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The Fourth Sermon preached before King Edward, March 29th, 1549.
Quaecunque scripta sunt, ad nostram doctrinam, &c. — Romans xv. 4.
All things that are written, are written to be our doctrine.
The parable that I took to begin with, most honourable audience, is written in the eighteenth chapter of St Luke; and there is a certain remnant of it behind yet. The parable is this: “There was a certain judge in a city that feared neither God nor man. And in the same city there was a widow that required justice at his hands; but he would not hear her, but put her off, and delayed the matter. In process, the judge, seeing her importunity, said, ‘Though I fear neither God nor man, yet for the importunity of the woman I will hear her; lest she rail upon me, and molest me with exclamations and outcries, I will hear her matter, I will make an end of it.’” Our Saviour Christ added more unto this, and said, Audite, quid judex dicat, &c. “Hear you,” said Christ, “what the wicked judge said. And shall not God revenge his elect, that cry upon him day and night? Although he tarry, and defer them, I say unto you, he will revenge them, and that shortly. But when the Son of man shall come, shall he find faith in the earth?”
That I may have grace so to open the remnant of this parable, that it may be to the glory of God, and edifying of your souls, I shall desire you to pray, in the which prayer, &c.
I shewed you the last day, most honourable audience, the cause why our Saviour Christ rather used the example of a wicked judge, than of a good. And the cause was, for that in those days there was great plenty of wicked judges, so that he might borrow an example among them well enough; for there was much scarcity of good judges. I did excuse the widow also for coming to the judge against her adversary, because she did it not of malice, she did it not for appetite of vengeance. And I told you that it was good and lawful for honest, virtuous folk, for God’s people, to use the laws of the realm as an ordinary help against their adversaries, and ought to take them as God’s holy ordinances, for the remedies of their injuries and wrongs, when they are distressed; so that they do it charitably, lovingly, not of malice, not vengeably, not covetously.
I should have told you here of a certain sect of heretics that speak against this order and doctrine; they will have no magistrates nor judges on the earth. Here I have to tell you what I heard of late, by the relation of a credible person and a worshipful man, of a town in this realm of England, that hath above five hundred heretics of this erroneous opinion in it; as he said. Oh, so busy the devil is now to hinder the word coming out, and to slander the gospel! A sure argument, and an evident demonstration, that the light of God’s word is abroad, and that this is a true doctrine that we are taught now; else he would not roar and stir about as he doth. When that he hath the upper hand, he will keep his possession quietly, as he did in the Popish days, when he bare a rule of supremacy in peaceable possession. If he reigned now in open religion, in open doctrine, as he did then, he would not stir up erroneous opinions; he would have kept us without contention, without dissension. There is no such diversity of opinion among the Turks, nor among the Jews. And why? For there he reigneth peaceably in the whole religion. Christ saith, Cum fortis armatus custodierit atrium, &c. “When the strong armed man keepeth his house; those things that he hath in possession are in a quietness, he doth enjoy them peaceably:” sed cum fortior eo supervenerit, “But when a stronger than he cometh upon him,” when the light of God’s word is once revealed, then he is busy; then he roars; then he fisks abroad, and stirreth up erroneous opinions to slander God’s word. And this is an argument that we have the true doctrine. I beseech God continue us and keep us in it! The devil declareth the same, and therefore he roars thus, and goeth about to stir up these wanton heads and busy brains.
And will you know where this town is? I will not tell you directly; I will put you to muse a little; I will utter the matter by circumlocution. Where is it? Where the bishop of the diocese is an unpreaching prelate. Who is that? If there be but one such in all England, it is easy to guess: and if there were no more but one, yet it were too many by one; and if there be more, they have the more to answer for, that they suffer in this realm an unpreaching prelate unreformed. I remember well what St Paul saith to a bishop, and though he spake it to Timothy, being a bishop, yet I may say it now to the magistrates; for all is one case, all is one matter: Non communicabis peccatis alienis, “Thou shalt not be partaker of other men’s faults.” Lay not thy hands rashly upon any; be not hasty in making of curates, in receiving men to have cure of souls that are not worthy of the office, that either cannot or will not do their duty. Do it not. Why? Quia communicabis peccatis alienis: “Thou shalt not be partaker of other men’s sins.” Now methink it needs not to be partaker of other men’s sins; we shall find enough of our own. And what is communicare peccatis alienis, “to be partaker of other men’s evils,” if this be not, to make unpreaching prelates, and to suffer them to continue still in their unpreaching prelacy? If the king and his council should suffer evil judges of this realm to take bribes, to defeat justice, and suffer the great to overgo the poor, and should look through his fingers, and wink at it, should not the king be partaker of their naughtiness? And why? Is he not supreme head of the church? What, is the supremacy a dignity, and nothing else? Is it not accountable I think it will be a chargeable dignity when account shall be asked of it.
Oh, what advantage hath the devil! What entry hath the wolf when the shepherd tendeth not his flock, and leads them not to good pasture! St Paul doth say, Qui bene praesunt presbyteri duplici honore digni sunt. What is this praeesse? It is as much to say, as to take charge and cure of souls. We say, Ille praeest, he is set over the flock. He hath taken charge upon him. And what is bene praeesse? To discharge the cure well; to rule well; to feed the flock with pure food and good example of life. Well then; Qui bene praesunt duplici honore digni sunt, “They that discharge their cure well are worthy double honour.” What is this double honour? The first is, to be reverenced, to be had in estimation and reputation with the people, and to be regarded as good pastors: another honour is, to have all things necessary for their state ministered unto them. This is the double honour that they ought to have, qui praesunt bene, that discharge the cure, if they do it bene.
There was a merry monk in Cambridge in the college that I was in, and it chanced a great company of us to be together intending to make good cheer, and to be merry; as scholars will be merry when they are disposed. One of the company brought out this sentence: Nil melius quam laetari, et facere bene; “There is nothing better than to be merry, and to do well.” “A vengeance of that bene,” quoth the monk; “I would that bene had been banished beyond the sea: and that bene were out, it were well; for I could be merry, and I could do, but I love not to do well: that bene mars all together. I would bene were out,” quoth the merry monk; “for it importeth many things, to live well, to discharge the cure.” Indeed it were better for them if it were out, and it were as good to be out as to be ordered as it is. It will be a heavy bene to some of them, when they shall come to their account. But peradventure you will say, “What, and they preach not all, yet praesunt: are they not worthy double honour? Is it not an honourable order they be in?” Nay, an horrible misorder; it is an horror rather than an honour, and horrible rather than honourable, if the preacher be naught, and do not his duty. And thus go these prelates about to wrestle for honour, that the devil may take his pleasure in slandering the realm, and that it may be reported abroad that we breed heresies among ourselves. It is to be thought that some of them would have it so, to bring in popery again. This I fear me is their intent, and it shall be blown abroad to our holy Father of Rome’s ears, and he shall send forth his thunderbolts upon these bruits: and all this doth come to pass through their unpreaching prelacy.
Are they not worthy double honour? Nay, rather double dishonour, not to be regarded, not to be esteemed among the people, and to have no living at their hands. For as good preachers be worthy double honour, so unpreaching prelates be worthy double dishonour. They must be at their doublets. But now these two dishonours, what be they? Our Saviour Christ doth shew: Si sal infatuatus fuerit, ad nihil ultra valet nisi ut projiciatur foras; “If the salt be unsavoury, it is good for nothing, but to be cast out, and trodden of men.” By this salt is understood preachers, and such as have cure of souls? What be they worthy then? Wherefore serve they? For nothing else but to be cast out. Make them quondams. Out with them; cast them out of their office: what should they do with cures, that will not look them it? Another dishonour is this, Ut conculcentur ab hominibus, “To be trodden under men’s feet;” not to be regarded, not to be esteemed. They be at their doublets still. St Paul in his epistle qualifieth a bishop, and saith that he must be aptus ad docendum, ad refellendum, apte, “to teach, and to confute all manner of false doctrine.” But what shall a man do with aptness, if he do not use it? It were as good for us to be without it.
A bishop came to me the last day, and was angry with me for a certain sermon that I made in this place. His chaplain had complained against me, because I had spoken against unpreaching prelates. “Nay,” quoth the bishop, “he made so indifferent a sermon the first day, that I thought he would mar all the second day: he will have every man a quondam, as he is.” As for my quondamship, I thank God that he gave me the grace to come by it by so honest a means as I did; I thank him for mine own quondamship: and as for them, I would not have them made quondams, if they discharge their office; I would have them do their duty, I would have no more quondams, as God help me. I owe them no more malice than this, and that is none at all.
This bishop answered his chaplain: “Well,” says he, “well, I did wisely today; for as I was going to his sermon, I remembered me that I had neither said mass nor matins, and homeward I gat as fast as I could; and I thank God I have said both, and let his unfruitful sermon alone.” “Unfruitful,” saith one; another saith, “seditious.” Well, unfruitful is the best: and whether it be unfruitful or no, I cannot tell; it lieth not in me to make it fruitful: and God work not in your hearts, my preaching can do you but little good. I am God’s instrument but for a time; it is he that must give the increase: and yet preaching is necessary; for take away preaching, and take away salvation. I told you of Scala coeli, and I made it a preaching matter, not a massing matter. Christ is the preacher of all preachers, the pattern and the exemplar that all preachers ought to follow. For it was he by whom the Father of heaven said, Hic est Filius meus dilectus, ipsum audite, “This is my well-beloved Son, hear him.” Even he, when he was here on the earth, as wisely, as learnedly, as circumspectly as he preached, yet his seed fell in three parts; so that the fourth part only was fruitful. And if he had no better luck that wag preacher of all preachers, what shall we look for? Yet was there no lack in him, but in the ground: and so now there is no fault in preaching; the lack is in the people, that have stony hearts and thorny hearts. I beseech God to amend them! And as for these folk that speak against me; I never look to have their good word as long as I live; yet will I speak of their wickedness, as long as I shall be permitted to speak. As long as I live, I will be an enemy to it. No preachers can pass it over with silence: it is the original root of all mischief. As for me; I owe them no other ill will, but I pray God amend them, when it pleaseth him!
Now to the parable. What did the wicked judge in the end of the tale? The love of God moved him not. The law of God was this, and it is writ in the first of Deuteronomy, Audite eos, “Hear them.” These two words will be heavy words to wicked judges another day. But some of them peradventure will say, I will hear such as will give bribes, and those that will do me good turns. Nay, ye be hedged out of that liberty. He saith, Ita parvum ut magnum, “The small as well as great.” Ye must do justum, deal justly, minister justice, and that to all men; and you must do it juste, in time convenient, without any delays or driving off, with expedition. Well, I say, neither this law, nor the word and commandment of God moved this wicked judge, nor the misery of this widow, nor the uprightness of her cause, nor the wrong which she took, moved him; but, to avoid importunity, and clamour, and exclamation, he gave her the hearing, he gave her final sentence, and so she had her request.
This place of judgment, it hath been ever unperfect: it was never seen that all judges did their duty, that they would hear the small as well as the great. I will not prove this by the witness of any private magistrate, but by the wisest king’s saying that ever was: Vidi sub sole, saith Salomon, in loco justitiae impietatem, et in loco aequitatis iniquitatem; “I have seen under the sun,” that is to say, over all in every place, where right judgment should have been, “wickedness;” as who would say, bribes-taking, defeating of justice, oppressing of the poor; men sent away with weeping tears without any hearing of their causes: and in the place of equity,” saith he, “I have seen iniquity.” No equity, no justice; a sore word for Salomon to pronounce universally, generally. And if Salomon said it, there is a matter in it. I ween he said it not only for his own time, but he saw it both in those that were before him, and also that were to come after him. Now comes Esay, and he affirmeth the same; speaking of the judgments done in his time in the common place, as it might be in Westminster-hall, the Guildhall, the Judges-hall, the Pretor-house; call it what you will — in the open place; for judges at that time, according to the manner, sat in the gates of the city, in the highway; a good and godly order, for to sit so that the poor people may easily come to them. But what saith Esay, that seditious fellow? He saith of his country this: Expectavi ut faceret judicium, et fecit iniquitatem; “I looked the judges should do their duty, and I saw them work iniquity.” There was bribes-walking, money-making, making of hands, quoth the prophet, or rather Almighty God by the prophet; such is their partiality, affection, and bribes. They be such money-makers, enhancers, and promoters of themselves. Esay knew this by the crying of the people. Ecce clamor populi, saith he; and though some among them be unreasonable. people, as many be nowadays, yet no doubt of it, some cried not without a cause. And why? Their matters are not heard, they are fain to go home with weeping tears, that fall down by their cheeks, and ascend up to heaven, and cry for vengeance. Let judges look about them, for surely God will revenge his elect one day.
And surely methink if a judge would follow but a worldly reason, and weigh the matter politicly, without these examples of scripture, he should fear more the hurt that may be done him by a poor widow, or a miserable man, than by the greatest gentlemen of them all. God hath pulled the judges’ skins over their heads for the poor man’s sake. Yea, the poor widow may do him more hurt with her poor Paternoster in her mouth than any other weapon; and with two or three words she shall bring him down to the ground, and destroy his jollity, and cause him to lose more in one day than he gat in seven years. For God will revenge these miserable folks that cannot help themselves. He saith, Ego in die visitationis, &c., “In the day of visitation I will revenge them.” An non ulciscetur anima mea? “Shall not my soul be revenged?” As who should say, “I must needs take their part.” Veniens veniam, et non tardabo; “Yes, though I tarry, and though I seem to linger never so long, yet I will come at the length, and that shortly.” And if God spake this, he will perform his promise. He hath for their sakes, as I told you, pulled the skin over the judges’ ears ere this. King David trusted some in his old age that did him no very good service. Now, if in the people of God there were some folks that fell to bribing, then what was there among the heathen? Absolon, David’s son, was a by-walker, and made disturbance among the people in his father’s time; and though he were a wicked man, and a by-walker, yet some there were in that time that were good, and walked uprightly. I speak not this against the judge’s seat; I speak not as though all judges were naught, and as though I did not hold with the judges, magistrates, and officers, as the Anabaptists these false heretics do. But I judge them honourable, necessary, and God’s ordinance. I speak it as scripture speaketh, to give a caveat and a warning to all magistrates, to cause them to look to their offices. For the devil, the great magistrate, is very busy now; he is ever doing, he never ceaseth to go about to make them like himself. The proverb is, Simile gaudet simili, “Like would have like.” If the judge be good and upright, he will assay to deceive him, either by the subtle suggestion of crafty lawyers, or else by false witness, and subtle uttering of a wrong matter. He goeth about as much as he can to corrupt the men of law, to make them fall to bribery, to lay burdens on poor men’s backs, and to make them fall to perjury, and to bring into the place of judgment all corruption, iniquity, and impiety.
I have spoken thus much, to occasion all judges and magistrates to look to their offices. They had need to look about them. This gear moved St Chrysostom to speak this sentence: Miror si aliquis rectorum potest salvari: “I marvel,” said this doctor, “if any of these rulers or great magistrates can be saved.” He spake it not for the impossibility of the thing, (God forbid that all the magistrates and judges should be condemned!) but for the difficulty.
Oh that a man might have the contemplation of hell; that the devil would allow a man to look into hell, to see the state of it, as he shewed all the world when he tempted Christ in the wilderness! Commonstrat illi omnia regna mundi, “He shewed him all the kingdoms of the world,” and all their jollity, and told him that he would give him all, if he would kneel down and worship him. He lied like a false harlot: he could not give them, he was not able to give so much as a goose wing, for they were none of his to give. The other that he promised them unto, had more right to them than he. But I say, if one were admitted to view hell thus, and behold it thoroughly, the devil would say, “On yonder side are punished unpreaching prelates: I think a man should see as far as a kenning,5454 A distance as far as the eye can distinguish. and see nothing but unpreaching prelates. He might look as far as Calais, I warrant you. And then if he would go on the other side, and shew where that bribing judges were, I think he should see so many, that there were scant room for any other. Our Lord God amend it!
Well, to our matter. This judge I speak of said, “Though I fear neither God, nor man,” &c. And did he think thus? Is it the manner of wicked judges to confess their faults? Nay, he thought not so: and had a man come to him, and called him wicked, he would forthwith have commanded him to ward, he would have defended himself stoutly. It was God that spake in his conscience. God putteth him to utter such things as he saw in his heart, and were hid to himself. And there be like things in the scripture, as, Dixit insipiens in corde suo, Non est Deus; “The unwise man said in his heart, There is no God:” and yet, if he should have been asked the question, he would have denied it.
Esay the prophet saith also, Mendacio protecti sumus; “We are defended with lies; we have put our trust in lies.” And in another place he saith, Ambulabo in pravitate cordis mei; “I will walk in the wickedness of my heart.” He uttereth what lieth in his heart, not known to himself, but to God. It was not for nought that Jeremy describeth man’s heart in his colours: Pravum cor hominis et inscrutabile; “The heart of man is naughty, a crooked and froward piece of work.” Let every man humble himself, and acknowledge his fault, and do as St Paul did. When the people to whom he had preached had said many things in his commendation, yet he durst not justify himself: Paul would not praise himself, to his own justification; and therefore, when they had spoken those things by him, “I pass not at all,” saith he, “what ye say by me, I will not stand to your report.” And yet he was not so froward, that when he heard the truth reported of him, he would say it to be false; but he said, “I will neither stand to your report, though it be good and just, neither yet I will say that it is untrue.” He was bonus pastor, a good shepherd: he was one of them qui bene praesunt, that discharged his cure; and yet he thought that there might be a farther thing in himself than he saw in himself; and therefore he said, “The Lord shall judge me: I will stand only to the judgment of the Lord.” For look; whom he judges to be good, he is sure; he is safe; he is cock-sure. I spake of this gear the last day, and of some I had little thank for my labour. I smelled some folks that were grieved with me for it, because I spake against temerarious judgment. “What hath he to do with judgment?” say they. I went about to keep you from arrogant judgment. Well; I could have said more than I did, and I can say much more now. For why? I know more of my lord-admiral’s death since that time, than I did know before. “Oh,” say they, “the man died very boldly; he would not have done so, had he not been in a just quarrel.” This is no good argument, my friends: A man seemeth not to fear death, therefore his cause is good. This is a deceivable argument: He went to his death boldly, ergo, he standeth in a just quarrel. The Anabaptists that were burnt here in divers towns in England (as I heard of credible men, I saw them not myself,) went to their death even intrepide, as ye will say, without any fear in the world, cheerfully. Well, let them go. There was in the old doctors’ times another kind of poisoned heretics, that were called Donatists; and these heretics went to their execution, as though they should have gone to some jolly recreation or banquet, to some belly-cheer, or to a play. And will ye argue then, He goeth to his death boldly or cheerfully, ergo, he dieth in a just cause? Nay, that sequel followeth no more than this: A man seems to be afraid of death, ergo, he dieth evil. And yet our Saviour Christ was afraid of death himself.
I warn you therefore, and charge you not to judge them that be in authority, but to pray for them. It becometh us not to judge great magistrates, nor to condemn their doings, unless their deeds be openly and apparently wicked. Charity requireth the same; for charity judgeth no man, but well of everybody. Arid thus we may try whether we have charity or no; and if we have not charity, we are not God’s disciples, for they are known by that badge. He that is his disciple, hath the work of charity in his breast. It is a worthy saying of a clerk, Caritas si est operatur; si non operatur, non est: “If there be charity, it worketh omnia credere, omnia sperare, to believe all things, to hope all;” to say the best of the magistrates, and not to stand to the defending of a wicked matter.
I will go further with you now. If I should have said all that I knew, your ears would have irked to have heard it, and now God hath brought more to light. And as touching the kind of his death, whether he be saved or no, I refer that to God only. What God can do, I can tell. I will not deny, but that he may in the twinkling of an eye save a man, and turn his heart. What he did; I cannot tell. Arid when a man hath two strokes with an axe, who can tell but that between two strokes he doth repent? It is very hard to judge. Well, I will not go so nigh to work; but this I will say, if they ask me what I think of his death, that he died very dangerously, irksomely, horribly. The man being in the Tower wrote certain papers which I saw myself. There were two little ones, one to my lady Mary’s grace, and another to my lady Elizabeth’s grace, tending to this end, that they should conspire against my lord Protector’s grace: surely, so seditiously as could be. Now what a kind of death was this, that when he was ready to lay his head upon the block, he turns me to the Lieutenant’s servant, and saith, “Bid my servant speed the thing that he roots of?” Well, the word was overheard. His servant confessed these two papers, and they were found in a shoe of his: they were sewed between the soles of a velvet shoe. He made his ink so craftily and with such workmanship, as the like hath not been seen. I was prisoner in the Tower myself, and I could never invent to make ink so. It is a wonder to hear of his subtilty. He made his pen of the aglet of a point, that he plucked from his hose, and thus wrote these letters so seditiously, as ye have heard, enforcing many matters against my lord Protector’s grace, and so forth. God had left him to himself, he had clean forsaken him. What would he have done, if he had lived still, that went about this gear, when he laid his head on the block, at the end of his life? Charity, they say, worketh but godly; and not after this sort. Well; he is gone, he knoweth his fate by this, he is either in joy or in pain. There is but two states, if we be once gone. There is no change. This is the speech of the scripture: Ubicunque lignum ceciderit, ibi erit, sive in austrum, sive in aquilonem: “Wheresoever the tree falleth, either into the south, or into the north, there it shall rest.” By the falling of the tree is signified the death of man: if he fall into the south, he shall be saved; for the south is hot, and betokeneth charity or salvation: if he fall in the north, in the cold of infidelity, he shall be damned. There are but two states, the state of salvation and the state of damnation. There is no repentance after this life, but if he die in the state of damnation, he shall rise in the same yea, though he have a whole monkery to sing for him, he shall have his final sentence when he dieth. And that servant of his that confessed and uttered this gear was an honest man. He did honestly in it. God put it in his heart. And as for the other, whether he be saved, or no, I leave it to God. But surely he was a wicked man: the realm is well rid of him: it hath a treasure that he is gone. He knoweth his fare by this. A terrible example, surely, and to be noted of every man. Now before he should die, I heard say, he had commendations to the king, and spake many words of his majesty. All is, ‘The King, the King.’ Yea, bona verba. These were fair words, ‘The King, the King.’ I was travailed in the Tower myself, (with the king’s commandment and the council,) and there was Sir Robert Constable, the lord Hussey, the lord Darcy: and the lord Darcy was telling me of the faithful service that he had done the king’s majesty that dead is. “And I had seen my sovereign lord in the field,” said he, “and I had seen his grace come against us, I would have lighted from my horse, and taken my sword by the point, and yielded it into his grace’s hands.” “Marry,” quoth I, “but in the mean season ye played not the part of a faithful subject, in holding with the people in a commotion and a disturbance.” It hath been the cast of all traitors to pretend nothing against the king’s person; they never pretend the matter to the king, but to other. Subjects may not resist any magistrates, nor ought to do nothing contrary to the king’s laws; and therefore these words, “The King,” and so forth, are of small effect.
I heard once a tale of a thing that was done at Oxford twenty years ago, and the like hath been since in this realm, as I was informed of credible persons, and some of them that saw it be alive yet. There was a priest that was robbed of a great sum of money, and there were two or three attached for the same robbery; and, to be brief, were condemned, and brought to the place of execution. The first man, when he was upon the ladder, denied the matter utterly, and took his death upon it, that he never consented to the robbery of the priest, nor never knew of it. When he was dead, the second fellow cometh, and maketh his protestation, and acknowledged the fault; saying, that among other grievous offences that he had done, he was accessary to this robbery: and, saith he, “I had my part of it, I cry God mercy: so had this fellow that died before me his part.” Now who can judge whether this fellow died well or no? Who can judge a man’s heart? The one denied the matter, and the other confessed it: there is no judging of such matters.
I have heard much wickedness of this man, and I thought oft, Jesu, what will worth, what will be the end of this man? When I was with the bishop of Chichester in ward, (I was not so with him but my friends might come to me, and talk with me,) I was desirous to hear of execution done, as there was every week some, in one place of the city or other; for there was three weeks’ sessions at Newgate, and fortnight sessions at the Marshalsea, and so forth: I was desirous, I say, to hear of execution, because I looked that my part should have been therein. I looked every day to be called to it myself. Among all other, I heard of a wanton woman, a naughty liver. A whore, a vain body, was led from Newgate to the place of execution for a certain robbery that she had committed, and she had a wicked communication by the way. Here I will take occasion to move your grace, that such men as shall be put to death may have learned men to give them instruction and exhortation. For the reverence of God, when they be put to execution, let them have instructors; for many of them are cast away for lack of instruction, and die miserably for lack of good preaching. This woman, I say, as she went by the way, had wanton and foolish talk, as this: “that if good fellows had kept touch with her, she had not been at this time in that case.” And amongst all other talk she said that such an one (and named this man) had first misled her: and, hearing this of him at that time, I looked ever what would be his end, what would become of him. He was a man the farthest from the fear of God that ever I knew or heard of in England. First, he was the author of all this woman’s whoredom; for if he had not led her wrong, she might have been married and become an honest woman, whereas now being naught with him, she fell afterwards by that occasion to other and they that were naught with her fell to robbery, and she followed; and thus was he the author of all this. This gear came by sequel. Peradventure this may seem to be a light matter, but surely it is a great matter; and he by unrepentance fell from evil to worse, and from worse to worst of all, till at the length he was made a spectacle to, all the world. I have heard say he was of the opinion that he believed not the immortality of the soul; that he was not right in this matter:: and it might well appear by the taking of his death. But ye will say, “What! ye slander; ye break charity.” Nay, it is charity that I do. We can have no better use of him now than to warn other to beware of him. Christ saith, Memores estote uxoris Loth; “Remember Loth’s wife.” She was a woman that would not be content with her good state, but wrestled with God’s calling, and she was for that cause turned into a salt stone; and therefore the scripture doth name her as an example for us to take heed by. Ye shall see also in the second chapter, how that God Almighty spared not a number of his angels, which had sinned against him, to make them examples to us to beware by. He drowned the whole world in the time of Noah, and destroyed for sin the cities of Sodom and Gomor. And why? Fecit eos exemplum iis qui impii forent acturi; “He made them an example to them that would do wickedly in time to come.” If God would not spare them, think ye he will favour us?
I will go on a word or two in the application of the parable, and then I will make an end. To what end and to what purpose brought Christ this parable of the wicked judge? The end is, that we should be continually in prayer. Prayer is never interrupted but by wickedness. We must therefore walk orderly, uprightly, calling upon God in all our troubles and adversities; and for this purpose there is not a more comfortable lesson in all the scripture, than here now in the lapping up. of the matter. Therefore I will open it unto you. You miserable people, if there be any here amongst you, that are oppressed with great men, and can get no help, I speak for your comfort; I will open unto you whither ye shall resort, when ye be in any distress. His good-will is ready, always it hand, whensoever we shall call for it; and therefore he calls, us to himself. We shall not doubt if we come to him. Mark what he saith, to cause us that we believe that our prayers shall be heard: et Deus non faciet vindictam? He reasons after this fashion: “Will not God,” saith he, “revenge his elect, and hear them;” seeing the wicked judge heard the widow? He seemeth to go plainly to work: he willeth us to pray to God, and to none but to God. We have a manner of reasoning in the schools, and it is called, a minore ad majus, “from the less to the more,” and that may be used here. The judge was a tyrant, a wicked man. God is a patron, a defender, father unto us. If the judge then, being a tyrant, would hear the poor widow, much more God will hear us in all distresses: he being a father unto us, he will hear us, sooner than the other, being no father, having no fatherly affection. Moreover, God is naturally merciful. The judge was cruel, and yet he helped the widow; much more then will God help us at our need. He saith by the oppressed, Cum ipso sum in tribulatione, “I am with him in his trouble”: his tribulation is mine; I am touched with his trouble. If the judge then, being a cruel man, heard the widow; much more God will help us, being touched with our affliction.
Furthermore, this judge gave the widow no commandment to come to him: we have a commandment to resort to God; for he saith, Invoca me in die tribulationis, “Call upon me in the day of thy tribulations”: which is as well a commandment as, Non furaberis, “Thou shalt not steal.” He that spake the one spake the other; and whatsoever he be that is in trouble, and calleth not upon God, breaketh his commandment. Take heed therefore,: the judge did not promise the widow help; God promiseth us help, and will he not perform it? He will, he will. The judge, I say, did not promise the widow help; God will give us both hearing and helping. He hath promised it us with a double oath: Amen, Amen, saith he, “Verily, verily,” (he doubles it,) Quaecunque petierifs, &c., “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, ye shall have it.” And though he put off some sinner for a time, and suffer him to bite on the bridle to prove him, (for there be many beginners, but few coutinuers in prayer,) yet we may not think that he hath forgotten us, and will not help us: Veniens veniet, non tardabit, “When the help is most needful, then he will come, and not tarry.” He knoweth when it shall be best for us to have help: though he tarry, he will come at the last.
I will trouble you but half a quarter of an hour in the application of the parable, and so commit you to God.
What should it mean, that God would have us so diligent and earnest in prayer? Hath he such pleasure in our works? Many talk of prayer, and make it a lip-laboring. Praying is not babbling; nor praying is not mockery. It is, to miserable folk that are oppressed, a comfort, solace and a remedy. But what maketh our prayer to be acceptable to God? It lieth not in our power; we must have it by another mean. Remember what God said of his Son: Hic est Filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi bene complacui; “This is my dear Son, in whom I delight.” He hath pleasure in nothing but in him. How cometh it to pass that our prayer pleaseth God? Our prayer pleaseth God, because Christ pleaseth God. When we pray, we come unto him in the confidence of Christ’s merits, and thus offering up our prayers, they shall be heard for Christ’s sake. Yea, Christ will offer them up for us, that offered up once his sacrifice to God, which was acceptable; and he that cometh with any other mean than this, God knoweth him not.
This is not the missal sacrifice, the popish sacrifice, to stand at the altar, and offer up Christ again. Out upon it that ever it was used! I will not say nay, but that ye shall find in the old doctors this word sacrificium; but there is one general solution for all the doctors that St Augustine sheweth us: “The sign of a thing hath oftentimes the name of the thing that it signifieth.” As the supper of the Lord is the sacrament of another thing, it is a commemoration of his death, which suffered once for us; and because it is a sign of Christ’s offering up, therefore he bears the name thereof. And this sacrifice a woman can offer as well as a man; yea, a poor woman in the belfry hath as good authority to offer up this sacrifice, as hath the bishop in his pontificalibus, with his mitre on his head, his rings on his fingers, and sandals on his feet. And whosoever cometh asking the Father remedy in his necessity for Christ’s sake, he offereth up as acceptable a sacrifice as any bishop can do.
And so, to make an end: this must be done with a constant faith and a sure confidence in Christ. Faith, faith, faith; we are undone for lack of faith. Christ nameth faith here, faith is all together: “When the Son of man shall come, shall he find faith on the earth?” Why speaketh he so much of faith? Because it is hard to find a true faith. He speaketh not of a political faith, a faith set up for a time; but a constant, a permanent, a durable faith, as durable as God’s word.
He came many times: first in the time of Noe when he preached, but he found little faith. He came also when Lot preached, when he destroyed Sodome and Gomora, but he found no faith. And to be short, he shall come at the latter day, but he shall find a little faith. And I ween the day be not far off. When he was here carnally, did he find any faith? Many speak of faith, but few there be that hath it. Christ mourneth the lack of it: he complaineth that when he came, he found no faith.
This Faith is a great state, a lady, a duchess, a great woman; and she hath ever a great company and train about her, as a noble estate ought to have. First, she hath a gentleman-usher that goeth before her, and where he is not there is not lady Faith. This gentleman-usher is called Agnitio peccatorum, knowledge of sin; when we enter into our heart, and acknowledge our faults, and stand not about to defend them. He is none of these winkers; he kicks not when he hears his fault. Now, as the gentleman-usher goeth before her, so she hath a train that cometh behind her; and yet, though they come behind, they be all of Faith’s company, they are all with her: as Christ, when he counterfeited a state going to Jerusalem, some went before him, and some after, yet all were of his company. So all these wait upon Faith, she hath a great train after her, besides her gentleman-usher, her whole household; and those be the works of our vocation, when every man considereth what vocation he is in, what calling he is in, and doth the works of the same; as, to be good to his neighbour, to obey God, &c. This is the train that followeth lady Faith: as for an example; a faithful judge hath first an heavy reckoning of his fault, repenting himself of his wickedness, and then forsaketh his iniquity, his impiety, feareth no man, walks upright; and he that doth not thus hath not lady Faith, but rather a boldness of sin and abusing of Christ’s passion. Lady Faith is never without her gentleman-usher, nor without her train: she is no anchoress, she dwells not alone, she is never a private woman, she is never alone. And yet many there be that boast themselves that they have faith, and that when Christ shall come they shall do well enough. Nay, nay, those that be faithful shall be so few, that Christ shall scarce see them. “Many there be that runneth,” saith St Paul, “but there is but one that receiveth the reward.” It shall be with the multitude, when Christ shall come, as it was in the time of Noe, and as it was in the time of Lot. In the time of Noe, “they were eating and drinking, building and planting, and suddenly the water came upon them, and drowned them.” In the time of Lot also, “they were eating and drinking, &c., and suddenly the fire came upon them, and devoured them.” And now we are eating and drinking: there was never, such building then as is now, planting, nor marrying. And thus it shall be, even when Christ shall come at judgment.
Is eating, and drinking, and marrying, reproved in scripture? Is it not? Nay, he reproveth not all kind of eating and drinking, he must be otherwise understanded. If the scripture be not truly expounded, what is more erroneous? And though there be complainings of some eating and drinking in the scripture, yet he speaketh not as though all were naught. They may be well ordered, they are God’s allowance: but to eat and drink as they did in Noe’s time, and as they did in Loth’s time, this eating, and drinking, and marrying, is spoken against. To eat and drink in the forgetfulness of God’s commandment, voluptuously, in excess and gluttony, this kind of eating and drinking is naught; when it is not done moderately, soberly, and with all circumspection. And likewise to marry for fleshly lust, and for their own phantasy. There was never such marrying in England as is now. I hear tell of stealing of wards to marry their children to. This is a strange kind of stealing: but it is not the wards, it is the lands that they steal. And some there be that knit up marriages together, not for any love or godliness in the parties, but to get friendship, and make them strong in the realm, to increase their possessions, and to join land to land. And other there be that inveigle men’s daughters, in the contempt of their fathers, and go about to marry them without their consent: this marrying is ungodly. And many parents constrain their sons and daughters to marry where they love not, and some are beaten and compulsed. And they that marry thus, marry in a forgetfulness and obliviousness of God’s commandments. But as in the time of Noe suddenly a clap fell in their bosoms; so it shall be with us at the latter day, when Christ shall come. We have as little conscience as may be; and when he shall come, he shall lack lady Faith. Well is them that shall be of that little flock, that shall be set on the right hand, &c.
I have troubled you long, partly being out of my matter, partly being in; but now I will make an end. I began with this text, Quaecunque scripta sunt, &c.; so I will end now for mine own ease, as an old truant, with this sentence, Beati qui audiunt verbum Dei, &c., “Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” I told you in the beginning of this parable of bene: Nil melius quam laetari et facere. If I had ceased there, all had been well, quoth the merry monk. So, “Blessed are they that hear the word of God;” but what followeth? “and keep it.” Our blessedness cometh of the keeping. It hangs all on the end of the tale, in crediting and assenting to the word, and following of it. And thus we shall begin our blessedness here, and at length we shall come to the blessing that never shall have end; which God grant both you and me. Amen.
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