¶To the moste reuerende father in God, Thomas Archbi∣shop of Caunterburie, Primate of al Englande and Metropolitane, Thomas Beacon his humble and faythefull seruaunte wisheth the fauoure of God, longe lyfe, con¦tynuall healthe and prospe∣rous feli∣citie.
OUre Lorde and alone sauioure.* Iesu Christe declareth in a parable of the gospell, that af∣ter a certayne houshoulder had sowed good seede in hys fielde, whyle hys seruauntes slepte, hys ennemye came and sowed tares amonge the wheate and wente hys waye, Thys houshoulder is Christ the lord. The good sede is y• children of god & gods worde. Page [unnumbered] The seruauntes that slepte are negligente Prelates and sleepye shepheardes, whiche watche not ouer the Lordes flocke. The ene¦my is the deuil. The tares are the children of the wicked, & errours and heresies, which? Satan sow¦eth in the heartes, of the vnbele∣uinge. Of this parable as wee learne the goodnes of Christe to¦ward vs in be getting vs a new,* not of mortal sede but of immor∣tall by the worde of God, whiche liueth and lasteth for euer, so like wyse learne we the maliciousnes of Sathan, whiche lyke a subtile serpente and olde enemye of mā¦kinde, neuer sleepeth, but conty∣nuallye walcketh vp and downe lyke a roryng lion, seking whom he may deuoure and warely wat¦cheth hys tyme to destroye,* when Page [unnumbered] souer anye occasion is geuen, be it neuer so little. Not wythoute a great cause therefore did out sa∣uioure. Christ exhort vs to watch and praye, that wee fall not into temptatiō.* And albeit in this our frayle and synnefull lyfe manye occasions of doinge myscheife be offered to the ennemy on our be∣halfe such is our negligence and vncircumspecte beha•youre, yet the gratest occasion wherin Sa∣tan most gloryeth and soonest ho¦peth for the victorye, is when the shepheardes of Christes flocke giue no atēdaūce to theyr charge but lye sleepynge and snortyng, walowynge and welterynge in theyr pleasures, and suffer the wolf to scatter, yea to catch, to kil and to destroye the shepe.* For al¦though the deuil leteth go no pro¦fer, Page [unnumbered] whiche maye moue him to do euil, but laieth hād on it streight waies, yet as the histories both of the holye scriptures & of credible writers do testify, he neuer shew¦eth him selfe so right a deuil nor so liuely setteth forth him selfe in his true colours, as whē y• guids of the Lords flocke be either ab∣sent frō their shepe, orels are neg¦ligēt in doīg theyr dutie, I mean in preching gods word, & in wri¦ting godly bokes, if nede require for the confutacion of erroures and heresies and for y• establish∣ment of gods holi religion. How sone had the people of Israel for gotten god and his goodnes to∣ward the, after Moses was gone from them into the moūt Sina• to talke with god & to receiue the lawe?* Fel they not streightwaies Page [unnumbered] from the one and alone true and liuing god vnto abhominable i∣dolatri, and worshipped a golden calfe? After the daies of Moses & of other godly Prophetes & prea¦chers when wicked kinges reig∣ned, and the preachinge of gods worde ceased, did not ye people of Israel fal to the worshipping of straūge gods, & made of the brasē serpēt (which was but a sacramēt and figure of Christe) a God and brent sacrifice vnto it?* Certayne yeres before ye cōmīg of christ in∣to this world, into how mani sec∣tes & sōdry religiōs were the Ie∣wes deuided amōg thē selfs, whi¦che not wt stādīg coūted thēselfes onli the people of god & hated al other naciōs, as abhominable I¦dolatours? Yea in the time of the Apostles, were ther not y• denied Page [unnumbered] Christe to be eyther true God or true man? How sone wer the Cor¦rinthians and Galathians sedu∣ced by false Apostles, after that the mooste worthye Apostle. S. Paul was departed from them? Howe many kynde of Heretikes rose there vppe in the churche of Christe after the Apostles tyme? What greate and howe manye contencions both in sermons, dis¦putacions and wrightinges had the holye Bishops and godly fa∣thers of the primatiue church wt the heretikes of theyr time for the maintenaunce of gods truth and for plucking vp y• enemies tares? Since the time yt those verteous Bishops and learned fathers of Christs church died, into how ma¦ny sects haue the people y• profes god be deuided? The number of Page [unnumbered] sectes and counterfait religious, which yet liue vnder the Bishop of Rome, are almoste innumera∣ble. Neither ceaseth Sathan euē in this most clear light of the gos¦pel to play the right deuil, and to cast mistes before the eies of the vnfaithful. Into how many sects is Christendome yet deuided? Ar not some called papists, some pro¦testants, some Anabaptists, some sacramentaries? Whence come al these abhominacions but only from sathan the author of al euil? Moreouer in what fielde, where good sede hath bene sowed, hath not the ennemie sowed his tares also? howe pestilentlye hathe he corrupted the pure wheate of goddes woorde wyth myngeling hys chaffe, drosse, darnell, cockell and tares, I mean the false glo∣ses, Page [unnumbered] and vnsauery exposicions of the papistes, Anabaptistes, and suche other sec•aries? Howe wic∣kedlye hathe hee peruerted the righte vse of the sacramentes, spe¦cially the sacrament of Christes bodye and bloude? fastinge, prai¦er and almes deede, howe hathe he made thē to be abused? There is no pointe of Christen religion, which Sathan hath not attemp∣ted too ouerthrowe by hys mini∣sters. And albeit as I said before the enemy laboureth at all times to sowe hys tares in the Lordes fielde, yet when the shepheardes of Christes flocke be negligēt in doing their dutye, fal a slepe and loke not to the Lordes field, then doth he most of al play his parte and bestoure him like a right de∣uil, as Salomon saythe. When Page [unnumbered] the preahing of gods word fai•∣leth,* the people pearishe. It ther¦fore becommeth al men that ten∣der the glorye of God, but specy∣allye the Lordes Ministers to loke diligentlye vnto theyr lords fielde, and earnestly to take hede that the enemy sow not his tares amonge the Lordes wheate. If any be sowed, it is their duti to la¦boure euen to the vttermooste of theyr power not with violence & corporal armours (for the vse of the seculare swearde is not com∣mytted to the preachers of gods worde,* but to the temporal rulers onlye to punysh malefactoures) but with the swearde of the spirit whyche is the woorde of God,* wyth prayers, supplycacions and •eares to weede theym oute.
Page [unnumbered]The weapons of our warfar, sai¦eth S. Paule,* ar not carnal thin¦ges, but thynges myghty in god to cast down strong holds, wher∣wyth we ouerthrow coūsels, and euery hye thyng that exalteth it selfe agaynste the knowledge of God, and bryng into captiuity al imaginacion to the obedience of Christe. And in thys behalfe, I meane, in pluckinge vp the ene∣myes tares, and in purgyng the Lordes fielde that nothyng may growe therin but pure wheate, your both godly and vnreastfull paines (most reuerend father) a• well knowen in thys churche of England, and thanckefullye ac∣cepted of all faythfull Christen heartes, insomuch that very ma∣nye do daylye render vnto God most humble and harty thankes Page [unnumbered] for the singuler and great bene∣fites, whiche they haue receiued of him thorowe your vertuous trauaile, in attayninge vnto the true knowledge of iustification, of the sacrament of Christes bo∣dye and bloud, and such other ho¦lye misteries of oure profession.
And al be it the deuill roare, the worlde rage, and the hipocrites swell at these your most Christen labourers, whiche you willinglye take for the glory of God and the edifyinge of hys congregacyon, yet as ye haue godlye begunne, so without ceasinge continew vn¦to the ende.* By this meanes shal it come to passe, yt when the cheife shepheard shall appeare, ye shal receiue an incorruptyble crowne of glorye.
And forasmuch as so many as Page [unnumbered] the Lord hath appoynted watch∣menne ouer hys flocke, oughte euerye one accordynge to theyr talente to folowe youre Godlye example in weedynge oure er∣roures and plantynge true and Christen opynyons in the hear∣tes of the people, seinge that Sa¦than hath not a lyttle corrupted the true vse of fastynge, whyche beynge ryghtelye vsed doeth hyghelye please God, and abu∣sed, displeaseth hym: I thoughte it good agaynste thys tyme of Lente, whyche of longe conty∣nuaunce hathe bene appoynted to abstinence, to write some what of fastynge, that myghte both o∣penne awaye too the faythefull howe they maye faste to please God, and also dysclose the falsse manner of fastynge broughte in Page [unnumbered] by the deuyl and his Ministers. And in thys my treatyse I haue fyrste declared what the Christen faste is,* secondly how we oughte to fast, and thyrdly what the true vse of fastinge is. I toke thys la∣boure vppon me the more glad∣lye, partelye because no manne hytherto hath writen of that mat¦ter in oure Englyshe tonge part¦lye to satysfye the heartye re∣questes of dyuers faithefull bre∣threne, whyche ceased not to re∣quyre me in the Lordes name to wryghte some what, that myghte enstructe theym in the true vse of fastinge. The matter, I graunt. requyreth a woorke manne of ri∣per iudgemente, and more exer∣cysed in the Lordes haruest then I am, whyche myghte according to the worthynesse of the matter, Page [unnumbered] haue set it forth pleasauntly and learnedly, but seing no mā hath hitherto takē it in hād, I thought it my part not to deny the godlye requestes of the brethrē but glad¦ly to bestowe vpon them what so euer the Lord hath geuen me in thys behalfe.
Thys treatyse what so euer it is, I your humble and faythfull seruaunt, not hauyng otherwyse wherwyth to testify the thankful¦nes of my hart toward your most honorable Lordship, for the ma¦nyfold benefytes whych ye haue bounteously bestowed vpon me, do dedicate to your name, moste humblye besechynge you accor∣to your accustomed gentlenesse to take in good part this my rude and grosse woorke, whych to po∣lyshe and to make nete (if haby∣litie Page [unnumbered] had serued) shortnes of time wolde not suffer,
God, whose honoure you most desirouslye seke, moughte vouch safe to preserue youre grace, in continuall healthe and prospe∣rous felicitie vnto the glo∣rye of his mooste blessed name, and the profyt of hys holy con∣gregacyon.