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    Sent To The Afflicted Church Of Christ, Exhorting Them To Bear His Cross With Patience, Looking Every Hour For His Coming Again, To The Great Comfort And Consolation Of His Chosen; With A Prophecy Of The Destruction Of The Wicked. ďPass through the city, and put a sign on the foreheads of those that mourn for the abominations that are committed.Ē ó <260901>EZEKIEL 9. WHEN I ponder with myself, beloved in the Lord, what was the estate of Christís true church immediately after his death and passion, and what were the changes and great mutations in the commonwealth of Judea before the final desolation of the same ó as I cannot but fear, that like plagues for like offenses shall strike the realm of England, and in fearing, God knoweth, I lament and mourn ó so can I not but rejoice, knowing that Godís most merciful providence is no less careful this day over his weak and feeble servants in the realm of England, than it was that day, over his weak and sore oppressed flock in Jewry.

    What was the estate of Christís church between his death and resurrection, and from his resurrection to the sending of the Holy Ghost upon his disciples, and from that time also, to the final destruction of Jerusalem, the plain Scripture doth witness; that it was most afflicted, without all comfort and worldly consolation; and that it was so persecuted, that havoc was made over the church of God. And what were the mutations and troubles in Judea and Jerusalem, before the destruction of the same, such as are exercised in histories, and principally in Josephus and Egesippus, cannot be ignorant. For they witness, that over that unthankful people, were permitted to reign cruel, tyrannous, and most ungodly magistrates, by whom the people were oppressed and spoiled of their liberties; by which occasion was stirred up sedition, and thereupon followed so cruel tyranny, that under the name of justice, no small number of the people were burnt alive. After which cruelty, followed such murder universally in the city and in the fields, that the fathers feted their sons, and the brethren their brethren. Which unquietness ceased not, until Godís severe vengeance was once poured forth upon such as obstinately refused, and persecuted Christ Jesus and his doctrine.

    But to return to the entreatment and preservation of Christs church all this time; it is evident, that most sharply it was persecuted, and yet daily did it increase and multiply. It was compelled to fly from city to city, from realm to realm, and from one nation to another. And yet, so wondrously was it preserved, that a great number of those whom the wicked priests by their bloody tyranny exiled and banished from Jerusalem, were kept alive, till Godís vengeance was poured forth upon that most wicked generation. The remembrance of this, beloved in the Lord, is unto my heart such comfort and consolation, that neither can my tongue nor pen express the same. For this assuredly is my hope and expectation, that like as Christ Jesus appeared to his disciples, when there was nothing in their hearts but anguish and desperation; and like as he preserved and multiplied their number under the most extreme persecution, so shall he do to his afflicted flock within the realm of England, this day in spite of all his enemies. First, I say, this is my hope, that a just vengeance shall be taken upon those blood-thirsty tyrants, by whom Christ Jesus in his members is now crucified amongst you; and after that, his merit shall so appear, to the comfort of those that now do mourn, that they shall hear and know the voice of their own pastor. And this shall our merciful God do unto us, to let us know, and in practice understand, that his promises are infallible; and that he will not treat us according to the wicked weakness of our corrupt nature, which always is ready to fall from God, to distrust his promises, and to forget that ever we have received benefit or comfort from Godís hand, when trouble lieth upon us, or when extreme danger doth appear.

    And therefore, beloved in the Lord, albeit you find your hearts sometimes assaulted with dolour, with grudging, or with some kind of desperation, yet despair not utterly, neither be ye troubled above measure, as that Christ Jesus should never visit you again. Not so, dear brethren, not so; for such imperfections rested with Christís own apostles for a long time, and yet did they not hinder his again coming unto them. No more shall our weakness and imperfections hinder or let the brightness of his countenance, and the comfort of his Word yet once again to shine before us, provided always that Judas his obstinacy, his impenitence, and traitorous heart be absent from us; as I doubt not but it is from all the members of Christís body, who are permitted sometimes to fall, so that of the most fervent professors, they become fearful deniers of the most known truth. But they are not permitted of any continuance to blaspheme, neither to remain in unbelief and desperation to the end, as in Christís apostles plainly may be seen. And that more clearly we may understand our times and estate within the realm of England this day, to agree with the time and estate of Christís disciples immediately after his death, let us consider what chanced to them before and after the same.

    Before Christís passion, as they were instructed by Christís own mouth of many things appertaining to that kingdom of God, which they neither perfectly understood, neither worthily then regarded, so were they advertised, and oft admonished, that Christ their master should suffer a cruel death; that they should be ashamed, slandered, and offended in him; that they should fly from him; and finally, that persecution and trouble from time to time should apprehend them. With these most dolorous tidings he also promised that he should arise upon the third day, that he should see them again to their comfort and consolation, and that he should mightily deliver them from all troubles and adversities.

    But what availed all these admonitions to Christís disciples before his death, or in the extremity of their anguish shortly after the game? Did they fear, and verily look for trouble before it came? Or did they look for any comfort when the fore-spoken trouble was come? It is most evident, that no such thing did enter into their hearts. For before Christís death, their greatest mind was upon worldly honor, for which sometimes they debated and contended among themselves, yea, even when Christ was most earnestly preaching of his cross, ( Luke 22): and after his death they were so oppressed with anguish, with care, with dolor and desperation, that neither could the witnessing of the women affirming that they had seen Christ, neither the grave left empty and void, neither the angels who did appear to certify his resurrection, neither yet the very voice and presence of Christ Jesus himself, remove all doubts from their afflicted hearts. But from time to time their minds wavered, and fully could not be established, that their Lord and master was verily risen to their comfort, according to his former promises. ( Luke 24, John 20, Matthew 28).

    In this case, consider I the true professors of Christís holy Evangel to be this day, in the realm of England. For these days of our present dolor and tribulation, have been before spoken and blown in our ears, long before they came. Our weakness and frail infirmity was also painted forth before our eyes. But who would have believed that the days of our trouble had been so nigh? or that so short a tempest should have overthrown so great a multitude? I think, no man within the whole realm. For all men appeared to live in such careless security, as that the immutable sentence of God pronouncing, that whosoever will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution, ( 2 Timothy 3) had nothing appertained to our age. And such a bold confidence, or rather, a vain persuasion had a great number of their own strength, that if they had continued without any backsliding, they might have been judged rather angels than men.

    But, beloved in the Lord, the sword of anguish and of dolor hath now pierced the tender heart of Christís mother, (that is, of his very church,) that the cogitations of many hearts are sufficiently revealed. ( Luke 2).

    The fire is come, which as it hath burnt away with a blast the stubble, hay, and wood, ( 1 Corinthians 3) so in trying the gold, silver, and precious stones, it hath found such dross and dust, that the whole mass may appear to be consumed. For who now calleth to mind, that the same voice which fore-spake our dolors, fore-spake also our everlasting comfort with Christ Jesus? Who delighteth now in his amiable promises? Who rejoiceth under the cross? Yea, who rather doth not fear, tremble, grudge, and lament, as that there were no help in God, or as that he regarded not the trouble which we suffer? These are the imperfections that continually remain in this our corrupt nature, the knowledge whereof ought to move us earnestly to cry, ďO Lord, increase our faith. Be merciful unto us, and let us not drown in the deep for ever.Ē Which if we do with unfeigned hearts, then yet shall Christ Jesus appear to our comfort: his power shall be known to the praise and glory of his own name, in despite of all his conjured enemies.

    And this is the chief and principal cause of my comfort and consolation in these most dolorous days, that neither can our infirmities, nor daily desperation, hinder or let Christ Jesus to return to us again. The other cause of my comfort is, that I am assured that the judgment of these tyrants that now oppress us, shall not slip, but that vengeance shall fall upon them without provision. For sufficiently they have declared the malice of their minds; they have violated the law and holy ordinances of the Lord our God; they have opened their mouths against his eternal verity; they have exiled his truth, and established their own lies. They daily persecute the innocents, and stoutly maintain open murderers. Their hearts are obdurate, and their faces are become shameless, like harlots, so that no hope of repentance nor amendment is to be had of them. And therefore, destruction shall suddenly fall upon them. But with what kind of plagues they shall be stricken in this life, and whom God shall appoint to execute his vengeance upon them, that remit to his good pleasure and further revelation. But their manifest iniquity is unto me an assured assurance that long they cannot escape the vengeance of them most justly deserved.

    But in the mean season, beloved brethren, two things ye must avoid: the former, that ye presume not to be revengers of your own cause, but that ye resign over vengeance unto Him who only is able to requite them, according to their malicious minds. Secondly, that ye hate not with any carnal hatred these blind, cruel, and malicious tyrants; but that ye learn of Christ to pray for your persecutors, ( Matthew 5) lamenting and bewailing, that the devil should so prevail against them, that headlong they should run, body and soul, to perpetual perdition. And note well, that I say, we may not hate them with a carnal hatred, that is to say, only because they trouble our bodies. For there is a spiritual hatred which David calleth a perfect hatred, ( <19D901> Psalm 139) which the Holy Ghost engendereth in the hearts of Godís elect, against the rebellious contemners of his holy statutes; and it is, when we more lament that Godís glory is suppressed, and that Christís flock is defrauded of their wholesome food, than that our bodies are persecuted. With this hatred was Jeremiah inflamed, when he prayed, ďLet me see thy vengeance taken upon thine enemies, O Lord.Ē ( Jeremiah 2,17,20).

    With this hatred may we hate tyrants, and earnestly may we pray for their destruction, be they kings or queens, princes or prelates. And further ye shall note, that the prayers made in the fervency of this hatred, are before God so acceptable, that ofttimes he that prayeth, obtaineth the self-same thing that the external words of his prayer do mean; as David, Jeremiah, and others of the prophets, saw with their corporal eyes the hot vengeance of God poured forth upon the cruel tyrants of their age. And I am assured, that some who this day do sob and groan under your tyrannous bishops, shall see it upon the pestilent Papists within the realm of England. This my affirmation proceedeth, not from any conjecture of manís fantasy, but from the ordinary course of Godís judgments against manifest contemners of his precepts from the beginning, which is this:

    First , to rebuke, and notify by his messengers such sins, as before the world are not known to be sin.

    Secondly , to provoke to repentance.

    Thirdly , to suffer the reprobate to declare their own impenitency before the world.

    And last, to pour upon them so manifest vengeance, that his church may be instructed as well of his power, as of his severe judgments against disobedience. This was the order of his judgment against Pharaoh, against Saul, against Jeroboam, against Herod, against the Scribes and Pharisees, and against the whole city of Jerusalem. ( Exodus 7,8,14; 1 Kings 15; 1 Kings 13).

    Our ears have heard, and our eyes have seen, the first three diets of the Lordís judgment executed against the pestilent Papists within the realm of England. For we have heard their summoning and citation duly executed by the messengers of Godís word; we have heard them accused and convicted before their own faces of theft and murder, of blasphemy against God, of idolatry, and finally of all abominations. Which crimes being laid to their charge, in their own presence, they were not able to deny, so potent, so plain, and evident was Godís word, whereby their secret botches and old festered sores were discovered and revealed.

    We know, that long process of time hath been granted by Godís lenity, to their conversion and repentance: and how little the same hath availed, these present days may testify. For who now doth not espy their malice to increase, and their obstinacy to be such, as none can be greater? Shall we then think, that God will give over his cause, as if he were not able to prevail against tyrants? Not so, dear brethren, not so; but even so assuredly as our God liveth, by whose Spirit was stirred up some of his elect, first to espy the great abominations of those tyrants in this our age; which, his messengers, in despite of their tyranny, God preserved, to proclaim and notify before their own faces such sins, as the world knew not to be sin ó and as assuredly as we have espied them still to continue in malice against God, against his eternal verity, and against the messengers of the same so assuredly shall we see Godís extreme plagues poured forth upon them even in this corporal life, that some of us may witness to the generation that shall follow, the wondrous works that the Lord hath wrought, and will work in this our age. Neither shall these plagues, more than the word of God which passed before, work in them any trite repentance. But still, in a blind rage they shall rebel against the majesty of God; for the deadly venom of that malicious serpent, their father the devil, can never be purged from their cankered hearts. And therefore, after these plagues, of which, some we have heard and seen for what a plague was it to the false Bishop of Durham, before his own face to be called murderer and thief, and of the same so to be convicted, that neither could himself deny it, neither any of his proctors or divine doctors being present with him, durst enterprise to speak one word in defense of his cause? ó after these plagues, I say, of which some we have seen, and the rest we shortly look for, resteth the last, the unquenchable fire, which is prepared for their portion.

    And therefore, yet again, dearly beloved in our Savior Jesus Christ, hope you against hope, and against all worldly appearance. For so assuredly as God is immutable, so assuredly shall he stir up one Jehu or other, to execute his vengeance upon these blood-thirsty tyrants, and obstinate idolaters. And therefore, abide ye patiently the time, that is appointed to our correction, and to the full ripeness of their malicious minds. Be not discouraged, although the bishops have gotten the victory. So did the Benjamites (natural brethren to our bishops,) defenders of whoredom and abominable adultery, twice prevail against the Israelites, who fought at Godís commandment. Ye shall consider, beloved brethren, that the counsels of God are profound and inscrutable: the most just man is not innocent in his sight. There may be secret causes, why God sometimes will permit the most wicked, to prevail and triumph in the most unjust action.

    But yet will He not long delay to execute his wrath, and justly deserved vengeance, upon such as be proud murderers, obstinate idolaters, and impenitent malefactors. And therefore have they not great cause to rejoice; for albeit they have once prevailed against flesh, yet shall God shortly bring them to confusion and shame for ever. Let Winchester and his cruel council devise and study till his wits fail, how the kingdom of his father, the Antichrist of Rome, may prosper; and let him and them drink the blood of Godís saints, till they be drunk, and their bellies burst; yet shall they never prevail long in their attempts. Their counsels and determinations shall be like the dream of a hungry or thirsty man, who in his sleep dreameth that he is eating or drinking, but after he is awakened, his pain continueth, and his soul is impatient, and nothing eased. Even so shall these tyrants, after their profound counsels, long devices, and assured determinations, understand and know that the hope of hypocrites shall be frustrated, that a kingdom begun with tyranny and blood can neither be stable nor permanent, ( Job 5) but that the glory, the riches, and maintainers of the same, shall be as straw in the flame of fire. ( Job 15). Altogether with a blast they shall be consumed in such sort, that their palaces shall be a heap of stones, their congregations shall be desolate, and such as do depend upon their help, shall fall into destruction and ignominy with them. ( Isaiah 22).

    And therefore, beloved brethren in our Savior Jesus Christ, seeing that neither can our imperfections nor frail weakness hinder Christ Jesus to return to us by the presence of his Word; neither that the tyranny of these blood-thirsty wolves may so devour Christís small flock, but that a great number shall be preserved to the praise of Godís glory; neither that these most cruel tyrants can long escape Godís vengeance, let us in comfort lift up our heads, and constantly look for the Lordís deliverance with heart and voice, saying to our God, ďO Lord, albeit other lords than thou have power over our bodies, yet let us only remember thee, and thy holy name; to whom be praise before the congregation. Amen.Ē

    God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by his omnipotent Spirit guide and rule your hearts in his true fear to the end. Amen. Written at Dieppe, the last of May, An. 1554.

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