295. THE LETTERS OF MASTER BRADFORD.
This godly Bradford and heavenly martyr, during the time of his imprisonment, wrote sundry comfortable treatises, and many godly letters; of which, some he wrote to the city of London, Cambridge, Walden, Lancashire, and Cheshire, and divers to his other private friends. By the which foresaid letters, to the intent it may appear how godly this man occupied his time being prisoner, what special zeal he bare to the state of Christ's church, what care he had to perform his office, how earnestly he admonished all men, how tenderly he comforted the heavy-hearted, how faithfully he confirmed those whom he had taught, I thought here good to place the same: and although to exhibit here all the letters that he wrote (being in number so many, that they are able to fill a book) it cannot well be compassed, yet, nevertheless, we mind to excerpt the principal of them; referring the reader for the residue to the book of Letters of the Martyrs, where they may he found.
And first, forasmuch as ye heard in the story before, how the earl of Derby complained in the parliament house, of certain letters written of John Bradford out of prison, to Lancashire, and also how he was charged both of the bishop of Winchester and of Master Allen with the same letters; to the intent the reader more perfectly may understand what letters they were, being written indeed to his mother, brethren, and sisters, out of the Tower, before his condemnation, we will begin first with the same letters; the copy, with the contents whereof, is this, as followeth.
A comfortable letter of Master Bradford to his mother, a godly matron, dwelling in Manchester, and to his brethren and sisters, and other of his friends there.
"Our dear and sweet Saviour Jesus Christ -- whose prisoner at this present (praised be his name there-for) I am -- preserve and keep you, my good mother, with my brothers and sisters, my father, John Treves, Thomas Sorrocold, Laurence and James Bradshaw, with their wives and families, &c., now and for ever. Amen.
"I am at this present in prison, (sure enough for starting,) to confirm that I have preached unto you: as I am ready, I thank God, with my life and blood to seal the same, if God vouchsafe me worthy of that honour. For, good mother and brethren, it is a most special benefit of God, to suffer for his name's sake and gospel, as now I do: I heartily thank God for it, and am sure that with him I shall be partaker of his glory; as Paul saith, If we suffer with him, we shall reign with him. Therefore be not faint-hearted, but rather rejoice, at the least for my sake, which now am in the right and high way to heaven: for by many afflictions we must enter into the kingdom of heaven. Now will God make known his children. When the wind doth not blow, then cannot a man know the wheat from the chaff; but when the blast cometh, then flieth away the chaff, but the wheat remaineth, and is so far from being hurt, that by the wind it is more cleansed from the chaff, and known to be wheat. Gold, when it is cast into the fire, is the more precious: so are God's children by the cross of affliction. Always God beginneth his judgment at his house. Christ and the apostles were in most misery in the land of Jewry, but yet the whole land smarted for it after; so now God's children are first chastised in this world, that they should not be damned with the world; for surely, great plagues of God hang over this realm.
"Ye all know there was never more knowledge of God, and less godly living, and true serving of God. It was counted a foolish thing to serve God truly, and earnest prayer was not past upon. Preaching was but a pastime. The communion was counted too common. Fasting to subdue the flesh, was far out of use. Alms was almost nothing. Malice, covetousness, and uncleanness, were common every where, with swearing, drunkenness, and idleness. God therefore now is come, as you have heard me preach, and because he will not damn us with the world, he beginneth to punish us -- as me for my carnal living. For, as for my preaching, I am most certain it is and was God's truth, and I trust to give my life for it, by God's grace: but because I lived not the gospel truly, but outwardly, therefore doth he thus punish me; nay, rather in punishing blesseth me. And indeed I thank him more of this prison, than of any parlour, yea, than of any pleasure that ever I had: for in it I find God my most sweet good God always. The flesh is punished, first, to admonish us now heartily to live as we profess; secondly, to certify the wicked of their just damnation, if they repent not.
"Perchance you are weakened in that which I have preached, because God doth not defend it, as you think, but suffereth the popish doctrine to come again and prevail: but you must know, good mother, that God by this doth prove and try his children and people, whether they will unfeignedly and simply hang on him and his word. So did he with the Israelites, bringing them into a desert, after their coming out of Egypt, where (I mean the wilderness) was want of all things, in comparison of that which they had in Egypt. Christ, when he came into this world, brought no worldly wealth nor quietness with him, but rather war: The world, saith he, shall rejoice, but ye shall mourn and weep; but your weeping shall be turned into joy. And therefore happy are they that mourn and weep, for they shall be comforted. They are marked then with God's mark in their foreheads, and not with the beast's mark -- I mean the pope's shaven crown, who now, with his shavelings, rejoice: but woe unto them, for they shall be cast down! they shall weep and mourn. The rich glutton had here his joy, and Lazarus sorrow; but afterwards the time was changed. The end of carnal joy is sorrow. Now let the whoremonger joy with the drunkard, swearer, covetous, malicious, and blind buzzard, Sir John: for the mass will not bite them, neither make them to blush, as preaching would. Now may they do what they will,-- come devils to the church, and go devils home -- for no man must find fault: and they are glad of this. Now they have their heart's desire, as the Sodomites had when Lot was gone. But what followed! Forsooth when they cried, 'Peace; all shall be well!' then came God's vengeance, fire and brimstone from heaven, and burnt up every mother's child: even so, dear mother, will it do to our papists.
"Wherefore fear God; stick to his word though all the world swerve from it. Die you must once; and when, or how, can you not tell. Die therefore with Christ; suffer for serving him truly and after his word: for sure may we be, that of all deaths it is most to be desired to die for God's sake. This is the most safe kind of dying: we cannot doubt but that we shall go to heaven, if we die for his name's sake. And that you shall die for his name's sake, God's word will warrant you, if you stick to that which God by me hath taught you. You shall see that I speak as I think; for, by God's grace, I will drink before you of this cup, if I be put to it.
"I doubt not but God will give me his grace, and strengthen me thereunto: pray that he would, and that I refuse it not. I am at a point, even when my Lord God will, to come to him. Death nor life, prison nor pleasure, (I trust in God,) shall be able to separate me from my Lord God and his gospel. In peace, when no persecution was, then were you content and glad to hear me; then did you believe me: and will ye not do so now, seeing I speak that which I trust by God's grace, if need be, to verify with my life? Good mother, I write before God to you, as I have preached before him.
"It is God's truth I have taught: it is that same infallible word whereof he said, Heaven and earth shall pass, but my word shall not pass. The mass, and such baggage as the false worshippers of God and enemies of Christ's cross (the papists I say) have brought in again, to poison the church of God withal, displeaseth God highly, and is abominable in his sight. Happy may be he which of conscience suffereth loss of life or goods in disallowing it! Come not at it. If God be God, follow him: if the mass be God, let them that will, see it, hear, or be present at it, and go to the devil with it. What is there as God ordained? His supper was ordained to be received of us in the memorial of his death, for the confirmation of our faith, that his body was broken for us, and his blood shed for pardon of our sins: but in the mass there is no receiving, but the priest keepeth all to himself alone. Christ saith, take, eat: No, saith the priest, Gape, peep.' There is a sacrificing, yea, killing of Christ again as much as they may. There is idolatry in worshipping the outward sign of bread and wine. There is all in Latin: you cannot tell what he saith. To conclude, there is nothing as God ordained. Wherefore, my good mother, come not at it.
"'Oh,' will some say, 'it will hinder you, if you refuse to come to mass, and to do as other do.' But God will further you, (be you assured,) as you shall one day find; who hath promised to them that suffer hinderance or loss of any thing in this world, his great blessing here, and, in the world to come, life everlasting.
"You shall be counted a heretic: but not of others than of heretics, whose praise is a dispraise. You are not able to reason against the priests, but God will that all they shall not be able to withstand you. Nobody will do so but you only. Indeed no matter, for few enter into the narrow gate which bringeth to salvation. Howbeit, you shall have with you (I doubt not) father Traves, and other my brothers and sisters to go with you therein: but, if they will not, I your son in God, I trust, shall not leave you an inch, but go before you. Pray that I may, and give thanks for me. Rejoice in my suffering, for it is for your sakes, to confirm the truth I have taught. Howsoever you do, beware this letter come not abroad, but into father Traves' hands: for, if it should be known that I have pen and ink in the prison, then would it be worse with me. Therefore to yourselves keep this letter, commending me to God and his mercy in Christ Jesus, who make me worthy for his name's sake, to give my life for his gospel and church' sake.-- Out of the Tower of London, the sixth day of October, 1553.
"My name I write not for causes, you know it well enough: like the letter never the worse. Commend me to all our good brethren and sisters in the Lord. Howsoever you do, be obedient to the higher powers, that is, in no point either in hand or tongue rebel; but rather, if they command that which with good conscience you cannot obey, lay your head on the block, and suffer whatsoever they shall do or say. By patience possess your souls."
After the time that Master Bradford was condemned, and sent to the Compter, it was purposed of his adversaries (as ye heard before) that he should be had to Manchester, where he was born, and there be burned. Whereupon he writeth to the city of London, thinking to take his last vale of them in this letter.
A fruitful letter to the city of London.
"To all that profess the gospel and true doctrine of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the city of London, John Bradford, a most unworthy servant of the Lord, now not only in prison, but also excommunicated and condemned to be burned for the same true doctrine, wisheth mercy, grace, and peace, with increase of all godly knowledge and piety from God the Father of mercy, through the merits of our alone and omni-sufficient Redeemer Jesus Christ, by the operation of the Holy Spirit for ever. Amen.
My dearly beloved brethren in our Saviour Christ! although the time I have to live is very little, (for hourly I look when I should be had hence, to be conveyed into Lancashire, there to be burned, and to render my life, by the providence of God, where I first received it by the same providence,) and although the charge is great to keep me from all things whereby I might signify any thing to the world of my state; yet having, as now I have, pen and ink, through God's working, maugre the head of Satan and his soldiers, I thought good to write a short confession of my faith, and thereto join a little exhortation unto you all, to live according to your profession.
"First, for my faith, I do confess, and pray all the whole congregation of Christ to bear witness with me of the same, that I believe constantly, through the gift and goodness of God, (for faith is God's only gift,) all the twelve articles of the symbol or creed, commonly attributed to the collection of the apostles. This my faith I would gladly particularly declare and expound to the confirmation and comfort of the simple; but, alas! by starts and stealth I write in manner that I write, and therefore I shall desire you all to take this brevity in good part. And this faith I hold, not because of the creed itself, but because of the word of God, the which teacheth and confirmeth every article accordingly. This word of God, written by the prophets and apostles, left and contained in the canonical books of the whole Bible, I do believe to contain plentifully all things necessary to salvation, so that nothing (as necessary to salvation) ought to be added thereto; and therefore the church of Christ, nor none of his congregation, ought to be burdened with any other doctrine, than what, hereout, hath its foundation and ground. In testimony of this faith, I render and give my life, being condemned as well for not acknowledging the antichrist of Rome to be Christ's vicar-general and supreme head of his catholic and universal church here or elsewhere upon earth; as for denying the horrible and idolatrous doctrine of transubstantiation, and Christ's real, corporal, and carnal presence in his supper, under the forms and accidents of bread and wine.
"To believe Christ our Saviour to be the Head of his church, and kings in their realms to be the supreme powers, to whom every soul oweth obedience, and to believe that in the supper of Christ (which the sacrament of the altar, as the papists call it, and use it, doth utterly overthrow) is a true and very presence of whole Christ, God and man, to the faith of the receiver, but not to the stander-by and looker-upon, as it is a true and very presence of bread and wine to the senses of men: to believe this, I say, will not serve, and therefore as a heretic I am condemned, and shall be burned; whereof I ask God heartily mercy that I do no more rejoice than I do, having so great cause, as to be an instrument wherein it may please my dear Lord God and Saviour to suffer.
"For albeit my manifold sins, even since I came into prison, have deserved at the hands of God, not only this temporal, but also eternal fire in hell, much more then my former sinful life, which the Lord pardon for his Christ's sake, as I know he of his mercy hath done, and never will lay mine iniquities to my charge, to condemnation, so great is his goodness (praised therefore be his holy name): although, I say, my manifold and grievous late sins have deserved most justly all the tyranny that man or devil can do unto me; and therefore I confess that the Lord is just, and that his judgments be true and deserved on my behalf; yet the bishops and prelates do not persecute them in me, but Christ himself, his word, his truth, and religion. And therefore I have great cause, yea, most great cause, to rejoice that ever I was born, and hitherto kept of the Lord; that by my death, which is deserved for my sins, it pleaseth the heavenly Father to glorify his name, to testify his truth, to confirm his verity, to repugn his adversaries. O good God and merciful Father, forgive my great unthankfulness, especially herein!
"And you, my dearly beloved, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, I humbly and heartily, in his bowels and blood, do now (for my last vale and farewell in this present life) beseech you, and every of you, that you will consider this work of the Lord accordingly. First, by me be admonished to beware of hypocrisy and carnal security: profess not the gospel with tongue and lips only, but in heart and verity: frame and fashion your lives accordingly: beware God's name be not evil spoken of, and the gospel less regarded by your conversation. God forgive me that I have not so heartily professed it as I should have done, but have sought much myself therein. The gospel is a new doctrine to the old man; it is new wine; and therefore cannot be put in old bottles, without more great hurt than good to the bottles. If we will talk with the Lord, we must put off our shoes and carnal affections: if we will hear the voice of the Lord, we must wash our garments and be holy: if we will be Christ's disciples, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ. We cannot serve two masters. If we seek Christ's kingdom, we must seek also for the righteousness thereof. To this petition, Let thy kingdom come, we must join, Thy will be done, done on earth as it is in heaven. If we will not be doers of the word, but hearers of it only, we sore deceive ourselves: if we hear the gospel, and love it not, we declare ourselves to be but fools, and builders upon the sand. The Lord's Spirit hateth feigning; deceitfulness the Lord abhorreth; if we come to him, we must beware that we come not with a double heart; for then may chance that God will answer us according to the block which is in our heart, and so we shall deceive ourselves and others.
"To faith see that we couple a good conscience, lest we make a shipwreck. To the Lord we must come with fear and reverence. If we will be gospellers, we must be Christ's; if we be Christ's, we must crucify our flesh with the lusts and concupiscences thereof; if we will be under grace, sin must not bear rule in us. We may not come to the Lord, and draw nigh to him with our lips, and leave our hearts elsewhere, lest the Lord's wrath wax hot, and he take from us the good remaining. In no case can the kingdom of Christ approach to them that repent not. Therefore, my dearly beloved, let us repent, and be heartily sorry that we have so carnally, so hypocritically, so covetously, so vaingloriously, professed the gospel. For all these I confess myself, to the glory of God, that he may cover mine offences in the day of judgment. Let the anger and plagues of God (most justly fallen upon us) be applied to every one of our deserts; that, from the bottom of our hearts, every one of us may say, It is I, Lord, that have sinned against thee: it is my hypocrisy, my vain-glory, my covetousness, uncleanness, carnality, security, idleness, unthankfulness, self-love, and such like, which have deserved the taking away of our good king; of thy word and true religion; of thy good ministers by exile, imprisonment, and death; it is my wickedness that causeth success and increase of authority and peace to thine enemies. O be merciful, be merciful unto us! Turn to us again, O Lord of hosts, and turn us unto thee: correct us, but not in thy fury, lest we be consumed in thine anger: chastise us not in thy wrathful displeasure: reprove us not, but in the midst of thine anger remember thy mercy! For if thou mark what is done amiss, who shall be able to abide it? but with thee is mercifulness, that thou mightest be worshipped. O then be merciful unto us, that we might truly worship thee! Help us for the glory of thy name: be merciful unto our sins, for they are great. O heal us and help us, for thine honour. Let not the wicked people say, Where is their God? &c.
"On this sort, my right dearly beloved, let us heartily bewail our sins; repent us of our former evil life; heartily and earnestly purpose to amend our lives in all things; continually watch in prayer; diligently and reverently attend, hear, and read the Holy Scriptures; labour after our vocation to amend our brethren. Let us reprove the works of darkness: let us fly from all idolatry: let us abhor the antichristian and Romish rotten service; detest the popish mass; abrenounce their Romish god; prepare ourselves to the cross; be obedient to all that are in authority in all things that be not against God and his word,-- for then, answer with the apostles, It is more meet to obey God than man. Howbeit, never for any thing resist or rise against the magistrates. Avenge not yourselves, but commit your cause to the Lord, to whom vengeance pertaineth; and he, in his time, will reward it. If you feel in yourselves a hope and trust in God, that he will never tempt you above that he will make you able to bear, be assured the Lord will be true to you, and you shall be able to bear all brunts: but, if you want this hope, fly, and get you hence, rather than, by your tarrying, God's name should be dishonoured.
"In sum, cast your care on the Lord, knowing for most certain, that he is careful for you. With him all the hairs of your head are numbered, so that not one of them shall perish without his good pleasure and will; much more then, nothing shall happen to your bodies, which shall not be profitable, howsoever for a time it seem otherwise to your senses. Hang on the providence of God, not only when you have means to help you, but also when you have no means,-- yea, when all means be against you. Give him this honour, which of all other things he most chiefly requireth at your hands; namely, believe that you are his children through Christ, that he is your Father and God through him, that he loveth you, pardoneth you all your offences, that he is with you in trouble, and will be with you for ever. When you fall, he will put under his hand; you shall not lie still. Before you call upon him, he heareth you; out of evil he will finally bring you, and deliver you to his eternal joy. Doubt not, my dearly beloved, hereof; doubt not, I say, this will God your Father do for you -- not in respect of yourselves, but in respect of Christ, your Captain, your Pastor, your Keeper, out of whose hands none shall be able to catch you -- in him be quiet, and often consider your dignity; namely, how that ye be God's children, the saints of God, citizens of heaven, temples of the Holy Ghost, the thrones of God, members of Christ, and lords over all.
"Therefore be ashamed to think, speak, or do any thing that should be unseemly for God's children, God's saints, Christ's members, &c. Marvel not, though the devil and the world hate you -- though ye be persecuted here -- for the servant is not above his master. Covet not earthly riches; fear not the power of man; love not this world, nor things that be in this world; but long for the Lord Jesus's coming, at which time your bodies shall be made like unto his glorious body; when he appeareth you shall be like unto him; when your life shall thus be revealed, then shall ye appear with him in glory.
"In the mean season live in hope thereof. Let the life you lead, be in the faith of the Son of God; For the just doth live by faith: which faith flieth from all evil, and followeth the word of God, as a lantern to her feet, and a light to her steps. Her eyes be above, where Christ is; she beholdeth not the things present, but rather things to come; she glorieth in affliction; she knoweth that the afflictions of this life are not like to be compared to the glory which God will reveal to us, and in us. Of this glory God grant us here a lively taste; then shall we run after the scent it sendeth forth! It will make us valiant men, to take to us the kingdom of God; whither the Lord of mercy bring us in his good time through Christ our Lord -- to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost, three persons and one God, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
"My dearly beloved, I would gladly have given here my body to have been burned for the confirmation of the true doctrine I have taught here unto you: but that, my country must have. Therefore I pray you take in good part this signification of my good will towards every of you. Impute the want herein to time and trouble. Pardon me mine offensive and negligent behaviour when I was amongst you. With me repent, and labour to amend. Continue in the truth which I have truly taught unto you by preaching in all places where I have come; God's name therefore be praised. Confess Christ when you be called, whatsoever cometh thereof; and the God of peace be with us all. Amen.
-- This eleventh of February, 1555.
"Your brother in bonds for the Lord's sake,
A letter to the university and town of Cambridge.
"To all that love the Lord Jesus and his true doctrine, being in the university and town of Cambridge, John Bradford, a most unworthy servant of the Lord, now not only prisoned, but also condemned for the same true doctrine, wisheth grace, peace, and mercy, with increase of all godliness from God the Father of all mercy, through the bloody passion of our Saviour Jesus Christ, by the lively working of the Holy Spirit for ever. Amen.
"Although I look hourly when I should be had to the stake, my right dearly beloved in the Lord, and although the charge over me is great and strait, yet, having by the providence of God secretly pen and ink, I could not but something signify unto you my solicitude which I have for you and every of you in the Lord, though not as I would, yet as I may. You have often and openly heard the truth (specially in this matter wherein I am condemned) disputed and preached, that it is needless to do any more, but only to put you in remembrance of the same: but hitherto have you not heard it confirmed, and as it were sealed up, as now you do and shall hear by me; that is, by my death and burning. For albeit I have deserved (through my uncleanness, hypocrisy, avarice, vain-glory, idleness, unthankfulness, and carnality, whereof I accuse myself, to my confusion before the world, that before God through Christ I might, as my assured hope is I shall, find mercy) eternal death, and hell fire, much more than this affliction and fire prepared for me; yet, my dearly beloved, it is not these, or any of these things, wherefore the prelates do persecute me, but God's verity and truth; yea, even Christ himself is the only cause and thing wherefore I am now condemned, and shall be burned as a heretic, because I will not grant the antichrist of Rome to be Christ's vicar-general and supreme head of his church here, and every where upon earth, by God's ordinance; and because I will not grant such corporal, real, and carnal presence of Christ's body and blood in the sacrament, as doth transubstantiate the substance of bread and wine, and is received of the wicked, yea, of dogs and mice. Also I am excommunicated, and counted as a dead member of Christ's church, as a rotten branch, and therefore shall be cast into the fire.
"Therefore ye ought heartily to rejoice with me, and to give thanks for me, that God the eternal Father hath vouchsafed our mother to bring up any child in whom it would please him to magnify his holy name as he doth, and I hope, for his mercy and truth's sake, will do in me, and by me. Oh, what such benefit upon earth can it be, as that I, which deserved death by reason of my sins, should be delivered to a demonstration, a testification, and confirmation of God's verity and truth? Thou, my mother the university, hast not only had the truth of God's word plainly manifested unto thee by reading, disputing, and preaching publicly and privately; but now, to make thee altogether excuseless, and as it were almost to sin against the Holy Ghost, if thou put to thy helping hand with the Romish rout to suppress the verity, and set out the contrary, thou hast my life and blood as a seal to confirm thee, if thou wilt be confirmed; or else to confound thee, and bear witness against thee, if thou wilt take part with the prelates and clergy, which now fill up the measure of their fathers which slew the prophets and apostles, that all the righteous blood from Abel to Bradford, shed upon the earth, may be required at their hands.
"Of this, therefore, I thought good before my death, as time and liberty would suffer me, (for love and duty I bear unto thee,) to admonish thee, good mother, and my sister the town, that you would call to mind from whence you are fallen, and study to do the first works. You know (if you will) these matters of the Romish supremacy, and the antichristian transubstantiation, whereby Christ's supper is overthrown, his priesthood evacuate, his sacrifice frustrate, the ministry of his word unplaced, repentance repelled, faith fainted, godliness extinguished, the mass maintained, idolatry supported, and all impiety cherished: you know, I say, (if you will,) that these opinions are not only beside God's word, but even directly against it; and therefore to take part with them, is to take part against God, against whom you cannot prevail.
Therefore, for the tender mercy of Christ, in his bowels and blood I beseech you, to take Christ's collyrium and eye-salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see what you do and have done in admitting (as I hear you have admitted, yea, alas, authorized, and by consent confirmed) the Romish rotten rags, which once you utterly expelled. O be not the dog returned to his own vomit. Be not the sow that was washed, returned to her wallowing in the mire. Beware lest that Satan enter in with seven other spirits, and then postrema shall be worse than the first. It had been better ye had never known the truth, than after knowledge to run from it. Ah! woe to this world and the things therein, which have now so wrought with you! O that ever this dirt of the devil should daub up the eye of the realm! for thou, O mother, art as the eye of the realm. If thou be light, and give shine, all the body shall fare the better; but if thou the light be darkness, alas, how great will the darkness be! What is man whose breath is in his nostrils, that thou shouldest thus be afraid of him?
"O what is honour and life here? Bubbles. What is glory in this world, but shame? Why art thou afraid to carry Christ's cross? Wilt thou come into his kingdom, and not drink of his cup? Dost thou not know Rome to be Babylon? Dost thou not know that as the old Babylon had the children of Judah in captivity, so hath this Rome the true Judah; that is, the confessors of Christ? Dost thou not know that as destruction happened unto it, so shall it do unto this? And trowest thou that God will not deliver his people now, when the time is come, as he did then? Hath not God commanded his people to come out from her, and wilt thou give ensample to the whole realm to run unto her? Hast thou forgotten the woe that Christ threateneth to offence-givers? Wilt thou not remember that it were better that a millstone were hanged about thy neck, and thou thrown into the sea, than thou shouldest offend the little ones?
"And alas, how hast thou offended! yea, and how dost thou still offend! Wilt thou consider things according to the outward show? Was not the synagogue more seemly and like to be the true church, than the simple flock of Christ's disciples? Hath not the whore of Babylon more costly array, and rich apparel externally to set forth herself, than the homely housewife of Christ? Where is the beauty of the king's daughter the church of Christ -- without or within? Doth not David say, within? O remember that as they are happy which are not offended at Christ, so are they happy which are not offended at his poor church. Can the pope and his prelates mean honestly, which make so much of the wife, and so little of the Husband? The church they magnify, but Christ they contemn. If this church were an honest woman, (that is, Christ's wife,) except they would make much of her Husband, Christ, and his word, she would not be made much of them.
"When Christ and his apostles were upon earth, who was more like to be the true church? they, or the prelates, bishops, and synagogue? If a man should have followed custom, unity, antiquity, or the more part, should not Christ and his company have been cast out of the doors? Therefore bade Christ, Search the Scriptures. And, good mother, shall the servant be above his master? Shall we look for other entertainment at the hands of the world, than Christ and his dear disciples found? Who were taken in Noah's time for the church; poor Noah and his family, or others? Who was taken for God's church in Sodom; Lot, or others?
And doth not Christ say, As it was then, so shall it go now towards the coming of the Son of man? What meaneth Christ when he saith, Iniquity shall have the upper hand? Doth not he tell that charity shall wax cold? And who seeth not a wonderful great lack of charity in those, which would now be taken for Christ's church? All that fear God in this realm truly, can tell more of this than I can write.
"Therefore, dear mother, receive some admonition of one of thy poor children, now going to be burned for the testimony of Jesus. Come again to God's truth; come out of Babylon; confess Christ and his true doctrine; repent that which is past; make amends by declaring thy repentance by the fruits. Remember the readings and preachings of God's prophet, the true preacher, Martin Bucer. Call to mind the threatenings of God, now something seen by thy children Leaver and others. Let the exile of Leaver, Pilkington, Grindal, Haddon, Horn, Scory, Ponet, &c., something awake thee. Let the imprisonment of thy dear sons, Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, move thee. Consider the martyrdom of thy chickens, Rogers, Saunders, Taylor. And now cast not away the poor admonition of me, going to be burned also, and to receive the like crown of glory with my fellows. Take to heart God's calling by us. Be not as Pharaoh was: for then will it happen unto thee as it did unto him. What is that? Hardness of heart. And what then? Destruction eternally, both of body and soul. Ah, therefore, good mother! awake, awake; repent, repent; buskle thyself, and make haste to turn to the Lord: for else it shall be more easy for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for thee. O harden not your hearts. O stop not your ears today in hearing God's voice, though it be by me, a most unworthy messenger. O fear the Lord; for his anger is begun to kindle. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the tree.
"You know I prophesied truly to you before the Sweat came, what would come, if you repented not your carnal gospelling. And now I tell you before I depart hence, that the ears of men will tingle to hear the vengeance of God that will fall upon you all, both town and university, if you repent not; if you leave not your idolatry; if you turn not speedily to the Lord; if you still be ashamed of Christ's truth, which you know.
"O Perne, repent! O Thompson, repent! O you doctors, bachelors, and masters, repent! O mayor, aldermen, and town-dwellers, repent, repent, repent, that you may escape the near vengeance of the Lord! Rend your hearts, and come apace, calling on the Lord. Let us all say, peccavimus, we have all sinned, we have done wickedly, we have not hearkened to thy voice, O Lord! Deal not with us after our deserts, but be merciful to our iniquities, for they are great. O pardon us our offences! In thine anger remember thy mercy. Turn us unto thee, O Lord God of hosts, for the glory of thy name's sake. Spare us, and be merciful unto us. Let not the wicked people say, Where is now their God? O for thine own sake, for thy name's sake, deal mercifully with us. Turn thyself unto us, and us unto thee, and we shall praise thy name for ever.
"If in this sort, my dearly beloved, in heart and mouth we come unto our Father, and prostrate ourselves before the throne of his grace, then surely, surely we shall find mercy. Then shall the Lord look merrily upon us, for his mercy's sake in Christ: then shall we hear him speak peace unto his people; for he is gracious and merciful, of great pity and compassion: he cannot be chiding for ever: his anger cannot last long to the penitent. Though we weep in the morning, yet at night we shall have our sorrow to cease; for he is exorable, and hath no pleasure in the death of a sinner: he rather would our conversion and turning.
"O turn ye now and convert yet once again, I humbly beseech you, and then the kingdom of heaven shall draw nigh. The eye hath not seen, the ear hath not heard, nor the heart of man is able to conceive the joys prepared for us if we repent, amend our lives, and heartily turn to the Lord. But if ye repent not, but be as you were, and go on forwards with the wicked, following the fashion of the world, the Lord will lead you on with wicked doers: you shall perish in your wickedness; your blood will be upon your own heads; your parts shall be with hypocrites, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth; ye shall be cast from the face of the Lord for ever and ever: eternal shame, sorrow, woe, and misery, shall be both in body and soul to you, world without end. Oh, therefore, right dear to me in the Lord! turn you, turn you; repent you, repent you; amend, amend your lives; depart from evil; do good; follow peace and pursue it. Come out from Babylon; cast off the works of darkness; put on Christ; confess his truth; be not ashamed of his gospel; prepare yourselves to the cross; drink of God's cup before it come to the dregs; and then shall I, with you and for you, rejoice in the day of judgment, which is at hand; and therefore prepare yourselves thereto, I heartily beseech you. And thus I take my vale in ęternum, with you in this present life, mine own dear hearts in the Lord. The Lord of mercy be with us all, and give us a joyful and sure meetingin his kingdom: Amen, Amen.-- Out of prison the eleventh of February, Anno 1555.
"Your own in the Lord for ever,
A letter to Lancashire and Cheshire, and specially to Manchester.
"To all those that profess the name and true religion of our Saviour Christ in Lancashire and Cheshire, and specially abiding in Manchester and thereabout -- John Bradford, a most unworthy servant of the Lord, now not only in bonds, but also condemned for the same true religion, wisheth mercy and grace, peace and increase of all godliness, from God the Father of all pity, through the deserts of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the working of the most mighty and lively Spirit the Comforter, for ever. Amen.
"I heard it reported credibly, my dearly beloved in the Lord, that my heavenly Father hath thought it good to provide, that as I have preached his true doctrine and gospel amongst you by word, so I shall testify and confirm the same by deed: that is, I shall with you leave my life, which by his providence I first received there, (for in Manchester was I born,) for a seal to the doctrine I have taught with you, and amongst you: so that if from henceforth you waver in the same, you have none excuse at all. I know the enemies of Christ, which exercise this cruelty upon me, (I speak in respect of mine offence, which is none to them-wards,) think, by killing of me amongst you, to affray you and others, lest they should attempt to teach Christ truly, or believe his doctrine hereafter. But I doubt not but my heavenly Father will, by my death, more confirm you in his truth for ever. And therefore I greatly rejoice to see Satan and his soldiers supplanted in their own sapience, which is plain foolishness amongst the wise indeed; that is, amongst such as have heard God's word, and do follow it: for they only are counted wise of the wisdom of God our Saviour.
"Indeed if I should simply consider my life with that which it ought to have been, and as God in his law requireth, then could I not but cry as I do, Righteous art thou, O Lord, and all thy judgments are true. For I have much grieved thee, and transgressed thy holy precepts, not only before my professing the gospel, but since also: yea, even since my coming into prison I do not excuse, but accuse myself before God and all his church, that I have grievously offended my Lord God; I have not loved his gospel as I should have done; I have sought myself, and not simply and only his glory and my brethren's commodity; I have been too unthankful, secure, carnal, hypocritical, vain-glorious, &c.: all which my evils, the Lord of mercy pardon me for his Christ's sake, as I hope, and certainly believe, he hath done for his great mercy in Christ our Redeemer.
"But when I consider the cause of my condemnation, I cannot but lament, that I do no more rejoice than I do: for it is God's verity and truth; so that the condemnation is not a condemnation of Bradford simply, but rather a condemnation of Christ and of his truth. Bradford is nothing else but an instrument, in whom Christ and his doctrine are condemned. And therefore, my dearly beloved, rejoice; rejoice and give thanks with me and for me, that ever God did vouchsafe so great a benefit to our country, as to choose the most unworthy (I mean myself) to be one, in whom it would please him to suffer any kind of affliction: much more this violent kind of death, which I perceive is prepared for me with you, for his sake. All glory and praise be given unto God our Father, for his great and exceeding mercy towards me, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
"But perchance you will say unto me, 'What is the cause for the which you are condemned? We hear say, that ye deny all presence of Christ in his holy supper, and so make it a bare sign and common bread, and nothing else.' My dearly beloved, what is said of me, and what will be, I cannot tell. It is told me that Pendleton is gone down to preach with you, not as he once recanted, (for you all know how he hath preached contrary to that he was wont to preach afore I came amongst you,) but to recant that which he hath recanted. How he will speak of me, and report before I come, when I am come, and when I am burned, I much pass not: for he that is so uncertain, and will speak so often against himself, I cannot think he will speak well of me, except it make for his purpose and profit: but of this enough.
"Indeed the chief thing which I am condemned for, as a heretic, is because I deny in the sacrament of the altar (which is not Christ's supper, but a plain perverting of it, being used as the papists now use it) to be a real, natural, and corporal presence of Christ's body and blood, under the forms and accidents of bread and wine; that is, because I deny transubstantiation, which is the darling of the devil, and daughter and heir to antichrist's religion, whereby the mass is maintained, Christ's supper perverted, his sacrifice and cross imperfected, his priesthood destroyed, the ministry taken away, repentance repelled, and all true godliness abandoned. In the supper of our Lord, or sacrament of Christ's body and blood, I confess and believe that there is a true and very presence of the whole Christ, God and man, to the faith of the receiver, (but not of the stander-by and looker-on,) as there is a very true presence of bread and wine to the senses of him that is partaker thereof. This faith, this doctrine, which consenteth with the word of God, and with the true testimony of Christ's church, (which the popish church doth persecute,) will I not forsake, and therefore I am condemned as a heretic, and shall be burned. But, my dearly beloved, this truth (which I have taught, and you have received, I believed, and do believe, and therein give my life) I hope in God shall never be burned, bound, nor overcome; but shall triumph, have victory, and be at liberty, maugre the head of all God's adversaries. For there is no counsel against the Lord, nor can any device of man be able to defeat the verity in any other than such as be children of unbelief, which have no love to the truth, and therefore are given up to believe lies: from which plague the Lord of mercy deliver you and all the realm, my dear hearts in the Lord, I humbly beseech his mercy: Amen.
"And to the end you might be delivered from this plague -- right dear to me in the Lord -- I shall, for my farewell with you for ever in this present life, heartily desire you all, in the bowels and blood of our most merciful Saviour Jesus Christ, to attend unto these things which I now shall shortly write unto you out of the holy Scriptures of the Lord.
"You know a heavy plague (or rather plagues) of God is fallen upon us, in taking away our good king and true religion, God's true prophets and ministers, &c.; and setting over us such as seek not the Lord after knowledge: whose endeavours God prospereth wonderfully to the trial of many, that his people may both better know themselves, and be known. Now the cause hereof is our iniquities and grievous sins. We did not know the time of our visitation: we were unthankful unto God: we contemned the gospel, and carnally abused it, to serve our hypocrisy, our vain-glory, our viciousness, avarice, idleness, security, &c. Long did the Lord linger and tarry to have showed mercy upon us, but we were ever the longer the worse. Therefore most justly hath God dealt with us, and dealeth with us: yea, yet we may see that his justice is tempered with much mercy, whereto let us attribute that we are not utterly consumed: for if the Lord should deal with us after our deserts, alas! bow could we abide it? In his anger therefore, seeing he doth remember his mercy undeserved, (yea, undesired on our behalf,) let us take occasion the more speedily to go out to meet him, not with force of arms, (for we are not so able to withstand him, much less to prevail against him,) but to beseech him to be merciful unto us, and, according to his wonted mercy, to deal with us.
"Let us arise with David, and say, Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord; for in thy sight no flesh living shall be justified. Let us send ambassadors with the centurion, and say, Lord, we are not worthy to come ourselves unto thee; speak the word, and we shall have peace. Let us penitently, with the publican, look down on the earth, knock our hard hearts to burst them, and cry out, O God, be merciful unto us wretched sinners. Let us, with the lost son, return and say, O Father, we have sinned against heaven and earth, and before thee, we are unworthy to be called thy children. Let us, I say, do on this sort; that is, heartily repent us of our former evil life, and unthankful gospelling past, convert and turn to God with our whole hearts, hoping in his great mercy through Christ, and heartily calling upon his holy name; and then, undoubtedly, we shall find and feel otherwise than yet we feel, both inwardly and outwardly. Inwardly we shall feel peace of conscience between God and us, which peace passeth all understanding; and outwardly we shall feel much mitigation of these miseries, if not an utter taking of them away.
"Therefore, my dearly beloved in the Lord, I, your poorest brother now departing to the Lord, for my vale in ęternum for this present life, pray you, beseech you, and even from the very bottom of my heart, for all the mercies of God in Christ showed unto you, most earnestly beg and crave of you out of prison, (as often out of your pulpits I have done,) that you will repent you, leave your wicked and evil life, be sorry for your offences, and turn to the Lord; whose arms are wide open to receive and embrace you, whose stretched-out hand to strike to death stayeth, that he may show mercy upon you. For he is the Lord of mercy, and God of all comfort; he will not the death of a sinner, but rather that ye should return, convert, and amend. He hath no pleasure in the destruction of men; his long-suffering draweth to repentance before the time of vengeance and the day of wrath, which is at hand, doth come.
"Now is the axe laid to the root of the tree, utterly to destroy the impenitent. Now is the fire gone out before the face of the Lord, and who is able to quench it? Oh! therefore repent you, repent you. It is enough to have lived as we have done: it is enough to have played the wanton gospellers, the proud protestants, hypocritical and false Christians; as, alas, we have done. Now the Lord speaketh to us in mercy and grace: oh! turn before he speaketh in wrath. Yet is there mercy with the Lord, and plenteous redemption: yet he hath not forgotten to show mercy to them that call upon him. Oh! then call upon him while he may be found; for he is rich in mercy, and plentiful to all them that call upon him. So that he that calleth on the name of the Lord, shall be saved. If your sins be as red as scarlet, the Lord saith, he will make them as white as snow. He hath sworn, and never will repent him thereof, that he will never remember our iniquities: but as he is good, faithful, and true, so will he be our God, and we shall be his people; his law will he write in our hearts, and ingraft in our minds, and never will he have in mind our unrighteousness.
"Therefore, my dear hearts in the Lord, turn you, turn you to the Lord your Father, to the Lord your Saviour, to the Lord your Comforter. Oh! why do you stop your ears and harden your hearts to-day, when you hear his voice by me your poorest brother? Oh! forget not how that the Lord hath showed himself true, and me his true preacher, by bringing to pass these plagues, which at my mouth you oft heard before they came to pass: specially when I treated of Noah's flood, and when I preached of the twenty-second chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel, on St. Stephen's day, the last time that I was with you. And now, by me the Lord sendeth you word, dear countrymen, that if you will go on forward in your impenitency, carnality, hypocrisy, idolatry, covetousness, swearing, gluttony, drunkenness, whoredom, &c. (wherewith, alas! alas! our country floweth); if (I say) you will not turn and leave off, seeing me now burned amongst you, to assure you on all sides how God seeketh you, and is sorry to do you hurt, to plague you, to destroy you, to take vengeance upon you; oh! your blood will be upon your own heads: you have been warned, and warned again, by me in preaching, by me in burning.
"As I said therefore, I say again, my dear hearts and dearlings in the Lord, turn you, turn you, repent you; cease from doing evil, study to do well, away with idolatry, flee the Romish god and service, leave off from swearing, cut off carnality, abandon avarice, drive away drunkenness; fly from fornication and flattery, murder and malice; destroy deceitfulness, and cast away all the works of darkness. Put on pity and godliness; serve God after his word, and not after custom; use your tongues to glorify God by prayer, thanksgiving, and confession of his truth, &c. Be spiritual, and by the Spirit mortify carnal affections; be sober, holy, true, loving, gentle, merciful, and then shall the Lord's wrath cease, not for this our doing's sake, but for his mercy's sake. Go to, therefore, good countrymen, take this counsel of the Lord, by me now sent unto you, as the Lord's counsel, and not as mine, that in the day of judgment I may rejoice with you, and for you; the which thing I heartily desire, and not to be a witness against you. My blood will cry for vengeance, as against the papists, God's enemies, (whom I beseech God, if it be his will, heartily to forgive, yea, even them which put me to death and are the causers thereof; for they know not what they do,) so will my blood cry for vengeance against you, my dearly beloved in the Lord, if ye repent not, amend not, and turn not unto the Lord.
"Turn unto the Lord yet once more, I heartily beseech thee, thou Manchester, thou Ashton-under-Line, thou Bolton, Bury, Wigan, Liverpool, Mottram, Stockport, Winsley, Eccles, Preston, Middleton, Radcliff, and thou city of Westchester, where I have truly taught and preached the word of God. Turn, I say unto you all, and to all the inhabitants thereabouts, unto the Lord our God, and he will turn unto you; he will say unto his angel, It is enough, put up the sword. The which thing that he will do, I humbly beseech his goodness, for the precious blood's sake of his dear Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Ah, good brethren! take in good part these my last words unto every one of you. Pardon me mine offences and negligences in behaviour amongst you. The Lord of mercy pardon us all our offences, for our Saviour Jesus Christ's sake: Amen.
"Out of prison ready to come to you, the eleventh of February, Anno 1555."
To the town of Walden.
"To the faithful, and such as profess the true doctrine of our Saviour Jesus Christ, dwelling at Walden and thereabouts, John Bradford, a most unworthy servant of the Lord, now in bands and condemned for the same true doctrine, wisheth grace, mercy, and peace, with the increase of all godliness in knowledge and living, from God the Father of all comfort, through the deserts of our alone and full Redeemer Jesus Christ, by the mighty working of the most Holy Spirit the Comforter, for ever. Amen.
"When I remember how that by the providence and grace of God I have been a man, by whom it hath pleased him through my ministry to call you to repentance and amendment of life, something effectually, as it seemed, and to sow amongst you his true doctrine and religion, lest that by my affliction, and storms now arisen to try the faithful, and to conform them like to the image of the Son of God, into whose company we are called, you might be faint-hearted; I could not but, out of prison secretly, (for my keepers may not know that I have pen and ink,) write unto you a signification of the desire I have, that you should not only be more confirmed in the doctrine I have taught amongst you, which (I take on my death, as I shall answer at the day of doom) I am persuaded to be God's assured, infallible, and plain truth: but also should, after your vocation, avow the same by confession, profession, and living. I have not taught you, my dearly beloved in the Lord, fables, tales, or untruths; but I have taught you the verity, as now by my blood, gladly (praised be God there-for) I do seal the same.
"Indeed, to confess the truth unto you, and to all the church of Christ, I do not think of myself, but that I have most justly deserved, not only this kind, but also all kinds of death, and that eternally, for mine hypocrisy, vain-glory, uncleanness, self-love, covetousness, idleness, unthankfulness, and carnal professing of God's holy gospel, living therein not so purely, lovingly, and painfully as I should have done. The Lord of mercy, for the blood's sake of Christ, pardon me, as I hope, yea, I certainly believe he hath done, for his holy name's sake through Christ. But, my dearly beloved, you and all the whole world may see, and easily perceive, that the prelates persecute in me another thing than mine iniquities, even Christ himself, Christ's verity and truth, because I cannot, dare not, nor will not, confess transubstantiation, and how that wicked men, yea, mice and dogs, eating the sacrament, which they term of the altar, (thereby overthrowing Christ's holy supper utterly,) do eat Christ's natural and real body born of the Virgin Mary.
"To believe and confess as God's word teacheth, the primitive church believed, and all the catholic and good holy fathers taught five hundred years at the least after Christ, that in the supper of the Lord, (which the mass overthroweth, as it doth Christ's priesthood, sacrifice, death, and passion, the ministry of his word, true faith, repentance, and all godliness,) whole Christ, God and man, is present by grace to the faith of the receivers, but not of the standers-by and lookers-on, as bread and wine is to their senses, will not serve: and therefore I am condemned and shall be burned out of hand as a heretic. 'Wherefore I heartily thank my Lord God, that will and doth vouch me worthy to be an instrument, in whom he himself doth suffer. For you see my affliction and death is not simply because I have deserved no less, but much more at his hands and justice; but rather because I confess his verity and truth, and am not afraid through his gift that to do, that you also might be confirmed in his truth. Therefore, my dearly beloved, I heartily do pray you, and so many as unfeignedly love me in God, to give, with me and for me, most hearty thanks to our heavenly Father, through our sweet Saviour Jesus Christ, for this his exceeding great mercy towards me, and you also, that your faith waver not from the doctrine I have taught, and ye have received. For what can you desire more, to assure your consciences of the verity taught by your preachers, than their own lives?
"Go to, therefore, my dear hearts in the Lord, waver not in Christ's religion truly taught you, and set forth in King Edward's days. Never shall the enemies be able to burn it, and prison it, and keep it in bonds. Us they may prison; they may bind and burn as they do, and will do, so long as shall please the Lord: but our cause, religion, and doctrine which we confess, they shall never be able to vanquish and put away. Their idolatry and popish religion shall never be built in the consciences of men that love God's truth. As for those that love not God's truth, that have no pleasure to walk in the ways of the Lord, over those, I say, the devil shall prevail: for God will give them strong illusion to believe lies. Therefore, dear brethren and sisters in the Lord, I humbly beseech you and pray you in the bowels and blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, now going to the death for the testimony of Jesus, as oftentimes I have done before this present out of your pulpit, that you would live the Lord's truth; love (I say) to live it, and frame your lives thereafter. Alas! you know the cause of all these plagues fallen upon us, and of the success which God's adversaries have daily, is for our not loving God's word.
"You know how that we were but gospellers in lips, and not in life. We were carnal, concupiscentious, idle, unthankful, unclean, covetous, arrogant, dissemblers, crafty, subtle, malicious, false, backbiters, &c.; and even glutted with God's word; yea, we loathed it, as did the Israelites the manna in the wilderness; and therefore as to them the Lord's wrath waxed hot, so doth it unto us. So that there is no remedy, but that (for it is better late to turn, than never to turn) we confess our faults even from the bottom of our hearts, and with hearty repentance (which God work in us all for his mercy's sake) we run unto the Lord our God, who is exorable, merciful, and sorry for the evil poured out upon us, and cry out unto him with Daniel, saying, We have sinned, we have sinned grievously, O Lord God! against thy Majesty. We have heaped iniquity upon iniquity, the measure of our transgressions floweth over, so that justly are thy vengeanceand wrath fallen upon us. For we are very miserable, we have contemned thy long-suffering, we have not hearkened to thy voice. When thou hast called us by preachers, we hardened our hearts; and therefore now deserve that thou send thy curse hereupon to harden our hearts also, that we should henceforth have eyes and see not, ears and hear not, hearts and understand not, lest we should convert and be saved. Oh be merciful unto us! spare us, good Lord, and all thy people, whom thou hast dearly bought. Let not thine enemies triumph altogether, and always against thee; for then will they be puft up. Look down and behold the pitiful complaint of the poor; let the sorrowful sighing of the simple come in thy sight, and be not angry with us for ever. Turn us, O Lord God of hosts, unto thee, and turn thee unto us, that thou mayest be justified in thy sweet sentences, and overcome when thou art judged, as now thou art of our adversaries. For they say, Where is their God? Can God deliver them now? Can their gospel serve them? O Lord, how long? for the glory of thy name, and for thy honour's sake, in the bowels and blood of Jesus Christ, we humbly beseech thee, come and help us, for we are very miserable.
"On this sort I say, dearly beloved! let us publicly and privately bewail our sins; but so that hereto we join ceasing from wilfulness and sin of purpose: for else the Lord heareth not our prayers, as David saith. And in St. John it is written, The impenitent sinners God heareth not. Now, impenitent are they which purpose not to amend their lives: as for example, not only such as follow still their pleasures, uncleanness, carnality; but those also which, for fear or favour of men, do against their consciences consent to the Romish rags, and resort to the rotten religion, communicating in service and ceremonies with the papists; thereby declaring themselves to love more the world than God; to fear man more than Christ; to dread more the loss of temporal things than eternal; in whom it is evident that the love of God abideth not. For he that loveth the world, hath not God's word abiding in him, saith St. John: therefore, my dear hearts, and dear again in the Lord, remember what you have professed, Christ's religion and name, and the renouncing of the devil, sin, and the world.
"Remember that before ye learned A, B, C, your lesson was Christ's cross. Forget not that Christ will have no disciples, but such as will promise to deny themselves, and take up their cross, (mark, take it up,) and follow him, and not the multitude, custom, &c. Consider, for God's sake, that if we gather not with Christ, we scatter abroad.
What should it profit a man to win the whole world, and lose his own soul? We must not forget that this life is a wilderness, and not a paradise; here is not our home: we are now in warfare; we must needs fight, or else be taken prisoners. Of all things we have in this life, we shall carry nothing with us. If Christ be our Captain, we must follow him as soldiers: if we keep company with him in affliction, we shall be sure of his society in glory: if we forsake not him, he will never forsake us: if we confess him, he will confess us; but, if we deny him, he will deny us; if we be ashamed of him, he will be ashamed of us. Wherefore, as he forsook his Father, and heaven, and all things to come to us; so let us forsake all things, and come to him, being sure and most certain that we shall not lose thereby. Your children shall find, and feel it double, yea, treble, whatsoever you lose for the Lord's sake; and you shall find and feel peace of conscience, and friendship with God, which is more worth than all the goods of the world.
"My dearly beloved, therefore, for the Lord's sake, consider these things which I now write unto you of love, for my vale, and last farewell for ever, in this present life. Turn to the Lord; repent you of your evil and unthankful life; declare repentance by the fruits; take time while ye have it; come to the Lord while he calleth you; run into his lap while his arms be open to embrace you; seek him while he may be found; call upon him while time is convenient; forsake and flee from all evil, both in religion, and in the rest of your life and conversation. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and praise God in the day of his visitation. 'O! come again, come again, you strange children, and I will receive you, saith the Lord. Convert and turn to me, and I will turn unto you. Why will ye needs perish? As sure as I live (sweareth the Lord) I will not your death; turn therefore unto me. Can a woman forget the child of her womb? If she should, yet I will not forget you, saith the Lord your God. 'I am he, I am he which put away your sins for mine own sake.'
"O then, dear friends, turn I say unto your dearest Father. Cast not these sweet and loving words to the ground, and at your tail; for the Lord watcheth on his word to perform it: which is in two sorts; to them that lay it up in their hearts, and believe it, will he pay all, and eternal joy and comfort. But to them that cast it at their backs, and will forget it, to them (I say) will he pour out indignation and eternal shame. Wherefore I heartily yet once more beseech and pray you, and every of you, not to contemn this poor and simple exhortation, which now out of prison I make unto you, or rather the Lord by me. Loth would I be to be a witness against you in the last day; as of truth I must be, if ye repent not; if ye love not God's gospel; yea, if ye love it not.
"Therefore (to conclude) repent; love God's gospel; live it in all your conversation; so shall God's name be praised, his plagues be mitigated, his people comforted, and his enemies ashamed. Grant all this, thou gracious Lord God, to every one of us, for thy dear Son's sake, our Saviour Jesus Christ: to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be eternal glory for ever and ever. Amen.
The twelfth of February, Anno 1555.
"By the bondman of our Lord,
and your poor afflicted brother,
To my loving brethren, B. C., &c., their wives, and whole families. John Bradford.
"I beseech the ever-living God to grant you all, my good brethren and sisters, the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and the continual sense of his mercy in Christ our Lord, now and for ever. Amen.
"The world, my brethren, seemeth to have the upper hand; iniquity overfloweth; the truth and verity seemeth to be suppressed; and they which take part therewith, are unjustly entreated; as they which love the truth, lament to see and hear as they do. The cause of all this, is God's anger and mercy: his anger, because we have grievously sinned against him; his mercy, because he here punisheth us, and as a father nurtureth us. We have been unthankful for his word; we have contemned his kindness; we have been negligent in prayer; we have been too carnal, covetous, licentious, &c.; we have not hastened to heaven-ward, but rather to hell-ward. We were fallen almost into an open contempt of God and all his good ordinances; so that of his justice he could no longer forbear, but make us feel his anger, as now he hath done, in taking his word and true service from us, and permitting Satan to serve us with antichristian religion; and that in such sort, that if we will not yield to it, and seem to allow it in deed and outward fact, our bodies are like to be laid in prison, and our goods given we cannot tell to whom.
"This should we look upon as a sign of God's anger procured by our sins; which, my good brethren, every of us should now call to our memory oftentimes, so particularly as we can, that we might heartily lament them, repent them, hate them, ask earnestly mercy for them, and submit ourselves to bear in this life any kind of punishment which God will lay upon us for them. This should we do in consideration of God's anger in this time. Now his mercy in this time of wrath is seen, and should be seen in us, my dearly beloved, in this: that God doth vouchsafe to punish us in this present life. If he should not have punished us, do not you think that we should have continued in the evils we were in? Yes, verily, we would have been worse, and have gone forwards in hardening our hearts by impenitence, and negligence of God and true godliness. And then, if death had come, should not we have perished both soul and body in eternal fire in perdition? Alas, what misery should we have fallen into, if God should have suffered us to have gone on forward in our evils! No greater sign of damnation there is, than to lie in evil and sin unpunished of God, as now the papists, my dearly beloved, are cast into Jezebel's bed of security; which, of all plagues, is the most grievous that can be. They are bastards and not sons, they are not under God's rod of correction.
"A great mercy it is, therefore, that God doth punish us: for if he loved us not, he would not punish us. Now doth he chastise us, that we should not be damned with the world. Now doth he nurture us, because he favoureth us. Now may we think ourselves God's house and children, because be beginneth his chastising at us: now calleth he us to remember our sins past. Wherefore? That we might repent, and ask mercy. And why? That he might forgive us, pardon us, justify us, and make us his children; and so begin to make us here like unto Christ, that we might be like unto him elsewhere, even in heaven, where already we are set by faith with Christ; and at his coming in very deed, we shall then most joyfully enjoy, when our sinful and vile bodies shall be made like to Christ's glorious body, according to the power whereby he is able to make all things subject to himself.
"Therefore, my brethren, let us in respect hereof not lament, but laud God; not be sorry, but be merry; not weep, but rejoice and be glad, that God doth vouchsafe to offer us his cross; thereby to come to him to endless joys and comforts. For if we suffer, we shall reign; if we confess him before men, he will confess us before his Father in heaven; if we be not ashamed of his gospel now, he will not be ashamed of us in the last day, but will be glorified in us, crowning us with crowns of glory and endless felicity: for blessed are they that suffer persecution for righteousness' sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Be glad, saith Peter, for the Spirit of God resteth upon you. After that you are a little afflicted, God will comfort, strengthen, and confirm you. And therefore, my good brethren, be not discouraged for cross, for prison, or loss of goods; for confession of Christ's gospel and truth which ye have believed, and lively was taught amongst you in the days of our late good king, and most holy prince, King Edward. This is most certain, if you lose any thing for Christ's sake, and for contemning the antichristian service set up again amongst us; as you, for your parts, even in prison shall find God's great and rich mercy, far passing all worldly wealth; so shall your wives and children, in this present life, find and feel God's providence, more plentifully than tongue can tell: for he will show merciful kindness on thousands of them that love him. The good man's seed shall not go a begging his bread. You are good men, so many as suffer for Christ's sake.
"I trust you all, my dearly beloved, will consider this gear with yourselves, and in the cross see God's mercy, which is more sweet, and to be set by, than life itself, much more than any muck or pelf of this world. This mercy of God should make you merry and cheerful; for the afflictions of this life are not to be compared to the joys of the life prepared for you. You know the way to heaven is not the wide way of the world, which windeth to the devil, but it is a strait way, which few walk in; for few live godly in Christ Jesus; few regard the life to come; few remember the day of judgment; few remember how Christ will deny them before his Father, that do deny him here; few consider that Christ will be ashamed of them in the last day, which are ashamed of his truth and true service; few cast their accounts, what will be laid to their charge in the day of vengeance; few regard the condemnation of their own consciences, in doing that which inwardly they disallow; few love God better than their goods.
"But, I trust, you are of this few, my dearly beloved; I trust you be of that little flock, which shall inherit the kingdom of heaven; I trust you are the mourners and lamenters which shall be comforted with comfort, which never shall be taken from you, if now you repent your former evils; if now you strive against the evils that are in you; if now you continue to call upon God; if now you defile not your bodies with any idolatrous service used in the antichristian churches; if you molest not the good Spirit of God, which is given you as a gage of eternal redemption, a counsellor and master to lead you into all truth; which good Spirit I beseech the Father of mercy to give to us all, for his dear Son's sake Jesus Christ our Lord; to whom I commend you all, and to the word of his grace, which is able to help you all, and save you all that believe it, follow it, and serve God thereafter.
"And of this I would ye were all certain, that all the hairs of your heads are numbered; so that not one of them shall perish, neither shall any man or devil be able to attempt any thing, much less to do any thing to you, or any of you, before your heavenly Father, which loveth you most tenderly, shall give them leave; and when he hath given them leave, they shall go no further than he will, nor keep you in trouble any longer than he will. Therefore cast on him all your care, for he is careful for you. Only study to please him, and to keep your consciences clean and your bodies pure from the idolatrous service, which now every where is used, and God will marvellously and mercifully defend and comfort you; which thing he do for his holy name's sake, in Christ our Lord. Amen."
To his dearly-beloved in Christ, unto a godly couple, Erkinalde Rawlins and his wife.
"God, our dear and most merciful Father through Christ, be with you, my good brother and sister, as with his children for ever; and in all things so guide you with his Holy Spirit, the leader of his people, as may be to his glory, and your own everlasting joy and comfort in him: Amen. Because I have oftentimes received from either of you comfort corporally, (for the which I beseech the Lord, as to make me thankful, so to recompense you both now and eternally,) I cannot but go about (Lord, help hereto for thy mercy's sake!) to write something for your comfort spiritually.
"My dearly beloved! look not upon these days, and the afflictions of the same here with us, simply as they seem unto you; that is, as dismal days, and days of God's vengeance; but rather as lucky days, and days of God's fatherly kindness towards you, and such as you be; that is, towards such as repent their sins and evil life past, and earnestly purpose to amend, walking not after the will of the world, and most part of men, for the preservation of their pelf, which (will they, nill they) they shall leave sooner or later; and to whom or how it shall be used, they know not. Indeed, to such as walk in their wickedness, and wind on with the world, this time is a time of wrath and vengeance; and their beginning of sorrow is but now, because they contemn the physic of their Father, which by this purging time and cleansing days would work their weal, which they will not: and because they will not have God's blessing, which both ways he hath offered unto them, by prosperity and adversity, therefore it shall be kept far enough from them. As when the sick man will no kind of physic at the hands of the physician, he is left alone, and so the malady increaseth, and destroyeth him at the length.
To such men, indeed, these days are and should be doleful days, and days of woe and weeping, because their damnation draweth nigh.
"But unto such as be penitent, and are desirous to live after the Lord's will, (among whom I do not only count you, but, as far as a man may judge, I know ye are,) unto such, I say, this time is and should be comfortable. For first, now your Father chastiseth you and me for our sins; for the which if he would have destroyed us, then would he have letten us alone, and left us to ourselves, in nothing to take to heart his fatherly visitation, which here it pleaseth them to work presently, because elsewhere he will not remember our transgressions, as Paul writeth: he chastiseth us in this world, lest with the world we should perish. Therefore, my dear hearts, call to mind your sins to lament them, and to ask mercy for them in his sight, and withal undoubtedly believe to obtain pardon and assured forgiveness of the same, for twice the Lord punisheth not for one thing.
"So that I say, first we have cause to rejoice for these days, because our Father suffereth us not to lie in Jezebel's bed, sleeping in our own sins and security, but, as mindful of us, doth correct us as his children. Whereby we may be certain, that we be no bastards, but children; for he chastiseth every child whom he receiveth. So that they which are not partakers of his chastising, or that contemn it, declare themselves to be bastards, and not children, as I know you are, which, as ye are chastised, so do ye take it to heart accordingly. And therefore be glad, my dear hearts and folks, knowing certainly, even by these visitations of the Lord, that ye are his dear elect children, whose faults your Father doth visit with the rod of correction, but his mercy will he never take away from us. Amen.
"Secondly, ye have cause to rejoice for these days, because they are days of trial, wherein not only ye yourselves, but also the world, shall know that ye be none of his, but the Lord's dearlings. Before these days came, Lord God! how many thought of themselves, they had been in God's bosom; and so were taken, and would be taken of the world! But now we see whose they are: for to whom we obey, his servants we are. If we obey the world, (which God forbid, and hitherto ye have not done it,) then are we the world's; but if we obey God, then are we God's: which thing, (I mean, that ye are God's,) these days have declared both to you, to me, and to all others that know you, better than ever we knew it. Therefore ye have no cause to sorrow, but rather to sing, in seeing yourselves to be God's babes, and in seeing that all God's children do so count you.
"What though the world repine thereat? What though he kick? What though he seek to trouble and molest you? My dear hearts, he doth but his kind: he cannot love the Lord, which liveth not in the Lord: he cannot brook the child, that hateth the father: he cannot mind the servant, that careth not for the master. If ye were of the world, the world would love you; ye should dwell quietly; there would be no grief, no molestation. If the devil dwelt in you, (which the Lord forbid,) he would not stir up his knights to besiege your house, to snatch your goods, or suffer his fiends to enter into your hogs. But because Christ dwelleth in you, (as he doth by faith,) therefore stirreth he up his first-begotten son, the world, to seek how to disquiet you, to rob you, to spoil you, to destroy you: and perchance your dear Father -- to try and to make known unto you, and to the world, that ye are destinate to another dwelling than here on earth, to another city than man's eyes have seen at any time hath given or will give power to Satan, and to the world, to take from you the things which he hath lent you; and, by taking them away, to try your fidelity, obedience, and love towards him, (for ye may not love them above him,) as by giving that ye have, and keeping it, he hath declared his love towards you.
"Satan perchance telleth God, (as he did of Job,) that ye love God for your goods' sake. What now then, if the Lord, to try you with Job, shall give him power on your goods and body accordingly -- should ye be dismayed? should ye despair? should ye be faint-hearted? Should ye not rather rejoice, as did the apostles, that they were counted worthy to suffer any thing for the Lord's sake? O forget not the end that happened to Job: for as it happened to him, so shall it happen unto you. For God is the same God, and cannot long forget to show mercy to them that look and long for it; as I know ye do, and I pray you so to do still. For the Lord loveth you, and never can nor will forget to show and pour out his mercy upon you. After a little while that he hath afflicted and tried you, saith Peter, he will visit, comfort, and confirm you. As to Jacob wrestling with the angel, at the length morning came, and the sun arose; so, dear hearts, doubtless it will happen unto you. Howbeit, do ye as Job and Jacob did; that is, order and dispose your things that God hath lent you, as ye may, and whiles ye have time. Who knoweth whether God hath given you power thus long, even to that end?
"Go to therefore; dispose your goods, prepare yourselves to trial, that either ye may stand to it like God's champions, or, else, if you feel such infirmity in yourselves that ye be not able, give placeto violence, and go where you may with free and safe conscience serve the Lord. Think not this counsel to come by chance, or fortune, but to come from the Lord. Other oracles we may not look for now. As God told Joseph in a dream by an angel, that he should fly; so if you feel such infirmity in yourselves, as should turn to God's dishonour and your own destruction withal, know that at this present I am as God's angel, to admonish you to take time whiles ye have it, and to see that in no case God's name by you might be dishonoured. Joseph might have objected the omission of his vocation, as perchance ye will do: but, dear hearts, let vocations and all things else give place to God's name, and the sanctifying thereof.
"This I speak, not as though I would not have you rather to tarry, and to stand it: but I speak it in respect of your infirmity, which if you feel to be so great in you, that you are not certain of this hope, that God will never tempt you above your ability; fly and get you hence, and know that thereby God will have you tried to yourselves and to others. For by it you shall know how to take this world, and that your home here is no home, but that ye look for another; and so give occasion to others less to love this world, and perchance to some to doubt of their religion: wherein though they be earnest, yet would they not lose so much as ye do for your religion, which ye do confirm to me and others, by your giving place to violence.
"Last of all, ye have cause to rejoice over these our days, because they be the days of conformation, in the which, and by which, God our heavenly Father maketh us like unto Christ's image here, that we may be like unto him elsewhere. For if that we suffer with him, then we shall reign also with him: if we be buried with him, then we shall rise with him again: if that we company with him in all troubles and afflictions, then we shall rejoice with him in glory: if we now sow with him in tears, we shall reap with him in gladness: if we confess him before men, he will confess us before his Father in heaven: if we take his part, he will take ours: if we lose aught for his name's sake, he will give us all things for his truth's sake. So that we ought to rejoice and be glad; for it is not given to every one to suffer loss of country, life, goods, house, &c., for the Lord's sake. What can God the Father do more unto us, than to call us into the camp with his Son? what may Christ our Saviour do more for us, than to make us his warriors? what can the Holy Ghost do to us above this, to mark us with the cognizance of the Lord of hosts?
"This cognizance of the Lord standeth not in forked caps, tippets, shaven crowns, or such other baggage and antichristian pelf; but in suffering for the Lord's sake. The world shall hate you, saith Christ. Lo, there is the cognizance and badge of God's children: the world shall hate you. Rejoice therefore, my dearly beloved, rejoice, that God doth thus vouchsafe to begin to conform you, and to make you like to Christ. By the trial of these days ye are occasioned more to repent, more to pray, more to contemn this world, more to desire life everlasting; more to be holy, (for holy is the end wherefore God doth afflict us,) and so to come to God's company: which thing because we cannot do, as long as this body is as it is, therefore by the door of death we must enter with Christ into eternal life, and immortality of soul and body; which God of his mercy send shortly, for our Saviour Jesus Christ's sake: Amen."
To mine own dear brother, Master Lawrence Saunders, prisoner in the Marshalsea.
"My good brother, I beseech our good and gracious Father always to continue his gracious favour and love towards us, and by us, as by instruments of his grace, to work his glory and the confusion of his adversaries. Out of the mouth of infants and babes he will show forth his praise, to destroy the enemy, &c.
"I have perused your letters to myself, and have read them to others; for answer whereof, if I should write what Doctor Taylor and Master Philpot do think, then must I say, that they think the salt sent unto us by your friend is unseasonable: and indeed I think they both will declare it heartily, if they should come before men. As for me, if you would know what I think, my good and most dear brother Lawrence, because I am so sinful and so conspurcate (the Lord knoweth I lie not) with many grievous sins, which I hope are washed away sanguine Christi nostri, I neither can nor would be consulted withal, but as a cipher in Agrime. Howbeit, to tell you how and what I mind, take this for a sum: I pray God in no case I may seek myself; and indeed (I thank God therefore) I purpose it not.
"That which remaineth, I commit to my Lord God; and I trust in him, that he will do according to this: Cast thy care on the Lord, &c. Cast all your care upon him, &c. Reveal unto the Lord thy way, and trust, &c. Who that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about. I did not, nor do I know, but by your letters, quod eras we shall come coram nobis. Mine own heart, still stick to, It shall be given you, &c. For the Lord is faithful. He will in temptation make a way that ye may be able to bear it. The Lord knoweth how to rid out of temptation the godly, &c. O would God I were godly! The Lord knoweth how to deliver out of temptation such as trust in him, &c. I cannot think that they will offer any kind of indifferent or mean conditions: for if we will not adorare bestiam, we never shall be delivered, but against their will, think I. God, our Father and gracious Lord, make perfect the good he hath begun in us!
"He will do it, my brother, my dear brother, whom I have in my inward bowels to live and die with. O if I were with you!' Pray for me, my own heart-root in the Lord.
"For ever your own,
Another letter to Master Lawrence Saunders.
"God's sweet peace in Christ be with you, my good brother in the Lord Jesus, and with all your con-captives. Amen.
"I was letted this morning from musing on that which I was purposed to have thought on by reason of you, against whom I saw myself guilty of negligence, even in this point that I would not write,-- I should say, that I had not written unto you as yet: therefore out of hand in manner I prepared myself to purge myself hereof; not that I will go about to excuse my fault, (for that were more to load me,) but by asking both God and you pardon, to get it no more laid to my charge. Now when I was thus purposing, and partly doing, cometh there one with a letter from you: for the which as I have cause to thank God and you, (howbeit not so that you should think I give not the whole to God,) so I see myself more blameworthy, for this long holding my peace. Howbeit, good brother, in this I have given a demonstration to you, to behold my negligence in all other things, and especially in praying for you, and for the church of God, which for my sins and hypocrisy (hypocrisy indeed even in this writing; God deliver me from it!) have deserved to be punished. Just is God, for we have deserved all kind of plagues at his hands: but yet merciful is he that will on this wise chastise us with this world, that we should not be condemned with the world. He might otherwise have punished us; I mean, he might have for other causes cast us in prison, me especially, than for his gospel and word's sake. Praised therefore be his name, which voucheth us worthy this honour. Ah! good God, forgive us our sins, and work by this thy fatherly correction on us, on me especially, effectually to love thee and thy Christ; and with joyfulness unto the end to carry thy cross through thick and thin. Always set before our eyes, not this gallows on earth, if we will stick to thee, but the gallows in hell, if we deny thee, and swerve from that we have professed.
"Ah! good brother, if I could always have God, his majesty, mercy, heaven, hell, &c., before mine eyes, then should I obdurare, as Paul writeth of Moses: He endured, saith he, as he that saw him which is invisible. Pray for me, as I know you do, and give thanks also: for, in the Lord I trust, I shall not waver. If I walk by the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear, for thou art with me, O Lord. I think we shall be shortly called forth; for now legem habent, et secundum legem, &c., otherwise will they not reason with us; and I think their sheet-anchor will be, to have us to subscribe; the which thing if we do, though with this condition, 'so far as the thing subscribed to repugneth not against God's word,' yet this will be offensive. Therefore let us vadere planč, and so sanč; I mean, let us all confess that we are no changelings, but re-ipsa are the same we were in religion, and therefore cannot subscribe except we will dissemble both with God, ourselves, and the world.
"These things I write to you, dear brother in the Lord. Now I will read your epistle. Ah! brother, that I had the practical understanding with you in that Vine which you describe; pray the Lord that I may think so indeed. God make me thankful for you. All our fellow prisoners salute you, and give thanks to God for you. The same do you for us, and pray that, &c.
"Your brother in the Lord Jesus,
to live and die with you,
To my dear fathers, Dr. Cranmer, Dr. Ridley, and Dr. Latimer.
"Jesus Emmanuel!-- My dear fathers in the Lord, I beseech God, our sweet Father through Christ, to make perfect the good he hath begun in us all. Amen.
"I had thought that every of your staves had stood next the door; but now it is otherwise perceived. Our dear brother Rogers hath broken the ice valiantly, as this day, I think, or to-morrow at the uttermost, hearty Hooper, sincere Saunders, and trusty Taylor, end their course, and receive their crown. The next am I, who hourly look for the porter to open me the gates after them, to enter into the desired rest. God forgive me mine unthankfulness for this exceeding great mercy, that, amongst so many thousands, it pleaseth his mercy to choose me to be one, in whom he will suffer. For although it be most true, that I justly suffer, (for I have been a great hypocrite, and a grievous sinner: the Lord pardon me!) yet, he hath done it,he hath done it indeed; yet, What evil hath he done? Christ, whom the prelates persecute, his verity which they hate in me, hath done no evil, nor deserveth death. Therefore ought I most heartily to rejoice of this dignation and tender kindness of the Lord's towards me, which useth remedy for my sin as a testimonial of his testament, to his glory, to my everlasting comfort, to the edifying of his church, and to the overthrowing of antichrist and his kingdom. Oh! what am I, Lord, that thou shouldest thus magnify me so vile a man and miser, as always I have been? Is this thy wont, to send for such a wretch and a hypocrite, as I have been, in a fiery chariot, as thou didst for Elias? Oh! dear fathers, be thankful for me, and pray for me, that I still might be found worthy, in whom the Lord would sanctify his holy name. And for your part, make you ready: for we are but your gentlemen-ushers: The marriage of the Lamb is prepared, come unto the marriage. I now go to leave my flesh there, where I received it. I shall be conveyed thither, as Ignatius was at Rome, to the leopards; by whose evil I hope to be made better. God grant, if it be his will that I ask, it may make them better by me. Amen.
"For my farewell therefore, I write and send this unto you, trusting shortly to see you where we shall never be separated. In the mean season I will not cease, as I have done, to commend you to our Father of heaven, and that you would so do by me, I most heartily pray every one of you: you know now I have most need. Faithful is God, which will not suffer us to be tempted above our strength. He never did it hitherto, nor now, and I am assured, he will never: Amen. He is on my right hand, therefore I shall not fall. Wherefore my heart shall rejoice, for he shall not leave my soul in hell, neither shall suffer me, his holy one, by his grace in Christ, to see corruption.
"Out of prison in haste, looking every moment for the tormentor, the eighth of February, 1555.
To the Right Honourable Lord Russell, now earl of Bedford; being then in trouble for the verity of God's gospel.
"The everlasting and most gracious God and Father of our Saviour Jesu Christ, bless your good Lordship with all manner of heavenly blessings in the same Christ our only comfort and hope: Amen.
"Praised be God our Father, which hath vouched you worthy, as of faith in his Christ, so of his cross for the same. Magnified be his holy name, who as he hath delivered you from one cross, so he hath made you willing (I trust) and ready to bear another, when he shall see his time to lay it upon you: for these are the most singular gifts of God, given as to few, so to none else but to those few which are most dear in his sight. Faith is reckoned, and worthily, among the greatest gifts of God, yea, it is the greatest itself that we may enjoy; for by it, as we be justified and made God's children, so are we temples and possessors of the Holy Spirit; yea, of Christ also, and of the Father himself. By faith, we drive the devil away: we overcome the world, and are already citizens of heaven, and fellows with God's dear saints. But who is able to reckon the riches that this faith bringeth with her unto the soul she sitteth upon? No man nor angel. And therefore, (as I said,) of all God's gifts, she may be set in the top, and have the upmost seat. The which thing if men considered, (in that she cometh alonely from God's own mercy-seat, by the hearing, not of mass or matins, diriges, or such dross; but the word of God in such a tongue as we can and do understand,) as they would be diligent and take great heed for doing or seeing any thing which might cast her down (for then they fall also); so would they with no less care read and hear God's holy word, joining thereto most earnest and often prayer, as well for the more and better understanding, as for the loving, living, and confessing of the same, maugre the head of the devil, the world, our flesh, reason, goods, possessions, carnal friends, wife, children, and very life here; if they should pull us back to hearken to their voice and counsel, for more quiet, sure, and longer use of them.
"Now, notwithstanding this excellency of faith, in that we read the apostle to match therewith, yea, (as it were,) to prefer, suffering persecution for Christ's sake, I trow no man will be so fond as to think otherwise, but that I, and all God's children, have cause to glorify and praise God, which hath vouched you worthy so great a blessing. For though the reason or wisdom of the world thinketh of the cross according to their reach, and according to their present sense, and therefore flieth from it as from a most great ignominy and shame: yet God's scholars have learned otherwise to think of the cross, that is, the frame-house in the which God frameth his children, like to his Son Christ; the furnace that fineth God's gold; the highway to heaven; the suit and livery that God's servants are served withal; the earnest and beginning of all consolation and glory: for they (I mean God's scholars, as your Lordship is, I trust) do enter into God's sanctuary, lest their feet slip. They look not, as beasts do, on things present only, but on things to come, and so have they as present to faith the judgment and glorious coming of Christ Jesus, like as the wicked have now their worldly wealth, wherein they wallow, and will wallow, till they tumble headlong into hell, where are torments too terrible and endless. Now they follow the fiend, (as the bear doth the train of honey, and the sow the swillings,) till they be brought into the slaughter-house; and then they know that their prosperity hath brought them to perdition. Then cry they, Woe, woe, we went the wrong way! we counted these men, (I mean such as you be, that suffer for God's sake loss of goods, friends, and life, whom they shall see endued with rich robes of righteousness, crowns of most pure precious gold, and palms of conquest in the goodly glorious palace of the Lamb, where is eternal joy, felicity, &c.,) we counted (will they then say) these men but fools: and mad-men, we took their conditions to be but curiosity. But then will it be too late then the time will be turned; laughing shall be turned into weeping, and weeping into rejoicing. Read Wisd. ii. iii. iv. v.
"Therefore, (as before I have said,) great cause have I to thank God, which hath vouched you worthy of his most bountiful blessing: much more then have you cause, my good Lord, so to be; I mean thankful. For look upon your vocation, I pray you: tell me how many noblemen, earls' sons, lords, knights, and men of estimation, hath God in this realm of England dealt thus withal? I dare say you think not that you have deserved this. Only God's mercy in his Christ hath wrought this on you, as he did in Jeremiah's time on Ebed-melech, in Achab's time on Abdias, in Christ's time on Joseph of Arimathea, in the apostles' time on Sergius Paulus and the queen Candace's chamberlain. Only now be thankful and continue; continue, continue, my good Lord, continue to confess Christ. Be not ashamed of him before men: for then will not he be ashamed of you. Now will he try you. Stick fast unto him, and he will stick fast by you; he will be with you in trouble, and deliver you. But then must you cry unto him, for so it proceedeth: He cried unto me, and I heard him; I was with him in trouble, &c.
"Remember Lot's wife, which looked back: remember Francis Spira: remember that none is crowned, but he that striveth lawfully: remember that all you have is at Christ's commandment: remember he lost more for you, than you can lose for him: remember you lose not that which is lost for his sake; for you shall find much more here and elsewhere: remember you shall die, and when, where, and how, ye cannot tell: remember the death of sinners is most terrible: remember the death of God's saints is most precious in his sight: remember the multitude goeth the wide way which windeth to woe: remember that the strait gate, which leadeth to glory, hath but few travellers: remember Christ biddeth you to strive to enter in thereat: remember he that trusteth in the Lord, shall receive strength to stand against all the assaults of his enemies. Be certain all the hairs of your head are numbered: be certain your good Father hath appointed bounds, over the which the devil dares not look. Commit yourself to him; he is, hath been, and will be your keeper. Cast your care on him, and he will care for you. Let Christ be your scope, and mark to prick at; let him be your pattern to work by; let him be your ensample to follow: give him as your heart so your hands; as your mind so your tongue; as your faith so your feet; and let his word be your candle, to go before you in all matters of religion. Blessed is he that walketh not to these popish prayers, nor standeth at them, nor sitteth at them: glorify God both in soul and body. He that gathereth not with Christ scattereth abroad. Use prayer: look for God's help, which is at hand to them that ask and hope thereafter assuredly. In which prayers I heartily desire your Lordship to remember us, who as we are going with you right gladly, (God therefore be praised,) so we look to go before you, hoping that you will follow, if God so will, according to your daily prayer, Thy will be done on earth, &c. The good Spirit of God always guide your Lordship unto the end: Amen.
"Your Lordship's own for ever,
To Master Warcup and his wife, Mrs. Wilkinson, and others of his godly friends, with their families.
"The same peace our Saviour Christ left with his people, which is not without war with the world, Almighty God work plentifully in your hearts now and for ever. Amen.
"The time, I perceive, is come wherein the Lord's ground will be known: I mean, it will now shortly appear who have received God's gospel into their hearts indeed, to the taking of good root therein; for such will not for a little heat or sun-burning wither, but stiffly will stand and grow on, maugre the malice of all burning showers and tempests. And forasmuch as -- my beloved in the Lord -- I am persuaded of you, that ye be indeed the children of God, God's good ground, which groweth and will grow on, (by God's grace,) bringing forth fruit to God's glory after your vocations, as occasions shall be offered, (burn the sun never so hot,) therefore I cannot but so signify unto you, and heartily pray you and every one of you accordingly,to go on forwards after your Master, Christ, not sticking at the foul way and stormy weather, which you are to come into, and are like so to do: of this being most certain, that the end of your journey shall be pleasant and joyful, in such a perpetual rest and blissfulness as cannot but swallow up the showers that ye now feel and are soused in, if ye often set it before your eyes, after Paul's counsel in the latter end of the fourth, and beginning of the fifth, chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. Read it, I pray you, and remember it often as a restorative to refresh you, lest ye faint in the way.
"And besides this set before you also, that though the weather be foul, and storms grow apace, yet go not ye alone, but other your brothers and sisters tread the same path, as St. Peter telleth us: and therefore company should cause you to be the more courageous and cheerful. But if you had no company at all to go presently with you, I pray you tell me, if, even from the beginning, the best of God's friends have found any fairer weather and way to the place whither ye are going, (I mean heaven,) than ye now find and are like to do; except ye will, with the worldlings, which have their portion in this life, tarry still by the way till the storms be overpast; and then either night will so approach that ye cannot travel, or the doors will be sparred before ye come, and so ye then lodge without in wonderful and evil lodgings. Read Apocalypse xxii. Begin at Abel, and come from him to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, the patriarchs, Moses, David, Daniel, and all the saints of the Old Testament; and tell me whether ever any of them found any fairer way than ye now find.
"If the Old Testament will not serve, I pray you come to the New, and begin with Mary and Joseph, and come from them to Zachary and Elizabeth, John Baptist, and every one of the apostles and evangelists; and search whether they all found any other way into the city we travel towards, than by many tribulations.
"Besides these, if ye should call to remembrance the primitive church, Lord God! ye should see many to have given cheerfully their bodies to most grievous torments, rather than they would be stopped in their journey; that there is no day in the year, but (I dare say) a thousand was the fewest that with great joy lost their homes here, but in the city they went unto have found other manner of homes than man's mind is able to conceive. But, if none of all these were, if ye had no company now to go with you, as you have me your poor brother and bondman of the Lord, with many others, I trust in God, if you had none other of the fathers, patriarchs, kings, prophets, apostles, evangelists, martyrs, and other holy saints and children of God, that in their journey to heaven-ward found as ye now find, and are like to find if ye go on forward, as I trust ye will; yet ye have your Master and your Captain, Jesus Christ, the dear darling and only begotten and beloved Son of God, in whom was all the Father's pleasure, joy, and delectation; ye have him to go before you, no fairer way, but much fouler, into this our city of Jerusalem. I need not, I trust, to rehearse what manner of way he found. Begin at his birth, and till ye come at his burial, ye shall find that every foot and stride of his journey was no better, but much worse than yours is now.
"Wherefore, my dearly beloved in the Lord, be not so dainty, as to look for that at God's hands, your dear Father, which the fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, evangelists, martyrs, saints, and his own Son Jesus Christ, did not find. Hitherto we have had fair way (I trow) and fair weather also: now, because we have loitered by the way, and not made the speed we should have done, our loving Lord and sweet Father hath overcast the weather, and stirred up the storms and tempests, that we might with more haste run out our race before night come, and the doors be sparred. The devil standeth now at every inn-door in his city and country of this world, crying unto us to tarry and lodge in this or that place till the storms be over-past; not that he would not have us wet to the skin, but that the time might overpass us to our utter destruction. Therefore beware of his enticements. Cast not your eyes on things that be present, how this man doth, and how that man doth; but cast your eyes on the gleve ye run at, or else ye will lose the game. Ye know that he which runneth at the gleve, doth not look on others that stand by, and go this way or that way; but altogether he looketh on the gleve, and on them that run with him, that those which be behind overtake him not, and that he may overtake them which be before. Even so should we do; leave off looking on those which will not run the race to heaven's bliss by the path of persecution with us; and cast our eyes on the end of our race, and on them that go before us, that we may overtake them, and on them which come after us, that we may provoke them to come the faster after.
"He that shooteth, will not cast his eyes in his shooting on them that stand by, or ride by the ways, (I trow,) but rather at the mark he shooteth at: for else he were like to win the wrong way. Even so, my dearly beloved, let your eyes be set on the mark ye shoot at, even Christ Jesus; who, for the joy set before him, did joyfully carry his cross, contemning the shame; and therefore he now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God. Let us follow him; for this did he, that we should not be fainthearted. For we may be most assured, that if we suffer with him, we shall undoubtedly reign with him: but, if we deny him, surely he will deny us; For he that is ashamed of me, saith Christ, and of my gospel, in this faithless generation, I will be ashamed of him before the angels of God in heaven. Oh! how heavy a sentence is this to all such as know the mass to be an abominable idol, full of idolatry, blasphemy, and sacrilege against God and his Christ (as undoubtedly it is); and yet, for fear of men, for loss of life or goods, yea, for advantage and gain, some will honest it with their presence, dissembling both with God and man, as their own heart and conscience doth accuse them. Better it were that such had never known the truth, than thus wittingly, and for fear or favour of man, whose breath is in his nostrils, to dissemble it; or rather (as indeed it is) to deny it. The end of such is like to be worse than their beginning. Such had need to take heed of the two terrible places to the Hebrews in the sixth and tenth chapters, lest, by so doing, they fall therein. Let them beware they play not wily-beguily with themselves, as some do, I fear me, which go to mass, and because they worship not, nor kneel, nor knock, as others do, but sit still in their pews, therefore they think they rather do good to others than hurt.
"But, alas! if these men would look into their own consciences, there should they see they are very dissemblers, and in seeking to deceive others (for by this means the magistrates think them of their sort) they deceive themselves. They think at the elevation time, all men's eyes are set upon them, to mark how they do. They think others, hearing of such men going to mass, do see, or inquire of their behaviour there. Oh! if there were in those men that are so present at the mass, either love to God, or to their brethren, then would they, for the one or both, openly take God's part, and admonish the people of their idolatry. They fear man more than him which hath power to cast both soul and body into hell-fire; they halt on both knees; they serve two masters. God have mercy upon such, and open their eyes with his eye-salve, that they may see that they which take no part with God are against God, and that they which gather not with Christ, do scatter abroad. Oh that they would read what St. John saith will be done to the fearful. The counsel given to the church of Laodicea, is good counsel for such.
"But to return to you again, dearly beloved be not ye ashamed of God's gospel: it is the power of God to salvation to all those that do believe it. Be therefore partakers of the afflictions, as God shall make you able; knowing for certain, that he will never tempt you further than he will make you able to bear: and think it no small grace of God to suffer persecution for God's truth; for the Spirit of God resteth upon you, and ye are happy, as one day ye shall see: read 2 Thess. i. and Heb. xii. As the fire hurteth not gold, but maketh it finer, so shall ye be more pure by suffering with Christ. The flail and wind hurteth not the wheat, but cleanseth it from the chaff. And ye, dearly beloved, are God's wheat: fear not therefore the flail, fear not the fanning wind, fear not the millstone, fear not the oven; for all these make you more meet for the Lord's own tooth. Soap, though it be black, soileth not the cloth, but rather at the length maketh it more clean: so doth the black cross help us to more whiteness, if God strike with his battledore. Because ye are God's sheep, prepare yourselves to the slaughter, always knowing that in the sight of the Lord our death shall be precious. The souls under the altar look for us to fill up their number: happy are we if God have so appointed us. Howsoever it be, dearly beloved, cast yourselves wholly upon the Lord, with whom all the hairs of your heads are numbered, so that not one of them shall perish. Will we, nill we, we must drink God's cup, if he have appointed it for us. Drink it willingly then; and at the first, when it is full, lest peradventure if we linger, we shall drink at length of the dregs with the wicked, if at the beginning we drink not with his children: for with them his judgment beginneth, and when he hath wrought his will on Mount Sion, then will he visit the nations round about.
"Submit yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of the Lord. No man shall touch you without his knowledge: when they touch you therefore, know it is to your weal. God thereby will work to make you like Christ here, that ye may be also like unto him elsewhere. Acknowledge your unthankfulness and sin, and bless God that correcteth you in the world, because you shall not be damned with the world. Otherwise might he correct us, than in making us to suffer for righteousness' sake: but this he doth, because we are not of the world. Call upon his name through Christ for his help, as he commandeth us. Believe that he is merciful to you, heareth you, and helpeth you: I am with him in trouble, and will deliver him, saith he. Know that God hath appointed bounds, over which the devil and all the world shall not pass. If all things seem to be against us, yet say with Job, If he kill me, I will hope in him. Read the 91st Psalm, and pray for me, your poor brother and fellow sufferer for God's gospel sake; his name therefore be praised. And of his mercy he make me and you worthy to suffer with good conscience for his name's sake. Die once we must, and when we know not: happy are they to whom God giveth to pay nature's debt, I mean, to die for his sake.
"Here is not our home: therefore let us accordingly consider things, always having before our eyes the heavenly Jerusalem, the way thither to be by persecutions; the dear friends of God, how they have gone it after the example of our Saviour Jesus Christ, whose footsteps let us follow even to the very gallows, if God so will, not doubting but that as he, within three days, rose again immortal, even so we shall do in our time; that is, when the trump shall blow, and the angel shall shout, and the Son of man shall appear in the clouds with innumerable saints and angels, in majesty and great glory: then shall the dead arise, and we shall be caught up into the clouds to meet the Lord, and so be always with him. Comfort yourselves with these words, and pray for me for God's sake.
"From prison, 19 Nov. 1553.
To Sir James Hales, knight, then prisoner in the Compter in Bread Street.
"The God of mercy, and the Father of all comfort, plentifully pour out upon you and in you his mercy, and with his consolations comfort and strengthen you to the end, for his and our Christ's sake.
"Although, right worshipful sir, many causes might move me to be content with crying for you to your God and my God, that he would give you grace to persevere well, as he hath right notably begun, to the great glory of his name, and comfort of all such as fear him; as lack of learning, of familiarity, yea, acquaintance, (for I think I am unknown to you, both by face and name,) and other such-like things; yet I cannot content myself, but presume something to scribble unto you, not that I think my scribbling can do you any good, but that I might declare my συμπαθειαν [Greek; sympatheian] and compassion, love and affection, I bear towards your Mastership, which is contented, yea, desirous,with us poor misers, to confess Christ's gospel in these perilous times and days of trial. O Lord God! how good art thou, which dost thus glean out grapes -- I mean, children for thyself, and brethren for Christ! Look, good Master Hales, on your vocation: not many judges, not many knights, not many landed men, not many rich men, and wealthy to live as you are, hath God chosen to suffer for his sake, as he hath now done you. Certainly I dare say you think not so of yourself, as though God were bound to prefer you, or had need of you; but rather attribute this, as all good things, unto his free mercy in Christ. Again, I dare say that you, being a wise man, do judge of things wisely, that is, concerning this your cross, you judge of it not after the world and its people, which is the great master of error; nor after the judgment of reason and worldly wisdom, which is foolishness to faith; nor after the present sense, to which it seemeth not to be joyous, but grievous, as Paul writeth: but after the word of God, which teacheth your cross to be, in respect of yourself, between God and you; God's chastising, and your Father's correction, nurture, school, trial, path-way to heaven, glory, and felicity, and the furnace to consume the dross, and mortify the relics of old Adam which yet remain; yea, even the frame-house to fashion you like to the dearest saints of God here, yea, to Christ the Son of God, that elsewhere you might be like unto him.
"Now, concerning your cross in respect of the world, between the world and you, God's word teacheth it to be a testimonial of God's truth, of his providence, of his power, of his justice, of his wisdom, of his anger against sin, of his goodness, of his judgment, of your faith and religion, so that by it you are to the world a witness of God, one of his testes, that he is true, he ruleth all things, he is just, wise, and at length will judge the world, and cast the wicked into perdition; but the godly he will take and receive into his eternal habitation. I know you judge of things after faith's fetch, and the effects or ends of things, and so you see an eternal weight of glory, which this cross shall bring unto you, while ye look not on things which are seen, but on the things which are not seen. Let the worldlings weigh things and look upon the affairs of men with their worldly and corporal eyes, as did many in subscription of the king's last will; and therefore they did that, for the which they beshrewed themselves: but let us look on things with other manner of eyes, as, God be praised, you did, in not doing that which you were desired, and driven at to have done. You then beheld things not as a man, but as a man of God; and so you do now in religion, at the least hitherto you have done: and that you might do so still, I humbly beseech and pray you, say with David, Mine eyes fail for thy word-saying; when wilt thou comfort me? Though you be as uter in fumo, that is, like a bottle in the smoke, (for I hear you want health,) yet, do not forget the statutes of the Lord: but cry out, How many are the days of thy servant? when wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me? And be certain the Lord will surely come, and not stay; though he tarry, wait for him; for he is but a while in his anger, but in his favour is life: weeping may abide at evening, but joy cometh in the morning. Follow therefore Esay's counsel, Hide thyself for a very little while, until his indignation pass over, which is not indignatio indeed, but to our sense; and therefore in Esay xxvii. God saith of his church and people, that as he keepeth night and day, so, There is no anger in me, saith he.
"The mother sometimes beateth her child, but yet her heart melteth upon it, even in the very beating: and therefore she casteth the rod into the fire, and colleth the child, giveth it an apple, and dandleth it most motherly. And, to say the truth, the love of mothers to their children, is but a trace to train us to behold the love of God towards us: and therefore saith he, Can a mother forget the child of her womb? As who should say, No: but if she should so do, yet will not I forget thee, saith the Lord of hosts. Ah comfortable saying! I will not forget thee, saith the Lord. Indeed the children of God think oftentimes that God hath forgotten them, and therefore they cry, Hide not thy face from me, &c. Leave me not, O Lord, &c. Whereas in very truth it is not so, but to their present sense: and therefore David said, I said in my agony, I was clean cast away from thy face. But was it so? Nay verily. Read his Psalms, and you shall see. So writeth he also in other places very often, especially in the person of Christ: as when he saith, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? He saith not, Why dost thou forsake me? or, Why wilt thou forsake me? But, Why hast thou forsaken me? Where indeed God had not left him, but that it was so to his sense; and that this Psalm telleth us full well; which Psalm I pray you now and then read, it is the 22nd, and thereto join the 31st, and the 116th, with divers others. The same we read in the prophet Isaiah, chap. xl., where he reproveth Israel for saying, God had forgotten them; Knowest thou not, saith he; hast thou not heard, &c.; They that trust in the Lord shall renew their strength. And in his 54th chapter, Fear not, &c.: for a little while I have forsaken thee, but with great compassion will I gather thee. For a moment in mine anger I hid my face from thee, for a little season: but in everlasting mercy have I had compassion on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer. For this is unto me as the waters of Noah: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be angry with thee nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall remove, and hills shall fall down; but my mercy shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace fall away, saith the Lord that hath compassion on thee.
"But the Scriptures are full of such sweet places to them that will bear the wrath of the Lord, and wait for his health and help. As of all temptations this is the greatest, that God hath forgotten, or will not help us through the pikes, as they say: so of all services of God, this liketh him the best, to hope assuredly on him, and for his help always, which is a helper in tribulations, and doth more gloriously show his power by such as be weak, and feel themselves so. For the weaker we are, the more strong we are in him. Thus the eyes of the Lord be on them that tremble and fear. He will accomplish their desire, he is with them in their trouble, he will deliver them. Before they cry, he heareth them; as all the Scriptures teach us. To the reading whereof, and hearty prayer, I heartily commend you, beseeching Almighty God, that of his eternal mercy he would make perfect the good he hath begun in you, and strengthen you to the end; that you might have no less hope, but much more of his help to your comfort now against your enemies, than already he hath given you against N., for not subscribing to the king's will.
"Be certain, be certain, good Master Hales! that all the hairs of your head your dear Father hath numbered, so that one of them shall not perish: your name is written in the book of life. Therefore upon God cast all your care, which will comfort you with his eternal consolations, and make you able to go through the fire, (if need he,) which is nothing to be compared to the fire wherein our enemies shall fall and lie for ever, from the which the Lord deliver us, though it be through temporal fire; which must be construed according to the end and profit that cometh after it: so shall it then not much fear us to suffer it for our Master Christ's cause, the which the Lord grant us for his mercy's sake: Amen.
"From the King's Bench.
"Your humble JOHN BRADFORD."
To my very friend in the Lord, Dr. Hill, physician.
"The God of mercy and Father of all comfort, at this present and for ever, ingraft in your heart the sense of his mercy in Christ, and the continuance of his consolation, which cannot but enable you to carry with joy whatsoever cross he shall lay upon you: Amen.
"Hitherto I could have no such liberty as to write unto you, as I think you know: but now, in that through God's providence I have no such restraint, I cannot but something write, as well to purge me of the suspicion of unthankfulness towards you, as also to signify my carefulness for you in these perilous days; lest you should wax cold in God's cause, (which God forbid,) or suffer the light of the Lord, once kindled in your heart, to he quenched, and so become as you were before, after the example of the world, and of many others, which would have been accounted otherwise in our days, and yet still beguile themselves, still would be so accounted: although by their outward life they declare the contrary, in that they think it enough to keep the heart pure, notwithstanding that the outward man doth curry favour.
"In which doings, as they deny God to be jealous, and therefore requiring the whole man, as well body as soul, being both create as to immortality and society with him, so redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and now sanctified by the Holy Spirit to be the temple of God, and member of his Son: as (I say) by their parting stake to give God the heart, and the world the body, they deny God to be jealous, (for else they would give him both, as the wife would do to her husband whether he be jealous or no, if she be honest,) so they play the dissemblers with the church of God by their fact, offending the godly, whom either they provoke to fall with them, or make more careless and conscienceless if they be fallen, and occasioning the wicked and obstinate to triumph against God, and the more vehemently to prosecute their malice against such as will not defile themselves in body or soul with the Romish rags now received amongst us. Because of this, -- I mean, lest you, my dear master and brother in the Lord, should do as many of our gospellers do for fear of man, whose breath is in his nostrils, and hath power but of the body, not fearing the Lord, which hath power both of soul and body, and that not only temporally, but also eternally,-- I could not but write something unto you, as well because duty deserveth it, (for many benefits I have received of God by your hands, for the which He reward you, for I cannot,) as also because charity and love compelleth me; not that I think you have any need, (for as I may rather learn of you, so I doubt not but you have hitherto kept yourself upright from halting,) but that I might both quiet my conscience, calling upon me hereabout, ar.d signify unto you by something, my carefulness for your soul, as painfully and often you have done for my body.
"Therefore I pray you call to mind, that there be but two masters, two kinds of people, two ways, and two mansion-places. The masters be Christ and Satan, the people be servitors to either of these, the ways be strait and wide, the mansions be heaven and hell. Again, consider that this world is the place of trial of God's people, and the devil's servants: for as the one will follow his master whatsoever cometh of it, so will the other. For a time it is hard to discern who pertaineth to God, and who to the devil: as in the calm and peace, who is a good shipman and warrior, and who is not. But as when the storm ariseth the expert mariner is known, and as in war the good soldier is seen, so in affliction and the cross, easily God's children are known from Satan's servants. For then, as the good servant will follow his master, so will the godly follow their Captain, come what will come: whereas the wicked and hypocrites will bid adieu, and desire less of Christ's acquaintance. For which cause the cross is called a probation and trial, because it trieth who will go with God, and who will forsake him. And now in England we see how small a company Christ hath in comparison of Satan's soldiers. Let no man deceive himself; for he that gathereth not with Christ, scattereth abroad. No man can serve two masters; the Lord abhorreth double hearts; the lukewarm (that is, such as are both hot and cold) he spitteth out of his mouth. None that halt on both knees doth God take for his servants. The way of Christ is the strait way; and so strait, that as a few find it, and few walk in it, so no man can halt in it, but must needs go upright: for as the straitness will suffer no reeling to this side or that side, so, if any man halt, he is like to fall off the bridge into the pit of eternal perdition.
"Strive therefore, good Master Doctor, now you have found it, to enter into it: and if you should be called or pulled back, look not on this side or that side, or behind you, as Lot's wife did, but straight forwards on the end which is set before you (though it be to come) as even now present: like as you do and will your patients to do in purgations, and other your ministrations, to consider the effect that will ensue, where-through the bitterness and loathsomeness of the purgation is so overcome, and the painfulness in abiding the working of that is ministered is so eased, that it maketh the patient willingly and joyfully to receive that [which] is to be received, although it be never so unpleasant: so (I say) set before you the end of this strait way; and then doubtless, as St. Paul saith, it shall bring with it an eternal weight of glory, whilst we look not on the thing which is seen, for that is temporal, but on the thing which is not seen, which is eternal. So doth the husbandman, in ploughing and tilling, set before him the harvest-time; so doth the fisher consider the draught of his net, rather than the casting-in; so doth the merchant the return of his merchandise; and so should we in these stormy days set before us not the loss of our goods, liberty, and very life -- but the reaping time, the coming of our Saviour Christ to judgment; the fire that shall burn the wicked and disobedient to God's gospel; the blast of the trump; the exceeding glory prepared for us in heaven eternally, such as the eye hath not seen, the ear hath not heard, nor the heart of man can conceive. The more we lose here, the greater joy shall we have there: the more we suffer, the greater triumph. For corruptible dross, we shall find incorruptible treasures; for gold, glory; for silver, solace without end; for riches, robes royal; for earthly houses, eternal palaces; mirth without measure, pleasure without pain, felicity endless; in short, we shall have God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
"O happy place! O that this day would come, then shall the end of the wicked be lamentable; then shall they receive the just reward of God's vengeance; then shall they cry, Woe, woe! that ever they did as they have done. Read Wisd. ii. iii. iv. v.: read Matt. xxv.: read 1 Cor. xv.; 2 Cor. v.: and by faith (which God increase in us) consider the thing there set forth. And for your comfort, read Heb. xi., to see what faith hath done, always considering the way to heaven to be by many tribulations, and that all they which will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution. You know this is our alphabet: He that will be my disciple, saith Christ, must deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.-- Not this bishop, not that doctor; not this emperor, nor that king, but me, saith Christ: For he that loveth father, mother, wife, children, or very life, better than me, is not worthy of me. Remember that the same Lord saith, He that will save his life shall lose it. Comfort yourself with this, that as the devils had no power over the porkets, or over Job's goods, without God's leave; so shall they have none over you. Remember also, that all the hairs of your head are numbered with God. The devil may make one believe he will drown him, as the sea in his surges threateneth to the land: but as the Lord hath appointed bounds for the one, over the which he cannot pass, so hath He done for the other.
"On God therefore cast your care; love him, serve him after his word, fear him, trust in him, hope at his hand for all help, and always pray, looking for the cross; and whensoever it cometh, be assured, the Lord, as he is faithful, so he will never tempt you further than he will make you able to bear, but in the midst of the temptation will make such an evasion, as shall be most to his glory and your eternal comfort. God, for his mercy in Christ, with his Holy Spirit endue you, comfort you, under the wings of his mercy shadow you, and as his dear child guide you for evermore. To whose merciful tuition, as I do with my hearty prayer commit you; so I doubt not but you pray for me, and so I beseech you to do still. My brother P. telleth me, you would have the last part of St. Jerome's works, to have the use thereof for a fortnight. I cannot for these three days well forbear it, but yet on Thursday next I will send it you, if God let me not; and use me, and that I have, as your own. The Lord for his mercy in Christ direct our ways to his glory.
"Out of prison, by yours to command.
To Mistress M. H., a godly gentlewoman, comforting her in that common heaviness and godly sorrow, which the feeling and sense of sin worketh in God's children.
"I humbly and heartily pray the everlasting God and Father of mercy, to bless and keep your heart and mind in the knowledge and love of his truth, and of his Christ, through the inspiration and working of his Holy Spirit: Amen.
"Although I have no doubt, but that you prosper and go forward daily in the way of godliness, more and more drawing towards perfection, and have no need of any thing that I can write; yet, because my desire is that you might be more fervent, and persevere to the end, I could not but write something unto you, beseeching you both often and diligently to call unto your mind, as a mean to stir you hereunto, yea, as a thing which God most straitly requireth you to believe, that you are beloved of God, and that he is your dear Father, in, through, and for, Christ and his death's sake. This love and tender kindness of God towards us in Christ is abundantly herein declared, in that he hath, to the godly work of creation of this world, made us after his image; redeemed us being lost; called us into his church; sealed us with his mark and sign manual of baptism; kept and conserved us all the days of our life; fed, nourished, defended, and most fatherly chastised us; and now hath kindled in our hearts the sparkles of his fear, faith, love, and knowledge of his Christ and truth: and therefore we lament, because we lament no more our unthankfulness, our frailness, our diffidence and wavering in things wherein we should be most certain.
"All these things we should use as means to confirm our faith of this, that God is our God and Father, and to assure us that he loveth us as our Father in Christ: to this end, I say, we should use the things before touched, especially in that, of all things, God requireth this faith and fatherly persuasion of his fatherly goodness, as his chiefest service. For before he ask any thing of us, he saith, I am the Lord thy God: giving himself, and then all he hath, to us, to be our own. And this he doth in respect of himself, of his own mercy and truth, and not in respect of us, for then were grace no grace. In consideration whereof, when he saith, Thou shalt have none other gods but me, Thou shalt love me with all thy heart, &c., though of duty we are bound to accomplish all that he requireth, and are culpable and guilty if we do not the same, yet he requireth not these things further of us, than to make us more in love, and more certain of this his covenant, that he is our Lord and God. In certainty whereof, as he hath given this whole world to serve to our need and commodity; so hath he given his Son Christ Jesus, and (in Christ) himself to be a pledge and gage, whereof the Holy Ghost doth now and then give us some taste and sweet smell, to our eternal joy.
"Therefore (as I said) because God is our Father in Christ, and requireth of you straitly to believe it, give yourself to obedience; although ye do it not with such feeling as you desire. First must faith go before, and then feeling will follow. If our imperfection, frailty, and many evils, should be occasions whereby Satan would have us to doubt; as much as we can, let us abhor that suggestion, as of all others most pernicious: for so indeed it is. For when we stand in a doubt, whether God be our Father, we cannot be thankful to God; we cannot heartily pray or think any thing we do acceptable to God; we cannot love our neighbours, and give over ourselves to care for them, and do for them as we should do, and therefore Satan is most subtle hereabout, knowing full well that if we doubt of God's eternal mercies towards us through Christ, we cannot please God, or do any thing as we should do to man. Continually casteth he into our memories our imperfection, frailty, falls, and offences, that we should doubt of God's mercy and favour towards us.
"Therefore, my good sister, we must not be sluggish herein, but as Satan laboureth to loosen our faith, so must we labour to fasten it by thinking on the promises and covenant of God in Christ's blood; namely, that God is our God with all that ever he hath: which covenant dependeth and hangeth upon God's own goodness, mercy, and truth only; and not on our obedience or worthiness on any point; for then should we never be certain. Indeed God requireth of us obedience and worthiness, but not that thereby we might be his children, and he our Father: but because he is our Fathe and we his children through his own goodness in Christ, therefore requireth he faith and obedience. Now if we want this obedience and worthiness which he requireth, should we doubt whether he be our Father? Nay, that were to make our obedience and worthiness the cause, and so to put Christ out of place, for whose sake God is our Father: but rather because he is our Father, and we feel ourselves to want such things as he requireth, we should be stirred up to a shamefacedness and blushing, because we are not as we should be: and thereupon should we take occasion to go to our Father in prayer on this manner:
"'Dear Father, thou, of thine own mercy in Jesus Christ, hast chosen me to be thy child, and therefore thou wouldest I should be brought into thy church and faithful company of thy children; wherein thou hast kept me hitherto; thy name therefore be praised. Now I see myself to want faith, hope, love, &c., which thy children have and thou requirest of me, where-through the devil would have me to doubt, yea, utterly to despair of thy fatherly goodness, favour, and mercy. Therefore I come to thee as to my merciful Father, through thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and pray thee to help me, good Lord: help me, and give me faith, hope, love, &c., and grant that thy Holy Spirit may be with me for ever, and more and more to assure me that thou art my Father; that this merciful covenant that thou madest with me in respect of thy grace in Christ and for Christ, and not in respect of any my worthiness, is always true to me,' &c.
"On this sort, I say, you must pray and use your cogitations, when Satan would have you to doubt of salvation. He doth all he can to prevail herein. Do you all you can to prevail herein against him. Though you feel not as you would, yet doubt not, but hope beyond all hope, as Abraham did: for faith always (I said) goeth before feeling. As certain as God is almighty; as certain as God is merciful; as certain as God is true; as certain as Jesus Christ was crucified, is risen, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; as certain as this is God's commandment, I am the Lord thy God, &c., so certain ought you to be that God is your Father. As you are bound to have no other gods but him, so are ye no less bound to believe that God is your God. What profit should it be to you to believe this to be true, I am the Lord thy God, to others, if you should not believe that this is true to yourself? The devil believeth on this sort. And whatsoever it be that would move you to doubt of this -- whether God be your God through Christ -- that same cometh undoubtedly of the devil. Wherefore did he make you, but because he loved you? Might not he have made you blind, deaf, lame, frantic, &c.? might not be have made you a Jew, a Turk, a papist, &c.? And why hath he not done so? Verily because he loved you. And why did he love you? What was there in you to move him to love you? Surely nothing moved him to love you, and therefore to make you, and so hitherto to keep you, but his own goodness in Christ. Now then, in that his goodness in Christ still remaineth as much as it was -- that is, even as great as himself, for it cannot be lessened -- how should it be but that he is your God and Father? Believe this, believe this, my good sister, for God is no changeling. Them whom he loveth, he loveth to the end.
"Cast therefore yourself wholly upon him, and think without all wavering that you are God's child, that you are a citizen of heaven, that you are the daughter of God, the temple of the Holy Ghost, &c. If hereof you be assured as you ought to be, then shall your conscience be quieted; then shall you lament more and more that you want many things which God loveth; then shall you labour to be holy in soul and body; then shall you go about that God's glory may shine in you, in all your words and works; then shall you not be afraid what man can do unto you; then shall you have wisdom to answer your adversaries, as shall serve to their shame, and your comfort; then shall you be certain that no man can touch one hair of your head further than shall please your good Father, to your everlasting joy; then shall you be most certain, that God as your good Father will be more careful for your children, and make better provision for them, if all you have were gone, than you can; then shall you (being assured, I say, of God's favour towards you) give over yourself wholly to help and care for others that be in need; then shall you contemn this life, and desire to be at home with your good and sweet Father; then shall you labour to mortify all things that would spot either soul or body. All these things spring out of this certain persuasion and faith, that God is our Father, and we are his children by Christ Jesus. All things should help our faith herein; but Satan goeth about in all things to hinder us.
"Therefore let us use earnest and hearty prayer; let us often remember this covenant -- I am the Lord thy God; let us look upon Christ and his precious blood shed for the obsignation and confirmation of his covenant; let us remember all the free promises of the gospel; let us set before us God's benefits generally in making this world, in ruling it, in governing it, in calling and keeping his church, &c. Let us set before us God's benefits particularly -- how he hath made his creatures after his image; how he made us of perfect limbs, form, beauty, memory, &c.; how he hath made us Christians, and given us a right judgment in his religion; how he hath, ever since we were born, blessed, kept, nourished, and defended us; how he hath often beaten, chastised, and fatherly corrected us; how he hath spared us, and doth now spare us, giving us time, space, place, grace. This if you do, and use earnest prayer, and so flee from all things which might wound your conscience, giving yourself to diligence in your vocation, you shall find at the length (which God grant to me with you) a sure certainty of salvation, without all such doubt as may trouble the peace of conscience, to your eternal joy and comfort. Amen, Amen.
"Yours to use in Christ.
Another letter full of godly comfort, written to the same person.
"The good Spirit of God which guideth his children, be with you, my good sister in the Lord, for ever. Amen.
"Although, as I to you, so you unto me in prison are unknown, yet to him whom we desire to please, we are not only in persons, but also in hearts, known and thoroughly seen: and therefore as for his sake you would, by that you sent, of me be perceived how that in God you bear to me a good will; so that I to you might be seen in God to bear you the like, I send to you these few words in writing, wishing that in all your doings and speech, yea, even in your very thoughts, you would labour to feel that they are all present and open before the sight of God, be they good or bad. This cogitation often had in mind, and prayer made to God for the working of his Spirit, thereby, as a mean, you shall at the length feel more comfort and commodity, than any man can know, but such as be exercised therein. Howbeit this is to be added, that in thinking yourself, and all that you have and do, to be in the sight of God; this (I say) is to be added, that you think his sight is the sight not only of a Lord, but rather of a Father, which tendereth more your infirmities, than you can tender the infirmities of any your children. Yea, when in yourself you see a motherly affection to your little one that is weak, let the same be unto you a trace to train you to see the unspeakable kind affection of God your Father towards you.
"And therefore upon the consideration of your infirmities and natural evils, which continually cleave unto us, take occasion to go to God as your Father through Christ: and before his merciful heart lay open your infirmities and evils, with desire of pardon and help after his good will and pleasure: but in his time, and not when you will; and by what means he will, not by that way you would; in the mean season hang on hope of his fatherly goodness, and surely you shall never be ashamed. For if a woman that is natural, cannot finally forget the child of her womb, be sure God, which is a Father supernatural, cannot, nor will not, forget you. Yea, if a woman could be so forgetful, yet God himself saith, he will not be so.
"This opinion, yea, rather certain persuasion, of God your Father through Christ, see that you cherish; and by all means, as well by diligent consideration of his benefits, as of his loving corrections, whether they be inward or outward, see that you nourish; knowing for certain, that as the devil goeth about nothing so much as to bring you in a doubt whether ye be God's child or no; so whatsoever shall move you to admit that dubitation, be assured the same to come from the devil. If you feel in yourself not only the want of good things, but also plenty of evil, do not therefore doubt whether you be God's child in Christ, or no. For if for your goodness' or illness' sake, which you feel or feel not, ye should believe or doubt, then should you make Christ Jesus, for whose sake only God is your Father, either nothing, or else but half Christ. But rather take occasion of your wants in good, and of your plenty in evil, to go to God as your Father, and to pray to him, that inasmuch as he commandeth you to believe that he is your God and Father, so he would give you his good Spirit, that you might feel the same, and live as his child, to his glory; and cease not upon such prayers to look for comfort in God's good time, still hoping the best, and rejecting all dubitation, and so all evil works, words, and cogitations, as the Lord shall enable you by his good Spirit and grace, which I beseech him to give unto you, my good sister, for ever. And further I pray you, that as he hath made you to be a helper unto your husband, so you would endeavour yourself therein to show the same as well in soul as body; and beg grace of God, that your endeavours may be effectual to both your comforts in Christ. Amen.
To my well-beloved in the Lord, W. P.
"Grace and peace from God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
"Dear brother, God most justly hath cast me down into a dungeon, but much better than I deserve; wherein I see no man but my keeper, nor can see any except they come to me. Something in the earth my lodging is, which is an example and memorial of my earthly affections, (which God I trust will mortify,) and of my sepulchre, whereunto I trust my Lord God will bring me in peace in his good time. In the mean season he give me patience, lively hope, and his good Spirit. I pray you pray for me; for the prayer of the godly, if it be fervent, worketh much with God. I thank God my common disease doth less trouble me than when I was abroad, which doth teach me the merciful providence of God towards me. Use true and hearty prayer, and you shall perceive God at length will declare himself to see, where now many think he sleepeth.
"Out of the Tower, by the Lord's prisoner.
A letter which he wrote to a faithful woman in her heaviness and trouble: most comfortable for all those to read that are afflicted and broken-hearted for their sins.
"God our good Father, for his mercy's sake in Christ, with his eternal consolation so comfort you, as I desire to be comforted of him in my most need: yea, he will comfort you, my dear sister; only cast your care upon him, and he never can nor will forsake you; for his calling and gifts be such, that he can never repent him of them. Whom he loveth, he loveth to the end: none of his chosen can perish; of which number I know you are, my dearly beloved sister: God increase the faith thereof daily more and more in you! he give unto you to hang wholly on him, and on his providence and protection! For whoso dwelleth under that secret thing, and help of the Lord, he shall be cock-sure for evermore. He that dwelleth, I say; for if we be flitters and not dwellers, as was Lot a flitter from Segor, where God promised him protection, if he had dwelled there still; we shall remove to our loss, as he did into the mountains.
"Dwell therefore, that is, trust, and that finally unto the end, in the Lord, my dear sister, and you shall be as Mount Sion. As mountains compass Jerusalem, so doth the Lord all his people. How then can he forget you, which are as the apple of his eye, for his dear Son's sake? Ah! dear heart, that I were now but one half hour with you, to be a Simon to help carry your cross with you. God send you some good Simon to be with you and help you.
"You complain in your letters of the blindness of your mind, and the troubles you feel. My dearly beloved God make you thankful for that which God hath given unto you; he open your eyes to see what and how great benefits you have received, that you may be less covetous, or rather impatient, for so (I fear me) it should be called, and more thankful. Have you not received at his hands sight to see your blindness, and thereto a desirous and seeking heart to see where he lieth in the mid-day, as his dear spouse speaketh of herself in the Canticles? Oh, Joyce! my good Joyce! what a gift is this! Many have some sight, but none this sobbing and sighing, none this seeking which you have, I know, but such as he hath married unto him in his mercies. You are not content to kiss his feet with the Magdalene, but you would be kissed even with the kiss of his mouth. You would see his face with Moses, forgetting how he biddeth us seek his face, yea, and that for ever, which signifieth no such sight, as you desire to be in this present life, which would see God now face to face; whereas he cannot be seen, but covered under something; yea, sometimes in that which is (as you would say) clean contrary to God; as to see his mercy in his anger. In bringing us to hell, faith seeth him to bring us to heaven: in darkness it beholdeth brightness: in hiding his face from us, it beholdeth his merry countenance. How did Job see God, but as (you would say) under Satan's cloak? for who cast the fire from heaven upon his goods, who overthrew his house, and stirred up men to take away his cattle, but Satan? and yet Job pierced through all these, and saw God's work, saying, The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away, &c.
"In reading of the Psalms, how often do you see that David in the shadow of death saw God's sweet love! And so, my dearly beloved, I see that you, in your darkness and dimness, by faith do see charity and brightness; by faith, I say, because faith is of things absent, of things hoped for, of things which I appeal to your conscience, whether you desire not. And can you desire any thing which you know not? And is there of heavenly things any other true knowledge than by faith?
"Therefore, my dear heart, be thankful; for (before God I write it) you have great cause. Ah! my Joyce, how happy is the state wherein you are! Verily you are even in the blessed state of God's children, for they mourn; and do not you so? And that not for worldly weal, but for spiritual riches, faith, hope, charity, &c. Do you not hunger and thirst for righteousness? And I pray you, saith not Christ, who cannot lie, that happy are such? How should God wipe away the tears from your eyes in heaven, if now on earth ye shed no tears? how could heaven be a place of rest, if on earth you'd find it? how could ye desire to be at home, if in your journey you found no grief? how could ye so often call upon God, and talk with him, as I know you do, if your enemy should sleep all day long? how should you elsewhere be made like unto Christ, I mean in joy, if in sorrow you sobbed not with him? If you will have joy and felicity, you must first needs feel sorrow and misery: if you will go to heaven, you must sail by hell: if you will embrace Christ in his robes, you must not think scorn of him in his rags: if you will sit at Christ's table in his kingdom, you must first abide with him in his temptations: if you will drink of his cup of glory, forsake not his cup of ignominy.
"Can the head Corner-stone be rejected, and the other more base stones in God's building be in this world set by? You are one of his lively stones -- be content therefore to be hewn and snagged at, that you might be made more meet to be joined to your fellows which suffer with you Satan's snatches, the world's wounds, contempt of conscience, and frets of the flesh, where-through they are enforced to cry, Oh wretches that we are! who shall deliver us? You are of God's corn, fear not therefore the flail, the fan, millstone, nor oven. You are one of Christ's lambs, look therefore to be fleeced, haled at, and even slain.
"If you were a market-sheep, you should go in more fat and grassy pasture; if you were for the fair, you should be stall-fed, and want no weal: but, because you are for God's own occupying, therefore you must pasture on the bare common, abiding the storms and tempests that will fall. Happy, and twice happy are you, my dear sister, that God now haleth you whither you would not, that you might come whither you would. Suffer a little, and be still. Let Satan rage against you; let the world cry out; let your conscience accuse you; let the law load you and press you down; yet shall they not prevail, for Christ is Emmanuel, that is, God with us. If God be with us, who can be against us? The Lord is with you; your Father cannot forget you; your Spouse loveth you. If the waves and surges arise, cry with Peter, Lord, I perish; and he will put out his hand and help you. Cast out your anchor of hope, and it will not cease, for all the stormy surges, till it take hold on the rock of God's truth and mercy.
"Think not that he which hath given you so many things corporally, as inductions of spiritual and heavenly mercies, (and that, without your deserts or desire,) can deny you any spiritual comfort, desiring it. For if he give to desire, he will give you to have and enjoy the thing desired. The desire to have, and the going about to ask, ought to certify your conscience, that they be his earnest of the thing which, you asking, he will give you; yea, before you ask, and whilst you are about to ask, he will grant the same, as Isaiah saith, to his glory, and your eternal consolation. He that spared not his own Son for you, will not nor cannot think any thing too good for you, my heartily beloved.
"If he had not chosen you, (as most certainly he hath,) he would not have so called you; he would never have justified you; he would never have so glorified you with his gracious gifts, which I know, praised be his name therefore; he would never have so exercised your faith with temptations, as he hath done and doth; if, I say, he had not chosen you. If he hath chosen you, (as doubtless, dear heart, he hath done in Christ, for in you I have seen his earnest, and before me and to me you could not deny it, I know both and when,) if, I say, he have chosen you, then neither can you nor shall you ever perish. For if you fail, he putteth under his hand; you shall not lie still; so careful is Christ your keeper over you. Never was mother so mindful over her child, as he is over you. And hath not he always been so?
"Speak, woman, when did he finally forget you? And will he now, trow you, in your utmost need, do otherwise, you calling upon him, and desiring to please him? Ah, my Joyce! think you God to be mutable? is he a changeling? doth not he love to the end them whom he loveth? are not his gifts and calling such, that he cannot repent him of them? For else were he no God. If you should perish, then wanted he power; for I am certain his will towards you is not to be doubted of. Hath not the Spirit, which is the Spirit of truth, told you so? and will you now hearken with Eve to the lying spirit, which would have you not to despair, (no, he goeth more craftily to work; howbeit to that end, if you should give ear unto it, which God forbid,) but to doubt, and stand in a mammering; and so should you never truly love God, but serve him of a servile fear, lest he should cast you off for your unworthiness and unthankfulness; as though your thankfulness or worthiness were any cause with God, why he hath chosen you, or will finally keep you.
"Ah! mine own dear heart, Christ only, Christ only, and his mercy and truth. In him is the cause of your election. This Christ, this mercy, this truth of God, remaineth for ever, is certain for ever, and so is your election certain for ever, for ever, I say, for ever. If an angel from heaven should tell you contrary, accursed be he. Your thankfulness and worthiness are fruits and effects of your election; they are no causes. These fruits and effects shall be so much more fruitful and effectual, by how much you waver not.
"Therefore, my dearly beloved, arise; and remember from whence you are fallen. You have a Shepherd which never slumbereth nor sleepeth; no man nor devil can pull you out of his hands; night and day he commandeth his angels to keep you.
Have you forgotten what I read to you out of the Psalm, The Lord is my shepherd, I can want nothing? Do you not know that God sparred Noah in the ark on the outside, so that he could not get out? So hath he done to you, my good sister; so hath he done to you. Ten thousand shall fall on your right hand, and twenty thousand on your left hand; yet no evil shall touch you. Say boldly therefore, Many a time from my youth up have they fought against me; but they have not prevailed; no, nor ever shall prevail, for the Lord is round about his people. And who are the people of God, but such as hope in him? Happy are they that hope in the Lord, and you are one of those, my dear heart; for I am assured you have hoped in the Lord; I have your words to show most manifestly, and I know they were written unfeignedly: I need not to say, that even before God you have simply confessed to me, and that oftentimes, no less. And if once you had this hope, as you doubtless had it, though now you feel it not, yet shall you feel it again: for the anger of the Lord lasteth but a moment, but his mercy lasteth for ever. Tell me, my dear heart, who hath so weakened you? Surely not a persuasion which came from him that called you: for why should you waver? Why should you waver and be so heavy hearted? Whom look you on? On yourself? on your worthiness, on your thankfulness? on that which God requireth of you, as faith, hope, love, fear, joy, &c.? Then can you not but waver indeed: for what have you as God requireth? Believe you, hope you, love you, &c., as much as you should do? No, no; nor ever can in this life. Ah! my dearly beloved, have you so soon forgotten that, which ever should be had in memory? namely, that when you would and should be certain and quiet in conscience, then should your faith burst throughout all things not only that you have in you, or else are in heaven, earth, or hell, until it come to Christ crucified, and the eternal sweet mercies and goodness of God in Christ. Here, here is the resting-place, here is your Spouse's bed; creep into it, and in your arms of faith embrace him; bewail your weakness, unworthiness, your diffidence, &c., and you shall see he will turn to you. What said I? you shall see. Nay, I should have said, you shall feel he will turn to you. You know that Moses, when he went to the mount to talk with God, he entered into a dark cloud, and Elias had his face covered when God passed by. Both these dear friends of God heard God, but they saw him not; but you would be preferred before them. See now, my dear heart, how covetous you are. Ah! be thankful, be thankful. But, God be praised, your covetousness is Moses' covetousness.
Well, with him you shall be satisfied. But when? Forsooth when he shall appear. Here is not the time of seeing, but as it were in a glass. Isaac was deceived, because he was not content with hearing only.
"Therefore, to make an end of these many words, wherewith I fear me I do but trouble you from better exercises; inasmuch as you are indeed the child of God, elect in Christ before the beginning of all times; inasmuch as you are given to the custody of Christ, as one of God's most precious jewels; inasmuch as Christ is faithful, and hitherto hath all power, so that you shall never perish, no, one hair of your head shall not be lost; I beseech you, I pray you, I desire you; I crave at your hands with all my very heart; I ask of you with hand, pen, tongue, and mind; in Christ, through Christ, for Christ; for his name, blood, mercies, power, and truth's sake, my most entirely beloved sister, that you admit no doubting of God's final mercies towards you, howsoever you feel yourself; but to complain to God, and crave of him, as of your tender and dear Father, all things; and, in that time which shall be most opportune, you shall find and feel far above that your heart or the heart of any creature can conceive, to your eternal joy. Amen, Amen, Amen.
"The good Spirit of God always keep us as his dear children; he comfort you, as I desire to be comforted, my dearly beloved, for evermore: Amen.
"I break up thus abruptly, because our common prayer-time calleth me. The peace of Christ dwell in both our hearts for ever: Amen.
"As for the report of W. Po., if it be as you hear, you must prepare to bear it. It is written on heaven's door, 'Do well, and hear evil.' Be content therefore to hear whatsoever the enemy shall imagine to blot you withal. God's Holy Spirit always comfort and keep you: Amen, Amen.
"This eighth of August, by him that in the Lord desireth to you as well and as much felicity, as to his own heart.
Here followeth another letter of his, written to the good Lady Vane, wherein he resolveth certain questions which she demanded. This Lady Vane was a special nurse, and a great supporter (to her power) of the godly saints, which were imprisoned in Queen Mary's time: unto whom divers letters I have both of Masters Philpot, Careless, Trahern, Thomas Rose, and of others more; wherein they render unto her most grateful thanks for her exceeding goodness extended towards them, with their singular commendation and testimony, also, of her Christian zeal towards God's afflicted prisoners, and to the verity of his gospel. She departed of late at Holborn, Anno 1568, whose end was more like a sleep than any death; so quietly and meekly she deceased and parted hence in the Lord.
Amongst others who wrote unto her, Master Bradford also sent these letters to the said lady; the tenor whereof here followeth.
To my good Lady Vane.
"The true sense and sweet feeling of God's eternal mercies in Christ Jesus be ever more and more lively wrought in your heart by the Holy Ghost. Amen.
"I most heartily thank you, good madam, for your comfortable letters; and whereas you would be advertised what were best to be done on your behalf, concerning your three questions; the truth is, that the questions are never well seen, nor answered, until the thing whereof they arise be well considered; I mean, until it be seen how great an evil the thing is. If it be once indeed in your heart perceived, upon probable and pithy places gathered out of God's book, that there was never thing upon the earth so great and so much an adversary to God's true service, to Christ's death, passion, priesthood, sacrifice, and kingdom, to the ministry of God's word and sacraments, to the church of God, to repentance, faith, and all true godliness of life, as that is whereof the questions arise, (as most assuredly it is indeed,) then cannot a Christian heart but so much the more abhor it, and all things that in any point might seem to allow it, or any thing pertaining to the same, by how much it hath the name of God's service.
"Again, your Ladyship doth know, that as all is to be discommended and avoided, which is followed or fled from in respect of ourselves, in respect of avoiding Christ's cross; so the end of all our doings should be to God-ward, to his glory, to our neighbours, to edification and good example; whereof none can be given in allowing any of the three questions by you propounded. But because this which I write now is brief, and needeth the more consideration or explication; as I doubt not of the one in you, so from me, by God's grace, you shall receive the other shortly. For I have already written a little book of it, which I will send unto you, in the which you shall have your questions fully answered and satisfied, and therefore I omit to write any more hereabout presently; beseeching God, our good Father, to guide you as his dear child, with his Spirit of wisdom, power, and comfort, unto eternal life, that you may he strong, and rejoice in him and with his church, to carry Christ's cross, if he shall so think it need: which is a thing to be desired, wished, and embraced, if we looked on things after the judgment of God's word, and tried them by that touchstone.
"If you be accustomed to think on the brevity, vanity, and misery of this life, and on the eternity, truth, and felicity of everlasting life; if you look on things after their ends, and not after their present appearance only; if you use yourself to set God's presence, power, and mercy always before your eyes, to see them, as God by every creature would you should; I doubt not but you shall find such strength and comfort in the Lord, as you shall not be shaken with all the power of Satan. God's mercy in Christ be with you, and his good Spirit guide you for ever. Amen."
Another letter to the Lady Vane.
"As to mine own soul, I wish to your Ladyship grace and mercy from God, our dear Father in Christ our Lord and Saviour.
"I thank God that something he hath eased you, and mitigated his fatherly correction in us both: I would to God he had done so much in the behalf of the grief of the body to you, as he hath done to me. For as for the soul, I trust you feel that which I pray God increase in you, I mean, his fatherly love; and grant that I may with you feel the same in such degree as may please him; I will not say as you feel, lest I should seem to ask too much at one time. God doth often much more plentifully visit with the sense of his mercy them that humble themselves under his mighty hand, and are sore exercised, (as you long have been,) than others which, to the face of the world, have a more show and appearance. Therefore I wish as I do, and that not only for mine own commodity, but also that I might occasion you to the consideration of the goodness of God, which I by your letters do well espy; which is indeed the highway, whereby as God increaseth his gifts, so showeth he more lively his salvation. I have received God's blessing from you, the which I have partly distributed unto my three fellow prisoners, Master Ferrar, Master Taylor, Master Philpot; and the residue I will bestow upon four poor souls which are imprisoned in the common gaol for religion also. As for mine own part, if I had need, I would have served my turn also: but, because I had not, nor (I thank God) have not, I have been and will be your almoner in such sort as I have already advertised you. God reward you, and give you to find it spiritually and corporally. Because otherwise I cannot talk with you, therefore on this sort, as occasion and opportunity will serve, I am ready to show my good will and desire of your help and furtherance in the Lord to everlasting life, whereunto God bring us shortly, for his mercy's sake: Amen.
"Good madam, be thankful to God, as I hope you be; be earnest in prayer; continue in reading and hearing God's word, and if God's further cross come, as therein God doth serve his providence, (for else it shall not come unto you,) so be certain the same shall turn to your eternal joy and comfoIt: Amen.
To my dear friends and brethren, Royden and Esing, with their wives and families.
"The comfort of Christ -- felt commonly of his children in their cross for his sake -- the everlasting God work in both your hearts, my good brethren, and in the hearts of both your yoke-fellows; especially of good Mary, my good sister in the Lord: Amen.
"If I had not something heard of the hazard which you are in for the gospel's sake, if you continue the profession and confession thereof, as I trust you do and will do, and that unto the end, God enabling you, (as he will doubtless for his mercy's sake, if you hope in him -- for this bindeth him, as David in Christ's person witnesseth: Our fathers hoped in thee, and thou deliveredst them, &c.,) yet by conjectures I could not but suppose (though not so certainly) the time of your suffering and probation to be at hand. For now is the power of darkness fully come upon this realm most justly for our sins, and abusing the light lent us of the Lord, to the setting-forth of ourselves more than God's glory, that as well we might be brought into the better knowledge of our evils, and so heartily repent, (which God grant us to do,) as also we might have more feeling and sense of our sweet Saviour Jesus Christ, by the humbling and dejecting of us, thereby to make us, as more desirous of him, so him more sweet and pleasant unto us; the which thing the good Spirit of God work sensibly in all our hearts, for God's holy name's sake.
"For this cause I thought it my duty, being now where I have some liberty to write, (the Lord be praised,) and hearing of you as I hear; to do that which I should have done, if I had heard nothing at all; that is, to desire you to be of good cheer and comfort in the Lord, (although in the world you see cause rather to the contrary,) and to go on forwards in the way of God whereinto you are entered, considering that the same cannot but so much more and more wax strait to the outward man, by how much you draw nearer to the end of it: even as in the travail of a woman, the nearer she draweth to her delivery, the more her pains increase; so it goeth with us in the Lord's way, the nearer we draw to our deliverance by death to our eternal felicity.
"Example hereof we have, I will not say, in the holy prophets and apostles of God, which when they were young girded themselves, and went in manner whither they would, but when they waxed old, they went girded of others, whither they would not, concerning the outward man; but rather and most lively in our Saviour Jesus Christ, whose life and way was much more painful to him towards the end, than it was at the beginning. And no marvel, for Satan can something abide a man to begin well, and set forwards; but, rather than he should go on to the end, he will vomit his gorge, and cast out floods to overflow him, before he will suffer that to come to pass.
"Therefore, as we should not be dismayed now at this world, as though some strange thing were happened unto us, in that it is but as it was wont to be to the godly, in that the devil declareth himself after his old wont, in that we have professed no less but to forsake the world and the devil as God's very enemies, in that we learned no less at the first, when we came to God's school, than to deny ourselves, and take up our cross and follow our Master, which leadeth us none other way than he himself hath gone before us: as (I say) we should not be dismayed, so we should with patience and joy go forwards, if we set before us as present the time to come, like as the wife in her travail doth the deliverance of her child, and as the saints of God did, but especially our Saviour and pattern Jesus Christ; for the apostle saith, He set before him the joy and glory to come, and therefore contemned the shame and sorrow of the cross: so if we did, we should find at the length as they found. For whom would it grieve, which hath a long journey to go, through a piece of foul way, if he knew that, after that, the way should be most pleasant, yea, the journey should be ended, and he at his resting-place most happy? Who will be afraid or loath to leave a little pelf for a little time, if he knew he should shortly after receive most plentiful riches? Who will be unwilling for a little while to forsake his wife, children, or friends, &c., when he knoweth he shall shortly after be associated unto them inseparably, even after his own heart's desire? Who will be sorry to forsake this life, which cannot but be most certain of eternal life? Who loveth the shadow better than the body? Who can love this life, but they that regard not the life to come? Who can desire the dross of this world, but such as be ignorant of the treasures of the everlasting joy in heaven? I mean, who is afraid to die, but such as hope not to live eternally? Christ hath promised pleasures, riches, joy, felicity, and all good things, to them that for his sake lose any thing, and suffer any sorrow. And is he not true? How can he but be true? for guile was never found in his mouth.
"Alas! then, why are we so slack and slow, yea, hard of heart, to believe him, promising us thus plentifully eternal blissfulness, and are so ready to believe the world, promising us many things, and paying us nothing? If we will curry favour now, and halt on both knees, then it promiseth us peace, quietness, and many other things else. But how doth it pay this gear? or, if it pay it, with what quietness of conscience? or, if so, how long, I pray you? Do not we see before our eyes, men to die shamefully, I mean as rebels and other malefactors, which refuse to die for God's cause? What way is so sure a way to heaven, as to suffer in Christ's cause? If there be any way on horseback to heaven, surely this is the way. By many troubles, saith the apostle, we must enter into heaven. All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution. For the world cannot love them that are of God; the devil cannot love his enemies; the world will love none but his own: but you are Christ's, therefore look for no love here. Should we look for fire to quench our thirst? And as soon shall God's true servants find peace and favour in antichrist's regiment.
"Therefore, my dearly beloved, be stout in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on you his armour; stand in the liberty of Christ which you have learned; rejoice that you may be counted worthy to suffer any thing for God's cause: to all men this is not given. Your reward is great in heaven, though in earth ye find nothing. The journey is almost past; you are almost in the haven. Hale on apace, I beseech you, and merrily hoist up your sails. Cast yourselves on Christ, who careth for you. Keep company with him now still to the the end; he is faithful, and will never leave you, nor tempt you further than that he will make you able to bear: yea, in the midst of the temptation he will make an outscape. Now pray unto him heartily; be thankful of his indignation; rejoice in hope of the health you shall receive; and be mindful of us which are in the vaward, and by God's grace trust in Christ to be made able to break the ice before you, that you following, may find the way more easy.-- God grant it may so be: Amen, Amen.
"Out of prison, by your brother in Christ.
To Mrs. Wilkinson.
"Almighty God, our most loving Father, increase in your heart (my good mother and dear mistress in the Lord) his true knowledge and love in Christ, to the encouraging and comforting of your faith in these stormy days, as necessary unto us; so profitable, if we persist unto the end, which thing God grant to us: Amen.
"My right dearly beloved, I know not what other thing to write unto you, than to desire you to be thankful to the Lord, in that amongst the not many of your calling and state, it pleaseth him to give you his rare blessing,-- I mean, to keep you from all the filth wherewith our country is horribly defiled. This blessing assuredly is rare, as you see. But now, if he shall bless you with another blessing, which is more rare,-- I mean, to call you forth as a martyr, and a witness against this filth,-- I hope you will become doubly thankful. For a greater token commonly we have not to judge of our election and salvation, next to Christ and faith in him, than the cross, especially when it is so glorious, as on this sort to suffer any thing, but chiefly loss of this life, which indeed is never found till it be so lost: Except the grain of wheat fall and be dead, it remaineth fruitless.
"You know that he which was rapt into the third heaven, and did know what he wrote, doth say, That as the corn liveth not, except it be dead and cast into the earth, so truly our bodies. And therefore the cross should so little fear us, that even death itself should altogether be desired of us; as the tailor which putteth off our rags, and arrayeth us with the royal robes of immortality, incorruption, and glory. Great shame it should be for us, that all the whole creatures of God should desire, yea, groan in their kind for our liberty, and we ourselves to loathe it; as doubtless we do, if for the cross, yea, for death itself, we with joy swallow not up all sorrow that might let us from following the Lord's calling, and obeying the Lord's providence; whereby doubtless all crosses, and death itself doth come, and not by hap or chance. In consideration whereof, right dear mother, that this providence stretcheth itself so unto us, and for us, that even the hairs of our heads are numbered with God, not one of them to fall to our hurt; surely we declare ourselves very faint in faith, if we receive not such comfort, that we can willingly offer ourselves to the Lord, and cast our whole care upon his back, honouring him with this honour, that he is and ever will be careful for us, and all we have, as for his dear children. Be therefore of good cheer, even in the midst of these miseries; be thankful to the Lord, and prepare yourself for a further trial; which if God send you, as I hope, so do you believe that God therein will help and comfort you, and make you able to bear whatsoever shall happen. And thus much, having this opportunity, I thought good to write, praying God our Father to recompense into ybur bosom all the good that ever you have done, to me especially, and to many others, both in this time of trouble, and always heretofore.
"Your own in the Lord.
Another letter, written to certain godly persons, encouraging them to prepare themselves with patience to the cross.
"Gracious God and most merciful Father, for Jesus Christ's sake, thy dearly beloved Son, grant us thy mercy, grace, wisdom, and Holy Spirit, to counsel, comfort, and guide us, in all our cogitations, words, and works, to thy glory, and our everlasting joy and peace for ever: Amen.
"In my last letter you might perceive my conjecturing to be no less towards you, than now I have learned. But, my dearly beloved, I have learned none other thing than before I have told you would come to pass, if ye cast not away that which ye have learned. I do appeal to both your consciences, whether herein I speak truth, as well of my telling, (though not so often as I might and should, God forgive me,) as also of your learning. Now God will try you, to make others to learn by you, that which ye have learned by others, and, by them which have suffered this day, ye might learn, (if already ye had not learned,) that life and honour is not to be set by more than God's commandment. They in no point (for all that ever their ghostly fathers could do, having Doctor Death to take their part) would consent, or seem to consent; to the popish mass and papistical god, otherwise than in the days of our late king they had received. And this their faith they have confessed with their deaths, to their great glory, and all our comforts, if we follow them; but to our confusion, if we start back from the same. Wherefore I beseech you to consider it as well to praise God for them, as to go the same way with them; if God so will.
"Consider not the things of this life, which is a very prison to all God's children; but the things of everlasting life, which is our very home. But to the beholding of this gear, ye must open the eyes of your mind, (of faith, I should have said,) as Moses did, which set more by trouble with God's people, than by the riches of Egypt and Pharaoh's court. Your house, home, and goods, yea, life, and all that ever ye have, God hath given you as love-tokens, to admonish you of his love, and to win your love to him again. Now will he try your love, whether ye set more by him than by his tokens, or no. If ye for his tokens' sake,-- that is, for your home, house, goods, yea, life; will go with the world, lest ye should lose them, then be assured, your love, as he cannot but espy it to be a strumpet's love, so will he cast it away with the world. Remember, that he which will save his life shall lose it, if Christ be true: but he which adventureth, yea, loseth his life, for the gospel's sake, the same shall be sure to find it eternally. Do not ye know that the way to salvation, is not the broad way, which many run in; but the strait way, which few now walk in?
"Before persecution came, men might partly have stood in a doubt by the outward state of the world with us, (although by God's word it was plain,) whether was the high-way (for there were as many that pretended the gospel as popery); but now the sun is risen, and the wind bloweth, so that the corn which hath not taken fast root, cannot nor will abide; and therefore easily ye may see the strait way by the small number that passeth through it. Who will now adventure their goods and life for Christ's sake, which yet gave his life for our sakes? We are now become Gergesites, that would rather lose Christ than our pockets. A faithful wife is never tried so to be, but when she rejecteth and withstandeth wooers. A faithful Christian is then found so to be, when his faith is assaulted.
"If we be not able,-- I mean, if we will not forsake this world for God's glory and gospel's sake, trow ye that God will make us able, or give us a will to forsake it for nature's sake? Die ye must once, and leave all ye have, (God knoweth how soon and when,) will ye or will ye not; and seeing perforce ye must do this, will ye not willingly now do it for God's sake?
"If ye go to mass, and do as the most part do, then may ye live at rest and quietly; but if ye deny to go to it, then shall ye go to prison, lose your goods, leave your children comfortless, yea, lose your life also. But, my dearly beloved, open the eyes of your faith, and see how short a thing this life is, even a very shadow and smoke. Again, see how intolerable the punishment of hell-fire is, and that endless. Last of all, look on the joys incomprehensible, which God hath prepared for all them, world without end, which lose either lands or goods for his name's sake. And then do ye reason thus: If we go to mass, the greatest enemy that Christ hath, though for a little time we shall live in quiet, and leave to our children that they may live by hereafter, yet shall we displease God, fall into his hands, (which is horrible to hypocrites,) and be in wonderful hazard of falling from eternal joy into eternal misery, first of soul, and then of body, with the devil and all idolaters.
"Again, we shall want peace of conscience, which surmounteth all the riches of the world: and for our children, who knoweth whether God will visit our idolatry on them in this life? yea, our house and goods are in danger of losing, as our lives be, through many casualties; and when God is angry with us, he can send always, when he will, one mean or another to take all from us for our sins, and to cast us into care for our own sakes, which will not come into some little trouble for his sake.
"On this sort reason with yourselves, and then doubtless God will work otherwise with you, and in you, than ye are aware of. Where now ye think yourselves unable to abide persecution, be most assured, if so be you purpose not to forsake God, that God will make you so able to bear his cross, that therein you shall rejoice. Faithful is God, (saith Paul,) which will not tempt you further than he will make you able to bear; yea, he will give you an out-scape in the cross, which shall be to your comfort. Think how great a benefit it is, if God will vouch you worthy this honour; to suffer loss of any thing for his sake. He might justly cast most grievous plagues upon you, and yet now he will correct you with that rod whereby you shall be made like to his Christ, that for ever ye may reign with him. Suffer yourselves therefore now to be made like to Christ, for else ye shall never be made like unto him. The devil would gladly have you now to overthrow that, which godly ye have of long time professed. Oh! how would he triumph, if he could win his purpose! Oh! how would the papists triumph against God's gospel in you! Oh! how would you confirm them in their wicked popery! Oh! how would the poor children of God be discomforted, if now you should go to mass and other idolatrous service, and do as the world doth!
"Hath God delivered you from the sweat, to serve him so? Hath God miraculously restored you to health from your grievous agues for such a purpose? Hath God given you such blessings in this world, and good things all the days of your life hitherto, and now, of equity, will ye not receive at his hands, and for his sake, some evil? God forbid: I hope better of you. Use prayer, and cast your care upon God; commit your children into his hand; give to God your goods, bodies, and lives, as he hath given them, or rather lent them, unto you. Say with Job, God hath given, and God hath taken away: his name be praised for ever. Cast your care upon him, I say, for he is careful for you; and take it amongst the greatest blessings of God, to suffer for his sake. I trust he hath kept you hitherto to that end.
"And I beseech thee, O merciful Father, for Jesus Christ's sake, that thou wouldest be merciful unto us; comfort us with thy grace, and strengthen us in thy truth, that in heart we may believe, and in tongue boldly confess thy gospel, to thy glory, and our eternal salvation: Amen. Pray for me, and I by God's grace will do the same for you.
An admonition to certain professors of the gospel, to beware they fall not from it, in consenting to the Romish religion, by the example of other halting and double-faced gospellers.
"The peace of Christ, which is the true effect of God's gospel believed, (my dearly beloved,) be more and more plentifully perceived of you, through the grace of our dear Father, by the mighty working of the Holy Spirit our comforter: Amen.
"Though I have many lets, presently to hinder me from writing unto you, yet, being desired, I could not but something signify my ready good will in this behalf so much as I may, when I cannot so much as I would.
"You hear and see how Satan bestirreth him, raging as a roaring lion to devour us. You see and feel partly what storms he hath raised up to drown the poor boat of Christ; I mean his church. You see how terribly he traineth his soldiers, to give a fierce onset on the vaward of God's battle. You see how he hath received power of God, to molest God's children, and to begin at his house. By reason whereof consider two things; one, the cause on our behalf; the other, what will be the sequel on strangers.
"For the first, if we be not blind, we cannot but well see that our sins are the cause of all this misery; our sins, I say, which I would that every one of us would apply to ourselves after the example of Jonas and David, turning over the wallet, that other men's offences might lie behind, and our own before. Not that I would excuse other men, which exteriorly have walked much more grossly than many of you have done; but that I would provoke you .all as myself, to more hearty repentance and prayer. Let us more and more increase to know and lament our doubting of God, of his presence, power, anger, mercy, &c.
"Let us better feel and hate our self-love, security, negligence, unthankfulness, unbelief, impatience, &c., and then doubtless the cross shall be less careful, yea, it shall be comfortable, and Christ most dear and pleasant; death then shall be desired, as the despatcher of us out of misery, and entrance into eternal felicity and joy unspeakable, the which is so much the more longed for, by how much we feel indeed the serpent's bites, wherewith he woundeth our heels; that is, our outward Adam and senses. If we had, I say, a lively and true feeling of his poison, we could not but, as [we] rejoice over our Captain that hath bruised his head, so be desirous to follow his example; that is, to give our lives with him and for him, and so fill up his passions, that he might conquer and overcome in us and by us, to his glory and comfort of his children.
"Now the second, (I mean the sequel, or that which will follow on the strangers,) my dearly beloved, let us well look upon. For if so be that God justly do thus give to Satan and his seed to vex and molest Christ and his penitent people; oh! what and how justly may he and will he give to Satan, to entreat the reckless and impenitent sinners! If judgments begin thus at God's house, what will follow on them that be without, if they repent not? Certainly for them is reserved the dregs of God's cup, that is, brimstone, fire, and tempest intolerable. Now are they unwilling to drink of God's cup of afflictions, which he offereth common with his Son Christ our Lord, lest they should lose their pigs with the Gergesites. They are unwilling to come into the way that bringeth to heaven, even afflictions; they in their hearts cry, Let us cast his yoke from us; they walk two ways, that is, they seek to serve God and mammon, which is impossible; they will not come nigh the strait way that bringeth to life; they open their eyes to behold present things only; they judge of religion after reason, and not after God's word; they follow the more part, and not the better; they profess God with their mouths, but in their hearts they deny him; or else they would sanctify him by serving him more than men; they part stake with God, which would have all, giving part to the world, to the Romish rout, and antichristian idolatry now set abroad amongst us publicly; they will have Christ, but none of his cross, which will not be; they will be counted to live godly in Christ, but yet they will suffer no persecution; they love this world, where-through the love of God is driven forth of them; they savour of those things that be of men, and not that be of God: summa, they love God in their lips, but in their hearts, yea, and in their deeds, deny him, as well by not repenting their evils past, as by continuing in evil still; by doing as the world, the flesh, and the devil willeth; and yet still perchance they will pray, or rather prate, Thy will be done in earth, which is, generally, that every one should take up his cross, and follow Christ. But this is a hard saying: who is able to abide it? Therefore Christ must be prayed to depart, lest all the pigs be drowned. The devil shall have his dwelling again in themselves, rather than in their pigs; and therefore to the devil they shall go, and dwell with him in eternal perdition and damnation, even in hell-fire, a torment endless, and above all cogitations incomprehensible, if they repent not.
"Wherefore by them, my dearly beloved, be admonished to remember your profession, how that in baptism you made a solemn vow to forsake the devil, the world, &c. You promised to fight under Christ's standard. You learned Christ's cross afore you began with A, B, C.-- Go to then; pay your vow to the Lord; fight like men, and valiant men, under Christ's standard; take up your cross and follow your Master, as your brethren, Masters Hooper, Rogers, Taylor, and Saunders have done, and as now your brethren, Masters Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, Ferrar, Bradford, Haukes, &c., be ready to do. The ice is broken before you, therefore be not afraid, but be content to die for the Lord. You have no cause to waver or doubt of the doctrine thus declared by the blood of the pastors. Remember that Christ saith, He that will save his life, shall lose it. And what should it profit you to win the whole world, much less a little quietness, your goods, &c., and to lose your own souls? Render to the Lord that he hath lent you, by such means as he would have you render it, and not as you would. Forget not, Christ's disciples must deny themselves, as well concerning their will, as concerning their wisdom. Have in mind, that as it is no small mercy to believe in the Lord, so it is no small kindness of God towards you, to suffer any thing; much more, death for the Lord. If they be blessed that die in the Lord, how shall they he that die for the Lord! Oh! what a blessing is it to have death, due for our sins, diverted into a demonstration and testification of the Lord's truth! Oh that we had a little of Moses' faith to look upon the end of the cross; to look upon the reward; to see continually with Christ and his people greater riches than the riches of Egypt. O let us pray that God would open our eyes to see his hid manna, heavenly Jerusalem, the congregation of his first-born, the melody of the saints, the tabernacle of God dwelling with men: then should we run, and become violent men, and so take the kingdom of heaven as it were by force. God our Father give us for his Christ's sake to see a little, what and how great joy he hath prepared for us, he hath called us unto, and most assuredly giveth us, for his own goodness and truth's sake: Amen.
"My dearly beloved, Iepent, be sober, and watch in prayer; be obedient, and after your vocations show your obedience to the higher powers in all things that are not against God's word; therein acknowledging the sovereign power of the Lord: howbeit, so that ye be no rebels, or rebellers for no cause; but because with good conscience you cannot obey, be patient sufferers, and the glory and good Spirit of God shall dwell upon us. I pray you remember us, your afflicted brethren, being in the Lord's bonds for the testimony of Christ, and abiding the gracious hour of our dear and most merciful Father. The Lord, for Christ's sake, give us merry hearts to drink lustily of his sweet cup, which daily we groan and sigh for, lamenting that the time is thus prolonged. The Lord Jesus give us grace to be thankful, and to abide patiently the provident hour of his most gracious will: Amen, Amen.-- From the Compter in the Poultry.
"Yours in Christ.
To my good brother, John Careless, prisoner in the King's Bench.
"The Father of mercy and God of all comfort visit us with his eternal consolation, according to his great mercies in Jesus Christ our Saviour: Amen.
"My very dear brother, if I shall report the truth unto you, I cannot but signify, that since I came into prison, I never received so much consolation as I did by your last letter; the name of God be most heartily praised therefore. But if I shall report the truth unto you, and, as I have begun, speak still the verity, I must confess, that for mine unthankfulness to you-wards, and to God especially, I have more need of God's merciful tidings, than I had ever heretofore. Ah! that Satan envieth us so greatly. Ah! that our Lord would tread his head under our feet shortly. Ah! that I might for ever both myself beware, and be a godly example to you and others to beware, of unthankfulness. Good brother Careless! we had more need to take heed, after a lightning, of a foil than before: God therefore is to be praised even when he hideth, and that not of long, his cheerful countenance from us, lest we, being not expert how to use it as we should do, do hurt more ourselves thereby; so great is our ignorance and corruption. This, my good brother and right dear to my very heart, I write unto you, as to one whom in the Lord I embrace; and I thank God that you do me in like manner. God our Father more and more give us both his good Spirit, that as by faith we may feel ourselves united unto him in Christ, so by love we may feel ourselves linked in the same Christ one to another, I to you, and you to me; we to all the children of God, and all the children of God to us: Amen, Amen.
"Commend me to your good brother Skelthrop, for whom I heartily praise my God, which hath given him to see his truth at length, and to give place to it. I doubt not but that he will be so heedy in all his conversation, that his old acquaintance may ever thereby think themselves astray. Woe and woe again should be unto us, if we by our example should make men to stumble at the truth. Forget not salutations in Christ, as you shall think good, to Trew, and his fellows. The Lord hath his time, I hope, for them also; although we perchance think otherwise. A drop maketh the stone hollow, not with once, but with often dropping: so if with hearty prayer for them, and good example, you still and drop upon them as you can, you shall see God's work at the length. I beseech God to make perfect all the good he hath begun in us all: Amen. I desire you all to pray for me, the most unworthy prisoner of the Lord.
To Master John Hall and his wife, prisoners in Newgate for the testimony of the gospel.
"Almighty God, our heavenly Father through Jesus Christ, be with you both, my dearly beloved, as with his dear children, forever, and so he bless you with his Holy Spirit, that you may in this your cross (for his cause doubtless) rejoice, and gladly take it up to bear it so long as he shall think good. I have heard, my good brother and sister, how that God hath brought you both into his school-house, (whereas you both purposed, by his leave, to have played the truants,) that thereby you might see his carefulness and love towards you. For if it be a token of a loving and careful Father for his children, to prevent the purpose and disappoint the intent of his children, purposing to depart awhile from the school for fear of beating (which thing they would not do, if they did as much consider the commodity of learning which there they might get); how should you take this work of the Lord preventing your purpose, but as an evident sign of love and fatherly carefulness that he beareth towards you? If he should have winked at your wills, then would you have escaped beating, I mean the cross; but then should you have last the commodity of learning that which your Father will now have you to learn and feel, and therefore hath he sent to you his cross. He, I say, hath brought you where you be; and though your reason and wit will tell you, it is by chance or fortune, or otherwise, yet (my dearly beloved) know for certain that, whatsoever was the mean.
God your Father was the worker hereof, and that for your weal. Although otherwise your old Adam doth tell you, and you feel; yet I say of truth, that your duty is to think of this cross, that as it is of God's sending, and cometh from him; so although your deserts be otherwise, it is of love and fatherly affection for your weal and commodity's sake.
"What commodity is hereby? you will perchance object. You are now kept in close prison, you will say; your family and children be without good overseers; your substance diminisheth by these means; poverty will approach; and perchance more perils also, yea, and loss of life too. These are no commodities, but discommodities, and that no small ones; so that justly you would be glad to know what commodity can come to you by this cross, whereby cometh so great discommodities.
"To these things I answer, that indeed it is true you say of your bodies, families, children, substance, poverty, life, &c., which things, if you would consider awhile with inward eyes, as you behold them with outward, then perhaps you should find more ease. Do not you now by the inward sense perceive, that you must part from all these and all other commodities in the world? Tell me then, have not you this commodity by your cross, to learn to loathe and leave the world, and to long for and desire another world, where is perpetuity? You ought of your own head and free will to have (according to your profession in baptism) forsaken the world, and all earthly things; using the world as though you used it not: your heart set only upon your hoard in heaven, or else you could never be Christ's true disciples, that is, to be saved, and be where he is. And trow you, my good hearts in the Lord, trow you, I say, that this is no commodity, by this cross to be compelled hereto, that you might assuredly enjoy with the Lord endless glory? How now doth God, as it were, fatherly pull you by the ears, to remember your former offences concerning these things and all other things, that repentance and remission might ensue? How doth God now compel you to call upon him, and to be earnest in prayer? are these no commodities? Doth not the Scripture say, that God doth correct us in the world, because we shall not be damned with the world?-- that God chasteneth every one he loveth?-- that the end of this correction shall be joy and holiness? Doth not the Scripture say, that they are happy that suffer for righteousness' sake, as you now do?-- that the glory and Spirit of God is upon them?-- that, as you are now made like unto Christ in suffering, so shall you be made like him in reigning? Doth not the Scripture say, that you are now going the high and right way to heaven?-- that your suffering is Christ's suffering? My dearly beloved, what greater commodities than these can a godly heart desire?
"Therefore ye are commanded to rejoice and be glad, when ye suffer as now ye do: for, through the goodness of God, great shall be your reward. Where? Forsooth on earth: first, for your children; for now they are in God's mere and immediate protection. Never was father so careful for his children, as God is for yours presently. God's blessing, which is more worth than all the world, you leave indeed to your children. Though all your providence for them should be pulled away, yet God is not poor; he hath promised to provide for them most fatherly: Cast thy burden upon me, saith he, and I will bear it. Do you therefore cast then, and commend them unto God your Father, and doubt not that he will die in your debt. He never yet was found unfaithful, and he will not now begin with you. The good man's seed shall not go a begging his bread; for he will show mercy upon thousands of the posterity of them that fear him. Therefore, as I said, God's reward, first upon earth, shall be felt by your children, even corporally; and so also upon you, if God see it more for your commodity -- at the least inwardly you shall feel it by quietness and comfort of conscience: and secondly, after this life you shall find it so plentifully, as the eye hath not seen, the ear hath not heard, the heart cannot conceive, how great and glorious God's reward will be upon your bodies; much more upon your souls. God open our eyes to see and feel this indeed! Then shall we think the cross, which is a mean hereto, to be commodious. Then shall we thank God, that he would chastise us. Then shall we say with David, Happy am I that thou hast punished me: for before I went astray, but now I keep thy laws.
"This that we may do indeed, my dearly beloved, let us first know that our cross cometh from God: secondly, that it cometh from God as a Father, that is, to our weal and good. Therefore let us, thirdly, call to mind our sins, and ask pardon; whereto let us, fourthly, look for help certainly at God's hand in his good time: help, I say, such as shall make most to God's glory, and to the comfort and commodity of our souls and bodies eternally. This if we certainly conceive, then will there issue out of us hearty thanksgiving, which God requireth as a most precious sacrifice. That we may all through Christ offer this, let us use earnest prayer to our God and dear Father, who bless us, keep us, and comfort us under his sweet cross for ever! Amen, Amen.
"My dear hearts, if I could any way comfort you, you should be sure thereof, though my life lay thereon; but now I must do as I may, because I cannot as I would. Oh! that it would please our dear Father shortly to bring us where we should never depart, but enjoy continually the blessed fruition of his heavenly presence. Pray, pray, that it may speedily come to pass -- pray! To-morrow I will send to you to know your estate: send me word what are the chiefest things they charge you withal.-- From the Compter.
"By your brother in the Lord.
To Mrs. Hall, prisoner in Newgate, and ready to make answer before her adversaries.
"Our most merciful God and Father, through Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour, be merciful unto us, and make perfect the good he hath begun in us unto the end: Amen.
"My dear sister, rejoice in the Lord, rejoice; be glad, I say, be merry and thankful, not only because Christ so commandeth us, but also because our state wherein we are presently, requireth no less, for we are the Lord's witnesses. God the Father hath vouchsafed to choose us amongst many, to witness and testify that Christ his Son is King, and that his word is true. Christ our Saviour, for his love's sake towards us, will have us to bear record that he is no usurper nor deceiver of the people, but God's ambassador, Prophet, and Messias; so that of all dignities upon earth this is the highest. Greater honour had not his prophets, apostles, nor dearest friends, than to bear witness with Christ, as we now do. The world, following the counsel of their sire Satan, would gladly condemn Christ and his verity; but lo! the Lord hath chosen us to be his champions to let this. As stout soldiers, therefore, let us stand to our Master, who is with us, and standeth on our right hand, that we should not be much moved, if we hope and hang on his mercy; he is so faithful and true, that he will never tempt us further than he will make us able to bear.
"Therefore be not careful (for I hear say this day you shall be called forth) what you shall answer. The Lord which is true and cannot lie, hath promised, and will never fail nor forget it, that you shall have both what and how to answer, so as shall make his shameless adversaries ashamed. Hang therefore on this promise of God, who is a helper at a pinch, and a most present remedy to them that hope in him. Never was it ever heard of, or shall be, that any hoping in the Lord was put to foil.
"Therefore, as I said, I say again: dear sister, be not only not careful for your answering, but also be joyful for your cause. Confess Christ, and be not ashamed, and he will confess you, and never be ashamed of you. Though loss of goods and life be like here to ensue; yet if Christ be true, (as he is most true,) it is otherwise indeed: for he that loseth his life, saith he, winneth it; but he that saveth it, loseth it. Our sins have deserved many deaths. Now if God so deal with us, that he will make our deserved death a demonstration of his grace, a testimonial of his verity, a confirmation of his people, and overthrow of his adversaries, what great cause have we to be thankful! Be thankful therefore, good sister, be thankful. Rejoice and be merry in the Lord; be stout in his cause and quarrel; be not faint-hearted, but run out your race, and set your Captain, Christ, before your eyes. Behold how great your reward is. See the great glory and the eternity of felicity prepared for you. Strive and fight lawfully, that you may get the crown. Run to get the game; you are almost at your journey's end. I doubt not but our Father will with us send to you also, as he did to Elias, a fiery chariot, to convey us into his kingdom. Let us therefore not be dismayed, to leave our cloak behind us; that is, our bodies to ashes. God will one day restore them to us like to the body of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, whose coming is now at hand. Let us look for it, and lift up our heads, for our redemption draweth nigh: Amen, Amen. The Lord of mercy grant us his mercy: Amen. I pray you, pray for me; and so desire my brethren which be with you. God's peace be with us all: Amen. Blessed be the dead that die in the Lord; then how much more they that die for the Lord!
"Your brother in bonds.
To a woman that desired to know his mind, whether she, refraining from the mass, might be present at the popish matins, or evensong; or no.
"I beseech Almighty God our heavenly Father to be merciful unto us, and to increase in you, my good sister, the knowledge and love of his truth, and at this present give me grace so to write to you something of the same, as may make to his glory and our own comfort and confirmation in him, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
"Whether you may come with safe conscience to the church now, that is, to the service used commonly, in part, as at matins or at even-song, or no, is your desire to have me to write something for your further stay. My dearly beloved, although your benefits towards me might perchance make you to think that in respect thereof I would bear with that which else were not to be borne withal; yet, by God's grace, I am purposed, simply and without all such respect in this matter, to speak to you the truth according to my conscience, as I may be able to stand unto, when I shall come before the Lord.
"First, therefore, go about to learn perfectly the first lesson to be learned of all that profess Christ; that is, to deny yourself, and in nothing to seek yourself.
"Secondly, learn after this, to begin at the next lesson to it, which is, to seek God in all things you do, and leave undone.
"Thirdly, know that then you seek God, when in his service you follow his word, and not man's fantasies, custom, multitude, &c., and when with your brother you follow the rule of charity; that is, To do as you would be done by. In these is a sum of all the counsel I can give you, if that hereto I admonish you of the service now used, which is not according to God's word, but rather against God's word directly, and in manner wholly. So that your going to the service is a declaration that you have not learned the first lesson, nor ever can learn it, so long as you go thither; therefore the second lesson you shall utterly lose, if you cease not the seeking of yourself, that is, if for company, custom, father or friend, life or goods, you seem to allow that which God disalloweth. And this that you the better may perceive, I purpose by God's grace briefly to show.
"First, the matins and even-song are in a tongue forbidden publicly to be used in a congregation that perceiveth not the tongue. Read how Paul affirmeth it, to pray in an unknown tongue, to be against God's commandment. This one, I trow, were enough, if nothing else were. For how can God's glory be sought, where his word and commandment are wilfully broken? How can charity to man stand, when charity to God, which is obedience to his word, is overthrown?
"Again, both in matins and in even-song is idolatry maintained for God's service; for there is invocation and prayer made to saints departed this life, which robbeth God of that glory, which he will give to none other.
"Moreover this service, and the setters-forth of it, condemn the English service as heresy, thereby falling into God's curse, which is threatened to all such as call good evil, and evil good; whereof they shall be partakers that do communicate with them.
"Besides this, this Latin service is a plain mark of antichrist's catholic synagogue; so that the communicants and approvers of it thereby declare themselves to be members of the same synagogue, and so cut off from Christ and his church, whose exterior mark is the true administration of God's word and sacraments.
"Furthermore, the example of your going thither to allow the religion of antichrist, (as doubtless you do indeed, howsoever in heart you think,) occasioneth the obstinate to be utterly intractable, the weak papists to be more obstinate, the strong gospellers to be sore weakened, and the weak gospellers to be utterly overthrown: which things, how great offences they be, no pen is able to utter by letters. All these evils you shall be guilty of, that company with those in religion exteriorly, from whom you are admonished to fly. If Christ be Christ, follow him: gather with him, lest you scatter abroad. Serve God, not only in spirit, but also in body. Make not your body, now a member of Christ, a member of antichrist. Come out from amongst them, saith the Lord, and touch no unclean thing. Confess Christ and his truth, not only in heart, but also in tongue; yea, in very deed, which few gospellers do. Indeed they deny him, and therefore had need to tremble, lest that Christ will deny them in the last day: the which day, if it were set before our eyes often, then would the pleasures and treasures 'of this world be but trifles.
"Therefore, good sister, often have it before your eyes; daily set yourself and your doings as before the judgment-seat of Christ now, that hereafter you be not called into judgment. Think that it will little profit you to win the whole world, and to lose your own soul. Mark Christ's lessons well, He that will save his life shall lose it. The Father of heaven commandeth you to hear Christ, and he saith, Follow me: this can you not do, and follow idolatry or idolaters. Fly from such, saith the Scripture. This God grant to you, to me, and to all God's children: Amen.
"Thus in haste I have accomplished your request. God grant that as you have done me much good bodily, so that this may be a little mean to do you some good spiritually: Amen. If time would serve, I would have written more at large.-- The second of March, anno 1555."
To the Worshipful, and in God my most dear friend, the Lady Vane.
"The good Spirit of God our Father be more and more plentifully perceived of your good Ladyship, through the mediation and merits of our dear Saviour Jesus Christ: Amen.
"Although your benefits towards me have deserved at my hands the service I can do for you, yet, right worshipful and dearly beloved in the Lord, the true fear of God, and the love of his truth, which I perceive to be in you, specially, and above all other things, do bind me hereunto. This bearer hath told me that your desire is, to have something sent to you concerning the usurped authority of the supremacy of the bishop of Rome, (which is undoubtedly that great antichrist, of whom the apostles do so much admonish us,) that you may have as well something the more to stay on, as also wherewith to answer the adversaries, because you may perchance therein be something apposed. To satisfy this your desire, I will briefly go about; and so, that I will by God's grace fully set forth the same, to enarm you to withstand the assaults of the papists herein, if you mark well and read over again that which I now write.
"The papists do place in pre-eminence over the whole church, the pope, thereby unplacing Christ, which is the Head of the church, that giveth life to the whole body, and by his Spirit doth make lively every member of the same. This they do without all Scriptures: for whereas they bring in this spoken to Peter, Feed my sheep, I would gladly know whether this was not commanded unto others also. As for that (which perchance they will urge) that he spake to Peter by name, if they had any learning, they would easily perceive bow that it was not for any such cause as they pretend, but rather by a threefold commandment to restore him to the honour of an apostle, which he had lost by his threefold denial. And how dare they interpret this word, My sheep, my lambs, to be the universal church of Christ? I trow a man might easily, by the like reason, prove that Peter himself had resigned that which Christ had given to him, in exhorting his fellow pastors to feed the flock of Christ. Is not this pretty stuff? Because Christ saith to Peter, Feed my sheep, therefore he ought to rule the universal and whole church of Christ? If Peter do truly write unto others that they should do the like, that is, feed Christ's flock, either he translateth his right and authority committed to him upon them, or else he doth participate or communicate with them; so that foolishly they go about to establish that which hath no ground. Peter indeed was a shepherd of the sheep, but such a one as bestowed his labour on them so far as he could stretch himself by his ministry. But the papists prate, that he had full power over all churches: wherein they may see Paul to improve them, for else he had done unjustly in denying him the superior place. Howbeit, who ever yet read, that Peter did take any thing upon him over churches committed to other men? Was not he sent of the church, and sent as one not having rule over the rest? I grant that he was an excellent instrument of God, and for the excellency of his gifts, whensoever they met together, place therefore was commonly given unto him. But what is this to the purpose, to make him ruler and head over all the whole church, because he was so over a small congregation?
"But be it so that Peter had as much given to him as they do affirm -- who yet will grant that Peter had a patrimony given for his heirs? He hath left (say the papists) to his successors the selfsame right which he received. O Lord God! then must his successor be a Satan: for he received that title of Christ himself. I would gladly have the papists to show me one place of succession mentioned in the Scriptures. I am sure that when Paul purposely painteth out the whole administration of the church, he neither maketh one head, nor any inheritable primacy; and yet he is altogether in commendation of unity. After he hath made mention of one God the Father, of one Christ, of one Spirit, of one body of the church, of one faith, and of one baptism; then he describeth the mean and manner how unity is to he kept; namely, because unto every pastor is grace given after the measure wherewith Christ hath endued them. Where I pray you is now any title of plenitudinis potestatis, of fulness of power? When he calleth home every one unto a certain measure, why did he not forthwith say one pope? which he could not have forgotten, if the thing had been as the papists make it.
"But let us grant that perpetuity of the primacy in the church was established in Peter; I would gladly learn why the seat of the primacy should be rather at Rome than elsewhere. Marry, say they, because Peter's chair was at Rome. This is even like to this, that because Moses the greatest prophet, and Aaron the first priest, exercised their offices unto their death in the desert, therefore the principallest place of the Jewish church should be in the wilderness! But grant them their reason that it is good; what should Antioch claim? For Peter's chair was there also, wherein Paul gave him a check, which was unseemly and unmannerly done of Paul, that would not give place to his president and better.
"No, say the papists, Rome must have this authority because Peter died there. But what if a man should by probable conjectures show, that it is but a fable which is feigned of Peter's bishopric at Rome? Read how Paul doth salute very many private persons, when he writeth to the Romans. Three years after his Epistle made, he was brought to Rome prisoner. Luke telleth, that he was received of the brethren; and yet in all these, is no mention at all of Peter, which then by their stories was at Rome. Belike he was proud, as the pope and prelates be, or else he would have visited Paul! Paul being in prison in Rome did write divers epistles, in which he expresseth the names of many which were, in comparison of Peter, but rascal personages; but of Peter he speaketh never a word. Surely if Peter had been there, this silence of him had been suspicious. In the 2nd Epistle to Timothy, Paul complaineth that no man was with him in his defence, but all had left him. If Peter had been then at Rome, as they write, then either Paul had belied him, or Peter had played his Peter's part. In another place, how doth he blame all that were with him, only Timothy excepted! Therefore we may well doubt whether Peter was at Rome bishop, as they prate: for all this time, and long before, they say that Peter was bishop there.
"But I will not stir up coals in this matter. If Rome be the chief seat because Peter died there, why should not Antioch be the second? Why should not James and John, which were taken with Peter to be as pillars? why, I say, should not their seats have honour next to Peter's seat? Is not this gear preposterous, that Alexandria, where Mark (which was but one of the disciples) was bishop, should be preferred before Ephesus, where John the evangelist taught and was bishop; and before Jerusalem, where not only James taught and died bishop, but also Christ Jesus our Lord and High Priest for ever, by whom, being Master, I hope honour should be given to his chair, more than to the chair of his chaplains?
"I need to speak nothing how that Paul telleth Peter's apostleship to concern rather circumcision or the Jews, and therefore properly pertaineth not to us. Neither do I need to bring in Gregory the First, bishop of Rome, which was about the year of our Lord 600, who plainly, in his works, doth write that this title of primacy, and to be head over all churches under Christ, is a title meet and agreeing only to antichrist; and therefore he calleth it a profane, a mischievous, and a horrible title. Whom should we believe now, if we will neither believe apostle nor pope?
"If I should go about to tell how this name was first gotten by Phocas, I should be too long. I purpose, God willing, to set it forth at large in a work which I have begun of antichrist, if God for his mercy's sake give me life to finish it. For this present therefore I shall desire your Ladyship to take this in good part. If they will needs have the bishop of Rome to be acknowledged for the head of the church, then will I urge them that they shall give us a bishop. But they obtrude unto us a butcher rather, or a bite-sheep, than a bishop. They brag of Peter's succession, of Christ's vicar: this is always in their mouth. But, alas! how can we call him Christ's vicar that resisteth Christ, oppugneth his verity, persecuteth his people, and, like a prelate, preferreth himself above God and man? How, or wherein, do the pope and Christ agree? How supplieth he Peter's ministry, that boasteth of his succession? Therefore to begin withal, which I will use presently for a conclusion, if the papists will have the bishop of Rome supreme head of the church of Christ in earth, they must, afore they attain this, give us a bishop in deed, and not in name. For whosoever he be, that will make this the bond of unity, whatsoever the bishop of Rome be, surely this must needs follow, that they do nothing else but teach a most wicked defection and departing from Christ.
"But of this, if God lend me life, I purpose to speak more at large hereafter. Now will I betake your Ladyship unto the tuition of God our Father, and Christ our only Head, Pastor, and Keeper, to whom see that you cleave by true faith, which dependeth only upon the word of God; which if you do follow as a lantern to your feet, and a light to your steps, you shall then avoid darkness, and the dangerous deeps whereinto the papists are fallen by the judgment of God, and seek to bring us into the same dungeon with them; that the blind following the blind, they both may fall into the ditch: out of the which God deliver them according to his good will, and preserve us for his name's sake, that we being in his light, may continue therein, and walk in it whilst it is day! so shall the night never over-press us, we going from light to light, from virtue to virtue, from faith to faith, from glory to glory, by the governance of God's good Spirit, which God our Father give unto us all for ever: Amen.
"Your brother in bonds for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
JOHN BRADFORD. '
Here followeth another letter of Master Bradford, to one Richard Hopkins, sheriff sometime of Coventry, and yet being (as I hear say) alive. This Hopkins, whom Master Bradford commendeth so much in this letter, during the time of his sheriffalty, was detected and accused, by certain malignant adversaries, of matter pertaining to religion. What matter it was I am not yet certainly informed, unless it were for sending and lending unto a thief, being then in prison ready to be hanged, a certain English book of Scripture for his spiritual comfort.
Whereupon, or else upon some such-like matter, he, being maliciously accused, was sent for and committed to the Fleet; and there endured a sufficient time, not without great peril of life. Notwithstanding, the said Hopkins, being at length delivered out of prison, following this counsel of Master Bradford, and minding to keep his conscience pure from idolatry, was driven with his wife and eight young children to avoid the realm; and so, leaving all other worldly respects, with his great loss and damage went into High Germany, where he continued in the city of Basil till the death of Queen Mary; being like a good Tobias, to his power a friendly helper and a comfortable reliever of other English exiles thereabout him; God's holy blessing so working with him therefore, that in those far countries neither he fell in any great decay, neither any one of all his household, during all that time there, miscarried, but so many as he brought out, so many he recarried home again; yea, and that with advantage, and God's plenty withal upon him. Now the letter written to this Richard Hopkins by Master Bradford is this.
A letter to Master Richard Hopkins, then sheriff of Coventry, and prisoner in the Fleet, for the faithful and constant confessing of God's holy gospel.
"Dearly beloved in the Lord! I wish unto you as unto mine own brother, yea, as to mine own heart-root, God's mercy, and the feeling of the same plentifully in Christ our sweet Saviour, who gave himself a ransom for our sins, and price for our redemption; praised therefore be his holy name for ever and ever: Amen.
"I will not go about to excuse myself for not sending unto you hitherto, suffering for the Lord's sake as you do, to the comfort of me and all that love you in the truth; but rather accuse myself both before God and you, desiring of you forgiveness, and with me to pray to God for pardon of this my unkind forgetting you, and all other my sins, which I beseech the Lord in his mercy to do away, for his Christ's sake: Amen.
"Now to make amends to you-ward, I would be glad if I could: but because I cannot, I shall heartily desire you to accept that will, and this which I shall now write unto you thereafter; I mean, after my will, and not after the deed, to accept and take it. At this present, my dear heart in the Lord, you are in a blessed state, although it seem otherwise to you, or rather unto your old Adam, the which I dare now be so bold as to discern from you, because you would have him not only discerned, but also utterly destroyed. For if God be true, then is his word true.
"Now his word pronounceth of your state, that it is happy; therefore it must needs be so. To prove this, I think it need not: for you know that the Holy Ghost saith, That they are happy which suffer for righteousness' sake, and that God's glory and Spirit resteth on them which suffer for conscience to God. Now this you cannot but know, that this your suffering is for righteousness' sake, and for conscience to God-ward: for else you might be out of trouble, even out of hand. I know in very deed, that you have felt and do feel your unthankfulness to God, and other sins, to witness to you, that you have deserved this imprisonment, and lack of liberty, betwixt God and yourself; and I would you so would confess unto God in your prayers, with petition for pardon, and thanksgiving for his correcting you here. But you know that the magistrates do not persecute in you your sins, your unthankfulness, &c.; but they persecute in you Christ himself, his righteousness, his verity. And therefore happy be you that have found such favour with God your Father, as to account you worthy to suffer for his sake in the sight of man; surely you shall rejoice therefore one day with a joy unspeakable, in the sight of man also.
"You may think yourself born in a blessed time, that have found this grace with God, to be a vessel of honour to suffer with his saints, yea, with his Son. My beloved, God hath not done so with many. The apostle saith, not many noble, not many rich, not many wise in the world, hath the Lord God chosen. Oh then, what cause have you to rejoice, that amongst the not many, he hath chosen you to be one! For this cause hath God placed you in your office, that therefore ye might the more see his special dignation and love towards you. It had not been so great a thing for Master Hopkins to have suffered as Master Hopkins, as it is for Master Hopkins also to suffer as Master Sheriff. O happy day that you were made sheriff! by the which as God in this world would promote you to a more honourable degree, so, by suffering in this room, he hath exalted you in heaven, and in the sight of his church and children, to a much more excellent glory. When was it read that a sheriff of a city hath suffered for the Lord's sake? Where read we of any sheriff that hath been cast into prison for conscience to God-ward? How could God have dealt more lovingly with you, than herein he hath done? To the end of the world it shall be written for a memorial to your praise, that Richard Hopkins, sheriff of Coventry, for conscience to do his office before God, was cast into the Fleet, and there kept prisoner a long time. Happy and twice happy are you, if here-for you may give your life. Never could you have attained to this promotion on this sort, out of that office. How do you preach now, not only to all men, but specially to magistrates in this realm! Who would ever have thought that you should have been the first magistrate that, for Christ's sake, should have lost any thing? As I said before, therefore I say again, that your state is happy. Good brother, before God I write the truth unto you; my conscience bearing me witness, that you are in a most happy state with the Lord, and before his sight.
"Be thankful therefore; rejoice in your trouble; pray for patience; persevere to the end; let patience have her perfect work. If you want this wisdom and power, ask it of God, who will give it to you in his good time. Hope still in him; yea, if he should slay you, yet trust in him with Job, and you shall perceive that the end will be to find him merciful and full of compassion: for he will not break promise with you, which hitherto did never so with any. He is with you in trouble; he heareth you calling upon him, yea, before you call; your desires are not only known, but accepted, through Christ. If now and then he hide his face from you, it is but to provoke your appetite, to make you the more to long for him. This is most true: he is coming, and will come, he will not be long. But if for a time he seem to tarry, yet stand you still, and you shall see the wonderful works of the Lord. O beloved! wherefore should you be heavy? Is not Christ Emmanuel, God with us? shall you not find that as he is true in saying, In the world you shall have trouble; so is he in saying, In me you shall have comfort? He doth not swear only that trouble will come, but withal he sweareth that comfort shall ensue. And what comfort? Such a comfort as the eye hath not seen, the ear hath not heard, nor the heart of man can conceive. O great comfort! who shall have this? Forsooth they that suffer for the Lord. And are not you one of them? Yea, verily are you. Then, as I said, happy, happy, and happy again are you, my dearly beloved in the Lord. You now suffer with the Lord, surely you shall be glorified with him. Call upon God, therefore, in your trouble, and he will hear you; yea, deliver you in such sort, as most shall make both to his and your glory also. And in this calling I heartily pray you to pray for me, your fellow in affliction. Now we be both going in the high-way to heaven: for by many afflictions must we enter in thither, whither God bring us for his mercy's sake. Amen, Amen.
"Your fellow in affliction.
To my good sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Brown.
"Good sister, God our Father make perfect the good he hath begun in you, unto the end.
"I am afraid to write unto you, because you so overcharge yourself at all times, even whensoever I do but send to you commendations. I would be more bold on you than many others, and therefore you might suspend so great tokens till I should write unto you of my need; which thing doubtless I would do, if it urged me. Dear sister, I see your unfeigned love to me-ward in God, and have done of long time, the which I do recompense with the like, and will do, by God's grace, so long as I live, and therefore I hope not to forget you, but in my poor prayers to have you in remembrance, as I hope you have me. Otherwise I can do you no service, except it be now and then by my writing, to let you from better exercise; where yet the end of my writing is to excite and stir up your heart more earnestly to go forwards in your well-begun enterprise. For you know none shall be crowned, but such as strive lawfully; and none receiveth the gleve, but those that run to the appointed mark. None shall be saved but such as persist and continue to the very end.
"Therefore, dear sister, remember that we have need of patience, that when we have done the good will of God, we may receive the promise. Patience and perseverance be the proper notes, whereby God's children are known from counterfeits. They that persevere not, were always but hypocrites. Many make godly beginnings, yea, their progress seemeth marvellous; but yet after, in the end, they fail. These were never of us, saith St. John; for if they had been of us, they would have continued unto the very end.
"Go to now, therefore, mine own beloved in the Lord: as you have well begun, and well gone forward, so well persist, and happily end; and then all is yours. Though this be sharp and sour, yet it is not tedious and long. Do all that ever you do, simply for God, and as to God; so shall never unkindness, nor any other thing, make you to leave off from well doing, so long as you may do well. Accustom yourself now to see God continually, that he may be all in all unto you. In good things behold his mercy, and apply it unto yourself: in evil things and plagues behold his judgments, where-through learn to fear him. Beware of sin, as the serpent of the soul, which spoileth us of all our ornature and seemly apparel in God's sight. Let Christ crucified be your book to study on, and that both night and day. Mark your vocation, and be diligent in the works thereof. Use hearty and earnest prayer, and that in spirit. In all things give thanks to God our Father through Christ. Labour to have here life everlasting begun in you: for else it will not be elsewhere enjoyed. Set God's judgment often before your eyes, that now examining yourself, you may make diligent suit, and obtain, never to come into judgment. Uncover your evils to God, that he may cover them. Beware of this antichristian trash: defile not yourself in soul or body therewith, but accomplish holiness in the fear of God, and bear no yoke with unbelievers. Look for the coming of the Lord which is at hand; by earnest prayer and godly life hasten it. God our Father accomplish his good work in you. Amen. Commend me to my good mother, Mistress Wilkinson, and to my very dear sister, Mistress Warcup. I shall daily commend you all to God, and I pray you do the like for me.
To a friend of his, instructing him how he should answer his adversaries.
"My good brother, our merciful God and dear Father through Christ, open your eyes effectually to see, and your heart ardently to desire, the everlasting joy which he hath prepared for his slaughter-sheep; that is, for such as shrink not from his truth for any such storms' sake. Amen.
"When you shall come before the magistrates to give an answer of the hope which is in you, do it with all reverence and simplicity. And because you may be something afraid by the power of the magistrates, and cruelty which they will threaten against you, I would you set before you the good father Moses, to follow his example: for he set the invisible God before his eyes of faith, and with them looked upon God, and his glorious majesty and power, as with his corporal eyes he saw Pharaoh and all his fearful terrors. So do you, my dearly beloved: let your inward eyes give such light unto you, that as you know you are before the magistrates, so, and much more, you and they also are present before the face of God, which will give such wisdom to you, fearing him and seeking his praise, as the enemies shall wonder at; and further, he will so order their hearts and doings, that they shall (will they nill they) serve God's providence towards you, (which you cannot avoid though you would,) as shall be most to his glory, and your everlasting comfort.
"Therefore, my good brother, Iet your whole study be only to please God: put him always before your eyes, for he is on your right hand, lest you should be moved; he is faithful, and never will suffer you to be tempted above that he will make you able to bear. Yea, every hair of your head he hath numbered, so that one of them shall not perish without his good will, which cannot but be good unto you, in that he is become your Father through Christ; and therefore as he hath given you to believe in him,(God increase this belief in us all,) so doth he now graciously give unto you to suffer for his name's sake: the which you ought with all thankfulness to receive, in that you are made worthy to drink of the selfsame cup, which not only the very sons of God have drunk of before you, but even the very natural Son of God himself hath brought you good luck. Oh! he of his mercy make us thankful to pledge him again. Amen.
"Because the chiefest matter they will trouble you, and go about to deceive you withal, is the sacrament, not of Christ's body and blood, but of the altar, as they call it, thereby destroying the sacrament which Christ instituted, I would you noted these two things: first, that the sacrament of the altar which the priest offereth in the mass, and eateth privately with himself, is not the sacrament of Christ's body and blood instituted by him, as Christ's institution plainly written and set forth in the Scriptures, being compared to their using of it, plainly doth declare.
"Again, if they talk with you of Christ's sacrament instituted by him, whether it be Christ's body or no: answer them, that as to the eyes of your reason, to your taste and corporal sense, it is bread and wine, and therefore the Scripture calleth it after the consecration so; even so to the eyes, taste, and sense of your faith, which ascendeth to the right hand of God in heaven, where Christ sitteth, it is in very deed Christ's body and blood, which spiritually your soul feedeth on to everlasting life in faith, and by faith, even as your body presently feedeth on the sacramental bread and sacramental wine.
"By this means, as you shall not allow transubstantiation, nor any of their popish opinions; so shall you declare the sacrament to be a matter of faith, and not of reason, as the papists make it. For they deny God's omnipotency, in that they say Christ is not there, if bread be there: but faith looketh on the omnipotency of God, joined with his promise, and doubteth not but that Christ is able to give that he promiseth us spiritually by faith, the bread still remaining in substance, as well as if the substance of bread were taken away: for Christ saith not in any place, this is no bread. But of this gear God shall instruct you, if you hang on his promise, and pray for the power and wisdom of his Spirit, which undoubtedly as you are bound to look for, praying for it, so he hath bound himself by his promise to give it: the which thing he grant unto us both, and to all his people, for his name's sake, through Christ our Lord! Amen.
To certain godly men, whom he exhorteth to be patient under the cross, and constant in the true doctrine which they had professed.
"My dearly beloved in the Lord, as in him I wish you well to fare, so I pray God I and you may continue in his true service, that perpetually we may enjoy the same welfare, as here in hope, so in heaven indeed, and eternally.
"You know this world is not your home, but a pilgrimage and place wherein God trieth his children: and therefore as it knoweth you not, nor can know you, so I trust you know not it; that is, you allow it not, nor in any point will seem so to do, although by many you be occasioned thereto. For this hot sun, which now shineth, burneth so sore, that the corn which is sown upon sand and stony ground, beginneth to wither; that is, many which beforetimes were taken for hearty gospellers, begin now, for the fear of afflictions, to relent, yea, to turn to their vomit again, thereby declaring that though they go from among us, yet were they never of us; or else they would have still tarried with us, and neither for gain nor loss have left us, either in word or in deed. As for their heart, (which undoubtedly is double, and therefore in danger of God's curse,) we have as much with us, as the papists have with them, and more too by their own judgment. For they, playing wily-beguily themselves, think it enough inwardly to favour the truth, though outwardly they curry favour: What though with my body, say they, I do this or that? God knoweth my heart is whole with him.
"Ah! brother, if thy heart be whole with God, why dost not thou confess and declare thyself accordingly, by word and fact? Either that which thou sayest thou believest in thy heart is good, or no. If it be good, why art thou ashamed of it? If it be evil, why dost thou keep it in thy heart? Is not God able to defend thee, adventuring thyself for his cause? or will he not defend his worshippers? Doth not the Scripture say, that the eyes of the Lord are on them that fear him, and trust in his mercy? And whereto? Forsooth to deliver their souls from death, and to feed them in the time of hunger.
"If this be true, as it is most true, why are we afraid of death, as though God could not comfort or deliver us, or would not, contrary to his promise? Why aIe we afraid of the loss of our goods, as though God would leave them that fear him destitute of all good things, and so do against his most ample promises? Ah! faith, faith, how few feel thee nowadays! Full truly said Christ, that he should scarcely find faith, when he came on earth. For if men believed these promises, they would never do any thing outwardly, which inwardly they disallow. No example of men, how many soever they be, or how learned soever they be, can prevail in this behalf: for the pattern which we must follow is Christ himself, and not the more company or custom. His word is the lantern to lighten our steps, and not learned men. Company and custom are to be considered according to the thing they allow. Learned men are to be listened to and followed according to God's lore and law: for else the more part goeth to the devil. As custom causeth error and blindness, so learning, if it be not according to the light of God's word, is poison, and learned men most pernicious. The devil is called demon for his cunning, and the children of the world are much wiser than the children of light in their generation: and I know the devil and his darlings have always for the most part more helps in this life than Christ's church and her children. They (the devil and his synagogue I mean) have custom, multitude, unity, antiquity, learning, power, riches, honour, dignity, and promotions plenty, as always they have had, and shall have commonly, and for the most part until Christ's coming, much more than the true church hath presently, heretofore hath had, or hereafter shall have. For her glory, riches, and honour are not here; her trial, cross, and warfare are here.
"And therefore, my dear hearts in the Lord, consider these things accordingly. Consider what you be: not worldlings, but God's children. Consider where you be: not at home, but in a strange country. Consider among whom you are conversant, even in the midst of your enemies, and of a wicked generation; and then I trust you will not much muse at affliction; which you cannot be without, being as you be, God's children, in a strange country, and in the midst of your enemies, except you would leave your Captain, Christ, and follow Satan for the muck of this world, rest and quietness, which he may promise you, and you indeed think you shall receive it by doing as he would have you to do. But, my sweet hearts! he is not able to pay that he promiseth. Peace and war come from God, riches and poverty, wealth and woe. The devil hath no power but by God's permission. If then God permit him a little on your goods, body, or life, I pray you tell me what can much hurt you, as Peter saith, you being followers of godliness? Think you that God will not remember you in his time, as most shall be to your comfort? Can a woman forget the child of her womb? And if she should, yet will I not forget thee, saith the Lord. Look upon Abraham in his exile and misery; look upon Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, the prophets, apostles, and all the godly from the beginning; and my good brethren, is not God the same God? Is he a changeling? You have heard of the patience of Job, saith St. James, and you have seen the end, how that God is merciful, patient, and long-suffering: even so I say unto you, that you shall find accordingly, if so be you be patient; that is, if so be you fear him, set his word before you, serve him thereafter, and if he lay his cross on you, you bear it with patience: the which you shall do when you consider it not according to the present sense, but according to the end.
"Therefore I heartily beseech you, and out of my bonds, which I suffer for your sake, pray you, mine own sweet hearts in the Lord, that you would cleave in heart and humble obedience to the doctrine taught you by me, and many others my brethren. For we have taught you no fables nor tales of men, or our own fantasies, but the very word of God, which we are ready with our lives (God so enabling us, as we trust he will) to confirm, and by the shedding of our bloods, in all patience and humble obedience to the superior powers, to testify and seal up, as well that you might be more certain of the doctrine, as that you might be ready to confess the same before this wicked world; knowing that if we confess Christ and his truth before men, he will confess us before his Father in heaven: if so be we be ashamed hereof for loss of life, friends, or goods, he will be ashamed of us before his Father, and his holy angels in heaven.
"Therefore take heed, for the Lord's sake take heed; take heed, and defile not your bodies or souls with this Romish and antichristian religion set up amongst us again: but come away, come away, as the angel crieth, from amongst them in their idolatrous service, lest you be partakers of their iniquity. Hearken to your preachers as the Thessalonians did to Paul; that is, confer their sayings with the Scriptures, and if they sound not thereafter, the morning light shall not shine upon them.
"Use much and hearty prayer for the spirit of wisdom, knowledge, humbleness, meekness, sobriety, and repentance, which we have great need of; because our sins have thus provoked the Lord's anger against us: but let us bear his anger, and acknowledge our faults with bitter tears and sorrowful sighs, and doubtless he will be merciful to us after his wonted mercy. The which thing he vouchsafe to do for his holy name's sake in Christ Jesu our Lord, to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honour, glory, praise, and everlasting thanks, from this time forth for evermore. Amen.
"Out of prison by yours in the Lord to command.
A letter to Master George Eaton.
"Almighty God, our heavenly Father, recompense abundantly into your bosom, my dearly beloved, here and eternally, the good which from him by you I have continually received since my coming into prison. Otherwise can I never be able to requite your loving-kindness here, than by praying for you, and after this life, by witnessing your faith declared to me by your fruits, when we shall come and appear together before the throne of our Saviour Jesus Christ, whither, I thank God, I am even now a-going; ever looking when officers will come, and satisfy the precept of the prelates, whereof though I cannot complain, because I have justly deserved a hundred thousand deaths at God's hands by reason of my sins, yet I may and must rejoice, because the prelates do not persecute in me mine iniquities, but Christ Jesus and his verity: so that they persecute not me, they hate not me; but they persecute Christ, they hate Christ.
"And because they can do him no hurt, (for he sitteth in heaven, and laugheth them and their devices to scorn, as one day they shall feel,) therefore they turn their rage upon his poor sheep, as Herod their father did upon the infants. Great cause therefore have I to rejoice, that my dear Saviour Christ will vouchsafe, amongst many, to choose me to be a vessel of grace to suffer in me, (who have deserved so often and justly to suffer for my sins,) that I might be most assured I shall be a vessel of honour, in whom he will be glorified.
"Therefore, my right dear brother in the Lord, rejoice with me, give thanks for me; and cease not to pray, that God, for his mercy's sake, would make perfect the good lie hath begun in me. And as for the doctrine which I have professed and preached, I do confess unto you in writing, as to the whole world I shortly shall, by God's grace, in suffering, that it is the very true doctrine of Jesus Christ, of his church, of his prophets, apostles, and all good men: so that if an angel should come from heaven and preach otherwise, the same were accursed.
"Therefore waver not, dear heart in the Lord, but be confirmed in it; and as your vocation requireth, when God so will, confess it, though it be perilous so to do. The end shall evidently show another manner of pleasure for so doing, than tongue can tell. Be diligent in prayer, and watch therein. Use reverent reading of God's word. Set the shortness of this time before your eyes, and let not the eternity that is to come depart out of your memory. Practise in doing that you learn by reading and hearing. Decline from evil, and pursue good. Remember them that be in bonds, especially for the Lord's cause, as members of your body, and fellow-heirs of grace. Forget not the afflictions of Sion, and the oppression of Jerusalem; and God our Father shall give us his continual blessing through Christ our Lord, who guide us as his dear children for ever. Amen.
"And thus I take my vale and farewell with you, dear brother, for ever in this present life, till we shall meet in eternal bliss; whither our good God and Father bring us shortly. Amen.-- God bless all your babes for ever. Amen.-- Out of prison this eighth of February.
"Your afflicted brother for the Lord's cause.
Another letter to Mrs. Ann Warcup.
"Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for his Christ's sake, increase in us faith, by which we may more and more see what glory and honour is reposed and safely kept in heaven, for all them that believe with the heart, and confess Christ and his truth with the mouth. Amen.-- My dearly beloved, I remember that once heretofore I wrote unto you a vale or a farewell upon conjecture: but now I write my farewell to you in this life indeed, upon certain knowledge. My staff standeth at the door; I continually look for the sheriff to come for me, and I thank God I am ready for him. Now go I to practise that which I have preached. Now am I climbing up the hill: it will cause me to puff and to blow before I come to the cliff. The hill is steep and high, my breath is short, and my strength is feeble: pray therefore to the Lord for me, that as I have now, through his goodness, even almost come to the top, I may by his grace be strengthened, not to rest till I come where I should be. O loving Lord! put out thy hand, and draw me unto thee; for no man cometh, but he whom the Father draweth. See, my dearly beloved, God's loving mercy: he knoweth my short breath and great weakness. As he sent for Elias in a fiery chariot, so sendeth he for me; for by fire my dross must be purified, that I may be fine gold in his sight. O unthankful wretch that I am! Lord, do thou forgive me mine unthankfulness. Indeed I confess, (right dear to me in the Lord!) that my sins have deserved hell-fire, much more than this fire. But lo, so loving is my Lord, that he converteth the remedy for my sins, the punishment for my transgressions, into a testimonial of his truth, and a testification of his verity, which the prelates do persecute in me, and not my sins. Therefore they persecute not me, but Christ in me, which, I doubt not, will take my part unto the very end. Amen.
"Oh that I had so open a heart as could so receive as I should do this great benefit and unspeakable dignity, which God my Father offereth to me! Now pray for me, my dearly beloved: pray for me that I never shrink. I shall never shrink, I hope. I trust in the Lord I shall never shrink: for he that always hath taken my part, I am assured will not leave me when I have most need, for his truth and mercy's sake. O Lord! help me. Into thy hands I commend me wholly. In the Lord is my trust, I care not what man can do unto me: Amen, Amen. My dearly beloved, say you Amen also; and come after, if so God call you. Be not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, but keep company with him still. He will never leave you, but in the midst of temptation will give you an out-scape, to make you able to bear the brunt. Use hearty prayer; reverently read and hear God's word; put it in practice; look for the cross; lift up your hands, for your redemption draweth nigh; know that the death of God's saints is precious in his sight. Be merry in the Lord; pray for mitigation of God's heavy displeasure upon our country. God keep us for ever; God bless us with his spiritual blessings in Christ. And thus I bid you farewell for ever in this present life. Pray for me, pray for me; for God's sake pray for me. God make perfect his good work begun in me. Amen.-- Out of prison, the seventh of February.
"Yours in the Lord.
In the story of Master Bradford, it was above rehearsed, how a certain gentlewoman, being in trouble by her father and mother for not coming to mass, sent her servant to visit Master Bradford in prison; who, tendering the woeful case of the gentlewoman, to the intent partly to confirm her with counsel, partly to relieve her oppressed mind with some comfort, directed this letter unto her: the contents whereof are these.
To a certain godly gentlewoman, troubled and afflicted by her friends for not coming to the mass.
"I wish unto you, right worshipful and my dearly beloved sister in the Lord, as to myself, the continual grace and comfort of Christ, and of his holy word, through the operation of the Holy Spirit, who strengthen your inward man with the strength of God, that you may continue to the end in the faithful obedience of God's gospel, whereto you are called. Amen.
"I perceived by yourself, the last day when you were with me, bow that you are in the school-house and trial-parlour of the Lord; which to me is (at the least it should be) a great comfort, to see the number of God's elect by you increased, which are in that state whereof God hath not called many, as Paul saith. And as it is a comfort to me, so should it be a confirmation unto me, that the Lord, for his faithfulness' sake, will make perfect and finish the good he hath begun in you to the end.
"If then your cross be to me a comfort or token of your election, and a confirmation of God's continual favour, my dearly beloved, how much more ought it to be so unto you, unto whom he hath not only given to believe, but also to come into the trace of suffering for his sake; and that not commonly of common enemies, but even of your own father, mother, and all your friends, I mean kinsfolks, as you told me! by which I see Christ's words to be true, how that he came to give his children such a peace with him, as the devil might not, nor may abide; and therefore stirreth up father and mother, sister and brother, rather than it should continue. But, my dear sister, if you cry with David to the Lord, and complain to him; how that for conscience to him, your father and mother have forsaken you, you shall hear him speak in your heart, that he hath received you; and by this would have you to see, how that he maketh you here like to Christ, that elsewhere (in heaven) you might be like unto him; whereof you ought to be most assured, knowing that in time, even when Christ shall appear, you shall be like unto him. For he will make your body, which now you defile not with idolatrical service in going to mass, like unto his own glorious and immortal body, according to the power whereby he is able to do all things. He will confess you before his Father, which do not deny his verity in word nor deed before your father; he will make you to reign with him, that now suffer for him and with him; he will reward you with himself and all the glory he hath, that now, for his sake, deny yourselves with all that ever you have; he will not leave you comfortless, that seek no comfort but at his hand though for a little time you he afflicted, yet therein will he comfort and strengthen you, and at the length make you to be merry with him in such joy as is infinite and endless. He will wipe all the tears from your eyes; he will embrace you as your dear Husband; he will, after he hath proved you, crown you with a crown of glory and immortality, such as the heart of man shall never be able to conceive in such sort as the thing is. He now beholdeth your stedfastness, and striving to do his good will; and shortly will he show you how sted fast he is, and will be ready to do your will, after that you have fully resigned it to his will.
"Pledge him in his cup of the cross, and you shall pledge him in the cup of his glory. Desire to drink it before it be come to the dregs, whereof the wicked shall drink, and all those that, for fear of the cross and pledging the Lord, do walk with the wicked, in betraying in fact and deed that which their heart embraceth for verity. The which thing if you should do, (which God forbid,) then, my dear mistress and sister in the Lord, you should not only lose all that I have before spoken, and much more infinitely of eternal joy and glory, but also be a castaway, and partaker of God's most heavy displeasure in hell-fire eternally; and so for a little ease, which you cannot tell how long it will last, to lose for ever and ever all ease and comfort. For he that gathereth not with me, saith Christ, (as no mass-gospeller doth,) scattereth abroad. According to that we do in this body, we shall receive, be it good or bad. If of our words we shall be judged to condemnation or salvation; much more then of our facts and deeds. You cannot be partaker of God's religion and antichrist's service, whereof the mass is most principal. You cannot be a member of Christ's church, and a member of the pope's church. You must glorify God not only in soul and heart, but also in body and deed. You may not think that God requireth less of you his wife now, than your husband did of you. If both heart and body your husband would have, shall Christ have less, trow you, which hath so bitterly and dearly bought it? If your husband could not admit an excuse how your heart is his only, if he should have taken your body in bed with another; do you think that Christ will allow your body at mass, although your heart consent not to it?
"God esteemeth his children, not only of their hearts, but of their pure hands and works; and therefore in Elias's time he counted none to be his servants and people, but such as had not bowed their knees to Baal; as now he doth not in England account any other to be his darlings, which know the truth in heart, and deny it in their deeds; as do our mass-gospellers.
"We ought to desire above all things the sanctifying of God's holy name, and the coming of his kingdom; and shall we then see his name blasphemed so horribly, as it is at mass, by making it a sacrifice propitiatory, and setting forth a false Christ of the priests' and bakers' making, to be worshipped as God, and say nothing? The Jews rent their clothes asunder in seeing or hearing any thing blasphemously done or spoken against God; and shall we yet come to church where mass is, and be mute? Paul and Barnabas rent their clothes to see the people of Lycaonia to offer sacrifice unto them; and shall we see sacrifice and God's service done to an inanimate creature, and be mum? What thing helpeth more or so much antichrist's kingdom as doth the mass? And what destroyeth preaching and the kingdom of Christ upon earth more than it doth? And how can we then say, Let thy kingdom come, and go to mass? How can we pray before God, Thy will be done on earth, when we will do our own will, and the will of our father or friends? How pray we, Deliver us from evil, which, knowing the mass to be evil, do come to it?
"But what go I about to light a candle in the noon-day, that is, to tell you that we may not go to mass, or to the congregation where it is, except it be to reprove it, in that all men in so doing do but dissemble both with God and man? And is dissembling now to be allowed? How long will men yet halt on both knees? saith God. Halting, saith St. Paul, bringeth out of the way; that is to say, out of Christ, which is the way: so that he which is not in him shall wither away, and be cast into hell-fire. For Christ will be ashamed of them before his Father, which be now ashamed of his truth before this wicked generation.
"Therefore, my good mistress, take good heed; for it had been better for you never to have known the truth, and there-through to have escaped from papistical uncleanness, than now to return to it; making eftsoons your members, being members of righteousness, members of unrighteousness; as you do, if you do but go to the church where mass is. Be pure therefore, and keep yourself from all filth of the spirit, and of the flesh. Abstain not only from all evil, but from all appearance of evil.
"And so the God of peace shall be with you, the glory of God shall govern you, the Spirit of God shall sanctify you, and be with you for ever, to keep you from all evil, and to comfort you in all your distress and trouble; which is but short, if you consider the eternity you shall enjoy in glory and felicity in the Lord, which undoubtedly you shall not fail but inherit for ever, if so be you, as the elect child of God, put your trust in his mercy, call upon his name unfeignedly, and yield not over to the wicked world, but stick still against it unto the end. God, for his holy name's sake, who is properly the God of the widows, be your good and dear Father for ever, and help you always, as I myself would be holpen at his hands in all things; and especially in this his own cause. Amen, Amen.
To one by whom he had received much comfort and relief in his trouble and imprisonment.
"The mercy of God in Christ, peculiar to his children, be evermore felt of you, my dearly beloved in the Lord. Amen.
"When I consider with myself the benefits which God hath showed unto me by your means, if I had so good and thankful a heart as I would I had, I could not with dry eyes give him thanks; for certainly they are very many and great. And now, being yet still the Lord's prisoner, I receive from him more benefits by you. For the which I think myself so much bound to you, my good brother, (although you were but the instrument by whom God wrought and blessed me,) that I look not to come out of your debt by any pleasure or service that I shall ever be able to do you in this life. I shall heartily pray unto God, therefore, to requite you the good you have done to me for his sake: for I know that which you have done, you have done it simply in respect of God and his word. He therefore give you daily more and more to be confirmed in his truth and word, and so plentifully pour upon you the riches of his Holy Spirit and heavenly treasures laid up in store for you, that your corporal and earthly riches may be used of you as sacraments and significations thereof; the more to desire the one -- that is, the heavenly, and the less to esteem the other -- that is, the earthly. For Satan's solicitation is, so to set before you the earthly, that therein and thereby you should not have access to the consideration of the heavenly, but, as one bewitched, should utterly forget them, and altogether become a lover and worshipper of the earthly mammon, and so to fall to covetousness, and a desire to be rich, by that means to bring you into many noisome and hurtful lusts: as now-a-days I hear of many which have utterly forsaken God and all his heavenly riches, for antichrist's pleasure, and the preserving of their worldly pelf, which they imagine to leave to their posterity; whereof they are uncertain, as they may be most certain they leave to them God's wrath and vengeance, in his time to be sent by visitation, if they in time heartily repent not, and prevent not the same by earnest prayer. Wherein, my good brother, if you be diligent, hearty, and persevere, I am sure God will preserve you from evil, and from yielding yourself to do as the world now doth, by allowing in bodily fact in the Romish service, that which the inward cogitation and mind doth disallow. But if you be cold in prayer, and come into consideration of earthly and present things simply, then shall you fall into faithless follies and wounding of your conscience; from which God evermore preserve you, with your good wife, and your babe Leonard, and all your family; to the which I wish the blessing of God, now and for ever, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
"I pray you give thanks for me to your old bed- fellow, for his great friendship for your sake showed to me when I was in the Tower.
To a faithful friend of his, and his wife, resolving their doubt, why they ought not to come to auricular confession.
"The merciful God, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which loveth us as a most dear Father, and hath put upon him towards us the affection of a most tender mother towards her children, so that he can no less think upon us (although of ourselves we be most unworthy, and deserve nothing less) than she can think on her only begotten child in his distress; yea, if she should forget her child, as some unnatural mother will do, yet will he never forget us, although for a time he seem to sleep, that we might be occasioned to call loud and awake him: this good God keep you, my dear brother Nathaniel, and your good yoke-fellow, my heartily beloved sister in the Lord, in all things now and for ever, to his glory, and your eternal comfort: and also of his goodness he grant you both the feeling of that hope, which undoubtedly he hath laid up in store for you both, far passing the store and provision, not only which you have made, but all the world is able to make, as I trust already he hath wrought it in you: but I beseech him to increase it more and more, and kindle in you a hearty longing for the enjoying of the same; the which once felt and had in deed, then the means by the which we come thereto cannot be so greatly dreaded, as most men do dread them, because either they want this feeling, (I mean it, of altogether,) or else because the sense of this present time and things therein, are as a mist to the hiding of those things from our sight, lest we should run and embrace them by hearty prayer; the spirit whereof God grant us, and indeed we should attain enough in this behalf, if we continued therein.
"For auricular confession, wherein you desire my advice for your good yoke-fellow and family, (my most dear brother,) I am as ready to give it, as you to desire it, yea, more glad, forasmuch as half a suspicion was in me (at the least touching my dear sister your wife) of a loathing of my advice, that too much had been given, whereas indeed I should lament my too little feeding you spiritually, as you, both out of prison and in prison, have fed me corporally. But as I always thought of her, so I yet think, that she is the child of God, whom God dearly loveth, and will in his good time, to her eternal comfort, give her her heart's desire in sure feeling and sensible believing of this, which I would she had often in her mind; namely, that he is her God and Father through Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Saviour. A greater service to God she cannot give, than to believe this. If Satan say, she believeth not, to answer not him but the Lord, and to say, Yea, Lord, help my unbelief; and increase my poor faith, which Satan saith is no faith: make him a liar, Lord, as always he hath been, is, and shall be. Undoubtedly, sooner or later God will graciously hear her groans, and keep all her tears in his bottle, yea, write them in his counting-book, for he is a righteous God, and hath no pleasure in the death of his creature; he loveth mercy, he will return and show her his mercy, he will cast all her sins and iniquities into the bottom of the sea; and the longer that he tarrieth, (as he doth it but to prove her,) so the more liberally will he recompense her long looking; which no less pleaseth him, than it grieveth now her outward Adam. For the mortification whereof God useth this cross, and therefore if she desire to bear the same, doubtless God will make her able to bear it; and in presumption of his goodness and strength, let her cast herself wholly upon him; for he is faithful, and will assuredly confirm, and bring to a happy end, that good which graciously he hath begun in her. The which thing I desire him to do for his own glory and name's sake. Amen, Amen.
"And now to the matter. Confession auricular, as is was first used and instituted, (which was by the way of a counsel asking,) I take to be amongst those traditions which are indifferent; that is, neither unlawful, nor necessarily binding us, except the offence of the weak could not be avoided. But to consider it as it is now used, (I write to you but as I think, and what my mind is; which follow no further, than good men by God's word do allow it,) to consider it, I say, as it is now used, methinketh, it is plainly unlawful and wicked, and that for these causes:
"First, because they make it a service of God, and a thing which pleaseth God of itself, I will not say meritorious; this bringer, my brother, can tell you at large how great this evil is.
"Secondly, because they make it of necessity, so that he or she that useth it not, is not taken for a good Christian.
"Thirdly, because it requireth of itself an impossibility; that is, the numbering and telling of all our sins; which no man perceiveth, much less can utter.
"Fourthly, because it establisheth and confirmeth, at the least alloweth, praying to saints: Precor sanctam Mariam, you must say, or the priest for you.
"Fifthly, because it is very injurious to the liberty of the gospel, the which to affirm in example and fact, I take to be a good work and dear in God's sight.
"Sixthly, because (as it is used) it is a note, yea, a very sinew, of the popish church: and therefore we should be so far from allowing the same, that we should think ourselves happy to lose any thing in bearing witness there-against.
"Seventhly, because, instead of counsel, thereat you should receive poison; or, if you refuse it under Sir John's benedicite, you should no less there be wounded in the briers.
"Eighthly, because the end and purpose why we go thither, is for the avoiding of the cross; that is, for our own cause, and not for Christ's cause, or for our brethren's commodity. For in that they make it so necessary a thing, and a worshipping of God, it cannot but be against Christ, and the freedom of his gospel: and the same thing teacheth us, that it is against the commodity of our brethren, which either be weak, either be strong, either be ignorant, either be obstinate. If they be weak, by your resorting to it, they be made more weak. If they be strong, you do what you can to infirm their strength. If they be ignorant, therein you help to keep them by your fact. If they be obstinate, your resorting to it cannot but rock them asleep in their obstinate error of the necessity of this rite and ceremony. These causes recited, do show you what I think in this: but my thinking must no further bind you than a man's thought should do, except the same be grounded upon God's word, which bindeth indeed, as I think they do. I doubt not but you, weighing these causes, and especially two, the first and the last, if you pray to God for his Spirit to direct you, and thereto ask the advice of this my good brother and other godly learned men, I doubt not (I say) but you shall be guided to do that which is best in God's sight, although in the sight of the world, perhaps, you should be counted foolish and precise. But be at a point with yourselves as the disciples of Christ, which had forsaken themselves, to follow, not your will, but God's will, as you daily pray in the Lord's prayer.
"The cross of Christ be willing to carry, lest you carry the cross of the world, the flesh, or the devil. One of these four crosses you must carry. Three of them bring to hell, and therefore the more part goeth that way, which is a broad way. Only the fourth bringeth to heaven; but few go that way, as well because the way is strait, as also because few walk in it. Howbeit, though it be strait, it is but short, and the few are many, if you consider the godly, as the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors, and Christ Jesus, with all his guard and train. Think not scorn to come after them which are gone before you, and after them which now go before you, in whose number I trust I am appointed to be one; and I beseech you pray for me, that God would vouch me worthy that honour. Our sins deserve plagues, prison, and the loss of all that ever we have: therefore if God remove our sins out of sight, and send us prison, or loss of goods and living, for his name's sake, O how happy are we! My dear hearts in the Lord, consider this gear, and be assured that he which loseth any thing for Christ's sake, the same in his posterity shall find it here, and in heaven elsewhere. As for unableness to answer for your faith, it shall be enough to will them to dispute with your teachers. Faith standeth not in disputing. I think few, if it came to disputing, could defend the Godhead of Christ and many other articles: I speak it for the simple sort. Pray for me. Lack of paper maketh this end. Commend me to my good brother R. B., and my good sister his wife. I pray them to pray for me. I trust by this bearer to hear how you do.
To a dear friend N., and his wife.
"God's mercy in Christ I wish you to feel, my dear brother, with my faithful sister your wife, now and for ever. Amen.
"Having this occasion, I could not but write something, as well to put myself in remembrance of my duty to God-ward for you, both in thankfulness and prayer, as to put you in remembrance of me; and your duty towards God for me, in praying for me; for I dare not say in thankfulness for me: not that I would have you to give no thanks to God for his wonderfully great and sweet mercies towards me, and upon me in Christ his Son; but because I have not deserved it at either of your hands. For ye both know right well, at least my conscience doth accuse me, how that I have not only not exhorted and taught you (as both my vocation and your deserts required) to walk worthy of that vocation which God hath made you worthy of, and with trembling and fear to work out your salvation (that is, in the fear of God to give yourselves to great vigilancy in prayer for the increase of faith, and to a wary circumspection in all your conversation, not only in works and words, but also in thoughts, because God is a searcher of the heart, and out of the heart it cometh that defileth us in God's sight): I have (I say) not only not done this, but also have given you example of negligence in prayer, watching, fasting, talking, and doing; so that woe to me for giving you such offence. Partly for this cause, dear brother and sister, God hath cast me here, that I might repent me and turn to him; and that ye might also, by this correction upon me, be more diligent to redress these things and others, if they in your conscience do accuse you.
"My dearly beloved, heavily is God's anger fallen upon us all; doleful is this day. Now hath antichrist all his power again. Now is Christ's gospel trodden under foot. Now are God's people a derision and prey for the wicked. Now is the greatest plague of all plagues fallen, the want of God's word: and all these we have, yea, I alone have justly deserved. Oh! that as I write, (I alone,) I could with David, and with Jonas, in heart say so. But I do not, I do not. I see not how grievously I have sinned, and how great a misery is fallen for mine unthankfulness for God's word, for mine hypocrisy in professing, preaching, hearing, and speaking of God's word; for my not praying to God for the continuance of it, for my not living of it thoroughly, as it requireth, &c. I will speak nothing of my manifest evils, for they are known to you well enough.
"Dear brother and sister, with me say ye the like for your own parts, and with me join your hearts, and let us go to our heavenly Father, and for his Christ's sake beseech him to be merciful unto us, and to pardon us: O good Father, it is we that have deserved the taking away of thy word; it is we that have deserved these thy just plagues fallen upon us; we have done amiss; we have dealt unjustly with thy gospel; we have procured thy wrath; and therefore just art thou in punishing us, just art thou in plaguing us, for we are very miserable. But, good Lord and dear Father of mercy, whose justice is such, that thou wilt not punish the poor souls of this realm, which yet have not thus sinned against thee as we have done, (for many yet never heard thy word,) for our trespasses; and whose mercy is so great, that thou wilt put our iniquities out of thy remembrance for thy Christ's sake, if we repent and believe: grant us, we beseech thee, true repentance and faith, that we, having obtained pardon for our sins, may, through thy Christ, get deliverance from the tyranny of antichrist now oppressing us.
"O good Father, which hast said, that the sceptre of the wicked should not long lie upon and over the just, lest they should put forth their hands to iniquity also; make us just, we pray thee in Christ's name, and cut asunder the cords of them that hate Sion; let not the wicked people say, Where is their God? Thou our God art in heaven, and dost whatsoever pleaseth thee upon earth.
Oh that thou wouldest in the mean while, before thou dost deliver us -- that, I say, thou wouldest open our eyes to see all these plagues to come from thee, and all other that shall come, whatsoever they be, public or private, that they come not by chance nor by fortune, but that they come even from thy hand; and that justly and mercifully: justly, because we have and do deserve them, not only by our birth-poison still sticking and working in us, but also by our former evil life past, which by this punishment and all other punishments thou wouldest have us to call to our remembrance, and to set before us, that thou mightest put them from before thee, whereas they stand so long as they aIe not in our remembrance, to put them away by repentance. Mercifully, O Lord God, dost thou punish, in that thou dost not correct to kill, but to amend; that we might repent our sins, ask mercy, obtain it freely in Christ, and begin to suffer for righteousness' sake; to be part of thy house, whereat thy judgment beginneth; to be partakers of the afflictions of thy church, and thy Christ, that we might be partakers of the glory of the same; to weep here that we might rejoice elsewhere; to be judged in this world, that we might with thy saints judge hereafter the world; to suffer with Christ, that we might reign with him; to be like to Christ in shame, that we might be like to him in glory; to receive our evils here, that we might with poor Lazarus find rest elsewhere; rest, I say, and such a rest as the eye hath not seen, the ear hath not heard, nor the heart of man is able to conceive. Oh! that our eyes were open to see this: that the cross cometh from thee to declare thy justice and thy mercy, and hereto, that we might see how short a time the time of suffering is; how long a time the time of rejoicing is, to them that suffer here; but to them that will not, how long and miserable a time is appointed and prepared; a time without time in eternal woe and perdition, too horrible to be thought upon. From the which keep us, dear Father, and give us more light in soul to see this gear, and how that all thy dearest children have carried the cross of grievous afflictions in this life; in whose company do thou place us; and such a cross lay upon us, as thou wilt make us able to bear, to thy glory and our salvation in Christ, for whose sake we pray thee to shorten the days of this our great misery fallen upon us most justly, and in the mean season give us patience, repentance, faith, and thy eternal consolation. Amen, Amen, Amen.
"And thus, dear hearts, I have talked, methinks, a little while with you, or rather we have all talked with God. Oh! that God would give us his Spirit of grace and prayer. My dearly beloved, pray for it, as for yourselves, so for me; and that God would vouchsafe to make me worthy to suffer with a good conscience for his name's sake. Pray for me, and I shall do the like for you.-- This twentieth of December, by him whom by this bringer you shall learn. I pray you give my commendations to all that love me in the Lord. Be merry in Christ, for one day in heaven we shall meet and rejoice together for evermore. Amen."
To my good brother Augustine Bernher.
"Mine own good Augustine, the Lord of mercy bless thee, my dear brother, for ever. I have good hope, that if you come late at night, I shall speak with you; but come as secretly as you can: howbeit, in the mean season, if you can, and as you can, learn what Master G. hath spoken to Dr. Story and others. The cause of all this trouble both to my keeper and me, is thought to come by him. It is said that I shall be burned in Smithfield, and that shortly. The Lord's will be done. Behold, here I am, Lord, send me. Ah! mine own sweet friend, I am now alone, lest I should make you and others worse. If I should live, I would more warily use the company of God's children, than ever I have done. I will bear the Lord's anger, because I have sinned against him. Commend me to my most dear sister, for whom my heart bleedeth: the Lord comfort her and strengthen her unto the end! I think I have taken my leave of her for ever in this life, but in eternal life we shall most surely meet, and praise the Lord continually. I have now taken a more certain answer of death than ever I did: and yet not so certain as I think I should do. I am now as a sheep appointed to the slaughter. Ah! my God, the hour is come; glorify thy most unworthy child. I have glorified thee, saith this my sweet Father, and I will glorify thee. Amen.-- Ah! mine own bowels, praise God for me; and pray for me; for I am his hope: I hope he will never forsake me, though I have above all others most deserved it. I am the most singular example of his mercy, praised be his name therefore for ever. Cause Mrs. Pierrepoint to learn of the sheriff, Master Chester, what they purpose to do with me; and know, if you can, whether there be any writ forth for me. I am like to an owl in the house, and as a sparrow alone in the house-top. Ah! my Augustine, how long shall God's enemies thus triumph? I have sent you this of the baptism of children to write out; when this is done, you shall have other things. Pray, pray, mine own dear heart, on whom I am bold. The keeper telleth me, that it is death for any to speak with me, but yet, I trust, that I shall speak with you.
To these letters of Master Bradford above specified, here is also adjoined another letter of the said Bradford, written to certain of his faithful friends, worthy of all Christians to be read; wherein is described a lively comparison between the old man and the new: also between the law and the gospel, containing much fruitful matter of divinity, necessary for Christian consciences to read and understand.
A letter of Master Bradford, describing a comparison between the old man and the new, &c.
"A man that is regenerate and born of God (the which thing that every one of us be, our baptism, the sacrament of regeneration, doth require under pain of damnation, and therefore let every one of us with the Virgin Mary say, Be it unto me, O Lord, according to thy word, according to the sacrament of baptism, wherein thou hast declared our adoption; and let us lament the doubting hereof in us, striving against it, as we shall be made able of the Lord): a man, I say, that is regenerate, consisteth of two men (as a man may say); namely, of the old man, and of the new man: the old man is like to a mighty giant, such a one as was Goliath, for his birth is now perfect; but the new man is like unto a little child, such a one as was David, for his birth is not perfect until the day of his general resurrection.
"The old man therefore is more strong, lusty, and stirring than is the new man, because the birth of the new man is but begun now, and the old man is perfectly born. And as the old man is more stirring, lusty, and stronger than the new man; so is the nature of him clean contrary to the nature of the new man, as being earthly and corrupt with Satan's seed, the nature of the new man being heavenly, and blessed with the celestial seed of God. So that one man, inasmuch as he is corrupt with the seed of the serpent, is an old man; and inasmuch as he is blessed with the seed of God from above, he is a new man. And as, inasmuch as he is an old man, he is a sinner and an enemy to God; so, inasmuch as he is regenerate, he is righteous and holy, and a friend to God, the seed of God preserving him from sin, so that he cannot sin, as the seed of the serpent (wherewith he is corrupt even from his conception) inclineth him, yea, enforceth him to sin, and nothing else but to sin: so that the best part in man before regeneration, in God's sight, is not only an enemy, but enmity itself.
"One man therefore which is regenerate, well may be called always just, and always sinful; just in respect of God's seed, and his regeneration; sinful in respect of Satan's seed, and his first birth. Betwixt these two men theIefore there is continual conflict, and war most deadly. The flesh and old man, by reason of his birth that is perfect, doth often for a time prevail against the new man, (being but a child in comparison,) and that in such sort, as not only others, but even the children of God themselves, think that they be nothing else but old, and that the spirit and seed of God is lost and gone away; whereas, yet notwithstanding, the truth is otherwise, the spirit and the seed of God at the length appearing again, and dispelling away the clouds which cover the sun of God's seed from shining, as the clouds in the air do the corporal sun; so that sometimes a man cannot tell, by any sense, that there is any sun, the clouds and wind so hiding it from our sight: even so our cecity or blindness, and corrupt affections, do often shadow the sight of God's seed in God's children, as though they were plain reprobates. Whereof it cometh, that they, praying according to their sense, but not according to the truth, desire of God to give them again his Spirit, as though they had lost it, and he had taken it away. Which thing God never doth indeed, although he make us to think so for a time; for always he holdeth his hand under his children in their falls, that they lie not still as others do which are not regenerate. And this is the difference betwixt God's children which are regenerate and elect before all times in Christ, and the wicked always; that the elect lie not still continually in their sin, as do the wicked, but at the length do return again by reason of God's seed, which is in them hid as a sparkle of fire in the ashes; as we may see in Peter, David, Paul, Mary Magdalene, and others. For these (I mean God's children) God hath made all things in Christ Jesus, to whom he hath given this dignity, that they should be his inheritance and spouses.
"This our inheritor Christ Jesus, God with God, light of light, co-eternal and consubstantial with the Father and with the Holy Ghost, to the end that he might become our Husband, (because the husband and the wife must be one body and flesh,) hath taken our nature upon him, communicating with it and by [it] in his own person, to us all his children, his Divine majesty, (as Peter saith,) and so is become flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bones substantially; as we are become flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bones spiritually, all that ever we have pertaining to him, yea, even our sins; as all that ever he hath pertaineth unto us, even his whole glory. So that if Satan should summon us to answer for our debts or sins, in that the wife is no sueable person, but the husband, we may well bid him enter his action against our Husband, Christ, and he will make him a sufficient answer.
"For this end (I mean that we might be coupled and married thus to Christ, and so be certain of salvation, and at godly peace with God in our consciences) God hath given his holy word, which hath two parts, (as now the children of God do consist of two men,) one part of God's word being proper to the old man, and the other part of God's word being proper to the new man. The part properly pertaining to the old man, is the law; the part properly pertaining to the new man, is the gospel.
"The law is a doctrine which commandeth and forbiddeth, requiring doing and avoiding: under it therefore are contained all precepts, threatenings, promises, upon conditions of our doing and avoiding, &c. The gospel is a doctrine which always offereth and giveth, requiring faith on our behalf, not as of worthiness, or as a cause, but as a certificate unto us; and therefore under it are contained all the free and sweet promises of God, as, I am the Lord thy God, &c.
"In those that be of years of discretion, it requireth faith, not as a cause, but as an instrument, whereby we ourselves may be certain of our good Husband, Christ, and of his glory; and therefore when the conscience feeleth itself disquieted for fear of God's judgment against sin, she may in no wise look upon the doctrine pertaining to the old man, but on the doctrine only that pertaineth to the new man; in it not looking for that which it requireth, that is, faith, because we never believe as we should; but only on it which it offereth, and which it giveth, that is, on God's grace and eternal mercy and peace in Christ. So shall she be in quiet, when she looketh for it, altogether out of herself, in God's mercy in Christ Jesus: in whose lap if she lay her head with St. John, then is she happy, and shall find quietness indeed. When she feeleth herself quiet, then, in God's name, let her look on the law, and upon such things as it requireth, thereby to bridle and keep down the old Adam, to slay that Goliath; from whom she must needs keep the sweet promises, being the bed wherein her Spouse and she meet and lie together. For as the wife will keep her bed only for her husband, although in other things she is contented to have fellowship with others, as to speak, sit, eat, drink, go, &c.; so our consciences, which are Christ's wives, must needs keep the bed (that is, God's sweet promises) alonely for ourselves and our Husband, there to meet together, to embrace and laugh together, and to be joyful together. If sin, the law, the devil, or any thing would creep into the bed, and lie there, then complain to thy Husband, Christ, and forthwith thou shalt see him play Phineas's part. Thus, my dearly beloved, I have given you, in few words, a sum of all the divinity which a Christian conscience can want."
A letter written to his mother, as a farewell, when he thought he should have suffered shortly after.
"The Lord of life and Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ, bless you and comfort you, my good and dear mother, with his heavenly comfort, consolation, grace, and spirit, now and for ever. Amen.-- If I thought that daily, yea, almost hourly, you did not cry upon God the Father through Jesus Christ, that he would give me his blessing, even the blessing of his children, then would I write more hereabouts. But forasmuch as herein I am certain you are diligent, and so I beseech you, good mother, to continue; I think it good to write something, whereby this your crying might be furthered. Furthered it will be, if those things which hinder it be taken away; among the which, in that I think my imprisonment is the greatest and chiefest, I will thereabout spend this letter, and that briefly, lest it might increase the let, as my good brother, this bringer, can tell you. You shall know therefore, good mother, that for my body, though it be in a house, out of the which I cannot come when I will, yet in that I have conformed my will to God's will, I find herein liberty enough, I thank God. And for my lodging, bedding, meat, drink, godly and learned company, books, and all other necessaries for mine ease, comfort, and commodity, I am in much better case than I could wish, and God's merciful providence here is far above my worthiness. Worthiness, quoth I? Alas, I am worthy of nothing but damnation.
"But besides all this, for my soul, I find much more commodity; for God is my Father, I now perceive, through Christ; therefore, in prisoning me for his gospel, he maketh me like to the image of his Son Jesus Christ here, that when he cometh to judgment, I might then be like unto him, as my trust and hope is I shall be. Now maketh he me like to his friends the prophets, apostles, the holy martyrs and confessors: which of them did not suffer at the least imprisonment or banishment for his gospel and word?
"Now, mother, how far am I unmeet to be compared to them!-- I (I say) which always have been and am so vile a hypocrite and grievous a sinner. God might have caused me, long before this time, to have been cast into prison as a thief, a blasphemer, an unclean liver, and a heinous offender of the laws of the realm; but, dear mother, his mercy is so great upon both you, and all that love me, that I should be cast into prison as none of these, or for any such vices, but only for his Christ's sake, for his gospel's sake, for his church's sake, that hereby as I might learn to lament and bewail my ingratitude and sins, so I might rejoice in his mercy, be thankful, look for eternal joy with Christ; for whose sake, praised be his name for it, I now suffer, and therefore should be merry and glad. And indeed, good mother, so I am, as ever I was: yea, never so merry and glad was I, as now I should be, if I could get you to be merry with me, to thank God for me, and to pray on this sort: Ah! good Father, which dost vouchsafe that my son, being a grievous sinner in thy sight, should find this favour with thee, to be one of thy Son's captains and men of war to fight and suffer, for his gospel's sake, I thank thee, and pray thee, in Christ's name, that thou wouldest forgive him his sins and unthankfulness, and make perfect in him that good which thou hast begun; yea, Lord, I pray thee make him worthy to suffer, not only imprisonment, but even very death, for thy truth, religion, and gospel's sake. As Anna did apply and give her first child Samuel unto thee, so do I, dear Father, beseeching thee for Christ's sake to accept this my gift, and give my son, John Bradford, grace always truly to serve thee and thy people, as Samuel did. Amen, Amen.
"If on this sort, good mother, from your heart you would pray, as I should be the most merriest man that ever was; so am I certain the lets of your prayer for my imprisonment would be taken away. Good mother, therefore mark what I have written, and learn this prayer by heart, to say it daily; and then I shall be merry, and you shall rejoice if that you continue, as I trust you do, in God's true religion, even the same I have taught you, and my father Traves I trust will put you in remembrance of: my brother Roger also, I trust, doth so daily: go to, therefore, and learn apace. Although the devil cast divers lets in the way, God, in whom you trust, will cast them away for his Christ's sake, if you will call upon him; and never will he suffer you to be tempted above that he will make you able to bear. But how you should do herein, the other letter which I have written herewith shall teach you, which I would have none should read till my father Traves have read it, and he will give you, by God's grace, some instructions.
"Now, therefore, will I make an end, praying you, good mother, to look for no more letters; for if it were known that I have pen and ink, and did write, then should I want all the foresaid commodities I have spoken of concerning my body, and be cast into some dungeon in fetters of iron; which thing I know would grieve you. And therefore, for God's sake, see that these be burned, when this little prayer in it is copied by my brother Roger; for perchance your house may be searched for such gear, when you think little of it: and look for no more, sweet mother, till either God shall deliver me, and send me out, or you and I shall meet together in heaven, where we shall never part asunder. Amen.
"I require you, Elizabeth and Margaret my sisters, that you will fear God, use prayer, love your husbands, be obedient unto them, as God willeth you; bring up your children in God's fear, and be good housewives. God bless you both, with both your husbands, my good brethren, to whom to do good, because I now cannot, I will pray for them and you. Commend me to my sister Anne, mother Pike, Thomas Sorrocold and his wife, R. Shalcross and his wife, R. Bolton, J. Wild, Master Vicar, the parson of Mottram, Sir Laurence Hall, with all that love, and, I trust, live in the gospel; and God turn Sir Thomas's heart: Amen. I will daily pray for him. I need not to set my name; you know it well enough.
"Because you should give my letters to my father Traves to be burned, I have written here a prayer for you to learn to pray for me, good mother, and another for all your house in your evening prayer, to pray with my brother. These prayers are written with mine own hand: keep them still, but the letters give to father Traves to burn, and give father Traves a copy of the latter prayer."
Another letter to his mother, at his last farewell unto her in this world, a little before he was burned.
"God's mercy and peace in Christ be more and more perceived of us. Amen.
"My most dear mother, in the bowels of Christ I heartily pray and beseech you to be thankful for me unto God, which thus now taketh me unto himself: I die not, my good mother, as a thief, a murderer, an adulterer, &c.; but I die as a witness of Christ, his gospel and verity, which hitherto I have confessed (I thank God) as well by preaching as by imprisonment, and now even presently I shall most willingly confirm the same by fire. I acknowledge that God most justly might take me hence simply for my sins (which are many, great, and grievous; but the Lord, for his mercy in Christ, hath pardoned them all, I hope): but now, dear mother, he taketh me hence by this death, as a confessor and witness, that the religion taught by Christ Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles, is God's truth. The prelates do persecute in me Christ, whom they hate, and his truth, which they may not abide, because their works are evil, and may not abide the truth and light, lest men should see their darkness.
Therefore, my good and most dear mother, give thanks for me to God, that he hath made the fruit of your womb to be a witness of his glory, and attend to the truth, which (I thank God for it) I have truly taught out of the pulpit of Manchester. Use often and continual prayer to God the Father through Christ. Hearken, as you may, to the Scriptures: serve God after his word, and not after custom; beware of the Romish religion in England, defile not yourself with it; carry Christ's cross as he shall lay it upon your back; forgive them that kill me; pray for them, for they know not what they do; commit my cause to God our Father; be mindful of both your daughters, and help them as you can.
"I send all my writings to you by my brother Roger: do with them as you will, because I cannot as I would: he can tell you more of my mind. I have nothing to give you, or to leave behind me for you; only I pray God my Father, for his Christ's sake, to bless you, and keep you from evil. He give you patience; he make you thankful, as for me, so for yourself, that he will take the fruit of your womb to witness his verity: wherein I confess to the whole world, I die and depart this life, in hope of a much better; which I look for at the hands of God my Father, through the merits of his dear Son Jesus Christ.
"Thus, my dear mother, I take my last farewell of you in this life, beseeching the Almighty and eternal Father by Christ, to grant us to meet in the life to come, where we shall give him continual thanks and praise for ever and ever. Amen.-- Out of prison, the 24th of June, 1555.
"Your son in the Lord.
A letter sent with a supplication to Queen Mary, her council, and the whole parliament.
"In most humble wise complaineth unto your Majesty and Honours, a poor subject, persecuted for the confession of Christ's verity: the which verity deserveth at your hands to be maintained and defended, as the thing by the which you reign, and have your honours and authorities. Although we that be professors, and through the grace of God the constant confessors of the same, are (as it were) the outsweepings of the world; yet, (I say,) the verity itself is a thing not unworthy for your ears to hear, for your eyes to see, and for your hands to handle, help, and succour, according to that the Lord hath made you able, and placed you where you are, for the same purpose. Your Highness and Honours ought to know, that there is no innocency in words or deeds, where it is enough and sufficeth only to accuse. It behoveth kings, queens, and all that be in authority, to know that in the administration of their kingdoms they are God's ministers. It behoveth them to know, that they are no kings, but plain tyrants, which reign not to this end, that they may serve and set forth God's glory after true knowledge: and therefore it is required of them, that they would be wise, and suffer themselves to be taught, to submit themselves to the Lord's discipline, and to kiss their Sovereign, lest they perish; as all those potentates with their principalities and dominions cannot long prosper, but perish indeed, if they and their kingdoms be not ruled with the sceptre of God, that is, with his word; which whoso honoureth not, honoureth not God; and they that honour not the Lord, the Lord will not honour them, but bring them into contempt, and at the length take his own cause, which he hath most chiefly committed unto them to care for, into his own hands, and so overthrow them, and set up his truth gloriously; the people also perishing with the princes, where the word of prophecy is wanting -- much more is suppressed, as it is now in this realm of England; over which the eyes of the Lord are set to destroy it, your Highness, and all your Honours, if in time you look not better to your office and duties herein, and not suffer yourselves to be slaves and hangmen to antichrist and his prelates, which have brought your Highness and Honours already to let Barabbas loose, and to hang up Christ: as by the grace and help of God I shall make apparent, if, first, it would please your excellent Majesty, and all your Honours, to take to heart God's doctrine, which rather through the malice of the Pharisees (I mean the bishops and prelates) than your consciences, is oppressed; and not for our contemptible and execrable state in the sight of the world, to pass the less of it. For it (the doctrine, I mean) is higher and of more honour and majesty, than all the whole world. It standeth invincible above all power, being not our doctrine, but the doctrine of the ever-living God, and of his Christ, whom the Father hath ordained King, to have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the world. And truly so doth he and will he reign, that he will shake all the whole earth with his iron and brazen power, with his golden and silvery brightness, only by the rod of his mouth, to shivers, in such sort as though they were pots of clay, according to that which the prophets do write of the magnificence of his kingdom. And thus much for the thing, I mean the doctrine, and your duties to hearken, to propagate, and defend the same.
"But now will our adversaries mainly cry out against us, because no man may be admitted once to whist against them, that we pretend falsely the doctrine and word of God; calling us the most wicked contemners of it, and heretics, schismatics, traitors, &c. All which their sayings, how malicious and false they are, though I might make report to that which is written by those men whose works they have condemned, and all that retain any of them, publicly by proclamation; yet here will I occasion your Majesty and Honours, by this my writing, to see that it is far otherwise than they report of us. God our Father, for his holy name's sake, direct my pen to be his instrument to put into your eyes, ears, and hearts, that which most may make to his glory, to the safeguard of your souls and bodies, and preservation of the whole realm. Amen.
To certain of his friends, N. S., and R. C.
"I wish to you, my good brethren, the same grace of God in Christ, which I wish and pray the Father of mercies to give me, for his holy name's sake. Amen.
"Your letter, though I have not read myself, because I would not alienate my mind from conceived things, to write to others, yet I have heard the sum of it, that it is of God's election; wherein I will briefly write to you my faith, and how I think it good and meet for a Christian man to wade in it. I believe, that man, made after the image of God, did fall from that blessed state, to the condemnation of himself, and all his posterity. I believe that Christ, for man being thus fallen, did oppose himself to the justice of God, a mediator, paying the ransom and price of redemption for Adam and his whole posterity that refuse it not finally. I believe, that all that believe in Christ, (I speak of such as be of years of discretion,) are partakers of Christ and all his merits. I believe that faith, and to believe in Christ (I speak not now of faith that men have by reason of miracles, or by reason of earthly commodity, custom, and authority of men, which is commonly seen -- the hearts of them that so believe, being not right and simple before God; but I speak of that faith which indeed is the true faith, the justifying and regenerating faith): I believe, I say, that this faith and belief in Christ, is the work and gift of God, given to none other than to those which be the children of God; that is, to those whom God the Father, before the beginning of the world, hath predestinated in Christ unto eternal life.
"Thus do I wade in predestination, in such sort as God hath patefied and opened it. Though in God it be the first, yet to us it is last opened. And therefore I begin with creation, from whence I come to redemption, so to justification, and so to election. On this sort I am sure, that warily and wisely a man may walk in it easily by the light of God's Spirit, in and by his word, seeing this faith not to be given to all men, but to such as are born of God, predestinate before the world was made, after the purpose and good will of God: which will we may not call into disputation, but in trembling and fear submit ourselves to it, as to that which can will none otherwise than that which is holy, right, and good, how far soever otherwise it seem to the judgment of reason, which must needs be beaten down to be more careful for God's glory than for man's salvation, which dependeth only thereon, as all God's children full well see: for they seek not the glory which cometh of men, but the glory which cometh of God. They know God to be a God which doth on earth, not only mercy, but also judgment, which is his justice, and most justice; although our foolish reason cannot see it. And in this knowledge they glory and rejoice, though others, through vain curiosity, grudge and murmur there-against. Thus briefly I have sent you my mind and meaning concerning this matter. Hereafter you shall have (I think) your letter particularly answered by Master Philpot; as also, if I have time, and so you require it, I will do.
Notes upon the same epistle, and to the matter of election appertaining.
As touching the doctrine of election (whereof this letter of Master Bradford, and many other his letters more, do much entreat) three things must be considered.
1. First, What God's election is, and what is the cause thereof.
2. Secondly, How God's election proceedeth in working our salvation.
3. Thirdly, To whom God's election pertaineth, and how a man may be certain thereof.
Between predestination and election, this difference there is: predestination is as well to the reprobate, as to the elect; election pertaineth only to them that be saved.
Predestination, in that it respecteth the reprobate, is called reprobation; in that it respecteth the saved, is called election, and is thus defined:
Predestination is the eternal decreement of God, purposed before in himself, what shall befall on all men, either to salvation or damnation.
Election is the free mercy and grace of God in his own will, through faith in Christ his Son, choosing and preferring to life such as pleaseth him.
In this definition of election, first goeth before, "the mercy and grace of God," as the causes thereof, whereby are excluded all the works of the law, and merits of deserving, whether they go before faith, or come after. So was Jacob chosen, and Esau refused, before either of them began to work, &c.
Secondly, in that this mercy and grace of God in this definition is said to be "free," thereby is to be noted the proceeding and working of God not to be bounded to any ordinary place, or to any succession of chair, nor to state and dignity of person, nor to worthiness of blood, &c.; but all goeth by the mere will of his own purpose; as it is written, The wind bloweth where it listeth. And thus was the outward race and stock of Abraham after the flesh refused (which seemed to have the preeminence); and another seed after the Spirit raised up to Abraham of the stones, that is, of the Gentiles. So was the outward temple of Jerusalem and chair of Moses, which seemed to be of price, forsaken, and God's chair advanced in other nations. So was tall Saul refused, and little David accepted; the rich, the proud, the wise of this world rejected, and the word of salvation daily opened to the poor and miserable abjects; the high mountains cast under, and the low valleys exalted, &c.
Thirdly, where it is added, "in his own will," by this falleth down the free will and purpose of man, with all his actions, counsels, and strength of nature; according as it is written, It is not in him that willeth, nor in him that runneth, but in God that showeth mercy: so we see how Israel ran long, and yet got nothing. The Gentiles later began to set out, and yet got the game. So they which came at the first hour did labour more; and yet they which came last were rewarded with the first. The working will of the Pharisee seemed better; but yet the Lord's will was rather to justify the publican. The elder son had a better will to tarry by his father, and so did indeed; and yet the fat calf was given to the younger son that ran away: whereby we are to understand, how the matter goeth, not by the will of man, but by the will of God; as it pleaseth him to accept, according as it is written, Which are born, not of the will of the flesh, nor yet of the will of man, but of God. Furthermore, as all then goeth by the will of God only, and not by the will of man; so again here is to he noted, that this will of God never goeth without faith in Christ Jesus his Son.
And therefore, fourthly, is this clause added in the definition, "through faith in Christ his Son;" which faith in Christ to us-ward maketh all together. For first, it certifieth us of God's election; as this epistle of Master Bradford doth well express: for whosoever will be certain of election in God, let him first begin with his faith in Christ; which if he find in him to stand firm, he may be sure, and nothing doubt, but that he is one of the number of God's elect. Secondly, the said faith, and nothing else, is the only condition and means whereupon God's mercy, grace, election, vocation, and all God's promises to salvation, do stay, according to the words of St. Paul, If ye abide in the faith. Thirdly, this faith also is the immediate and next cause of our justification simply, without any other condition annexed. For as the mercy of God, his grace, election, vocation, and other precedent causes, do save and justify us upon condition, if we believe in Christ: so this faith only in Christ, without condition, is the next and immediate cause, which, by God's promise, worketh our justification; according as it is written, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy whole house. And thus much touching the definition of election, with the causes thereof declared; which you see now to be no merits, nor works of man, whether they go before or come after faith, but only the mere mercy of God through faith. For like as all they that he born of Adam, do taste of his malediction, though they tasted not his apple; so all they that be born of Christ, (which is by faith,) take part of the obedience of Christ, although they never did that obedience themselves, which was in him.
Now to the second consideration, let us see likewise, how and in what order this election of God proceedeth, in choosing and electing them which he ordaineth to salvation; which order is this. In them that be chosen to life, first, God's mercy and free grace bringeth forth election; election worketh vocation, or God's holy calling; which vocation, through hearing, bringeth knowledge and faith of Christ. Faith through promise, obtaineth justification; justification through hope, waiteth for glorification.
Election is before time. Vocation and faith come in time. Justification and glorification are without end.
Election, depending upon God's free grace and will, excludeth all man's will, blind fortune, chance, and all peradventures.
Vocation, standing upon God's election, excludeth all man's wisdom, cunning, learning, intention, power, and presumption.
Faith in Christ, proceeding by the gift of the Holy Ghost, and freely justifying man by God's promise, excludeth all other merits of men, all condition of deserving, and all works of the law, both God's law and man's law, with all other outward means whatsoever.
Justification, coming freely by faith, standeth sure by promise, without doubt, fear, or wavering in this life.
Glorification, pertaining only to the life to come, by hope is looked for.
Grace and mercy preventeth.
Vocation prepareth and receiveth the word, whereby cometh faith.
Justification bringeth glory.
Election is the immediate and next cause of vocation.
Vocation (which is the working of God's Spirit by the word) is the immediate and next cause of faith.
Faith is the immediate and next cause of justification.
And this order and connexion of causes is diligently to be observed, because of the papists, which have miserably confounded and inverted this doctrine, thus teaching, that Almighty God, so far forth as he foreseeth man's merits before to come, so doth he dispense his election. "Dominus prout cujusque merita fore pręvidet, ita dispensat electionis gratiam." And again, "Nullis pręcedentibus meritis Dominum rependere electionis gratiam, futuris tamen concedere:" that is, that the Lord recompenseth the grace of election, not to any merits preceding; but yet granteth the same to the merits which follow: as though we had our election by our holiness that followeth after, and not rather have our holiness by God's election going before.
But we, following the Scripture, say otherwise, that the only cause of God's election is his own free mercy; and the only cause of our justification is our faith in Christ, and nothing else. As for example; first concerning election, if the question be asked, Why was Abraham chosen, and not Nahor? Why was Jacob chosen, and not Esau? Why was Moses elected, and Pharaoh hardened? Why David accepted, and Saul refused? Why few be chosen, and the most forsaken? It cannot be answered otherwise than thus: Because it was so the good will of God.
In like manner touching vocation, and also faith, if the question be asked, Why this vocation and gift of faith was given to Cornelius the Gentile, and not to Tertullus the Jew? why to the poor, to the babes, and little ones of this world? (of whom Christ speaketh, I thank thee, Father, which hast hid this from the wise, &c.;) why to the unwise, the simple, abjects and outcasts in this world? (of whom speaketh St. Paul, Ye see your calling, my brethren, how not many of you, &c.;) why to the sinners, and not to the just? why were the beggars by the high-ways called, and the bidden guests excluded? We can go to no other cause, but to God's purpose and election, and say with Christ our Saviour, Yea, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight.
As so for justification likewise -- if the question be asked, Why the publican was justified, and not the Pharisee? why Mary the sinner, and not Simon the inviter? why harlots and publicans go before the scribes and Pharisees in the kingdom? why the son of the free-woman was received, and the bond-woman's son, being his elder, rejected? why Israel, which so long sought for righteousness, found it not; and the Gentiles, which sought not for it, found it?-- we have no other cause hereof to render, but to say with St. Paul, Because they sought for it by works of the law, and not by faith: which faith, as it cometh not by man's will, (as the papist falsely pretendeth,) but only by the election and free gift of God; so it is only the immediate cause whereunto the promise of our salvation is annexed, according as we read: And therefore of faith is the inheritance given as after grace, that the promise might stand sure to every seed. Item, in the same chapter, Faith, believing in him which justifieth the wicked, is imputed to righteousness.
And thus concerning the causes of our salvation, ye see how faith in Christ, only and immediately, without any condition, doth justify us, being so linked with God's mercy and election, that wheresoever election goeth before, there faith in Christ must needs follow after. And again, whosoever believeth in Christ Jesus, through the vocation of God, he must needs be partaker of God's election.
Whereupon resulteth now the third note or consideration; which is to consider whether a man in this life may be certain of his election. To answer to which question, this first is to be understood; that although our election and vocation simply indeed be known to God only in himself, a priore; yet, notwithstanding, it may be known to every particular faithful man, a posteriore; that is, by means, which means is faith in Christ Jesus crucified. Forasmuch as by his faith in Christ a man is justified, and thereby made the child of salvation, reason must needs lead the same to be then the child of election, chosen of God unto everlasting life; for how can a man be justified but he must needs be saved? and how can a man be saved, but by consequence it followeth, that he must also be elected?
And therefore of election it is truly said, We must judge of election by that which cometh after, that is, by our faith and belief in Christ: which faith, although in time it followeth after election, yet this is the proper and immediate cause assigned by the Scripture which not only justifieth us, but also certifieth us of this election of God.
Whereunto likewise well agreeth this present letter of Master Bradford, wherein he saith, "Election, albeit in God it be the first, yet to us it is the last opened. And therefore beginning first," saith he, "with creation, I come from thence to redemption, and justification by faith, and so to election." Not that faith is the cause efficient of election, being rather the effect thereof, but is to us the cause certificatory, or the cause of our certification, whereby we are brought to the feeling and knowledge of our election in Christ. For albeit that election first be certain in the knowledge of God; yet in our knowledge, faith only that we have in Christ, is the thing that giveth to us our certificate and comfort of this election.
Wherefore, whosoever desireth to be assured that he is one of the elect number of God, let him not climb up to heaven to know, but let him descend into himself, and there search his faith in Christ the Son of God; which if he find in him not feigned, by the working of God's Holy Spirit accordingly, thereupon let him stay, and so wrap himself wholly, both body and soul, under God's general promise, and cumber his head with no further speculations; knowing this, that, Whosoever believeth in him, shall not perish, shall not be confounded, shall not see death, shall not enter into judgment, shall have everlasting life, shall be saved, shall have remission of all his sins, shall be justified, shall have floods flowing out of him of water of life, shall never die, shall be raised in the last day, shall find rest to his soul, and shall be refreshed.
Now then, forasmuch as we see faith to be the ground whereupon dependeth the whole condition of our justifying, let us discuss, in like manner, what is this faith whereof the Scripture so much speaketh, for the more plain understanding of the simple. For many kinds there be of faith: as a man may believe every thing that is true, yet not every truth doth save, neither doth the believing of every truth justify a man. He that believeth that God created all things of nought, believeth truly. He that believeth that God is a just God, that he is omnipotent, that he is merciful, that he is true of promise, believeth well, and holdeth the truth. So he that believeth that God hath his election from the beginning, and that he also is one of the same elect and predestinate, hath a good belief, and thinketh well: but yet this belief alone, except it be seasoned with another thing, will not serve to salvation; as it availed not the old Jews, which so thought of themselves, and yet think to this day, to be God's only elect people.
The only faith which availeth to salvation is that, whose object is the body and passion of Jesus Christ crucified. So that in the act of justifying, these two, faith and Christ, have a mutual relation, and must always concur together; faith as the action which apprehendeth, Christ as the object which is apprehended.
For neither doth the passion of Christ save without faith, neither doth faith help, except it be in Christ: as we see the body of man sustained by bread and drink, not except the same be received and conveyed into the stomach: and yet neither doth the receiving of every thing sustain man's body, except it be meat and drink, which have power to give nourishment. In like sort it is with faith; for neither doth the believing of every thing save, but only faith in the blood of Christ: neither again doth the same blood of Christ profit us, except by faith it be received. And as the sun, being the cause of all light, shineth not but to them only which have eyes to see; nor yet to them neither, unless they will open their eyes to receive the light: so the passion of Christ is the efficient cause of salvation, but faith is the condition whereby the said passion is to us effectual.
And that is the cause why we say with the Scripture, that faith only justifieth us, not excluding thereby all other external causes that go before faith, as grace, mercy, election, vocation, the death of Christ, &c., all which be external causes, working our salvation through faith. But when we say that faith only justifieth us, the meaning thereof is this: that of all internal actions, motions, or operations in man, given to him of God, there is none other that contenteth and pleaseth God, or standeth before his judgment, or can help any thing to the justifying of man before him, but only this one action of faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God.
For although the action of praying, fasting, alms, patience, charity, repentance, the fear and love of God, be high gifts in man, and not of man, given of God to man, yet be none of all these actions in man imputed of God to salvation, but only this one action of faith in man upon Christ Jesus the Son of God. Not that the action itself of believing, as it is a quality in man, doth so deserve, but because it taketh that dignity of the object. For as I said, the act of justifying faith, as it is an action in man, is not to be considered alone, but must ever go with its object, and taketh its virtue thereof. Like as the looking up of the old Israelites did not of itself procure any health unto them, but the promise made in the object, which was the brazen serpent, whereupon they looked, gave them health by their looking up; even so, after like sort, are we saved by faith and spiritual looking up to the body of Christ crucified; which faith to define is this: to believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of the living God, sent into this world, by his death to satisfy for our sins, and so to receive the same.
And thus much touching election and faith; with the order and explication of the causes necessary to be considered in our salvation, whereby may appear how far the pretended Catholics do swerve from the right mind of the Scriptures. For whereas the Scriptures, in declaring the causes of salvation, do send us only to faith, as the only condition whereby these causes have their working, these Catholics do quite leave out faith, and, instead thereof, place in other conditions of doings, merits, will-works, pardons, masses, and especially auricular confessions, with penance and satisfaction for our sins, &c.
And besides these letters above specified of Master John Bradford, there have come to our hands certain other letters of his, not long ago, sent by a certain old friend of the said John Bradford unto us: which letters being written of him in former times before his trouble, as they have not yet been printed nor seen abroad, so I thought it not amiss to communicate the same to the Christian reader, for the worthiness of the matter, and the goodness of the man, which may redound, I trust, to no small fruit to him that with godly eyes shall devise the same.
To father Traves, minister of Blackley. (No. 1.)
"The abundant grace and rich mercy of God in Christ our only Saviour and high Bishop, be increased in your heart, through the lively worker of all goodness, the Holy Spirit, until the day of the Lord, &c.
"I have received your two letters, good father Traves, since that I did write any unto you, whereof though honesty willeth to make an excuse, yet truth biddeth me otherwise, and saith, it is better with shame to confess the fault, (for therein is, as a man might say, half a deserving of pardon,) than without shame to lie. I might have written unto you twice (notwithstanding indeed some business wherein I have something been occupied); but yet I have not. Now the cause is, because I would not. And why would I not, but because I could not? I mean, because my canning is taken away by sin; for my sins do forbid goodness unto me. Indeed if my sinning were of infirmity, there were good hope of recovery of that which I have lost: but seeing, both willing and knowing I have too much yielded, and yet do yield to my infirmities, justly I do deserve, that because I have cast away and rejected the word of the Lord behind my back, the Lord should reject me; and because I would not have blessing, I am worthy (as David saith) that it be taken away from me: I have now at length experience, that to bring a man forth of God's favour, is sooner seen when a man hath received all things abundantly, than when need or the cross pincheth. Afore it pleased God to work the restitution, (you know what I mean,) and afore it pleased God to provide for me as he hath done, so that I can say in nothing where any want is, as pertaining to my body; I was another manner of man than now I am, and yet God's deserts have otherwise bounden me: but the Scripture is true, I have advanced my children, and nourished them, but they have contemned me; I have fed them that they were fat and gross, and they spurned against me. Perchance you will ask me wherein? O father Traves, I warrant you, this my style, in carnal, and not in spiritual writing, doth something show unto you; but as for it, in comparison of other things it is nothing. For whereas the life of man is such, that either it paireth or amendeth, as Paul saith, The outward man is corrupted day by day; and therefore, except the inward man be renewed, the shoe goeth awry; every building in Christ doth grow to a holy temple, as the wicked on the contrary part shall proceed to worser. I have made a change far otherwise in going back, than I think by letters I can persuade you. Wherein? will you say. For the first, second, and third, and, to be brief, in all things: as for an example, God's true fear is flown away from me; love to my brethren is exiled from me; faith is utterly taken away. Instead whereof are distrust and doubtfulness bearing rule, contempt of God's honour, and of my brethren reigning; and instead of true fear, an imagined fear, according to my brain holding the principality. For I extenuate sin, and I do not consider that in sin, which a Christian ought to consider; that sin being not forgiven, is such a thing for the which God casteth his creature away, as examples, not only of Saul, of Judas, of the Israelites, (which were beloved indeed, and yet for sin are rejected,) but also of others, on whom lately, for my warning, God hath showed the same, do admonish me. But it is but my pen which writes this: For the wicked, saith Solomon, when they come into the depth of their sins, then they grow in security. I am I cannot tell what: I fear, but it is but blindly, or else would I awake otherwise than I do; I fear me, I say, that I am entangled of the devil, after his desire. Pray for me, that the Lord would give repentance, that I may escape out of his snares. Alas! the spirit of prayer, which before I have felt plentifully, is taken clean away from me. The Lord be merciful unto me! I am sold under sin; I am the bond-slave of sin: for whom I obey, his servant I am. I am ashamed to speak of it?-- No, I shame not at all: for I have forgot to blush, I have given over to weep. And truly I obey; I obey, I say, mine own concupiscences, namely, in eating, in drinking, in jangling and idleness; I will not speak of vain-glory, envy, disdain, hypocrisy, desire of estimation, self-love, and who can tell all? Is this the reward thou renderest to God, O Bradford? It is true, yea, too true, thou knowest it, O Lord! for thy mercy's sake pardon me. In your letters you touch me home, how that there is no man's heart but that considering the ingratitude of this world, this belly-cheer, (wherein you even take me by the nose,) &c., his eyes would tumble out great gushes of tears. The Lord be praised which worketh so in you, for it is with me as with them of whom you complain. Indeed it may be so again, but oh! it is very unlikely: for mine enemies are become old, and are made by custom more than familiar; for they are as it were converted into nature in me. Yet I am not grieved therefore, although I cannot persuade myself that God will help me. O Lord, be merciful unto me for thy Christ's sake. This day I received the Lord's supper, but how I have welcomed him, this night (which I have spent in lasciviousness, in wantonness and prodigality, obeying my flesh and belly) doth so declare, that what to say or write any more, I know not; sleep doth aggravate mine eyes, and to pray I am altogether unapt. All this is come through the occasion of making this bringer a supper in my chamber: the Lord pardon me; I trust no more to be so far overseen. But this I write, not that the anger of God, which I have deserved, so feareth me, thou knowest it, O Lord. But of this perchance too much.
"For God's sake pray for me, good father Traves, and write unto me as you may by your weakness: your letters do me good. But this which I have now written, you may consider more: touch me therefore home in your letters, and the Lord, I trust, shall and will reward you. If God lend me life, of which I am most unworthy, I will more trouble you with my letters than I have done; but bear with me, I do it not out of any evil will, the Lord I take to judge; there is none whose company and talk I more desire than yours, I speak it before God. Prove my mother's mind how she can bear it, if, when I shall come down, I shall show myself another man outwardly, but alas! feignedly, than before I have done. Marry, when my coming will be, I know not. Indeed two things move me sore, the one for my mother's cause, concerning her better instruction, if the Lord would thereto use me his instrument; the other is to talk with you, and eftsoons to trouble you, as I have hitherto ever done, but always to my profit. For God's sake pray for me, for I had never so much need.-- This Sunday at night, following St. Andrew's day, at Pembroke Hall.
"The most miserable, hard-hearted, unthankful sinner.
To Sir Thomas Hall, by father Traves, of Blackley.
"The grace of God our most merciful Father, keep your mind and soul in Christ Jesus, who alone is our full sufficient Saviour, for in him we be complete, being made, through his death and one only oblation made and offered by himself upon the cross, the children of God, and fellow heirs with him of the celestial kingdom, which is the free gift of God, and cometh not of merits, but of the mere grace of God, given to none that putteth any manner of hope or trust in any other thing visible or invisible, than in that oblation of sweet savour which Christ himself did offer upon Good Friday, (as we call it,) which oblation is alway recent and new in the sight of God the Father, and maketh intercession for us; us I mean, which think that only Sacrifice, then offered, to be sufficient, as it is, hath been, and ever shall be, for all the faithful, by the which sacrifice (we believe) we have free pardon of all our sins. To him therefore which was both the offerer and the offering, be all honour and praise, with the Father and said the Holy Ghost, blessed for every Amen.
"Sir Thomas, the occasion of this my long silence, mine old friend John Traves shall declare unto you, upon the knowledge whereof I doubt not of your pardon. I have sent unto you an English and Latin Testament, both in one print and volume, the which though it be not so beautiful without, as I could have sent you, yet no less beautiful within, and more I think for your profit and better for your eyes, your eyes, I mean, of the body: for undoubtedly it giveth light unto the soul, if she be not dead. Whereof take this for an argument, and a true proof: If your soul be not dehghted in it, if your soul do not hunger for it, (I mean not the book, but the doctrine in the book,) surely your soul is sore sick; for as the body abhorring meat is not well, even so must the soul be, for other meat hath she none. Christ, whom you must believe afore all men, affirmeth this to be true in Matt. iv.: Not only in bread, but in every word of God, the soul doth live. Mark well, he saith not, one or two words, as an epistle, or a gospel; but he saith, every word. Take heed, believe Christ better than any man, be he never so holy; for he that is of God heareth the word of God. Will you have a more plain badge, whether you are the elect child of God or no, than this text? Christ saith, He that is of God heareth the word of God: but other word of God have we none, than in the canon of the Bible: and all things written therein, are written for our learning, saith St. Paul; whereby he proveth, seeing that it is a learning, yea, our learning, that we must learn it. Therefore woe be to all them which either persuade men, that there is other doctrine of like authority, or that dissuade men from embracing this word, this word of God, or that think this word, especially the New Testament, is not above all others to be loved, to be read, to be chewed. This is the precious stone, which in the gospel Christ saith, when a man hath found, he selleth all that ever he hath, and buyeth it. Mark now, how necessary and precious Christ maketh that which great learned men (nay, the devils, but no men) think not necessary, God help them! Christ bade his disciples sell their coats, and buy a sword: which is none other thing than the word of God; for so St. Paul calleth it, the sword of the Spirit. Nay, say our great learned men, (I lie, they have said so, now they are ashamed,) fetch fire and burn it.
"This I say, Sir Thomas, to the intent no ungodly hypocrisy should persuade or dissuade you from reading the holy word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Follow you St. Paul's lesson: attend reading, and let the word of God dwell in you. How much? Plentifully, saith he. And to what end? To feed the flock of Christ: even as much as in you is, saith Peter; not once a year or once a quarter, as a strawberry, but so much as in you is. This word of God trieth all doctrine; for we ought to have our conscience charged with nothing as touching religion, except the word of God in the canon of the Bible set it out (I mean not only in allegories, but even in plain words); for no other foundation can any man lay, beside that which is laid. St. Paul saith, the ground-work is laid already. Even so saith he to the Ephesians: We be his workmanship, to do good works, which God hath created that we should walk in them. Ile saith that they were not to be made, but they are made already. What shall we think, then, of such works as man's wit hath founded, which yet seem most holy? Let God's word be judge. Read the same diligently and reverently with prayer, (I mean not Latin service not understood, but with true hearty prayer,) and mark what the law requireth, even that which we cannot give, the whole heart, and more if it were possible. But to this end, that we, seeing our abominable uncleanness and inability, might despair in ourselves, trembling at the justice of God, and his anger which we continually procure, and so amplect Christ, in whom God the Father is well pleased: which Christ is the end of the law to justify all that believe, and continue not in their popish ignorance, justifying themselves, and treading Christ's blood under their feet, denying the Lord that bought them. All such, be they never so well learned, never so holy, be nothing but hypocrites, and plain antichrists, which may not abide the sword of God's mouth. For the trumpets of the army, (I mean still God's word,) when they blow, the high walls of Jericho, the figure of hypocrisy, fall down. Embrace therefore God's holy word, and be not only a reader, but a doer: for your calling requireth you to be apt to teach such proud, hypocritical, arrogant babblers, as I am now (which, if I may use this term, defile God's word). God forgive me, and pray you for me, and give God thanks for me, that spareth me, thus Lucifer-like, not of a true zeal but of a foolish bragging, which prate of God's holy word. I wot not what I do to confess it. So it is. I have sent to you other books, which I pray you read. I have written your name in them. The Holy Ghost keep you, with your brother George, his wife, and children, and with your brother James, &c., Sir Laurence, &c.
"This twentieth of March.
"A very painted hypocrite, JOHN BRADFORD,
Yours in Christ for ever."
"Pray for me, pray for me, give God thanks for me, and take John Traves's help to read this letter written in haste.
"If any thing but good be chanced to John Traves, (which God forbid,) I pray you burn my letters out of hand."
To father Traves. (No. 2.)
"'Gratia, misericordia, et pax ą Deo Patre nostro, et Domino Jesu Christo Domino nostro.'-- If mine heart were not altogether adamantine, your kind letters to me, unkind miser, would cause me, from the bottom of the same, to confess mine ingratitude towards you, upon your behalf concerning me so much deserved: but as I am to do, so show I myself to write; and as I am unable in the one, so am I foolish in the other; in all those unkindnesses, rudeness, &c., whereof you accuse yourself, I am enforced to acknowledge myself most justly condemned; not so feignedly by me confessed, as most truly by you experienced. In your letters as in a glass I may learn by you, in dejecting yourself, to espy my nakedness, which heretofore I thought clothed 'duplici vestitu,' now only but with fig leaves hypocritishly gilded: of which dejection, wrought in you by the Holy Ghost, be not proud; for what have you that you have not received? But be thankful to the Lord, not only therefore, but also for those surges which you feel now through the cares accompanying marriage, now through education and bringing up of your children and family, now through that cross of the common accustomed trade of living; for through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of heaven. Yea, they be the cognizances of God's election, the letter Thau, the instruments which work 'suspiria ęternę vita,' and therefore to be embraced. Believe me this is the most excellent gift of God; a man to deject and humble himself, and to feel the crosses of Christ as crosses. But I, most hypocritical wretch, not worthy that this earth should bear me, am even a-going to bed with Jezebel, and such as commit fornication her, which is 'afflictio maxima.' O Lord, help me and deliver me for Jesus' sake; anoint mine eyes with ointment, that I may see. O give me not over unto a lewd mind and reprobate sense; but awaken my sleeping soul, that Christ may shine in me. You know the cross, the fatherly cross, the loving Lord hath laid upon me; but I am little or nothing moved therewith. I work therein (yet not I, but God's Spirit); not of a repentant, faithful mind, but (I cannot tell how) of a slothful, blind, wretchless intent. O Lord! forgive me for saying so (it is thy gift); forgive me mine unthankfulness for Jesus' sake, and grant me, as herein I blasphemed and dishonested thy holy name, so do thou, by thy Holy Spirit, glorify by me the same. So be it, So be it.
"Since my coming to London, I was with Master Latimer, whose counsel is as you shall hear, which I purpose, by God's grace, to obey (if it be thy will, O Lord, fiat). He willed me (as I have done) to write to my master who is in the country, and to show him, that if within a certain time, which I appointed, (fourteen days,) he do not go about to make restitution, that I will submit myself to my Lord Protector, and the king's Majesty's council, to confess the fault, and ask pardon. This life is uncertain and frail; and when time is, it must not be deferred. And what should it profit me to win the whole world, and to lose mine own soul? If, as I justly have deserved, I be put to death for it, God's will be done. At the least, slander, reproach, rebuke, loss of worldly friends, loss of living, &c., shall ensue. What then? Lord, thy will be done, thine I am: if death come, welcome be it: if slander, &c. Even as thou wilt, Lord, so be it. Only grant me a penitent, loving, obedient heart, and of mere love to go forwards herein; and not to shrink, to stand and not to fall, that thy name only be praised herein. Amen.-- Pray, pray for me; cry for me, and when you shall hear any thing, comfort my mother, to whom, for that this bringer hath not given me an hour's warning of his departure, I have not only written nothing, but also have thus prattled to you, who (as no man else would) I think will bear with me. For as God knoweth, (to whose grace I commit you and your bed-fellow, with all your children and family,) the shortness of time, and this said bringer's importance, is the only let I neither send you spectacles, the price of the Paraphrases, nor thanks for your cheese, as by the next that cometh I will, God willing, send the premises to you, and a godly Testament for Sir John Hall, which is at the binding. But be not acknowledged that I have now written to you, for so I have prayed this bringer. God be with us, and pray for me, and abhor not my rude scribbling; which if it were as well written as it is meant, would deserve pardon. Thus make I an end, imputing to the hastiness of this bringer all blame, which you may lay unto me.
"From the Temple this Sunday, immediately after Master Latimer's famous sermon, which this bringer, as he saith, did hear.
"By your poorest friend.
"It shall not be long, God willing, but you shall both have and hear from me. Keep with you Melancthon's Common-places, for I have another."
To father Traves. (No. 3.)
"Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, with increase of all manner of godly knowledge and living, be with you and all your household, now and ever, Amen.
"To excuse this my long silence, within five or six days after my (like foolish) letters written to you by John Moss, it pleased God to send my master hither to London, whom (as I lately before had advertised by letters) I moved, (you know wherein,) and prayed him to discharge the same, or else I would submit myself, &c. Whereunto he answered, that if the books would declare it, he would satisfy, &c. The books I showed, whereupon he promised as much as I could ask. But being herein something more moved than he had cause, (God be praised there-for, which of his mere good pleasure wrought it,) at times, as I could, I desired to know how and in what time he would discharge us both. He, thinking me to be over curious herein, was not therewith contented; and hearing me to allege the uncertainty of time, and the fear of God's justice, (which, O gracious Lord, grant me to feel indeed as much as thou knowest good for me,) he answered me to be scrupulous, and of a superstitious conscience (for 'animalis homo non percipit ea quę sunt Dei'): and plainly said further, that I should not know, nor by these words have his head so under my girdle. And when I showed him that (God witnessed with me) I went about no such thing: he said, that there was no godly conscience, seeing he promised afore the face of God to discharge me, and to pay the thing, but it ought so to be quieted. And thus at divers and sundry times, moving eftsoons to know of him the way and time of discharging the debt, and having none other answers than before, I, doubting worldly wisdom, which useth delays, to reign in him with this mammon, (the which, O merciful God, eradicate out of his heart, mind, and all others,) I was something more sharp, and told him, 'non ego tamen, sed gratia tua, Domine,' I would obey God more than man: the which he lightly regarding, as seemed, I departed, and went to Master Latimer, to have had him to have brought me to my Lord Protector (whose Grace then was purposed shortly to take his journey to visit the ports): Master Latimer, I say, willed me to stay until his return, which will not be long before Easter. In this mean time I bade my bedfellow, my master's son, whom my master had used as his instrument to move me carnally, for my master discharged him of his exhibition, telling him that he could not be able to keep either house or child, for I purposed to undo both him and all his, (untruly, thou knowest, good Lord,) and bade him to take that as a warning, that both he and his brethren should provide for themselves as they could -- I bade, I say, my said bed-fellow to show my master, as of himself, my further purpose, which thing when he knew, it so moved and feared him, that he began something to relent, and then made fair promises, that look what I should devise, that would he do. I devised, but my devices pleased him not. And thus, but not vainly I trust, (as I now do with you, but I know your gentleness, which ever hath borne with me,) I spent the time in which I have been silent, to write, nay, babble to you. And he, departing out of London before I knew, did send me word by another of his said sons, not so given to the gospel and a good life according as my bed-fellow, and therefore more to be suspected, (for though 'pietas non est suspiciosa,' as I should think myself rather impius; yet Christ bade us to be 'prudentes sicut serpentes,') this other brother, I say, told me that my master would do all things, only his fame and ability preserved ('et quid prodest totum mundum lucrari, animę vero jacturam facere?') And with the said brother my master sent me a little billet also, wherein he confessed that be was contented within twelve months to deliver to my hands the whole money; which bill I thinking not so good as it might have been, have devised another, and have sent it down to him in the country, with request that he will seal and sign it. For thus Master Latimer thinketh sufficient, but as yet I hear not of it, doubting worldly wisdom, which was the whore that overcame Samson, that moved David to slay Uriah, that brought wise Solomon to idolatry, that crucified Christ, the which moved me to perpetrate hoc facinus, the which worketh in my master's heart, having higher place there than timor Domini. What say I? 'there?' Yea, yea, with me, it sitteth in the holy place (the Lord deliver us). Doubting, I say, worldly wisdom, I remain in that same state now for this matter, (though in worse for my soul, which is more to be lamented. Pray therefore, I beseech you, pray with me, and for me, that I may do so earnestly,) that I was in at my last writing unto you. And as I then was purposed, so I doubt not, (grant it, Lord,) but that I shall persevere, if in the mean season I shall not hear from my master accordingly. Thus I have (like myself) foolishly but truly declared unto you in many babbling words, which wit (if I had it) would have shortly and briefly comprehended (arrogant! nay, God's working, unthankful wretch!) my working in this matter, which is and was the only cause (as I now do) I troubled you not afore, to the intent I might advertise you some certainty in this thing. And though silence had been much better than this foolish prating, yet your fatherly kindness ever towards me in expecting from you correction, as I have herein given cause, may, though not to you, yet to me, be profitable. In hope whereof, I proceed in requiring you to continue your remembrance of me, a most unkind wretch, to God and you, in your prayers with the almighty merciful Lord, that I may more regard his will and pleasure herein, than all honour or shame in this life. But I must confess unto you that my working in this matter is not of love, as I should do, nor of fear of God's justice, (mine unthankfulness, mine unthankfulness, if nothing else were, hath not only deserved it, but doth deserve more than everlasting damnation, O Lord, be merciful unto me,) I do not so repent it as I should do. Why say I so? as though this so were any thing: O! hypocritical wretch that I am. Alas! father Traves, (let me so call you,) I am hardhearted, there was never any so obstinate, so unkind, against so loving, so merciful, so gracious, so good, so beneficial a Lord, yea, a Father, as I, wretch and most miserable sinner, am. This I speak, but not of humility, but of hypocrisy, yet I speak truly. I pray thee, good Father, for Christ's sake, I may think it truly; as I write it even of arrogancy, so it is. Therefore pray and cry for me. Here be such goodly, godly, and learned sermons, which these uncircumcised ears of mine hear at the least thrice a week, which were able (the great loving mercy of God offered to me in them, I mean) to burst any man's heart, to relent, to repent; to believe, to love, and to fear that omnipotent gracious Lord: but my adamantine, obstinate, most unkind, ingrate, unthankful heart, hearing my Lord, which is the Lord over all lords, so graciously, so lovingly, vouchsafe by so many his instruments to speak, to call, to cry unto me, now by his law, now by his threats, now by his gospel, now by his promises, now by all his creatures, to come, to come even to himself, I hide me with Adam in the garden; I play not only Samuel running to Eli, but I play Jonas running to the sea, and there I sleep upon the hatches, tumbling in Jezebel's bed, (quod est afflictio maxima,) until it please God to anoint mine eyes 'collyrio,' until it please him to raise up a tempest, to turn and look upon me, as Luke saith he did on Peter. For, O Lord, it is thy gift, and cometh of thee, and of thy mere grace; it cometh not of man, it cometh not of works, to repent, to believe, to fear, and to love. Work thou therefore in me, for Jesus Christ's sake, which am thy creature, and most unthankful, hypocritical servant, not when I will, nor as I will, but when thou wilt, even that which may be most to the glory of thy name. Amen. What should I write? nay, why do I not pluck these same words and paper in pieces? for I write altogether of hypocrisy and arrogant presumption. I will confess it, (thou wicked spirit, the Lord judge thee,) I will confess it; it is most true, John Traves; I but only write it, for it is not I, it is Hypocrisy. 'Scientia' (if I had it) 'inflaret,' O Lord, grant me thy grace, and leave me not to mine own judgment and reason. Hypocrisy, arrogancy, and obstinate security environ me: yet I feel them not. The Lord deliver me! Pray, pray for me. Give God thanks for me. O Lord, even 'tua fiat voluntas:' unlock this mine heart, thou which hast the key of David, which openest only, that I may desire to have the desire of the glory of thy name, of repentance, faith, &c. Pray for me, and be thankful for me, O father Traves, and write to me. Your letters I desire more to see, than any man's living. Let me have them therefore as you may, but your prayers at all times, that God would open mine heart to feed and taste of these comfortable places of Scripture (which to me are locked): memento 'Jesum Christum resurrexisse ex mortuis.' This text as a text of most comfort (as it is indeed, and, when God will, I shall feed on it) did Paul send to Timothy to be his comfort in all places. For our salvation (this day of resurrection) is nearer now than when we believed. Therefore, 'qui perseveraverit salvus erit.' For 'consummabitur pręvaricatio,' saith Daniel, 'finem accipiet peccatum, delebitur iniquitas, et adducetur justitia sempiterna. Deus enim ipse veniet et salvabit nos. Veniens veniet, et non tardabit, et quandocunque manifestatus fuerit vita nostra Christus, tunc et nos manifestabimur cum illo in gloria. Semel enim oblatus est ut multorum peccata tolleret, rursus absque peccato conspicietur iis qui ilium expectant in salutem. Sic semper cum Domino erimus: proinde consolemini vos invicem mutuo sermonibus hiis.' O Lord, open mine eyes, which see nothing of the great comforts in these thy most rich words: open mine eyes, good Lord, 'ne nunquam obdormiam in morte.' Pray for me, and commend me to your good bed-fellow, 'et omnibus in Christo fratribus osculo sancto.' Thus I make an end, (for it is time, you may say,) and I pray you still, water Sir Thomas Hall, unto whom I have sent a fair Testament both in English and Latin, if this bringer will carry it. And I have herewith sent you a letter, which first peruse and read, and, when you have so done, abhor not me, but my wickedness, and pray for me. And as you can see a meet time, seal it, and deliver it to Sir Nicholas Wolstoncros, by such policy as you can think, by God's grace, through prayer. I confess unto you, God is my witness, to my knowledge, I never, in my being in the country this winter, at any time called it to remembrance; the Lord forgive me! I would by some occasion, if any could be bad, afore the delivery of the letter, by some story or communication, that he did know that abomination to be sin, for I fear me he thinketh it to be no sin. The Lord open our eyes, and forgive us. Amen.-- The peace of God be with you, Amen.
"From the Temple, this 22nd of March, 1547.
"Yours in Christ most bounden.
"I have sent you three pair of good spectacles, I trow; and other such books as have your name written in them, which take in good worth, and pray for me, and give thanks for me."
To father Traves. (No. 4.)
"Gratia, misericordia, et pax,' &c.-- My chance is not by this bringer to have any warning in manner of his farewell, so that I am constrained, time coacting me, to write not so much of things, (which I will omit,) as my desire was. Concerning the great matter you know of, it hath pleased God to bring it to this end, that I have a bill of my master's hand, wherein he is bound to pay the sum afore Candlemas next coming. This Master Latimer thinks to be sufficient. Therefore I pray you to give that gracious Lord thanks, and thanks, and thanks upon it, for me a most wretched ingrate sinner, which have also in other things no less cause to praise God's name; as for that I have and sustain my master's sore displeasure, the which hath brought me (God I should say) through it, unto a more contempt of worldly things, through the sequestration of such his business, as before I had ado withal: I call it a contempt. Well, take the word even as it is hypocritically and vain-gloriously spoken; for the which fault, amongst my others innumerable, I trust you remember in your prayers, whereof I have (would I knew how much) need. There is yet another thing, whereof I will advertise you, even to this end; that you might pray, if it be God's will, that as I trust shortly to begin, so he may vouchsafe to confirm that he hath begun, as (if I be not deceived) I believe it is his working, If the thing seem, by God's Spirit in you, that I presume, then, for the Lord's sake, advertise me: for I am much given to that disease; the Lord deliver me! I have moved my master therein already by letters, to see if I shall have any living of him as hitherto I have had; but I have thereof no answer, nor, as our natural speech is, any likelihood of any grant: yet that I have already, I trust, will suffice me for three years. You look what my purpose meaneth, I am so long afore I come to it. Therefore I do it, because my long babbling should be less tedious. Now shall you have it. If God's will be, (whereunto pray I may be obedient,) I am minded afore Midsummer to leave London to go to my book at Cambridge; and, if God shall give me grace, to be a minister of his word. Thus you have of a fly an elephant. Well, take it in good part, though you see my etiam non, and not etiam, etiam. A tumbling stone gathereth no moss: so therefore pray for me. Perchance I do foolishly to forsake so good a living as I have. I will say no more hereof, but pray for me. I trust, as I said, for three years' study I have sufficient, if my master take all from me: and when this is spent, God will send more. I do not write this that you should think me to be in need of worldly help, and therefore, as friars were wont, secretly to beg. No, in the Lord's name, I require you not to take it so: for I had rather never send letter, afore I should be herein a cross to you, for 'sufficit sua diei afflictio,' we are more set by than many sparrows. But if my mother, or Sir Thomas Hall, murmur at it, or be offended with me, as you can, remedy it with your counsel. Howbeit as yet I will not write to them of it, until such time as I be going. I am something fickle-minded and unconstant, therefore pray for me, that my hand being put to the plough, (presumptuously spoken,) I look not back. You may gather by my words in this letter the heroical heart which lieth in me.
"I have sent you a book of Bucer against Winchester, in English, lately translated, which I never read; therefore I cannot praise it. And as I call to remembrance, I did send you with the other books more than you received, at the least one of them I remember, which is called, The Common-places, or the Declaration of the Faith, by Urbanus Rhegius. Ask for it, or send me word in whom the default is you have it not. Hereafter, and that shortly, by God's grace, I will send you Primitię Laborum meorum, a work or two which I have translated into English, so soon as they be printed, which will be afore Whitsuntide. Pray for me, good father Traves, and God send you health of soul and body, as I would mine own or any man's living. But yet, to warn you of that you know not: in writing your letters to me, you hit me home, and give me that I look for. You are deceived, and so are all that know me; I never came to any point of mortification, therefore a little tickling sets me afloat. God help me, and give God thanks for me, as all men be most bounden. Thus when I once begin to write to you I run as the priest saith matins, for I think I may be bold on you. The Holy Ghost preserve you, your wife, and family, and persevere his grace in you unto the end. I pray you pray for me, a most (what should I call me) miserable and blasphemous sinner. The peace of God be with us.
"From the Temple, this twelfth of May, 1548.
"Sir Thomas Hall hath deceived me, but himself most. I desire to speak with him, as this winter it may chance, if I discharge not myself of mine office, to see him. Pray for him, and for me.
"A very hypocrite.
To father Traves. (No. 5.)
"The perseverance of God's grace, with the knowledge of his good will, increase with you unto the end.-- To declare myself, as I am, a carnal man, which understand not the things that be of the Spirit: these my letters, though I counterfeit and meddle amongst them the spiritual words, as the devil did in his temptations to Christ, will declare not less. For I begin with carnal things in effect, and no marvel if I so end: for how can a man gather figs of briers? These words, as they seem, so they are spoken for a cloak to make you think otherwise: but, father Traves, you cannot think so evil of me as I am: but to the matter. This present day, by God's grace, I take my journey towards Cambridge, where, I pray God, and so earnestly I pray you to pray for me, that I may circumspectly redeem this time which God hath appointed (to me unknown) to lend me: for alas! I have spent most wickedly the time past, for the which I must account, even for every hair-breadth, as they say: for God hath not given here time to sin. But if I considered this, (as I do nothing less, custom of sin and pleasing myself hath so hardened my heart,) I should then come to the feeling of myself; then should I hate sin, which I now love; then should I fear God's wrath, which I now contemn; then should I cry out and weep, and continually pray; whereas now I am as dry as a stone, as dumb as a nail, as far from praying as he that never knew any taste of it. Which thing once I felt (thanks to the Lord); but now, for mine unthankfulness, I am almost (but most worthily) deprived. I fear me God will take his grace from me, I am so unthankful. Alas! why do I lie, in saying I fear me? Nay, God grant I may do so, for then should I pray and pray: but seeing I cannot, speak you for me, pray for me, that the Lord would remember his old compassions towards me, for his mercy's sake draw me, yea, compel me, to serve, to fear, and to love him. Thus may you see how I presume: for my intent was to have been a minister of God's word, to have been his instrument to call from, as I have called to, sin; but you see how that God punisheth mine arrogancy. Alas! what shall I do? I am an unprofitable and an idle member; I thought I should have been therein profitable, but Medice, cura teipsum. How should I, or what should I do? I cannot labour with my hands. Well, I trust God will give me grace and knowledge to translate. Nothing I fear me, yea, I distrust me, that I shall never be minister of God's word: yea, if arrogancy were not in me, how should I, of all wretches the greatest, think me to look to the highest room and vocation that is upon earth? Therefore eftsoons I desire you to pray for me, that God's will may be done in me, whether I live or die, so that his name be honoured. My master which was, hath denied me all his beneficence, but I have for this life. more than enough, thanks be to God, as this winter I intend, by God's favour, to declare more unto you. This book which I have sent, take it in good part; it is the first, I trust it shall not be the last, God hath appointed me to translate. The print is very false, I am sorry for it.
I pray you be not offended at my babbling in the Prologues, &c.
"I will lie, God willing, this summer, at Katherine's Hall in Cambridge. Write to me."
To father Traves. (No. 6.)
"The loving-kindness and abundant mercy of God the Father, poured plentifully upon all the faithful, in the blood of that meek Lamb, Jesus Christ, our only satisfaction and Mediator, through the working of the most Holy Spirit, be increased and perceived in you daily more and more, to the glory of God, &c.
"Because I stand both in doubt of the reading and delivery of such letters as I write and send unto you, dearly beloved father Traves, I am constrained to leave off such griefs and spiritual wants, as, thanks unto the Lord, I unwillingly feel: for the flesh, as you know, loveth nothing so much as security, of all enemies most perilous, and not a little familiar with me: from the which, with vain-glory, hypocrisy, &c., and worldliness, the Lord deliver me! I had not thought to have written thus much, but these I cannot keep, but commit them to your prayers. And to the intent I would you should not think any ingratitude in me; as also that I might give you occasion to write to me again, as heretofore I have done, even so do I interturb and trouble you with my babbling, but yet having this commodity, that I babble not so much as I am wont to do. The cause I have declared, which had almost been the cause I had not written at all. I did write unto you from London when I came hither: send me word what letters you have received, for from you I have received but two, and both by John Moss; and in the latter I perceived that the Lord had visited you with sickness, his fatherly rod, whereby he declareth his love upon you, and that he careth for you: 'Ut in tempore supremo exultes nunc ad breve tempus afflictus, quo exploratio fidei multo pretiosior auro quod perit, et tamen probatur, &c. Siquidem in hoc vocatus es, ut cum Christo patiaris, nam et cum illo glorificaberis. Certus enim sermo est, si sufferimus et con-regnabimus.' You know that Christ, 'etsi Filius Dei erat, tamen ex his quę passus est didicit obedientiam.' 'Patientia opus perfectum habeat ut sitis perfecti et integri, nullaque in parte diminuti:' and doth not patientia come of probatio? The one then you had, so that you were going a-school to learn the other, which learnt, what want you? The end of all God's proving is, as Paul saith, 'Ut impertiat nobis sanctimoniam: igitur gratias age Deo Patri, qui idoneum te fecit ad participationem sortis sanctorum in lumine, &c. Nam qui parumper afflixit, idem instauret te, fulciat, roboret, stabiliat.' And that the Lord knoweth how 'eripere pios č tribulatione,' and that 'in tempore opportuno,' even shortly: for haud tardat qui promisit:' 'nam modicum tempus, et videbis me;' 'veniens enim veniet, et non tardabit.' 'Itaque qui consortes estis crucis Christi, gaudete,' saith Peter, 'ut in revelatione quoque glorię ejus gaudeatis exultantes.' Oh, how doth my will over-run my wit. Why, Bradford! whom writest thou unto? thou showest thyself. Thus, father Traves, you may see my rashness to rabble out the Scripture without purpose, rhyme, or reason. I will not blot it out, as I thought to have done; for that hereby you shall see my need of your prayer. Well, I look for a watch-word from you. Write, for God's sake, and pray for me that I may be in something profitable to the Lord's congregation, that I may be no stumbling-block, 'ut confundantur in me qui ilium expectant.' Send me such counsel as the Lord's Spirit shall move you how to study. My desire is in something to be profitable, if it were the Lord's will, for to be 'minister verbi.' Alas! I am unmeet, and my time, my time, yea, the Lord's time, I have hitherto evil, yea, most wickedly misspent it, &c. Thus will I end. The Lord be with you and your bed-fellow, to whom have me heartily commended, and to all your children and family, the which I beseech the Lord to lighten his countenance over, and grant you his peace: pray for me. I long for winter to speak with you. Rescribe oro. Pray for me.
"This Assumption-day in Katherine's Hall, in Cambridge.
"Yours, with all I have and can.
To father Traves. (No. 7.)
"The plentiful grace of God the Father, through our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ, increase in us daily to the glory of his name. Amen.
"Forasmuch as I have often written unto you, good father Traves, and yet have not once heard from you since Pentecost, I cannot now be so bold, either in writing much or often, as I would have been: howbeit this I say, that I much marvel that I hear not from you: but not so, for I am so wretched a sinner, that the Lord's Spirit, I am certain, doth not move you to write to me, yet, for God's sake, pray for me, and in the Lord's name I desire you to give thanks to God for me. And when it may please God to move you, write to me, though it be but two words, and counsel me how to study the word of life, the ministry whereof I desire, if it be the Lord's pleasure, to profess, and that I may do it both in living and learning: pray for me. 'Herus meus omnibus rebus suis me abdicavit, et quę prius concesserat, jam solvere renuit, et mihi prorsus factus est inimicus.' I know not when I shall see you in body, therefore let me hear from you. I write not this that you should think me 'in egestate aut angustiis esse.' No, father, the Lord giveth me 'omnia affatim,' and will do. I trust I shall shortly here have a fellowship: I am so promised, and therefore I have taken the degree of Master of Arts, which else I could not have attained. If I get a fellowship, I shall not need 'de crastino solicitus esse,' as hereafter I shall more write to you by God's grace. I pray you write again, and often pray for me. In haste, as appeareth, the twenty-second of October. Ne sciat mater me quod herus meus adeo duriter mecum egit, &c.
To father Traves. (No. 8.)
"The peace and plenteous mercy of God our heavenly Father, in his Christ our only Lord and Saviour, be ever increased in you by the Holy Spirit, 'qui efficit omnia in omnibus.' Amen.
"Father Traves, though I might think myself more happy if you would often write unto me, yet because I ought to have respect to your pains, which now that old man cannot so well sustain as it might, I had rather lose my happiness in that behalf, than will your grief, forasmuch as it can be no happiness unto me which turneth to your pain; yet, because pain is not painful when it is joined with gain, I therefore desire you, for God's sake, to pray often for me: for if I shall not be worthy of your prayer, as the Lord, who knoweth all things, doth right well see it, and so my conscience witnesseth, your good prayer shall return into your own bosom. And know this, that whoso converteth a sinner by prayer, (whether it be by prayer, preaching, or writing letters, &c.,) the same hath saved a soul. Use therefore, for God's sake I ask it, that pains whereunto is joined profit, I mean prayer to God for me, a miserable and most wretched sinner: and as for the gainless pain in writing to me, use it yet as you may, and surely God, for whose sake you do it, in that he will reward a cup of cold water, will in some thing requite you. And I know certainly, that if you did see what spiritual profit I receive by your letters, I am certain you would not think all your labour lost. For Christ's sake, therefore, begin again to write unto me, and reprove me sharply for my horrible unthankfulness to God. You know how that God hath exonerated my laden conscience of the great weighty burden, for so I did write to you; yea, the Lord hath in a manner unburdened me of the lesser burden also; for I have an assurance of the payment of the same by Candlemas. Lo, thus you see what a good God the Lord is unto me. O father Traves, give thanks for me, and pray God to forgive me my unthankfulness. But what should I rehearse the benefits of God towards me? Alas, I cannot. I am too little for all his mercies, yea, I am not only unthankful, but I am too far contumelious against God. For whereas you know the sun, the moon, and the seven stars, did forsake me, and would not shine upon me, you know what I mean 'per herum et heriles amicos,' yet the Lord hath given me here in the university as good a living as I would have wished; for I am now a fellow of Pembroke Hall, for the which neither I, nor any other for me, did ever make any suit: yea, there was a contention betwixt the master of Catherine Hall and the bishop of Rochester, who is master of Pembroke Hall, whether should have me, 'fit hoc tibi dictum.' Thus you may see the Lord's carefulness for me. My fellowship here is worth seven pound a year; for I have allowed me eighteen-pence a week, and as good as thirty-three shillings four-pence a year in money, besides my chamber, launder, barber, &c., and I am bound to nothing but once or twice a year to keep a problem. Thus you see what a good Lord God is to me. But I pray you what do I now to God, for all this? I will not speak of the great mercies he showeth unto my soul. Surely, father Traves, I have clean forgotten God; I am all secure, idle, proud, hard-hearted, utterly void of brotherly love; I am envious, and disdain others; I am a very stark hypocrite, not only in my words and works, but even in these my letters to you. I am all sensual, without the true fear of God, another manner of man than I have been since my calling. Alas! father Traves, I write this to put myself in remembrance; but I am without all sense, I do but only write it. For God's sake pray for me, which am only in name a Christian, in very deed a very worldling, and, to say to you the very truth, the most worldling of all others. I pray you exhort my mother now and then, with my sister Margaret, to fear the Lord: and if my mother had not sold the fox-fur which was in my father's gown, I would she would send it me. She must
have your counsel in a piece of cloth.
"Yours for ever.
To father Traves. (No. 9.)
"The selfsame mercy, grace, and peace, which heretofore I have felt plenteously, though now, through mine unthankfulness and wilful obedience to the pleasure of this outward man, I neither feel, neither can be persuaded that I possess; yea, if I shall truly write, I in manner pass not upon the same, so far am I fallen, the Lord help me: the same mercy, &c., I say, I wish unto you as I can, with all increase of godliness: hypocritically with my pen and mouth, beseeching you, in your earnest prayers to God, to be an earnest suitor unto God for me, which am fallen into such a security, and even a hardness of heart, that neither I sorrow my state, neither with any grief or fear of God's abjection do write this: before the Lord, which knoweth the hearts of all men, I lie not. Consider for Christ's sake therefore, good father Traves, my necessity, though I myself do it not, and pray for me, that God cast me not off, as I deserve most justly. For whereas I ought to have well proceeded in God's school, by reason of the time, I confess it to my shame I am so far gone back, as, alas! if shame were in me, I might he ashamed to write it; but much more to write it, and think it not: such is the reward of unthankfulness. For whereas God wrought the restitution of the great thing you know of, (the which benefit should bind me to all obedience,) alas! father Traves, I am too unthankful: I find no will in heart (though by my writing it will be hard to persuade you) either to be thankful, either to begin a new life in all things to mortify this outward man, and heartily to be well content to serve the Lord in spirit and verity, and withstand mine affections, and especially my beastly sensuality in meat and drink, wherewith I was troubled at my being with you; but now, through my licentious obeying that affect, I am fallen so, that a whole legion spirituum malorum possesseth me. The Lord, whom I only with mouth (my heart still abiding both in hardness and wilfulness) call upon, deliver me and help me; and for God's sake give you hearty thanks for the great benefit of restitution. Pray to the Lord, that at the Iength I may once return to the obedience of his good will. Amen.-- I thank you for your cheese, and so doth father Latimer as unknown: for I did give it him, and he saith he did never eat better cheese; and so I dare say he did not. I thank him I am as familiar with him, as with you; yea, God so moveth him towards me, that his desire is to have me come and dwell with him whensoever I will, and welcome. This do I write yet once more to occasion you to be thankful for me to the Lord, which by all means showeth nothing but most high love to me; and I again a very obstinate rebellion. Pray therefore for me in haste.
"The sinful JOHN BRADFORD."