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The Sixth Sermon preached before King Edward, April twelfth, 1549.
Quaecunque scripta sunt, ad nostram doctrinam scripta sunt. — Rom. xv. 4.
All things that are written, they are written to be our doctrine.
What doctrine is written for us in the eighth chapter of the first book of the Kings, I did partly shew unto you, most honourable audience, this day sennight, of that good man, father Samuel, that good judge, how good a man he was, what helpers and coadjutors he took unto him, to have his office well discharged. I told you also of the wickedness of his sons, how they took bribes, and lived wickedly, and by that means brought both their father and themselves to deposition; and how the people did offend God, in asking a king in father Samuel’s time; and how father Samuel was put from his office, who deserved it not. I opened to you also, how father Samuel cleared himself, that he knew not the faults of his sons; he was no bearer with his sons, he was sorry for it, when he heard it, but he would not bear with them in their wickedness: filii mei vobiscum sunt; “My sons are with you,” saith he, “do with them according to their deserts. I will not maintain them, nor bear with them.” After that, he clears himself at the king’s feet, that the people had nothing to burthen him withal, neither money, nor money worth. In treating of that part I chanced to shew you what I heard of a man that was slain, and I hear say it was not well taken. Forsooth, I intended not to impair any man’s estimation or honesty, and they that enforce it to that, enforce it not to my meaning. I said I heard but of such a thing, and took occasion by that that I heard to speak against the thing that I knew to be naught, that no man should bear with any man to the maintenance of voluntary and prepensed murder. And I hear say since, the man was otherwise an honest man, and they that spake for him are honest men. I am inclinable enough to credit it. I spake not because I would have any man’s honesty impaired. Only I did, as St Paul did, who hearing of the Corinthians, that there should be contentions and misorder among them, did write unto them that he heard; and thereupon, by occasion of hearing, he set forth the very wholesome doctrine of the Supper of the Lord. We might not have lacked that doctrine, I tell you. Be it so, the Corinthians had no such contentions among them, as Paul wrote of; be it so, they had not misordered themselves: it was neither off nor on to that that Paul said: the matter lay in that, that upon hearing he would take occasion to set out the good and true doctrine. So I did not affirm it to be true that I heard; I spake it to advertise you to beware of bearing with willful and prepensed murder. I would have nothing enforced against any man this was mine intent and meaning. I do not know what ye call chance-medley in the law; it is not for my study. I am a scholar in scripture, in God’s book; I study that. I know what voluntary murder is before God: if I shall fall out with a man, he is angry with me, and I with him, and lacking opportunity and place, we shall put it off for that time; in the mean season I prepare my weapon, and sharp it against another time; I swell and boil in this passion towards him; I seek him, we meddle together; it is my chance, by reason my weapon is better than his, and so forth, to kill him; I give him his death-stroke in my vengeance. and anger: this call I voluntary murder in scripture; what it is in the law, I cannot tell. It is a great sin, and therefore I call it voluntary. I remember what a great clerk writeth of this: Omne peccatum adeo est voluntarium, ut nisi sit voluntarium non sit peccatum: “Every sin,” saith he, “is so voluntary, that if it be not voluntary, it cannot be called sin.” Sin is no actual sin, if it be not voluntary. I would we would all know our faults and repent: that that is done, is done; it cannot be called back again. God is merciful, the king is merciful: here we may repent, this is the place of repentance; when we are gone hence, it is too late then to repent. And let us be content with such order as the magistrates shall take: but sure it is a perilous thing to bear with any such matter. I told you what I heard say; I would have no man’s honesty impaired by my telling. I heard say since of another murder, that a Spaniard should kill an Englishman, and run him through with his sword; they say he was a tall man: but I hear not that the Spaniard was hanged for his labour; if I had, I would have told you it too. They tell out, as the tale goeth, about a whore. O Lord, what whoredom is used nowadays, as I hear by the relation of honest men, which tell it not after a worldly sort, as though they rejoiced at it, but heavily, with heavy hearts, how God is dishonoured by whoredom in this city of London; yea, the Bank,5757 The Bank-side in Southwark. when it stood, was never so common! If it be true that is told, it is marvel that it doth not sink, and that the earth gapeth not and swalloweth it up. It is wonderful that the city of London doth suffer such whoredom unpunished. God hath suffered long of his great lenity, mercy, and benignity; but he will punish sharply at the length, if we do not repent. There is some place in London,5858 The precinct of St Martin-le-Grand, originally a sanctuary, and which retained its extra-civic. immunity, and was regarded as “a privileged place,” long after sanctuaries had been suppressed. as they say, “Immunity, impunity”: what should I call it? A privileged place for whoredom. The lord mayor hath nothing to do there, the sheriffs they cannot meddle with it; and the quest they do not inquire of it: and there men do bring their whores, yea, other men’s wives, and there is no reformation of it.
There be such dicing houses also, they say, as hath not been wont to be, where young gentlemen dice away their thrift; and where dicing is, there are other follies also. For the love of God let remedy be had, let us wrestle and strive against sin. Men of England, in times past, when they would exercise themselves, (for we must needs have some recreation, our bodies cannot endure without some exercise,) they were wont to go abroad in the fields a shooting; but now it is turned into glossing, gulling, and whoring within the house. The art of shooting hath been in times past much esteemed in this realm: it is a gift of God that he hath given us to excel all other nations withal: it hath been God’s instrument, whereby he hath given us many victories against our enemies: but now we have taken up whoring in towns, instead of shooting in the fields. A wondrous thing, that so excellent a gift of God should be so little esteemed! I desire you, my lords, even as ye love the honour and glory of God, and intend to remove his indignation, let there be sent forth some proclamation, some sharp proclamation to the justices of peace, for they do not their duty: justices now be no justices. There be many good acts made for this matter already. Charge them upon their allegiance, that this singular benefit of God may be practised, and that it be not turned into bowling, glossing, and whoring within the towns; for they be negligent in executing these laws of shooting. In my time my poor father was as diligent to, teach me to shoot, as to learn me any other thing; and so I think other men did their children, he taught me how to draw, how to lay my body in my bow, and not to draw with strength of arms, as other nations do, but with strength of the body: I had my bows bought me, according to my age and strength; as I increased in them, so my bows were made bigger and bigger, for men shall never shoot well, except they be brought up in it: it is a goodly art, a wholesome kind of exercise, and much commended in physic.
Marcilius Phicinus, in his book De triplici vita, (it is a great while since I read him now,) but I remember he commendeth this kind of exercise, and saith, that it wrestleth against many kinds of diseases. In the reverence of God let it be continued; let a proclamation go forth; charging the justices of peace, that they see such acts and statutes kept as were made for this purpose.
I will to my matter. I intend this day to entreat of a piece of scripture written in the beginning of the fifth chapter of Luke. I am occasioned to take this place by a book sent to the king’s majesty that dead is by master Pole. It is a text that he doth greatly abuse for the supremacy: he racks it, and violates it, to serve for the maintenance of the bishop of Rome. And as he did enforce the other place, that I entreated of last, so did he enforce this also, to serve his matter. The story is this: our Saviour Christ was come now to the bank of the water of Genezareth. The people were come to him, and flocked about him to hear him preach. And Jesus took a boat that was standing at the pool, (it was Simon’s boat,) and went into it. And sitting in the boat, he preached to them that were on the bank. And when he had preached and taught them, he spake to Simon, and bade him launch out further into the deep, and loose his nets to catch fish. And Simon made answer and said, “Master, we have laboured all night, but we caught nothing: howbeit, at thy commandment, because thou biddest us, we will go to it again.” And so they did, and caught a great draught, a miraculous draught, so much that the net brake; and they called to their fellows that were by (for they had two boats) to come to help them; and they came, and filled both their boats so full, that they were nigh drowning.
This is the story. That I may declare this text so that it may be to the honour of God, and edification of your souls and mine both, I shall desire you to help me with your prayer, in the which, &c.
Factum est autem (saith the text) cum turba irrueret in eum. St Luke tells the story, “And it came to pass, when the people pressed upon him, so that he was in peril to be cast into the pond, they rushed so fast upon him, and made such throng to him.” A wondrous thing: what a desire the people had in those days to hear our Saviour Christ preach! And the cause may be gathered of the latter end of the chapter that went before. Our Saviour Christ had preached unto them, and healed the sick folks of such diseases and maladies as they had, and therefore the people would have retained him still: but he made them answer, and said, Et aliis civitatibus oportet me evangelizare regnum Dei, nam in hoc missus sum. “I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: I must show them my Father’s will, for I came for that purpose: I was sent to preach the word of God.” Our Saviour Christ said, how he must not tarry in one place for he was sent to the world, to preach everywhere. Is it not a marvellous thing, that our unpreaching prelates can read this place, and yet preach no more than they do? I marvel that they can go quietly to bed, and see how he allureth them with his example to be diligent in their office. Here is a godly lesson also, how our Saviour Christ fled from glory. If these ambitious persons, that climb to honour by by-walks inordinately, would consider this example of Jesus Christ, they should come to more honour than they do; for when they seek honour by such by-walks, they come to confusion. Honour followeth them that flee from it. Our Saviour Christ gat him away early in the morning, and went unto the wilderness. I would they would follow this example of Christ, and not seek honour by such by-walks as they do. But what did the people, when he had hid himself? They smelled him out in the wilderness, and came unto him by flocks, and followed him a great number. But where read you that a great number of scribes and Pharisees and bishops followed him ? There is a doctor that writeth of this place; his name is doctor Gorrham, Nicholas Gorrham: I knew him to be a school-doctor a great while ago, but I never knew him to be an interpreter of scripture till now of late: he saith thus: Major devotio in laicis vetulis quam in clericis, &c., “There is more devotion,” saith he, “in lay-folk, and old wives, these simple folk, the vulgar people, than in the clerks”: they be better affected to the word of God than those that be of the clergy. I marvel not at the sentence, but I marvel to find such a sentence in such a doctor. If I should say so much, it would be said to me, that it is an evil bird that defiles his own nest; and, nemo laeditur nisi a seipso, “there is no man hurt but of his ownself.” There was verified the saying of our Saviour Christ, which he spake in another place: Ubicunque fuerit cadaver, ibi congregabuntur aquilae; “Wheresoever a dead carrion is, thither will the eagles gather.” Our Saviour Christ compares himself to a dead carrion; for where the carrion is, there will the eagles be: and though it be an evil smell to us, and stinks in a man’s nose, yet it is a sweet smell to the eagles; they will seek it out. So the people sought out Christ, they smelt his savour; he was a sweet smell to them. He is odor vitae ad vitam, “the smell of life to life.” They flocked about him like eagles. Christ was the carrion, and the people were the eagles. They had no pleasure to hear the scribes and the Pharisees; they stank in their nose; their doctrine was unsavoury; it was of lolions, of decimations of aniseed and commin, and such gear. There was no comfort in it for sore consciences; there was no consolation for wounded souls; there was no remedy for sins, as was in Christ’s doctrine. His doctrine eased the burden of the soul; it was sweet to the common people, and sour to the scribes. It was such comfort and pleasure to them, that they came flocking about him. Wherefore came they? Ut audirent verbum Dei. It was a good coming; they came to hear the word of God. It was not to be thought that they came all of one mind to hear the word of God: it is likely, that in so great a multitude some came of curiosity, to hear some novels; and some came smelling a sweet savour, to have consolation and comfort of God’s word: for we cannot be saved without hearing of the word; it is a necessary way to salvation. We cannot be saved without faith, and faith cometh by hearing of the word. Fides ex auditu. “And how shall they hear without a preacher?” I tell you it is the footstep of the ladder of heaven, of our salvation. There must be preachers, if we look to be saved. I told you of this gradation before; in the tenth to the Romans: consider it well. I had rather ye should come of a naughty mind to hear the word of God for novelty, or for curiosity to hear some pastime, than to be away. I had rather ye should come as the tale is by the gentlewoman of London: one of her neighbours met her in the street, and said, “Mistress, whither go ye?” “Marry,” said she, “I am going to St Thomas of Acres to the sermon; I could not sleep all this last night, and I am going now thither; I never failed of a good nap there.” And so I had rather ye should go a napping to the sermons, than not to go at all. For with what mind soever ye come, though ye come for an ill purpose, yet peradventure ye may chance to be caught or ye go; the preacher may chance to catch you on his hook. Rather than ye should not come at all, I would have you come of curiosity, as St Augustine came to hear St Ambrose. When St Augustine came to Milan, (he tells the story himself, in the end of his fifth book of Confessions,) he was very desirous to hear St Ambrose, not for any love he had to the doctrine that he taught, but to hear his eloquence, whether it was so great as the speech was, and as the bruit went. Well, before he departed, St Ambrose caught him on his hook, and converted him, so that he became of a Manichee, and of a Platonist, a good Christian, a defender of Christ’s religion and of the faith afterward. So I would have you to come to sermons. It is declared in many places of scripture, how necessary preaching is; as this, Evangelium est potentia Dei ad salutem omni credenti; “The preaching of the gospel is the power of God to every man that doth believe.” He means God’s word opened: it is the instrument, and the thing whereby we are saved.
Beware, beware, ye diminish not this office; for if ye do, ye decay God’s power to all that do believe. Christ saith, consonant to the same, Nisi quis renatus fuerit e supernis, non potest videre regitum Dei: “Except a man be born again from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” He must have a regeneration: and what is this regeneration? It is not to be christened in water, as these firebrands expound it, and nothing else. How is it to be expounded then? St Peter sheweth that one place of scripture declareth another. It is the circumstance, and collation of places, that makes scripture plain. Regeneramur autem, saith St Peter, “and we be born again:” how? Non ex semine mortali, sed immortali, “Not by a mortal seed, but by an immortal.” What is this immortal seed? Per sermonem Dei viventis: “By the word of the living God;” by the word of God preached and opened. Thus cometh in our new birth.
Here you may see how necessary this office is to our salvation. This is the thing that the devil wrestleth most against: it hath been all his study to decay this office. He worketh against it as much as he can: he hath prevailed too much, too much in it. He hath set up a state of unpreaching prelacy in this realm this seven hundred year; a stately unpreaching prelacy. He hath made unpreaching prelates; he hath stirred up by heaps to persecute this office in the title of heresy. He hath stirred up the magistrates to persecute it in the title of sedition, and he hath stirred up the people to persecute it with exprobations and slanderous words, as by the name of “new learning,” “strange preaching”; and with impropriations he hath turned preaching into private masses. If a priest should have left mass undone on a Sunday within these ten years, all England should have wondered at it; but they might have left off the sermon twenty Sundays, and never have been blamed. And thus by these impropriations private masses were set up, and preaching of God’s word trodden under foot. But what doth he now? What doth he now? He stirs men up to outrageous rearing of rents, that poor men shall not be able to find their children at the school to be divines. What an unreasonable devil is this! He provides a great while beforehand for the time that is to come: he hath brought up now of late the most monstrous kind of covetousness that ever was heard of: he hath invented fee-farming of benefices, and all to decay this office of preaching; insomuch that, when any man hereafter shall have a benefice, he may go where he will, for any house he shall have to dwell upon, or any glebe-land to keep hospitality withal; but he must take up a chamber in an alehouse, and there sit and play at the tables all the day. A goodly curate! He hath caused also, through this monstrous kind of covetousness, patrons to sell their benefices: yea what doth he more? He gets him to the university, and causeth great men and esquires to send their sons thither, and put out poor scholars that should be divines; for their parents intend not that they shall be preachers, but that they may have a shew of learning. But it were too long to declare unto you what deceit and means the devil hath found to decay the office of salvation, this office of regeneration.
But to return to my matter. The people came to hear the word of God: they heard him with silence. I remember now a saying of St Chrysostom, and peradventure it might come hereafter in better place, but yet I will take it whilst it cometh to mind: the saying is this, Et loquentem eum audierunt in silentio, seriem locutionis non interrumpentes: “They heard him,” saith he, “in silence, not interrupting the order of his preaching.” He means, they heard him quietly, without any shovelling of feet, or walking up and down. Surely it is an ill misorder that folk shall be walking up and down in the sermon-time, as I have seen in this place this Lent: and there shall be such huzzing and buzzing in the preacher’s ear, that it maketh him oftentimes to forget his matter. O let us consider the king’s majesty’s goodness! This place was prepared for banqueting of the body; and his Majesty hath made it a place for the comfort of the soul, and to have the word of God preached in it; shewing hereby that he would have all his subjects at it, if it might be possible. Consider what the king’s majesty hath done for you; he alloweth you all to hear with him. Consider where ye be. First, ye ought to have a reverence to God’s word; and though it be preached by poor men, yet it is the same word that our Saviour spake. Consider also the presence of the king’s majesty, God’s high vicar in earth, having a respect to his personage. Ye ought to have reverence to it, and consider that he is God’s high minister, and yet alloweth you all to be partakers with him of the hearing of God’s word. This benefit of his would be thankfully taken, and it would be highly esteemed. Hear in silence, as Chrysostom saith. It may chance that some in the company may fall sick or be diseased; if there be any such, let them go away with silence; let them leave their salutations till they come in the court, let them depart with silence. I took occasion of Chrysostom’s words to admonish you of this thing.
What should be the cause that our Saviour Christ went into the boat? The scripture calleth it navis or navicula, but it was no ship, it was a fisher’s boat; they were not able to have a ship. What should be the cause why he would not stand on the bank and preach there, but he desired Peter to draw the boat somewhat from the shore into the midst of the water: what should be the cause? One cause was, for that he might sit there more commodiously than on the bank: another cause was, for that he was like to be thrust into the pond of the people that came unto him. Why, our Saviour Christ might have withstood them, he was strong enough to have kept himself from thrusting into the water: he was stronger than they all, and if he had listed he might have stood on the water, as well as he walked on the water. Truth it is, so might he have done indeed. But as it was sometime his pleasure to show the power of his Godhead, so he declared now the infirmity and imbecility of his manhood.
Here he giveth us an example what shall we do: we must not tempt God by any miracles, so long as we may walk by ordinary ways. As our Saviour Christ, when the devil had him on the top of the temple, and would have had him cast himself down, he made him this answer, Non tentabis Dominum Deum tuum, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God:” as if he should have said, we may not tempt God at all. It is no time now to shew any miracles: there is another way to go down by greesings. Thus he did shew us an example, that we must not tempt God, except it be in extreme necessity, and when we cannot otherwise remedy the matter, to leave it all to God, else we may not tempt the majesty of his Deity: beware tempting of God.
Well, he comes to Simon’s boat, and why rather to Simon’s boat than another? I will answer, as I find by experience in myself. I came hither today from Lambeth in a wherry; and when I came to take boat, the watermen came about me, as the manner is, and he would have me, and he would have me: I took one of them. Now ye will ask me, why I came in that boat rather than in another? Because I would go into that that I see stand next me; it stood more commodiously for me. And so did Christ by Simon’s boat: it stood nearer for him, he saw a better seat in it. A good natural reason. Now come the papists, and they will make a mystery of it: they will pick out the supremacy of the bishop of Rome in Peter’s boat. We may make allegories enough of every place in scripture: but surely it must needs be a simple matter that standeth on so weak a ground. But ye shall see further: he desired Peter to thrust out his boat from the shore. He desired him. Here was a good lesson for the bishop of Rome, and all his college of cardinals, to learn humility and gentleness. Rogabat eum. He desired him: it was gently done of him, not with any austerity, but with all urbanity, mildness, and softness, and humility. What an example is this that he giveth them here! But they spy it not, they can see nothing but the supremacy of the bishop of Rome. A wondrous thing, what sight they have; they see nothing but the supremacy of the bishop of Rome! Imperabatis ovibus meis, saith Ezekiel, cum avaritia et austeritate, et dispersae sunt absque pastore; “Ye have ruled my sheep, and commanded them with great lordliness, austerity, and power; and thus ye have dispersed my sheep abroad.” And why? There was no shepherd, they had wanted one a great while. Rome hath been many a hundred years without a good shepherd. They would not learn to rule them gently; they had rule over them, but it was with cursings, excommunications, with great austerity and thunderbolts, and the devil and all, to maintain their unpreaching prelacy. I beseech God open their eyes, that they may see the truth, and not be blinded with those things that no man can see but they!
It followeth in the text, Sedens docebat de navi: “He taught sitting.” Preachers, belike, were sitters in those days, as it is written in another place, Sedent in cathedra Mosis, “They sit in the chair of Moses.” I would our preachers would preach sitting or standing, one way or other. It was a godly pulpit that our Saviour Christ had gotten him here; an old rotten boat, and yet he preached his Father’s will, his Father’s message out of this pulpit. He cared not for the pulpit, so he might do the people good. Indeed it is to be commended for the preacher to stand or sit, as the place is; but I would not have it so superstitiously esteemed, but that a good preacher may declare the word of God sitting on a horse, or preaching in a tree. And yet if this should be done, the unpreaching prelates would laugh it to scorn. And though it be good to have the pulpit set up in churches, that the people may resort thither, yet I would not have it so superstitiously used, but that in a profane place the word of God might be preached sometimes; and I would not have the people offended withal, no more than they be with our Saviour Christ’s preaching out of a boat. And yet to have pulpits in churches, it is very well done to have them, but they would be occupied; for it is a vain thing to have them as they stand in many churches.
I heard of a bishop of England that went on visitation, and as it was the custom, when the bishop should come, and be rung into the town, the great bell’s clapper was fallen down, the tyall was broken, so that the bishop could not be rung into the town. There was a great matter made of this, and the chief of the parish were much blamed for it in the visitation. The bishop was somewhat quick with them, and signified that he was much offended. They made their answers, and excused themselves as well as they could: “It was a chance,” said they, “that the clapper brake, and we could not get it mended by and by; we must tarry till we can have it done: it shall be amended as shortly as may be.” Among the other, there was one wiser than the rest, and he comes the to the bishop: “Why, my lord,” saith he, “doth your lordship make so great a matter of the bell that lacketh his clapper? Here is a bell,” said he, and pointed to the pulpit, “that hath lacked a clapper this twenty years. We have a parson that fetcheth out of this benefice fifty pound every year, but we never see him.” I warrant you, the bishop was an unpreaching prelate. He could find fault with the bell that wanted a clapper to ring him into the town, but he could not find any fault with the parson that preached not at his benefice. Ever this office of preaching hath been least regarded, it hath scant had the name of God’s service. They must sing “Salve festa dies” about the church, that no man was the better for it, but to shew their gay coats and garments.
I came once myself to a place, riding on a journey homeward from London, and I sent word over night into the town that I would preach there in the morning, because it was holiday; and methought it was an holiday’s work. The church stood in my way, and I took my horse and my company, and went thither. I thought I should have found a great company in the church, and when I came there the church door was fast locked. I tarried there half an hour and more: at last the key was found, and one of the parish comes to me and says, “Sir, this is a busy day with us, we cannot hear you; it is Robin Hood’s day. The parish are gone abroad to gather for Robin Hood: I pray you let them not.” I was fain there to give place to Robin Hood: I thought my rochet should have been regarded, though I were not; but it would not serve, it was fain to give place to Robin Hood’s men. It is no laughing matter, my friends, it is a weeping matter, a heavy matter; a heavy matter, under the pretence of gathering for Robin Hood, a traitor and a thief, to put out a preacher, to have his office less esteemed; to prefer Robin Hood before the ministration of God’s word and all this hath come of unpreaching prelates. This realm hath been ill provided for, that it hath had such corrupt judgments in it, to prefer Robin Hood to God’s word. If the bishops had been preachers, there should never have been any such thing: but we have good hope of better. We have had a good beginning: I beseech God to continue it! But I tell you, it is far wide that the people have such judgments; the bishops they could laugh at it. What was that to them? They would have them to continue in their ignorance still, and themselves in unpreaching prelacy.
Well, sitting, sitting: “He sat down and taught.” The text doth tell us that he taught, but it doth not tell us what he taught. If I were a papist, I could tell what he said; I would, in the Pope’s judgment, shew what he taught. For the bishop of Rome hath in scrinio pectoris sui the true understanding of scriptures. If he call a council, the college of cardinals, he hath authority to determine the supper of the Lord, as he did at the council of Florence! And Pope Nicholas, and bishop Lanfrank, shall come and expound this place, and say, that our Saviour Christ said thus: “Peter, I do mean this by sitting in thy boat, that thou shalt go to Rome, and be bishop there five-and-twenty years after mine ascension; and all thy successors shall be rulers of the universal church after thee.”
Here would I place also holy water, and holy bread, and all unwritten verities, if I were a papist; and, that scripture is not to be expounded by any private interpretation, but by our holy father and his college of cardinals. This is a great deal better place than Duc in altum, “Launch into the deep.” But what was Christ’s sermon? It may soon be gathered what it was. He is always like himself. His first sermon was, Poenitentiam agite; “Do penance; your living is naught; repent.” Again, at Nazareth, when he read in the temple, and preached remission of sins, and healing of wounded consciences; and in the long sermon in the mount, he was always like himself, he never dissented from himself.
Oh, there is a writer hath a jolly text here, and his name is Dionysius. I chanced to meet with his book in my lord of Canterbury’s library: he was a monk of the Charterhouse. I marvel to find such a sentence in that author. What taught Christ in this sermon? Marry, saith he, it is not written. And he addeth more unto it; Evangelistae tantum scripserunt de sermonibus et miraculis Christi quantum cognoverunt, inspirante Deo, sufficere ad aedificationem ecclesiae, ad confirmationem fidei, et ad salutem animarum. It is true, it is not written; all his miracles were not written, so neither were all his sermons written: yet for all that, the evangelists did write so much as was necessary. “They wrote so much of the miracles and sermons of Christ as they knew by God’s inspiration to be sufficient for the edifying of the church, the confirmation of our faith, and the health of our souls.” If this be true, as it is indeed, where be unwritten verities? I marvel not at the sentence, but to find it in such an author. Jesus! what authority he gives to God’s word! But God would that such men should be witness with the authority of his book, will they, nill they. Now to draw towards an end.
It followeth in the text, Duc in altum. Here cometh in the supremacy of the bishop of Rome. When our Saviour Christ had made an end of his sermon, and had fed their souls, he provided for their bodies. First, he began with the soul: Christ’s word is the food of it. Now he goeth to the body. He hath charge of them both: we must commit the feeding of the body and of the soul to him. Well, he saith to Peter, Duc in altum, “Launch into the depth; put forth thy boat farther into the deep of the water; loose your nets; now fish.” As who would say, “Your souls are now fed, I have taught you my doctrine; now I will confirm it with a miracle.” Lo, sir, here is Duc in altum: here Peter was made a great man, say the papists, and all his successors after him. And this is derived of these few words, “Launch into the deep.” And their argument is this: he spake to Peter only, and he spake to him in the singular number; ergo he gave him such a pre-eminence above the rest. A goodly argument! I ween it be a syllogismus, in quem terra, pontus. I will make a like argument. Our Saviour Christ said to Judas, when he was about to betray him, Quod facis fac citius, “What thou doest, do quickly.” Now when he spake to Peter, there were none of his disciples by but James and John; but when he spake to Judas, they were all present. Well, he said unto him, Quod facis fac citius, “Speed thy business that thou hast in thy head, do it.” He gave him here a secret monition, that he knew what he intended, if Judas had had grace to have taken it, and repented. He spake in the singular number to him; ergo he gave him some pre-eminence. Belike he made him a cardinal; and it might full well be, for they have followed Judas ever since. Here is as good a ground for the college of cardinals, as the other is for the supremacy of the bishop of Rome. “Our Saviour Christ,” say they, “spake only to Peter for pre-eminence, because he was chief of the apostles, and you can shew none other cause; ergo this is the cause why he spake to him in the singular number.” I dare say there is never a wherryman at Westminster-bridge but he can answer to this, and give a natural reason of it. He knoweth that one man is able to shove the boat, but one man was not able to cast out the nets; and therefore he said in the plural number, Laxate retia, “Loose your nets;” and he said in the singular number to Peter, “Launch out the boat.” Why? Because he was able to do it. But he spake the other in the plural number, because he was not able to convey the boat, and cast out the nets too: one man could not do it. This would the wherryman say, and that with better reason, than to make such a mystery of it, as no man can spy but they. And the cause why he spake to all was to shew that he will have all christian men to work for their living. It is he that sends food both for the body and soul, but he will not send it without labour. He will have all christian people to labour for it; he will use our labour as a mean whereby he sendeth our food.
This was a wondrous miracle of our Saviour Christ, and he did it not only to allure them to his discipleship, but also for our commodity. It was a seal, a seal to seal his doctrine withal. Now ye know that such as be keepers of seals, as my lord Chancellor, and such other, whatsoever they be, they do not always seal, they have a sealing time: for I have heard poor men complain, that they have been put off from time to time of sealing, till all their money were spent. And as they have times to seal in, so our Saviour Christ had his time of sealing. When he was here in earth with his apostles, and in the time of the primitive church, Christ’s doctrine was sufficiently sealed already with seals of his own making. What should our seals do? What need we to seal his seal? It is a confirmed doctrine already.
Oh, Luther, when he came into the world first, and disputed against the Decretals, the Clementines, Alexandrines, Extravagantines, what ado had he! But ye will say, peradventure, he was deceived in some things. I will not take upon me to defend him in all points. I will not stand to it that all that he wrote was true; I think he would not so himself: for there is no man but he may err. He came to further and further knowledge: but surely he was a goodly instrument. Well, I say, when he preached first, they call upon him to do miracles. They were wrought before, and so we need to do no miracles. Indeed when the popish prelates preached first, they had need of miracles, and the devil wrought some in the preaching of purgatory. But what kind of miracles these were, all England doth know: but it will not know. A wonderful thing that the people will continue in their blindness and ignorance still! We have great utility of the miracles of our Saviour Jesus Christ. He doth signify unto us by this wonderful work, that he is Lord as well of the water as of the land. A good comfort for those that be on the water, when they be in any tempest or danger, to call upon him.
The fish here came at his commandment. Here we may learn that all things in the water are subject to Christ. Peter said, “Sir, we have laboured all night, and have not caught one fin; howbeit at your word we will to it afresh.” By this it appeareth that the gain, the lucre, the revenues that we get, must not be imputed to our labour; we may not say, “Gramercy labour.” It is not our labour, it is our Saviour Christ that sendeth us living: yet must we labour, for he that said to Peter labour, and he that bade the fishers labour, bids all men to labour in their business. There be some people that ascribe their gains, their increase gotten by any faculty, to the devil. Is there any, trow ye, in England would say so? Now if any man should come to another, and say he got his living by the devil, he would fall out with him. There is not a man in England that so saith; yet is there some that think it. For all that get it with false buying and selling, with circumvention, with usury, impostures, mixed wares, false weights, deceiving their lords and masters; all those that get their goods on this fashion, what do they think but that the devil sends them gains and riches? For they be his, being unlawfully gotten: what is this to say but that the devil is author of their gains, when they be so gotten? for God inhibits them. Deus non volens iniquitatem tu es; “God will no iniquity.” These folk are greatly deceived.
There be some, again, impute all to their labours and works. Yea, on the holy day they cannot find in their hearts to come to the temple to the blessed communion; they must be working at home. These are wide again on the other side. And some there be that think, if they work nothing at all, they shall have enough: they will have no good exercise, but gape, and think God will send meat into their mouths. And these are far wide: they must work. He bade the fishers work: our Saviour Christ bade Peter work: and he that said so to them, says the same to us, every man in his art. Benedictio Dei facit divitem; “The blessing of God maketh a man rich.” He lets his sun shine upon the wicked, as well as upon the good; he sends riches both to good and bad. But this blessing turns to them into a malediction and a curse; it increaseth their damnation. St Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, did put an order how every man should work in his vocation: Cum essemus apud vos, hoc praecipiebamus vobis, ut si quis nollet operari is nec edat; which in our English tongue is: “When I was among you,” saith he, “I made this ordinance, that whosoever would not do the work of his vocation should have no meat.” It were a good ordinance in a commonweal, that every man should be set on work, every man in his vocation. “Let him have no meat.” Now he saith furthermore, Audivimus quosdam inter vos versantes inordinate nihil operis facientes, “I hear say there be some amongst you that live inordinately.” What is that word inordinately? Idly, giving themselves to no occupation for their living: curiose agentes, curious men, given to curiosity, to searching what other men do. St Paul saith, “he heard say;” he could not tell whether it were so or no. But he took occasion of hearing say, to set out a good and wholesome doctrine: His autem qui suet ejusmodi praecipimus et obsecramus; “We command and desire you for the reverence of God, if there be any such, that they will do the works of their vocation, and go quietly to their occupation, and so eat their own bread”: else it is not their own, it is other men’s meat. Our Saviour Christ, before he began his preaching, lived of his occupation; he was a carpenter, and gat his living with great labour. Therefore let no man disdain or think scorn to follow him in a mean living, a mean vocation, or a common calling and occupation. For as he blessed our nature with taking upon him the shape of man, so in his doing he blessed all occupations and arts. This is a notable example to signify that he abhors all idleness. When he was a carpenter, then he went and did the work of his calling; and when he was a preacher, he did the work of that calling. He was no unpreaching prelate. The bishop of Rome should have learned that at him. And these gainers with false arts, what be they? They are never content with what they have, though it be never so much. And they that are true dealers are satisfied with that that God sends, though it be never so little. Quaestus magnus pietas cum animo sua sorte contento; “Godliness is great gain, it is lucre enough, it is vantage enough, to be content with that that God sends.” The faithful cannot lack; the unfaithful is ever lacking, though he have never so much.
I will now make an end. Labores manuum tuarum, let us all labour. Christ teacheth us to labour, yea, the bishop of Rome himself, he teacheth him to labour, rather than to be head of the church. Let us put our trust in God, Labores manuum tuarum, “Cast thy care upon the Lord, and he will nourish thee and feed thee.” Again, the prophet saith, Nunquam vidi justum derelictum, nec semen ejus quaerens panem; “I never saw the righteous man forsaken, nor his seed to seek his bread.” It is infidelity, infidelity that mars all together.
Well, to my text: Labores manuum tuarum quia manducabis, beatus es, et bene tibi erit; “Because thou eatest the labours of thy hands, that God sends thee of thy labour.” Every man must labour; yea, though he be a king, yet he must labour: for I know no man hath a greater labour than a king. What is his labour? To study God’s book, to see that there be no unpreaching prelates in his realm, nor bribing judges; to see to all estates; to provide for the poor; to see victuals good cheap. Is not this a labour, trow ye? Thus if thou dost labour, exercising the works of thy vocation, thou eatest the meat that God sends thee; and then it followeth, Beatus es, “Thou art a blessed man in God’s favour,” et bene tibi erit, “And it shall go well with thee in this world,” both in body and soul, for God provideth for both. How shalt thou provide for thy soul? Go hear sermons. How for the body? Labour in thy vocation, and then shall it be well with thee, both here and in the world to come, through the faith and merits of our Saviour Jesus Christ: to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be praise for ever and ever, world without end. Amen.
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