THE PROLOG TO THE EPISTLE OF S. PAUL TO THE HEBREWS

About this pistle hath ever been much doubting and that among great learned men who should be the author thereof: diverse affirming that it was not Paul’s, partly because the style so disagreeth and is so unlike his other epistles, and partly because it standeth in the second Chapter, this learning was confirmed to us-ward: that is to say taught us by them that heard it themselves of the Lord. Now Paul testifieth Gala. j. that he received not his gospel of man nor by man but immediately of Christ and that by revelation. Wherefore say they, seeing this man confesseth that he received his doctrine of the apostles, it cannot be Paul’s, but some disciple of the apostles. Now whether it were Paul’s or no I say not, but permit it to other men’s judgments, neither think I it to be an article of any man’s faith, but that a man may doubt of the author.

Moreover, many there hath been which not only have denied this pistle to have been written by any of the apostles, but have also refused it altogether as no catholic or godly epistle, because of certain texts written therein. For first it saith in the sixth: it is impossible that they which were once lighted, and have tasted of the heavenly gift and were become partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted of the good word of God and of the power of the world to come, if they fall, should be renewed again to repentance or conversion. And in the tenth it saith, if we sin willingly after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a fearful looking for judgment and violent fire which shall destroy the adversaries. And in the. xij. it saith that Esau found no way to repentance or conversion, no though he sought it with tears. Which texts say they, sound: that if a man sin any more after he is once baptized, he can be no more forgiven, and that is contrary to all the scripture, and therefore to be refused to be catholic and godly.

Unto which I answer: if we should deny this pistle for those text’s sakes, so should we deny first Matthew which in his. xij. chap. affirmeth that he which blasphemeth the Holy Ghost, shall neither be forgiven here nor in the world to come. And then Mark which in his. iij. chap. saith that he that blasphemeth the Holy Ghost, shall never have forgiveness, but shall be in danger of eternal damnation. And thirdly Luke which saith there shall be no remission to him that blasphemeth the Spirit of God. Moreover John in his .j. pistle saith there is a sin unto death, for which a man should not pray. And. ij. Petr. ij. saith: if a man be fled from the uncleanness of the world through the knowledge of the Saviour Jesus Christ, and then be wrapt in again, his end is worse than the beginning and that it had been better for him never to have known the truth. And Paul ij. Timo. iij. curseth Alexander the coppersmith, desiring the Lord to reward him according to his deeds. Which is a sign that either the pistle should not be good, or that Alexander had sinned past forgiveness, no more to be prayed for. Wherefore seeing no scripture is of private interpretation: but must be expounded according to the general articles of our faith and agreeable to other open and evident texts, and confirmed or compared to like sentences, why should we not understand these places with like reverence as we do the other, namely when all the remnant of the pistle is so godly and of so great learning.

none other —none nother (Orig.)

The first place in the. vj. Chapter will no more than that they which know the truth, and yet willingly refuse the light, and choose rather to dwell in darkness, and refuse Christ and make a mock of him (as the Pharisees which when they were overcome with scripture and miracles that Christ was the very Messias, yet had such lust in iniquity that they forsook him, persecuted him, slew him and did all the shame that could be imagined to him) cannot be renewed (eis Metano iam) saith the Greek, to be converted: that is to say, such malicious unkindness which is none other than the blaspheming of the Holy Ghost, deserveth that the Spirit shall never come more at them to convert them, which I believe to be as true as any other text in all the scripture.

And what is meant by that place in the tenth chapter where he saith, if we sin willingly after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, is declared immediately after. For he maketh a comparison between Moses and Christ, saying: if he which despised Moses’ law died without mercy: how much worse punishment is he worthy of, that treadeth the Son of God under foot and counteth the blood of the covenant, by which blood he was sanctified, as an unholy thing and blasphemeth the Spirit of grace. By which words it is manifest that he meaneth none other by the fore words, than the sin of blasphemy of the Spirit.

For them that sin of ignorance or infirmity, there is remedy, but for him that knoweth the truth, and yet willingly yieldeth himself to sin, and consenteth unto the life of sin with soul and body, and had rather lie in sin than have his poisoned nature healed by the help of the Spirit of grace, and maliciously persecuteth the truth: for him I say there is no remedy the way to mercy is locked up and the Spirit is taken from him for his unthankfulness’ sake, no more to be given him. Truth it is if a man can turn to God and believe in Christ, he must be forgiven how deep soever he hath sinned: but that will not be without the Spirit, and such blasphemers shall no more have the Spirit offered them. Let every man therefore fear God and beware that he yield not himself to serve sin, but how oft soever he sin let him begin again and fight afresh, and no doubt he shall at the last overcome, and in the mean time yet be under mercy for Christ’s sake because his heart worketh and would fain be loosed from under the bondage of sin.

And that it saith in the. xij. Esau found no way (eis Metanoiam) to be converted and reconciled unto God and restored unto his birthright again, though he sought it with tears, that text must have a spiritual eye. For Esau in selling his birthright despised not only that temporal promotion, that he should have been lord over all his brethren and king of that country: but he also refused the grace and mercy of God and the spiritual blessings of Abraham and Isaac and all the mercy that is promised us in Christ which should have been his seed. Of this ye see that this epistle ought no more to be refused for holy, godly and catholic than the other authentic scriptures.

Now therefore to come to our purpose again, though this epistle (as it saith in the sixth) lay not the ground of the faith of Christ, yet it buildeth cunningly thereon pure gold, silver and precious stones, and proveth the priesthood of Christ with scriptures inevitable. Moreover there is no work in all the scripture that so plainly declareth the meaning and significations of the sacrifices, ceremonies and figures of the Old Testament, as this pistle: insomuch that if willful blindness and malicious malice were not the cause, this epistle only were enough to weed out of the hearts of the Papists that cankered heresy of justifying of works, concerning our sacraments, ceremonies and all manner traditions of their own invention.

And finally in that ye see in the tenth that he had been in bonds and prison for Christ’s sake, and in that he so mightily driveth all to Christ to be saved through him, and so cared for the flock of Christ that he both wrote and sent, where he heard that they begun to faint, to comfort, encourage and strengthen them with the word of God, and in that also that he sent Timothy Paul’s disciple both virtuous, well learned and had in great reverence, it is easy to see that he was a faithful servant of Christ’s and of the same doctrine that Timothy was of, yea and Paul himself was, and that he was an apostle or in the apostles’ time or near thereunto. And seeing the pistle agreeth to all the rest of the scripture, if it be indifferently looked on, how should it not be of authority and taken for holy scripture?

 

 

THE PROLOGE TO THE EPISTLE OF S. PAUL TO THE HEBRUES

Aboute this pistle hath euer been moche doutynge and that amonge great learned men who shuld be the auctor therof: diuerse affirminge that it was not Paules, partlye because the stile so disagreeth and is so vnlyke his other epistles, and partlye because it stondeth in the seconde Chapter, this learninge was confyrmed to vs warde: that is to saye taught vs by them that heard it them selues of the Lorde. Now Paule testifieth Gala. j. that he receaued not his gospell of man ner by man but ymmediatlye of Christ and that by reuelacion. Wherfore saye they, seinge this man confesseth that he receaued his doctryne of the Apostles, it cannot be Pauls, but some disciple of the Apostles. Now whether it were Pauls or no I saye not, but permyt it to other mennes iudgementes, nether thinke I it to be an article of anye mannes fayth, but that a man maye doute of the auctor.

Moreouer, manye there hath been which not onlye haue denyed this pistle to haue been wrytten by anye of the Apostles, but haue also refused yt altogether as no catholick or godly epistle, because of certen textes written therin. For fyrst it sayth in the sixte: it is impossible that they which were once lyghted, and haue tasted of the heuenly gyfte and were become partakers of the holy goost, and haue tasted of the good worde of God and of the power of the worlde to come, if they fall, shuld be renewed agayne to repentaunce or conuersion. And in the tenth it sayeth, if we synne wyllynglye after we haue receaued the knowledge of the truthe, there remayneth no more sacrifice for synnes, but a fearfull lokynge for iudgement and vyolent fyer which shall destroye the aduersaries. And in the. xij. it sayeth that Esau founde no waye to repentaunce or conuersyon, no though he sought it with teares. Which textes saye they, sounde: that if a man synne anye more after he is once baptised, he can be no more forgeuen, and that is contrary to all the scripture, and therfore to be refused to be catholyck and godlye.

Vnto which I answer: yf we shuld denie this pistle for those textes sakes, so shuld we denye fyrst Mathew which in his. xij. chap. affirmeth that he which blasphemeth the holy goost, shall nether be forgeuen here ner in the worlde to come. And then Marke which in his. iij. chap. sayeth that he that blasphemeth the holy goost, shall neuer haue forgeuenes, but shalbe in daunger of eternall damnacion. And thyrdly Luke which sayth there shalbe no remission to him that blasphemeth the spirite of God. Moreouer Iohn in his .j. pistle sayth there is a synne vnto deeth, for which a man shuld not praye. And. ij. Petr. ij. sayth: yf a man be fled from the vnclennes of the worlde thorow the knowlege of the sauyour Iesus Christ, and then be wrapt in agayne, his ende is worse then the beginninge and that it had bene better for him neuer to haue knowen the truthe. And Paul ij. timo. iij. cursseth Alexander the copersmith, desyringe the Lorde to rewarde him accordinge to his dedes. Which is a signe that ether the pistle shuld not be good, or that Alexander had synned past forgeuenes, no more to be prayed for. Wherfore seinge no scripture is of priuat interpretacion: but must be expounded accordinge to the generall articles of oure fayth and agreable to other open and euident textes, and confirmed or compared to lyke sentences, why shuld we not vnderstonde these places with lyke reuerence as we do the other, namely when all the remnant of the pistle is so godlye and of so great learninge.

The fyrst place in the. vj. Chapter will no more then that they which knowe the truthe, and yet willinglye refuse the light, and chose rather to dwell in darcknes, and refuse Christ and make a mocke of him (as the Pharises which when they were ouercome with scripture and myracles that Christ was the verye Messias, yet had soche lust in iniquite that they forsoke him, persecuted him, slewe him and did all the shame that coulde be ymagined to him) cannot be renued (eis Metano iam) sayth the Greke, to be conuerted: that is to saye, soche malycious vnkyndnes which is none nother then the blaspheminge of the holy ghoost, deserueth that the spirite shall neuer come more at them to conuert them, which I beleue to be as true as eny other texte in all the scripture.

And what is meant by that place in the tenth chapter where he sayth, yf we synne willinglie after we haue receaued the knowledge of the truthe, there remayneth no more sacrifice for synne, is declared ymediatlye after. For he maketh a comparyson betwene Moses and Christ, sayenge: if he which despised Moses lawe dyed without mercie: how moche worse punishement is he worthye of, that treadeth the sonne of God vnder fote and counteth the bloude of the couenaunt, by which bloude he was sanctified, as an vnholy thinge and blasphemeth the Spirite of grace. By which wordes it is manyfest that he meaneth none other by the fore wordes, then the synne of blasphemye of the spirite.

For them that synne of ignoraunce or infirmitie, there is reamedie, but for him that knoweth the trouthe, and yet willinglye yeldeth him selfe to synne, and consenteth vnto the lyfe of synne with soule and bodye, and had leuer lye in synne then haue his poysoned nature healed by the helpe of the Sprite of grace, and malyciouslye persecuteth the truthe: for him I saye there is no remeadye the waye to mercie is locked vp and the spirite is taken from him for his vnthankfulnes sake, no more to be geuen him. Trouthe it is yf a man can tourne to God and beleue in Christ, he must be forgeuen how depe soeuer he hath synned: but that wyll not be with oute the spirite, and soche blasphemers shall no more haue the spirite offered them. Let euery man therfore feare God and beware that he yelde not him selfe to serue synne, but how ofte soeuer he synne let him begynne agayne and fyght afreshe, and no doute he shall at the last ouercome, and in the mean tyme yet be vnder mercie for Christes sake be cause his harte worketh and wolde fayne be lowsed from vnder the bondage of synne.

And that it sayeth in the. xij. Esau founde no waye (eis Metanoiam) to be conuerted and reconciled vnto God and restored vnto his byrthright agayne, though he sought it with teares, that text must haue a spirituall eye. For Esau in sellynge his byrthryght despised not only that temporall promocion, that he shuld haue been lorde ouer all his brethren and kynge of that countre: but he also refused the grace and mercie of God and the spirituall blessinges of Abraham and Isaac and all the mercie that is promised vs in Christ which shuld haue been his seed. Of this ye se that this epistle ought no more to be refused for holye, godlye and catholicke then the other autenticke scriptures.

Now therfore to come to oure purpose agayne, though this epistle (as it sayth in the sixte) laye not the grounde of the fayth of Christ, yet it buyldeth conynglye theron pure golde, syluer and preciouse stones, and proueth the presthode of Christ with scriptures ineuitable. Moreouer ther is no worke in all the scripture that so playnlye declareth the meaninge and significacions of the sacrifices, ceremonies and fygures of the olde testament, as this pistle: in so moche that if wilfull blindnes and malicious malyce were not the cause, this epistle onlye were ynough to wede oute of the heartes of the Papistes that cankred heresye of iustifyenge of workes, concerninge oure sacramentes, ceremonies and all maner tradicions of their awne inuencion.

And finallye in that ye se in the tenth that he had bene in bondes and pryson for Christes sake, and in that he so myghtelye dryueth all to Christ to be saued thorow him, and so cared for the flocke of Christ that he bothe wrote and sent, where he harde that they begonne to faynte, to comforte, courage and strength them with the worde of God, and in that also that he sent Timothe Pauls disciple both verteous, well learned and had in great reuerence, it is easie to se that he was a faythfull seruaunt of Christes and of the same doctryne that Timothe was of, ye and Paule him selfe was, and that he was an Apostle or in the Apostles tyme or nere therunto. And seinge the pistle agreeth to all the rest of the scripture, yf it be indifferentlye loked on, how shuld it not be of auctoryte and taken for holye scrypture?