A PROLOG TO THE EPISTLE OF PAUL TO THE ROMANS
Page 1, Folio ccii
Forasmuch as this epistle is the principal and most excellent part of the New Testament, and most pure evangelion, that is to say glad tidings and that we call gospel, and also a light and a way in unto the Holy Scripture, I think it meet, that every Christian man not only know it by rote and without the book, but also exercise himself therein evermore continually, as with the daily bread of the soul. No man verily can read it too oft or study it too well: for the more it is studied the easier it is, the more it is chewed the pleasanter it is, and the more groundly it is searched the preciouser things are found in it, so great treasure of spiritual things lies hid therein.
I will therefore bestow my labour and diligence, through this little preface or prolog, to prepare a way in thereunto, so far forth as God shall give me grace, that it may be the better understood of every man, for it has been hitherto evil darkened with glosses and wonderful dreams of sophisters, that no man could spy out the intent and meaning of it, which nevertheless of itself, is a bright light, and sufficient to give light unto all the scripture.
First we must mark diligently the manner of speaking of the apostle, and above all things know what Paul means by these words, the Law, Sin, Grace, Faith, Righteousness, Flesh, Spirit and such like, or else read you it never so oft, you shall but lose your labor. This word Law may not be understood here after the common manner, and to use Paul’s term, after the manner of men or after man’s ways, that you would say the law here in this place were nothing but learning which teaches what ought to be done and what ought not to be done, as it goes with man’s law where the law is fulfilled with outward works only, though the heart be never so far off. But God judges the ground of the heart, yea and the thoughts and the secret movings of the mind, and therefore his law requires the ground of the heart and love from the bottom thereof, and is not content with the outward work only: but rebukes those works most of all which spring not of love from the ground and low bottom of the heart, though they appear outward never so honest and good, as Christ in the gospel rebukes the Pharisees above all others that were open sinners, and calls them hypocrites, that is to say simulars, and painted sepulchers. Which Pharisees yet lived no men so pure, as pertaining to the outward deeds and works of the law. Yea and Paul in the third chapter of his epistle unto the Philippians confesses of himself, that as touching the law he was such a one as no man could complain on, and notwithstanding was yet a murderer of the Christians, persecuted them, and tormented them, so sore, that he compelled them to blaspheme Christ, and was altogether merciless, as many which now feign outward good works are.
Page 2, Folio cciii
For this cause the hundred and fifteenth Psalm calls all men liars, because no man keeps the law from the ground of the heart, neither can keep it, though he appear outward full of good works.
For all men are naturally inclined unto evil and hate the law. We find in ourselves unlust and tediousness to do good, but lust and delectation to do evil. Now where no free lust is to do good, there the bottom of the heart fulfils not the law, and there no doubt is also sin, and wrath is deserved before God, though there be never so great an outward show and appearance of honest living.
For this cause concludes saint Paul in the second chapter, that the Jews are all sinners and transgressors of the law, though they make men believe, through hypocrisy of outward works, how that they fulfill the law, and says that he only which does the law, is righteous before God, meaning thereby that no man with outward works, fulfils the law.
You (says he to the Jew) teach, a man should not break wedlock, and yet break wedlock yourself. Wherein you judge another man, therein condemn you yourself, for you yourself do even the very same things which you judge. As though he would say, you live outwardly well in the works of the law, and judge them that live not so.
You teach other men: and see a mote in another man’s eye, but are not aware of the beam that is in your own eye. For though you keep the law outwardly with works for fear of rebuke, shame and punishment, or for love of reward, advantage and vain glory, yet do you all without lust and love toward the law, and had rather a great deal otherwise do, if you did not fear the law. Yea inwardly in your heart, you would that there were no law, no nor yet God, the author and avenger of the law, if it were possible: so painful it is unto you to have your appetites refrained, and to be kept down.
Page 3, Folio cciiii.
Wherefore then it is a plain conclusion, that you from the ground and bottom of your heart, are an enemy to the law. What prevails it now, that you teach another man not to steal, when you your own self are a thief in your heart, and outwardly would fain steal if you dared? Though that the outward deeds abide not always behind with such hypocrites and dissimulars, but break forth among, even as an evil scab or a pocke cannot always be kept in with violence of medicine.
You teach another man, but teach not yourself, yea you know not what you teach, for you understand not the law aright, how that it cannot be fulfilled and satisfied, but with an unfeigned love and affection, so greatly it cannot be fulfilled with outward deeds and works only. Moreover the law increases sin, as he says in the fifth chapter, because that man is an enemy to the law, forasmuch as it requires so many things clean contrary to his nature, whereof he is not able to fulfill one point or tittle, as the law requires it. And therefore are we more provoked, and have greater lust to break it.
For which cause’s sake he says in the seventh Chapter, that the law is spiritual: as though he would say, if the law were fleshly and but man’s doctrine, it might be fulfilled, satisfied and stilled with outward deeds.
But now is the law spiritual, and no man fulfils it, except that all that he does, spring of love from the bottom of the heart. Such a new heart and lusty courage unto the lawward, can you never come by of your own strength and enforcement, but by the operation and working of the Spirit.
For the Spirit of God only makes a man spiritual and like unto the law, so that now henceforth he does nothing of fear or for lucre or vantages sake or of vain glory, but of a free heart, and of inward lust. The law is spiritual and will be both loved and fulfilled of a spiritual heart, and therefore of necessity requires it the Spirit that maketh a man’s heart free, and gives him lust and courage unto the lawward. Where such a spirit is not, there remains sin, grudging and hatred against the law, which law nevertheless is good, righteous and holy.
Acquaint yourself therefore with the manner of speaking of the apostle, and let this now stick fast in your heart, that it is not both one, to do the deeds and works of the law, and to fulfill the law. The work of the law is, whatsoever a man does or can do of his own free will, of his own proper strength and enforcing. Notwithstanding though there be never so great working, yet as long as there remains in the heart unlust, tediousness, grudging, grief, pain, loathsomeness and compulsion toward the law, so long are all the works unprofitable, lost, yea and damnable in the sight of God. This means Paul in the third chapter where he says, by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God. Hereby perceive you, that those sophisters are but deceivers, which teach that a man may, and must prepare himself to grace and to the favour of God, with good works. How can they prepare themselves unto the favour of God, and to that which is good, when they themselves can do no good, no cannot once think a good thought or consent to do good, the devil possessing their hearts, minds and thoughts captive at his pleasure? Can those works please God think you, which are done with grief, pain and tediousness, with an evil will, with a contrary and grudging mind?
Page 4, Folio ccv.
O holy saint Prosperus, how mightily with the scripture of Paul, did you confound this heresy, about (I trow) a twelve hundred years ago, or thereupon.
To fulfill the law is, to do the works thereof and whatsoever the law commands, with love, lust and inward affection and delectation: and to live godly and well, freely, willingly, and without compulsion of the law, even as though there were no law at all. Such lust and free liberty to love the law, comes only by the working of the Spirit in the heart, as he says in the first chapter.
Now is the Spirit none otherwise given, than by faith only, in that we believe the promises of God, without wavering, how that God is true, and will fulfill all his good promises toward us, for Christ’s blood’s sake, as it is plain in the first chapter. I am not ashamed says Paul, of Christ’s glad tidings, for it is the power of God, unto salvation to as many as believe. For at once and together even as we believe the glad tidings preached to us, the Holy Ghost enters into our hearts, and looses the bonds of the devil, which before possessed our hearts in captivity, and held them that we could have no lust to the will of God in the law. And as the Spirit comes by faith only, even so faith comes by hearing the word or glad tidings of God, when Christ is preached, how that he is God’s Son and man also, dead and risen again for our sakes, as he says in the third, fourth and tenth chapters. All our justifying then comes of faith, and faith and the Spirit come of God and not of us.
Hereof comes it, that faith only justifies, makes righteous, and fulfils the law, for it brings the Spirit through Christ’s deservings, the Spirit brings lust, looses the heart, makes him free, sets him at liberty, and gives him strength to work the deeds of the law with love, even as the law requires. Then at the last out of the same faith so working in the heart, spring all good works by their own accord. That means he in the third chapter: for after he has cast away the works of the law, so that he sounds as though he would break and disannul the law through faith: he answers to that might be laid against, saying: we destroy not the law through faith but maintain, further or establish the law through faith. That is to say, we fulfill the law through faith.
Sin in the scripture is not called that outward work only committed by the body, but all the whole business and whatsoever accompanies, moves or stirs unto the outward deed, and that whence the works spring: as unbelief, proneness and readiness unto the deed in the ground of the heart, with all the powers, affections and appetites wherewith we can but sin. So that we say, that a man then sins, when he is carried away headlong into sin, altogether as much as he is, of that poison inclination and corrupt nature wherein he was conceived and born. For there is none outward sin committed, except a man be carried away altogether, with life, soul, heart, body, lust and mind thereunto. The scripture looks singularly unto the heart, and unto the root and original fountain of all sin, which is unbelief in the bottom of the heart. For as faith only justifies and brings the Spirit and lust unto the outward good works, even so unbelief only damns and keeps out the Spirit, provokes the flesh and stirs up lust unto the evil outward works, as happened to Adam and Eve in Paradise. Gen. three.
Page 5, Folio ccvi.
For this cause Christ calls sin unbelief, and that notably in the sixteenth chap. of John. The Spirit, says he, shall rebuke the world of sin, because they believe not in me. And John eight he says: I am the light of the world. And therefore in the twelfth of John he bids them, while they have light, to believe in the light, that you may be the children of light: for he that walks in darkness knows not whither he goes. Now as Christ is the light, so is the ignorance of Christ that darkness whereof he speaks, in which he that walks knows not whither he goes: that is, he knows not how to work a good work in the sight of God, or what a good work is. And therefore in the ninth he says: as long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world: but there comes night when no man can work. Which night is but the ignorance of Christ in which no man can see to do any work that pleases God. And Paul exhorts Eph. four that they walk not as other heathen which are strangers from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them. And again in the same chap. Put off (says he) the old man which is corrupt through the lusts of error, that is to say ignorance. And Ro. thirteen, Let us cast away the deeds of darkness: that is to say of ignorance and unbelief. And i. Pet. one, Fashion not yourselves unto your old lusts of ignorance. And i Jo. two, He that loves his brother dwells in light: and he that hates his brother walks in darkness, and knows not whither he goes, for darkness has blinded his eyes. By light he means the knowledge of Christ, and by darkness, the ignorance of Christ. For it is impossible that he that knows Christ truly, should hate his brother.
Furthermore, to perceive this thing more clearly, you shall understand, that it is impossible to sin any sin at all except a man break the first commandment before. Now is the first commandment divided into two verses. Your Lord God is one God: and you shall love your Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your power and with all your might. And the whole cause why I sin against any inferior precept, is that this love is not in mine heart: for were this law written in my heart and were full and perfect in my soul, it would keep mine heart from consenting unto any sin. And the whole and only cause why this love is not written in our hearts, is that we believe not the first part, that our Lord God is one God. For wist I what these words, one Lord and one God means: that is to say, if I understood that he made all, and rules all, and that whatsoever is done to me, whether it be good or bad, is yet his will, and that he only is the Lord that rules and does it: and wist I thereto what this word mine means that is to say, if mine heart believed and felt the infinite benefits and kindness of God toward me, and understood and earnestly believed the manifold covenants of mercy wherewith God has bound himself to be mine wholly and altogether, with all his power, love, mercy and might, then should I love him with all mine heart, soul, power and might, and of that love ever keep his commandments. So see you now that as faith is the mother of all goodness and of all good works, so is unbelief the ground and root of all evil and all evil works.
Finally, if any man has forsaken sin and is converted to put his trust in Christ and to keep the law of God, does fall at a time: the cause is, that the flesh through negligence has choked the spirit and oppressed her and taken from her the food of her strength. Which food is her meditation in God and in his wonderful deeds, and in the manifold covenants of his mercy.
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Wherefore then before all good works as good fruits, there must needs be faith in the heart whence they spring. And before all bad deeds as bad fruits, there must needs be unbelief in the heart as in the root, fountain, pith and strength of all sin. Which unbelief and ignorance is called the head of the serpent and of the old dragon, which the woman’s seed Christ, must tread underfoot, as it was promised unto Adam.
Grace and gift have this difference. Grace properly is God’s favour, benevolence or kind mind, which of his own self, without deserving of us, he bears to us, whereby he was moved and inclined to give Christ unto us, with all his other gifts of grace. Gift is the Holy Ghost and his working whom he pours into the hearts of them, on whom he has mercy, and whom he favours. Though the gifts of the Spirit increase in us daily, and have not yet their full perfection: yea and though there remain in us yet evil lusts and sin which fight against the Spirit, as he says here in the seventh Chapter, and in the fifth to the Galatians, and as it was spoken before in the third Chapter of Genesis of the debate between the woman’s seed and the seed of the serpent: yet nevertheless God’s favour is so great, and so strong over us for Christ’s sake, that we are counted for full whole and perfect before God. For God’s favour toward us divides not herself, increasing a little and a little, as do the gifts, but receives us whole and altogether in full love for Christ’s sake our intercessor and mediator, and because that the gifts of the Spirit and the battle between the Spirit and evil lusts, are begun in us already.
Of this now understand you the seventh chapter where Paul accuses himself as a sinner and yet in the eighth chapter says, there is no damnation to them that are in Christ, and that because of the Spirit, and because the gifts of the Spirit are begun in us. Sinners we are because the flesh is not full killed and mortified. Nevertheless inasmuch as we believe in Christ, and have the earnest and beginning of the Spirit, and would fain be perfect, God is so loving and favourable unto us that he will not look on such sin, neither will count it as sin, but will deal with us according to our belief in Christ, and according to his promises which he has sworn to us, until the sin be full slain and mortified by death.
Faith is not man’s opinion and dream, as some imagine and feign when they hear the story of the Gospel: but when they see that there follow no good works nor mendement of living, though they hear, and yet can babble many things of faith, then they fall from the right way and say, faith only justifies not, a man must have good works also, if he will be righteous and safe. The cause is when they hear the Gospel or glad tidings, they feign of their own strength certain imaginations and thoughts in their hearts saying: I have heard the Gospel, I remember the story, lo I believe. And that they count right faith, which nevertheless as it is but man’s imagination and feigning even so profits it not, neither follow there any good works or mendement of living.
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But right faith is a thing wrought by the Holy Ghost in us, which changes us, turns us into a new nature and begets us anew in God, and makes us the sons of God, as you read in the first of John, and kills the old Adam, and makes us altogether new in the heart, mind, will, lust and in all our affections and powers of the soul, and brings the Holy Ghost with her. Faith is a lively thing, mighty in working, valiant and strong, ever doing, ever fruitful, so that it is unpossible that he which is endued therewith, should not work always good works without ceasing. He asks not whether good works are to be done or not, but has done them already, ere mention be made of them, and is always doing, for such is his nature now: quick faith in his heart and lively moving of the Spirit drive him and stir him thereunto. Whosoever does not good works, is an unbelieving person and faithless, and looks round about groping after faith and good works, and knows not what faith or good works mean, though he babble never so many things of faith and good works.
Faith is then a lively and steadfast trust in the favour of God, wherewith we commit ourselves altogether unto God, and that trust is so surely grounded and sticketh so fast in our hearts, that a man would not once doubt of it, though he should die a thousand times therefore. And such trust wrought by the Holy Ghost through faith, makes a man glad, lusty, cheerful and true hearted unto God and to all creatures. By the means whereof, willingly and without compulsion he is glad and ready to do good to every man, to do service to every man, to suffer all things, that God may be loved and praised, which has given him such grace: so that it is impossible to separate good works from faith, even as it is impossible to separate heat and burning from fire.
Therefore take heed to yourself, and beware of your own fantasies and imaginations, which to judge of faith and good works will seem wise, when indeed they are stark blind and of all things most foolish. Pray God that he will vouchsafe to work faith in your heart, or else shall you remain evermore faithless, feign you, imagine you: enforce you, wrestle with yourself, and do what you will or can.
Righteousness is even such faith, and is called God’s righteousness, or righteousness that is of valor before God. For it is God’s gift, and it alters a man and changes him to a new spiritual nature, and makes him free and liberal to pay every man his duty. For through faith is a man purged of his sins, and obtains lust unto the law of God whereby he gives God his honour and pays him that he owes him, and unto men he does service willingly wherewith soever he can, and pays every man his duty. Such righteousness can nature, freewill, and our own strength never bring to pass. For as no man can give himself faith, so can he not take away unbelief, how then can he take away any sin at all. Wherefore all is false hypocrisy and sin, whatsoever is done without faith or in unbelief, as it is evident in the fourteenth chapter unto the Romans, though it appear never so glorious or beautiful outwards.
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Flesh and spirit may you not here understand, as though flesh were only that which pertains unto unchastity, and the spirit that which inwardly pertains to the heart: but Paul calls flesh here as Christ does John three, All that is born of flesh, that is to wit, the whole man with life, soul, body, understanding, will, reason and whatsoever he is or does within and without, because these all, and all that is in man, study after the world and the flesh. Call flesh therefore whatsoever (as long as we are without the Spirit of God) we think or speak of God, of faith of good works and of spiritual matters. Call flesh also all works which are done without grace and without the working of the Spirit, howsoever good, holy and spiritual they seem to be, as you may prove by the fifth chapter unto the Galatians, where Paul numbers worshiping of idols, witchcraft, envy and hate among the deeds of the flesh, and by the eighth unto the Romans, where he says that the law by the reason of the flesh is weak which is not understood of unchastity only, but of all sins, and most specially, of unbelief which is a vice most spiritual and ground of all sins.
And as you call him: which is not renewed with the Spirit and born again in Christ, flesh, and all his deeds, even the very motions of his heart and mind, his learning, doctrine and contemplation of high things, his preaching teaching and study in the scripture, building of churches, founding of abbeys, giving of alms, mass, matence and whatsoever he does, though it seem spiritual and after the laws of God. So contrariwise call him spiritual which is renewed in Christ, and all his deeds which spring of faith, seem they never so gross as the washing of the disciples feet, done by Christ and Peter’s fishing after the resurrection, yea and all the deeds of matrimony are pure spiritual, if they proceed of faith, and whatsoever is done within the laws of God, though it be wrought by the body, as the very wiping of shoes and such like, howsoever gross they appear outward. Without such understanding of these words can you never understand this epistle of Paul, neither any other place in the Holy Scripture. Take heed therefore, for whosoever understands these words otherwise, the same understands not Paul, whatsoever he be. Now will we prepare ourselves unto the epistle.
Forasmuch as it becomes the preacher of Christ’s glad tidings, first through opening of the law, to rebuke all things and to prove all things sin, that proceed not of the Spirit and of faith in Christ, and to prove all men sinners and children of wrath by inheritance, and how that to sin is their nature, and that by nature they can none otherwise do than to sin, and therewith to abate the pride of man, and to bring him unto the knowledge of himself, and of his misery and wretchedness, that he might desire help. Even so doth Saint Paul and begins in the first chapter to rebuke unbelief and gross sins which all men see, as the idolatry, and as the gross sins of the heathen were and as the sins now are of all them which live in ignorance without faith, and without the favour of God: and says. The wrath of God of heaven appears through the Gospel upon all men for their ungodly and unholy living. For though it be known and daily understood by the creatures, that there is but one God yet is nature of herself without the Spirit and grace so corrupt and so poisoned, that men neither can thank him, neither worship him, neither give him his due honour, but blind themselves and fall without ceasing into worse case, even until they come unto worshipping of images and working of shameful sins which are abominable and against nature, and moreover suffer the same unrebuked in other, having delight and delectation therein.
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In the second Chapter he proceeds further, and rebukes all those holy people also which without lust and love to the law, live well outwardly in the face of the world and condemn others gladly, as the nature of all hypocrites is, to think themselves pure in respect of open sinners, and yet hate the law inwardly and are full of covetousness and envy and of all uncleanness, Mat. twentythree. These are they which despise the goodness of God, and according to the hardness of their hearts, heap together for themselves the wrath of God. Furthermore saint Paul as a true expounder of the law, suffers no man to be without sin, but declares and that all they are under sin which of free will of nature, will live well, and suffers them not to be better than the open sinners, yea he calls them hard hearted and such as cannot repent.
In the third Chap. he mingles both together, both the Jews and the Gentiles, and sayeth that the one is as the other, both sinners, and no difference between them, save in this only, that the Jews had the word of God committed unto them. And though many of them believed not thereon, yet is God’s truth and promise thereby neither hurt nor diminished: And he takes in his way and alleges the saying of the fiftyfirst Psal. that God might abide true in his words and overcome when he is judged. After that he returns to his purpose again, and proves by the scripture, that all men without difference or exception are sinners, and that by the works of the law no man is justified: but that the law was given to utter and to declare sin only. Then he begins and shews the right way unto righteousness, by what means men must be made righteous and safe, and says. They are all sinners and without praise before God, and must without their own deserving be made righteous through faith in Christ, which has deserved such righteousness for us, and is become unto us God’s mercystool for the remission of sins that are past, thereby proving that Christ’s righteousness which comes on us through faith, helps us only. Which righteousness, says he is now declared through the gospel and was testified of before by the law and the Prophets. Furthermore (says he) the law is helped and furthered through faith, though that the works thereof with all their boast are brought to naught and proved not to justify.
In the fourth Chapter (after that now by the three first Chapters, the sins are opened, and the way of faith unto righteousness laid) he begins to answer unto certain objections and quibblings. And first he puts forth those blind reasons, which commonly they that will be justified by their own works, are wont to make when they hear that faith only without works justifies, saying, shall men do no good works, yea and if faith only justifies, what needs a man to study in order to do good works? He puts forth therefore Abraham for an example, saying: what did Abraham with his works? was all in vain? came his works to no profit? And so concludes that Abraham without and before all works was justified and made righteous. Insomuch that before the work of circumcision he was praised of the scripture and called righteous by his faith only, Genesis fifteen. So that he did not the work of circumcision in order to be helped thereby unto righteousness, which yet God commanded him to do, and was a good work of obedience, So in likewise no doubt none other works help anything at all unto a man’s justifying: but as Abraham’s circumcision was an outward sign whereby he declared his righteousness which he had by faith, and his obedience and readiness unto the will of God, even so are all other good works outward signs and outward fruits of faith and of the Spirit, which justify not a man, but that a man is justified all ready before God inwardly in the heart, through faith and through the Spirit purchased by Christ’s blood.
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Herewith now establishes saint Paul his doctrine of faith afore rehearsed in the third chapter, and brings also testimony of David in the thirtysecond Psalm, which calls, a man blessed not of works, but in that his sin is not reckoned and in that faith is imputed for righteousness, though he abide not afterward without good works, when he is once justified.
For we are justified and receive the Spirit in order to do good works, neither were it otherwise possible to do good works, except we had first the Spirit.
For how is it possible to do anything well in the sight of God, while we are yet in captivity and bondage under the devil, and the devil possesses us altogether and holds our hearts, so that we cannot once consent unto the will of God. No man therefore can prevent the Spirit in doing good: but the Spirit must first come and wake him out of his sleep and with the thunder of the law fear him, and shew him his miserable estate and wretchedness, and make him abhor, and hate himself and to desire help, and then comfort him again with the pleasant rain of the gospel, that is to say, with the sweet promises of God in Christ, and stir up faith in him to believe the promises. Then when he believes the promises, as God was merciful to promise, so is he true to fulfill them, and will give him the Spirit and strength, both to love the will of God and to work thereafter. So see we that God only (which according to the scripture works all in all things) works a man’s justifying, salvation and health, yea and pours faith and belief, lust to love God’s will, and strength to fulfill the same, into us, even as water is poured into a vessel, and that of his good will and purpose, and not of our deservings and merits. God’s mercy in promising and truth in fulfilling his promises saves us and not we ourselves. And therefore is all honor, praise and glory, to be given unto God for his mercy and truth, and not unto us for our merits and deservings. After that, he stretches his example out against all other good works of the law, and concludes that the Jews cannot be Abraham’s heirs because of blood and kindred only, and much less by the works of the law, but must inherit Abraham’s faith, if they will be the right heirs of Abraham forasmuch as Abraham before the law, both of Moses and also of circumcision, was through faith made righteous and called the father of all them that believe, and not of them that work. Moreover the law causes wrath, inasmuch as no man can fulfill it with love and lust, and as long as such grudging, hate and indignation against the law remains in the heart, and is not taken away by the Spirit that comes by faith, so long (no doubt) the works of the law, declare evidently that the wrath of God is upon us and not favour. Wherefore faith only receives the grace promised unto Abraham. And these examples were not written for Abraham’s sake only (says he) but for ours also to whom if we believe, faith shall be reckoned likewise for righteousness, as he says in the end of the chapter.
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In the fifth chapter he commends the fruits and works of faith, as are peace, rejoicing in the conscience, inward love, to God and man: moreover, boldness, trust, confidence and a strong and a lusty mind and steadfast hope in tribulation and suffering. For all such follow, where the right faith is, for the abundant grace’s sake and gifts of the Spirit, which God has given us in Christ, in that he gave him to die for us yet his enemies. Now have we then that faith only before all works justifies, and that it follows not yet therefore that a man should do no good works but that the right shapen works abide not behind, but accompany faith, even as brightness doth the sun, and are called of Paul the fruits of the Spirit. Where the Spirit is, there it is always summer and there are always good fruits, that is to say: good works. This is Paul’s order, that good works spring of the Spirit, the Spirit comes by faith and faith comes by hearing the word of God, when the glad tidings and promises which God has made to us in Christ, are preached truly, and received in the ground of the heart without wavering or doubting after that the law has passed upon us and has damned our consciences. Where the word of God is preached purely and received in the heart, there is faith and the Spirit of God, and there are also good works of necessity whensoever occasion is given. Where God’s word is not purely preached, but men’s dreams, traditions, imaginations, inventions, ceremonies and superstition, there is no faith and consequently no Spirit that comes of God. And where God’s Spirit is not, there can be no good works, even as where an apple tree is not, there can grow no apples, but there is unbelief, the devil’s spirit and evil works. Of this God’s Spirit and his fruits, have our holy hypocrites not once known, neither yet tasted how sweet they are, though they feign many good works of their own imagination, to be justified withal, in which is not one crumb of true faith or spiritual love, or of inward joy, peace and quietness of conscience, forasmuch as they have not the word of God for them, that such works please God, but they are even the rotten fruits of a rotten tree.
After that he breaks forth, and runs at large, and shews whence both sin and righteousness, death and life come. And he compares Adam and Christ together, thuswise reasoning and disputing, that Christ must needs come as a second Adam to make us heirs of his righteousness, through a new spiritual birth, without our deservings: even as the first Adam made us heirs of sin, through the bodily generation, without our deserving. Whereby is evidently known and proved to the uttermost, that no man can bring himself out of sin unto righteousness, no more than he could have withstood that he was born bodily. And that is proved herewith, forasmuch as the very law of God, which of right should have helped, if anything could have helped, not only came and brought no help with her, but also increased sin, because the evil and poisoned nature is offended and utterly displeased with the law, and the more she is forced by the law, the more is she provoked and set afire to fulfill and satisfy her lusts. By the law then we see clearly that we must needs have Christ to justify us with his grace, and to help nature.
In the sixth he sets forth the chief and principal work of faith, the battle of the Spirit against the flesh, how the Spirit labours and enforces to kill the remnant of sin and lust which remain in the flesh, after our justifying. And this chapter teaches us, that we are not so free from sin through faith, that we should henceforth go up and down idle careless and sure of ourselves, as though there were now no more sin in us. Yes there is sin remaining in us, but it is not reckoned, because of faith and of the Spirit, which fight against it. Wherefore we have enough to do all our lives long, to tame our bodies, and to compel the members to obey the Spirit and not the appetites, that thereby we might be like unto Christ’s death and resurrection, and might fulfill our baptism, which signifies the mortifying of sins, and the new life of grace. For this battle ceases not in us until the last breath, and until that sin be utterly slain by the death of the body.
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This thing (I mean to tame the body and so forth) we are able to do (says he) seeing we are under grace and not under the law, what it is, not to be under the law, he himself expounds. For not to be under the law is not so to be understood, that every man may do what him lusts. But not to be under the law, is to have a free heart renewed with the Spirit, so that you have lust inwardly of your own accord to do that which the law commands, without compulsion, yea though there were no law. For grace that is to say God’s favour brings us the Spirit, and makes us love the law, so is there now no more sin, neither is the law now any more against us, but at one and agreed with us and we with it.
But to be under the law, is to deal with the works of the law, and to work without the Spirit and grace: for so long no doubt sin reigns in us through the law, that is to say, the law declares that we are under sin and that sin has power and dominion over us, seeing we cannot fulfill the law, namely within in the heart, forasmuch as no man of nature favours the law, consents thereunto and delights therein. Which thing is exceeding great sin, that we cannot consent to the law which law is nothing else save the will of God.
This is the right freedom and liberty from sin and from the law whereof he writes unto the end of this Chapter, that it is a freedom to do good only with lust, and to live well without compulsion of the law. Wherefore this freedom is a spiritual freedom, which destroys not the law, but ministers that which the law requires, and wherewith the law is fulfilled, that is to understand, lust and love, wherewith the law is stilled and accuses us no more, compels us no more, neither has ought to crave of us anymore. Even as though you were in debt to another man, and were not able to pay, two manner ways might you be loose. One way, if he would require nothing of thee, and break your obligation. Another way, if some other good man would pay for you, and give you as much as you might satisfy your obligation withal. Of this wise has Christ made us free from the law: and therefore is this no wild fleshly liberty, that should do naught, but that does all things, and is free from the craving and debt of the law.
In the seventh he confirms the same with a similitude of the state of matrimony. As when the husband dies the wife is at her liberty, and the one loosed and departed from the other, not that the woman should not have power to marry unto another man, but rather now first of all is she free and has power to marry unto another man which she could not do before, till she was loosed from her first husband. Even so are our consciences bound and in danger to the law under old Adam the flesh, as long as he lives in us. For the law declares that our hearts are bound and that we cannot disconsent from him. But when he is mortified and killed by the Spirit, then is the conscience free and at liberty: not so that the conscience shall now naught do, but now first of all cleaves unto another, that is to wit Christ, and brings forth the fruits of life. So now to be under the law, is not to be able to fulfill the law, but to be debtor to it and not able to pay that which the law requires. And to be loose from the law, is to fulfill it and to pay that which the law demands, so that it can now henceforth ask you naught.
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Consequently Paul declares more largely the nature of sin and of the law, how that through the law sin revives, moves herself, and gathers strength. For the old man and corrupt nature, the more he is forbidden and kept under of the law, is the more offended and is pleased therewith, forasmuch as he cannot pay that which is required of the law. For sin is his nature and of himself, he cannot but sin. Therefore is the law death to him, torment and martyrdom. Not that the law is evil, but because that the evil nature cannot suffer that which is good, cannot abide that the law should require of him any good thing. Like as a sick man cannot suffer that a man should desire of him to run, to leap and to do other deeds of an whole man.
For which cause saint Paul concludes, that where the law is understood and perceived of the bestwise, there it does no more but utter sin, and bring us unto the knowledge of ourselves, and thereby kill us and make us bond unto eternal damnation and debtors of the everlasting wrath of God, even as he well feels and understands whose conscience is truly touched of the law. In such danger were we ere the law came, that we knew not what sin meant, neither yet know we the wrath of God upon sinners, till the law had uttered it. So see you that a man must have some other thing, yea and a greater and a more mighty thing than the law, to make him righteous and safe. They that understand not the law on this wise, are blind and go to work presumptuously, supposing to satisfy the law with works. For they know not that the law requires a free, a willing, a lusty and a loving heart. Therefore they see not Moses right in the face, the veil hangs between and hides his face so that they cannot behold the glory of his countenance, how that the law is spiritual and requires the heart. I may of mine own strength refrain that I do mine enemy no hurt, but to love him with all mine heart, and to put away wrath clean out of my mind can I not of mine own strength. I may refuse money of mine own strength, but to put away love unto riches out of mine heart can I not do of mine own strength. To abstain from adultery as concerning the outward deed can I do of mine own strength, but not to desire in mine heart is as impossible unto me as is to choose whether I will hunger or thirst, and yet so the law requires. Wherefore of a man’s own strength is the law never fulfilled, we must have thereunto God’s favour and his Spirit, purchased by Christ’s blood.
Nevertheless when I say a man may do many things outwardly clean against his heart, we must understand that man is but driven of divers appetites, and the greatest appetite overcomes the less and carries the man away violently with her.
As when I desire vengeance, and fear also the inconvenience that is like to follow, if fear be greater, I abstain and if the appetite that desires vengeance be greater, I cannot but prosecute the deed, as we see by experience in many murderers and thieves, which though they be brought into never so great peril of death, yet after they have escaped, do even, the same again. And common women prosecute their lusts because fear and shame are away, when others which have the same appetites in their hearts, abstain at the least way outwardly or work secretly being overcome of fear and of shame, and so likewise is it of all other appetites.
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Furthermore he declares, how the Spirit and the flesh fight together in one man, and makes an example of himself, that we might learn to know that work aright, I mean to kill sin in ourselves. He calls both the Spirit and also the flesh a law, because that like as the nature of God’s law is to drive, to compel, and to crave even so the flesh drives, compels, craves and rages, against the Spirit, and will have her lusts satisfied.
On the other side drives the Spirit, cries and fights against the flesh, and will have his lust satisfied. And this strife endures in us, as long as we live: in some more and in some less as the Spirit or the flesh is stronger, and the very man his own self is both the Spirit and the flesh, which fights with his own self until sin be utterly slain and he altogether spiritual.
In the eighth Chapter he comforts such fighters that they despair not because of such flesh, or think that they are less in favour with God. And he shews how that the sin remaining in us, hurts not, for there is no danger to them that are in Christ which walk not after the flesh, but fight against it. And he expounds more largely what the nature of the flesh and of the Spirit is, and how the Spirit comes by Christ, which Spirit makes us spiritual, tames, subdues and mortifies the flesh, and certifies us that we are nevertheless the sons of God, and also beloved, though that sin rage never so much in us, so long as we follow the Spirit and fight against sin to kill and mortify it. And because the chastising of the cross and suffering are nothing pleasant, he comforts us in our passions and afflictions by the assistance of the Spirit which makes intercession to God for us, mightily with groanings that pass man’s utterance, so that man’s speech cannot comprehend them, and the creatures mourn also with us of great desire that they have, that we were loosed from sin and corruption of the flesh. So see we that these three Chapters, the sixth, seventh, eighth do none other thing so much as to drive us unto the right work of faith, which is to kill the old man and mortify the flesh.
In the ninth, tenth and eleventh Chapters he treats of God’s predestination, whence it springs altogether, whether we shall believe or not believe, be loosed from sin or not be loosed. By which predestination our justifying and salvation are clean taken out of our hands, and put in the hands of God only, which thing is most necessary of all. For we are so weak and so uncertain, that if it stood in us, there would of a truth no man be saved, the devil no doubt would deceive us. But now is God sure, that his predestination cannot deceive him, neither can any man withstand or let him, and therefore have we hope and trust against sin.
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But here must a mark be set unto those unquiet, busy and high climbing spirits how far they shall go, which first of all bring hither their high reasons and pregnant wits, and begin first from on high to search the bottomless secrets of God’s predestination, whether they be predestinate or not. These must needs either cast themselves down headlong into desperation or else commit themselves to free chance careless. But follow you the order of this epistle, and nuzzle yourself with Christ, and learn to understand what the law and the gospel mean, and the office of both two, that you may in the one know yourself, and how that you have of yourself no strength, but to sin: and in the other the grace of Christ. And then see you fight against sin and the flesh as the seven first chapters teach you. After that when you are come to the eighth chapter, and are under the cross and suffering of tribulation, the necessity of predestination will wax sweet and you shalt well feel how precious a thing it is. For except you have born the cross of adversity and temptation, and have felt yourself brought unto the very brim of desperation, yea and unto hell gates, you can never meddle with the sentence of predestination without your own harm, and without secret wrath and grudging inwardly against God, for otherwise it shall not be possible for you to think that God is righteous and just. Therefore must Adam be well mortified and the fleshly wit brought utterly to naught, ere that you may away with this thing, and drink so strong wine. Take heed therefore unto yourself, that you drink not wine, while you are yet but a suckling. For every learning has her time, measure and age, and in Christ is there a certain childhood, in which a man must be content with milk for a season, until he wax strong and grow up unto a perfect man in Christ, and be able to eat of more strong meat.
In the twelfth Chapter he gives exhortations. For this manner observes Paul in all his epistles, first he teaches Christ and the faith, then exhorts he to good works, and unto continual mortifying of the flesh. So here teaches he good works indeed, and the true serving of God, and makes all men priests, to offer up not money and beasts, as the manner was in the time of the law, but their own bodies, with killing and mortifying of the lusts of the flesh. After that he describes the outward conversation of Christian men, how they ought to behave themselves in spiritual things how to teach, preach and rule in the congregation of Christ, to serve one another, to suffer all things patiently, and to commit the wreck and vengeance to God, in conclusion how a Christian man ought to behave himself unto all men, to friend, foe or whatsoever he be. These are the right works of a Christian man which spring out of faith. For faith keeps not holiday, neither suffers any man to be idle, wheresoever he dwells.
In the thirteenth he teaches to honour the worldly and temporal sword. For though that man’s law and ordinance make not a man good before God, neither justify him in the heart, yet are they ordained for the furtherance of the commonwealth, to maintain peace, to punish the evil and to defend the good. Therefore ought the good to honour the temporal sword and to have it in reverence, though as concerning themselves they need it not, but would abstain from evil of their own accord, yea and do good without man’s law, but by the law of the Spirit which governs the heart, and aids it unto all that is the will of God. Finally he comprehends and knits up all in love. Love of her own nature bestows all that she has and even her own self on that which is loved. You need not to bid a kind mother to be loving unto her only son. Much less spiritual love. Which has eyes given her of God, needs man’s law to teach her to do her duty.
And as in the beginning he did put forth Christ as the cause and author of our righteousness and salvation, even so here sets he him forth as an example to counterfeit that as he has done to us, even so should we do one to another.
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In the fourteenth Chapter he teaches to deal soberly with the consciences of the weak in the faith, which yet understand not the liberty of Christ perfectly enough and to favour them of Christian love, and not to use the liberty of the faith unto hindrance. But unto the furtherance and edifying of the weak. For where such consideration is not, there follows debate and despising of the gospel. It is better therefore to forbear the weak awhile, until they wax strong, than that the learning of the Gospel should come altogether underfoot. And such work is singular work of love, and where love is perfect, there must needs be such a respect unto the weak, a thing that Christ commanded and charged to be had above all things.
In the fifteenth Chapter he sets forth Christ again to be followed, that we also by his example, should suffer others that are yet weak, as them that are frail, open sinners, unlearned, unexpert, and of loathsome manners, and not to cast them away forthwith, but to suffer them till they wax better and exhort them in the meantime. For so dealt Christ in the gospel and now deals with us daily, suffering our unperfectness, weakness, conversation and manners, not yet fashioned after the doctrine of the Gospel, but smell of the flesh, yea and sometime break forth into outward deeds.
After that to conclude with all he wishes them increase of faith, peace, and joy of conscience, praises them and commits them to God and magnifies his office and administration in the gospel, and soberly and with great discretion desires succor and aid of them for the poor saints of Jerusalem, and it is all pure love that he speaks or deals with all. So find we in this epistle plenteously, unto the utmost, whatsoever a Christian man or woman ought to know, that is to wit what the law, the Gospel, sin, Grace, Faith, Righteousness, Christ, God, Good works, Love, Hope, and the Cross are, and even where in the pith of all that pertains to the Christian faith stands and how a Christian man ought to behave himself unto every man, be he perfect or a sinner, good or bad, strong or weak, friend or foe, and in conclusion how to behave ourselves both toward God and toward ourselves also. And all things are profoundly grounded in the scriptures, and declared with examples of himself, of the fathers and of the prophets, that a man can here desire no more.
Wherefore it appears evidently, that Paul’s mind was to comprehend briefly in this epistle all the holy learning of Christ’s Gospel, and to prepare an introduction unto all the Old Testament. For without doubt whosoever has this epistle perfectly in his heart, the same has the light and the effect of the Old Testament with him. Wherefore let every man without exception exercise himself therein diligently, and record it night and day continually, until he be full acquainted therewith.
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The last chapter is a chapter of recommendation, Wherein he yet mingleth a good monition, that we should beware of the traditions and doctrine of men which beguile the simple with sophistry and learning that is not after the gospel, and draw them from Christ, and nuzzle them in weak and feeble and (as Paul calleth them in the epistle to the Galatians) in beggarly ceremonies, for the intent that they would live in fat pastures and be in authority, and be taken as Christ, yea and above Christ, and sit in the temple of God, that is to wit in the consciences of men, where God only, his word, and his Christ ought to sit. Compare therefore all manner doctrine of men unto the scripture, and see whether they agree or not. And commit thyself whole and altogether unto Christ, and so shall he with his Holy Spirit and with all his fullness dwell in thy soul.
The sum and whole cause of the writings of this epistle, is, to prove that a man is justified by faith only: which proposition whoso denieth, to him is not only this epistle and all that Paul writeth, but also the whole scripture so locked up, that he shall never understand it to his soul’s health. And to bring a man to the understanding and feeling that faith only justifieth: Paul proveth that the whole nature of man is so poisoned and so corrupt, yea and so dead concerning Godly living or Godly thinking, that it is impossible for her to keep the law in the sight of God: that is to say, to love it, and of love and lust to do it as naturally as a man eateth or drinketh, until she be quickened again and healed through faith.
And by justifying, understand none other thing than to be reconciled to God and to be restored unto his favour, and to have thy sins forgiven thee. As when I say God justifieth us, understand thereby, that God for Christ’s sake, merits and deservings only receiveth us unto his mercy, favour and grace, and forgiveth us our sins. And when I say Christ justifieth us, understand thereby that Christ only hath redeemed us, bought and delivered us out of the wrath of God and damnation, and hath with his works only, purchased us the mercy, the favour and grace of God, and the forgiveness of our sins. And when I say that faith only justifieth, understand thereby that faith and trust in the truth of God and in the mercy promised us for Christ’s sake, and for his deserving and works only, doth quiet the conscience and certify her that our sins be forgiven and we in the full favour of God.
Furthermore, set before thine eyes Christ’s works and thine own works. Christ’s works only justifieth and make satisfaction for thy sin, and thine own works not: that is to say, quieteth thy conscience and make thee sure that thy sins are forgiven thee, and not thine own works. For the promise of mercy is made thee for Christ’s work’s sake, and not for thine own work’s sake. Wherefore seeing God hath not promised that thine own works shall save thee, therefore faith in thine own works can never quiet thy conscience nor certify thee before God (When God cometh to judge and to take a reckoning) that thy sins are forgiven thee. Beyond all this, mine own works can never satisfy the law or pay her that I owe her. For I owe the law to love her with all mine heart, soul, power and might. Which thing to pay I am never able while I am compassed with flesh. No, I cannot once begin to love the law, except I be first sure by faith that God loveth me and forgiveth me.
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Finally that we say faith only justifieth, ought to offend no man. For if this be true, that Christ only redeemed us, Christ only bare our sins, made satisfaction for them and purchased us the favour of God, then must it needs be true, that the trust only in Christ’s deserving and in the promises of God the Father made us for Christ’s sake, doth only quiet the conscience and certify her that the sins are forgiven. And when they say, a man must repent, forsake sin, and have a purpose to sin no more as nigh as he can and love the law of God: Ergo faith alone justifieth not. I answer, that and all like arguments are naught, and like to this. I must repent and be sorry, the Gospel must be preached me, and I must believe it or else I cannot be partaker of the mercy which Christ hath deserved for me, Ergo Christ only justifieth me not, or Christ only hath not made satisfaction for my sins. As this is a naughty argument so is the other.
Now go to reader, and according to the order of Paul’s writing, even so do thou. First behold thyself diligently in the law of God, and see there thy just damnation. Secondarily turn thine eyes to Christ, and see there the exceeding mercy of thy most kind and loving Father. Thirdly remember that Christ made not this atonement that thou shouldest anger God again: neither died he for thy sins, that thou shouldest live still in them: neither cleansed he thee, that thou shouldest return (as a swine) unto thine old puddle again: but that thou shouldest be a new creature and live a new life after the will of God and not of the flesh. And be diligent lest through thine own negligence and unthankfulness thou lose this favour and mercy again.
THE PROLOG UPON THE FIRST EPISTLE OF S. PAUL TO THE CORINTHIANS.
This epistle declares itself from chapter to chapter, that it needs no prolog or introduction to declare it. When Paul had converted a great number at Corinth, as you read Acts eighteen and was departed, there came immediately false apostles and sect makers and drew every man disciples after him, so that the people were whole unquieted, divided and at variance among themselves, every man for the zeal of his doctor, those new apostles not regarding what division, what uncleanness of living, or what false opinions were among the people, as long as they might be in authority and well at ease in their bellies.
But Paul in the four first chapters with great wisdom and soberness, rebukes, first the division and the authors thereof, and calls the people to Christ again and teaches how and for what the preacher is to be taken.
In the fifth he rebukes the uncleanness that was amongst them.
In the sixth he rebukes the debate and going to law together, pleading their causes before the heathen.
In the seventh he informs them concerning chastity and marriage.
In the eighth ninth tenth and eleventh he teaches the strong to forbear the weak that yet understood not the liberty of the gospel, and that with the example of himself. Which though he were an apostle and had authority, yet of love he abstained, to win others. And he brings fear upon them with the examples of the Old Testament and rebukes diverse disorders that were among them concerning the sacrament and the going bareheaded of married women.
In the twelfth thirteenth and fourteenth he teaches of the manifold gifts of the Spirit, and proves by a similitude of the body, that all gifts are given that each should help others, and through love do service to others, and proves that where love is not, there is nothing that pleases God. For that one should love another, is all that God requires of us. And therefore if we desire spiritual gifts he teaches those gifts to be desired that help our neighbors.
In the fifteenth he teaches of the resurrection of the body.
And in the last he exhorts to help the poor saints.
THE PROLOG UPON THE SECOND EPISTLE OF SAINT PAUL TO THE CORINTHIANS
As in the first epistle he rebukes the Corinthians sharply, so in this he comforts them and praises them, and commands him that was excommunicated to be received lovingly into the congregation again.
And in the first and second chapters he shews his love toward them, how that all that he spake, did or suffer, was for their sakes and for their salvation.
Then in the third fourth and fifth he praises the office of preaching the gospel above the preaching of the law, and shews that the Gospel grows through persecution and through the cross, which makes a man sure of eternal life: and here and there he touches the false prophets, which studied to turn the faith of the people from Christ unto the works of the law.
In the sixth and seventh chapters he exhorts them to suffer with the Gospel, and to live as it becomes the Gospel, and praises him in the later end.
In the eighth and ninth chapters he exhorts them to help the poor saints that were at Jerusalem.
In the tenth eleventh and twelfth he envies against the false prophets.
And in the last chapter he threatens them that had sinned and not amended themselves.
THE PROLOG UPON THE EPISTLE OF S. PAUL TO THE GALATIANS
As you read Acts fifteen how certain came from Jerusalem to Antioch and vexed the disciples there, affirming that they could not be saved except they were circumcised.
Even so after Paul had converted the Galatians and coupled them to Christ, to trust in him only for the remission of sin, and hope of grace and salvation, and was departed: there came false apostles unto them (as unto the Corinthians, and unto all places where Paul had preached) and that in the name of Peter, James and John, whom they called the high apostles, and preached circumcision and the keeping of the law, to be saved by and diminished Paul’s authority.
To the confounding of those, Paul magnifies his office and apostleship in the two first chapters and makes himself equal unto the high apostles, and concludes that every man must be justified without deservings, without works, and without help of the law: but alone by Christ.
And in the third and fourth, he proves the same with scripture, examples and similitudes, and shews that the law is cause of more sin and brings the curse of God upon us, and justifies us not: but that justifying comes by grace promised us of God through the deserving of Christ, by whom (if we believe) we are justified without help of the works of the law.
And in the fifth and sixth he exhorts unto the works of love which follow faith and justifying. So that in all his epistles he observes this order. First he preaches the damnation of the law: then the justifying of faith, and thirdly the works of love. For on that condition that we love and work, is the mercy given us.
THE PROLOG UPON THE EPISTLE OF S. PAUL TO THE EPHESIANS
In this epistle, and namely in the three first chapters Paul shews that the gospel and grace thereof was foreseen and predestinat of God from before the beginning, and deserved through Christ, and now at the last sent forth that all men should believe thereon, thereby to be justified, made righteous, living and happy, and to be delivered from under the damnation of the law and captivity of ceremonies.
And in the fourth he teaches to avoid traditions and men’s doctrines, and to beware of putting trust in anything save Christ, affirming that he only is sufficient, and that in him we have all things, and beside him need nothing.
In the fifth and sixth he exhorts to exercise the faith and to declare it abroad through good works, and to avoid sin, and to arm them with spiritual armour against the devil that they might stand fast in time of tribulation and under the cross.
THE PROLOG UPON THE EPISTLE OF S. PAUL TO THE PHILIPPIANS
Paul praises the Philippians, and exhorts them to stand fast in the true faith, and to increase in love. And because false prophets study always to impugn and destroy the true faith, he warns them of such worklearners or teachers of works, and praises Epaphroditus. And all this does he in the first and second chapters.
In the third he reproves faithless and man’s righteousness, which false prophets teach and maintain. And he sets him for an example, how that he himself had lived in such false righteousness and holiness unrebukeable, that was so that no man could complain on him, and yet now sets nought thereby, for Christ’s righteousness sake. And finally affirms that such false prophets are the enemies of the cross, and make their bellies their God. Further then they may safely and without all peril and suffering, will they not preach Christ.
THE PROLOG UPON THE EPISTLE OF S. PAUL TO THE COLOSSIANS
As the epistle to the Galatians holds the manner and fashion of the epistle to the Romans, briefly comprehending all that is therein at length disputed: Even so this epistle follows the example of the epistle to the Ephesians, containing the tenor of the same epistle with fewer words.
In the first chapter, he praises them and wishes that they continue in the faith, and grow more perfect therein, and then describes he the gospel, how that it is a wisdom that confesses Christ to be the Lord and God, crucified for us, and a wisdom that has been hid in Christ since afore the beginning of the world, and now first begun to be opened through the preaching of the apostles.
In the second, he warns them of men’s doctrine, and describes the false prophets to the uttermost and rebukes them accordingly.
In the third, he exhorts to be fruitful in the pure faith with all manner of good works one to another, and describes all degrees and what their duties are.
In the fourth he exhorts to pray, and also to pray for him, and salutes them
THE PROLOG TO THE FIRST EPISTLE OF S. PAUL TO THE THESSALONIANS
This epistle did Paul write of exceeding love and care: and praises them in the two first chapters, because they received the gospel earnestly, and had in tribulation and persecution continued therein steadfastly, and were become an example unto all congregations, and have thereto suffered of their own kinsmen as Christ and his apostles did of the Jews, putting them thereto in mind, how purely and godly he had lived among them to their example, and thanks God that his gospel had brought forth such fruit among them.
In the third chapter, he shews his diligence and care, lest his so great labour and their so blessed a beginning should have been in vain, Satan and his apostles vexing them with persecution, and destroying their faith with men’s doctrine. And therefore he sent Timothy to them to comfort them and strengthen them in the faith, and thanks God that they had so constantly endured, and desired God to increase them.
In the fourth he exhorts them to keep themselves from sin, and to do good one to another. And thereto he informs them concerning the resurrection.
In the fifth he writes of the last day, that it should come suddenly, exhorting to prepare themselves thereafter and to keep a good order concerning obedience and rule.
THE PROLOG TO THE SECOND EPISTLE OF S. PAUL TO THE THESSALONIANS
Because in the fore pistle he had said that the last day should come suddenly, the Thessalonians thought that it should have come shortly. Wherefore in this epistle he declares himself.
And in the first Chapter he comforts them with the everlasting reward of their faith and patience in suffering for the gospel, and with the punishment of their persecutors in everlasting pain.
In the second he shews that the last day should not come, till there were first a departing (as some men think) from under the obedience of the Emperor of Rome, and that antichrist should set up himself in the same place, as God: and deceive the unthankful world with false doctrine, and with false and lying miracles wrought by the working of Satan, until Christ should come and slay him with his glorious coming and spiritual preaching of the word of God.
In the third he gives them exhortation and warns them to rebuke the idle that would not labour with their hands, and avoid their company, if they would not mend.
THE PROLOG UPON THE FIRST EPISTLE OF S. PAUL TO TIMOTHY
This epistle writes S. Paul to be an example unto all bishops, what they should teach, and how they should govern the congregation of Christ in all degrees, that it should be no need to govern Christ’s flock with the doctrine of their own good meanings.
In the first Chapter, he commands that the bishop shall maintain the right faith and love, and resist false preachers which make the law and works equal with Christ and his Gospel. And he makes a short conclusion of all Christian learning, whereto the law serves and what the end thereof is, also what the gospel is, and sets himself for a comfortable example unto all sinners and troubled consciences.
In the second he commands to pray for all degrees, and charges that the women shall not preach nor wear costly apparel, but to be obedient unto the men.
In the third he describes, what manner persons the bishop or priest and their wives should be, and also the deacons and their wives: and commends it, if any man desire to be a bishop after that manner.
In the fourth he prophesies and shews before of the false bishops and spiritual officers that should arise among the Christian people, and be, do and preach clean contrary to the fore described example, and should depart from the faith in Christ and forbid to marry and to eat certain meats, teaching to put trust therein, both of justifying and forgiveness of sins and also of deserving of eternal life.
In the fifth he teaches how a bishop should use himself toward young and old and concerning widows what is to be done, and which should be found of the common cost: and teaches also how men should honour the virtuous bishops and priests, and how to rebuke the evil.
In the sixth he exhorts the bishop to cleave to the gospel of Christ and true doctrine, and to avoid vain questions and superfluous disputings which gender strife and quench the truth, and by which also the false prophets get them authority and seek to satisfy their insatiable covetousness.
THE PROLOG TO THE SECOND EPISTLE OF S. PAUL UNTO TIMOTHY
In this epistle Paul exhorts Timothy to go forward as he had begun, and to preach the gospel with all diligence, as it need was, seeing many were fallen away, and many false spirits and teachers were sprung up already. Wherefore a bishop’s part is, ever to watch and to labour in the gospel.
In the third and fourth he shews before and that notably, of the jeopardous time toward the end of the world, in which a false spiritual living should deceive the whole world with outward hypocrisy and appearance of holiness, under which all abominations should have their free passage and course, as we (alas) have seen this prophesy of S. Paul fulfilled in our spirituality unto the uttermost Jot.
THE PROLOG UNTO THE PISTLE OF S. PAUL TO TITUS
This is a short epistle: wherein yet is contained all that is needful for a Christian to know.
In the first chapter he shews what manner a man a bishop or curate ought to be: that is to wit, virtuous and learned, to preach and defend the Gospel, and to confound the doctrine of trusting in works and men’s traditions which ever fight against the faith and carry away the conscience captive from the freedom that is in Christ into the bondage of their own imaginations and inventions, as though those things should make a man good in the sight of God which are to no profit at all.
In the second he teaches all degrees, old, young, men, women, masters, and servants how to behave themselves, as they which Christ has bought with his blood, to be his proper or peculiar people, to glorify God with good works.
In the third he teaches to honour temporal rulers and to obey them, and yet brings to Christ again and to the grace that he has purchased for us, that no man should think that the obedience of princes’ laws or any other work should justify us before God. And last of all he charges to avoid the company of the stubborn and of the heretics.
THE PROLOG TO THE EPISTLE OF S. PAUL UNTO PHILEMON
In this epistle S. Paul shows a godly example of Christian love. Herein we see how Paul takes poor Onesimus unto him and makes intercession for him unto his master and helps him with all that he may, and behaves himself none otherwise than as though he himself were the said Onesimus. Which thing yet he does not with power and authority, as he well might have done: but puts off all authority and whatsoever he might of right do, that Philemon might do likewise toward Onesimus, and with great meekness and wisdom teaches Philemon to see his duty in Christ Jesus.
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