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The Fourth Sermon upon the Lord’s Prayer.
Fiat voluntas tua. — Matthew vi. 10.
Thy will be done.
After this form our Saviour, a perfect schoolmaster, taught Christian people to pray, “Our Father, which art in heaven; thy will be done.” And here he teacheth us two things, as he did afore in the other petitions. First, he teacheth us to understand what we be of ourselves; namely, nothing at all, not able to do any thing pleasant to God: and so he plucketh us down, cutteth off our combs, bringeth us low; which else would be proud, as though we could do somewhat that we cannot do indeed: like as those merit-mongers do, which esteem themselves after their merits, think themselves perfect; insomuch that their works shall not only help themselves, but also others: therefore they take in hand to sell them for money. These fellows know not themselves, and therefore they do contrary unto this petition. Where our Saviour teacheth us, that we can do nothing of ourselves; they, contrary to that petition, will do all things alone, and with their merits bring to pass all matters. But our Saviour, contrary to that, teacheth us two things in this petition first, he pulleth down our stomachs, and teacheth us to know ourselves: secondarily, he sheweth us what we shall do; namely, call upon God our heavenly Father, that he will help us, that we may be able to do his will; for of our own selves we are not able to do any thing acceptable unto him. And this is a good doctrine, which admonisheth us to give all praise unto God, and not to ascribe it to our own selves for so did St Paul when he said, Omnia possum in eo qui comfortat me; “I am able to do all things that pertain to God’s honour and glory, through him that strengtheneth me.” He said not, “through mine own self”; but, “through God which helpeth me.” And here appeareth the right humiliation and lowliness, which our Saviour teacheth us in this petition. For he would have us to know our own impossibility and unableness to do any thing; and then, again, he would have us to call for aid and help to God; therefore he teacheth us to say, Adveniat regnum tuum, “Thy kingdom come”: so that though we be not able through our own selves to do any thing, yet when we call upon him he will help. For Christ knew his Father’s will and loving affections towards us: he knew that he would help us, for he was a perfect schoolmaster; else he would not have commanded us to pray, Fiat voluntas tua, “Thy will be done.”
Here we must understand, that the will of God is to be considered after two sorts. First, as it is omnipotent, unsearchable, and that cannot be known unto us. Now we do not pray that his will so considered be done. For his will so considered is and ever shall be fulfilled, though we would say nay to it. For nothing, either in heaven or in earth, is able to withstand his will. Wherefore it were but folly for us to pray to have it fulfilled, otherwise than to shew thereby that we give our consent to his will, which is to us unsearchable. But there is another consideration of God’s will; and in that consideration we and all faithful Christians desire that it may be done: and so considered, it is called a revealed, a manifested, and declared will; and it is opened unto us in the bible, in the new and old testament: there God hath revealed a certain will; therefore we pray that it may be done and fulfilled of us. This will was opened by Moses and the holy prophets, and afterward by our Saviour himself and his apostles; which he left behind him to that end, that they should instruct the world and teach them his will: which apostles have done according to their master’s commandment; for they not only spake it, but also wrote it to that end that it should remain to the world’s end. And truly we are much bound to God, that he hath set out this his will in our natural mother tongue, in English, I say, so that now you may not only hear it, but also read it yourselves; which thing is a great comfort to every christian heart. For now you can no more be deceived, as you have been in times past, when we did bear you in hand that popery was the word of God which falsehood we could not have brought to pass, if the word of God, the bible, had been abroad in the common tongue: for then you might have perceived yourselves our falsehood and blindness. This I speak to that end, to move you to thankfulness towards him which so lovingly provideth all things necessary to our salvation.
Now to the matter. Almighty God, I say, set out his will by Moses and his prophets; and this will is contained in certain laws, which laws God commandeth that we should keep ever before our eyes, and look upon them as in a glass and so learn to order our lives according unto the same. And in case that a man swerve from the same, and so fall into the danger of damnation, God revealed further his will, how to remedy the matter, namely, by repentance and faith; so that whosoever from the bottom of his heart is sorry for his sins, and studieth to leave them and live uprightly, and then believeth in our Saviour, confessing that he came into this world to make amends for our sins, this man or woman shall not perish, but have forgiveness of sins, and so obtain everlasting life. And this will God revealeth specially in the new testament, where our Saviour saith, Qui credit in me habet vitam aeternam; “Whosoever believeth in me hath everlasting life”: where we learn that out Saviour is ordained of God to bring us to heaven, else we should have been all damned world without end. So that in this prayer, when we say, “Thy will be done,” we desire of God that he will help and strengthen us, so that we may keep his holy laws and commandments. And then again we desire of him, that he will endue us with the gift of faith; so that we may believe that all those things which we do contrary to his laws, be pardoned and forgiven unto us through his Son, for his passion’s sake. And further, we desire him that he will fortify and strengthen us, so that we may withstand the devil’s will and our own, which fight against God’s will; so that we may be able to bear all tribulations and afflictions willingly and patiently, for his sake. This is the simple meaning of this petition, when we say, “Thy will be done.”
I will go a little further, and shew you somewhat more of it: yet I intend not to tarry long, for I am not very well at ease this morning; therefore I will make it short. I have said now many times, and I say it yet again, Quod petimus, ardenter petamus tanquam cupientes habere; “Whatsoever we desire of God, let us desire it from the bottom of our hearts.” But I fear me, there be many which say this prayer, and yet cannot tell what they say; or at the least their hearts are contrary disposed unto it. Such people I exhort on God’s behalf to consider their duties, to consider that God will not be mocked withal, he will not be derided. We laugh God to scorn, when we say one thing with our mouth, and think another thing with our hearts. Take this for an ensample. Our rebels which rose about two years ago in Norfolk and Devonshire, they considered not this petition: they said it with their lips only, but not with their hearts. Almighty God hath revealed his will as concerning magistrates, how he will have them to be honoured and obeyed: they were utterly bent against it. He revealed this will in many places of the scripture; but specially by St Peter, where he saith, Subditi estote omni humanae, creaturae: that is thus much to say in effect, “Be ye subject to all the common laws made by men of authority; by the king’s majesty, and his most honourable council, or by a common parliament: be subject unto them, obey them,” saith God. And here is but one exception, that is, against God. When laws are made against God and his ward, then I ought more to obey God than man. Then I may refuse to obey with a good conscience: yet for all that I may not rise up against the magistrates, nor make any uproar; for if I do so, I sin damnably. I must be content to suffer whatsoever God shall lay upon me, yet I may not obey their wicked laws to do them. Only in such a case men may refuse to obey; else in all the other matters we ought to obey. What laws soever they make as concerning outward things we ought to obey, and in no wise to rebel, although they be never so hard, noisome and hurtful. Our duty is to obey, and commit all the matters unto God; not doubting but that God will punish them, when they do contrary to their office and calling. Therefore tarry till God correct them; we may not take upon us to reform them, for it is no part of our duty. If the rebels, I say, had considered this, think you they would have preferred their own will afore God’s will? For, doing as they did, they prayed against themselves. But I think that ignorance was a great cause of it. Truly I think if this had been opened unto them, they would never have taken such an enterprise in hand.
And here we have occasion to consider, how much we be bounden unto God, that he openeth unto us his word so plainly, and teacheth us so truly how we should behave ourselves towards the magistrates and their laws: but for all, that, I fear there be some of us which little regard their laws and statutes. Such despisers of magistrates, when they pray, they pray against themselves. There be laws made of diet, how we shall feed our bodies, what meat we shall eat at all times; and this law is made in policy, as I suppose, for victuals’ sake, that fish might be uttered as well as other meat. Now as long as it goeth so in policy, we ought to keep it. Therefore all except those that be dispensed withal, as sick, impotent persons, women with child, or old folks, or licensed persons, all the rest ought to live in an ordinary obedience to those laws, and not do against the same in any wise. There be laws made for apparel, how we shall cover our nature. Is there not many which go otherwise than God and the magistrates command them to go? There is made a law for gaming, how we shall recreate our bodies; for we must have some recreation because of the weakness of our nature. In that law we be inhibited carding, dicing, tabling and bowling, and such manner of games, which are expressed in the same act. You may read it, and you ought to read it, and to know the acts: for how can you keep them when you know them not? Every faithful subject will not disdain to read the acts, and the king’s majesty’s proceedings, so that he may know what is allowed or forbidden in the same acts. And I myself read the acts, for it is meet so for us to do. Now again, this is a great matter that God is so kind towards us, that he disdaineth not to reveal his will, what order we shall keep in our diet, in our refreshing and garments. Therefore it is most meet for us to live in subjection, and not to prefer our own will before God’s will. For when I do stubbornly against those acts set out by our natural king, and his most honourable counsellors; then I prefer my will afore God’s will, and so sin damnably. These things ought well to be noted, for it is not a trifling matter; there hangeth damnation or salvation upon it. Therefore, as I said before, it is good to know the laws, and I call him a good man, and her a good woman, that are content to be ruled by the laws, and so declare their subjection and obedience unto God and the magistrates.
There be some men that say, “When the king’s majesty himself comandeth me to do so, then I will do it, not afore.” This is a wicked saying, and damnable: for we may not so be excused. Scripture is plain in it, and sheweth us that we ought to obey his officers, having authority from the king, as well as unto the king himself. Therefore this excuse will not, nor cannot serve afore God. Yet let the magistrates take heed to their office and duties; for the magistrates may not do all things according to their pleasures and minds. They have authority of God to do well, and not harm; to edify, and not to destroy; to punish the wicked and obstinate, and to comfort those which live well and godly; to defend the same from wrong and injuries of the wicked. So it appeareth that every one in his order, in his degree and calling, ought to do the will of God, and not our own will and pleasure. This is our duty, happy are we if we do it indeed! O that men in authority would consider whereunto God hath ordained them! St Paul saith the magistrate is Ultor ad iram, “He is God’s ordinary minister, to punish malefactors and ill doers.” God saith, Mihi vindicta, ego retribuam: “I will avenge myself,” saith God; and so he doth by his magistrates: for that is his ordinary way, whereby he punishes malefactors. But magistrates must take heed they go no further than God alloweth them to do. If they do, they themselves shall be punished: as there be many ensamples in scripture, whereby appeareth, how grievously God hath punished wicked magistrates.
Finally, St Peter giveth a rule not only unto the magistrates, but also unto the subjects, saying, Haec est voluntas Dei, ut obturetis os adversariorum bene agendo: “It is the will of God,” saith Peter, “that you with your good, godly, and honest conversation shall stop the mouth of your adversaries.” What called St Peter well-doing? Well-doing is to live according to God’s laws and commandments. God’s commandment is, that we shall obey magistrates: therefore those which disobey and transgress the laws of the magistrates, they do not according to God’s will and pleasure; they do but mock God, they stop not the mouth of the adversaries, as St Peter would have them to do; but they give rather occasion unto the wicked to slander and blaspheme the holy word of God. St Peter would have us to stop their mouth with well-doings. Many men, when they have been reproved of preachers because of their wicked living, they have gone about to stop their mouth with slanderous words: this stopping is an ill stopping. St Peter would have us to stop with well-doing. Now, will magistrates not be spoken ill of and reproved of preachers? Let them do well. Likewise saith St Paul of the subjects, Vis non timere potestatem? Benefac et habebis laudem: “Wilt thou not fear the higher power? Do well, and thou shalt be commended.” Now even as it is with the temporal sword, so is it with the spiritual. There be some men which cannot away withal, if they be rebuked; they cannot bear when the preacher speaketh against their wickedness: unto them I say, Vis non timere praedicatorem? Benefac: “Will you not to be rebuked of the preacher? Then do well.” Leave off your covetousness, your ambition, your irefulness, vengeance, and malice, your lechery and filthiness, your blood-shedding, and such like sins; leave them, amend your life, or else the preacher, according to his office, will rebuke and reprove you: be you never so great lords or ladies, he will rub you on the gall. For a good and godly preacher can do no less, seeing God dishonoured, perceiving him to be blasphemed, his will to be neglected, and not executed of them that ought with all their study and endeavour to apply themselves that his will might be done. For he is well worthy: he is the Lord; he created heaven and earth, and is therefore the right natural Lord over it. But for all that, the devil is lord more than he is: not by right or inheritance, but by conquest, by usurpation; he is an usurper. God, as I said before, is the natural and lawful Lord over the earth, because he made it: yet it pleased his divine majesty to make mankind, as ye would say, lieutenant over it; so that mankind should bear the rule over the whole earth. Therefore God said unto him, Dominamini, “Be ruler over it:” Item, Replete terram, et subjicite illam; also, “Replenish the earth, and subdue it.” Here Adam and his wife, and so all his posterity, were by God made rulers over the earth, as God’s high deputies, or his lieutenants. So, as concerning God’s ordinance, mankind was the lawful inheritor of this kingdom. But now cometh in the devil with his crafty conveyances, and with his false subtilties. He inveigled first the woman, and afterward the man, persuading them to transgress God’s holy commandments; with which so doing they lost the favour of God and. their dignities: and so the devil, through his false lies, substituted himself as an usurper or conqueror; and so he is a possessor, non per fas, sed nefas, not lawfully, but wrongfully. Though he did say to our Saviour, shewing him all the kingdoms of the world, Cuicunque volo do illa, “I may give them to whomsoever I will,” he lieth falsely. God will destroy him at the length, for all his subtilties and lies: they shall not save him. Yet for all that he is a great ruler. For this is most certain and true, a great many more do the will of the devil than of God. Whatsoever they babble with their mouths, look upon their works, and you shall find it so. For all proud persons, all ambitious persons, which be ever climbing up, and yet never be well, all such do not the will of God, and therefore pertain not to his kingdom. All ireful, rebellious persons, all quarrelers and wranglers, all blood-shedders, do the will of the devil, and not God’s will. God saith, Mihi vindicta, ego retribuam, “I Will avenge myself”; which he doth through the magistrate; and when the magistrate is slack, he doth it himself. Now those ireful, malicious persons, that hate their neighbours, they do not the will of God, but of the devil. Also these subtil, deceitful persons, which have no conscience to defraud and beguile their neighbours; that care not for breaking their promises, nor are not ashamed to utter false ware, they pertain all to the devil. Item, these that will not make restitution of goods ill gotten, they serve the devil. Scripture saith, Qui peccat ex diabolo est; “Whosoever sinneth is of the devil”: which is a very hard word to be spoken of the Holy Ghost, and a fearful word, able to withdraw us from sin, if we had any fear of God in our hearts. Amongst these may be numbered all slothful persons, which will not travail for their livings; they do the will of the devil. God biddeth us to get our living with labour; they will not labour, but go rather about a begging, and spoil the very poor and needy. Therefore such valiant beggars are thieves before God. Some of these valiant lubbers, when they came to my house, I communed with them, burthening them with the transgression of God’s laws. “Is this not a great labour,” say they, “to run from one town to another to get our meat? I think we labour as hard as other men do.” In such wise they go about to excuse their unlawful beggary and thievery. But such idle lubbers are much deceived; for they consider not that such labour is not allowed of God. We must labour so as may stand with godliness, according to his appointment; else thieves which rob in the night-time, do they not labour? Yea, sometimes they labour with great care, peril, and danger of their lives. Is it therefore godly, because it is a labour? No, no: we must labour as God hath appointed us, every man in his estate. Further, these drunkards, which abuse the gifts of God; also these lecherers and whoremongers, that live in adultery; these violators of holy matrimony, which live not according unto God’s law; item, these swearers, forswearers, liars, all those do not the will of God. Therefore it is to be lamented of every christian heart, when they see how many servants the devil hath, and God so few. But all those which serve the devil are rebels against God. God was their Lord; they swerve from him through wicked living, and so become servants of the devil. Therefore those christian people that have a desire to live after God’s will and commandments, they live amongst the wicked even as it were amongst the rebels. They that dwelled in Norfolk or Devonshire at the time of rebellion, they which were faithful to their king and prince, how think you they were entreated? Full miserably, God knoweth either they were constrained to help their wicked purposes, or else they must suffer all calamities which could be devised. Even so shall all those be entreated, which intend to live well, according to God’s commandments. For the rebels, that is, the wicked which have forsaken their Lord God, and taken the devil to be ruler over them, they shall compel them to follow, or else to suffer all calamities and miseries. And so shall be verified the saying of our Saviour Christ, Non veni ut mittam pacem sed gladium: “I am not come,” saith he, “to send peace, but the sword.” Which is indeed a strange saying, but it hath his understanding: God is a God of peace and concord, he loveth unity and concord; but when he cannot have peace by the reason of the devil, then he will have the sword: that is to say, God loveth unity, he would have us all agree together, but because of the wicked we cannot: therefore he will rather have us to choose the sword, that is, to strive and withstand their wickedness, than to agree unto them. And therefore this doctrine is called a seditious doctrine: but who are those rebels? Even they themselves which call this doctrine seditious; they themselves, I say, are traitors against God. Wherefore our Saviour, seeing he can have no peace with the wicked, he will have us rather to withstand their wickedness, and so bring them to reformation: and this is the cause wherefore he will have his flock segregated from the wicked.
Therefore let us pray unto God our heavenly Father, Fiat voluntas tua; “Thy will be done.” This is the prayer of all christian people, which have a will to do God’s will: but those impenitent sinners, which are not yet weary of their sins, do never pray; for though they say the words, yet it is to no purpose. They say them without understanding: therefore it is but lip-labour, it is no prayer, it is but the devil’s service. For a man may serve the devil with saying the Pater-noster, when he saith it with a defiled mind. Let us, therefore, order ourselves so that we may say it worthily, as it ought to be. Let us lay away all wickedness and ill living, so that we may say from the bottom of our heart, “Our Father, which art in heaven, thy will be done.” And so did Susanna, that godly woman; so did lady Judith; so did queen Esther; so did all good saints of God: and though this prayer was not made at that time, by the reason they were a great while afore Christ’s coming; yet they had this prayer in effect. For they believed in almighty God; they believed in Abraham’s Seed, which was promised: which faith stood them in as good stead, and they were as well saved through that same belief, as we now through our belief. For it is no difference between their belief and ours, but this: they believed in Christ which was to come, and we believe in Christ, which is come already. Now their belief served them as well as ours doth us. For at that time God required no further at their hands than was opened unto them. We have in our time a further and more perfect knowledge of Christ than they had. Now Susanna, when the judges, the same wicked men, came unto her, and moved her with fearful threatenings to do their wills, that is, to sin against God in doing that filthy act of lechery, (for the same wicked judges bare a wicked damnable love towards her,) think you not she resorted unto God? Yes, yes, without doubt she said these words in effect, Pater noster, fiat voluntas tua; “Our Father, thy will be done,” and not the will of the wicked men. Therefore she putting her hope and trust in God, having a respect that his will might be done, and not the devil’s will, God, which is ever true, did not fail her; for you know how she was delivered through young Daniel. This is written to our instruction: for he is now the self-same God that he was at that time. He is as mighty as he was; he is as ready as he was. She was in anguish and great distress, she sought to hallow his holy name; therefore he did help her, he suffered her not to perish. So certainly he will do unto us too. Therefore when we be in trouble, let us hallow his name, and then we shall find his help like as Susan did. In such wise did Judith, when she was provoked of Holofernes to do wickedly. She sought rather to sanctify God’s name, to do his will, than the will of the devil; therefore God gave her such a triumphant victory. So did queen Hester when Hammon, that wicked fellow, had power over her: she committed all the matter unto God with fasting and prayer. But Saint Peter, what did he? Marry, he forgat his Pater-noster; for when there came but a foolish wench, asking him, “Art not thou a Galilean? Art not thou one of this new learning? Art not thou a gospeler?” what did Peter? He was gone quite: he denied it: he forgat his Pater-noster. For if he had had grace to consider that he ought rather to suffer death, than forsake his master Christ, then he would have said, Pater noster, fiat voluntas tua, “Our Father, thy will be done. I am ready to suffer for thy sake whatsoever thou shalt lay upon me.” But he did not so, he forgot himself. What did our Saviour? He turned back and looked upon him. Happy was Peter that our Saviour looked upon him again, for it was a gracious token!
Judas, that false man, that traitor, forgat this same petition, and remained so in his error still to the end. Surely he was a sorrowful and a heavy man. Insomuch that he made restitution, he was much better than a great many of us be, which, when they have injured and wronged poor men, will make no restitution. I tell you truth, Judas was much better than such fellows be. Poenitentia ductus, “Led to repentance,” saith the text; but he lacked faith. And so between Peter and him, which were both two sorrowful men, this was the difference, — Peter had faith, Judas lacked it: yet he was exceeding sorrowful for his wickedness, insomuch that he went and hanged himself; therefore he forgat this petition. So likewise all voluntary sinners, all unrepentant sinners, none of them all saith this petition as they ought to do: they say not worthily nor profitably, for they have no will to do his will; their will is to do their own will and pleasure.
But above all things, these quest-mongers [Jurors.] had need to take heed; for there all things goeth by oath. They had need to say, “Our Father, thy will be done”; for they shall be moved to do this and that, which is Against God. They must judge by their oath, according to conscience, “Guilty,” or “Not guilty.” When he is guilty, in what case are those which say, “Not guilty?” Scripture doth shew what a thing it is, when a man is a malefactor, and the quest-mongers justify him, and pronounce him not guilty; saying, Et qui justificat impium, et qui condemnat justum, ambo abominabiles coram Domino: “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just man, they are both abominable before the Lord.” Who is abominable? He that doth not the will of God: the will of God is, that the wicked should be punished. I myself did once know where there was a man slain of another man in anger: it was done openly, the man-killer was taken and put in prison. Suit was made to the quest-mongers: for it was a rich man that had done the act. At the length, every man had a crown for his goodwill: and so this open man-killer was pronounced not guilty. Lo, they sold their souls unto the devil for five shillings, for which souls Christ suffered death: and I dare pronounce, except they amend and be sorry for their faults, they shall be damned in hell world without end. They had clean forgotten this petition, “Thy will be done”: for they did the will of the devil. It had been a good deed to cut off their crowns by their necks, to the ensample of all others. Therefore, I say, these quest-mongers had need to say, “Our Father, which art in heaven, thy will be done.” For truly it is marvel that this realm sinketh not down to hell headlong. What perjuries, swearing and cursing is everywhere, in every corner! Therefore, I say, we had need to pray earnestly, that God’s will may be done. And we should be content to lose our lives for righteousness’ sake; for he that loseth his life, for because he will not agree to the dishonour of God, he seeketh that God’s will may be done. Happy is that man, for he findeth his life, he loseth it not: for Christ will be his keeper.
Joab, that great and valiant captain, he knew well enough when David sent unto him good Urias with letters; he knew, I say, that the king’s will was against God’s will: yet he looked through his fingers; he winked at it; he would rather do the wicked will of the king than the will of God. Of such fellows there be a great number, which care not for the honour and will of God. These chaplains about the king, and great men, had need to say, Fiat voluntas tua, “Our Father, thy will be done.” But they are very slow and slack; they wink commonly at all matters, be they never so bad. They be capellani ad manus, chaplains at hand. They will not arguere mundum de peccato, “They dare not rebuke the world of sin”; they dare not do as the prophet commandeth unto them to do, when he saith, Audiant montes judicia Domini, “Let the hills hear the judgments of the Lord”; though they smoke, as he saith, tange montes, et fumigabunt, “Touch the hills, and they will smoke.” Yea, and though they smoke, yet strike them; spare them not, tell them their faults. But great men cannot suffer that, to be so rebuked; their chaplains must be taught discretion, if they will go so to work. They say commonly, magistrates should be brought out of estimation, if they should be handled so. Sirs, I will tell you what you shall do to keep your estimation and credit. Do well; handle uprightly and indifferently all matters; defend the people from oppressions; do your office as God has appointed you to do: when you do so, I warrant you, you shall keep your estimation and credit. And I warrant you again, the preacher will not strike nor cut you with his sword; but rather praise you, and commend your well-doings. Else, when you do naught, and wickedly oppress the poor, and give false judgments; when you do so, that is no godly preacher that will hold his peace, and not strike you with his sword that you smoke again. But it is commonly as the scripture saith, Laudatur impius in desideriis animae suae; “The wicked is praised in the desires of his wickedness.” Chaplains will not do their duties; they will not draw their swords, but rather flatter; they will use discretion. But what shall follow? Marry, they shall have God’s curse upon their heads for their labour: this shall be all their gains that they shall get by their flatterings. Another scripture saith, Qui potestatem exercent, hi benificia vocantur; “The great and mighty men be called benefactors, well-doers”: but of whom be they called so? Marry, of flatterers, of those which seek not to do the will of God, but the pleasures of men.
St John Baptist, that hardy knight and excellent preacher of God, he said this petition right with a good faith; “Our Father, thy will be done”: therefore he went to the king, saying, Non licet tibi; “Sir, it is not lawful for thee so to do.” See what boldness he had! How hot a stomach in God’s quarrel, to defend God’s honour and glory! But our chaplains, what do they nowadays? Marry, they wink at it, they will not displease: for they seek livings, they seek benefices; therefore they be not worthy to be God’s officers. Esay, that faithful minister of God, he is a good plain fellow; he telleth them the matter in plain, saying, Argentum tuum versum est in scoriam, principes tui infideles, socii forum: “Thy silver is turned to dross, thy princes are unfaithful, and fellows of thieves.” He is no flatterer, he telleth them the truth. “Thy princes,” said he, “are bribe-takers, subverters of justice.” This Isaiah did, for he had respect to God’s word: he perceived things amiss; he knew that it was his part to admonish, to cut them with his sword. Would God our preachers would be so fervent to promote the honour and glory of God, to admonish the great and the small to do the will of the Lord! I pray God they may be as fervent as our Saviour was, when he said to his disciples, Meus cibus est, ut faciam voluntatem Patris mei qui est in coelo; “My meat is to do the will of my Father which is in heaven”: that is to say, “You are no more desirous to eat your meat when you be a-hungry, than I am to do my Father’s will which is in heaven.” By what occasion our Saviour saith these words, you shall perceive, when you consider the circumstances. I pray you read the chapter; it is the fourth of John. The story is this: he sendeth his disciples to a town to buy meat, (where it appeareth that our Saviour had money;) after their departure he setteth him down, which was a token he was a-weary, and I warrant you he had never a cushion to lay under him. Now as he was sitting so, there cometh a woman out of the town to fetch water; he desired her to give him drink. She made answer, “Will you drink with me which am a Samaritan?” So they went forward in their talk. At the length he bade her go call her husband. She made answer, “I have no husband.” “Thou sayest well,” said our Saviour; “for thou hast had five, and this that thou hast now is not thy husband.” And so he revealed himself unto her. Some men, peradventure, will say, “What meaneth this, that our Saviour talketh alone with this woman?” Answer: his humility and gentleness is shewed therein: for he was content to talk with her, being alone, and to teach her the way to heaven. Again, some men may learn here, not to be so hasty in their judgments, that when they see two persons talk together, to suspect them; for in so doing they might suspect our Saviour himself. It is not good, it is against the will of God to judge rashly. I know what I mean; I know what unhappy tales be abroad; but I can do no more but to give you warning. Now the woman went her way into the city, making much ado, how she had found the Messiah, the Saviour of the world; insomuch that a great many of the Samaritans came out unto him. Now as the woman was gone, the disciples desired him to eat; he made them answer, Ego alium cibum habeo, “I have other meat”: then they thought somebody had brought him some meat; at the length he breaketh out and saith, Hic est cibus meus ut faciam voluntatem Patris mei qui misit me; “I am as desirous to do my Father’s will, as you be of meat and drink.” Let us now, for God’s sake, be so desirous to do the will of God, as we be to eat and drink. Let us endeavour ourselves to keep his laws and commandments: then whatsoever we shall desire of him, he will give it unto us, we shall have it.
We read oftentimes in scripture, that our Saviour was preaching according unto his vocation: I would every man would go so diligently about his business. The priests to go to their books, not to spend their times so shamefully in hawking, hunting, and keeping of ale-houses. If they would go to their books, in so doing they should do the will of God: but the most part of them do their own will, they take their pleasure: but God will find them out at length; he will mete with them when he seeth his time. On a time when our Saviour was preaching, his mother came unto him, very desirous to speak with him, insomuch that she made means to speak with him, interrupting his sermon, which was not good manners. Therefore, after St Augustine and St Chrysostom’s mind, she was pricked a little with vainglory; she would have been known to be his mother, else she would not have been so hasty to speak with him. And here you may perceive that we gave her too much, thinking her to be without any sparkle of sin: which was too much: for no man born into this world is without sin, save, Christ only. The school doctors say she was arrogant. One came and told our Saviour, as he was teaching: “Sir, thy mother is here, and would speak with thee.” He made answer, like as he did when he was but twelve years old, Oportet me esse, “I must be”: so he saith now, stretching out his hands, “Who is my mother?” Qui facit voluntatem Patris mei qui est in coelis, “He that doth the will of my Father that is in heaven.” Luke saith Qui audit verbum Dei et facit istud, “He that heareth the word of God, and doth it.” Mark this well; he saith, “and doth it.” Let us do; let us not only be hearers but doers; then we shall be, according to his promise, his brethren and sisters. We must hear his word, and do it: for truly, if Mary his mother had not heard his word and believed it, she should never have been saved. For she was not saved because she was his natural mother, but because she believed in him; because she was his spiritual mother. Remember therefore, that all that do his will are his kinsfolk. But remember that in another place he saith, Non omnes qui dicunt mihi, Domine, Domine, introibunt; “Not all that say, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Here you see that the matter standeth not in saying, but in doing: do his will, and then resort unto him, and thou shall be welcome. We read in Luke, where our Saviour said, Servus qui noscit voluntatem domini, et non facit, vapulabit multis; “That servant that knoweth the will of his master, and doth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.” He that knoweth not shall be beaten, but not so much. We must first know, and then do. It is a good thing to know; but it is a heinous thing to know, and not to do: it is a great sin to slander God’s word with wicked living, as it is commonly seen amongst men. But this fault, if it be not amended, shall have grievous punishment.
Now, some men will say, “Seeing it is so, that those which know God’s word, and do not the same, shall be beaten with many stripes; then I will keep me from it, and so when I am damned I shall have the easier punishment.” No, no, my friend: Ignorantia non excusat, praesertim voluntaria et affectata; “Wilful ignorance excuseth not.” To say, “I will not hear it, for I intend to do as it shall please me”; this is not ignorance, brother, but rather contumacy, or despising of God’s word. These which would fain know, but cannot, for that they have no teacher, they shall be excused somewhat; for they shall have easier pain than the others have; as he saith, Vae tibi, Chorazin, quia si in Sodoma, “Wo unto thee, Chorazin, because if in Sodom,” &c., meaning that the Sodomites shall have easier judgment than the other: but as for those which refuse to hear when they might hear, they are in an ill case, and shall be punished with unspeakable pains. And I tell you, the very ignorant man is not all excused; for so saith God by his prophets, Si non annunciaveris ut convertatur a via sua mala, impius in iniquitate sua morietur; “The wicked,” saith he, “shall die, though he hath had never warning before.” So we see that ignorance excuseth not: but the ignorant are the less punished because of their ignorance; as there be degrees in hell, one shall be punished more grievously than the other, according to their deserts. There be some men in England which say, “No,” say they, “I will hear none of them all, till they agree amongst themselves.” Such fellows truly shall never come to the gospel: for there will be contentions as long as the devil is alive. He cannot suffer God’s word to be spread abroad; therefore he doth, and will do till the world’s end, what he can to let the word of God. Then it is like that those fellows shall never come to hear God’s word, and therefore worthily be damned as despisers of God’s most holy word.
Further, this petition hath an addition, Quemadmodum in coelo; “As it is in heaven.” The writers make two manner of heavens; a spiritual heaven, and a temporal heaven. The spiritual heaven is where God’s will is fully done; where the angels be, which do the will and pleasure of God without dilation. Now, when we say, “As it is in heaven,” we pray God that we may do his will as perfectly as the angels do. Ensamples in scripture we have many, which teach us the diligent service which the angels do unto the Lord. When king David fell in a presumption, so that he commanded his captain Joab to number his people, (which thing was against the Lord, and Joab did naughtily in obeying the king in such things, but he went and numbered eight hundred thousand, and five hundred thousand men able to fight, beside women and children,) for this act God was angry with David, and sent his prophet, which told him that God would plague him; and bade him to choose whether he would have seven years’ hunger, or that his enemies should prevail against him three months long, or to have three days’ pestilence. He made answer, saying, “It is better to fall into the hands of God, than of men”: and so chose pestilence. After that, within three days died threescore and ten thousand. This story is a great declaration how angry God is with sin. Now David, that good king, seeing the plague of God over the people, said unto God, “Lord, it is not they that have sinned, it is I myself: punish me, and let them alone.” This was a good mind in David; there be but few kings now that would do so. Now at the length God was moved with pity, and said unto the angel, Sufficit, contine manum; “It is enough, leave off.” By and by the plague ceased. Where you see how ready the angels of God be to do the Lord’s commandment. After that David was minded to be thankful unto God, and offer a great sacrifice unto him, and so remove the wrath of God: and therefore he made suit to one of his subjects for certain grounds to build an altar upon. The same man was willing to give it unto the king freely; but David would not take it at his hands. Where kings may learn, that it is not lawful for them to take away other men’s lands to their own use. This good king, David, would not take it when it was offered unto him. He did not as Achab, the wicked man, which did Naboth wrong in taking away his vineyard against his will. Another ensample, wherein appeareth how diligently the angels do God’s commandments. Senacherib, king of the Assyrians, having a captain called Rabsacus; which captain, after he had besieged Jerusalem, spake blasphemous words against God the Almighty, saying to the Jews, “Think you that your God is able to help you, or to defend you from my hand?” Now Ezechias, that good king, hearing such blasphemous words to be spoken against God, fell to prayer; desired God for aid; sent for the prophet Esay, and asked him counsel. The end was, God sent his angels, which killed an hundred eighty and five thousand of the Assyrians in one night: the king himself scant escaped, and with great danger and fear gat him home. Here you see what a God our God is, whose will we ought to do. Therefore let us endeavour ourselves to do his will and pleasure; and when we are not able to do it, as we be not indeed, let us call unto him for help and aid.
The other heaven is called a corporal heaven, where the sun and the moon and the stars are; which heaven doth God’s commandment too. As it appeareth in the books of Joshua, and the Kings, how the sun stood at the commandment of God: also, how the shadow went backward; like as job saith, Praecepisti soli, et non oritur, “Thou gavest commandment to the sun, and it arose not.” Therefore at the commandment of God they kept their ordinary course, as God hath commanded them in the first beginning. Also the rain and the snow come at his commandment. Finally, nothing rebelleth in his estate wherein it was set at the first, but man. The man will not be ruled by him, all other things be obedient: rain cometh when God will have it, and snow at his time. We read in Achab’s time, that Elias the prophet stopt the rain for three years and six months, for to punish the people; whereof followed a great dearth. Afterward, at the request of the same Elias, God sent rain, which tempered the ground to bring fruits. I think there be some Elias abroad at this time, which stoppeth the rain, we have not had rain a good while. Therefore let us pray to God that we may do his will, and then we shall have all things necessary to soul and body. For what was this Elias? Obnoxius affectibus, “A sinful man, born and conceived in sin”: yet God, seeing his confidence, granted his requests. For he was a man that feared the Lord, and trusted in him; therefore God loved him, and heard his prayer. Therefore, I say, let us do as he did; then God will hear our prayers. But we are fleshly, we are carnal, we can do nothing perfectly, as we ought to do: wherefore we have need to say with St Augustine, Domine, fac quae praecipis, et praecipe quod vis; “Lord, do thou with me what thou commandest, and then command what thou wilt.” For we of our own strength and power are not able to do his commandments; but that lack our Saviour will supply with his fulfilling, and with his perfectness he will take away our imperfectness.
Now since we have spoken much of prayer, I will desire you let us pray together, and so make an end: but you must pray with a penitent heart; for God will not hear the prayer that proceedeth from an impenitent heart; it is abominable in his sight. I desire you to say after me, “Our Father,” &c. Amen.
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