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A prolog into the fourth book of Moses, called Numeri.

In the second and third book they received the law. And in this fourth they begin to work and to practice. Of which practicing ye see many good ensamples of unbelief & what freewill does, when she takes in hand to keep the law of her own power without help of faith in the promises of God: how she leaves her master’s carcasses by the way in the wilderness and brings them not into the land of rest. Why could they not enter in? Because of their unbelief Hebre. iii. For had they believed, so had they been under grace, and their old sins had been forgiven them, and power should have been given them to have fulfilled the law thenceforth & they should have been kept from all temptations that had been too strong for them. For it is written John i. He gave them power to be the sons of God, through believing in his name. Now to be the son of God is to love God and his commandments and to walk in his way after the ensample of his son Christ. But these people took upon them to work without faith as you see in the xiiii. of this book, where they would fight and also did, without the word of promise: even when they were warned that they should not. And in the xvi. again they would please God with their holy faithless works (for where God’s word is not there can be no faith) but the fire of God consumed their holy works, as it did Nadab and Abihu Levi. x. And from these unbelievers turn thine eyes unto the Pharisees which before the coming of Christ in his flesh, had laid the foundation of freewill after the same ensample. Whereon they built holy works after their own imagination without faith of the word, so fervently that for the great zeal of them they slew the King of all holy works and the Lord of freewill which only through his grace maketh the will free and looseth her from bondage of sin, and giveth her love and lust unto the laws of God, and power to fulfill them. And so through their holy works done by the power of freewill, they excluded themselves out of the holy rest of forgiveness of sins by faith in the blood of Christ.

And then look on our hypocrites which in like manner following the doctrine of Aristotle and other heathen pagans, have against all the scripture set up freewill again, unto whose power they ascribe the keeping of the commandments of God. For they have set up willful poverty of another manner than any is commanded of God. And the chastity of matrimony utterly defied, they have set up another willful chastity not required of God, which they swear, vow & profess to give God, whether he will give it them or no, and compel all their disciples thereunto, saying that it is in the power of every man’s freewill to observe it, contrary to Christ and his apostle Paul.

And the obedience of God and man excluded they have vowed another willful obedience condemned of all the scripture which they will yet give God whether he will or will not.

And what is become of their willful poverty? hath it not robbed the whole world & brought all under them? Can there be either king or emperor or of whatsoever degree it be, except he will hold of them and be sworn unto them to be their servant, to go and come at their lust and to defend their quarrels be they false or true? Their willful poverty hath already eaten up the whole world & is yet still greedier than ever it was insomuch that ten worlds more were not enough to satisfy the hunger thereof.

Moreover besides daily corrupting of other men’s wives and open whoredom, unto what abominations too filthy to be spoken of hath their voluntary chastity brought them?

And as for their willful obedience what is it but the disobedience & the defiance both of all the laws of God & man: insomuch that if any prince begin to execute any law of man upon them, they curse him unto the bottom of hell & proclaim him no right king & that his lords ought no longer to obey him, and interdict his common people as they were heathen Turks or Saracens. And if any man preach them God’s law, him they make an heretic and burn him to ashes. And instead of God’s law and man’s, they have set up one of their own imagination which they observe with dispensations.

And yet in these works they have so great confidence that they not only trust to be saved thereby, and to be higher in heaven than they that be saved through Christ: but also promise to all other forgiveness of their sins through the merits of the same. Wherein they rest and teach others to rest also, excluding the whole world from the rest of forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ’s blood.

And now seeing that faith only letteth a man in unto rest & unbelief excludes him, what is the cause of this unbelief? verily no sin that the world sees, but a pope holiness & a righteousness of their own imagination as Paul says Roma. x. They be ignorant of the righteousness wherewith God justifies & have set up a righteousness of their own making through which they be disobedient unto the righteousness of God. And Christ rebukes not the Pharisees for gross sins which the world saw, but for those holy deeds which so blurred the eyes of the world that they were taken as gods: even for long prayers, for fasting, for tithing so diligently that they left not so much as their herbs untithed, for their cleanness in washing before meat and for washing of cups, dishes, and all manner vessels, for building the prophets’ sepulchers, and for keeping the holy day, and for turning the heathen unto the faith, and for giving of alms. For unto such holy deeds they ascribed righteousness and therefore when the righteousness of God was preached unto them they could not but persecute it, the devil was so strong in them. Which thing Christ well describes Luke xi. saying that after the devil is cast out he comes again and finds his house swept and made gay and then takes seven worse than himself and dwells therein, and so is the end of that man worse than the beginning. That is, when they be a little cleansed from gross sins which the world sees and then made gay in their own sight with the righteousness of traditions, then comes seven, that is to say the whole power of the devil, for seven with the Hebrews signifies a multitude without number & the extremity of a thing & is a speech borrowed (I suppose) out of Leviticus where is so oft mention made of seven. Where I would say: I will punish thee that all the world shall take an ensample of thee, there the Jew would say, I will circumcise thee or baptize thee seven times. And so here by seven is meant all the devils of hell & all the might & power of the devil. For unto what further blindness could all the devils in hell bring them, than to make them believe that they were justified through their own good works. For when they once believed that they were purged from their sins & made righteous through their own holy works, what room was there left for the righteousness that is in Christ’s blood shedding? And therefore when they be fallen into this blindness they cannot but hate & persecute the light. And the more clear & evidently their deeds be rebuked the furiousser & maliciousser blind are they until they break out into open blasphemy & sinning against the Holy Ghost, which is the malicious persecuting of the clear truth so manifestly proved that they cannot once hiss against it. As the Pharisees persecuted Christ because he rebuked their holy deeds. And when he proved his doctrine with the scripture & miracles, yet though they could not improve him nor reason against him they thought that the scripture must have some other meaning because his interpretation undermined their foundation & plucked up by the roots the sects which they had planted, & they ascribed also his miracles to the devil. And in like manner though our hypocrites cannot deny but this is scripture, yet because there can be no other sense gathered thereof, but that overthrows their buildings, therefore they ever think that it hath some other meaning than as the words sound and that no man understands it or understood it since the time of the Apostles. Or if they think that some that wrote upon it since the Apostles understood it: they yet think that we in like manner as we understand not the text itself, so we understand not the meaning of the words of that doctor.

For when you lay the justifying of holy works and deny the justifying of faith, how can you understand Saint Paul, Peter, John and the Acts of the Apostles or any scripture at all, seeing the justifying of faith is almost all that they intend to prove.

Finally, concerning vows whereof you read chapter .xxx. there may be many questions, whereunto I answer shortly that we ought to put salt to all our offerings: that is, we ought to minister knowledge in all our works and to do nothing whereof we could not give a reason out of God’s words. We be now in the daylight, and all the secrets of God and all his counsel and will is opened unto us, and he that was promised should come and bless us, is come already and has shed his blood for us and has blessed us with all manner blessings and has obtained all grace for us, and in him we have all. Wherefore God henceforth will receive no more sacrifices of beasts of us as thou readest Hebre. x. If you burn unto God the blood or fat of beasts, to obtain forgiveness of sins thereby or that God should the better hear your request, then you do wrong unto the blood of Christ, and Christ unto you is dead in vain. For in him God has promised not forgiveness of sins only, but also whatsoever we ask to keep us from sin and temptation withal. And what if thou burn frankincense unto him, what if thou burn a candle, what if thou burn thy chastity or virginity unto him for the same purpose, do you not like rebuke unto Christ’s blood?

Wool ward — a harsh and pious act of self-denial.

Moreover if you offer gold silver or any other good for the same intent, is there any difference? And even so if you go in pilgrimage or fast or go wool ward or sprinkle yourself with holy water or else whatsoever deed it is, or observe whatsoever ceremony it be for like meaning, then it is like abomination. We must therefore bring the salt of the knowledge of God’s word with all our sacrifices, or else we shall make no sweet savor unto God thereof. You will ask me, shall I vow nothing at all? Yes, God’s commandment which you have vowed in your baptism. For what intent? verily for the love of Christ which has bought you with his blood & made you son & heir of God with him, that you should wait on his will & commandments and purify your members according to the same doctrine that has purified your heart, for if the knowledge of God’s word have not purified your heart, so that you consent unto the law of God that it is righteous & good and sorrowest, that thy members move thee unto the contrary, so have you no part with Christ.

For if you repent not of your sin, so it is impossible that you should believe that Christ had delivered you from the danger thereof. If you believe not that Christ has delivered you, so is it impossible that you should love God’s commandments. If you love not the commandments, so is Christ’s Spirit not in you which is the earnest of forgiveness of sin and of salvation.

For scripture teaches, first repentance then faith in Christ, that for his sake sin is forgiven to them that repent: then good works, which are nothing save the commandment of God only. And the commandments are nothing else save the helping of our neighbors at their need & the taming of our members that they might be pure also as the heart is pure through hate of vice and love of virtue as God’s word teaches us which works must proceed out of faith: that is, I must do them for the love which I have to God for that great mercy which he has shewed me in Christ, or else I do them not in the sight of God. And that I faint not in the pain of the slaying of the sin that is in my flesh, mine help is the promise of the assistance of the power of God and the comfort of the reward to come which reward I ascribe unto the goodness, mercy and truth of the promiser that has chosen me, called me, taught me and given me the earnest thereof, and not unto the merits of my doings or sufferings. For all that I do & suffer is but the way to the reward and not the deserving thereof. As if the king’s grace should promise me to defend me at home in mine own realm yet the way thither is through the sea wherein I might haply suffer no little trouble. And yet for all that, if I might live in rest when I come thither, I would think & so would others say, that my pains were well rewarded: which reward & benefit I would not proudly ascribe unto the merits of my painstaking by the way: but unto the goodness, mercifulness and constant truth of the king’s grace whose gift it is and to whom the praise and thank thereof belongs of duty and right. So now a reward is a gift given freely of the goodness of the giver and not of the deservings of the receiver. Thus it appears, that if I vow whatsoever it be, for any other purpose than to tame my members and to be an ensample of virtue and edifying unto my neighbor, my sacrifice is unsavory and clean without salt and my lamp without oil and I one of the foolish virgins and shall be shut out from the feast of the bridegroom when I think myself most sure to enter in.

If I vow voluntary poverty, this must be my purpose, that I will be content with a competent living which comes unto me either by succession of mine elders or which I get truly; with my labor in ministering and doing service unto the common wealth in one office or in another or in one occupation or other, because that riches and honor shall not corrupt my mind and draw mine heart from God, and to give an ensample of virtue and edifying unto others and that my neighbor may have a living by me as well as I, if I make a cloak of dissimulation of my vow, laying a net of feigned beggary to catch superfluous abundance of riches and high degree and authority & through the estimation of false holiness to feed and maintain my slothful idleness with the sweat, labor, lands, & rents of other men (after the ensample of our spiritualty) robbing them of their faiths and God of his honor turning unto mine hypocrisy that confidence, which should be given unto the promises of God only, am I not a wily fox & a ravening wolf in a lamb’s skin & a painted sepulcher fair without and filthy within? In like manner though I seek no worldly promotion thereby, yet if I do it to be justified therewith and to get an higher place in heaven, thinking that I do it of mine own natural strength & of the natural power of my freewill & that every man hath might even so to do and that they do it not is their fault & negligence and so with the proud Pharisee in comparison of myself despise the sinful publicans: what other thing do I than eat the blood & fat of my sacrifice devouring that myself which should be offered unto God alone and his Christ. And shortly whatsoever a man does of his natural gifts, of his natural wit, wisdom, understanding, reason, will, & good intent before he be otherwise & clean contrary taught of God’s Spirit & have received other wit and understanding, reason and will, is flesh, worldly and wrought in abominable blindness, with which a man can but seek himself, his own profit, glory & honor, even in very spiritual matters. As if I were alone in a wilderness where no man were to seek profit or praise of yet if I would seek heaven of God there, I could of mine own natural gifts seek it no other ways than for the merits and deservings of my good works and to enter therein by another way than by the door Christ, which were very theft, for Christ is Lord over all and whatsoever any man will have of God, he must have it given him freely for Christ’s sake. Now to have heaven for mine own deserving, is mine own praise and not Christ’s. For I cannot have it by favor & grace in Christ and by mine own merits also: For free giving and deserving cannot stand together.

If you will vow of your goods unto God you must put salt unto this sacrifice: that is you must minister knowledge in this deed as Peter teaches, 2 Pet. i. You must put oil of God’s word in your lamp & do it according to knowledge, if you wait for the coming of the bridegroom to enter in with him into his rest. You will hang it about the image to move men to devotion. Devotion is a fervent love unto God’s commandments and a desire to be with God and with his everlasting promises. Now shall the sight of such riches as are shewed at saint Thomas shrine or at Walsingham move a man to love the commandments of God better and to desire to be loosed from his flesh and to be with God, or shall it not rather make his poor heart sigh because he has no such at home and to wish part of it in another place?

The priest shall have it in God’s stead. Shall the priest have it? If the priest be bought with Christ’s blood, then he is Christ’s servant & not his own & ought therefore to feed Christ’s flock with Christ’s doctrine & to minister Christ’s sacraments unto them purely for very love & not for filthy lucre’s sake or to be lord over them as Peter teaches I Pet. v. & Paul Acts .xx. Besides this Christ is ours and is a gift given us, & we be heirs of Christ & of all that is Christ’s. Wherefore the priest’s doctrine is ours & we heirs of it, it is the food of our souls. Therefore if he minister it not truly and freely unto us without selling, he is a thief & a soul murderer: and even so is he if he take upon him to feed us & have not wherewith. And for a like conclusion because we also with all that we have be Christ’s, therefore is the priest heir with us also of all that we have received of God, wherefore inasmuch as the priest waits on the word of God and is our servant therein, therefore of right we are his debtors & owe him a sufficient living of our goods, and even thereto a wife of our daughters owe we unto him if he require her. And now when we have appointed him a sufficient living, whether in tithes rents or in yearly wages, he ought to be content & to require no more nor yet to receive anymore, but to be an ensample of soberness & of despising worldly things unto the ensample of his parishioners.

Will you vow to offer unto the poor people? that is pleasant in the sight of God, for they be left here to do our alms upon in Christ’s stead & they be the right heirs of all our abundance & overplus. Moreover we must have a school to teach God’s word in (though it needed not to be so costly) & therefore it is lawful to vow unto the building or maintenance thereof & unto helping of all good works. And we ought to vow to pay custom, toll, rent & all manner duties and whatsoever we owe: for that is God’s commandment.

If you will vow pilgrimage, you must put salt thereto in like manner if it shall be accepted, if you vow to go and visit the poor or to hear God’s word or whatsoever edifies your soul unto love & good works after knowledge or whatsoever God commands, it is well done and a sacrifice that savors well you will happily say, that you will go to this or that place because God hath chosen one place more than another and will hear your petition more in one place than another. As for your prayer it must be according to God’s word. You may not desire God to take vengeance on him whom God’s word teaches you to pity & to pray for. And as for the other gloss, that God will hear you more in one place than in another, I suppose it sal infatuatum, salt unsavory, for if it were wisdom how could we excuse the death of Steven Acts .vii. which died for that article that God dwells not in temples made with hands. We that believe in God are the temple of God says Paul, if a man love God & keep his word he is the temple of God & hath God presently dwelling in him, as witnesses Christ John .xiiii. saying: If a man love me he will keep my word, & then my father will love him & we will come unto him and dwell with him. And in the xv. he says: If you abide in me and my words also abide in you, then ask what you will & you shall have it. If you believe in Christ & have the promises which God has made you in your heart, then go on pilgrimage unto your own heart and there pray & God will hear you for his mercy and truth’s sake and for his Son Christ’s sake and not for a few stones’ sakes. What cares God for the temple? The very beasts in that they have life in them be much better than an heap of stones couched together.

To speak of chastity, it is a gift not given unto all persons testifies both Christ and also his apostle Paul, wherefore all persons may not vow it. Moreover there be cause wherefore many persons may better live chaste at one time than at another. Many may live chaste at twenty and thirty for certain cold diseases following them, which at forty when their health is come cannot do so. Many be occupied with wild phantasies in their youth that they care not for marriage which same when they be waxen sad shall be greatly desirous, it is a dangerous thing to make sin where none is and to forswear the benefit of God & to bind yourself under pain of damnation of your soul that you would not use the remedy that God has created if need required. Another thing is this, beware that thou get thee not a false feigned chastity made with the ungodly persuasions of saint Jerome or Ovid in his filthy book of the remedy against love, lest when through such imaginations you have utterly despised, defied and abhorred all womankind, you come into such case through the fierce wrath of God, that you can neither live chaste nor find in your heart to marry and so be compelled to fall into the abomination of the pope against nature and kind.

Moreover God is a wise Father & knows all the infirmities of his children & also merciful, and therefore has created a remedy without sin and given thereto his favor and blessing.

Let us not be wiser than God with our imaginations nor tempt him, for as godly chastity is not every man’s gift: even so he that hath it today hath not power to continue it at his own pleasure, neither hath God promised to give it him still & to cure his infirmities without his natural remedy no more than he hath promised to slake his hunger without meat or thirst without drink.

Wherefore either let all things bide free as wise God has created them & neither vow that which God requires not nor forswear that which God permits you with his favor and blessing also: or else if you will needs vow, then vow godly & under a condition, that you will continue chaste, so long as God gives you that gift and as long as neither your own necessity neither charity toward your neighbor nor the authority of them under whose power you are drive you unto the contrary.

The purpose of your vow must be salted also with the wisdom of God. You may not vow to be justified thereby or to make satisfaction for your sins or to win heaven nor an higher place: for then did you wrong unto the blood of Christ & your vow were plain idolatry & abominable in the sight of God. Your vow must be only unto the furtherance of the commandments of God, which are as I have said nothing but the taming of your members & the service of your neighbor: that is if you think your back too weak for the burthen of wedlock & that you cannot rule your wife, children servants and make provision for them godly & without overmuch busying and unquieting yourself and drowning yourself in worldly business unchristianly or that you can serve your neighbor in some office better being chaste than married. And then the vow is good & lawful. And even so must you vow abstinence of meats & drinks so far forth as it is profitable unto your neighbors & unto the taming of your flesh: But you may vow neither of them unto the slaying of your body. As Paul commands Timothy to drink wine & no more water because of his diseases. You will say that Timothy had not haply forsworn wine. I think the same and that the apostles forswore not wedlock though many of them lived chaste neither yet any meat or drink, though they abstained from them, & that it were good for us to follow their ensample. Howbeit though I vow & swear and think on none exception, yet is the breaking of God’s commandments excepted & all chances that hang of God. As if I swear to be in a certain place at a certain hour to make a love day without exception, yet if the king in the meantime command me another way, I must go by God’s commandment and yet break not mine oath. And in like case if my father and mother be sick and require my presence, or if my wife, children or household be visited that my assistance be required, or if my neighbor’s house be afire at the same hour and a thousand such chances: in which all I break mine oath and am not forsworn and so forth. Read God’s word diligently and with a good heart and it shall teach thee all things.

 

 

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A prologe in to the fourth boke of Moses, called Numeri.

In the seconde and thirde boke they receaved the lawe. And in this .iiii. they begynne to worke and to practyse. Of which practisynge ye se many good ensamples of vnbeleffe & what frewill doth, when she taketh in hand to kepe the lawe of her awne power with out help of fayth in the promyses of god: how she leueth her masters carkesses by the way in the wildernesse and bringeth them not in to the londe of rest. Why coude they not entre in? Because of their vnbeleffe Hebre. iii. For had they beleved, so had they bene vnder grace, and their old synnes had bene forgeuen them, and power shulde haue bene geuen them to haue fulfilled the lawe thenceforth & they shuld haue bene kepte from all temptacions that had bene to stronge for them. For it is wrytten Iohan .i. He gaue them power to be the sonnes of god, thorow belevynge in his name. Nowe to be the sonne of god is to loue god and his commaundmentes and to walke in his waye after the ensample of his sonne Christ. But these people toke vppon them to worke without faith as thou seyste in the .xiiii. of this boke, where they wold fight and also did, without the worde of promysse: euen when they were warned that they shuld not. And in the .xvi. agayne they wolde please god with their holye faithlesse workes (for where gods worde is not there can be no faith) but the fyre of god consumed their holy workes, as it did Nadab and Abihu Leui. x. And from these vnbeleuers turne thyne eyes vnto the pharesyes which before the comynge of Christ in his flesh, had layde the fundacion of frewill after the same ensample. Wher on thei bilt holy workes after their awne imaginacion with out faith of the worde, so fervently that for the greate zele of them they slew the kinge of all holy workes and the lorde of frewill which only thorow his grace maketh the will fre and lowseth her from bondage of synne, and geueth her loue and lust vnto the lawes of god, and power to fulfyll them. And so thorowe their holye workes done by the power of frewill, they excluded them selues out of the holy rest of forgeuenesse of synnes by faith in the bloude of Christ.

And then loke on oure ypocrites which in like maner folowinge the doctryne of Aristotle and other hethen paganes, haue agenste all the scripture sett vpp frewill agayne, vnto whose power they ascribe the kepynge of the commaundmentes of god. For they haue set vp wilfull povertye of a nother maner then any is commaunded of god. And the chastitie of matrimony vtterlye defyed, they haue set vp a nother wilfull chastite not required of god, whiche they swere, vowe & professe to geue god, whether he will geue it them or no, and compell all their disciples there vnto, sayenge that it is in the power of euery mans frewill to obserue it, contrarye to Christ and his apostle Paule.

And the obedience of god and man excluded they haue vowed a nother wilfull obedience condemned of all the scripture whiche they will yet geue God whether he will or wyll not.

And what is become of their wilfull pouertye? hath it not robbed the whole worlde & brought all vnder them? Can there be ether kynge or emperoure or of what soeuer degre it be, excepte he will hold of them and be sworne vnto them to be their servaunte, to go and come at their luste and to defende their quarels be they false or true? Their wilfull pouertye hath all readye eaten vpp the whole worlde & is yet still gredyar then euer it was in so moche that ten worldes mo were not ynough to satisfye the hongre therof.

Moreouer besydes dayly corruptinge of other mens wyues and open whoredome, vnto what abominacions to fylthye to be spoken off hath their voluntarye chastitie broughte them?

And as for their wilfull obedience what is it but the disobedience & the diffiaunce both of all the lawes of god & man: in so moch that yf any prince beginne to execute any law of man vppon them, they curse him vnto the botom of hell & proclayme him no right kinge & that his lordes ought no lenger to obaye him, and interdite his comen people as they were hethen turkes or saracenes. And yf any man preache them gods lawe, him they make an heretike and burne him to asshes. And in steade of gods lawe and mans, they haue sette vpp one off their awne imaginacin which they obserue with dispensacions.

And yet in these workes they haue so greate confidence that they not onlye truste to be saued therby, and to be hyer in heauen then they that be saued thorow christ: but also promesse to all other forgeuenesse of their synnes thorow the merites of the same. Wherin they rest and teach other to rest also, excludynge the whole worlde from the reste of forgeuenesse of synnes thorowe faith in Christes bloude.

And now seynge that faith only letteth a man in unto rest & vnbeleffe excludeth him, what is the cause of this vnbeleffe? verely no synne that the world seyth, but a pope holynesse & a rightuousnes of theire awne imaginacion as Paule sayeth Roma. x. They be ignoraunte of the rightuousnes wherwith god iustifieth & haue set vp a righteuousnes of their awne makinge thorow which they be disobedient vnto the rightuousnes of god. And Christ rebuketh not the phariseys for grosse synnes whiche the worlde sawe, but for those holye deades whiche so blered the eyes of the worlde that they were taken as goddes: euen for long prayers, for fastynge, for tythinge so diligently that they lefte not so moch as their herbes vntithed, for their clennesse in wasshynge before meate and for washynge of cuppes, dishes, and all maner vessel, for buyldinge the prophetes sepulchres, and for kepinge the holy daye, and for turnynge the hethen vnto the fayth, and for gevynge of almes. For vnto soch holy deades they ascribed rightuousnes and therfore when the rightuousnesse of god was preached vnto them they coude not but persecute it, the devell was so stronge in them. Which thinge Christ well describeth Luce .xi. sayenge that after the devell is cast out he cometh agayne and fyndeth his house swepte and made gaye and then taketh seuen worse then him selfe and dwelleth therein, and so is the ende of that man worse then the beginnynge. That is, when they be a litle clensed from grosse synnes whiche the worlde seyth and then made gaye in their awne syght with the rightuousnes of tradicions, then cometh seuen, that is to saye the hole power of the devell, for seuen with the hebrues signifieth a multitude without numbre & the extremyte of a thinge & is a speach borowed (I suppose) out of leuiticus where is so oft mencion made of seuen. Where I wolde saye: I will punish the that all the world shall take an ensample of the, there the Iewe wold saye, I will circumcyse the or baptise the .vii. tymes. And so here by seuen is ment all the devels of hell & all the might & power of the devell. For vnto what further blindnesse coude al the deuels in hell bringe them, then to make them beleue that they were iustified thorow their awne good workes. For when they once beleued that they were purged from their synnes & made rightuousse thorowe their awne holye workes, what rowme was there lefte for the rightuousnes that is in christes bloudeshedinge? And therfore when they be fallen in to this blindnesse they can not but hate & persecute the light. And the more cleare & evidently their deades be rebuked the furiousser & maliciousser blind are thei vntill they breake out in to open blasphemye & synnynge agenst the holy gost, which is the malicious persecutinge of the cleare trouth so manifestly proued that they can not once hijsh agenst it. As the pharesyes persecuted Christ because he rebuked their holy deades. And when he proued his doctrine with the scripture & miracles, yet though they coude not improue him nor reason agenst him they tought that the scripture must haue some other meaninge because his interpretacion vndermyned their fundacion & plucked vpp by the rootes the sectes which they had planted, & they ascribed also his miracles to the deuell. And in like maner though oure ypocrites can not denye but this is scripture, yet because there can be no nother sense gathered thereof, but that ouerthroweth their byldynges, therfore they euer thinke that it hath some other meanynge than as the wordes sounde and that no man vnderstondeth it or vnderstode it sens the tyme of the Apostles. Or yf they thynke that some that wrote vppon it sens the apostles vnderstode it: they yet thynke that we in like maner as we vnderstonde not the texte it selfe, so we vnderstande not the meanynge of the wordes of that doctoure.

For when thou layest the iustifyinge of holy workes and denyest the iustifyinge of fayth, howe canst thou vnderstond saynt Paule, Peter, Iohan and the Actes of the apostles or any scripture at all, seynge the iustifyinge of faith is almost all that they entende to proue.

Fynally, concernynge vowes whereof thou readest chaptre .xxx. there maye be many questyons, whereunto I answere shortly that we ought to put salt to all oure offerynges: that is, we ought to ministre knowledge in all ovre workes and to do nothinge whereof we coude not geue a reason out off gods wordes. We be now in the daye light, and all the secretes of God and all his counsell and will is opened vnto vs, and he that was promysed shuld come and blesse vs, is come all readye and hath shed his bloud for vs and hath blessed vs with all maner blessynges and hath obtayed all grace for vs, and in him we haue all. Wherfore god henceforth will receaue no moare sacrifices of beestes of vs as thou readest Hebre. x. Yf thou burne vnto god the bloud or fatt of beestes, to obtayne forgeuenesse of synnes therby or that god shuld the better heare thy request, then thou doest wronge vnto the bloude of christ, and christ vnto the is dead in vaine. For in him god hath promysed not forgeuenesse of synnes only, but also what soeuer we axe to kepe vs from synne and temptacion with all. And what yf thou burne frankencens vnto him, what yf thou burne a candle, what yf thou burne thi chastite or virginite vnto him for the same purposse, doest thou not like rebuke vnto christes bloude?

Moreouer yf thou offer gold syluer or any other good for the same entent, is there any difference? And euen so if thou go in pilgrymage or fastist or goest wolward or sprinclest thy selfe with holy water or els what soeuer dead it is, or obseruest what soeuer ceremonye it be for like meanynge, then it is like abhominacion. We must therfore bringe the salt of the knowledge of gods worde with all oure sacrifices, or els we shall make no swete sauoure vnto God thereof. Thou wilt axe me, shall I vowe nothynge at all? yes, gods commaundement whiche thou hast vowed in thy baptyme. For what entent? verely for the loue of Christ whiche hath bought the with his bloude & madde the sonne & heyre of god with him, that thou shuldest wayte on his will & commaundementes and puryfye thy membres acordinge to the same doctryne that hath puryfyed thyne harte, for if the knowlege of gods worde haue not puryfyed thyne harte, so that thou consentest vnto the lawe of god that it is rightuousse & good and sorowest, that thy membres moue the vnto the contrarye, so hast thou no parte with Christe.

For yf thou repent not of thy synne, so it is impossible that thou shuldest beleue that Christe had delyuered the from the daunger therof. Yf thou beleue not that Christe hathe delyuered the, so is it impossible that thou shuldest loue goddes commaundementes. Yf thou loue not the commaundementes, so is Christes sprete not in the whiche is the erneste off forgeuenesse of synne and of saluacion.

For scripture teacheth, first repentaunce then fayth in Christ, that for his sake synne is forgeuen to them that repent: then good workes, whiche are nothynge saue the commaundement of god only. And the commaundementes are nothinge els saue the helpinge of oure neyghboures at their neade & the tamyinge of oure membres that they myghte be pure also as the harte is pure thorow hate of vice and loue of vertue as gods worde teacheth vs which workes must procede out of faith: that is, I must do them for the loue which I haue to god for that greate mercye which he hath shewed me in christ, or els I do them not in the sight of god. And that I faynte not in the payne of the sleyinge of the synne that is in my flesh, myne helpe is the promesse of the assistence of the power of god and the comforte of the rewarde to come which rewarde I ascribe vnto the goodnesse, mercye and truth of the promiser that hath chose me, called me, taught me and geuen me the ernest therof, and not vnto the merites of my doenges or soferinges. For all that I do & soffre is but the waye to the rewarde and not the deseruinge thereof. As if the kinges grace shuld promesse me to defend me at whome in myne awne royalme yet the waye thyther is thorow the see wherin I might happlye soffre no litle trouble. And yet for all that, yf I might lyue in rest when I come thither, I wold think & so wold other saye, that my paynes were well rewarded: which reward & benefyte I wold not proudlye ascribe vnto the merites of my paynes takynge by the waye: but vnto the goodnesse, mercyfulnesse and constaunt truth of the kinges grace whose gifte it is and to whome the prayse and thanke therof belongeth of duetye and right. So now a rewarde is a gift geuen frelye of the goodnesse of the geuer and not of the deseruinges of the receauer. Thus it appeareth, that if I vowe what soeuer it be, for any other purposse then to tame my membres and to be an ensample of vertue and edefyenge vnto my neyghboure, my sacrifice is vnsauery and cleane without salt and my lampe without oyle and I one of the folysh virginis and shalbe shutt out from the feast of the brydegrome when I think my self most sure to entre in.

Yf I vowe voluntary pouerty, this must be my purposse, that I will be content with a competent lyuinge which cometh vnto me ether by succession of myne elders or which I gette truly; with my laboure in ministringe and doynge seruice vnto the comen welth in one office or in a nother or in one occupatyon or other, because that riches and honoure shall not corrupte my mynde and drawe myne harte from god, and to geue an ensample of vertue and edefyinge vnto other and that my neyghboure may haue a lyuinge by me as well as I, if I make a cloke of dissimulacion of my vowe, laynge a net of fayned beggerye to catch superflous aboundaunce of ryches and hye degre and authority & thorow the estimacion of false holinesse to fede and maintayne my slowthfull ydlenesse with the sweate, laboure, landes, & rentes of other men (after the ensample or oure spiritualtye) robbinge them of their faythes and god of his honoure turnynge vnto myne ypocrisye that confidence, which shuld be geuen vnto the promyses of god only, am I not a wilye fox & a raueningne wolfe in a lambes skynne & a paynted sepulchre fayre without and filthye with in? In like maner though I seke no worldlye promocyon therebye, yet if I do it to be iustifyed therwith and to gett an hyer place in heauen, thinkynge that I do it of myne awne naturall strength & of the naturall power of my frewill & that euery man hath might euen so to doo and that they do it not is their faute & negligence and so with the proude pharesye in comparyson of my self despise the sinfull publicanes: what other thinge do I then eate the bloude & fatt of my sacrifice devowringe that my self which shuld be offered vnto god alone and his christe. And shortly what soeuer a man doeth of his naturall giftes, of his naturall witte, wisdom, vnderstondinge, reason, will, & good entent before he be otherwyse & cleane contrary taught of goddes sprete & haue receaued other witt and vnderstondinge, reason and will, is flesh, worldlye and wrought in abominable blindnesse, with which a man can but seke him self, his awne profyte, glory & honoure, euen in very spirituall matters. As if I were alone in a wildernesse where no man were to seke profite or prayse of yet if I wold seke heuen of god there, I coude of myne awne naturall gyftes seke it no nother wayes then for the merites and deseruinges of my good workes and to entre therin by a nother waye then by the dore christ, which were very thefte, for christ is lord ouer all and what so euer any man wil haue of god, he must haue it geuen him frelye for christes sake. Now to haue heauen for myne awne deseruinge, is myne awne prayse and not christes. For I can not haue it by fauoure & grace in christ and by myne awne merites also: For fregeuinge and deseruinge can not stond to gether.

Yf thou wilt vowe of thy goodes vnto god thou must put salt vnto this sacrifice: that is thou must ministre knowlege in this deade as Peter teacheth. 2 pet. i. Thou must put oyle of gods worde in thy lampe & do it accordinge to knowlege, if thou wayte for the comynge of the bridegrome to entre in with him in to his rest. Thou wilt hange it aboute the image to moue men to deuocyon. Deuocyon is a feruent loue vnto gods commaundmentes and a desyre to be with god and with his euerlastinge promyses. Now shall the sight of soch riches as are shewed at saynt thomas shryne or at walsingham moue a man to loue the commaundementes of god better and to desyre to be loosed from his flesh and to be with god, or shall it not rather make his poore herte sigh because he hath no soch at home and to wysh parte of it in a nother place?

The preast shall haue it in gods stead. Shall the preast haue it? Yf the preast be bought with christes bloude, then he is christes seruaunte & not his awne & ought therefore to feade christes flocke with christes docryne & to ministre christes sacramentes vnto them purely for very loue & not for felthy lucres sake or to be lord ouer them as Peter teacheth I pt. v. & paule Actes .xx. Besyde this christ is oures and is a gifte geuen vs, & we be heyres of christ & of all that is christes Wherfore the preastes doctryne is oures & we heires of it, it is the fode of oure soules. Therfore if he ministre it not truly and frely vnto us with out fellinge, he is a thefe & a soule murtherar: and euen so is he if he take vppon him to fede vs & haue not wherewith. And for a like conclusyon because we also with all that we haue be christes, therfore is the preast heyre with vs also of all that we haue receaued of god, wherfore in as moch as the preast wayteth on the worde of god and is oure seruaunte therin, therfore of right we are his dettars & owe him a sufficyent lyuinge of oure goodes, and euen therto a wiffe of oure doughters owe we vnto him if he requyre her. And now when we haue appoynted him a sufficient liuinge, whether in tythes rentes or in yerelye wages, he ought to be content & to require no more nor yet to receaue any more, but to be an ensample of sobernesse & of dispysinge worldy thinges vnto the ensample of his parysheonars.

Wilt thou vowe to offre vnto the poore people? that is pleasaunte in the sight of god, for they be lefte here to do oure almes apon in christes stead & they be the right heyres of all oure abundaunce & ouerplus. Moreouer we must haue a scole to teach goddes worde in (though it neded not to be so costely) & therfore it is lawfull to vowe vnto the buyldynge or mayntenaunce therof & vnto helpinge of all good werkes. And we ought to vowe to paye custome, tolle, rent & all maner dutyes and what soeuer we owe: for that is gods commaundment.

Yf thou wilt vowe pilgrimage, thou must put salt therto in like maner if it shalbe accepted, if thou vowe to go and viset the poore or to here gods worde or what soeuer edifieth thy soule vnto loue & good worke after knowlege or what soeuer god commaundeth, it is well done and a sacrifyce that sauoreth well ye will happlye saye, that ye will go to this or that place because god hath chosen one place more then a nother and will heare youre peticyon more in one place then a nother. As for youre prayer it must be accordinge to goddes worde. Ye may not desyer god to take vengeaunce on him whom goddes worde teacheth you to pytye & to praye for. And as for the other glose, that god will heare you more in one place then in a nother, I suppose it sal infatuatum, salt vnsauerye, for if it were wisdome how coude we excuse the deeth of steuen Acts .vii. which dyed for that article that god dwelleth not in temples made with handes we that beleue in god are the temple of god sayth paule, if a man loue god & kepe his worde he is the temple of god & hath god presently dwellinge in him, as witnesseth christ Iohan .xiiii. sayenge: If a man loue me he will kepe my worde, & then my father will loue him & we will come vnto him and dwell with him. And in the .xv. he sayth: it ye abyde in me and my wordes also abyde in you, then axe what ye will & ye shall haue it. If thou beleue in christ & hast the promyses which god hath made the in thyne harte, then go on pilgrymage vnto thyne awne harte and there praye & god will heare the for his mercy and truthes sake and for his sonne christes sake and not for a few stones sakes. What careth god for the temple? The very beestes in that they haue liffe in them be moch better then an hepe of stonnes couched to gether.

To speake of chastite, it is a gifte not geuen vnto all persones testifyeth both christ and also his apostle Paule, wherfore all persones maye not vowe it. Moreouer there be cause wherfore many persones maye better lyue chast at one tyme then at a nother. Many maye lyue chast at twentye and thiryte for certayne colde diseases folowinge them, which at .xl. when their helth is come can not do so. Many be occupyed with wylde phantasyes in their youth that they care not for mariage which same when they be waxen sad shalbe greatly desyrouse, yt is a daungerous thynge to make synne where none is and to forswere the benefyte of god & to bynde thy self vnder payne of damnacyon of thy soule that thou woldest not vse the remeadye that god hath created if nead requyred. A nother thinge is this, beware that thou gett the not a false fayned chastite made with the vngodly perswasions of saynte Hierom or Ouide in his fylthye boke of the remedye agenst loue, lest when thorow soch imaginacyons thou hast vtterlye despysed, defyed and abhorred all woman kynde, thou come in to soch case thorow the firce wrath of god, that thou canst nether lyue chast nor fynde in thy harte to marye and so be compelled to faule into the abhominacion of the pope agenst nature and kynde.

Moreouer god is a wyse father & knoweth all the infirmityes of his children & also mercyfull, and therfore hath created a remedye without synne and geuen therto his fauoure and blessinge.

Let vs not be wyser then god with oure ymaginacyons nor tempte him, for as godly chastite is not euery mans gyfte: euen so he that hath it to daye hath not power to continue it at his awne pleasure, nether hath god promysed to geue it him still & to cure his infirmytyes with out his natuarall remeadye no more then he hath promysed to slake his hongre with out meate or thirst with out drinke.

Wherfore other let all thinges byde fre as wise god hath created them & nother vowe that which god requyreth not nor forswere that which god permitteth the with his fauoure and blessinge also: or els if thou wilt neades vowe, then vowe godly & vnder a condityon, that thou wilt contynue chast, so longe as god geueth the that gyfte and as longe as nether thyne awne necessyte nether cheryte toward thy neighboure nor the authoritye of them vndre whose power thou arte dryue the vnto the contrarye.

The purposse of thy vowe must be salted also with the wisdom of god. Thou mayest not vowe to be iustefyed therbye or to make satisfaction for thy synnes or to wynne heauen nor an heyr place: for then didest thou wronge vnto the bloude of christ & thy vowe were playne Idolatrye & abhominable in the sight of god. Thy vowe must be only vnto the furtheraunce of the commaundmentes of god, which are as I haue sayde nothinge but the taminge of thy membres & the seruice of thy neyghboure: that is if thou thyncke thy backe to weake for the burthen of wedlocke & that thou canst not rule thy wiff, children seruantes and make prouision for them godlye & with out ouermoch busyenge and vnquyetynge thy self and drounynge thy self in worldly busynesse vnchristenly or that thou canst serue thy neyghboure in some office better beynge chast then maryed. And then the vowe is good & lawfull. And euen so must thou vowe abstinence of meates & drynkes so far forth as it is profitable vnto thy neyghbours & vnto the taminge of thy flesh: But thou mayst vowe nether of them vnto the sleynge of thy bodye. As Paule commaundeth tymothe to drincke wyne & no moare water because of his deseases. Thou wilt saye that timothy had not happlye forsworne wyne. I thinke the same and that the apostles forsware not wedlocke though many of them lyued chast nother yet any meate or drincke, though they absteyned from them, & that it were good for vs to folow their ensample. How be it thou I vowe & swere and thynke on none exceptyon, yet is the breakynge of gods commaundmentes except & all chaunces that hange of god. As if I swere to be in a certayne place at a certayne houre to make a louedaye with out exception, yet if the kinge in the meane tyme commaunde me a nother waye, I must goo by gods commaundment and yet breake not myne othe. And in like case if my father and mother be seke and requyre my presence, or if my wiff, children or houshold be visited that my assistence be requyred, or if my neyghbours house be a fyre at the same houre and a thousand soch chaunces: in which all I breake myne oth and am not forsworne and so forth. Read gods word diligently and with a good herte and it shall teach the all thynges.