The first English translation of the Scriptures from the original tongue

Prologues to the Scriptures
by William Tyndale 1530

 

W.T. TO THE READER. (1530)

 

A Prologue Shewing the Use of the Scripture


A Table Expounding Certain Words (of Genesis)

 


A Prologue in to the Second Book of Moses, called Exodus


A Table Expounding Certain Words of the Second Book of Moses
 

 

A Prologue in to the Third Book of Moses, called Leviticus
 

 

A Prologue in to the Fourth Book of Moses, called Numeri
 

 

A Prologue in to the Fifth Book of Moses, called Deuteronomy
 

A Table Expounding Certain Words (of Deuteronomy)

 

 

A Prologue to the Prophet Jonas

 




CONTENT UP ^

W.T. TO THE READER {1530}

 

When I had translated the new testament, I added a pistel unto the latter end, in which I desired them that were learned to amend if ought were found amiss. But our malicious and wily hypocrites which are so stubborn and hard hearted in their wicked abominations that it is not possible for them to amend any thing at all (as we see by daily experience, when both their livings and doings are rebuked with the truth) say, some of them that it is impossible to translate the scripture into English, some that it is not lawful for the lay people to have it in their mother tongue, some, that it would make them all heretics, as it would no doubt from many things which they of long time have falsely taught, and that is the whole cause wherefore they forbid it, though they other cloaks pretend. And some or rather every one, say that it would make them rise against the king, whom they themselves (unto their damnation) never yet obeyed. And lest the temporal rulers should see their falsehood, if the scripture came to light, causeth them so to lie. And as for my translation in which they affirm unto the lay people (as I have heard say) to be I wot not how many thousand heresies, so that it cannot be mended or correct, they have yet taken so great pain to examine it, and to compare it unto that they would fain have it and to their own imaginations and juggling terms, and to have somewhat to rail at, and under that cloak to blaspheme the truth, that they might with as little labour (as I suppose) have translated the most part of the bible. For they which in times past were wont to look on no more scripture than they found in their Duns or such like devilish doctrine, have yet now so narrowly looked on my translation, that there is not so much as one i therein if it lack a tittle over his head, but they have noted it, and number it unto the ignorant people for an heresy. Finally in this they be all agreed, to drive you from the knowledge of the scripture, and that ye shall not have the text thereof in the mother tongue, and to keep the world still in darkness, to the intent they might sit in the consciences of the people, thorow vain superstition and false doctrine, to satisfy their filthy lusts, their proud ambition, and unsatiable covetousness, and to exalt their own honour above king and emperor, yea and above God himself.
 

A thousand books had they lever to be put forth against their abominable doings and doctrine, than that the scripture should come to light. For as long as they may keep that down, they will so darken the right way with the mist of their sophistry, and so tangle them that either rebuke or despise their abominations with arguments of philosophy and with wordily {worldly} similitudes and apparent reasons of natural wisdom. And with wresting the scripture unto their own purpose clean contrary unto the process, order and meaning of the text, and so delude them in descanting upon it with allegories, and amaze them expounding it in many senses before the unlearned lay people (when it hath but one simple literal sense whose light the owls cannot abide) that though thou feel in thine heart and art sure how that all is false that they say, yet couldst thou not solve their subtle riddles.
 

Which thing only moved me to translate the new testament. Because I had perceived by experience how that it was impossible to establish the lay people in any truth, except the scripture were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother tongue, that they might see the process, order, and meaning of the text: for else whatsoever truth is taught them, these enemies of all truth quench it again, partly with the smoke of their bottomless pit whereof thou readest Apocalypse ix.{9} that is, with apparent reasons of sophistry, and traditions of their own making, founded without ground of scripture, and partly in juggling with the text, expounding it in such a sense as is impossible to gather of the text, if thou see the process, order, and meaning thereof.
 

And even in the bishop of London's house I intended to have done it. For when I was so turmoiled in the country where I was that I could no longer there dwell (the process whereof were too long here to rehearse) I this wise thought in myself, this I suffer because the priests of the country be unlearned, as God it knoweth there are a full ignorant sort which have seen no more Latin than that they read in their portesses and missals which yet many of them can scarcely read, (except it be Albertus de secretis mulierum in which yet, though they be never so sorrily learned, they pore day and night, and make notes therein and all to teach the midwives as they say, and Linwode a book of constitutions to gather tithes, mortuaries, offerings, customs, and other pillage, which they call, not theirs, but God's part and the duty of holy church, to discharge their consciences withall: for they are bound that they shall not diminish, but increase all things unto the uttermost of their powers) and therefore (because they are thus unlearned, thought I) when they come together to the ale house, which is their preaching place, they affirm that my sayings are heresy. And besides that they add to of their own heads which I never spake, as the manner is to prolong the tale to short the time withall, and accused me secretly to the chancellor and other the bishop's officers. And indeed, when I came before the chancellor, he threatened me grievously, and reviled me, and rated me as though I had been a dog, and laid to my charge whereof there could be none accuser brought forth, (as their manner is not to bring forth the accuser) and yet all the priests of the country were the same day there. As I this thought the bishop of London came to my remembrance whom Erasmus (whose tongue maketh of little gnats great elephants and lifteth up above the stars whosoever giveth him a little exhibition) praiseth exceedingly among other in his annotations on the new testament for his great learning. Then thought I, if I might come to this man's service, I were happy. And so I gat me to London, and, thorow the acquaintance of my master came to sir Harry Gilford, the king's grace's controller, and bought him an oration of Isocrates which I had translated out of Greek into English, and desired him to speak unto my lord of London for me, which he also did as he shewed me, and willed me to write a pistel to my lord, and to go to him myself which I also did, and delivered my pistel to a servant of his own, one William Hebylthwaite, a man of mine old acquaintance. But God which knoweth what is within hypocrites, saw that I was beguiled, and that that counsel was not the next way unto my purpose. And therefore he gat me no favour in my lord's sight.
 

Whereupon my lord answered me, his house was full, he had more than he could well find, and advised me to seek in London, where he said I could not lack a service. And so in London I abode almost a year, and marked the course of the world, and heard our praters, I would say our preachers how they boasted themselves and their high authority, and beheld the pomp of our prelates, and how busied they were as they yet are, to set peace and unity in the world (though it be not possible for them that walk in darkness to continue long in peace, for they cannot but either stumble or dash themselves at one thing or another that shall clean unquiet all together) and saw things whereof I defer to speak at this time and understood at the last not only that there was no room in my lord of London's palace to translate the new testament, but also that there was no place to do it in all England, as experience doth now openly declare.
 

Under what manner therefore should I now submit this book to be corrected and amended of them which can suffer nothing to be well? Or what protestation should I make in such a matter unto our prelates those stubborn Nimrods which so mightily fight against God, and resist his holy spirit, enforcing with all craft and subtlety to quench the light of the everlasting testament, promises, and appointment made between God and us: and heaping the fierce wrath of God upon all princes and rulers, mocking them with false feigned names of hypocrisy, and serving their lusts at all points, and dispensing with them even of the very laws of God, of which Christ himself testifieth, Matt. v.{5} that not so much as one tittle thereof may perish, or be broken. And of which the prophet saith, Psalm cxviij.{118} Thou hast commanded thy laws to be kept meod, that is in Hebrew exceedingly, with all diligence, might and power and have made them so mad with their juggling charms and crafty persuasions that they think it a full satisfaction for all their wicked lying, to torment such as tell them truth, and to burn the word of their souls' health, and slay whosoever believe thereon.
 

Notwitstonding yet I submit this book and all other that I have either made or translated, or shall in time to come, (if it be God's will that I shall further labour in his harvest) unto all them that submit themselves unto the word of God, to be corrected of them, yea and moreover to be disallowed and also burnt, if it seem worthy when they have examined it with the Hebrew, so that they first put forth of their own translating another that is more correct.
 



CONTENT UP ^

A PROLOGUE SHEWING THE USE OF THE SCRIPTURE
 

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 for defending of lewd imaginations and fantasies of our own invention.
 

Paul in the third of the second epistle to Timothy 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 vi. to the Ephesians he calleth it the sword of the spirit, because it killeth hypocrites and uttereth and improveth their false inventions. And in the xv. to the Romans he saith all that are written are written for our learning, that we thorow patience and comfort of the scripture might have hope. That is, the examples 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 x. of the first to the Corinthians 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. And a defence 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 promises, which God promiseth us again, namely in Christ Jesu our Lord. Then seek examples, 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 examples 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.
 

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 thorowout the whole scripture do include a covenant. That is: God bindeth himself to fulfil that mercy unto thee only, if thou wilt endeavour 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 thorow 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 neighbour for his sake as thyself and as Christ loved thee. Because thy neighbour 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 neighbour 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 neighbour'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 neighbour 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 practised before thine eyes: for according to those examples 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 example 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 thorow 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. All mercy that is shewed there is a promise unto thee, if thou turn to God. And all vengeance and wrath shewed there is threatened to thee, if thou be stubborn and resist.
 

And this learning and 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 thorow 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 example: not that we should counterfeit their evil, but 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 chanced partly for examples, partly God thorow sin healeth sin. Pride can neither be healed nor yet appear but thorow 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 law 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, thorow the light regarding of the commandment of God. In the iv. 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 vi. 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 saveth 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 sayeth) 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 ii. droves, deliver me out of the hands of my brother Esau, for I fear him greatly, &c. 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. Rahel 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 thorow their own wickedness saved them. These examples 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 tached 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 example thou seest, how that conscience of evil doings findeth men out at the 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. Dma 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 examples for our learning, to teach us to walk warily and circumspcctly 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 examples 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 honour and praise for ever and unto God our Father thorow him. Amen.
 



CONTENT UP ^

 

A TABLE EXPOUNDING CERTAIN WORDS (OF THE FIRST BOOK OF MOSES)

Abrech, tender father, or, as some will, bow the knee.

Ark, a ship made flat as it were a chest or a coffer.

Byss, fine white, whether it be silk or linen.

Bless, Godís blessings are his gifts, as in the first chapter he blessed them, saying, grow and multiply and have dominion &c. And in the ninth chapter he blessed Noe 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 labour 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 natiops in Abrahamís 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 Christís sake, Abrahamís son.

Cain, so is it written in Hebrew. Notwithstanding whether we call him Cain or Cairn it maketh no matter, so we understand the meaning. Every land hath his manner, that we call John, the weishmen call Evan: the Dutch Hans. 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: Godís 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, thorow which all must go that will live godly and be saved: as thou readest Matt. v. Blessed are they that suffer persecution for righteousness sake, &c. And Hebrews xii. The Lord chastiseth whom he loveth and scourgeth all the children that he receiveth.

Eden, pleasure.

Firmament, the skies.

Faith is the believing of Godís promises and a sure trust in the goodness and truth of God. Which faith justifieth Abraham Gen. xv. and was the mother of all his good works which he afterward did. For faith is the goodness of all works in the sight of God. Good works are things of Godís commandment, wrought in faith. And to sew a shoe at the commandment of God to do thy neighbour 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 feigned 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 were wrought in faith at Godís 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 menís imaginations receive their reward here, as Christ testifieth Matt. vi. Howbeit of faith and works I have spoken abundantly in Mammon. Let him that desireth more seek there.

Grace, favour, as Noe found grace, that is to say favour and love.

Ham and Cam all one.

Jehovah
{Iehouah} is Godís 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 seest LORD in great letters (except there be any error in the printing) it is in Hebrew Jehovah,{Iehouah} thou that art or he that is.

Marshal, in Hebrew he is called Sar tabaim: 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 kingís prison and the kingís prisoners were they never so great men were under his custody. And therefore I call him chief marshal, an officer as is the lieutenant of the tower, or master of the marshalsy.

Slime was their mortar, eleventh chapter, and slime pits, fourteenth chapter: that slime was a fatness that oozed out of the earth like unto tar, and thou mayest call it cement, if thou wilt.

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 that all the other tribes were in captivity and their kingdom destroyed, yet the tribe of Juda 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 tribe Judah unto Herod which was a stranger, even an Edomite of the generation of Esau.

Testament here, is an appointment made between God and man, and Godís promises. And sacrament is a sign representing such an 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, &c. The sons of God were the prophets' children, which (though they succeeded their fathers) fell yet from the right way, and thorow falsehood of hypocrisy subdued the world under them, and became tyrants, as the successors of the apostles have played with us.

Vapour, 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: that is, 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 paenea, 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 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 nevertheless. 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 examples of the scripture with worldly eyes: lest thou prefer Cain before Abel, Ismael before Isaac, Esau before Jacob, Ruben before Juda, Sarah before Pharez, Manasse before Ephraim. And even the worst before the best, as the manner of the world is.
 



CONTENT UP ^

A PROLOGUE IN TO 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 and endeavour 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 doeth 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 promises of God thorow unbelief and from his law and ordinances thorow 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 fulfillleth 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 hateth 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 neighbour. Then God forsaketh us and sendeth us into captivity for our dishonouring of his name and despising of our neighbour. But the world persecuteth us for our faith in Christ only (as the pope now doeth) and not for our wicked living. For in his kingdom thou mayest quietly and with licence 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 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 Rom. ix) and how he taketh his own wrongs patiently and never avengeth himself. And make not Moses a figure of Christ with Rochester: but an example unto all princes and to all that are in authority, how to rule unto God's pleasure and unto their neighbour's profit. For there is not a perfecter life in this world both to the honour of God and profit of his neighbour 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 example 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 feigned: 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 always 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 nye 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 bath 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 neighbour in his heart, but love him as himself, Lev. xix. And what a charge giveth he in every place over the poor and needy: over the stranger friendless and widow? And when he desireth to shew mercy, he rehearseth with all, 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 neighbours at their need. Also there is no law so simple in appearance thorowout 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 seethe 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 Lev. xxii. For it might seem a cruel thing inasmuch 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 the 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 by 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 Lev. xxvi. and Deut. xxviii. 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 further than this life and this world, as thou readest Lev. xviii. A man that doth them shall live therein which text Paul rehearseth Rom. x. and Gal. iii. 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.

Wherefore serveth the law then, if it giveth us no power to do the law? 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 to make the disease alive, that a man might feel in what jeopardy he is and how nye death and not aware, and to make a way unto the healing plaister. Even so saith Paul Gal. iii. 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, 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 us-ward in Christ, that we henceforth overcome with kindness might love again and of love keep the commandments. So 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 ale-pole 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 Heb. x. It is impossible that sin should be done away with the blood of oxen and goats. And of the law thou readest Gal. iii. 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 Cor. iii.: 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 thorowout all the scripture. And that testament is built on faith and not on works. For it is not said of that testament he that worketh shall live: but he that believeth shall live, as thou readest John iii. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that none which believe in him should perish but have everlasting life.

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 thorow faith, as thou readest, John i. 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 or 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 vii. He that believeth on me shall have rivers of living water 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 blessings or cursings follow the breaking or keeping 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, banning, 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 well 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 this thousand years suffered to win him for to come and praise the name of God with me: this 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.
 



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A TABLE EXPOUNDING CERTAIN WORDS OF THE SECOND BOOK OF MOSES

Aib, a long garment of white linen.

Ark, a coffer or chest as our shrines, save it was flat, and the sample of our shrines was taken thereof.

Booth, an house made of boughs.

Breastlap, or breastflap, is such a flap as thou seest in the breast of a cope.

Consecrate, to appoint a thing to holy uses.

Dedicate, purify or sanctify.

Ephod, is a garment somewhat like an amice, save the arms came thorow and it was girded to.

Geras, 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: offerings 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 favour.

Sanctify, to cleanse and purify, to appoint a thing unto holy uses and to separate from unclean and unholy uses.

Sanctuary, a place hallowed and dedicate unto God.

Tabernacle, an house made tentwise, or as a pavilion.

Tunicle, much like the uppermost garment of the deacon.

Wave offering, because they were waven 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.
 



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A PROLOGUE IN TO 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 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 A.B.C. 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 thorow 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 cloudlight 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 fulfillled. 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 of 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 scapegoat, the brazen serpent, the ox burnt without the host, the passover lamb, &c. 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 faiths 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 further 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 fulfillled in deed.

And beyond all this their sacrifices and ceremonies as farforth as the promises annexed unto them extend, so farforth 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 himself used oftentimes divers ceremonies in curing the sick, to stir up their faith withal. As for an 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 saveth none finally but them that long for it and pray God with a strong faith to fulfilll 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 iii. 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 is 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 saint Paul saying: ye are born anew out of the water thorow 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 thorow 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 lantern without light unto them that walk by the way in a dark night, and as the gospel sung 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 thorow 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 pretence of their soul health it is a servant unto our spiritualty's holy covetousness and an extortioner and a builder of abbeys, colleges, chantries and cathedral churches with false gotten good, 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 my 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 example of the resurrection, yet is this argument nought, 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 of 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 favour of God and their sins forgiven them: even so baptism certifieth us that we are washed in the blood of Christ and received to favour 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, thorow water, is a figure, that is to say an example and likeness of baptism, as Peter maketh it 1 Pet. 3 yet I cannot prove baptism therewith, save describe it only. For as the ship saved them in the water thorow faith, in that they believed God and as the other that would not believe Noe perished: even so baptism saveth us thorow the word of faith which it preacheth when all the world of the unbelieving perish. And Paul 1Cor.x. 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 example of Christ, not to prove Christ (for that were impossible) but to describe Christ only: even as Christ himself John 3 borroweth a similitude or figure of the brazen 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 thorow looking on the brazen 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 thorow 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 scapegoat that carried all the sin of the people away into the wilderness. For as they purged the people from their worldly uncleannesses thorow 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 sacrifice, even so can our sins be no otherwise forgiven than thorow 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 neighbour and mortify the flesh and help that we sin no more, but and if we have sinned, it must be freely forgiven thorow the blood of Christ or remain 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 feigned purgatory. Howbeit if they preached God's word purely which is the authority that Christ gave them, then they should bind and lowse, 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 lowse them and quiet their raging consciences and certify them of the favour 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 quick witted, and print wisdom in him and maketh it to abide, where bare words go but in at the one ear and out at the other. As this with such like saying: put salt to all your sacrifices, instead of this sentence, do all your deeds with discretion, greteth 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 &c. and all without deservings, except that nattering{nurteringe} 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 honour and to glorify myself with his honour?
 



CONTENT UP ^

A PROLOGUE IN TO 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 practise. Of which practising ye see many good examples of unbelief and what 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' carcases 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 Heb. iii. 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 fulfillled the law thenceforth and they should have been kept from all temptations that had been too strong for them. For it is written, John i. He gave them power to be the sons of God, thorow 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 example of his son Christ. But these people took upon them to work without faith as thou seest in the xiv. 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 xvi. 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. Levit. x. And from these unbelievers turn thine eyes unto the pharisees which before the coming of Christ in his flesh, had laid the foundation of free will after the same example. 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 thorow his grace maketh the will free and lowseth her from bondage of sin, and giveth her love and lust unto the laws of God, and power to fulfilll them. And so thorow 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 wilfull poverty of another manner than any is commanded of God. And the chastity of matrimony utterly defied, they have set up another wilfull 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 the obedience of God and man excluded they have vowed another wilfull obedience, condemned of all the scripture which they will yet give God, whether he will or will not.

And what is become of their wilfull 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 wilfull 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.

Moreover besides daily corrupting of other men's wives and open whoredom, unto what abominations too filthy to be spoken of hath their voluntary chastity brought them?

And as for their wilfull 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 thorow Christ: but also promise to all other forgiveness of their sins thorow 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 thorow faith in Christ's blood.

And now seeing that faith only letteth a man in unto rest and unbelief exciudeth 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, Roma. x. They be ignorant of the righteousness wherewith God justifieth and have set up a righteousness of their own making thorow 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 xi. 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 example of thee, there the Jew would say, I will circumcise thee or baptise 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 thorow their own good works? For when they once believed that they were purged from their sins and made righteous thorow 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 furiousser and maliciousser 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 hiss 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 nor 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 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 Saint 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 chapter xxx. 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 daylight, 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 Heb. x. 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 doest 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 whatsoever 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, doest 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 savour 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 neighbours at their need and the taming of our members that they might be pure also, as the heart is pure thorow 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 thorow 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 other say, that my pains were well rewarded; which reward and benefit I would not proudly ascribe unto the merits of my pains taking 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 thank 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 example of virtue and edifying unto my neighbour, my sacrifice is unsavoury 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 labour in ministering and doing service unto the commonwealth in one office or in another or in one occupation or other, because that riches and honour 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 neighbour may have a living by me as well as I, if I make a cloak of dissimulation of my vow, laying a net of feigned beggary to catch superfluous abundance of riches and high degree and authority and thorow the estimation of false holiness to feed and maintain my slothful idleness with the sweat, labour, lands, and rents of other men (after the example of our spiritualty) robbing them of their faiths and God of his honour 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 sepulchre 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 bath 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 and 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 honour, 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 deservings 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 favour 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 Pet. i. 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. Thou 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 Saint 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 Pet. v. and Paul Acts xx. 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, wherefore 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 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 example of soberness and of despising worldly things unto the example 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 needed not to be so costly) and therefore it is lawful to vow unto the building or maintenance thereof and unto 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 work after knowledge or whatsoever God commandeth, it is well done and a sacrifice that savoureth 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 unsavoury, for if it were wisdom, how could we excuse the death of Stephen, Acts vii 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 xiv. 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. And in the xv. he saith: If ye abide in me and my words also abide in you, then ask what ye will, and ye shall have it. 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.

To speak of chastity, it is a gift not given unto all persons testifieth both Christ and also his apostle Paul, wherefore all persons may not vow it. 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 feigned chastity, made with the ungodly persuasions of Saint Jerome or of Ovid in his filthy book of the remedy against love, lest when thorow such imaginations thou hast utterly despised, defied and abhorred all womankind, thou come into such case thorow 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 favour 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 permitteth thee with his favour 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 neighbour 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 nor 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 neighbour: 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 neighbour 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 neighbours and unto the taming of thy flesh: but thou mayest vow nother 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 forswore 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 loveday 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 neighbour's house be afire 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.
 



CONTENT UP ^

A PROLOGUE IN TO THE FIFTH BOOK OF MOSES CALLED DEUTERONOMY

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 wete, a preaching of faith and love: deducing the love to God out of faith, and the love of a man's neighbour out of the love of God. Herein also thou mayst 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 thorow impatiency and unbelief fell from him: partly to tame and abate the appetites of the flesh which always fight against the spirit, and partly to bridle the wild 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 honour 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 doeth all, and therefore ought only to be loved with all the heart, all the soul and all the might. For love only is the fulfillling of the commandments, as Paul also saith unto the Romans and Galatians likewise. He warneth them also that they forget not the commandments, but teach 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 love unto God he bringeth the love unto a man's neighbour saying: God is Lord above all lords and loveth all his servants indifferently, as well the poor and feeble and the stranger, 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 neighbour. 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 bath 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 saviour.

The nineteenth and so forth unto the end of the twenty-seventh, is almost altogether of love unto our neighbours 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 bath 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.
 



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A TABLE EXPOUNDING CERTAIN WORDS OF THE FIFTH BOOK OF MOSES

Avims, A kind of giants{geauntes}, and the worde 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.

Bruterar, prophesiers or soothsayers.

Emims, a kind of giants{geats} so called be cause they were terrible and cruel for emin signifieth terribleness.

Enack, a kind of giants{geauntes}, so called happily because they ware chains about their necks, for enack signifieth such a chain as men wear about their necks.

Horims, A kind of giants{geauntes}, and signifieth noble, because that of pride they called themselves nobles or gentles.

Rocke, God is called a rock, because both he and his word lasteth ever.

Whett them on thy children, that is exercise thy children in them and put them in ure.

Zamzumims, a kind of giants{geantes}, and signifieth mischievious or that be all way imagining. 



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THE PROLOGUE TO THE PROPHET JONAS *

*(Properly entitled: The Prophet Jonas, with an introduction before teaching to understand him and the right use also of all the scripture, and why it was written, and what is therein to be sought, and shewing wherewith the scripture is locked up that he which readeth it, cannot understand it, though he study therein never so much: and again with what keys it is so opened, that the reader can be stopped out with no subtlety or false doctrine of man, from the true sense and understanding thereof.)

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 knowledge 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 neighbour, as he naturally eateth when he is an hungred, 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 wete, 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, that if thou make a little money glister in his Balam'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 stones 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 wot not whereto they serve, save to feign false descant and juggling allegories, to stablish their kingdom withal. And one of the chiefest and fleshliest study 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 favour and to make special advocates of them: even as a man would obtain the favour of worldly tyrants: as they also feign the saints much 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 paternoster (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 fulfillled with deeds or works, until they flow out of thine heart, with as great love toward thy neighbour, 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, thorowout 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 neighbours for his sake, after the example of his love to us, remember that the fulfillling 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 all the 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 neighbours 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 examples 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 and went astray, he sought them out and fetched them 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 examples 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 examples of mercy that are gone before? And therefore they were written for our learning, as testifieth Paul Rom. xv. 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 examples are very good and necessary, to keep us in awe and dread in time of prosperity, as thou mayest see by Paul 1 Cor. x. that we abide in the fear of God, and wax not wild and fall to vanities and so sin and provoke God and bring wrath upon us.

And thirdly ye see in that practice, how as God is merciful and long suffering, 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 example 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 a-work, and seeketh only his own freedom, liberty, privilege, wealth, prosperity, profit, pleasure, pastime, honour and glory, with the bondage, thralldom, 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 be 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 consume 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 Chirst's name they forbade, because he waited not on them, so glorious were they yet.

And though Christ taught always to forgive, yet Peter after long going to school asked whether men should forgive 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 the knowledge of the truth, and the 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 us and trieth us as gold, in the fire of temptations and tribulations. As Moses witnesseth Deut. viii. 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 hungred 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 examples and that abundantly, as doth all the rest of the bible also. Howbeit, it is impossible for flesh to believe and to trust in the truth of God's promises, until he have learned it in much tribulation, after that God hath delivered him out thereof again.

God therefore to teach Jonas and to shew him his own heart and to make him perfect and to instruct us also by his example, 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 Ninive: 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 happily 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 to 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 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 was 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 Nineve, 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, bade cast 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 shipmen 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 example 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 sepulchre. And we may describe the power and virtue of the resurrection thereby, as Christ himself borroweth the similitude thereto Matt. xii. 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 wherewith 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 sepulchre of his fish, and then sent unto the Ninevites to preach that they should perish, even so shall I rise again out of my sepulchre, 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 faiths, 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 were for the most part slain with sword and the rest 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 Noe, in the overthrowing of Sodom and Gomorrah and all the country about: and as ye see of Egypt, of the Amorites, Cananites and afterward of the very Israelites, and then at the last of the Jews too, and of the Assyrians and Babilonians and so thorowout 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.

Wicliffe 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 sepulchre 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 examples 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 thanksgiving 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 God only is the saver, is the thing that all the Jews vowed in their circumcision, as we in our baptism. Which vow Jonas now 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 God, but unto the people, to put them in remembrance of this inward sacrifice of thanks and of faith, to trust and believe in God the only saver. 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 cast 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 for the three days' journey of Nineve, whether it were in length or to go round about it or thorow 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 Ninevites, 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 saviour Christ also casteth in the teeth of the indurate Jews, saying the Ninevites 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 Ninevites 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' face, to shadow and darken the glorious brightness of his countenance. It was sin to steal: but to rob widows' houses under a colour of long praying, and to poil 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, woolwardgoing 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.

It was sin to eat with unwashen hands or on an unwashen table, or out of an unwashen dish: but to eat out of that purified dish that which came of bribery, theft and extortion, was no sin at all.

It was exceeding meritorious to make many disciples: but to teach them to fear God in his ordinances, had they no care at all.

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 offering 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 sepulchre full of stench and all uncleanness within.

And finally to beguile a man's neighbour 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 her filthiness and uncleanness of sin, and leadeth her by the way of repentance unto the fountain of Christ's blood to wash it away thorow 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, thorow 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 Ninevites, 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 miss living.

And in the last end of all, thou hast yet a goodly example 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 Ninevites perished not, that he was weary of his life and wished after the death for very sorrow and pain that he had lost the glory of his prophesying, in that his prophecy come 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 labour or cost, neither was it thine handwork. How much more then should grieve mine heart, the loss of so great a multitude of innocents as are in Ninive, 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 seek out the law what God will have thee to do, interpreting it spiritually without gloss or covering the brightness of Moses' face; so that thou feel in thine heart, how that it is damnable sin before God, not to love thy neighbour that is thine enemy, as purely as Christ loved thee, and that not to love thy neighbour 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.

And on the other side thou must search diligently for the promises of mercy which God hath promised thee again. Which two points, that is to wete, 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 example 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 saviour 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 thorow 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 subtly 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 examples, 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 that thou harden not thine heart beguiled with fleshly interpreting of the law and false imagined and hypocritish righteousness, and so the Ninevites 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 examples 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 example 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 pock 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 example of mercy God 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 acknowen 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 saviour Jesus Christ, according unto all the examples 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 saveth, 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 Rom. vi. that everlasting life is the gift of God thorow Jesus Christ our Lord, and that we be made sons by faith John i. and therefore heirs of God with Christ Rom. viii. And say that we receive all of God thorow 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 neighbours 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 him self: 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 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 thorow 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 thorow repentance and faith in Christ's blood, which twain, the 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 God-ward 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, thorow Jesus Christ our Lord and only saviour: unto whom and unto God our Father thorow 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.
 


Faith of God