The Lamentation or Complaint of a sinner, made by the most vertuous and right gratious Ladie Queene CATHERINE, be∣wailing the ignorance of hir blind life, led in superstition: verie profitable to the amendment of our liues.
The first Chapter, Of an humble confession of sinnes to the glorie of God.
WHEN I consider, in the be∣thinking of mine euil and wretched former life, mine obstinate, stonie, and vntractable heart, to haue so much exceeded in euilnesse, that it hath not onelie neglected, yea con∣temned, & despised Gods holie pre∣cepts and commandements: but also imbraced, receiued, and esteemed vaine, foolish, and feined trifles, I am partlie by the hate I owe to sinne, who hath reigned in me, and partlie by the loue I owe to all Christians, whom I am content to edifie, euen with the example of mine owne shame, forced and con∣strained with my hart and words, to confesse and de∣clare to the world, how ingrate, negligent, vnkind, and stubborne I haue beene to God my Creator: and how beneficiall, mercifull, and gentle he hath been alwaies to me his creature, being such a miserable and wret∣ched sinner.
Trulie I haue taken no little small thing vpon me, first to set foorth my whole stubbornesse, and contempt Page 38 in words, the which is incomprehensible in thought (as it is in the 12. Psalme) Who vnderstandeth his faults? Next this, to declare the excellent benefi∣cence, mercie, and goodnesse of God, which is infinite, and vnmeasurable. Neither can all the words of An∣gels, and men, make relation thereof, as apperteineth to his most high goodnesse. Who is he that is not for∣ced to confesse the same, if he consider what he hath re∣ceiued of God, & doth dailie receiue? Yea, if men would not acknowledge and confesse the same, the stones would crie it out. Trulie I am constrained and forced to speake and write thereof, to mine owne confusion and shame; but to the glorie and praise of God. For he, as a louing father, of most abundant and high good∣nesse, hath heaped vpon me innumerable benefits: and I contrarie, haue heaped manifold sinnes, despising that which was good, holie, pleasant, and acceptable in his sight, and choosing that which was delicious, pleasant, and acceptable in my sight.
And no maruell it was that I so did. For I would not learne to knowe the Lord, and his waies; but lo∣ued darknesse better than light, yea darknesse seemed to me light. I embraced ignorance, as perfect know∣ledge; and knowledge seemed to me superfluous and vaine. I regarded little Gods word, but gaue my selfe to vanities, and shadowes of the world. I forsooke him in whom is all truth; and followed the vaine foolish imaginations of my hart. I would haue couered my sinnes with the pretence of holinesse: I called super∣stition godlie meaning, and true holinesse errour. The Lord did speake manie pleasant and sweet words vnto me, and I would not heare: he called me diuerslie, but through frowardnesse I would not answere.
Mine euils and miseries be so manie, and so great, that they can accuse me euen to my face. Oh how mi∣serablie and wretchedlie am I confounded, when for Page 39 the multitude and greatnesse of my sinnes I am com∣pelled to accuse my selfe! Was it not a maruellous vnkindnesse, when God did speake to me, and also call me, that I would not answere him? What man so called would not haue heard? Or what man hearing, would not haue answered? If an earthlie Prince had spoken, either called, I suppose there be none but would willinglie haue done both. Now therefore, what a wretch and caitife am I, that when the Prince of princes, the King of kings, did speake manie pleasant and gentle words vnto me, and also called me so manie and sundrie times, that they can not be numbred: and yet, notwithstanding these great signes and tokens of loue, I would not come vnto him, but hid my selfe out of his sight, seeking manie crooked and biwaies, wher∣in I walked so long, that I had cleane lost his sight? And no maruell or woonder. For I had a blind guide called Ignorance, who dimmed so mine eies, that I could neuer perfectlie get anie sight of the faire, good∣lie, streight, and right waies of his doctrine: but con∣tinuallie trauelled vncomfortablie, in foule, wicked, crooked, and peruerse waies. Yea, and bicause they were so much haunted of manie, I could not thinke, but that I walked in the perfect and right waie, ha∣uing more regard to the number of the walkers, than to the order of the walking: beleeuing also most assu∣redly, with companie to haue walked to heauen, wher∣as I am most sure they would haue brought me down to hell.
I forsooke the spirituall honouring of the true liuing God, and worshipped visible idols, and images made of mens hands, beleeuing by them to haue gotten hea∣uen: yea, to saie the truth, I made a great idole of my selfe. For I loued my selfe better than God. And cer∣tainlie, looke how manie things are loued, or preferred in our harts before God, so manie are taken and estee∣med Page 40 for idols, and false gods. Alas, how haue I viola∣ted this holie, pure, and most high precept and com∣mandment of the loue of God? Which precept bindeth me to loue him with my whole hart, mind, force, strength and vnderstanding. And I, like vnto an euill, wicked, and disobedient child, haue giuen my will, po∣wer, and senses to the contrarie: making almost of e∣uerie earthlie and carnall thing a god.
Furthermore, the bloud of Christ was not reputed by me, sufficient for to wash me from the filth of my sinnes; neither such waies as he had appointed by his word: but I sought for such riffraffe, as the Bi∣shop of Rome hath planted in his tyrannie and king∣dome, trusting with great confidence, by the vertue and holinesse of them, to receiue full remission of my sinnes. And so I did, as much as was in me, obfuscate and darken the great benefit of Christes passion; than the which no thought can conceiue anie thing of more value. There cannot be done so great an iniurie and displeasure to almightie God our father, as to tread vnder foote Christ, his onlie begotten and welbeloued sonne. All other sinnes in the world, gathered together in one, be not so heinous, and detestable in the sight of God. And no wonder. For in Christ crucified, God doth shewe himselfe most noble and glorious, euen an al∣mightie God, and most louing father, in his onlie deare and chosen blessed sonne.
And therefore I count my selfe one of the most wic∣ked and miserable sinners in the world, bicause I haue beene so much contrarie to Christ my sauiour. Saint Paule desired to knowe nothing but Christ crucified, after he had beene rapt into the third heauen, where he heard such secrets as were not conuenient & meete to vtter to men: but counted all his works and doings as nothing, to win Christ. And I, most presumptu∣ouslie thinking nothing of Christ crucified, went about Page 41 to set foorth mine owne righteousnesse, saieng with the proud Pharisie: Good Lord I thanke thee, I am not like other men; I am none adulterer, nor fornicator: and so foorth, with such like words of vaine glorie, ex∣tolling my selfe, and despising others, working as an hired seruant for wages, or else for reward: and not as a louing child, onlie for verie loue, without respect of wages or reward, as I ought to haue done. Neither did I consider, how beneficiall a father I had, who did shew me his charitie and mercie of his owne meere grace and goodnesse, that when I was most his eni∣mie, he sent his onlie begotten and welbeloued sonne into this world of wretchednesse and miserie, to suffer most cruell and sharpe death for my redemption. But my hart was so stonie and hard, that this great bene∣fit was neuer trulie and liuelie printed in my hart, al∣though with my words it was oft rehearsed, thinking my selfe to be sufficientlie instructed in the same, and being in deede in blinde ignorance: and yet I stoode so well in mine owne iudgement and opinion, that I thought it vaine to seeke the increase of my knowledge therein.
Paule calleth Christ the wisdome of God; and euen the same Christ was to me foolishnesse. My pride and blindnesse deceiued me, and the hardnesse of my hart withstoode the groning of truth within it. Such were the fruits of my carnall and humane reasons, to haue rotten ignorance in price for ripe & seasonable know∣ledge: such also is the malice and wickednesse that possesseth the harts of men: such is the wisdome and pleasing of the flesh. I professed Christ in my baptisme, when I began to liue: but I swarued from him after baptisme, in continuance of my liuing; euen as the heathen which neuer had begun.
Christ was innocent and void of all sinne; and I wallowed in filthie sinne, and was free from no sinne. Page 42 Christ was obedient vnto his father, euen to the death of the crosse; and I disobedient and most stubborne, e∣uen to the confusion of truth. Christ was meeke and humble in hart, and I most proud and vaine-glorious. Christ despised the world, with all the vanities therof; and I make it my God, because of the vanities. Christ came to serue his brethren; and I coueted to rule ouer them. Christ despised worldlie honour; and I much delighted to attaine the same. Christ loued the base and simple things of the world; and I esteemed the most faire and pleasant things. Christ loued pouertie; and I wealth. Christ was gentle and mercifull to the poore; and I hard-harted and vngentle. Christ praied for his enimies; and I hated mine. Christ reioiced in the conuersion of sinners; and I was not greeued to see their reuersion to sinne. By this declaration, all creatures may perceiue, how far I was from Christ, and without Christ; yea how contrarie to Christ, al∣though I bare the name of a Christian. Insomuch that if anie man had said I had beene without Christ, I would haue stiffelie denied and withstoode the same: and yet in deede I neither knew Christ, nor wherefore he came.
As concerning the effect and purpose of his com∣ming, I had a certaine vaine and blind knowledge, both cold and dead, which may be had with all sinne: as doth plainelie appeare by this my confession and open declaration.
The second Chapter, A lamentation of a sinner, with hartie repentance in faith to obtaine absolution and remission, through the merits of Christ.
WHat cause now haue I to lament, sigh, and weepe for my life & time so euill spent? With how much humilitie and lowlinesse ought I to come and knowledge my sinnes to God, Page 43 giuing him thanks, that it hath pleased him of his a∣boundant goodnesse, to giue me time of repentance. For I knowe my sinnes in the consideration of them, to be so greeuous, and in the number so exceeding, that I haue deserued verie often eternall damnation. And for the deferring of Gods wrath, so manifoldlie due, I must vncessantlie giue thanks to the mercie of God: beseeching also, that the same delaie of punishment cause not his plague to be the sorer, since mine owne conscience condemneth my former doings. But his mercie exceedeth all iniquitie. And if I should not thus hope, alas, what should I seeke for refuge and comfort? No mortall man is of power to help me; and for the multitude of my sinnes, I dare not lift vp mine eies to heauen, where the seate of iudgement is, I haue so much offended my God. What? Shall I fall in desperation? Naie, I will call vpon Christ the light of the world, the fountaine of life, the reliefe of all care∣full consciences, the peacemaker betweene God and man, and the onlie health and comfort of all true re∣pentant sinners.
He can by his almightie power saue me, and deliuer me out of this miserable state, and hath will by his mercie to saue euen the whole sin of the world. I haue no hope nor confidence in anie creature, neither in heauen nor earth; but in Christ my whole & onlie Sa∣uiour. He came into the world to saue sinners, and to heale them that are sicke. For he said, The whole haue no neede of the physician. Behold Lord, how I come to thee, a sinner sicke, and grieuouslie wounded: I aske not bread; but the crums that fall from the childrens table. Cast me not out of thy sight, although I haue deserued to be cast into hell fire.
If I should looke vpon my sinne, and not vpon thy mercie, I should despaire. For in my selfe I find no∣thing to saue me, but a dunghill of wickednesse to con∣demne Page 44 me. If I should hope by mine owne strength and power to come out of this maze of iniquitie and wickednesse, wherein I haue walked so long, I should be deceiued. For I am so ignorant, blind, weake, and feeble; that I can not bring my selfe out of this intan∣gled and wayward maze: but the more I seeke means & waies to winde my selfe out, the more I am wrap∣ped and tangled therein.
So that I perceiue my striuing therein to be hin∣derance, my trauell to be labour spent in going backe. It is the hand of the Lord that can and will bring me out of the endlesse maze of death. For without I be preuented by the grace of the Lord, I can not aske forgiuenesse, nor be repentant or sorie for them. There is no man can auow, that Christ is the onlie Sauiour of the world, but by the holie Ghost: yea, as S. Paule saith, no man can saie, The Lord Iesus, but by the holie Ghost. The spirit helpeth our infirmitie, and maketh continuall intercession for vs, with such sorowfull gro∣nings as can not be expressed.
Therefore I will first require and praie the Lord, to giue me his holie spirit, to teach me to auow that Christ is the Sauiour of the world, and to vtter these words, The Lord Iesus, and finallie to helpe mine infir∣mities, and to intercede or intreate for me. For I am most certaine and sure, that no creature in heauen nor earth, is of power, or can by anie meane helpe me: but God, who is omnipotent, almightie, beneficiall, and mercifull, welwilling, and louing to all those that call and put their whole confidence and trust in him. And therefore I will seeke none other meanes nor aduocate, but Christes holie spirit, who is on∣lie the aduocate and mediatour betweene GOD and man, to helpe and releeue mee.
The third Chapter, VVhat true faith worketh in the soule of a sinner.
BUt now, what maketh me so bold and hardie to presume to come to the Lord with such audacitie and boldnesse, being so great a sin∣ner? Trulie nothing but his owne word. For he saith, Come to me all ye that labour, and are burde∣ned, and I shall refresh you. What gentle, mercifull, and comfortable words are these to all sinners? Were he not a frantike, madde, beastlie, and foolish man, that would runne for aide, helpe, or refuge to anie other creature? What a most gratious, comfortable, and gentle saieng was this, with such pleasant and sweete words to allure his verie enimies to come vnto him? Is there anie worldlie Prince or Magistrate, that would shew such clemencie, and mercie, to their diso∣bedient & rebellious subiects, hauing offended them? I suppose they would not with such words allure them, except it were to call them, whome they cannot take, and punish them being taken. But euen as Christ is Prince of princes, and Lord of lords: so his chari∣tie and mercie exceedeth and surmounteth all others. Christ saith, If carnall fathers do giue good gifts to their children, when they aske them, how much more shall your heauenlie father, being in substance all holie, and most highlie good, giue good gifts to all them that aske him?
It is no small nor little gift that I now require, neither thinke I my selfe worthie to receiue such a noble gift, being so ingrate, vnkind, and wicked a child. But when I behold the benignitie, liberalitie, mercie, and goodnesse of the Lord, I am encouraged, boldened, and stirred to aske such a noble gift. The Lord is so bountifull and liberall, that he will not haue vs satis∣fied Page 46 and contented with one gift; neither to aske simple and small gifts: and therefore he promiseth, and bindeth himselfe by his word, to giue good and benefi∣ciall gifts to all them that aske him with true faith, without which nothing can be done acceptable or pleasing to God. For faith is the foundation & ground of all other gifts, vertues, and graces: and therefore I will praie and saie: Lord increase my faith.
For this is the life euerlasting, Lord, that I must beleeue thee to be the true God, and whom thou didst send Iesus Christ. By this faith I am assured, and by this assurance I feele the remission of my sins. This is it that maketh me bold, this is it that comforteth me; this is it that quencheth all despaire.
I knowe O my Lord, thine eies looke vpon my faith. S. Paule saith, We be iustified by faith in Christ, and not by the deeds of the lawe. For if righteousnes come by the lawe, then Christ died in vaine. S. Paule mea∣neth not here, a dead, humane, and historicall faith, gotten by humane industrie: but a supernall, and liue∣lie faith, which worketh by charitie; as he himselfe plainlie expresseth. This dignitie of faith is no dero∣gation to good works. For out of this faith spring all good works: yet we may not impute to the woorthi∣nesse of faith or works, our iustification before God: but ascribe and giue the woorthinesse of it, wholie to the merits of Christs passion, and refer and attribute the knowledge and perceiuing thereof, onlie to faith: whose verie, true, and onlie propertie it is, to take, ap∣prehend, and hold fast the promises of Gods mercie, the which maketh vs righteous: and to cause me con∣tinuallie to hope for the same mercie, and in loue to worke all maner of waies allowed in the Scripture, that I may be thankfull for the same.
Thus I feele my selfe to come (as it were) in a new garment before God; and now by his mercie, to be ta∣ken Page 47 iust and righteous, which of late without his mer∣cie was sinfull and wicked: and by faith to obteine his mercie, the which the vnfaithfull can not enioie. And although S. Iohn extolleth charitie in his Epistle, saieng that God is charitie, and he that dwelleth in charitie, dwelleth in God. Truelie charitie maketh men liue like Angels; and of the most furious, vn∣brideled, and carnall men, maketh meeke lambes.
Yea, with how feruent a spirit ought I to call, crie, and praie to the Lord, to make his great charitie to burne and flame my hart, being stonie and euill affec∣ted, that it neuer would conceiue nor regard the great inestimable charitie and loue of God, in sending his onlie begotten and deere beloued sonne into this vale of miserie, to suffer the most cruell and sharpe death of the crosse for my redemption? Yea I neuer had this vnspeakeable, and most high charitie, and abundant loue of God printed and fixed in my hart duelie, till it pleased God, of his meere grace, mercie, and pittie, to open mine eies, making me to see and behold with the eie of liuelie faith, Christ crucified, to be mine onelie Sauiour and redeemer. For then I began (and not before) to perceiue and see mine owne ignorance and blindnesse: the cause thereof was, that I would not learne to knowe Christ my Sauiour and redeemer.
But when God, of his meere goodnesse, had thus ope∣ned mine eies, and made me see and behold Christ, the wisedome of God, the light of the world, with a super∣naturall sight of faith; all pleasures, vanities, honor, riches, wealth, and aids of the world, began to waxe bitter vnto me. Then I knew it was no illusion of the diuell, nor false, ne humane doctrine I had receiued. When such successe came thereof, that I had in dete∣station and horrour that which I erst so much loued and esteemed: being of God forbidden that we should loue the world, or the vaine pleasures and shadowes Page 48 in the same: then began I to perceiue that Christ was my onlie Sauior and redeemer; and the same doctrine to be all diuine, holie, heauenlie, and infused by grace into the harts of the faithfull, which neuer can be at∣tained by hnmane doctrine, wit, nor reason, although they should trauell and labour for the same, to the end of the world. Then began I to dwell in God by chari∣tie, knowing by the louing charitie of God, in the re∣mission of my sinnes, that God is charitie, as S. Iohn saith. So that of my faith (whereby I came to knowe God, and whereby it pleased God, euen bicause I tru∣sted in him, to iustifie me) sprang this excellent chari∣tie in my hart.
I thinke no lesse, but manie will woonder and mar∣uell at this my saieng, that I neuer knewe Christ for my Sauiour and redeemer, vntill this time. For many haue this opinion, saieng: Who knoweth not there is a Christ? Who being a Christian doth not confesse him his Sauiour? And thus, beleeuing their dead, hu∣mane, historicall faith and knowledge (which they haue learned in their scholasticall bookes) to be the true in∣fused faith and knowledge of Christ, which may be had (as I said before) with all sinne, they vse to saie, by their owne experience of themselues, that their faith doth not iustifie them. And true it is, except they haue this faith, the which I haue declared here before, they shall neuer be iustified.
And yet it is not false, that by faith onlie I am sure to be iustified. Euen this is the cause that so manie impugne this office and dutie of true faith, bicause so manie lacke the true faith. And euen as the faithfull are forced to allow this true faith; so the vnfaithfull can in no wise probablie intreate thereof: the one fee∣ling in himselfe that he saith, the other hauing not in him for to saie.
I haue certeinlie no curious learning to defend this Page 49 matter withall, but a simple zeale, and earnest loue to the truth inspired of God, who promiseth to powre his spirit vpon all flesh, which I haue by the grace of God whom I most humblie honour) felt in my selfe to be true.
The fourth Chapter, Of the great loue of God towards mankind, and of the inward beholding of Christ crucified.
LEt vs therfore now, I praie you, by faith be∣hold and consider the great charitie & good∣nesse of God, in sending his sonne to suffer death for our redemption, when we were his mortall enimies, and after what sort and maner he sent him.
First it is to be considered, yea to be vndoubtedlie, and with a perfect faith beleeued, that God sent him to vs freelie. For he did giue him, and sold him not. A more noble and rich gift he could not haue giuen. He sent not a seruant or a friend, but his onlie sonne so deerelie beloued: not in delights, riches, and honours; but in crosses, pouerties, and slanders: not as a Lord, but as a seruant, yea and in most vile and painefull passi∣ons, to wash vs: not with water, but with his owne pretious bloud: not from mire, but from the puddle and filth of our iniquities. He hath giuen him, not to make vs poore; but to enrich vs with his diuine ver∣tues, merits, and graces: yea, and in him he hath gi∣uen vs all good things, and finallie himselfe; and with such great charitie, as can not be expressed.
Was it not a most high and abundant charitie of God, to send Christ to shed his bloud, to loose honour, life, and all, for his enimies? Euen in the time, when he had done him most iniurie, he first shewed his chari∣tie to vs, with such flames of loue, that greater could not be shewed. God in Christ hath opened vnto vs, (al∣though Page 50 we be weake and blind of our selues) that we may behold in this miserable estate, the great wise∣dome, goodnesse, and truth, with all the other godlie perfections, which be in Christ. Therefore inwardlie to behold Christ crucified vpon the crosse, is the best and godliest meditation that can be.
We may see also in Christ crucified, the beautie of the soule, better than in all the bookes of the world. For who that with a liuelie faith, seeth and feeleth in spirit, that Christ the sonne of God is dead for the satisfieng and purifieng of the soule, shall see, that his soule is ap∣pointed for the verie tabernacle and mansion of the in∣estimable and incomprehensible maiestie and honour of God. We see also in Christ crucified, how vaine and foolish the world is, and how that Christ being most wise despised the same. We see also how blind it is, be∣cause the same knoweth not Christ, but persecuteth him. We see also how vnkind the world is, by the kil∣ling of Christ, in the time he did shew it most fauour. How hard, and obstinate was it, that would not be mollified with so manie teares, such sweate, and so much bloudshead of the sonne of God, suffering with so great and high charitie?
Therefore he is now verie blind, that seeth not how vaine, foolish, false, ingrate, cruell, hard, wicked, and e∣uill the world is. We may also in Christ crucified weigh our sinnes, as in a diuine ballance, how gree∣uous and how weightie they be, seeing they haue cru∣cified Christ. For they would neuer haue beene coun∣terpaised, but with the great and pretious weight of the bloud of the sonne of God. And therefore God, of his high goodnesse, determined that his blessed sonne should rather suffer bloudshead, thau our sinnes should haue condemned vs. We shall neuer knowe our owne miserie and wretchednesse, but with the light of Christ crucified: Then we shall see our owne crueltie, when Page 51 we feele his mercie; our owne vnrighteousnesse and iniquitie, when we see his righteousnes and holinesse. Therefore, to learne to knowe trulie our owne sinnes, is to studie in the booke of the Crucifixe, by continuall conuersation in faith: and to haue perfect and plenti∣full charitie, is to learne first by faith the charitie that is in God towards vs.
We may see also in Christ vpon the Crosse, how great the paines of hell, and how blessed the ioies of heauen be: and what a sharpe and painefull thing it shall be to them, that of that sweet, happie, and glori∣ous ioie Christ shall be depriued. Then this Crucifixe is the booke, wherein God hath included all things, and hath most compendiouslie written therein all truth, profitable and necessarie for our saluation. Therefore let vs endeuour our selues to studie this booke, that we being lightened with the spirit of God, may giue him thanks for so great a benefit.
The fift Chapter, Of the glorious victories of Christ ouer all enimies.
IF we looke further in this booke, we shall see Christs great victorie vpon the crosse, which was so noble and mightie, that there neuer was, neither shall be such. If the victorie and glorie of worldlie Princes were great, because they did ouercome great hostes of men: how much was Christes greater, which vanquished not onelie the Prince of this world, but all the enimies of God; tri∣umphing ouer persecution, iniuries, villanies, slan∣ders, yea death, the world, sinne, and the diuell; and brought to confusion all carnall prudence?
The Princes of the world neuer did fight without the strength of the world: Christ contrarilie went to warre, euen against all the strength of the world. He Page 52 fought, as Dauid did with Golias, vnarmed of all hu∣mane wisdome and policie, and without all worldlie power and strength. Neuerthelesse, he was fullie re∣plenished and armed with the whole armour of the spirit. And in this one battell, he ouercame for euer all his enimies. There was neuer so glorious a spoile, neither a more rich and noble, than Christ was vpon the Crosse, which deliuered all his elect from such a sharpe and miserable captiuitie. He had in his battell manie stripes, yea and lost his life, but his victorie was so much the greater. Therfore, when I looke vpon the sonne of God with a supernaturall faith and light, so vnarmed, naked, giuen vp, and alone with humilitie, patience, liberalitie, modestie, gentlenesse, and with all other his diuine vertues beating downe to the ground all Gods enimies, and making the soule of man so faire and beautifull: I am forced to saie, that his victorie and triumph was maruellous. And therefore Christ well deserued to haue this noble title: IESVS OF NA∣ZARETH, KING OF THE IEWES.
But if we will particularlie vnfold and see his great victories, let vs first behold how he ouercame sinne, with his innocencie; & confounded pride, with his hu∣militie; quenched all worldlie loue, with his charitie; appeased the wrath of his father, with his meekenesse; and turned hatred into loue, with his so manie bene∣fits and godlie zeale.
Christ hath not onlie ouercome sinne, but rather he hath killed the same; in asmuch as he hath satisfied for it himselfe, with the most holie sacrifice and oblati∣on of his pretious bodie, in suffering most bitter and cruell death. Also, after another sort, that is, he giueth all those that loue him, so much spirit, grace, vertue, and strength, that they may resist, impugne, and ouer∣come sinne; and not consent; neither suffer it to reigne in them. He hath also vanquished sinne, because he hath Page 53 taken awaie the force of the same; that is, he hath cancelled the lawe, which was in euill men the occa∣sion of sinne. Therefore sinne hath no power against them that are with the holie Ghost vnited to Christ: in them there is nothing worthie of damnation. And although the dregs of Adam do remaine, that is, our concupiscences, which in deede be sinnes: neuerthe∣lesse, they be not imputed for sinnes, if we be trulie planted in Christ. It is true, that Christ might haue taken awaie all our immoderate affections: but hee hath left them for the great glorie of his father, and for his owne greater triumph. As for example. When a Prince fighteth with his enimies, which sometime had the souereigntie ouer his people, and subduing them, may kill them if he will: yet he preserueth and saueth them: and whereas they were Lords ouer his people, he maketh them after to serue, whome they be∣fore had ruled. Now in such a case, the Prince doth shew himselfe a greater conquerour, in that he hath made them, which were rulers, to obeie: and the sub∣iects to be Lords ouer them, to whome they serued, than if he had vtterlie destroied them vpon the con∣quest. For now he leaueth continuall victorie to them whome he redeemed, whereas otherwise the occasion of victorie was taken awaie, where none were left to be the subiects. Euen so in like case, Christ hath left in vs these concupiscences, to the intent they should serue vs, to the exercise of our vertues; where first they did reigne ouer vs, to the exercise of our sinne. And it may be plainelie seene, that whereas first they were such impediments to vs, that we could not moue our selues towards God: now by Christ we haue so much strength, that notwithstanding the force of them, we may assuredlie walke to heauen. And although the children of God sometime do fall by fariltie into some sinne: yet that falling maketh them to humble them∣selues, Page 54 and to reknowledge the goodnesse of God, and to come to him for refuge and helpe.
Likewise Christ, by his death, hath ouercome the Prince of diuels with all his hoast, and hath destroied them all. For as Paule saith, it is verified, that Christ should breake the Serpents head, prophesied by God. And although the diuell tempt vs, yet if by faith we be planted in Christ, we shall not perish, but rather by his temptation take great force and might. So it is euident, that the triumph, victorie, and glorie of Christ is the greater, hauing in such sort subdued the diuell; that whereas he was Prince and Lord of the world, holding all creatures in captiuitie: now Christ vseth him as an instrument to punish the wicked, and to ex∣ercise and make strong the elect of God in Christian warfare.
Christ likewise hath ouercome death in a more glo∣rious manner (if it be possible:) because he hath not taken it awaie, but leauing vniuersallie all subiect to the same. He hath giuen so much vertue and spirit, that whereas afore we passed thereto with great feare, now we be bold through the spirit, for the sure hope of the resurrection, that we receiue it with ioie. It is now no more bitter, but sweete: no more feared, but desired: it is no death, but life.
And also it hath pleased God, that the infirmities and aduersities do remaine to the sight of the world: but the children of God are by Christ made so strong, righteous, whole, and sound, that the troubles of the world, be comforts of the spirit: the passions of the flesh, are medicines of the soule. For all maner things worke to their commoditie and profite. For they in spirit feele, that God their father doth gouerne them, and disposeth all things for their benefit: therefore they feele themselues sure. In persecution they are quiet and peacefull, in trouble they are without wee∣rinesse, Page 55 feares, anxieties, suspicions, miseries: and fi∣nallie all the good and euill of the world worketh to their commoditie.
Moreouer, they see that the triumph of Christ hath beene so great, that not onelie he hath subdued and vanquished all our enimies, and the power of them; but he hath ouerthrowne and vanquished them after such a sort, that all things serue to our helth. He might and could haue taken them all awaie, but where then should haue beene our victorie, palme, and crowne? For we dailie haue fights in the flesh, and by the succour of grace haue continuall victories ouer sinne: whereby we haue cause to glorifie God, that by his sonne hath weakened our enimie the diuell, and by his spirit gi∣ueth vs strength to vanquish his ofspring.
So doo we knowledge dailie the great triumph of our Sauiour, & reioice in our owne fights; the which we can no wise impute to anie wisdome of this world; seeing sinne to increase by it. And where worldlie wise∣dome most gouerneth, there most sinne ruleth. For as the world is enimie to God, so also the wisdome ther∣of is aduerse to God: and therefore Christ hath decla∣red & discouered the same for foolishnesse. And although he could haue taken awaie all worldlie wisedome: yet he hath left it for his greater glorie, and triumph of his chosen vessels. For before, whereas it was our ru∣ler against God: now by Christ we are serued of it for God, as of a slaue in worldlie things: albeit in super∣naturall things the same is not to be vnderstood. And further, if at anie time men would impugne, and gain∣saie vs, with the wisedome of the world: yet we haue by Christ so much supernaturall light of the truth, that we make a mocke of all those that repugne the truth.
Christ also vpon the crosse hath triumphed ouer the world. First, bicause he hath discouered the same to be Page 56 naught: that whereas it was couered with the vaile of hypocrisie, and the vesture of morall vertues; Christ hath shewed, that in Gods sight the righteousnesse of the world is wickednesse: and he hath yeelded witnes, that The works of men, not regenerated by him in faith, are euill: and so Christ hath iudged and condem∣ned the world for naught. Further more, he hath giuen to all his so much light and spirit, that they knowe it, and dispraise the same: yea and tread it vnder their feet, with all vaine honours, dignities, & pleasures, not taking the faire promises, neither the offers which it doth present: naie, they rather make a scorne of them. And as for the threatnings and force of the world, they nothing feare.
Now therefore we may see how great the victorie and triumph of Christ is, who hath deliuered all those the father gaue him, from the power of the diuell, can∣celling vpon the crosse the writing of our debts. For he hath deliuered vs from the condemnation of sinne; from the bondage of the lawe, from the feare of death, from the danger of the world, and from all euils in this life, and in the other to come. And he hath inrich∣ed vs, made vs noble, and most highlie happie, after such a glorious and triumphant waie, as can not with tongue be expressed: and therefore we are forced to saie, his triumph is maruellous.
It is also seene and knowne, that Christ is the true Messias. For he hath deliuered man from all euils, and by him man hath all goodnesse: so that he is the true Messias. Therefore all other helpers be but vaine, and counterfeited sauiours; seeing that by this our Messias Christ, wholie and onlie we be deliuered from all euils, and by him we haue all goodnesse. And that this is true, it is euident and cleare; bicause the verie true Christian, is a Christian by Christ. And the true Christian feeleth inwardlie by Christ, so much Page 57 goodnesse of God, that euen troublous life and death be sweet vnto him, and miseries happie. The true Christian by Christ is disburdened from the seruitude of the lawe, hauing the lawe of grace (grauen by the spirit) inhabiting his hart, and from sinne that reig∣ned in him, from the power of the infernall spirits, from damnation, and from euerie euill: and is made a sonne of God, a brother of Christ, heire of heauen, and Lord of the world: so that in Christ and by Christ, he possesseth all good things.
But let vs knowe, that Christ yet fighteth in spirit in his elect vessels, and shall fight euen to the daie of iudgment: at which day shall that great enimie death be wholie destroied, and shall be no more. Then shall the children of God reioice on him, saieng: O death where is thy victorie and sting? There shall be then no more trouble nor sinne; naie rather, none euill: but heauen for the good, and hell for the wicked. Then shall wholie be discouered the victorie & triumph of Christ, who (after Paule) shall present vnto his father the kingdome, together with his chosen saued by him.
It was no little fauour towards his children, that Christ was chosen of God, to saue vs his elect, so high∣lie by the waie of the crosse. Paule calleth it a grace, and a most singular grace. We may well thinke, that he hauing beene to the world so valiant a captaine of God, was full of light, grace, vertue, and spirit: there∣fore he might iustlie saie: Consummatum est. Wee see∣ing then, that the triumph and victorie of our cap∣taine Christ, is so maruellous, glorious, and noble, to the which war we be appointed: let vs force our selues to folowe him, with bearing our crosse, that we may haue felow∣ship with him in his kingdome.
The sixt Chapter, That we ought to submit our selues to the schoole of the Crosse: and still looke and learne in the booke of the Crucifix.
TRulie it may be most iustlie verified, that to behold Christ crucified, in spirit, is the best meditation that can be. I certeinlie neuer knew mine owne miseries and wretchednes so well by booke, admonition, or learning; as I haue done by looking into the spirituall booke of the Cruci∣fix. I lament much I haue passed so manie yeeres, not regarding that diuine booke: but I iudged, & thought my selfe to be well instructed in the same: wheras now I am of this opinion, that if God would suffer me to liue here a thousand yeeres, and should studie continu∣allie in the same diuine booke, I should not be filled with the contemplation thereof. Neither hold I my selfe contented, but alwaies haue a great desire, to learne and studie more therein. I neuer knewe mine owne wickednes, neither lamented for my sinnes tru∣lie, vntill the time God inspired me with his grace, that I looked in this booke: then I began to see per∣fectlie, that mine owne power and strength could not helpe me; and that I was in the Lords hand, euen as the claie is in the potters hand; then I began to crie and saie:
Alas Lord that euer I haue so wickedlie offended thee, being to me from the beginning so gratious and so good a father, and most speciallie now hast declared and shewed thy goodnesse vnto me, when in the time I haue done thee most iniurie, to call me, and also to make me knowe & take thee for my Sauior and redee∣mer. Such be the wonderfull works of God to call sin∣ners to repentance, & to make them to take Christ his welbeloued sonne for their Sauior: this is the gift of God, & of all Christians to be required and desired. For Page 59 except this great benefit of Christ crucified be felt and fixed surelie in mans hart, there can be no good worke done acceptable before God. For in Christ is all ful∣nesse of the Godhead, and in him are hid all the trea∣sures of wisdome and knowledge. Euen he is the wa∣ter of life, whereof whosoeuer shall drinke, he shall ne∣uer more thirst; but it shall be in him a well of water, springing vp into euerlasting life. S. Paule saith, There is no damnation to them that are in Christ, which walke not after the flesh, but after the spirit. Moreouer he saith: If when we were enimies, we were reconciled to God, by the death of his son: much more, seeing we are reconciled, we shall be preserued by his death. It is no little or small benefit we haue re∣ceiued by Christ, if we consider what he hath done for vs, as I haue perfectlie declared heretofore. Where∣fore I praie the Lord, that this great benefit of Christ crucified, may be stedfastlie fixed & printed in all Chri∣stians harts, that they may be true louers of God, and worke as children for loue: and not as seruants, com∣pelled with threatenings, or prouoked with hire.
The sincere and pure louers of God doo embrace Christ, with such feruencie of spirit, that they reioice in hope, be bold in danger, suffer in aduersitie, continue in praier, blesse their persecutors. Further, they be not wise in their owne opinion, neither high minded in their prosperitie, neither abashed in their aduersitie: but humble and gentle alwaies to all men. For they knowe by their faith they are members all of one bo∣die, and that they haue possessed all one God, one faith, one baptisme, one ioie, and one saluation. If these pure and sincere louers of God were thicke sowne, there should not be so much contention and strife growing on the fields of our religion, as there is. Well, I shall praie to the Lord to take all contention and strife a∣waie, and that the sowers of sedition may haue mind Page 60 to cease their labour, or to sowe it among the stones, and to haue grace to sowe gratious vertues, where they may both take roote, and bring foorth fruit, with sending also a godlie vnitie and concord amongst all Christians, that we may serue the Lord in true holi∣nesse of life.
The seuenth Chapter, A Christian bewailing of the miserable ignorance and blindnesse of men.
THe example of good liuing is required of all Christians, but speciallie in the Ecclesiasti∣call pastors and shepheards. For they be cal∣led in scripture, Workemen with God, Dis∣bursers of Gods secrets, The light of the world, The salt of the earth: at whose hands all other should take comfort in working, knowledge of Gods will, and sight to become children of light, and taste of seasonable wis∣dome. They haue, or should haue the holie spirit, abun∣dantlie to pronounce and set foorth the word of God, in veritie and truth. If ignorance and blindnesse reigne amongst vs, they should with the truth of Gods word instruct and set vs in the truth, and direct vs in the waie of the Lord.
But thanks be giuen vnto the Lord, that hath now sent vs such a godlie and learned King, in these latter daies to reigne ouer vs, that with the vertue & force of Gods word, hath taken awaie the vailes and mists of errours, and brought vs to the knowledge of the truth, by the light of Gods word; which was so long hid, and kept vnder, that the people were nigh famish∣ed, and hungred for lacke of spirituall food. (Such was the charitie of the spirituall curats and shepheards.) But our Moses, and most godlie wise Gouernour and King, hath deliuered vs out of the captiuitie and bon∣dage of Pharao. I meane by this Moses King Henrie, Page 61 the eight, my most souereigne fauourable Lord and husband; one (if Moses had figured anie mo than Christ) through the excellent grace of God, meete to be an other expressed veritie of Moses conquest ouer Pharao. And I meane by this Pharao the bishop of Rome, who hath beene, and is a greater persecutor of all true Christians, than euer was Pharao of the children of Israel. For he is a persecutor of the Gos∣pell and grace, a setter foorth of all superstition and counterfeit holinesse, bringing manie soules to hell with his alchimie and counterfeit monie, deceiuing the poore soules vnder the pretence of holinesse: but so much the greater shall be his damnation, bicause he deceiueth and robbeth vnder Christs mantell. The Lord keepe and defend all men from his iuglings and sleits, but speciallie the poore, simple, and vnlearned soules. And this lesson I would all men had of him, that when they begin to mislike his dooing, then onlie begin they to like God, and certeinlie not before.
As for the spirituall pastors and shepherds, I thinke they will cleaue and sticke to the word of God, euen to the death; to vanquish all Gods enimies, if neede shall require: all respects of honour, dignitie, riches, welth, and their priuate commodities laid apart: following also the examples of Christ, and his chosen Apostles, in preaching and teaching sincere and holesome doctrine, and such things as make for peace, with godly lessons, wherewith they may edifie others: that euerie man may walke after his vocation, in holinesse of life; in vnitie and concord: which vnitie is to be desired of all true Christians.
It is much to be lamented, the schismes, varieties, contentions and disputations that haue beene and are in the world, about Christian religion, & no agree∣ment nor concord of the same among the learned men. Trulie, the diuell hath beene the sower of the seede of Page 62 sedition, and shall be the mainteiner of it, euen till Gods will be fulfilled. There is no war so cruell and e∣uill as this. For the war with sword killeth but the bo∣dies, and this slaieth manie soules. For the poore vn∣learned persons remaine confused, and almost euerie one beleeueth and worketh after his owne waie: and yet there is but one truth of Gods word, by the which we shall be saued. Happie be they that receiue it, and most vnhappie are they which neglect and persecute the same. For it shall be more easie for Sodom and Gomor at the daie of iudgement, than for them. And not without iust cause, if we consider the beneuolence, goodnesse, and mercie of God, who hath declared his charitie towards vs, greater, and more inestimable, than euer he did to the Hebrues. For they liued vnder shadowes and figures, and were bound to the lawe. And Christ (we being his greatest enimies) hath deli∣uered vs from the bondage of the lawe, and hath ful∣filled all that was figured in their lawe, and also in their prophesies, sheading his owne pretious bloud, to make vs the children of his father, and his brethren, and hath made vs free, setting vs in a godlie libertie: I meane not licence to sinne, as manie be glad to inter∣pret the same, when as Christian libertie is godlie in∣treated of.
Trulie it is no good spirit that moueth men to find fault at euerie thing, and when things may be well taken, to peruert them into an euill sense and mea∣ning. There be in the world manie speakers of holines and good works, but verie rare and seldome is decla∣red which be the good and holie works. The works of the spirit be neuer almost spoken of, and therefore ve∣rie few knowe what they be. I am able to iustifie, the ignorance of the people to be great, not in this matter alone, but in manie other, the which were most ne∣cessarie for Christians to knowe. Because I haue had Page 63 iust proofe of the same, it maketh me thus much to saie, with no little sorowe and greefe in my hart, for such a miserable ignorance and blindnesse amongest the people.
I doubt not but we can saie all, Lord, Lord. But I feare, God may saie vnto vs; This people honoureth me with their lips, but their harts be far from me. God desireth nothing but the hart, and saith, He will be worshipped in spirit and truth. Christ condemned all hypocrisie and feigned holines, and taught sincere, pure, and true godlinesse: but we worsse than frantike or blinde, will not followe Christs doctrine, but trust to mens doctrines, iudgements, and saiengs, which dim∣meth our eies, and so the blind leadeth the blind, and both fall into the dich. Trulie, in my simple and vnlear∣ned iudgement, no mans doctrine is to be esteemed or preferred like vnto Christs, and the Apostles; nor to be taught as a perfect and true doctrine, but euen as it doth accord & agree with the doctrine of the Gospell.
But yet those that be called spirituall pastours (al∣though they be most carnall, as it doth verie euidentlie and plainelie appeare by their fruites,) are so blinded with the loue of themselues, and the world, that they extoll mens inuentions and doctrines, before the do∣ctrine of the Gospell. And when they be not able to mainteine their owne inuentions and doctrines, with anie iot of the scripture, then they most cruellie perse∣cute them that be contrarie to the same. Be such the louers of Christ? Naie, naie: they be the louers of the wicked Mammon, neither regarding God nor his ho∣nour. For filthie lucre hath made them almost mad, but frantike they be doubtlesse. Is not this miserable state of spirituall men in the world, much to be lamen∣ted of all good Christians? But yet I cannot allowe, neither praise all kind of lamentation, but such as may stand with Christian charitie.
The eight Chapter, Of the fruites and rules of true Christianitie for men to followe.
CHaritie suffereth long, and is gentle, enuieth not, vpbraideth no man, casteth frowardlie no faults in mens teeth, but referreth all things to God: being angrie without sinne, reforming others without slanders, carrieng euer a store-house of mild words to pearce the stonie-harted men. I would all Christians, that like as they haue professed Christ, would so endeuour themselues to fo∣lowe him in godlie liuing. For we haue not put on Christ, to liue anie more to our selues, in the vanities, delightes, and pleasures of the world, and the flesh, suf∣fering the concupiscence and carnalitie of the flesh to haue his full swinge. For we must walke after the spi∣rit, and not after the flesh. For the spirit is spirituall, and coueteth spirituall things: and the flesh carnall, and desireth carnall things. The men regenerate by Christ, despise the world, and all the vanities and plea∣sures thereof. They be no louers of themselues. For they feele how euill and infirme they be, not being able to do anie good thing, without the helpe of God, from whome they knowledge all goodnesse to proceede.
They flatter not themselues, with thinking euerie thing which shineth to the world, to be good and holie. For they knowe all externe and outward works, be they neuer so glorious and faire to the world, may be done of the euill, as well as of the good. And therefore they haue in verie little estimation the outward shew of holinesse, because they be all spirituall, casting vp their eies vpon heauenlie things: neither looking nor regarding the earthlie things, for they be to them vile and abiect. They haue also the simplicitie of the doue, and the policie of the serpent. For by simplicitie they Page 65 haue a desire to do good to all men, and to hurt no man, no though they haue occasion giuen: and by policie they giue not nor minister anie iust cause to anie man, whereby their doctrine might be reproued. They be not also as a reede shaken with euerie winde: but when they be blasted with the tempests and stormes of the world, then remaine they most firme, stable, and quiet, feeling in spirit, that God (as their best father) doth send and suffer all things for their benefit and commoditie. Christ is to them a rule, a line, an ex∣ample of Christian life. They be neuer offended at a∣nie thing, although occasion be ministred vnto them. For like as Christ, when Peter would haue with∣drawne him from death, answered and said, Go backe from me Sathan, for thou offendest me: that is, As much as lieth in thee, thou giuest me occasion with thy words, to make me withdrawe my selfe from death, al∣though I yeelded not thereto. For this thy procure∣ment can not extinguish the burning desire I haue, to shed my bloud for my chosen. Euen so the perfect men are neuer offended at anie thing. For although the world were full of sinne, they would not withdrawe themselues from doing of good, nor waxe cold in the loue of the Lord. And much lesse they would be moued to do euill: yea rather, they be so much the more moued to do good.
The regenerated by Christ are neuer offended at the works of God, because they knowe by faith, that God doth all things well: and that he can not erre, nei∣ther for want of power, nor by ignorance, nor malice. For they knowe him to be almightie, and that he seeth all things, and is most aboundantlie good. They see and feele in spirit, that of that will most highlie perfect, can not but proceede most perfecte works. Likewise, they be not offended at the works of men. For if they bee good, they are moued by them to take occasion to Page 66 folowe them, and to reknowledge the goodnes of God, with giuing of thanks, and praising his name dailie the more. But if they be indifferent, and such as may be done with good and euill intents, they iudge the best part, thinking they may bee done to a good purpose, and so they bee edified. But if they bee so euill, that they can not bee taken in good part by anie meanes; yet they bee not offended, although occasion bee giuen, naie ra∣ther they be edified, in asmuch as they take occasion to be better, though the contrarie bee ministred to them.
Then begin they to thinke and saie thus: If God had not preserued me with his grace, I should haue com∣mitted this sin, and worsse. O how much am I bound to confesse and knowledge the goodnesse of God! They go also thinking and saieng further: He that hath sin∣ned, may be one of Gods elect: peraduenture the Lord hath suffered him to fall, to the intent he may the bet∣ter knowe himselfe. I knowe he is one of them that Christ hath shed his bloud for, and one of my Christian brethren: trulie I will admonish and rebuke him; and in case I find him desperate, I will comfort him, and shewe him the great goodnesse and mercie of God, in Christ: and with godlie consolations I will see if I can lift him vp. And thus ye may see, how the men regene∣rated by Christ, of euerie thing win and receiue fruit.
The ninth Chapter, Of the fruits of infidelitie, and offence of weakelings.
AND contrariwise, the yonglings and vn∣perfect are offended at small trifles, taking e∣uerie thing in euill part, grudging and mur∣muring against their neighbor: and so much the more, as they shew themselues feruent in their so doing, they are iudged of the blind world, and of them∣selues great zeale-bearers to God. If this were the Page 67 greatest euill of these yonglings, it were not the most euill. But I feare they be so blind and ignorant, that they are offended also at good things, & iudge nothing good, but such as they embrace and esteeme to bee good, with murmuring against all such as folowe not their waies. If there be anie of this sort, the Lord giue them the light of his truth, that they may increase and growe in godlie strength. I suppose, if such yonglings and vnperfect, had seene Christ and his Disciples eate meate with vnwashen hands, or not to haue fasted with the Pharisies, they would haue beene offended, seeing him a breaker of mens traditions. Their affe∣ctions dispose their eies to see through other men, and they see nothing in themselues: where charitie, al∣though it be most ful of eies to see the faults of others, whome it coueteth to amend, thinketh none euill, but discreetlie and rightlie interpreteth all things, by the which more iustlie and trulie euerie thing is taken.
Now, these superstitious weaklings, if they had been conuersant with Christ, and seene him leade his life sometime with women, sometime with Samari∣tanes, with Publicanes, sinners, and with the Phari∣sies, they would haue murmured at him. Also, if they had seene Marie powre vpon Christ the pretious oint∣ment, they would haue said with Iudas: This oint∣ment might haue beene sold, and giuen to the poore. If they also had seene Christ with whips driue out of the Temple those that bought and sold, they would foorth∣with haue iudged Christ to haue beene troubled and moued with anger, and not by zeale of charitie. How would they haue beene offended, if they had seene him go to the Iewes feast, heale a sicke man vpon the sab∣both daie, practise with the woman of Samaria, yea & shew vnto hir of his most diuine doctrine & life? They would haue taken occasion to haue hated & persecuted him, as the Scribes and Pharisies did: and euen so Page 68 should Christ the Sauiour of the world, haue beene to them an offence and ruine.
There be an other kind of little ones vnperfecte, which are offended after this sort and maner. As when they see one that is reputed and esteemed holie to commit sinne, forthwith they learne to do that, and woorse, and waxe cold in dooing of good, and confirme themselues in euill: and then they excuse their wicked life, publishing the same with the slander of their neighbor. If anie man reprooue them, they saie: Such a man did this, and woorse. So it is euident, that such persons would denie Christ, if they sawe other men doe the same. If they went to Rome, and sawe the enor∣mities of the Prelates, which is said to reigne there among them, I doubt not, if they sawe one of them sinne, which were reputed and taken for holie, their faith should be lost; but not the faith of Christ, which they neuer possessed: but they should loose that humane opinion, which they had of the goodnesse of the Pre∣lates. For, if they had the faith of Christ, the holie Ghost should be a witnes vnto them, the which should be mightie in them, that in case all the world would denie Christ, yet they would remaine firme and stable in the true faith.
The Pharisies also tooke occasion of the euill of o∣thers, to waxe hautie and proud, taking themselues to be men of greater perfection than anie other; bi∣cause of their vertue, euen as the Pharisie did, when he sawe the Publicans submission. And so they be of∣fended with euerie little thing, iudging euill, murmu∣ring against their neighbour, and for the same, they are of manie reputed and taken for the more holie and good: whereas in deed they be the more wicked. The most wicked persons are offended, euen at themselues. For at their little stabilitie in goodnesse, and of their delectable and euill life, they take occasion to despaire: Page 69 where they ought the more to commit themselues to God, asking mercie for their offences: and foorthwith to giue thanks, that it hath pleased him of his good∣nesse to suffer them so long a time.
But what needeth it anie more to saie? The euill men are offended euen at the works of God, they see God suffer sinners, therefore thinke they, sinne displeaseth him not. And bicause they see not the good rewarded with riches, oftentimes they imagine, that God lo∣ueth them not. It seemeth to them God is parciall, bi∣cause he hath elected some, and some reprooued. And therefore they saie, that the elected be sure of saluati∣on, taking by that, occasion to doo euill inough, saieng: Whatsoeuer God hath determined, shall be perfor∣med. If also they see the good men oppressed, and the euill men exalted, they iudge God vniust, taking occa∣sion to liue euillie, saieng: Inasmuch as God fauou∣reth the naughtie men, let vs doo euill inough, to the intent he doo vs good. If then the wicked be offended euen at God, it is no woonder if they be offended at those that followe and walke in his paths and waies.
The tenth Chapter, Of carnall gospellers, by whose euill liuing Gods truth is shamefullie slandered.
IWill now speake with great dolor and hea∣uinesse in my hart, of a sort of people, which be in the world, that be called professors of the Gospell; and by their words doo declare and shew, they be much affected to the same. But I am afraid, some of them doo build vpon the sand; as Si∣mon Magus did, making a weake foundation: I meane, they make not Christ their chiefest foundation, professing his doctrine, of a sincere, pure, and zealous mind; but either for bicause they would be called gos∣pellers, Page 70 to procure some credit and good opinion of the true and verie fauourers of Christs doctrine, either to find out some carnall libertie, either to be contenti∣ous disputers, finders or rebukers of other mens faults, or else finallie to please and flatter the world. Such gospellers are an offence, and a slander to the word of God, and make the wicked to reioice & laugh at them, saieng: Behold I praie you their faire fruits. What charitie, what discretion, what godlinesse, ho∣linesse, or puritie of life is among them? Be not they great auengers, foule gluttons, slanderers, back bi∣ters, adulterers, fornicators, swearers, and blasphe∣mers; yea and wallowe & tumble in all sinnes? These be the fruits of their doctrine.
And thus it may be seene, how the word of God is euill spoken of, through licentious and euill liuing: and yet the word of God is all holie, pure, sincere, and god∣lie, being the doctrine & occasion of all holie and pure liuing. It is the wicked that peruert all good things, into euill. For an euill tree can not bring foorth good fruit. And when good seede is sowne in a barren and euill ground, it yeeldeth no good corne: and so it fareth by the word of God. For when it is heard and knowne of wicked men, it bringeth no good fruit: but when it is sowne in good ground, I meane the harts of good peo∣ple, it bringeth foorth good fruit abundantlie: so that the want & fault is in men, and not in the word of God. I praie God all men and women may haue grace to become meete tillage for the fruits of the Gospell, and to leaue onlie the iangling of it. For onlie speaking of the Gospell maketh not men good Christians, but good talkers, except their facts and works agree with the same: so then their speech is good, bicause their harts be good. And euen as much talke of the word of God, without practising the same in our liuing, is euill & de∣testable in the sight of God: so it is a lamentable thing Page 71 to heare, how there bee manie in the world, that do not well digest the reading of scripture, and do commend and praise ignorance, and saie, that much knowledge of Gods word is the originall of all dissention, scismes, and contention; and maketh men hautie, proud, and presumptuous, by reading of the same.
This maner of saieng is no lesse than a plaine blas∣phemie against the holie Ghost. For the spirit of God is the author of his word, and so the holie Ghost is made the author of euill, which is a most great blas∣phemie, and (as the scripture saith) a sinne that shall not bee forgiuen in this world, neither in the other to come. It were all our parts and duties, to procure and seeke all the waies and meanes possible, to haue more knowledge of Gods word set foorth abroade in the world, & not allow ignorance, and discommend know∣ledge of Gods word, stopping the mouthes of the vn∣learned with subtile and craftie persuasions of Phi∣losophie, and Sophistrie, whereof commeth no fruite, but a great perturbation of the mind to the simple & ignorant, not knowing which waie to turne them. For how is it not extreame wickednesse, to charge the holie sanctified word of God with the offences of man? To alledge the scriptures to be perillous learning, be∣cause certaine readers there of fall into heresies?
These men might be inforced by this kind of argu∣ment, to forsake the vse of fire, because fire burneth their neighbours house: or to absteine from meate and drinke, because they see manie surfet. O blind hate! They slander God for mans offence, & excuse the man whome they see offend; and blame the scripture, which they can not improue. Yea I haue heard of some, that haue verie well vnderstood the Latin tongue, that when they haue heard learned men persuade to the credite and beleefe of certaine vnwritten verities (as they call them) which bee not in scripture expressed, Page 72 and yet taught as doctrine apostolike, and necessarie to bee beleeued; they haue beene of this opinion, that the learned men haue mo Epistles written by the A∣postles of Christ, than wee haue abroad in the Canon of the old and new testament, or knowne of anie, but onlie to them of the Clergie. Which beleefe I did not a little lament in my hart to heare, that anie creature should haue such a blind ignorant opinion.
Some kind of simplicitie is to bee praised, but this simplicitie, without the veritie, I can neither praise nor allow. And thus it may bee seene, how wee that bee vnlettered remaine confused, without God of his grace lighten our harts and minds with a heauenlie light and knowledge of his will. For wee bee giuen of our selues to beleeue men better than God. I praie God send all learned men the spirit of God aboundant∣lie, that their doctrine may bring forth the fruits ther∣of. I suppose there was neuer more neede of good do∣ctrine to bee set foorth in the world than now in this age. For the carnall children of Adam, bee so wise in their generation, that if it were possible, they would deceiue the children of light. The world loueth his owne, and therefore their facts and doings be highlie esteemed of the world: but the children of God are ha∣ted, bicause they bee not of the world. For their habita∣tion is in heauen, and they do despise the world as a most vile slaue.
The fleshlie children of Adam be so politike, subtile, craftie, and wise in their kind, that the elect should bee illuded, if it were possible. For they are cloathed with Christs garment, in vtter appearance, with a faire shewe of all godlines, and holines in their words: but they haue so shorne, nopped, and turned Christs gar∣ment, and haue so disguised themselues, that the chil∣dren of light beholding them with a spirituall eie, do accompt and take them for men which haue sold their Page 73 maisters garment, and haue stolne a peece of euerie mans garment. Yet by their subtile art, and craftie wits, they haue so set those patches and peeces togi∣ther, that they do make the blind world, and carnall men to beleeue, it is Christs verie mantell.
The eleuenth Chapter, Of the vertuous properties of Gods children: of whome euerie one attendeth his vocation.
BUT the children of light knowe the con∣trarie: for they are led by the spirit of God, to the knowledge of the truth, and therefore they discerne and iudge all things right, and knowe from whence they come, euen from the bishop of Rome, and his members, the headspring of all pride, vaine glorie, ambition, hypocrisie, and feigned holines.
The children of God be not abashed, although the world hate them; they beleeue they are in the grace and fauour of God, and that he, as a best father, doth gouerne them in all things, putting awaie from them all vaine confidence and trust in their owne doings. For they knowe they can doo nothing but sin of them∣selues. They bee not so foolish, and childish, not to giue God thanks for their election, which was before the beginning of the world. For they beleeue most surelie they bee of the chosen. For the holie Ghost doth witnes to their spirit, that they bee the children of God; and therefore they beleeue God better than man. They saie with Saint Paule, Who shall separate vs from the loue of God? Shall tribulation, anguish, persecu∣tion, hunger, nakednesse, perill, or sword? As it is writ∣ten, For thy sake are we killed all daie long; and are counted as sheepe appointed to bee slaine: neuerthe∣lesse, in all these things wee ouercome, through him that loueth vs. For I am sure, that neither death, nor life, neither Angels, nor rule; neither power, neither Page 74 things present, neither things to come, neither quan∣titie or qualitie, neither anie creature, shall bee able to depart vs from the loue of God, which is in Christ Ie∣su our Lord.
They are not by this godlie faith presumptuouslie inflamed, nor by the same become they loose, idle, or slowe in dooing of godlie works, as carnall men dreme of them: so much the more feruent they be in dooing most holie and pure works, which God hath comman∣ded them to walke in. They wander not in mens tra∣ditions and inuentions, leauing the most holie and pure precepts of God vndone, which they knowe they be bound to obserue and keepe. Also they worke not like hirelings, for meede, wages, or reward; but as lo∣uing children, without respect of lucre, gaine, or hire. They be in such libertie of spirit, and ioie so much in God, that their inward consolation can not be expres∣sed with tongue. All feare of damnation is gone from them; for they haue put their whole hope of saluation in his hands, which will and can performe it; neither haue they anie post or piller to leane to, but God, and his smooth and vnwrinkled Church. For he is to them all in all things, and to him they leane, as a most sure square piller, in prosperitie and aduersitie, nothing doubting of his promises and couenants. For they be∣leeue most surelie they shall be fulfilled.
Also the children of God be not curious in searching the high mysteries of God, which be not meet for them to knowe: neither doo go about with humane and car∣nall reasons to interpret Scripture, persuading men by their subtile wits, and carnall doctrine, that much knowledge of Scripture maketh men heretikes, without they temper it with humane doctrine, So∣phistrie, Philosophie, and Logicke, wherewith to bee seduced according to the traditions of men, after the ordinances of the world, and not after Christ. S. Paul Page 75 doth most diligentlie admonish vs, which arts are not conuenient & meet to be made checkmate with Scrip∣ture. For the Scriptures be so pure and holie, that no perfection can be added vnto them. For euen as fine gold doth excell all other mettals, so doth the word of God, all mens doctrines. I beseech the Lord to send the learned and vnlearned such abundance of his holie spi∣rit, that they may obeie and obserue the most sincere and holie word of God, and shew the fruits thereof, which consisteth chieflie in charitie and godlie vnitie: that as we haue professed one God, one faith, and one baptisme; so we may be all of one mind, and one accord, putting awaie all biting and gnawing. For in backbi∣ting, slandering, and mis-reporting our Christian bre∣thren, we shew not our selues the Disciples of Christ, whom we professe. In him was most high charitie, hu∣militie and patience, suffering most patientlie all ig∣nominie, rebukes, and slanders, praieng to his eter∣nall father for his enimies with most perfect charitie; and in all things did remit his will to his fathers, as the Scripture doth witnesse, when he praied in the Mount. A godlie example and lesson for vs to followe at all times and seasons, as well in prosperitie, as in aduersitie; to haue no will but Gods will, committing and leauing to him all our cares and greefes, and to abandon all our policies and inuentions. For they be most vaine, and foolish, and indeed verie shadowes and dreames.
But we be yet so carnall and fleshlie, that we run headlong like vnbrideled colts, without snaffle or bri∣dle. If we had the loue of God printed in our harts, it would keepe vs backe from running astraie. And vntill such time as it please God to send vs this bit to hold vs in, we shall neuer run the right waie, although wee speake and talke neuer so much of God and his word. The true followers of Christs doctrine haue alwaies Page 76 a respect, and an eie to their vocation. If they be called to the ministerie of Gods word, they preach and teach it sincerelie, to the edifieng of others; and shew them∣selues in their liuing, followers of the same. If they be maried men, hauing children and familie, they nourish and bring them vp, without all bitternesse, and fierce∣nesse, in the doctrine of the Lord, in all godlinesse and vertue; committing the instruction of others, which apperteine not to their charge, to the reformation of God, and his ministers, which chieflie be Kings and Princes, bearing the sword euen for that purpose, to punish euill dooers. If they be children, they honour their father and mother, knowing it to be Gods com∣mandement, and that he hath thereto annexed a pro∣mise of long life. If they be seruants, they obeie and serue their maisters with all feare and reuerence, e∣uen for the Lords sake; neither with murmuring nor grudging, but with a free hart and mind.
If they be husbands, they loue their wiues, as their owne bodies, after the example as Christ loued the congregation, and gaue himselfe for it, to make it to him a spouse without spot or wrinkle. If they be wo∣men maried, they learne of S. Paule to be obedient to their husbands, and to keepe silence in the congregati∣on, and to learne of their husbands at home. Also they weare such apparell as becommeth holinesse, & com∣lie vsage, with sobernesse; not being accusers or de∣tractors, not giuen to much eating of delicate meats, and drinking of wine; but they teach honest things, to make the yong women sober minded, to loue their hus∣bands, to loue their children, to be discreet, chaste, hous∣wifelie, good, and obedient vnto their husbands: that the word of God be not euill spoken of. Uerelie, if all sorts of people would looke to their owne vocation, and ordeine the same according to Christs doctrine, we should not haue so many eies and eares to other mens Page 77 faults as we haue. For we be so busie and glad to find and espie out other mens dooings, that we forget, and can haue no time to weigh & ponder our owne, which after the word of God we ought first to reforme: and then we shall the better helpe an other with the straw out of his eies.
But alas, we be so much giuen to loue and to flatter our selues, and so blinded with carnall affections, that we can see and perceiue no fault in our selues. And therfore it is a thing verie requisite and necessarie for vs, to praie all with one hart and mind to God, to giue vs an heauenlie light and knowledge of our owne mi∣series and calamities, that we may see them, and ac∣knowledge them trulie before him.
The twelfe Chapter, The conclusion, with a Christian exhortation to the amendement of life.
IF anie man shall be offended at this my la∣menting the faults of men, which be in the world, fantasing with themselues, that I doo it either of hatred or of malice, to anie sort or kind of people; verelie in so dooing they shall doo me great wrong. For I thanke God by his grace, I hate no creature; yea I would saie more to giue witnesse of my conscience, that neither life, honour, riches, nei∣ther whatsoeuer I possesse here, which appertaineth to mine owne priuate commoditie, be it neuer so deer∣lie beloued of mee, but most willinglie and gladlie I would leaue it, to win anie man to Christ, of what de∣gree or sort soeuer he were. And yet is this nothing in comparison to the charitie that God hath shewed me, in sending Christ to die for me. No, if I had all the charitie of Angels, and Apostles, it should be but like a sparke of fire compared to a great heape of burning coales.
Page 78 God knoweth of what intent and mind I haue la∣mented mine owne sinnes and faults to the world. I trust no bodie will iudge that I haue done it for praise or thanke of anie creature; since rather I might be ashamed, than reioice in rehearsall thereof. For if they knewe how little I esteeme and weigh the praise of the world, that opinion were soone remooued and taken a∣waie. For I thanke God (by his grace) I knowe the world to be a blind iudge, and the praises therof vaine, and of little moment: and therefore I seeke not the praises of the same, neither to satisfie it none other∣wise than I am taught by Christ to doo, according to christian charitie. I would to God we would all (when occasion doth serue) confesse our faults to the world, all respects of our owne commoditie laid apart. But alas, selfe-loue doth so much reigne among vs, that (as I haue said before) we can not espie our owne faults. And although somtime we find our owne guilt, either we be fauourable to interpret it no sin: or else we be ashamed to confesse our selues thereof. Yea, and we be sore offended and greeued, to heare our faults charita∣blie and godlie told vs of other, putting no difference betweene charitable warning, & malicious accusing.
Trulie, if we sought Gods glorie, as we should doo in all things, we should not be ashamed to confesse our selues to digresse from Gods precepts and ordinan∣ces; when it is manifest we haue done, and dailie doo. I praie God our owne faults and deeds condemne vs not at the last daie, when euerie man shall be rewar∣ded according to his dooings. Trulie, if we doo not re∣dresse and amend our liuing, according to the doctrine of the Gospell; we shall receiue a terrible sentence of Christ the sonne of God, when he shall come to iudge and condemne all transgressours and breakers of his precepts and commandements; and to reward all his obedient and louing children. We shall haue no man Page 79 of lawe to make our plea for vs, neither can we haue the daie deferred, neither will the Iudge be corrupted with affection, bribes, or reward; neither will he heare anie excuse or delaie, neither shall this Saint or that Martyr helpe vs, be they neuer so holie; neither shall our ignorance saue vs from damnation. But yet wil∣full blindnesse, and obstinate ignorance shall receiue greater punishment, and not without iust cause. Then shall it be knowne who hath walked in the darke. For all things shall appeere manifest before him. No mans deeds shall be hidden; no, neither words, nor thoughts. The poore and simple obseruers of Gods commande∣ments shall be rewarded with euerlasting life, as obe∣dient children to the heauenlie Father: and the trans∣gressors, adders, and diminishers of the lawe of God, shall receiue eternall damnation for their iust reward. I beseech God we may escape this fearefull sentence, and be found such faithfull seruants, and louing chil∣dren, that we may heare the happie, comfortable, and most ioifull sentence ordeined for the children of God, which is; Come hither ye blessed of my father, and re∣ceiue the kingdome of heauen, prepared for you before the beginning of the world. Unto the Father, the Sonne, and the ho∣lie Ghost, be all honour and glorie world without end,