the common manner, and (to use Paul’s term) after the manner of men,’ or after man’s ways; as that thou wouldest say the law here, in this place, were nothing but learning, which teacheth what ought to be done, and what ought not to be done, as it goeth with man’s law, ‘where the law is fulfilled with outward works only, though the heart be never so far off. But God judgeth after the ground of the heart, yea, and the thoughts and the secret movings of the mind: therefore his law requireth the ground of the heart,’ and love from the bottom thereof, ‘and is not content with the outward work only, but rebuketh those works most of all, which spring not of love, from the ground’ and low bottom of the heart, though they appear outward never so honest and good; as Christ, in the gospel rebuketh the Pharisees above all other that were open sinners, and calleth them hypocrites, that is to say, simulars and painted sepulchres: which Pharisees yet lived no men so pure, as pertaining to the outward deeds and works of the law; yea, and Paul (Philippians 3 <500301> .) confesseth of himself that, as touching the law, he was such a one as no man could complain on; and, notwithstanding, was yet a murderer of the Christians, persecuted them, and tormented them so sore that he compelled them to blaspheme Christ, and was altogether merciless, as many are which now feign outward good works. ‘For this cause the 115th psalm calleth all men liars, because that no man keepeth the law from the ground of the heart, neither can keep it, though he appear outwardly full of good works. For all men are naturally inclined unto evil, and hate the law. We find in ourselves unlust and tediousness to do good, but lust and delectation to do evil. Now where no free lust is to do good, there the bottom of the heart fulfilleth not the law; and there no doubt is also sin, and wrath is deserved before God, though there be never so great outward shew and appearance of honest living.
For this cause concludeth St Paul in the second chapter, that the Jews all are sinners and transgressors of the law, though they make men believe, through hypocrisy of outward works, how that they fulfill the law; ‘and saith, that he only which doth the law is righteous before God, meaning thereby, that no man with outward works fulfilleth the law. “Thou,” saith he to the Jew, “teachest a man should not break wedlock, and yet breakest wedlock thyself. Wherein thou judgest another man, therein condemnest thou thyself; for thou thyself doest even the very same things which thou judgest.” As though he would say, Thou livest outwardly in the works of the law, and judgest them that live not so. Thou teachest other men, and seest a mote in another man’s eye, but art not ware of the beam that is in thine own eye. For though thou keep the law outwardly with works, for fear of rebuke, shame, and punishment, either for love of reward, advantage, and vainglory; yet doest thou all without lust and love toward the law, and hadst lever a great deal otherwise do, if thou didst not fear the law;’ yea, inwardly, in thine heart, thou wouldest that there were no law, no, nor yet God, the author and venger of the law, if it were possible; so painful it is unto thee to have thine appetites refrained, and to be kept down. ‘Wherefore then it is a plain conclusion, that thou, from the ground and bottom of thine heart, art an enemy to the law. What prevaileth it now, that thou teachest another man not to steal, when thou thine own self art a thief in thine heart, and outwardly wouldest fain steal if thou durst? Though that the outward deeds abide not alway behind with such hypocrites and dissimulars, but break forth, even as an evil scab cannot always be kept in with violence of medicine. ‘Thou teachest another man, but teachest not thyself; yea, thou wottest not what thou teachest, for thou understandest not the law aright,’ how that it cannot be fulfilled and satisfied, but with an unfeigned love and affection; much less can it be fulfilled with outward deeds and works only. ‘Moreover, the law increaseth sin, as he saith, (chap. v.) because man is an enemy to the law, forasmuch as it requireth so many things clean contrary to his nature,’ thereof he is not able to fulfill one point or tittle as the law requireth it; and therefore are we more provoked, and have greater lust to break it. ‘For which cause sake he saith, (chapter 7,) that “the law is spiritual;” as though he would say, If the law were fleshly, and but man’s doctrine, it might be fulfilled, satisfied, and stilled with outward deeds. But now is the law ghostly, and no man fulfilleth it, except that all that he doth spring of love from the bottom of the heart. Such a new heart and lusty courage unto the law-ward canst thou never come by of thine own strength and enforcement, but by the operation and working of the Spirit. For the Spirit of God only maketh a man spiritual and like unto the law, so that now henceforth he doth nothing of fear, or for lucre, or vantage’s sake, or of vain-glory, but of a free heart and of inward lust. The law is spiritual, and will be both loved and fulfilled of a spiritual heart; and therefore of necessity requireth it the Spirit, that maketh a man’s heart free, and giveth him lust and courage unto the law-ward. Where such a spirit is not, there remaineth sin, grudging, and hatred against the law; which law nevertheless is good, righteous, and holy.’ ‘Acquaint thyself therefore with the manner of speaking of the apostle, and let this now stick fast in thine heart, that it is not both one, to do the deeds and works of the law, and to fulfill the law. The work of the law is whatsoever a man doth or can do of his own free-will, of his own strength and enforcing. Notwithstanding, though there be never so great working, yet as long as there remaineth in the heart unlust, tediousness, grudging, grief, pain, loathsomeness, and compulsion toward the law, so long are all the works unprofitable, lost, yea, and damnable in the sight of God. This meaneth Paul, (chapter 3.) where he saith, “By the deeds of the .law shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God.” Hereby perceivest thou, that those sophisters are but deceivers, who teach that a man may and must prepare himself to grace, and to the favor of God, with good works, before he have the Spirit and true faith of Christ. How can they prepare themselves unto the favor of God, and to that which is good, when they themselves can do no good, nor can once think a good thought, or consent to do good, the devil possessing their hearts, minds, and thoughts, captire at his pleasure? Can those works please God, thinkest thou, which are done with grief, pain, and tediousness, with an evil will, with a contrary and grudging mind?’ O holy Prosperus, how mightily with the scripture of Paul didst thou confound this heresy twelve hundred years ago, or thereupon! ‘To fulfill the law is to do the works thereof, and whatsoever the law commands, with love, lust, and inward affection and delectation, and to live godly and well, freely, willingly, and without compulsion of the law, even as though there were no law at all. Such lust, and. free liberty to love the law, cometh only by the working of the Spirit in the heart; as he saith in the fifth chapter.’ ‘Now is the Spirit none otherwise given, than by faith only, in that we believe the promises of God’ without wavering, how that God is true, and will fulfill all his good promises towards us for Christ’s blood’s sake, as it is plain, (chapter 1): “I am not ashamed,” saith Paul, “of Christ’s glad tidings, for it is the power of God unto salvation to as many as believe;” for at once and together, even as we believe the glad tidings preached to us, the Holy Ghost entereth into our hearts, and looseth the bonds of the devil, which before possessed our hearts in captivity, and held them, that we could have no lust to the will of God in the law; and ‘as the Spirit cometh by faith only, even so faith cometh by hearing the word, or glad tidings, of God, when Christ is preached, how that he is God’s Son and man also, dead and risen again for our sakes, as he saith in chapters 3, 4 and 5. All our justifying then cometh of faith, and faith and the Spirit come of God, and not of us. FF103 When we say, faith bringeth the Spirit, it is not to be understood, that faith deserveth the Spirit, or that the Spirit is not present in us before faith: for the Spirit is ever in us, and faith is the gift and working of the Spirit: but through preaching the Spirit beginneth to work in us. And as by preaching the law he worketh the fear of God; so by preaching the glad tidings he worketh faith. And now when we believe, and are come under the covenant of God, then are we sure of the Spirit by the promise of God, and then the Spirit accompanieth faith inseparably, and we begin to feel his working. And so faith certifieth us of the Spirit, and also bringeth the Spirit with her, unto the working of all other gifts of grace, and to the working out of the rest of our salvation, until we have altogether overcome sin, death, hell, and Satan, and are come unto the everlasting life of glory. And for this cause we say, Faith bringeth the Spirit. ‘Hereof cometh it, that faith only justifieth, maketh righteous, and fulfilleth the law: for it bringeth the Spirit through Christ’s descryings; the Spirit bringeth lust, looseth the heart, maketh him free, setteth him at liberty, and giveth him strength to work the deeds of the law with love, even as the law requireth; then at the last out of the same faith, so working in the heart, spring all good works by their own accord. That meaneth he in the third chapter: for after he hath cast away the works of the law, so that he soundeth as though he would break and disannul the law through faith, he answereth to that might be laid against him, saying, “We destroy not the law through faith, but maintain, further, or establish the law through faith;” that is to say, we fulfill the law through faith.’ ‘SIN in the scripture is not called that outward work only committed by the body, but all the whole business, and whatsoever accompanieth, moveth, or stirreth unto the outward deed; and that whence the works spring, as unbelief, proneness, and readiness unto the deed in the ground of the heart, with all the powers, affections, and appetites, wherewith we can but sin; so that we say, that a man then sinneth, when he is carried away headlong into sin, altogether, as much as he is, of that poisonous inclination and corrupt nature, wherein he was conceived and horn. For there is none outward sin committed, except a man be carried away altogether, with life, soul, heart, body, lust and mind there unto. The scripture looketh singularly unto the heart, and unto the root and original fountain of all sin; which is unbelief in the bottom of the heart. For as faith only justifieth and bringeth the Spirit and lust unto the outward good works; even so unbelief only damneth and keepeth out the Spirit, provoketh the flesh, and stirreth up lust unto the evil outward works, as it happened to Adam and Eve in Paradise.’ Genesis 3 <010301> . ‘For this cause Christ calleth sin unbelief; and that not-a ably in John 16 <431601> . “The spirit,” saith he, “shall rebuke the world of sin, because they believe not in me.” FF105 And, (John 8 <430801> .) “I am the light of the world.”
And therefore (John 12 <431201> .) he biddeth them, “While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light; for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not where he goeth.” Now as Christ is the light, so is the ignorance of Christ that darkness whereof he speaketh, in which he that walketh knoweth not whither he goeth; that is, he knoweth not how to work a good work in the sight of God, or what a good work is. And therefore Christ saith, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world; but there cometh night when no man can work:” which night is but ignorance of Christ, in which no man can see to do any work to please God. And Paul exhorteth, (Ephesians 4 <490401> .) That they “walk not as other heathens, who are strangers from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them.” And again, in the same chapter: “Put off the old man, which is corrupt through the lusts of error,” that is to say, ignorance. And, (Romans 13 <451301> .) “Let us cast away the deeds of darkness,” that is to say, of ignorance and unbelief. .And, (1 Peter 1 <600101> .) “Fashion not yourselves unto your old lusts of ignorance.” And (1 John 2:2 <620201> .) “He that loveth his brother dwelleth in light, and he that hateth his brother walketh in darkness, and wotteth not whither he goeth, for darkness hath blinded his eyes.” By light he meaneth the knowledge of Christ, and by darkness the ignorance of Christ. For it is impossible that he who knoweth Christ truly should hate his brother.
Furthermore, to perceive this more clearly, thou shalt understand, that it is not possible to sin any sin at all, except a man break the first commandment before. Now the first commandment is divided into two verses: “Thy Lord God is one God; and thou shalt love thy Lord God with all thine heart, with all thy soul, with all thy power, and with all thy might.” And the whole cause why I sin against any inferior precept is, that this love is not in mine heart; for were this love written in mine heart, and were it full and perfect in my soul, it would keep mine heart from consenting unto any sin.
And the whole and only cause why this love is not written in our hearts is, that we believe not the first part, that “our Lord God is one God.” For wist I what these words, “one Lord and one God,” mean; that is to say, if I understood that he made all and ruleth all, and that whatsoever is done to me, whether it be good or bad, is yet his will, and that he only is the Lord that ruleth and doeth it; and wist thereto what this word, “mine,” meaneth; that is to say, if mine heart believed and felt the infinite benefits and kindness of God toward me, and understood and earnestly believed the manifold covenants of mercy wherewith God hath bound himself to be mine wholly and altogether, with all his power, love, mercy, and might; then should I love him with all mine heart, soul, power, and might, and of that love ever keep his commandments. So see ye now, that as faith is the mother of all goodness and of all good works; so is unbelief the ground and root of all evil and all evil works.
Finally, if any man that hath forsaken sin, and is converted to put his trust in Christ, and to keep the law of God, do fall at any time, the cause is, that the flesh through negligence hath choked the spirit and oppressed her, and taken from her the food of her strength; which food is her meditation in God, and in his wonderful deeds, and in the manifold covenants of his mercy. ‘Wherefore then, before all good works, as good fruits, there must needs be faith in the heart whence they spring. And before all bad deeds, as bad fruits, there must needs be unbelief in the heart, as in the root, fountain, pith, and strength of all sin: which unbelief and ignorance is called the head of the serpent, of the old dragon, which the woman’s seed, Christ, must tread under foot as promised unto Adam.’ ‘GRACE and gift have this difference. Grace properly is God’s favor, benevolence, or kind mind, which of his own self, without deserving of us, he beareth to us, whereby he was moved and inclined to give Christ unto us, with all his other gifts of grace. Gift is the Holy Ghost, and his working, which he poureth into the hearts of them on whom he hath mercy, and whom he favoreth. Though the gifts of the Spirit increase in us daily, and have not yet their full perfection, yea, and though there remain in us yet evil lusts and sin, which fight against the Spirit, as he saith here in chapter 7. and Galatians 5 <480501> ., and as it was spoken before, in Genesis in., of the debate between the woman’s seed and the seed of the serpent; yet nevertheless God’s favor is so great and so strong over us for Christ’s sake, that we are counted for full whole, and perfect before God. For God’s favor toward us divideth not herself, increasing a little and a little, as do the gifts; but receiveth us whole, and altogether, in full love for Christ’s sake, our Intercessor and Mediator, and because the gifts of the Spirit, and the battle between the Spirit and evil lusts, are begun in us already.’ ‘Of this now understandest thou the seventh chapter, where Paul accuseth himself as a sinner, and yet in the eight chapter saith, “there is no damnation to them that are in Christ;” and that because of the Spirit, and because the gifts of the Spirit are begun in us. Sinners we are, because the flesh is not full killed and mortified: nevertheless, inasmuch as we believe in Christ, and have the earnest and beginning of the Spirit, and would fain be perfect, God is so loving and favorable unto us, that he will not look on such sin, neither will count it as sin; but will deal with us according to our belief in Christ, and according to his promises which he hath sworn to us, until the sin be full slain and mortified by death.’ ‘FAITH is not man’s opinion and dream, as some imagine and feign, when they hear the story of the gospel; but when they see that there follow no good works, nor amendment of living, though they hear, yea, and can babble many things of faith, then they fall from the right way, and say, Faith only justifieth not; a man must have good works also, if he will be righteous and safe. The cause is, when they hear the gospel or glad tidings, they feign of their own strength certain imaginations and thoughts in their hearts, saying, I have heard the gospel, I remember the story, lo! I believe: and that they count right faith; which nevertheless, as it is but man’s imagination and feigning, even so it profiteth not, neither follow there any good works, or amendment of living.’ ‘But right faith is a thing wrought by the Holy Ghost in us, which changeth us, turneth us into a new nature, and be getteth us anew in God, and maketh us the sons of God, as thou readest in the first of John; and killeth the old Adam, and maketh us altogether new in the heart, mind, will, lust, and in all our affections and powers of the soul; the Holy Ghost ever accompanying her, and ruling the heart. Faith is a lively thing, mighty in working, valiant, and strong, ever doing, ever fruitful’ so that it is impossible that he who is endued therewith should not work always good works without ceasing. He asketh not whether good works are to be done or not, but hath done them already, ere mention be made of them; and is always doing, for such is his nature; for quick faith in his heart, and lively moving of the Spirit, drive him and stir him thereunto. Whosoever doth not good works, is an unbelieving person, and faithless, and looketh round about him, groping after faith and good works, and wotteth not what faith or good works mean, though he babble never so many things of faith and good works.’ ‘Faith is, then, a lively and a steadfast trust in the favor of God, wherewith we commit ourselves altogether unto God; and that trust is so surely grounded, and sticketh so fast in our hearts, that a man would not once doubt of it, though he should die a thousand times therefor. And such trust, wrought by the Holy Ghost through faith, maketh a man glad, lusty, cheerful, and truehearted unto God and unto all creatures: whereof, willingly and without compulsion, he is glad and ready to do good to every man, to do service to every man, to suffer all things, that God may be loved and praised, which hath given him such grace; so that it is impossible to separate good works from faith, even as it is impossible to separate heat and burning from fire. Therefore take heed to thyself, and beware of thine own fantasies and imaginations; which to judge of faith and good works will seem wise, when indeed they are stark blind and of all things most foolish. Pray God, that he will vouchsafe to work faith in thine heart, or else shalt thou remain evermore faithless; feign thou, imagine thou, enforce thou, wrestle with thyself, and do what thou wilt or canst.’ ‘RIGHTEOUSNESS is even such faith; and is called God’s righteousness, or righteousness that is of value before God. For it is God’s gift, and it altereth a man, and changeth him into a new spiritual nature, and maketh him free and liberal to pay every man his duty. For through faith a man is purged of his sins, and obtaineth lust unto the law of God; whereby he giveth God his honor, and payeth him that he oweth him; and unto men he doth service willingly, wherewithsoever he can, and payeth every man his duty. Such righteousness can nature, free-will, and our own strength, never bring to pass. For as no man can give himself faith, so can he not take away unbelief; how then can he take away any sin at all? Wherefore all is false hypocrisy and sin, whatsoever is done without faith or in unbelief, as it is evident in the fourteenth chapter unto the Romans <451401> , though it appear never so glorious or beautiful outwards.’ ‘FLESH andSPIRIT mayest thou not here understand as t though flesh were only that which pertaineth unto unchastity, and the Spirit that which inwardly pertaineth unto the heart: but Paul calleth flesh here, as Christ doth, John in., all that is born of flesh; that is to wit, the whole man, with life, soul, body, wit, will, reason, and whatsoever he is or doth within and without; because that these all, and all that is in man, study after the world and the flesh. Call flesh therefore whatsoever we think or speak of God, of faith, of good works, and of spiritual matters, as long as we are without the Spirit of God. Call flesh also all works which are done without grace, and without the working of the Spirit, howsoever good, holy, and spiritual, they seem to be: as thou mayest prove by the fifth chapter unto the Galatians <480501> , where Paul numbereth worshipping of idols, witchcraft, envy, and hate, among the deeds of the flesh; and by the eighth unto the Romans, where he saith that the law by the reason of the flesh is weak; which is not understood of unchastity only, but of all sins, and most especially of unbelief, which is a vice most spiritual, and ground of all sins.’ ‘And as thou callest him flesh which is not renewed with the Spirit, and born again in Christ, and all his deeds, even the very motions of his heart and mind, his learning, doctrine, and contemplation of high things, his preaching, teaching, and study in the scriptures, building of churches, founding of abbeys, giving of alms, mass, matins, and whatsoever he doth, though it seem spiritual and after the laws of God; so, contrariwise, call him spiritual who is renewed in Christ, and all his deeds which spring of faith, seem they never so gross, as, the washing of the disciples’ feet done by Christ, and Peter’s fishing after the resurrection; yea, and whatsoever is done within the laws of God, though it be wrought by the body, as the very wiping of shoes and such like, howsoever gross they appear outwardly.
Without such understanding of these words thou canst never understand this epistle of Paul, neither any other place in the holy scripture. Take heed, therefore; for whosoever understandeth these words otherwise, the same understandeth not Paul, whatsoever he be.’ ‘Now will we prepare ourselves unto the epistle.’ ‘Forasmuch as it becometh the preacher of Christ’s glad tidings, first, through opening of the law, to rebuke all things, and to prove all things sin, that proceed not of the Spirit, and of faith in Christ; and to prove all men sinners, and children of wrath by inheritance; and how that to sin is their nature, and that by nature they can none otherwise do than to sin; and therewith to abate the pride of man, and to bring him unto the knowledge of himself and to misery and wretchedness, that he might desire help; even so doth St Paul. And he beginneth, in the first chapter, to rebuke unbelief and gross sins, which all men see, as idolatry, and as the gross sins of the heathen were, and as the sins now are of all them who live in ignorance, without faith, and without the favor of God; and saith, “The wrath of the God of heaven appeareth through the gospel upon all men, for their ungodliness and unholy living.” For though it be known, and daily understood by the creatures, that there is but one God, yet is nature of herself, without the Spirit and grace, so corrupt and so poisoned, that men neither can thank him, neither worship him, neither give him his due honor; but they blind themselves, and fall without ceasing into worse case, even until they come unto worshipping of images, and working of shameful sins, which are abominable and against nature, and moreover they suffer the same unrebuked in others, having delectation and pleasure therein. ‘In the second chapter the apostle proceedeth further, and rebuketh all those holy people also, which, without lust and love to the law, live well outwardly in the face of the world, and condemn others gladly; as the nature of all hypocrites is, to think themselves pure in respect of open sinners; and yet they hate the law inwardly, and are full of covetousness, and envy, and of all uncleanness (Matthew 23 <402301> .). These are they which despise the goodness of God, and according to the hardness of their hearts heap together for themselves the wrath of God. Furthermore, St Paul, as a true expounder of the law, suffereth no man to be without sin; but declareth that all they are under sin, who of free-will and of nature will live well, and suffereth them not to be better than the open sinners, yea, he calleth them hard-hearted and such as cannot repent.’ ‘In the third chapter he mingleth both together, both the Jews and the Gentiles; and saith, that the one is as the other, both sinners, and no difference between them, save in this only, that the Jews had the word of God committed unto them. And though many of them believed not thereon, yet is God’s truth and promise thereby neither hurt nor diminished; and he taketh in his way, and allegeth the saying of Psalm 51., “that God might abide true in his words, and overcome when he is judged.” After that he returneth to his purpose again, and proveth by the scripture, that all men, without difference or exception, are sinners; and that by the works of the law no man is justified; but that the law was given to utter and to declare sin only. Then he beginneth and sheweth the right way unto righteousness, by what means men must be made righteous and safe; and saith, they are all sinners and without praise before God, and must, without their own deserving, be made righteous through faith in Christ; who hath deserved such righteousness for us, and is become unto us God’s mercy-seat, for the remission of sins that are past: thereby proving that Christ’s righteousness, which cometh upon us through faith, helpeth us only. Which righteousness, saith he, is now declared through the gospel, and was “testified of before by the law and the prophets.”
Furthermore, saith he, the law is holpen and furthered through faith; though that the works thereof, with all their boast, are brought to nought, and are proved not to justify.’ ‘In the fourth chapter, after that now, by the three first chapters, sins are opened, and the way of faith unto righteousness laid, he beginneth to answer unto certain objections and cavillations. And first, he putteth forth those blind reasons, which commonly they that will be justified by their own works are wont to make, when they hear that faith only, without works, justifieth; saying, ‘Shall men do no good works? Yea, and if faith only justifieth, what need a man to study for to do good works?’ lie putteth forth therefore Abraham for an example, saying, What did Abraham with his works? Was all in vain? Came his works to no profit? And so he concludeth that Abraham, without and before all works, was justified and made righteous; insomuch that, before the work of circumcision, he was praised of the scripture, and called righteous by his faith only ( Genesis 15.): so that he did not the work of circumcision, for to be helped thereby unto righteousness, which yet God commanded him to do, and was a good work of obedience. So in like wise, no doubt,, none other works help any thing at all unto a man’s justifying: but as Abraham’s circumcision was an outward sign, whereby he declared his righteousness which he had by faith, and his obedience and readiness unto the will of God; even so are all other good works outward signs and outward fruits of faith and of the Spirit; which justify not a man, but shew that a man is justified already before God, inwardly in the heart, through faith, and through the Spirit purchased by Christ’s blood.’ ‘Herewith St Paul now establisheth his doctrine of faith, rehearsed afore in chapter in., and bringeth also the testimony of David, Psalm 32. <193201> , which calleth a man blessed, not of works, but in that his sin is not reckoned, and in that faith is imputed for righteousness, although he abide not afterward without good works, when he is once justified.’ For we are justified, and receive the Spirit, for to do good works; t neither were it otherwise possible to do good works, except’ we first had the Spirit.
For how is it possible to do any thing well in the sight of God, while we are yet in captivity and bondage under the devil, and the devil possesseth us altogether, and holdeth our hearts, so that we cannot once consent unto the will of God? No man therefore can prevent the Spirit in doing good.
The Spirit must first come, and wake him out of his sleep with the thunder of the law, and fear him, and shew him his miserable estate and wretchedness; and make him abhor and hate himself, and to desire help; and then comfort him again with the pleasant rain of the gospel, that is to say, with the sweet promises of God in Christ, and stir up faith in him to believe the promises. Then, when he believeth the promises, as God was merciful to promise, so is he true to fulfill them, and will give him the Spirit and strength, both to love the will of God, and to work thereafter. So we see that God only, who, according to the scripture, worketh all in all things, worketh a man’s justifying, salvation, and health; yea, and poureth faith and belief, lust to love God’s will, and strength to fulfill the same, into us, even as water is poured into a vessel; and that of his good will and purpose, and not of our deservings and merits. God’s mercy in promising, and truth in fulfilling his promises, sayeth us, and not we ourselves; and therefore is all laud, praise, and glory to be given unto God for his mercy and truth, and not unto us for our merits and descryings. ‘After that, he stretcheth his example out against all other good works of the law, and concludeth that the Jews cannot be Abraham’s heirs, because of blood and kindred only, and much less by the works of the law, but must inherit Abraham’s faith, if they will be the right heirs of Abraham; forasmuch as Abraham before the law, both of Moses and also of the circumcision, was through faith made righteous, and called the father of all them that believe, and not of them that work. Moreover, the law causeth wrath, inasmuch as no man can fulfill it with love and lust; and as long as such grudging, hate, and indignation against the law remaineth in the heart, and is not taken away by the Spirit that cometh by faith, so long, no doubt, the works of the law declare evidently that the wrath of God is upon us, and not favor: wherefore faith only receiveth the grace promised unto Abraham. And these examples were not written for Abraham’s sake only, saith he, but for ours also; to whom, if we believe, faith shall be reckoned likewise for righteousness; as he saith in the end of the chapter.’ ‘In the fifth chapter the apostle commendeth the fruits, or works of faith; as are peace, rejoicing in the conscience, inward love to God and man; moreover boldness, trust, confidence, and a strong and lusty mind, and steadfast hope in tribulation and suffering. For all such follow, where the right faith is, for the abundant grace’s sake, and gifts of the Spirit, which God hath given us in Christ; in that he gave to him to die for us, while yet his enemies.’ ‘Now have we then that faith only, before all works, justifieth, and that it followeth not yet therefore, that a man should do no good works, but that the right shapen works abide not behind,’ but accompany faith, even as brightness doth the sun; and they are called by Paul the fruits of the Spirit.
Where the Spirit is, there it is always summer, and there are always good fruits, that is to say, good works. This is Paul’s order, That good works spring of the Spirit; the Spirit cometh by faith; and faith cometh by hearing the word of God, when the glad tidings and promises, which God hath made unto us in Christ, are preached truly, and received in the ground of the heart, without wavering or doubting, after that the law hath passed upon us, and hath condemned our consciences. Where the word of God is preached purely, and received in the heart, there is faith, and, the Spirit of God; and there are also good works of necessity, whensoever occasion is given. Where God’s word is not purely preached, but men’s dreams, traditions, imaginations, inventions, ceremonies, and superstition, there is no faith; and consequently no spirit that cometh from God. And; where God’s Spirit is not, there can be no good works, even as where an appletree is not, there can grow no apples; but there is unbelief, the devil’s spirit, and evil works. Of this, God’s Spirit and his fruits, have our holy hypocrites not once known, neither yet tasted how sweet they are; though ‘they feign many good works, of their own imagination, to be justified withal, in which is not one crumb of true faith, of spiritual love, or of inward joy, peace, and quietness of conscience;’ forasmuch as they have not the word of God for them, that such works please God, but they are even the rotten fruits of a rotten tree. ‘After that he breaketh forth and runneth at large, and sheweth whence both sin and righteousness, death and life, come. And he compareth Adam and Christ together; thus-wise reasoning and disputing, that Christ must needs come as a second Adam, to make us heirs of his righteousness, through a new spiritual birth, without our deservings; even as the first Adam made us heirs of sin, through the bodily generation, without our deserving. Whereby it is evidently known, and proved to the uttermost, that no man can bring himself out of sin unto righteousness, no more than he could have withstood that he was born bodily. And that is proved herewith, forasmuch as the very law of God, which of right should have holpen if any thing could have holpen, not only came and brought no help with her, but also increased sin; because that the evil and poisoned nature is offended and utterly displeased with the law; and the more she is forbid by the law, the more is she provoked, and set afire, to fulfill and satisfy her lusts. By the law then we see clearly, that we must needs have Christ to justify us with his grace, and to help nature.’ ‘In the sixth he setteth forth the chief and principal ‘work of faith; the battle of the Spirit against the flesh, how the Spirit laboureth and enforceth to kill the remnant of sin and lust, which remain in the flesh after our justifying. And this chapter teacheth us, that we are not so free from sin through faith, that we should henceforth go up and down, idle, careless, and sure of ourselves, as though there were now no more sin in us. Yet there is sin remaining in us, but it is not reckoned, because of faith and of the Spirit, which fight against it. Wherefore we have enough to do all our lives long, to tame our bodies, and to compel the members to obey the Spirit and not the appetites; that thereby we might be like unto Christ’s death and resurrection, and might fulfill our baptism, which signifieth the mortifying of sins, and the new life of grace. For this battle ceaseth not in us until the last breath, and until that sin be utterly slain by the death of the body.’ ‘This thing (I mean, to tame the body and so forth) we are able to do, saith he, seeing we are under grace, and not under the law. What it is, not to be under the law, he himself expoundeth. For not to be under the law is not so to be understood, that every man may do what him lusteth: but not to be under the law is to have a free heart renewed with the Spirit, so that thou hast lust inwardly, of thine own accord, to do that which the law commandeth, without compulsion, yea, though there were no law. For grace, that is to say, God’s favor, bringeth us the Spirit, and maketh us love the law: so is there now no more sin, neither is the law now any more against us, but at one and agreed with us, and we with it. But to be under the law is to deal with the works of the law, and to work without the Spirit and grace: for so long, no doubt, sin reigneth in us through the law; that is to say, the law declareth that we are under sin, and that sin hath power and dominion over us, seeing we cannot fulfill the law, namely, within in the heart, forasmuch as no man of nature favoreth the law, consenteth thereunto, and delighteth therein; which thing is exceeding great sin, that we cannot consent to the law; which law is nothing else save the will of God.’
This is the right freedom and liberty from sin and from the law; whereof he writeth unto the end of this chapter, that it is a freedom to do good only with lust, and to live well without compulsion of the law. Wherefore this freedom is a spiritual freedom; which destroyeth not the law, but ministereth that which the law requireth, and wherewith the law is fulfilled; that is to understand, lust, and love, where with the law is stilled, and accuseth us no more, compelleth us no more, neither hath ought to crave of us any more. Even as though thou weft in debt to another man, and weft not able to pay, two manner of ways mightest thou be loosed: one way, if he would require nothing of thee, and break thine obligation; another way, if some other good man would pay for thee, and give thee as much as thou mightest satisfy’ thine obligation withal. On this wise hath Christ made thee free from the law; and therefore is this no wild fleshly liberty,. that should do nought, but that doth all things, and is free, from the craving and debt of the law.’ ‘In the seventh chapter he confirmeth the same with a similitude of the state of matrimony. As when the husband dieth, the wife is at her liberty, and the one loosed and departed from the other; not that the woman should not have the power to marry unto another man, but rather now first of all is she free, and hath power to marry unto another man, which she could not do before, till she was loosed from her first husband: even so are our consciences bound and in danger to the law under old Adam, as long as he liveth, in us; for the law declareth that our hearts are bound, and that we cannot disconsent from him; but when he is mortified and killed by the Spirit, then is the conscience free and at liberty; not so that the conscience shall now do nought, but now first of all cleaveth unto another, that is to wit Christ, and bringeth forth the fruits of life.’ So now to be under the law is not to be able to fulfill the law; but to be debtor to it, and not able to pay that which the law requireth. And to be loose from the law is to fulfill it, and to pay that which the law demandeth, so that it can now henceforth ask thee nought. ‘Consequently Paul declareth more largely the nature of sin, and of the law; how that through the law sin reviveth, moveth herself, and gathereth strength. For the old man: and corrupt nature, the more he is forbidden and kept under of the law, is the more offended and displeased therewith; forasmuch as he cannot pay that which is required of the law. For sin is his nature, and of himself he cannot but sin. Therefore is the law death to him, torment, and martyrdom. Not that the law is evil; but because that the evil nature cannot suffer that which is good, and cannot abide that the law should require of him any good thing; like as a sick man cannot suffer that a man should desire of him to run, to leap, and to do other deeds of a whole man.’ ‘For which cause St Paul concludeth, that where the law is understood and perceived in the best wise, there it doth no more but utter sin, and bring us unto the knowledge of ourselves; and thereby kill us, and make us bound unto eternal damnation, and debtors to the everlasting wrath of God; even as he well feeleth and understandeth, whose conscience is truly touched of the law.’ In such danger were we, ere the law came, that we knew not what sin meant, neither yet knew we the wrath of God upon sinners, till the law had uttered it. ‘So seest thou that a man must have some other thing, yea, and a greater and a more mighty thing than the law, to make him righteous and safe. They that understand not the law on this wise are blind, and go to work presumptuously, supposing to satisfy the law with works.
For they know not that the law requireth a free, a willing, a lusty, and a loving heart. Therefore they see not Moses right in the face; the vail hangeth between, and hideth his face, so that they cannot behold the glory of his countenance, how that the law is spiritual, and requireth the heart.’ I may of mine own strength refrain, that I do mine enemy no hurt; but to love him with all mine heart, and to put away wrath clean out of my mind, can I not of my own strength. I may refuse money of mine own strength; but to put away love.’ unto riches out of mine heart, can I not do of mine own’ strength. To abstain from adultery, as concerning the outward deed, I can do of mine own strength; but not to desire in mine heart is as impossible unto me as is to choose whether I will hunger or thirst: and yet so the law requireth. Wherefore of a man’s own strength is the law never fulfilled; we must have thereunto God’s favor, and his Spirit, purchased by Christ’s blood.
Nevertheless, when I say a man may do many things outwardly clean against his heart, we must understand that man is but driven of divers appetites; and the greatest appetite overcometh the less, and carrieth the man away violently with her. As when I desire vengeance, and fear also the inconvenience that is like to follow, if fear be greater, I abstain; if the appetite that desireth vengeance be greater, I cannot but prosecute the deed: as we see by experience in many murderers and thieves; who though they are brought into never so great peril of death, yet, after they have escaped, do even the same again: and common women prosecute their lusts, because fear and shame are away: when others, which have the same appetites in their hearts, abstain at the outwardly, or work secretly, being overcome of fear and of shame; and so likewise is it of all other appetites. ‘Furthermore the apostle declareth, how the Spirit and the flesh fight together in one man; and he maketh an example of himself, that. we might learn to know how to work aright, I mean, to kill sin in ourselves. He calleth both the Spirit, and also the flesh, a law; because that like as the nature of God’s law is to drive, to compel, and to crave, even so the flesh driveth, compelleth, craveth, and rageth against the Spirit, and will have her lusts satisfied. On the other side, the Spirit driveth, crieth, and fighteth against the flesh, and will have his lust satisfied. And this strife dureth in us as long as we live; in some more, and in some less, as the Spirit or the flesh is stronger; and the very man his own self is both the Spirit and the flesh, who fighteth with his own self, until sin be utterly slain, and he altogether spiritual.’ ‘In the eighth chapter he comforteth such fighters, that they despair not because of such flesh,’ neither think that they are less in favor with God.
And he sheweth how that the sin remaining in us hurteth not; for there is no danger to them that are in Christ, which walk not after the flesh, but fight against it. ‘And he expoundeth more largely what is the nature of the flesh, and of the Spirit; and how the Spirit cometh by Christ, which Spirit maketh us spiritual, tameth, subdueth, and mortifieth the flesh; and certifieth us that we are nevertheless the sons of God and also beloved, though that sin rage never so much in us, so long as we follow the Spirit, and fight against sin, to kill and mortify it. And because nothing is so good to the mortifying of the flesh, as the cross and tribulation, he comforteth us in our passions and afflictions by the assistance of the Spirit, which maketh intercession to God for us mightily with groanings that pass man’s utterance, so that man’s speech cannot comprehend them; and the creatures mourn also with us of great desire that they have that we were loosed from sin and corruption of the flesh. So we see that these three chapters, the vi. vii. viii., do nothing so much as to drive us unto the right work of faith; which is to kill the old man, and mortify the flesh.’ ‘In the ninth, tenth, and eleventh chapters he treateth of God’s predestination; whence it springeth altogether; whether we shall believe or not believe; be loosed from sin, or not be loosed. By which predestination our justifying and salvation are clean taken out of our hands, and put in the hands of God only; which thing is most necessary of all. For we are so weak and so uncertain, that if it stood in us, there would of a truth be no man saved; the devil, no doubt, would deceive us. But now is God sure, that his predestination cannot deceive him, neither can any man withstand or let him; and therefore have we hope and trust against sin.’ ‘But here must a mark be set to those unquiet, busy, and high-climbing spirits, how far they shall go; which first of all bring hither their high reasons and pregnant wits, and begin first from an high to search the bottomless secrets of God’s predestination, whether they be predestinate or not. These must needs either east themselves down headlong into desperation, or else commit themselves to free chance, careless. But follow thou the order of this epistle, and noosel thyself with Christ, and learn to understand what the law and the: gospel mean, and the office of both the two; that thou mayest in the one know thyself, and how that thou hast of thyself no strength but to sin, and in the other the grace of Christ; and then see thou fight against sin and the flesh, as the seven first chapters teach thee. After that, when thou art come to the eighth chapter, and art under the cross and suffering of tribulation, the necessity of predestination will wax sweet, and thou shalt well feel how precious a thing it is. For except thou have born the cross of adversity and temptation, and hast felt thyself brought unto the very brim of desperation, yea, and unto hell-gates, thou canst never meddle with the sentence of predestination without thine own harm, and without secret wrath and grudging inwardly against God; for otherwise it shall not be possible for thee to think that God is righteous and just. Therefore must Adam be well mortified, and the fleshly wit brought utterly to nought, ere that thou mayest away with this thing, and drink so strong wine. Take heed therefore unto thyself, that thou drink not wine, while thou art yet but a suckling. For every learning hath its time, measure, and age;’ and in Christ is there a certain childhood, in which a man must be content with milk for a season, until he wax strong and grow up unto a perfect man in Christ, and be able to eat of more strong meat. ‘In the twelfth chapter he giveth exhortations.’ For this manner observeth Paul in all his epistles; first he teacheth Christ and the faith, then exhorteth he to good works, and unto continual mortifying of the flesh. So ‘here teacheth he good works in deed, and the true serving of God, and maketh all men priests, to offer up, not money and beasts, as the manner was in the time of the law, but their own bodies, with killing and mortifying the lusts of the flesh. After that, he describeth the outward conversation of christian men, how they ought to behave themselves in spiritual things, how to teach, preach, and rule in the congregation of Christ, to serve one another, to suffer all things patiently, and to commit the wreak and vengeance to God: in conclusion, how a christian man ought to behave himself unto all men, to friend, foe, or whatsoever he be. These are the right works of a christian man, which spring out of faith. For faith keepeth not holiday, neither suffereth any man to be idle, wheresoever she dwelleth.’ ‘In the thirteenth chapter he teacheth to honor the worldly and temporal sword. For though that man’s law and ordinance make not a man good before God, neither justify him in the heart, yet are they ordained for the furtherance of the commonwealth, to maintain peace, to punish the evil, and to defend the good. Therefore ought the good to honor the temporal sword, and to have it in reverence, though as concerning themselves they need it Not,’ but would abstain from evil of their own accord; yea:, and do good without man’s law, but by the law of the Spirit, which governeth the heart, and guideth it unto all that is the will of God. ‘Finally, he comprehendeth and knitteth up all in love.’ Love of her own nature bestoweth all that she hath, and even her own self, on that which is loved.
Thou needest not to bid a kind mother to be loving unto her only son; much less doth spiritual love, which hath eyes given her of God, need man’s law to teach her to do her duty. And as in the beginning the apostle put forth Christ, as the cause and author of our righteousness and salvation, even so ‘he setteth him forth here as an example to counterfeit, that as he hath done to us, even so should we do one to another.’ ‘In the fourteenth chapter he teacheth to deal soberly with the consciences of the weak in the faith, which yet understand not the liberty of Christ perfectly enough; and to favor them of christian love; and not to use the liberty of the faith unto hinderance, but unto the furtherance and edifying of the weak. For where such consideration is not, there followeth debate and despising of the gospel. It is better then to forbear the weak awhile, until they wax strong, than that the learning of the gospel should come altogether under foot.’ And such work is a singular work of love; yea, and where love is perfect, there must needs be such a respect unto the weak; a thing that Christ commanded and charged to be had above all things. ‘In the fifteenth chapter he setteth forth Christ again, to be followed ; that we also by his example should bear with others that are yet weak, as them that are frail, open sinners, unlearned, unexpert, and of loathsome manners; and not cast them away forthwith, but suffer them till they wax better, and exhort them in the mean time. For so dealt Christ in the gospel, and now dealeth with us, daily suffering our imperfectness, weakness, conversation, and manners not yet fashioned after the doctrine of the gospel, but which smell of the flesh, yea, and sometimes break forth into outward deeds. After that, to conclude withal, he wisheth them increase of faith, peace, and joy of conscience; praiseth them, and committeth them to God, and magnifieth his office and administration in the gospel; and soberly, and with great discretion, desireth succor and aid of them for the poor saints of Jerusalem: and it is all pure love that he speaketh or dealeth withal.’ ‘So find we in this epistle plenteously, unto the uttermost, whatsoever a christian man or woman ought to know; that is to wit, what the law, the gospel, sin, grace, faith, righteousness, Christ, God, good works, love, hope, and the cross are; and even wherein the pith of all, that pertaineth to the christian faith, standeth; and how a christian man ought to behave himself unto every man, be he perfect or a sinner, good or bad, strong or weak, friend or foe; and in conclusion, how to behave ourselves both toward God, and toward ourselves also. And all things are profoundly grounded in the scriptures, and declared with examples of himself, of the fathers, and of the prophets, that a man can here desire no more.
Wherefore it appeareth evidently, that Paul’s mind was to comprehend briefly in this epistle all the whole learning of Christ’s gospel, and to prepare an introduction unto all the old Testament. For without doubt, whosoever hath this epistle perfectly in his heart, the same hath the light and the effect of the old Testament with him. Wherefore let every man, without exception, exercise himself therein diligently, and record it night and day continually, until he be fully acquainted therewith.’ ‘The last chapter is a chapter of recommendation, wherein he yet mingleth a good monition, that we should beware of the traditions and doctrine of men, which beguile the simple with sophistry and learning that is not after the gospel,’ and draw them from Christ, and noosel them in weak and feeble, and (as Paul calleth them in the epistle to the Galatians,) in beggarly ceremonies, for the intent that they would live in fat pastures, and be in authority and be taken as Christ, yea, and above Christ, and sit in the temple of God, that is to wit, in the consciences of men, where God, only, his word and his Christ, ought to sit. Compare therefore all manner doctrine of men unto the scripture, and see whether they agree or not. And commit thyself whole and altogether unto Christ; and so shall he with his Holy Spirit, and with all his fullness, dwell in thy soul. Amen. The sum and whole cause of the writing of this epistle is, to prove that a man is justified by faith only; which proposition whoso denieth, to him is not only this epistle and all that Paul writeth, but also the whole scripture, so locked up, that he shall never understand it to his soul’s health. And, to bring a man to the understanding and feeling that faith only justifieth, Paul proves that the whole nature of man is so poisoned and so corrupt, yea, and so dead, concerning godly living or godly thinking, that it is impossible for her to keep the law in the sight of God; that is to say, to love it, and of love and willingness to do it as naturally as a man eats or drinks, until he be quickened again and healed through faith. And by justifying, understand no other thing than to be reconciled to God, and to be restored unto his favor, and to have thy sins forgiven thee. As, when I say, God justifieth us, understand thereby, that God for Christ’s sake, merits, and deservings only, receiveth us unto his mercy, favor, and grace, and forgiveth us our sins. And when I say, Christ justifieth us, understand thereby, that Christ only hath redeemed us, bought, and delivered us out of the wrath of God and damnation, and hath with his works only purchased us the mercy, the favor, and grace of God, and the forgiveness of our sins. And when I say, that faith justifieth, understand thereby, that faith and trust in the truth of God and in the mercy promised us for Christ’s sake, and for his deserving and works only, doth quiet the conscience and certify her that our sins be forgiven, and we in the favor of God.
Furthermore, set before thine eyes Christ’s works and thine own works.
Christ’s works only justify thee, and make satisfaction for thy sin, and not thine own works; that is to say, quiet thy conscience, and make thee sure that thy sins are forgiven thee, and not thine own works. For the promise of mercy is made thee for Christ’s work’s sake, and not for thine own work’s sake.
Wherefore, seeing God hath not promised that thine own works shall save thee, therefore faith in thine own works can never quiet thy conscience, nor certify thee before God, when God cometh to judge and to take a reckoning that thy sins are forgiven thee. Beyond all this, mine own works can never satisfy the law, or pay that I owe it: for I owe the law to love it with all mine heart, soul, power, and might; which to pay I am never able, while I am compassed with flesh. No, I cannot once begin to love the law, except I be first sure by faith, that God loveth me and forgiveth me.
Finally, that we say, Faith only justifieth, ought to offend no man. For if this be true, that Christ only redeemed us, Christ only bare our sins, made satisfaction for them, and purchased us the favor of God; then must it needs be true that the trust only in Christ’s deserving and in the promises of God the Father, made to us for Christ’s sake, doth alone quiet the conscience, and certify it that the sins are forgiven. And when they say, A man must repent, forsake sin, and have a purpose to sin no more, as nigh as he can, and love the law of God; therefore faith alone justifieth not: I answer, That and all like arguments are naught, and like to this — I must repent and be sorry; the gospel must be preached me, and I must believe it, or else I cannot be partaker of mercy, which Christ hath deserved for me.
Therefore Christ only justifieth me not; or Christ only hath not made satisfaction for my sins. As this is a naughty argument, so is the other.
Now go to, reader, and according to the order of Paul’s writing, even so do thou. First, behold thyself diligently in the law of God, and see there thy just damnation. Secondly, turn thine eyes to Christ, and see there the exceeding mercy of thy most kind and loving Father. Thirdly, remember that Christ made not this atonement that thou shouldest anger God again; neither died he for thy sins, that thou shouldest live still in them; neither cleansed he thee, that thou shouldest return, as a swine, unto thine old puddle again; but that thou shouldest be a new creature, and live a new life after the will of God, and not of the flesh. And be diligent, lest through thine own negligence and unthankfulness thou lose this favor and mercy again. Farewell.
THE PROLOGUE UPON THE FIRST EPISTLE OF ST PAUL TO THE CORINTHIANS.
THIS epistle declareth itself from chapter to chapter, that it needeth no prologue, or introduction to declare it. When Paul had converted a great number at Corinthum, as ye read in Acts 18 <441801> ., and was departed, there came immediately false apostles and sect-makers, and drew every man disciples after him; so that the people were whole unquieted, divided and at variance among themselves, every man for the zeal of his doctor; those new apostles not regarding what division, what uncleanness of living, or what false opinions were among the people, as long as they might be in authority, and well at ease in their bellies. But Paul in the first four chapters with great wisdom and soberness rebuketh first the division and the authors thereof; and calleth the people to Christ again, and teacheth how and for what the preacher is to be taken.
In the 5th, he rebuketh the uncleanness that was amongst them.
In the 6th he rebuketh the debate and going to law together, and pleading their causes before the heathen.
In the 7th he reformeth them concerning chastity and marriage.
In the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th, he teacheth the strong to forbear the weak, that yet understand not the liberty of the gospel; and that with the ensample of himself, which though he were an apostle, and had authority, yet of love he abstained, to win other. And he feareth them with the ensamples of the old Testament; and rebuketh divers disorders that were among them concerning the sacrament, and the going bareheaded of married women.
In the 12th, 13th and 14th he teacheth of the manifold gifts of the Spirit, and proveth by a similitude of the body, that all gifts are given, that each should help other, and through love do service to other; and proveth, that where love is not, there is nothing that pleaseth God. For that one should love another, is all that God requireth of us; and therefore, if we desire spiritual gifts, he teacheth those gifts to be desired that help our neighbors.
In the 15th he teacheth of the resurrection of the body, and in the last he exhorteth to help the poor saints.
THE PROLOGUE UPON THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS.
As in the first Epistle he rebuketh the Corinthians sharply, so in this he comforteth them, and praiseth them, and commandeth him that was excommunicated to be received lovingly into the congregation again.
And in the first and second chapters he sheweth his love to them-ward, how that all that he spake, did, or suffered was for their sakes, and for their salvation.
Then in the 3rd, 4th and 5th he praiseth the office of preaching the gospel above the preaching of the law; and sheweth that the gospel groweth through persecution, and through the cross, which maketh a man sure .of eternal life: and here and there he toucheth the false, prophets, which studied to turn the faith of the people from Christ unto the works of the law.
In the 8th and 9th chapters he exhorteth them to help the poor saints that were at Jerusalem.
In the 10th, 11th and 12th he inveigheth against the false prophets.
And in the last chapter he threateneth them that had sinned and not amended themselves.
A PROLOGUE UPON THE EPISTLE OF ST PAUL TO THE GALATIANS.
As ye read (Acts 15 <441501> .) how certain came from Jerusalem to Antioch, and vexed the disciples there, affirming that they could not be saved except they were circumcised; even so, after Paul had converted the Galatians, and coupled them to Christ, to trust in him only for the remission of sin, and hope of grace and salvation, and was departed, there came false apostles unto them, (as unto the Corinthians, and unto all places where Paul had preached,) and that in the name of Peter, James, and John, whom they called the high apostles, and preached circumcision, and the keeping of the law, to be saved by; and minished Paul’s authority.
To the confounding of those, Paul magnifieth his office and apostleship in the two first chapters, and maketh himself equal unto the high apostles; and concludeth that every man must be justified without descryings, without works, and without help of the law; but alone by Christ.
In the 3rd and 4th he proveth the same with scripture, examples and similitudes, and sheweth that the law is cause of more sin, and bringeth the curse of God upon us, and justifieth us not; but that justifying cometh of grace promised us of God, through the deserving of Christ, by whom (if we believe) we are justified without help of the works of the law.
And in the 5th and 6th he exhorteth unto the works of love, which follow faith and justifying.
So that in all his epistle he observeth this order; first he preacheth the damnation of the law, then the justifying of faith, and thirdly the works of love. For on that condition, that we love henceforth and work, is the mercy given us; or else, if we will not work the will of God henceforward, we fall from favor and grace; and the inheritance that is freely given us for Christ’s sake, through our own fault we lose again.
A PROLOGUE UPON THE EPISTLE OF ST PAUL TO THE EPHESIANS.
In this epistle, and namely in the first; three chapters, Paul sheweth that the gospel and grace thereof was foreseen and predestinate of God from before the beginning, and deserved through Christ, and now at the last sent forth, that all men should believe thereon; thereby to be justified, made righteous, living and happy, and to be delivered from under the damnation of the law and captivity of ceremonies.
And in the fourth he teacheth to avoid traditions and men’s doctrine, and to beware of putting trust in any thing save Christ; affirming that he only is sufficient, and that in him we have all things, and besides him need nothing.
In the 5th and 6th he exhorteth to exercise the faith, and to declare it abroad through good works, and to avoid sin, and to arm them with spiritual armor against the devil, that they might stand fast in time of tribulation and under the cross.
THE PROLOGUE UPON THE EPISTLE OF ST PAUL TO THE PHILIPPIANS.
PAUL praiseth the Philippians, and exhorteth them to stand fast in the true faith, and to increase in love. And because that false prophets study always to impugn and destroy the true faith, he warneth them of such worklearners or teachers of works, and praiseth Epaphroditus: and all this doth he in the first and second chapters.
In the third he reproveth the faithless, and man’s righteousness which false prophets teach and maintain; and he setteth himself for an ensample, how that he himself had lived in such false righteousness and holiness unrebukeable, that no man could complain on him, and yet now setteth nought thereby for Christ’s righteousness’ sake. And finally, he affirmeth that such false prophets are the enemies of the cross, and make their bellies their God; for further than they may safely, and without all peril and suffering, will they not preach Christ.
A PROLOGUE UPON THE EPISTLE OF ST PAUL TO THE COLOSSIANS.
As the epistle to the Galatians holdeth the manner and fashion of the epistle to the Romans, briefly comprehending all that is therein at length disputed; even so this epistle followeth the ensample of the epistle to the Ephesians, containing the tenor of the same epistle with fewer words.
In the first chapter he praiseth them, and wisheth that they continue in the faith, and grow perfecter therein; and then describeth he the gospel, how that it is a wisdom confesseth Christ to be the Lord and God, crucified for us, and a wisdom that hath been hid in Christ, since afore the beginning of the world, and now first begun to be opened through the preaching of the apostles.
In the second he warneth them of men’s doctrine, and describeth the false prophets to the uttermost, and rebuketh them according.
In the third he exhorteth to be fruitful in the pure faith, with all manner of good works one to another; and describeth all degrees, and what their duties are.
In the fourth he exhorteth to pray, and also to pray for him, and saluteth them.
A PROLOGUE UPON THE FIRST EPISTLE OF ST PAUL TO THE THESSALONIANS.
THIS epistle did Paul write of exceeding love and care, and praiseth them in the two first chapters, because they did receive the gospel earnestly, and had in tribulation and persecution continued therein steadfastly; and were become an ensample unto all congregations; and had thereto suffered of their own kinsmen, as Christ and his apostles did of the Jews; putting them thereto in mind, how purely and godly he had lived among them to their ensample; and thanketh God that his gospel had brought forth such fruit among them.
In the third chapter he sheweth his diligence and care, lest his so great labor, and their so blessed a beginning, should have been in vain; Satan and his apostles vexing them with persecution, and destroying their faith with. men’s doctrine. And therefore he sent Timothy to them to comfort them, and strengthen them in the faith; and thanketh God that they had so constantly endured; and desireth God to increase them.
In the fourth he exhorteth them to keep themselves from sin, and to do good one to another; and thereto he informeth them concerning the resurrection.
THE PROLOGUE UPON THE SECOND EPISTLE OF ST PAUL TO THE THESSALONIANS.
BECAUSE in the fore-epistle he had said the last day should come suddenly, the Thessalonians thought it should have come shortly; wherefore in this epistle he declareth himself.
And in the first chapter he comforteth them with everlasting reward of their faith and patience in suffering for the, gospel, and with the punishment of their persecutors in ever lasting pain.
In the second he sheweth that the last day should not come till there were first a departing, as some men think, from under the obedience of the emperor of Rome; and that Antichrist should set up himself in the same place as God, and deceive the unthankful world with false doctrine, and with false and lying miracles, wrought by the working of Satan:, until Christ should come, and slay him with his glorious coming and spiritual preaching of the word of God.
A PROLOGUE UPON THE FIRST EPISTLE OF ST PAUL TO TIMOTHY.
THIS epistle writeth St Paul to be an ensample to all bishops, what they should teach, and how they should teach; and how they should govern the congregation of Christ in all degrees; that it should be no need to govern Christ’s flock with the doctrine of their own good meanings.
In the first chapter he commandeth that the bishop should maintain the right faith and love, and resist false preachers, which make the law and works equal with Christ and his gospel. And he maketh a short conclusion of all Christian learning; whereto the law serveth, and what the end thereof is, also what the gospel is; and setteth himself for a comfortable ensample unto all sinners and troubled consciences.
In the third he describeth what manner persons the bishop or priest and their wives should be, and also the deacons and their wives; and commendeth it if any man desire to be a bishop after that manner.
In the fourth he prophesieth, and sheweth before, of the false bishops and spiritual officers, that should arise among the Christian people, and be, do, and preach clean contrary to the fore-described ensample; and should depart from the faith in Christ, and forbid to marry, and to eat certain meats, teaching to put trust therein, both of justifying and forgiveness of sins, and also of deserving of eternal life.
In the fifth he teacheth how a bishop should use himself toward young and old, and concerning widows what is to be done, and which should be found of the common cost; and teacheth also how men should honor the virtuous bishops and priests, and how to rebuke the evil.
In the sixth he exhorteth the bishops to cleave to the gospel of Christ and true doctrine, and to avoid vain questions, and superfluous disputings, which gender strife, and quench the truth; and by which also the false prophets get them authority, and seek to satisfy their insatiable covetousness.
THE PROLOGUE UPON THE SECOND EPISTLE OF ST PAUL TO TIMOTHY.
IN this epistle Paul exhorteth Timothy to go forward as he had begun, and to preach the gospel with all diligence, as it need was, seeing many were fallen away, and many false spirits and teachers were sprung up already. Wherefore a bishop’s part is ever to watch, and to labor in the gospel.
In the third and fourth he sheweth before, and that notably, of the jeopardous time toward the end of the world, in which a false spiritual living should deceive the whole world with outward hypocrisy and appearance of holiness; under which all abominations should have their free passage and course, as we (alas!) have seen this prophecy of St Paul fulfilled in our spiritualty unto the uttermost jot.
THE PROLOGUE UPON THE EPISTLE OF ST PAUL TO TITUS.
THIS is a short epistle; wherein yet is contained all that is needful for a Christian to know.
In the first chapter he sheweth what manner a man a bishop or curate ought to be, that is to wit, virtuous and learned, to preach and defend the gospel, and to confound the doctrine of trusting in works and men’s traditions; which ever fight against the faith, and carry away the conscience captive from the freedom which is in Christ, into the bondage of their own imaginations and inventions, as though those things should make a man good in the sight of God, which are to no profit at all.
PROLOGUE UPON THE EPISTLE OF ST PAUL TO TITUS.
In the second he teacheth all degrees, old, young, men, women, masters and servants, how to behave themselves; as they which Christ hath bought with his blood, to be his proper or peculiar people, to glorify God with good works.
In the third he teacheth to honor temporal rulers, and to obey them; and yet bringeth to Christ again, and to the grace that he hath purchased for us; that no man should think that the obedience of princes’ laws, or any other works, should justify us before God. And last of all, he chargeth to avoid the company of the stubborn and of the heretics.
A PROLOGUE UPON THE EPISTLE OF ST PAUL UNTO PHILEMON.
IN this epistle St Paul sheweth a godly ensample of christian love. Herein we see how Paul taketh poor Onesimos unto him, and maketh intercession for him unto his master, and helpeth him with all that he may, and believeth himself none otherwise than as though he himself were the said Onesimos: which thing yet he doth not with power and authority, as he well might have done, but putteth off all authority, and whatsoever he might of right do, that Philemon might do likewise toward Onesimos; and with great meekness and wisdom teacheth Philemon to see his duty in Christ Jesus.
A PROLOGUE UPON THE EPISTLE OF ST PAUL TO THE HEBREWS.
ABOUT this epistle hath ever been much doubting, and that among great learned men, who should be the author, thereof; divers affirming that it was not Paul’s, partly because the style so disagreeth, and is so unlike his other epistles, and partly because it standeth in the second chapter, this learning was confirmed to us-ward, that is to say, taught us by them that heard it themselves of the Lord. Now Paul testifieth, (Galatians 1 <480101> .) that he received not his gospel of man, nor by man, but immediately of Christ, and that by revelation. Wherefore, say they, seeing this man confesseth that he received his doctrine of the apostles, it cannot be Paul’s, but some disciple of the apostles. Now whether it were Paul’s or no, I say not, but permit it to other men’s judgments; neither think I it to be an article of any man’s faith, but that a man may doubt of the author.
Moreover, many there hath been, which not only have denied this epistle to have been written by any of the apostles, but have also refused it altogether, as no catholic or godly epistle, because of certain texts written therein For first he saith in the sixth: “It is impossible that they which were once lighted, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were become partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted of the good word of God, and of the power of the world to come, if they fall, should be renewed again to repentance” or conversion. And in the tenth it saith: “If we sin willingly after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrificed for sins, but a fearful looking for judgment, and violent fire which shall destroy the adversaries.” And in the twelfth it saith, that Esau found no way to repentance, or conversion; no, though he sought it with tears. Which texts, say they, sound, that if a man sin any more after he is once baptized, he can be no more forgiven; and that is contrary to all the scripture, and therefore to be refused to be catholic and godly.
Unto which I answer, If we should deny this epistle for those texts’ sakes, so should we deny first Matthew, which in his 12th chapter <401201> affirmeth, that he which blasphemeth the Holy Ghost shall neither be forgiven here nor in the world to come: and then Mark, which in his third chapter saith, that he that blasphemeth the Holy Ghost shall never have forgiveness; but shall be in danger of eternal damnation: and thirdly, Luke, which saith there shall be no remission to him that blasphemeth the Spirit of God. Moreover, John in his first epistle saith, “There is a sin unto death; for which a man should not pray.” And 2 Peter 2 <610201> . saith, “If a man be fled from the uncleanness of the world through the knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ, and then be wrapped in again, his end is worse than the beginning; and that it had been better for him never to have known the truth.”
And Paul, 2 Timothy 3 <550301> . curseth Alexander the coppersmith, desiring the Lord to reward him according to his deeds; which is a sign that either the epistle should not be good, or that Alexander had sinned past forgiveness, no more to be prayed for. Wherefore seeing no scripture is of private interpretation, but must be expounded according to the general articles of our faith, and agreeable to other open and evident texts, and confirmed or compared to like sentences; why should we not understand these places with like reference as we do the, other, namely when all the remnant of the epistle is so godly and of so great learning?
The first place in the 6th chapter will no more than that they which know the truth, and yet willingly refuse the light, and choose rather to dwell in darkness, and refuse Christ, and make a mock of him (as the Pharisees, which when they were overcome with scripture and miracles, that Christ was the very Messias, yet had they such lust in iniquity, that they forsook him, persecuted him, slew him, and did all the shame that could be imagined to him) cannot be renewed, (eijv meta>noian saith the Greek,) to be converted: that is to say, such Malicious unkindness, which is none other than the blaspheming of the Holy Ghost, deserveth that the Spirit shalt never come more at them, to convert them: which I believe to be as true as any other text in all the scripture.
And what is meant by that place in the tenth chapter, where he saith, “If we sin willingly after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin,” is declared immediately after. For he maketh a comparison between Moses and Christ, saying: “If he which despised Moses’ law died without mercy, how much worse punishment is he worthy of, that treadeth the Son of God under foot, and counteth the Mood of the covenant, by which blood he was sanctified, as an unholy thing, and blasphemeth the Spirit of grace?” By which words it is manifest that he meaneth none other by the fore words, than the sin of blasphemy of the Spirit.
For them that sin of ignorance or infirmity, there is remedy; but for him that knoweth the truth, and yet willingly yieldeth himself to sin, and consenteth unto the life of sin, with soul and body, and had rather lie in sin than have his poisoned nature healed by the help of the Spirit of grace, and maliciously persecuteth the truth, for him, I say, there is no remedy; the way to mercy is locked up; and the Spirit is taken from him for his unthankfulness’ sake, no more to be given to him. Truth it is, if a man can turn to God and believe in Christ, he must be forgiven, how deep soever he hath sinned; but that will not be without the Spirit, .and such blasphemers shall no more have the Spirit offered them. Let every man therefore fear God, and beware that he yield not himself to serve sin; but how oft soever he sin, let him begin again, and fight afresh, and no doubt he shall at the last overcome, and in the meantime yet be under mercy for Christ’s sake, because his heart worketh, and would fain be loosed from under the bondage of sin.
And that it saith in the twelfth, Esau found no way (eijv meta>noian ) to be converted and reconciled unto God, and restored unto his birth-right again, though he sought it with tears, that text must have a spiritual eye. For Esau in selling his birth-right despised not only that temporal promotion, that he should have been lord over all his brethren, and king of that country; but he also refused the grace and mercy of God, and the spiritual blessing of Abraham and Isaac, and all the mercy that is promised us in Christ, which should have been his seed.
Of this ye see that this epistle ought no more to be refused for a holy, godly and catholic, than the other authentic scriptures.
And now therefore, to come to our purpose again, though this epistle (as it saith in the sixth) lay not the ground of the faith of Christ, yet it buildeth cunningly thereon pure gold, silver, and precious stones; and proveth the priesthood of Christ with scriptures inevitable. Moreover, there is no work in all the scripture that so plainly declareth the meaning and significations of the sacrifices, ceremonies, and figures of the old Testament, as this epistle: insomuch that, if willful blindness and malicious malice were not the cause, this epistle only were enough to weed out of the hearts of the papists that cankered heresy of justifying of works, concerning our sacraments, ceremonies, and all manner traditions of their own inventions.
And finally, in that ye see in the tenth, that he had been in bonds and in prison for Christ’s sake, and in that he so mightily driveth all to Christ, to be saved through him, and so cared for the flock of Christ, that he both wrote and sent where he heard that they began to faint, to comfort, courage and strength them with the word of God, and in that also that he sent Timothy, Paul’s disciple, both virtuous, well learned, and had in great reverence; it is easy to see that he was a faithful servant of Christ, and of the same doctrine that Timothy was of, yea, and Paul himself was of, and that he was an apostle or in the apostles’ time, or near thereunto. And seeing the epistle agreeth to all the rest of the scripture (if it be indifferently looked on), why should it not be authority, and taken for holy scripture?
THE PROLOGUE UPON THE EPISTLE OF ST JAMES.
THOUGH this epistle were refused in the old time, and denied of many to be the epistle of a very apostle, and though also it lay not the foundation of the faith of Christ, but speaketh of a general faith in God, neither preacheth his death and resurrection, either the mercy that is laid up in store for us in him, or everlasting covenant made us in his blood, which is the office and duty of every apostle, as Christ saith, John 15th <431501> , “Ye shall testify of me;” yet, because it setteth up no man’s doctrine, but crieth to keep the law of God, and maketh love, which is without partiality, the fulfilling of the law, as Christ and all the apostles did, and hath, thereto, many good and godly sentences in it, and hath also nothing that is not agreeable to the rest of the scriptures, if it be looked indifferently on; methinketh it ought of right to be taken for holy scripture. For as for that place for which haply it was at the beginning refused of holy men, as it ought, if it had meant as they took it, and for which place only, for the false understanding, it hath been chiefly received of the papists; yet if the circumstances be well pondered, it will appear that the author’s intent was far otherwise than they took him for.
For where he saith in the second chapter, “Faith without deeds is dead in itself,” he meaneth none other thing than all the scripture doth; how that faith, which hath no good deeds following, is a false faith, and not the faith that justifieth, or receiveth forgiveness of sins. For God promiseth them only forgiveness of their sins, which turn to God to keep his laws.
Wherefore they that purpose to continue still in sin, have no part in that promise; but deceive themselves if they believe that God hath forgiven them their old sins for Christ’s sake. And after, when he saith that man is justified by deeds, and not of faith only, he will no more than that faith doth not so justify every where, that nothing justifieth save faith. For deeds also do justify. And as faith only justifieth before God, so do deeds only justify before the world: whereof is enough spoken, partly in the prologue on Paul to the Romans, and also in other places. For as Paul affirmeth (Romans 4 <450401> .) that Abraham was not justified by works before God, but by faith only, as Genesis beareth record; so will James, that deeds only justified him before the world, and faith wrought with his deeds; that is to say, faith, wherewith he was righteous before God in the heart, did cause him to work the will of God outwardly, whereby he was righteous before the world; and whereby the world perceived that he believed in God, loved and feared God. And as (Hebrews 11 <581101> .) the scripture affirmeth that Rahab was justified before God through faith, so doth James affirm that through works, by which she shewed her faith, she was justified before the world: and it is true.
THE PROLOGUE UPON THE FIRST EPISTLE OF ST PETER.
THIS epistle did St Peter write to the heathen that were converted; and exhorted them to stand fast in the faith, to grow therein, and wax perfect, through all manner of suffering, and also of good works.
In the first he declareth the justifying of faith through Christ’s blood, and comforteth them with the hope of the life to come; and sheweth that we have not deserved it, but that the prophets prophesied it should be given us: and as Christ, which redeemed us out of sin and all uncleanness, is holy, so he exhorteth to lead an holy conversation; and, because we be richly bought and made heirs of a rich inheritance, to take heed that we lose it not again through our own negligence.
In the second chapter he sheweth that Christ is the foundation and head cornerstone, whereon all are built through faith, whether it be Jew or Gentile; and how that, in Christ, they are made priests to offer themselves to God, (as Christ did himself,) and to flee the lusts of the flesh, that fight against the soul. And first he teacheth them, in general, to obey the worldly rulers; and then in special, he teacheth the servants to obey their masters, be they good or bad, and to suffer wrong of them, as Christ suffered wrong for us.
In the third he teacheth the wives to obey their husbands, yea, though they be unbelievers; and to apparel themselves godly, and as it becometh holiness: and thereto, that the husbands suffer and bear the infirmity of their wives, and live according to knowledge with them: and then, in general, he exhorteth them to be soft, courteous, patient and friendly one to another, and to suffer for righteousness, after the ensample of Christ.
In the fourth he exhorteth to fly sin, and to tame the flesh with soberness, watching, and prayer; and to love each other, and to know that all good gifts are of God; and every man to help his neighbor with such as he hath received of God; and finally, not to wonder but to rejoice, though they must suffer for Christ’s name sake; seeing as they be here partakers of his afflictions, so shall they be partakers of his glory to come.
THE PROLOGUE UPON THE SECOND EPISTLE OF ST PETER.
THIS epistle was written against them which thought that christian faith might be idle and without works; when yet the promise of Christ is made us upon that condition, that we henceforth work the will of God, and not of the flesh. Therefore he exhorteth them to exercise themselves diligently in virtue and all good works, thereby to be sure that they have the true faith; as a man knoweth the goodness of a tree by his fruit. Then he commendeth and magnifieth the gospel; and willeth that men hearken to that only, and to men’s doctrine not at all. For, as he saith, there came no prophetical scripture by the will of man, but by the will of the Holy Ghost, which only knoweth the will of God: neither is any scripture of private interpretation, that is to say, may be otherwise expounded than agreeing to the open places, and general articles, and to the, covenants of God, and all the rest of the scripture. And therefore, in the second, he warneth them of false teachers that should come, and through preaching confidence in false works, to satisfy their covetousness withal, should deny Christ: which he threateneth with three terrible examples; with the fall of the angels, the flood of Noe, and overthrowing of Sodom and Gomorrah; and so describeth them, with their insatiable covetousness, pride, stubbornness, and disobedience to all temporal rule and authority, [with their abominable whoredom, and hypocrisy, that a blind man may see that he prophesied it of the pope’s holy spiritualty, which devoured the whole world with their covetousness, living in all lust and pleasure, and reigning as temporal tyrants.] In the third he sheweth that in the latter days the people, through unbelief and lack of fear of the judgment of the last day, shall be even as epicures, wholly given to the flesh: which last day shall yet surely and shortly come, saith he; for a thousand years and one day is with God all one. And he sheweth also how terrible that day shall be, and how suddenly it shall come; and therefore exhorteth all men to look earnestly for it, and to prepare themselves against it with holy conversation and godly living.
Finally, the first chapter sheweth how it should go in the time of the pure and true Gospel: the second, how it should go in the time of the pope and men’s doctrine: the third, how at the last men should believe nothing, nor fear God at all,
THE PROLOGUE UPON THE THREE EPISTLES OF ST JOHN.
IN this first epistle of St John is contained the doctrine of a very apostle of Christ, and ought of right to follow his gospel. For as in his gospel he setteth out the true faith, and teacheth by it only all men to be saved, and restored unto the favor of God again; even so here:, in this epistle, he goeth against them that boast themselves of faith, and yet continue without good works; and teacheth many ways, that where true faith is, there the works tarry not behind; and contrary, that where the works follow not, there is no true faith, but a false imagination and utter darkness.
And he writeth sore against a sect of heretics, which then began to deny that Christ was come in the flesh, and calleth them very antichrists; which sect goeth now in her full swing. For though they deny not openly, with the mouth, that Christ is come in the flesh, yet they deny it in the heart, with their doctrine and living. For he that will be justified and saved through his own works, the same doth as much as he that denied Christ to be come in flesh; seeing that Christ came only therefore in the flesh, that he should justify us, or purchase us pardon of our sins, bring us in the favor of God again, and make us heirs of eternal life with his works only, and with his blood-shedding, without and before all our works.
So fighteth this epistle both against them that will be saved by their own good works, and also against them that will be saved by a faith that hath no lust to do works at all, and keepeth us in the middle way, that we believe in Christ to be saved by his works only; and then to know that it is our duty, for that kindness, to prepare ours. elves to do the commandment of God, and to love every man his neighbor, as Christ loved him; seeking with our oven works God’s honor and our neighbor’s wealth only, and trusting for eternal life, and for all that God hath promised us, through Christ’s deserving. The two last epistles, though they be short, yet are goodly ensamples of love and faith, and do savor of the spirit of a true apostle.
A PROLOGUE ON THE EPISTLE OF ST JUDE.
As for the epistle of Judas, and though men have, and yet do doubt of the author, and though it seem also to be drawn out of the second epistle of St Peter, and thereto allegeth scripture that is nowhere found; yet, seeing the matter is so godly, and agreeing to other places of holy scripture, I see not but that it ought to have the authority of holy scripture.
AN EXPOSITION UPON CERTAIN WORDS AND PHRASES OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
INFERNUS and Gehenna differ much in signification, though we have none interpretation for either of them than this English word Hell: for Gehenna signifieth a place of punishment; but Infernus is taken for any manner of place beneath in the earth, as a grave, sepulcher, or cave.
Hell: it is called in Hebrew the valley of Hennon; a place by Jerusalem, where they burnt their children in fire unto the idol Moloch; and is usurped and taken now for a place where the wicked and ungodly shall be tormented, both soul and body, after the general judgment.
There tarry and abide till ye go out. It is in Mark, the 6th. chapter “Wheresoever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye go out thence.”
And, Luke 9 <420901> . it is, “Into whatsoever house ye enter, there tarry and go not out thence:” that is to say, whosoever receiveth you, there abide as long as ye are in the city or town, and go not shamefully a begging from house to house, as friars do.
Dust. “Shake off the dust of your feet.” (Matthew 10 <401001> .) Why are they commanded to shake off the dust? For a witness, saith Luke, that that deed may testify against them in the day of judgment, that the doctrine of salvation was offered for them, but they would not receive it. Ye see also that such gestures and ceremonies have greater power with them, than have bare words only, to move the heart and to stir up faith, as do the laying on of hands, and anointing with oil, etc.
Hypocrites, can ye discern the face of heaven, and not discern the signs of the times? That is to say, they could judge by the signs of the sky what weather should follow, but they could not know Christ by the signs of the scripture; and yet other signs might not be given them.
The end of such Prologues of the old Testament and new Testament as were made by William Tyndale.