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An Exhortation to the Patient Suffering of Trouble and Affliction for Christ's Cause
Written to all the unfeigned professors of the gospel throughout the realm of England, by John Bradford, at the beginning of his imprisonment, A. D. 1554.
May the Holy Spirit of God, who is the earnest and pledge of God given to his people for their comfort and consolation, be poured into our hearts by the mighty power and mercies of our only Saviour Jesus Christ, now and for ever. Amen.
Because I perceive plainly, that to the evils fallen upon us who profess Christ's gospel, greater are most likely to ensue, and after them greater, till the measure of iniquity is heaped up, except we shrink, and having put our hands to the plough look back, and with Lot's wife, and the Israelites desiring to return into Egypt, fall into God's heavy displeasure incurable, Gen. xix. Luke ix.; all which God forbid; and because I am persuaded of you, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, throughout the realm of England, which have professed unfeignedly the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, (for unto such do I write this epistle,) that as ye have begun to take part with God's gospel and truth, so through his grace ye will persevere, and go on forwards, notwithstanding the storms which have risen and are to arise; I cannot but write something unto you, to go on forwards with earnestness in the way of the Lord, and not to become as the faint-hearted or fearful, whose place St. John appoints (Rev. xxi.) with the unbelievers, murderers, and idolaters in eternal perdition, but cheerfully to take the Lord's Cup, and drink of it before it draw towards the dregs and bottom, whereof at length they shall drink with the wicked to eternal destruction, who will not receive it at first with God's children, and with whom God begins his judgment, that as the wicked world rejoices when they lament, so they may rejoice when the wicked world shall mourn, and finds woe intolerable without end. (Ps. lxxv., 1 Pet. iv., John xvi.)
First therefore, my dearly beloved in the Lord, I beseech you to consider, that though you are in the world, yet you are not of the world. (John xiv.) You are not of them which look for their portion in this life, (Psa. xvii.) whose captain is the god of this world, even Satan, who now ruffles it apace, as if he were wood (enraged, distracted, editor), because his time on earth is not long. (2 Cor. iv., Rev. xii.) But you are of them that look for a city of God's own blessing. You are of them that know yourselves to be here but pilgrims and strangers; for here you have no dwelling-place. (Heb xi. xii. xiii., l Pet. ii.) You are of them whose portion is the Lord, and which have their hope in heaven whose captain is Christ Jesus, the Son of God, and governor of heaven and earth. Unto him is given all power, yea, he is God Almighty, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, praiseworthy for ever. (Matt. xxviii., Rom ix.) You are not of them which receive the beast's mark, which here rejoice, laugh, and have their heart's ease, joy, paradise, and pleasure; but you are of them which have received the angels mark, yea, God's mark, which here lament, mourn, sigh, sob, weep, and have your wilderness to wander in, your purgatory, and even hell to purge and burn up your sins. (Rev. xiii., Luke vi., Ezek. ix.) You are not of them which cry, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die. You are not of that number which say, they have made a covenant with death and hell not to hurt them. You are not of them which take it for a vain thing to serve the Lord. (Matt. v., 1 Cor. xv., Isaiah xxii. xxviii.) You are not of them which are lulled and rocked asleep in Jezebel's bed a bed of security. (Rev. iii.) You are not of the number of them which say, Tush, God is in heaven, and sees us not, nor cares for what we do. (Ps. lxxiii.) You are not of the number of them which will fall down for the muck of the world to worship the fiend, or for fear of displeasing men worship the golden image. (Matt. iv., Dan. iii.) Finally, you are not of the number of them which set more by your swine than by Christ, (Matt. viii.) which, for ease and rest in this life, say and do as Antiochus bids you do or say, (Maccabees,) and will follow the multitude to do evil, with Zedechias and the three hundred false prophets; yea, Ahab, Jezebel, and the whole court and country. (Matt. viii., 1 Kings xxii.) But you are of the number of them which are dead already, or at least are dying daily to yourselves and to this world. You are of them which have made a covenant with God, to forsake yourselves in this world, and Satan also. You are of them which say, Nay, the Lord has all things written in his memorial book, for such as fear him, and remember his name. (Rom. vi. vii., Col. iii., Luke xii., Mal. iii.) You are of them which have their loins girded about, and their lights burning in their hands, like unto men that wait for their Lord's coming. (Luke xii.) You are in the number of them that say, The Lord looks down from heaven, and beholds the children of men: from the habitation of his dwelling, he considers all them that dwell upon the earth. (Ps. xxxiii. xiv. i.) You are of the number of them which will worship the Lord God only, and will not worship the work at man's hands, though the oven burn never so hot. You are of the number of them to whom Christ is precious and dear, which cry out rather because your habitation is prolonged here, as David did. (1 Pet. ii., Ps. cxx.) You are of them which follow Mattathias and the godly Jews, which knew the way to life to be a strait way, and that few go through it, which will not stick to follow poor Micaiah, although he is racked and cast into prison, having the sun, moon, seven stars, and all against him. (Matt. vii, 1 Kings xxii.)
Thus therefore, dearly beloved, remember, first, that, as I said, you are not of this world; that Satan is not your captain: your joy and paradise is not here; your companions are not the multitude of worldlings, and such as seek to please men, and live here at ease in the service of Satan. But you are of another world; Christ is your captain, your joy is in heaven, where your conversation is; your companions are the fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, virgins, confessors, and the dear saints of God, which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goes; dipping their garments in his blood, knowing this life and world to be full of evil, a warfare, a smoke, a shadow, a vapour, replenished and environed with all kinds of miseries. (Heb. xiii., Rev. vii., Job vii. viii. xiv., Ps. ix., James iv.) This is the first thing which I would have you often and diligently with yourselves consider and muse well upon, namely, what you are, and where you are.
Now, secondly, forget not to call to mind that you ought not to think it a strange thing if misery, trouble, adversity, persecution, and displeasure come upon you. For how can it be otherwise, but that trouble and persecution must come upon you. Can the world love you, which are none of his? Can worldly men, which are your chief enemy's soldiers, regard you? (1 Pet. iv. v., John xiv.) Can Satan suffer you to be at rest, who will do no homage unto him? Can this way be chosen by any that account it so narrow and strait as they do? Will you look to travel, and to have no foul way or rain? Will shipmen shrink, or sailors on the sea give over, if storms arise? Do they not look for such? and, dearly beloved, did not we enter into God's ship and ark of baptism at the first? will you then count it strange, if perils come or tempests blots? Are not you travelling to your heavenly city of Jerusalem, were is all joy and felicity, and will you tarry by the way for storms and showers? The mart and fair will then be past; the night will so come upon you, that you cannot travel; the door will be barred, and the bride will be at supper. (John ix., Matt. xxv.) Therefore away with dainty niceness. Will you think that the Father of heaven will deal more gently with you in this age than he has done with others, his dearest friends, in other ages? What way, yea, what storms and tempests, what troubles and disquietness Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and good Joseph found! Which of these had so fair a life, and such restful times, as we have had? Moses, Aaron, Samuel, David the king, and all the good kings, priests, and prophets in the Old Testament, at one time or other, if not throughout their lives, felt a thousand times more misery than we have felt hitherto. (Gen. iv. vi. vii. viii. ix. &c., Exod. ii. iii. iv. v. &:c.)
As for the New Testament, how great was the affliction of Mary, of Joseph, of Zacharias, of Elizabeth, of John the Baptist, of all the apostles and evangelists, yea, of Jesus Christ our Lord, the dear Son and darling of God! And since the time of the apostles, how many and great are the numbers of martyrs, confessors, and such as have suffered the shedding of their blood in this life, rather than they would be stayed in their journey, or lodge in any of Satan's inns, lest the storms or winds which fell in their travellings might have touched them! And, dearly beloved, let us think what we are, and how far unfit to be matched with these, with whom yet we expect we are to be placed in heaven. But with what face can we look for this, who are so fearful and unwilling to leave that, which will we nill we, we must leave, and so shortly that we know not the time when? Where is our renouncing and forsaking of the world and the flesh, which we solemnly took upon us in baptism? Ah! shameless cowards that we are, which will not follow the trace of so many fathers, patriarchs, kings, priests, prophets, apostles, evangelists, and saints of God, yea, even of the very Son of God! (1 Pet. v.) How many now go with you heartily, as I and all your brethren in bonds and exile for the gospel! Pray for us, for, God willing, we will not leave you now. We will go before you; ye shall see in us, by God's grace, that we preached no lies nor idle tales, but even the very true word of God. For the confirmation whereof we by God's grace, and the help of your prayers, willingly and joyfully give our blood to be shed, as already we have given our livings, goods, friends, and natural country. For now we are certain that we are in the highway to heaven's bliss; as St. Paul says, By many tribulations and persecutions we must enter into God's kingdom. (Acts, xiv.) And because we would go thither ourselves and bring you thither also, therefore the devil stirs up the coals. And forasmuch as we all loitered in the way, he has therefore received power of God to overcast the weather, and to stir up storms, that we, God's children, might more speedily go on forwards, and make more haste, (Matt. vii.. xiv.,) as the counterfeits and hypocrites will tarry and linger till the storms are past; and so when they come, the market will be done, and the doors barred, as it is to be feared. Read Matt. xxv. This wind will blow God's children forward, and the devil's darlings backward. Therefore, like God's children, let us go on forward apace, the wind is on our backs, hoist up the sails, lift up your hearts and hands unto God in prayer, and keep your anchor of faith to cast out in time of trouble on the rock of God's word and mercy in Christ, by the cable of God's verity, and I warrant your safely. And thus much for you secondly to consider, that affliction, persecution, and trouble are no strange thing to God's children, and therefore it should not dismay, discourage, or discomfort us, for it is no other thing than all God's dear friends have tasted in their journey heavenwards.
As I would in this troublesome time that ye would consider what you are by the goodness of God in Christ even citizens of heaven, though you are at present in the flesh, even in a strange region on every side file of fierce enemies, and what weather and way the dearest friends of God have found; even so would I have you, thirdly, to consider for your further comfort, that if you shrink not, but go on forwards, pressing to the mark appointed, all the power of your enemies shall not overcome you, nor in any point hurt you. (Phil. iii.) But this you must not consider according to the judgment of reason, and the sense of old Adam, but according to the judgment of God's word and the experience of faith and the new man, for else you mar all. For to reason, and to the experience of our sense, or of the outward man, we poor souls which stick to God's word, to serve him as he requires, are only accounted to be vanquished and to be overcome; for we are cast into prison, lose our livings, friends, goods, country, and life also at length, as concerns this world. But, dearly beloved, God's word teaches otherwise, and faith feels accordingly. Is it not written, Who shall separate us from the love of God? Shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (Rom. viii.) As it is written, For thy sake are we killed all the day long, and are counted as sheep appointed to be slain. (Ps. xliv.) Nevertheless, in all these things we overcome through Him that loved us: for I am sure that neither death, nor life, neither angels, nor rule, nor power, neither things present, nor things to come, neither high nor low, neither any creature, shall be able to part us from that love wherewith God loves us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Thus spake one who was in affliction, as I am, for the Lord's gospel sake; his holy name be praised therefore, and may he grant me grace with the same to continue in like suffering unto the end. This (I say) one spoke who was in affliction for the gospel, but yet so far from being overcome, that he rejoiced rather for the victory which the gospel had. For though he was bound, yet the gospel was not bound (2 Tim. ii.,) and therefore he gives thanks unto God which always gives the victory in Christ, and opens the savour of his knowledge by us, and such as suffer for his truth, although they shut us up nearer so much, and drive us never so far out of our own natural country in every place. (2 Cor. ii.)
The world for a time may deceive itself, thinking it has, the victory, but the end will try the contrary. Did not Cain think he had the victory when Abel was slain? (Gen. iv.) But how say you now is it not found otherwise? Thought not the old world and men then living, that they were wise and well, and Noah a fool, who would creep into an ark, leaving his house, lands, and possessions, for I think he was in an honest (prosperous, editor) state for the world. But I pray you who was wise when the flood came? Abraham was considered a fool to leave his own country, friends, and kin, because of God's word; but, dearly beloved, we know it proved otherwise. (Gen. xii.) I will leave all the patriarchs, and come to Moses, and the children of Israel. Tell me, were not they thought to be overcome and stark mad, when for fear of Pharaoh, at God's word, they ran into the Red Sea? (Exod. xiv.) Did not Pharaoh and the Egyptians think themselves sure of the victory? But it proved clean contrary. Saul was thought to be well, but David in an evil case, and most miserable, because he had no hole to hide him in; yet at length Saul's misery was seen, and David's felicity began to appear. (1 Sam. xvi. xvii. xviii. xix.) The prophet Micaiah being cast into prison for telling Ahab the truth was thought to be overcome by Zedekiah and the other false prophets; but, my good brethren and sisters, the holy history tells otherwise. (1 Kings xxii.) Who did not think the prophets happy in their time? For they were slain, prisoned, laughed to scorn, and jested at of every man. (Jer. xx., Isa. viii., 2 Kings ii.) And so were all the apostles, (1 Cor. iv.) yea, the dearly beloved friend of God, than whom among the children of women none arose greater, I mean, John Baptist, who was beheaded, and that in prison, even for a dancing damsel's desire. As all these by the judgment of reason were then counted heretics, runagates, unlearned fools, fishers, publicans, &c., so now were they unhappy and overcome indeed, if God's word and faith did not show the contrary. (Rom. viii.)
But what speak I of these? Look upon Jesus Christ, to whom we must be like fashioned here, if we will be like him elsewhere. Now, say you, was not he taken for a fool, a seditious person, a new fellow, a heretic, and one overcome of every body; yea, even forsaken, both of God and men? But the end told them, and tells us another tale; for now is he in majesty and glory unspeakable. When he was led to Pilate or Herod, or when he was in prison in Caiaphas' house, did not their reason think that he was overcome? When he was beaten, buffeted, scourged, crowned with thorns, banged upon the cross, and utterly left by all his disciples, taunted by the high-priests and elders, cursed by the commons, railed on by the magistrates, and laughed to scorn by the lewd (ignorant, editor) heathen, would not a man then have thought that he had been out of the way, and that his disciples were fools to follow him, and believe him? Think you, that whilst he lay in his grave, men did not point with their fingers, when they saw any that had followed and loved him, or believed in him and his doctrine, saying, "Where is their master and teacher now? What! is he gone? Forsooth, if they had not been fools, they might have well known that the learning he taught could not long continue." Our doctors and Pharisees are no fools now, they may see." On this sort men either spoke, or might have spoken, against all such as loved Christ or his doctrine; but yet at length they and all such were proved fools and wicked wretches. For our Saviour arose, maugre their beards (in spite of their opposition, editor), and published his gospel plentifully, in spite of their heads, and the heads of all the wicked world, with the great powers of the same; always overcoming, and then most of all, when he and his doctrine were thought to have had the greatest fall. As now, dearly beloved, the wicked world rejoices, the papists are puffed up against Christ and his people after their own kind, now they cry out, Where are these new-found preachers? Are they not in the Tower, Marshalsea, Fleet, and beyond the seas? Who would have thought that our old bishops, doctors, and deans, were fools, as they would have made us to believe, and indeed have persuaded some already, which are not of the wisest, especially if they come not home again to the holy church?
These and such-like words they have, to cast in our teeth, as triumphers and conquerors; but, dearly beloved, short is their joy; they beguile themselves, this is but a lightening before their death. As God, after he had given the Jews a time to repent, visited them by Vespasian and Titus, most horribly to their utter subversion, delivering first all his people from among them, even so, my dear brethren, will he do with this age, when he has tried his children from amongst them, as now he begins to do, and, by suffering, has made us like to his Christ, and, by being overcome, to overcome indeed, to our eternal comfort. Then will he, if not otherwise, come himself in the clouds: (I Thess. iv.) I mean, our dear Lord, whom we confess, preach, and believe on; he will come (I say) with the blast of a trump, and shout of an archangel, and so shall we be caught up in the clouds to meet him in the air: the angels gathering together the wicked wretches, which now welter and wallow as the world and wind blows, to be tied in bundles and cast into the fire, which burns for ever most painfully. (Matt. xiii.) There and then shall they see who has the victory, they or we, when they shall see us afar ok in Abraham's bosom. (Luke xvi.) Then will they say, "Oh! we thought these folks fools, and had them in derision; we thought their life madness, and their end to be without honour: but look how they are counted among the children of God, and their portion is with the saints. (See the book of Wisdom.) Oh! we have gone amiss, and would not hearken." Such words as these shall the wicked say one day in hell, whereas now they triumph as conquerors. And thus much for you, thirdly, to look often upon; namely, that whatsoever is done unto you, yea, even death itself, shall not hurt you, any more than it did Abel, David, Daniel, John Baptist, Jesus Christ our Lord with other dear saints of God, who suffered for his name's sake. Let not reason therefore be judge in this matter, nor present sense, but faith and God's word, as I have shown; in the which, let us set before our eyes the shortness of this present time wherein we suffer, and consider the eternity to come, when our enemies and persecutors shall be in intolerable pains, helpless; and we, if we persevere to the end, shall be in such felicity and joys, dangerless, as the very heart of man in no point is able to conceive. (1 Cor. ii., Isa. ixiv.) If we consider this, (1 say,) we cannot but contemn and set nothing by the sorrows and gresses of (steps towards, editor) the cross, and lustily go through thick and thin with good courage.
Thus have I declared unto you, things necessary to be mused on by every one who will abide by Christ and his gospel in this troublesome time, as I trust you all will. Namely, first to consider that we are not of this world, nor of the number of the worldlings, or retainers to Satan; that we are not at home in our own country, but of another world, of the congregation of the saints, and retainers to Christ, although in a region replete and full of untractable enemies. Secondly, that we may not think it a strange thing to be persecuted for God's gospel, from which the dearest friends of God were in no age free, as indeed it is impossible that they should for any long time be, their enemies being always about them to destroy them if they could. And thirdly, that the assaults of our enemies, be they never so many and fierce, in no point shall be able to prevail against our faith, albeit to reason it seems otherwise, wherethrough we ought to conceive good courage and comfort; for who will be afraid when he knows the enemies cannot prevail? Now I will, for the more encouraging you to the cross, give you a further memorandum, namely, of the commodities (advantages, editor) and profits which come by the trouble and affliction now risen and to arise to us, which are God's children, elect through Jesus Christ. But look not here to have repeated all the commodities which come by the cross to such as are well exercised therein, for that were more than I can do; I will only speak of a few, thereby to occasion you to gather and at the length to feel and perceive more.
First, That there is no cross which comes upon any of us without the counsel of our heavenly Father; for as to the fancy about Fortune, it is wicked, as many places of the Scriptures do teach, Amos, iii. Matt. x. Isa. xiv. And we must needs, to the commendation of God's justice (for in all his doings he is just,) acknowledge in ourselves that we have deserved at the hands of our heavenly Father this his cross or rod which is fallen upon us, we have deserved it, if not by our unthankfulness, slothfulness, negligence, intemperance, uncleanness, and other sins committed often by us, whereof our consciences can and will accuse us if we call them to counsel, with the examination of our former life, yet at least by our original and birth sin. Also by doubling of the greatness of God's anger and mercy; by self-love, concupiscence, and such-like sins, which as we brought them with us into this world, so the same always abide in us, and even as a spring always bring something forth in act with us, notwithstanding the continual fight of God's Spirit in us against it. Ps. 1., Heb. xii., Gal. v.
The first advantage therefore that the cross brings is knowledge, and that both of God and of ourselves. Of God, that he is just, pure, and hates sin. Of ourselves, that we are born in sin, and are from top to toe defiled with concupiscence and corruption, out of which have sprung all the evils that ever at any time we have spoken and done. (Ps. li., Gen. viii., Jer. xvii.) The greatest and most special whereof we are occasioned by the cross to call to mind, as the brethren of Joseph did their evil deed against him when the cross once came upon them. (Gen. xiii.) And so by it we come to the first step to get health for our souls, that is, we are driven to know our sins, original and actual, by God's justice declared in the cross.
Secondly, the end wherefore God declares his justice against our sin both original and actual; and would by his cross have us consider the same, and call to mind our former evil deeds, the end whereof is this, that we might lament, be sorry, sigh, and pray for pardon, that so doing we might obtain the same by means of faith in the merits of Jesus Christ his dear Son. And further, that we, being humbled because of the evil that dwells in us, might become thankful for God's goodness and love, in continual watching and wariness to suppress the evil which lies in us, that it bring not forth fruit to death at any time. (James i.) This second advantage of the cross therefore we must not count to be a simple knowledge only, but a great gain of God's mercy, with wonderful, rich, and precious virtues of faith, repentance, remission of sins, humility, thankfulness, mortification, and diligence in doing good. Not that properly the cross works these things of itself, but because the cross is the mean and way by which God works the knowledge and feeling of these things in his children; as many, both testimonies and examples in the Scriptures, are easily found of them that diligently weigh what they read therein.
To these two advantages of the cross, join the third of God's singular wisdom that it may be coupled with his justice and mercy. On this sort therefore let us conceive when we see the gospel of God and his church persecuted and troubled, as now it is with us, that because the great, learned, and wise men of the world use not their wisdom to love and serve God, though he opens himself manifestly by his visible creatures to natural wisdom and reason, (Rom. i.,) therefore God both justly infatuates and makes them foolish, giving them up to insensibleness especially herein; for on this manner they reason concerning the affliction which comes for the gospel: "If", say they "this were God's word, if these people were God's children, surely God would then bless and prosper them and their doctrine. But now since there is no doctrine so much hated, no people so much persecuted as they are, therefore it cannot be of God. Rather this is of God which our Queen and old bishops have professed, for how has God preserved them and kept them! What a notable victory has God given unto her, where it seemed impossible that things should have come to pass so as they have done! And did not the great captain confess his fault, that he was out of the way, and not of the faith which these gospellers profess? (The Duke of Northumberland the father of Lady Jane Grey, who opposed Queen Mary and, being condemned to die, professed to be a papist, editor.) How many are come again, from that which they professed to be God's word? The most part of this realm, notwithstanding the diligence of preachers to persuade them concerning this new learning, which now is persecuted, never consented to it in heart, as experience teaches. And what plagues have come upon this realm since this gospel, as they call it, came in amongst us? Before, we had plenty, but now there is nothing like as it was. Moreover, all the houses of the parliament have overthrown the laws made for the stablishing of this gospel and religion, and new laws are erected for the continuance of the contrary. How miraculously God confounds their doctrine, and confirms ours! For how was Wyat overthrown! How prosperously came in our King! How has God blessed our Queen with fruit of womb! (It was then supposed that Queen Mary was with child, editor.) How is the Pope's Holiness restored again to his right! All these things teach plainly that this their doctrine is not God's word." Thus reason the worldly wise, which see not God's wisdom; for else, if they considered that there was with us unthankfulness for the gospel, no amendment of life, but all kind of contempt of God, and that all kind of shameless sinning ensued the preaching of the gospel; they must needs see that God could not but chastise and correct; and as he let Satan loose, after he had bound him a certain time for unthankfulness of men, so he let these champions of Satan run abroad, by them to plague us for our unthankfulness. (Rev. xx.) Great was God's anger against Ahab, because he saved Benhadad, king of Syria, after God had given him into his hands, and afterwards it turned to his own destruction. (1 Kings, xx.) God would that double sorrow should have been repaid to them, because of the sorrow they did to the saints of God. Read the 18th of the Revelation.
As for the victory given to the Queen's Highness, if men had any godly understanding, they might see many things in it. First, God has done it to win her heart to the gospel. Again, he has done it, as well because they that went against her put their trust in horses and power of men, and not in God, as because in their doing they sought not the propagation of God's gospel, which thing is now plainly seen. Therefore no marvel why God fought against them, seeing they were hypocrites, and under the cloak of the gospel would have debarred the Queen's Highness of her right, but God would not so cloak them. (Many of the most sincere followers of the truth assisted Queen Mary against Lady Jane, considering that she was rightful heir to the throne. She also promised that she would not oppose the protestant religion as established by Edward V1. Editor.)
Now for the relenting, returning, and recanting of some, from that which they once professed or preached. Alas! who would wonder at it? for they never came to the gospel, but for commodity and gain's sake, and now for gain they leave it. The multitude, is no good argument to move a wise man; for who knows not how to love this world better than heaven, and themselves better than their neighbours? "Wide is the gate, says Christ, (Matt. vii.,) and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat; but strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leads unto life, and few there be that find it." All the whole multitude cried out upon Jesus, Crucify him, Crucify him, but they were not to be believed because they were the bigger part. All Chaldea followed still their false gods, Abraham alone followed the true God. (Gen. xii.) And where they say that greater plagues are fallen upon the realm, in poverty and such other things, than before, it is no argument to move others, except such as love their swine better than Christ, (Matt. viii.;) for the devil chiefly desires his seat to be in religion. If it is there, then he will meddle with nothing we have, all shall be quiet enough; but if he be raised (driven, editor) thence, then will he beg leave to have at our swine. Read Matt. viii. of the Gergesites. As long as with us he had the ruling of religion, which now he has gotten again, then was he Robin Goodfellow, he would do no hurt: but when he was tumbled out of his throne by preaching of the gospel, then he ranged about as he has done, but secretly. Finally, effectual he has not been, but in the children of unbelief. (Eph. ii.) Them indeed has he stirred up to be covetous, oppressors, blasphemers, usurers, whoremongers, thieves, murderers, tyrants, and yet perchance he suffers them to profess the gospel, the more thereby to hinder it, and cause it to be slandered. How many now appear to have been true gospellers? As for the parliament and statutes thereof, no man of wisdom can think otherwise, but that, look what the rulers will, the same must there be enacted; for it goes not in those houses by the better part, but by the bigger part. And it is a common saying, and no less true, that the greater part overcomes the better; so they did in condemning Christ, not regarding the counsel of Nicodemus. (John vii.) So they did also in many general councils; but all wise men know that acts of parliament are not for God's law in respect of God's law, but in respect of the people. Now what we are God knows, and all the world is more pleased a great deal, to have the devil's decrees than God's religion, so great is our contempt of it. And therefore justly for our sins (as Job says) God has set hypocrites to reign over us, which can no more abide God's true religion, than the owl the light, or bleared eyes the bright sun; for it will have them to do their duties, and walk in diligent doing of the works of their vocation. If God's word had place, bishops could not play chancellors and idle prelates as they do; priests should be otherwise known than by their shaven crowns and tippets: but enough of this. As for miracles of success against Wyat and others, of the king's coming in, &c., I would men would consider there are two kinds of miracles, one to prepare and confirm men in the doctrine which they have received, and another to prove and try men how they have received it, and how they will stick unto it. Of the former kind, these are not miracles; but of the second, by this success given to the queen, God tries whether we will stick to his truth, simply for his truth sake, or no. This is a mighty illusion, which God sends to prove his people, and to deceive the hypocrites, which receive not God's truth simply, but in respect of gain, praise, estimation. Read how Ahab was deceived, 1 Kings xxii., 2 Thess. ii., Deut. xiii.
But I will now return to the third advantage coming by the cross. Here let us see the wisdom of God in making foolish the wisdom of the world, which knows little of man's corruption; how foul it is in the sight of God, and how it displeases him. Which knows little what the portion of God's people is in another world. Which knows little of the Pattern of Christians, Christ Jesus. Which knows little of the general judgment of God, the greater malice of Satan to God's people, and the price and estimation of the gospel; and therefore in the cross it sees not, as God's wisdom would we should see; namely, that God, in punishing them which sin least, would have his anger against sin seen most, and to be better considered and feared. In punishing his people here, he kindles their desire towards their celestial home. In punishing his servants in this life, he conforms and makes them like to Christ, that, as they are like in suffering, so shall they be in reigning. (Phil. i.) In punishing his church in the world, he gives a demonstration of his judgment which shall come on all men, when the godless shall there find rest, though now they are afflicted, and the wicked now wallowing in wealth shall be wrapped in woe and smart. In punishing the professors of his gospel in earth, he sets forth the malice of Satan against the gospel and his people; for the more confirming of their faith, and the gospel to be God's word indeed, and that they are God's people, for else the devil would let them alone. (Acts xvi.) In punishing the lovers of his truth more than others, which care not for it, he puts them in mind how they have not valued, as they should have done, the jewel of his word and gospel. Before such trial and experience came, perchance they thought they had believed and had faith, which now they see was but a lip-faith, a mock faith, or an opinion; all which things we see are occasions for us to take better heed by means of the cross. Therefore, thirdly, let us consider the cross to be commodious for us to learn God's wisdom, and what is man's foolishness, God's displeasure at sin, and desire to be with God, the conformity with Christ, the general judgment, the malice of Satan, hatred of sin, that the gospel is God's word, and how it is to be esteemed, &c. Thus much for this.
Now will I, fourthly, briefly show you, that the cross or trouble is profitable for us to learn and behold better the providence, presence, and power of God, that all these may be coupled together as in a chain to hang about our necks, I mean God's justice, mercy, wisdom, power, presence, and providence. When all things are at rest, and men are not in trouble, then they commonly are forgetful of God, and attribute too much to their own wisdom, policy, providence, And diligence, as though they were the procurers of their own fortune, and workers of their own weal. But when the cross comes, and that in such sort as their wits, policies, and friends cannot help, though the wicked despair, run from God to saints, and such other unlawful means, yet the godly therein behold the presence, the providence, and power of God. For the Scripture teaches that all things come from God, both weal and woe, and that the same should be looked upon as God's work, although Satan, the devil, be often an instrument by whom God works justly and mercifully; justly to the wicked, and mercifully to the godly; as by the examples of wicked Saul and godly Job we may easily see God's work by Satan, his instrument in them both. The children of God, therefore, which before forget God in prosperity, now in adversity are awakened to see God in his work, and no more depend on their own forecast, power, friends, wisdom, riches, &;c., but learn to cast themselves on God's providence and power, whereby they are so preserved and governed, and very often miraculously delivered, that the very wicked cannot but see God's providence, presence, and power, in the cross and affliction of his children, as they (his children I mean) to their joy do feel, thereby learning to know God to be the governor of all things. He it is that gives peace, he it is that sends war, he gives plenty and poverty, he sets up and casts down, he brings to death and afterwards gives life. His presence is everywhere, his providence is within and without, his power is the pillar whereby the godly stand, and to it they lean, as no less able to set up than to cast down. (Isa. xiv., Hosea i., Luke i. Ps. cxxxix., 1 Pet. v.) Which the apostle saw in his afflictions, find therefore rejoiced greatly in them, that God's power might singularly be seen therein. (2 Cor. iv.) Concerning this, I might bring forth innumerable examples of the addiction of God's children, both in the Old and New Testament, wherein we may see how they felt God's presence, providence, and power, plentifully. But I will omit examples, because every one of us, that has been or is in trouble, cannot but by the same remember God's presence, which we feel by his hand upon us; his providence which leaves us not unprovided for, without any of our own provisions, and his power which both preserves us from many other evils, which else would come upon us, and also makes us able to bear more than we thought we could have done. So very often he delivers us by such means, as have been thought most foolish, and to have been little regarded; and therefore we shake off our sleep of security, and forgetting of God, our trust and shift are in our own policies, our hanging on men, or on our own power. So the cross, you see, is advantageous, fourthly, for to see God's presence, providence, and power, and our negligence, forgetfulness of God, security, self-love, trust, and confidence in ourselves, and that the things in this life are to be cast off, as the others are to be taken hold on. And this shall suffice for the commodities which come by the cross, wherethrough we may be in love with it for the commodities' sake, which at length we shall find, though at present in sense we feel them not. No castigation or punishment is sweet for the present instant, says the apostle, but afterward the end and work of the thing is otherwise. (Heb. xii.) As we see in medicines, the more wholesome they are, the more unpleasant is the taste thereof, as in pills, potions, and such like bitter stuff, yet we will, on the physician's word, drink them gladly for the benefit which comes of them. And, dearly beloved, although to lose life, and goods, or friends, for God's gospel sake seems a bitter and sour thing, yet in that our Physician, which cannot lie, Jesus Christ I mean, tells us, that it is very wholesome, howsoever it be loathsome, let us with good cheer take the cup at his hand, and drink it cheerfully. If the cup seem unpleasant, and the drink too bitter, let us put some sugar therein, even a piece of that which Moses cast into the bitter water, and made the same pleasant: (Exod. xv.) I mean an ounce, yea, a dram of Christ's afflictions and cross, which he suffered for us. (I Pet. iv.) If we call this to mind, and cast of them into our cup, considering what he was, what he suffered, of whom, for whom, to what end, and what came thereof, surely we cannot loath our medicine, but we shall wink and drink it lustily (heartily, editor). Lustily, therefore, drink the cup which Christ gives, and will give unto you, my good brethren and sisters; I mean, prepare yourselves to suffer whatever God will lay upon you for the confessing of his holy name. If not, because of these three things, that ye are not of the world, ye suffer not alone, your trouble shall not hurt you, yet for the commodities which come of the cross, I beseech you heartily to embrace it. The fight is but short, the joy is exceeding great. We must pray always; (Luke xviii.) then shall we undoubtedly be directed in all things by God's Holy Spirit, which Christ has promised to be our doctor, teacher, and comforter; and, therefore, we need not fear what man or devil can do unto us, either by false teaching or cruel persecution; for our Pastor is such a one that none can take his sheep out of his hands. John xiv. xv. xvi.
Thus much, my dear brethren and sisters in our dear Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I thought good to write unto you for your comfort. From which, if ye, for fear of man, loss of goods, friends, or life, swerve or depart, then you depart and swerve from Christ, and so snare yourselves in Satan's sophistry to your utter subversion. Therefore, as St. Peter says, "Watch, be sober; for as a roaring lion, he seeks to devour you." Be strong in faith; that is, mammer not (hesitate not, editor), waver not in God's promises, but believe certainly that they pertain to you; that God is with you in trouble; that he will deliver you, and glorify you. (Heb. xiii., 1 Pet. ii. v., John x., Acts ii.) But yet see that you call upon him, specially, that you enter not into temptation, as he taught his disciples even at such time as he saw Satan desire to sift them, as now he has done to sift us. (Ps. xciii, Matt. xxvi., Luke xxii.) O dear Saviour, prevent him now as thou did then, with thy prayer, I beseech thee, and grant that our faith faint not, but strengthen us to confirm the weak, that they deny not thee and thy gospel, that they return not to their vomit, stumbling on those sins from which there is no recovery, causing thee to deny them before thy Father, making their latter end worse than the beginning, as was the case with Lot's wife, Judas Iscariot, Francis Spira, and many others. But rather strengthen them and us all in thy grace, and in those things which thy word teaches, that we may here hazard our life for thy sake, and so shall we be sure to save it, as if we seek to save it, we cannot but lose it; and that being lost, what profit can we have, if we win the whole world? (2 Pet. ii., Matt. x., Heb. vi. x., Mark viii., Luke xi., Matt. vi.) Oh, set thou always before our eyes, not as reason does, this life, the pleasure of the same, death of the body, imprisonment, &c. but everlasting life, and those unspeakable joys which undoubtedly they shall have, which take up the cross and follow thee; and they must needs at length fall into eternal hell fire and destruction of soul and body for evermore, which are afraid for the hoar frost of adversity that man or the devil stirs up to stop or hinder us from going forwards our journey to heaven's bliss to which do thou bring us for thy name's sane. Amen.
Your own in the Lord,
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