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The First Sermon preached before King Edward, March 8, 1549.
Quaecunque scripta sunt, ad nostram doctrinam scripta sunt. — Romans xv. 4.
Whatsoever things are written aforetime, are written for our learning; that we through patience and comfort of scripture might have hope.
In taking this part of scripture, most noble audience, I play as a truant, which, when he is at school, will choose a lesson wherein he is perfect, because he is loth to take pain in studying a new lesson, or else feareth stripes for his slothfulness. In like manner, I might seem, now in my old age, to some men to take this part of scripture, because I would wade easily away therewith, and drive my matter at my pleasure, and not to be bound unto a certain theme. But ye shall consider, that the foresaid words of Paul are not to be understanded of all scriptures, but only of those which are of God written in God’s book; and all things which are therein “are written for our learning.” The excellency of this word is so great, and of so high dignity, that there is no earthly thing to be compared unto it. The author thereof is great, that is, God himself, eternal, almighty, everlasting. The scripture, because of him, is also great, eternal, most mighty and holy. There is no king, emperor, magistrate, and ruler, of what state soever they be, but are bound to obey this God, and to give credence unto his holy word, in directing their steps ordinately according unto the same word. Yea, truly, they are not only bound to obey God’s book, but also the minister of the same, “for the word’s sake,” so far as he speaketh “sitting in Moses’ chair;” that is, if his doctrine be taken out of Moses’ law. For in this world God hath two swords, the one is a temporal sword, the other a spiritual. The temporal sword resteth in the hands of kings, magistrates, and rulers, under him; whereunto all subjects, as well the clergy as the laity, be subject, and punishable for any offence contrary to the same book. The spiritual sword is in the hands of the ministers and preachers; whereunto all kings, magistrates, and rulers, ought to be obedient; that is, to hear and follow, so long as the ministers sit in Christ’s chair; that is, speaking out of Christ’s book. The king correcteth transgressors with the temporal sword; yea, and the preacher also, if he be an offender. But the preacher cannot correct the king, if he be a transgressor of God’s word, with the temporal sword; but he must correct and reprove him with the spiritual sword; fearing no man; setting God only before his eyes, under whom he is a minister, to supplant and root up all vice and mischief by God’s word: whereunto all men ought to be obedient; as is mentioned in many places of scripture, and amongst many this is one, Quaecunque jusserint vos servare, servate et facite. “Whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do.” Therefore let the preacher teach, improve, amend, and instruct in righteousness, with the spiritual sword; fearing no man, though death should ensue. Thus Moses, fearing no man, with this sword did reprove king Pharao at God’s commandment.
Micheas the prophet also did not spare to blame king Ahab for his wickedness, according to God’s will, and to prophesy of his destruction, contrary unto many false prophets. These foresaid kings, being admonished by the ministers of God’s word, because they would not follow their godly doctrine, and correct their lives, came unto utter destruction. Pharao giving no credit unto Moses, the prophet of God, but appliant unto the lusts of his own heart, what time he heard of the passage of God’s people, having no fear or remembrance of God’s work, he with his army did prosecute after, intending to destroy them; but he and his people were drowned in the Red Sea. King Achab also, because he would not hearken unto Micheas, was killed with an arrow. Likewise also the house of Jeroboam, with other many, came unto destruction, because he would not hear the ministers of God’s word, and correct his life according unto his will and pleasure. Let the preacher therefore never fear to declare the message of God unto all men. And if the king will not hear them, then the preachers may admonish and charge them with their duties, and so leave them unto God, and pray for them. But if the preachers digress out of Christ’s chair, and shall speak their own pantasies, then instead of, Quaecunque jusserint vos facere, facite et servate, “Whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do,” change it into these words following, Cavete vero vobis a pseudo-prophetis, qui veniunt ad vos, &c., “Beware of false prophets, which come unto you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves; ye shall know them by their fruits.” Yea, change Quaecunque jusserint, if their doctrine be evil, into Cavete a fermento Pharisaeorum, &c., that is, “Take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”
In teaching evil doctrine all preachers are to be eschewed, and in no wise to be hearkened unto: in speaking truth they are to be heard. All things written in God’s book are most certain, true, and profitable for all men: for in it is contained meet matter for kings, princes, rulers, bishops, and for all states. Wherefore it behoveth every preacher somewhat to appoint and accommodate himself and his matter, agreeable unto the comfort and amendment of the audience unto the which he declareth the message of God. If he preach before a king, let his matter be concerning the office of a king; if before a bishop, then let him treat of bishoply duties and orders; and so forth in other matters, as time and audience shall require.
I have thought it good to entreat upon these words following, which are written in the seventeenth chapter of Deuteronomy, Cum veneris in terram quam Dominus Deus dat tibi possederisque eam, &c., that is, “When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and enjoyest it, and dwellest therein; if thou shalt say, I will set a king over me, like unto all the nations that are about me then thou shalt make him king over thee whom the Lord thy God shall choose. One of thy brethren must thou make king over thee, and mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not of thy brethren. But in any wise let him not hold too many horses, that he bring not the people again to Egypt through the multitude of horses: forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth go no more again that way. Also he shall not have too many wives, lest his heart turn away: neither shall he gather him silver and gold too much.”
As in divers other places of scripture is meet matter for all estates, so in this foresaid place is described chiefly the doctrine fit for a king. But who is worthy to utter this doctrine before our most noble king? Not I, God knoweth, which am through age both weak in body and oblivious; unapt I am; not only because of painful study, but also for the short warning. Well, unto God I will make my moan, who never failed me. Auxiliator in necessitatibus, “God is my helper in all my necessities;” to him alone will I make my petition. To pray unto saints departed I am not taught to desire like grace of God as they had, right godly it is; or to believe God to be no less merciful unto us, being faithful, than he was unto them, greatly comfortable it is. Therefore only unto God let us lift up our hearts, and say the Lord’s prayer.
“Cum veneris, &c. — When thou art come unto the land which the Lord, &c. Thou shalt appoint him king, &c.”
1. “One of the brethren must thou make king over thee; and must not set a stranger over thee, which is not of thy brethren.
2 “But in any wise let not such one prepare unto himself many horses, that he bring not, &c.
3. “Furthermore, let him not prepare unto himself many wives, lest his heart recede from God.
4. “Nor he shall not multiply unto himself too much gold and silver.”
As the text doth rise, I will touch and go a little in every place, until I come unto — “too much.” I will touch all the foresaid things, but not — “too much.” The text is, “When thou shalt come into the land,” &c. To have a king the Israelites did with much importunity call unto God, and God long before promised them a king; and they were fully certified thereof, that God had promised that thing. For unto Abraham he said, Ego crescere te faciam vehementer, ponamque te in gentes, sed et reges ex to prodibunt: that is, “I will multiply thee exceedingly, and will make nations of thee; yea, and kings shall spring out of thee.” These words were spoken long before the children of Israel had any king. Notwithstanding, yet God prescribed unto them an order, how they should choose their king, and what manner of man he should be, where he saith, “When thou shalt come into the land,” &c. As who should say, “O ye children of Israel, I know your nature right well, which is evil, and inclined unto all evils. I know that thou wilt choose a king to reign over thee, and to appear glorious in the face of the world, after the manner of gentiles. But because they art stiffnecked, wild, and art given to walk without a bridle and line, therefore now I will prevent thy evil and beastly manners; I will hedge strongly thy way; I will make a durable law, which shall compel thee to walk ordinately, and in a plain way: that is, thou shalt not choose thee a king after thy will and phantasy, but after me thy Lord and God.”
Thus God conditioned with the Jews, that their king should be such a one as he himself would choose them. This was not much unlike a bargain that I heard of late should be betwixt two friends for a horse: the owner promised the other should have the horse if he would; the other asked the price; he said twenty nobles. The other would give him but four pound. The owner said he should not have him then. The other claimed the horse, because he said he should have him if he would. Thus this bargain became a Westminster matter: the lawyers got twice the value of the horse; and when all came to all, two fools made an end of the matter. Howbeit the Israelites could not go to law with God for choosing their king; for would they, nil they, their king should be of his choosing, lest they should walk inordinately in a deceivable way, unto their utter loss and destruction: for, as they say commonly, Qui vadit plane, vadit sane; that is, “He that walketh plainly, walketh safely.” As the Jews were stiff-necked, and were ever ready to walk inordinately, no less are we Englishmen given to untowardness, and inordinate walking after our own phantasies and brains. We will walk without the limits of God’s word; we will choose a king at our own pleasure. But let us learn to frame our lives after the noble king David, which when he had many occasions given of king Saul to work evil for evil, yea, and having many times opportunity to perform mischief, and to slay king Saul; nevertheless yet fearing, would not follow his fleshly affections, and walk inordinately without the will of God’s word, which he confessed always to be his direction, saying, Lucerna pedibus meis verbum tuum et lumen semitis meis; “Thy word, O Lord, is a lantern unto my feet, and a light unto my steps.” Thus having in mind to walk ordinately, he did always avoid to do evil. For when king Saul was in a cave without any man, David and his men sitting by the sides of the cave, yea, and David’s men moving him to kill Saul, David made answer and said unto them, Servet me Dominus, ne rem istam contra dominum meum Messiam, &c., that is, “The Lord keep me from doing this thing unto my master, that is the Lord’s anointed.” At another time also, moved by Abishai to kill Saul sleeping, David said, Ne interficias eum; quis enim impune manum suam inferret uncto Domino, &c., that is, “Destroy him not; for who can lay his hands on the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?” &c. I would God we would follow king David, and then we should walk ordinately, and yet do but that we are bound of duty to do: for God saith, Quad ego praecipio, hoc tantum facito, “That thing which I command, that only do.” There is a great error risen now-a-days among many of us, which are vain and new-fangled men, climbing beyond the limits of our capacity and wit, in wrenching this text of scripture hereafter following after their own phantasy and brain: their error is upon this text, Audi vocem populi in omnibus quae dicunt tibi; non enim te reprobant, sed me reprobarunt ne regnem super eos: that is, “Hear the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee; for they have not cast thee away, but me.” They wrench these words awry after their own phantasies, and make much doubt as touching a king and his godly name. They that so do walk inordinately, they walk not directly and plainly, but delight in balks and stubble way.
It maketh no matter by what name the rulers be named, if so be they shall walk ordinately with God, and direct their steps with God. For both patriarchs, judges, and kings, had and have their authority of God, and therefore godly. But this ought to be considered which God saith, Non praeficere tibi potes hominem alienum; that is, “Thou must not set a stranger over thee.” It hath pleased God to grant us a natural liege king and lord of our own nation; an Englishman; one of our own religion. God hath given him unto us, and [he] is a most precious treasure; and yet many of us do desire a stranger to be king over us. Let us no more now desire to be bye-walkers, but let us endeavour to walk ordinately and plainly after the word of God. Let us follow David: let us not seek the death of our most noble and rightful king, our own brother both by nativity and godly religion. Let us pray for his good state, that he live long among us.
Oh, what a plague were it, that a strange king, of a strange land, and of a strange religion, should reign over us! Where now we be governed in the true religion, he should extirp and pluck away altogether; and then plant again all abomination and popery. God keep such a king from us! Well, the king’s Grace hath sisters, my lady Mary and my lady Elizabeth, which by succession and course are inheritors to the crown, who if they should marry with strangers, what should ensue? God knoweth. But God grant, if they so do, whereby strange religion cometh in, that they never come unto coursing nor succeeding. Therefore, to avoid this plague, let us amend our lives, and put away all pride, which doth drown men in this realm at these days; all covetousness, wherein the magistrates and rich men of this realm are overwhelmed; all lechery, and other excessive vices, provoking God’s wrath (were he not merciful) even to take from us our natural king and liege lord; yea, and to plague us with a strange king, for our unrepentant heart. Wherefore if, as ye say, ye love the king, amend your lives, and then ye shall be a mean that God shall lend him us long to reign over us. For undoubtedly sins provoke much God’s wrath. Scripture saith, Dabo tibi regem in furore meo, that is, “I will give thee a king in my wrath.” Now, we have a lawful king, a godly king: nevertheless, yet many evils do reign. Long time the ministers appointed have studied to amend and redress all evils; long time before this great labour hath been about this matter; great cracks hath been made, that all should be well: but when all came to all, for all their boasts, little or nothing was done; in whom these words of Horace may well be verified, saying, Parturiunt montes, nascitur ridiculus mus, “The mountains swell up, the poor mouse is brought out.” Long before this time many hath taken in hand to bring many things unto pass, but finally their works came unto small effect and profit.
Now I hear say all things are ended after a godly manner, or else shortly shall be. Make haste, make haste; and let us learn to convert, to repent, and amend our lives. If we do not, I fear, I fear lest for our sins and unthankfulness an hypocrite shall reign over us. Long we have been servants and in bondage, serving the pope in Egypt. God hath given us a deliverer, a natural king: let us seek no stranger of another nation, no hypocrite which shall bring in again all papistry, hypocrisy, and idolatry; no diabolical minister, which shall maintain all devilish works and evil exercises. But let us pray that God maintain and continue our most excellent king here present, true inheritor of this our realm, both by nativity, and also by the special gift and ordinance of God. He doth us rectify in the liberty of the gospel; in that therefore let us stand: State ergo in libertate qua Christus nos liberavit; “Stand ye in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.” In Christ’s liberty we shall stand, if we so live that we profit; if we cast away all evil, fraud, and deceit, with such other vices, contrary to God’s word. And in so doing, we shall not only prolong and maintain our most noble king’s days in prosperity, but also we shall prosper our own lives, to live not only prosperously, but also godly.
“In any wise, let not such a one prepare unto himself many horses,” etc. In speaking these words, ye shall understand that I do not intend to speak against the strength, policy, and provision of a king; but against excess, and vain trust that kings have in themselves more than in the living God, the author of all goodness, and giver of all victory. Many horses are requisite for a king; but he may not exceed in them, nor triumph in them, more than is needful for the necessary affairs and defence of the realm. What meaneth it that God hath to do with the king’s stable, but only he would be master of his horses? The scripture saith, In altis habitat, “He dwelleth on high.” It followeth, Humilia respicit, “He looketh on low things;” yea, upon the king’s stables, and upon all the offices in his house. God is the great Grandmaster4343 The office now called Lord Chamberlain. of the king’s house, and will take account of every one that beareth rule therein, for the executing of their offices; whether they have justly and truly served the king in their offices, or no. Yea, God looketh upon the king himself, if he work well or not. Every king is subject unto God, and all other men are subjects unto the king. In a king God requireth faith, not excess of horses. Horses for a king be good and necessary, if they be well used; but horses are not to be preferred above poor men. I was once offended with the king’s horses, and therefore took occasion to speak in the presence of the king’s majesty that dead is, when abbeys stood. Abbeys were ordained for the comfort of the poor: wherefore I said, it was not decent that the king’s horses should be kept in them, as many were at that time; the living of poor men thereby minished and taken away. But afterward a certain nobleman said to me, What hast thou to do with the king’s horses? I answered and said, I spake my conscience, as God’s word directed me. He said, Horses be the maintenances and part of a king’s honour, and also of his realm; wherefore in speaking against them, ye are against the king’s honour. I answered, God teacheth what honour is decent for the king, and for all other men according unto their vocations. God appointeth every king a sufficient living for his state and degree, both by lands and other customs; and it is lawful for every king to enjoy the same goods and possessions. But to extort and take away the right of the poor, is against the honour of the king. If you do move the king to do after that manner, then you speak against the honour of the king; for I full certify you, extortioners, violent oppressors, ingrossers of tenements and lands, through whose covetousness villages decay and fall down, the king’s liege people for lack of sustenance are famished and decayed, — they be those which speak against the honour of the king. God requireth in the king and all magistrates a good heart, to walk directly in his ways, and in all subjects an obedience due unto a king. Therefore I pray God both the king, and also we his people, may endeavour diligently to walk in his ways, to his great honour and our profit.
“Let him not prepare unto himself too many wives,” &c. Although we read here that the kings amongst the Jews had liberty to take more wives than one, we may not therefore attempt to walk inordinately, and to think that we may take also many wives. For Christ hath forbidden this unto us Christians. And let us not impute sin unto the Jews, because they had many wives; for they had a dispensation so to do. Christ limiteth unto us one wife only; and it is a great thing for a man to rule one wife rightly and ordinately. For a woman is frail, and proclive unto all evils: a woman is a very weak vessel, and may soon deceive a man and bring him unto evil. Many examples we have in holy scripture. Adam had but one wife, called Eve, and how soon had she brought him to consent unto evil, and to come to destruction! How did wicked Jezebel pervert king Achab’s heart from God and all godliness, and finally unto destruction! It is a very hard thing for a man to rule well one woman. Therefore let our king, what time his grace shall be so minded to take a wife, choose him one which is of God; that is, which is of the household of faith. Yea, let all estates be no less circumspect in choosing her, taking great deliberation, and then they shall not need divorcements, and such mischiefs, to the evil example and slander of our realm. And that she be such one as the king can find in his heart to love, and lead his life in pure and chaste espousage; and then he shall be the more prone and ready to advance God’s glory, and to punish and to extirp the great lechery used in this realm.
Therefore we ought to make a continual prayer unto God for to grant our king’s grace such a mate as may knit his heart and hers, according to God’s ordinance and law; and not to consider and cleave only to a politic matter or conjunction, for the enlarging of dominions, for surety and defence of countries, setting apart the institution and ordinance of God. We have now a pretty little shilling indeed, a very pretty one: I have but one, I think, in my purse; and the last day I had put it away almost for an old groat: and so I trust some will take them. The fineness of the silver I cannot see: but therein is printed a fine sentence, that is, TIMOR DOMINI FONS VITAE VEL SAPIENTIAE; “The fear of the Lord is the fountain of life or wisdom.” I would God this sentence were always printed in the heart of the king in choosing his wife, and in all his officers. For like as the fear of God is fons sapientae or vitae, so the forgetting of God is fons stultitiae, the fountain of foolishness, or of death, although it be never so politic; for upon such politic matters death doth ensue and follow; all their divorcements and other like conditions, to the great displeasure of Almighty God: which evils, I fear me, are much used in these days, in the marriage of noblemen’s children; for joining lands to lands, possessions to possessions, neither the virtuous education nor living being regarded; but in the infancy such marriages be made, to the displeasure of God, and breach of espousals.
Let the king therefore choose unto him a godly wife, whereby he shall the better live chaste; and in so living, all godliness shall increase, and righteousness be maintained. Notwithstanding, I know hereafter some will come and move your grace towards wantonness, and to the inclination of the flesh and vain affections. But I would your grace should bear in memory an history of a good king called Lewis, that travelled towards the Holy Land (which was a great matter in those days), and by the way sickened. And upon this matter the physicians did consult with the bishops, who did conclude that it would be lawful for the king to commit sin, if thereby his sickness could be removed. This good king hearing their conclusion would not assent thereunto, but said he had rather be sick even unto death than he would break his espousals. Wo worth such counsellors! Bishops! Nay, rather buzzards.
Nevertheless, if the king should have consented to their conclusion, and accomplished the same, if he had not chanced well, they would have excused the matter: as I have heard of two that have consulted together, and according to the advice of his friend, the one of them wrought where the succession was not good; the other imputed a piece of reproach to him for his such counsel given. He excused the matter, saying, that he gave him none other counsel, but if it had been his cause he would have done likewise. So I think the bishops would have excused the matter, if the king should have reproved them for their counsel. I do not read that the king did rebuke them for their counsel; but if he had, I know what would have been their answer: they would have said, We give you no worse counsel than we would have followed ourselves, had we been in like case. Well, sir, this king did well, and had the fear of God before his eyes. He would not walk in by-walks, where are many balks. Amongst many balkings is much stumbling; and by stumbling it chanceth many times to fall down to the ground. And therefore let us not take any by-walks, but let God’s word direct us: let us not walk after, nor lean to our own judgments, and proceedings of our forefathers, nor seek not what they did, but what they should have done: of which thing the scripture admonisheth us, saying, Ne inclinemus praeceptis et traditionibus patrum, negue faciamus quod videtur rectum in oculis nostris; “Let us not incline ourselves unto the precepts and traditions of our fathers; nor let us do that seemeth right in our eyes.” But surely we will not exchange our fathers’ doings and traditions with scripture; but chiefly lean unto them and to their prescription, and do that seemeth good in our own eyes. But surely that is going down the ladder: scala coeli, as it was made by the pope, came to be a mass; but that is a false ladder to bring men to heaven. The true ladder to bring a man to heaven is the knowledge and following of the scripture.
Let the king therefore choose a wife which feareth God; let him not seek a proud wanton, and one full of rich treasures and worldly pomp.
“He shall not multiply unto himself too much gold and silver.” Is there too much, think you, for a king? God doth allow much unto a king, and it is expedient that he should have much; for he hath great expenses, and many occasions to spend much for the defence and surety of his realm and subjects. And necessary it is that a king have a treasure always in a readiness for that, and such other affairs as be daily in his hands: the which treasure, if it be not sufficient, he may lawfully and with a safe conscience take taxes of his subjects. For it were not meet the treasure should be in the subjects’ purses, when the money should be occupied, nor it were not best for themselves; for the lack thereof might cause both it, and all the rest that they have, should not long be theirs. And so, for a necessary and expedient occasion, it is warranted by God’s word to take of the subjects. But if there be sufficient treasures, and the burdening of subjects be for a vain thing, so that he will require thus much or so much of his subjects, (which perchance are in great necessity and penury;) then this covetous intent, and the request thereof, is “too much,” which God forbiddeth the king here in this place of scripture to have. But who shall see this “too much,” or tell the king of this “too much”? Think you, any of the king’s privy chamber? No, for fear of loss of favour. Shall any of his sworn chaplains? No: they be of the closet, and keep close such matters. But the king himself must see this “too much”; and that shall he do by no means with the corporal eyes. Wherefore he must have a pair of spectacles, which shall have two clear sights in them: that is, that one is faith; not a seasonable faith, which shall last but a while, but a faith which is continuing in God: the second clear sight is charity, which is fervent towards his Christian brother. By them two must the king see ever when he hath too much. But few there be that use these spectacles: the more is their damnation. Not without cause Chrysostom with admiration saith, Miror si aliquis rectorum potest salvari; “I marvel if any ruler can be saved.” Which words he speaketh not of an impossibility, but of a great difficulty; for that their charge is marvellous great, and that none about them dare shew them the truth of the thing, how it goeth.
Well, then, if God will not allow a king too much, whether will he allow a subject too much? No, that he will not. Whether have any man here in England too much? I doubt most rich men have too much; for without too much we can get nothing. As for example, the physician: if the poor man be diseased, he can have no help without too much. And of the lawyer, the poor man can get no counsel, expedition, nor help in his matter, except he give him too much. At merchants’ hands no kind of ware can be had, except we give for it too much. You landlords, you rent-raisers, I may say you step-lords, you unnatural lords, you have for your possessions yearly too much. For that here before went for twenty or forty pound by year, (which is an honest portion to be had gratis in one lordship of another man’s sweat and labour,) now is let for fifty or an hundred pound by year. Of this “too much” cometh this monstrous and portentous dearth made by man, notwithstanding God doth send us plentifully the fruits of the earth, mercifully, contrary unto our deserts: notwithstanding, too much, which these rich men have, causeth such dearth, that poor men, which live of their labour, cannot with the sweat of their face have a living, all kind of victuals is so dear; pigs, geese, capons, chickens, eggs, &c. These things with other are so unreasonably enhanced; and I think verily that if it thus continue, we shall at length be constrained to pay for a pig a pound.
I will tell you, my lords and masters, this is not for the king’s honour. Yet some will say, Knowest thou what belongeth unto the king’s honour better than we? I answer, that the true honour of a king is most perfectly mentioned and painted forth in the scriptures, of which if ye be ignorant, for lack of time that ye cannot read it; albeit that your counsel be never so politic, yet is it not for the king’s honour. What his honour meaneth, ye cannot tell. It is the king’s honour that his subjects be led in the true religion; that all his prelates and clergy be set about their work in preaching and studying, and not to be interrupted from their charge. Also it is the king’s honour that the commonwealth be advanced; that the dearth of these foresaid things be provided for, and the commodities of this realm so employed, as it may be to the setting of his subjects on work, and keeping them from idleness. And herein resteth the king’s honour and his office. So doing, his account before God shall be allowed and rewarded. Furthermore, if the king’s honour, as some men say, standeth in the great multitude of people; then these graziers, inclosers, and rent-rearers, are hinderers of the king’s honour. For where as have been a great many householders and inhabitants, there is now but a shepherd and his dog: so they hinder the king’s honour most of all. My lords and masters, I say also, that all such proceedings which are against the king’s honour, (as I have a part declared before, and as far as I can perceive,) do intend plainly to make the yeomanry slavery, and the clergy shavery. For such works are all singular, private wealth and commodity. We of the clergy had too much; but that is taken away, and now we have too little. But for mine own part I have no cause to complain, for I thank God and the king, I have sufficient; and God is my judge, I came not to crave of any man any thing but I. know them that have too little. There lieth a great matter by these appropriations: great reformation is to be had in them. I know where is a great market-town, with divers hamlets and inhabitants, where do rise yearly of their labours to the value of fifty pound, and the vicar that serveth, being so great a cure, hath but twelve or fourteen marks by year; so that of this pension he is not able to buy him books, nor give his neighbour drink; all the great gain goeth another way.
My father was a yeoman, and had no lands of his own, only he had a farm of three or four pound by year at the uttermost, and hereupon he tilled so much as kept half a dozen men. He had walk for a hundred sheep; and my mother milked thirty kine. He was able, and did find the king a harness, with himself and his horse, while he came to the place that he should receive the king’s wages. I can remember that I buckled his harness when he went unto Blackheath field.4444 Where the Cornish rebels were defeated in 1497. He kept me to school, or else I had not been able to have preached before the king’s majesty now. He married my sisters with five pound, or twenty nobles apiece; so that he brought them up is godliness and fear of God. He kept hospitality for his poor neighbours, and some alms he gave to the poor. And all this he did of the said farm, where he that now hath it payeth sixteen pound by year, or more, and is not able to do any thing for his prince, for himself, nor for his children, or give a cup of drink to the poor.
Thus all the enhancing and rearing goeth to your private commodity and wealth. So that where ye had a single too much, you have that; and since the same, ye have enhanced the rent, and so have increased another too much: so now ye have double too much, which is too too much. But let the preacher preach till his tongue be worn to the stumps, nothing is amended. We have good statutes made for the commonwealth, as touching commoners and inclosers; many meetings and sessions; but in the end of the matter these cometh nothing forth. Well, well, this is one thing I will say unto you: from whence it cometh I know, even from the devil. I know his intent in it. For if ye bring it to pass that the yeomanry be not able to put their sons to school, (as indeed universities do wonderously decay already,) and that they be not able to marry their daughters to the avoiding of whoredom; I say, ye pluck salvation from the people, and utterly destroy the realm. For by yeoman’s sons the faith of Christ is and hath been maintained chiefly. Is this realm taught by rich men’s sons? No, no; read the chronicles: ye shall find sometime noblemen’s sons which have been unpreaching bishops and prelates, but ye shall find none of them learned men. But verily they that should look to the redress of these things be the greatest against them. In this realm are a great many folks, and amongst many I know but one of tender zeal, who at the motion of his poor tenants hath let down his lands to the old rents for their relief. For God’s love let not him be a phenix, let him not be alone, let him not be an hermit closed in a wall; some good man follow him, and do as he giveth example.
Surveyors there be, that greedily gorge up their covetous goods; hand-makers, I mean: honest men I touch not; but all such as survey, they make up their mouths, but the commons be utterly undone by them; whose bitter cry ascending up to the ears of the God of Sabaoth, the greedy pit of hell-burning fire, without great repentance, doth tarry and look for them. A redress God grant! For surely, surely, but that two things do comfort me, I would despair of redress in these matters. One is, that the king’s majesty, when he cometh to age, will see a redress of these things so out of frame; giving example by letting down his own lands first, and then enjoin his subjects to follow him. The second hope I have, is, I believe that the general accounting day is at hand, the dreadful day of judgment, I mean, which shall make an end of all these calamities and miseries. For, as the scriptures be, Cum dixerint, Pax, pax, “When they shall say, Peace, peace,” Omnia tuta, “All things are sure;” then is the day at hand: a merry day, I say, for all such as do in this world study to serve and please God, and continue in his faith, fear, and love; and a dreadful horrible day for those that decline from God, walking in their own ways; to whom, as it is written in the twenty-fifth of Matthew, it is said, Ite, maledicti, in ignem aeternum, “Go, ye cursed, into everlasting punishment, where shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” But unto the other he shall say, Venite, benedicti, “Come, ye blessed children of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world:” of the which God make us all partakers! Amen.
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