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Sermons and Tracts by that Worthy Martyr of Christ, John Bradford

To the Christian reader, John Bradford wishes the true knowledge and peace of Jesus Christ, our alone and all-sufficient Saviour.

Great and heavy is God's anger against us, as the most grievous plague of the death of our late king (Edward VI, editor), (a prince the most peerless of all that ever were since Christ's ascension into heaven, in any region,) now fallen upon us does prognosticate. For when God's judgment has begun with his child, this our dear dearling, let other men think as they can, I surely cannot be persuaded otherwise, but that a grievous and bitter cup of God's vengeance is ready to be petered out for us Englishmen to drink of. Judgment is begun at God's house. In God's mercy towards him he is taken away, that his eyes should not see the miseries which we shall feel. (Heb. xi.) He was too good to tarry with us, a generation so wicked, so froward, so perverse, so obstinate, so malicious, so hypocritical, so covetous, unclean, untrue, proud, and carnal. I will not go about to paint us out in our colours. All the world which never saw England, by hearsay sees England; God by his plagues and vengeance, I fear, will paint us out, and point us out. We have so mocked with him and his gospel, that we shall feel it is no bourding (trifling, jesting, editor) with him.

We have long covered our covetousness and carnality under the cloak of his gospel, so that all men shall see us to our shame, when he shall take his gospel away, and give it to a people that will bring forth the fruits of it. Then shall we appear as we are. Let his gospel tarry with us, he cannot; for we despise it, contemn it, are glutted with it. We disdain his manna, it is but a vile meat as we think. We would be again in Egypt, and sit by the greasy fleshpots, to eat again our garlic, onions, and leeks. Since God's gospel came among us, we say now, we never had plenty, therefore again let us go and worship the queen of heaven. (Jer. vii. xliv.) Children begin to gather sticks, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women make the cakes, to offer to the queen of heaven and to provoke the Lord to anger. The earth now cannot abide the words and sermons of Amos; the cause of all rebellion is Amos, and his preaching. (Amos vii.) It is Paul and his fellows that make all out of order; the gospel is now the outcast and curse of the realm, and so are the preachers, therefore out of the doors with them. So that I say God cannot let his gospel tarry with us, but must needs take it away to do us some pleasure therein, for so shall we think for a time; as the Sodomites thought when Lot departed from them; as the old world thought, when Noah went into his ark; as the Jerusalemites thought, when the apostles went thence to Peltis (Pella, editor); then were they merry, then was all pastime; when Moses was absent, then went they to eating and drinking, and rose up again to play, (Exod. xxxii.;) then was all peace, all was well, nothing amiss. But, alas! the flood came suddenly, and drowned them; God's wrath waxed hot against them; then was weal away (happiness departed, editor), mourning, and woe; then was crying out, wringing of hands, rending of clothes, sobbing and sighing, for the miseries out of which they could not escape. But oh! ye mourners and criers out, ye renders of clothes, why mourn ye? What is the cause of your misery? The gospel is gone, God's word is little preached, you were not disquieted with it; Noah troubled you not, Lot is departed, the apostles are gone What now is the cause of these your miseries? Will you at length confess it is your sins? Nay, now it is too late, God called upon you, and you would not hear him, therefore yell and cry out now, for he will not hear you. You bowed your ears from hearing of God's law, therefore your prayer is execrable.

But to come again to us Englishmen. I fear me, I say, that for our unthankfulness' sake, for our impiety and wickedness, as God has taken away our king, so will he take away his gospel; yea, many think so we would have it, then should all be well. Well, if he take that away, for a time perchance we shall be quiet, but at length we shall feel the want to our woe; at length he will have at us, as at Sodom, at Jerusalem, and other places. And now he begins to brew such a brewing, wherein one of us is likely to destroy another, and so to make an open gap for foreign enemies to devour us, and destroy us. (He refers to the hostilities which then appeared likely to ensue between the partisans of queen Mary and lady Jane Grey. Editor.) The father is against the son, the brother against the brother and with what conscience! Oh, Lord !be thou merciful unto us! and in thine anger remember thy mercy; suffer thyself to be entreated, be reconciled unto us, nay, reconcile us unto thee. Oh! thou God of justice! judge justly. Oh! thou Son of God! who comes to destroy the works of Satan, destroy his furies now smoking, and almost set on fire, in this realm. We have sinned, we have sinned, and therefore thou art angry. Oh! be not angry for ever. Give us peace, peace, peace in the Lord; set us to war against sin, against Satan, against our carnal desires, and give us the victory this way. This victory we obtain by faith; this faith is not without repentance, as her gentleman-usher before her. Before her, I say, in discerning true faith from false faith; lip faith, English-men's faith; for else it springs out of true faith.

This usher then, Repentance, if me truly possessed, we should be certain of true Faith, and so be assured of the victory over death, hell, and Satan. His works then, which he has stirred up, would quail. God would restore us political peace, right should be right, and have right; God's gospel should tarry with us, religion should be cherished, superstition suppressed, and so we should yet be something happy, notwithstanding the great loss of our most gracious liege sovereign lord. All this would come to pass, if the gentleman-usher I speak of, I mean, Repentance, were present with us. As if he be absent, we may be certain that lady Faith is absent. Wherefore we cannot but be vanquished by the world, the flesh, and the devil, and so will Satan's works prosper, though not in all things to blear our eyes, yet in that thing which he most of all desires. Therefore let us to repentance for ourselves privately, and for the realm and church publicly; every one should labour to stir up both themselves and others. This to the end that for my part I might help, I have now put forth a Sermon of Repentance, which has lain by me half a year at the least, as to the most part of it. For, the last summer, as I was abroad preaching in the country, my chance was to make a Sermon of Repentance, which was earnestly by divers desired of me, that I should give it them written, or else put it forth in print. The which as I could not grant, for I had not written it, I told them so, who had so earnestly desired it. But when no way would serve, but I must promise them to write it as I could, I consented to their request that they should have it at my leisure. This leisure I prolonged so long that as, I think, I offended them, so I pleased myself, and, one more glad to read other men's writings, than to publish my own for other men to read; not that I would others should not profit by me, but that I, knowing how slender my store is, would be loath that the enemies should have just occasion for evil speaking, and wresting that which is simply spoken. But when I considered this present time, to occasion men now to look upon all things in such sort as might move them to godliness, rather than to any curious questioning, I, for the satisfying of my promise, and profiting of the simple, ignorant, and rude, have now caused this sermon to be printed; which I beseech God, for his Christ's sake, to use as a mean, whereby of his mercy it may please him to work in me and many others true hearty repentance for our sins, to the glory of his name.

Thus fare thou well in the Lord. This 12th of July 1553.

(Thomas Sampson, in his preface to this Sermon on Repentance, remarks, "Our Bradford had his daily exercises and practices of repentance. His manner was to make for himself a catalogue of all the grossest and most enormous sins which he had committed in his life of ignorance and to lay the same before his eyes when he went to private prayer, that by the sight and remembrance of them he might be stirred up to offer to God the sacrifice of a contrite heart, seek assurance of salvation in Christ by faith, thank God for his calling from the ways of wickedness, and pray for increase of it, grace, to be conducted in holy life, acceptable and pleasing to God. Such a continual exercise or conscience he had in private prayer, that he did not count himself to have prayed to his contention, unless in it he had felt inwardly some smiting of heart for sin, and some healing of that wound by faith, feeling the saving health of Christ, with some change of mind into the detestation of sin, and love of obeying the good will of God, which things require that inward entering into the secret parlour of our hearts of which Christ speaks, and is that smiting of the breast which is noted in the publican." (Luke xviii.))

 

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