317. THE LETTERS OF THE REVEREND BISHOP AND MARTYR, NICHOLAS RIDLEY.
A letter sent from Bishop Ridley and his prison-fellows, unto Master Bradford and his prison-fellows, in the King's Bench in Southwark, anno 1554.
"Well-beloved in Christ our Saviour, we all, with one heart, wish to you, with all those that love God in deed and truth, grace and health, and especially to our dearly-beloved companions which are in Christ's cause, and the cause both of their brethren, and of their own salvation, to put their neck willingly under the yoke of Christ's cross. How joyful it was to us all to hear the report of Dr. Taylor, and of his godly confession, &c., I assure you, it is hard for me to express. Blessed be God, which was and is the giver of that, and of all godly strength and stomach in the time of adversity.
"As for the rumours that have or do go abroad, either of our relenting or massing, we trust that they which know God and their duty towards their brethren in Christ, will not be too light of credence. For it is not the slanderer's evil tongue, but a man's own evil deed, that can with God defile a man; and therefore, with God's grace, ye shall never have cause to do otherwise than ye say ye do, that is, not to doubt but that we will, by God's grace, continue, &c. Like rumour as ye have heard of our coming to London, hath been here spread of the coming of certain learned men prisoners hither from London; but as yet we know no certainty whether of these rumours is or shall be more true. Know you that we have you in our daily remembrance, and wish you, and all the rest of our foresaid companions, well in Christ.
"It should do us much comfort, if we might have knowledge of the state of the rest of our most dearly beloved, which in this troublesome time do stand in Christ's cause, and in the defence of the truth thereof. Somewhat we have heard of Master Hooper's matter; but of the rest never a deal. We long to hear of Father Crome, Dr. Sands, Master Saunders, Veron, Beacon, Rogers, &c. We are in good health, thanks be to God, and yet the manner of our entreating doth change as sour ale doth in summer. It is reported to us of our keepers, that the university beareth us heavily. A coal chanced to fall in the night out of the chimney, and burnt a hole in the floor, and no more harm was done, the bailiff's servant sitting by the fire. Another night there chanced (as Master Bailiffs told us) a drunken fellow to multiply words, and for the same he was set in Bocardo. Upon these things (as is reported) there is risen a rumour in the town and country about, that we should have broken the prison with such violence, as that, if Master Bailiffs had not played the pretty men, we should have made a scape. We had out of our prison a wall that we might have walked upon, and our servants had liberty to go abroad in the town or fields; but now both they and we are restrained of both.
"My Lord of Worcester passed by through Oxford, but he did not visit us. The same day began our restraint to be more, and the book of the communion was taken from us by the bailiffs at the mayor's commandment, as the bailiffs did report to us. No man is licensed to come unto us: afore, they might, that would see us upon the wall; but that is so grudged at, and so evil reported, that we are now restrained, &c. Sir, blessed be God, with all our evil reports, grudges, and restraints, we are merry in God; all our cure and care is and shall be (by God's grace) to please and serve him, of whom we look and hope, after these temporal and momentary miseries, to have eternal joy and perpetual felicity with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Peter and Paul, and all the heavenly company of the angels in heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord. As yet there was never learned man, nor any scholar, or other that visited us since we came into Bocardo, which now in Oxford may be called a college of Quondams. For as ye know, we be no fewer than three, and I dare say, every one well contented with his portion, which I do reckon to be our heavenly Father's fatherly, good, and gracious gift. Thus fare you well. We shall, by God's grace, one day meet together, and be merry. The day assuredly approacheth apace; the Lord grant that it may shortly come; for, before that day come, I fear me the world will wax worse and worse. But then all our enemies shall be overthrown, and trodden under foot; righteousness and truth then shall have the victory, and bear the bell away, whereof the Lord grant us to be partners, and all that love truly the truth.
"We all pray you, as we can, to cause all our commendations to be made unto all such as ye know did visit us and you, when we were in the Tower, with their friendly remembrances and benefits. Mistress Wilkinson and Mistress Warcup have not forgotten us, but, ever since we came to Bocardo, with their charitable and friendly benevolence have comforted us: not that else we did lack (for God be blessed, he ever hitherto hath provided sufficiently for us); but that is a great comfort, and an occasion for us to bless God, when we see that he maketh them so friendly to tender us, whom some of us were never familiarly acquainted withal.
"Yours in Christ.
A letter of Ridley, sent to a cousin of his.
"God's Holy spirit he with you now and ever; Amen.--When I call to remembrance, beloved cousin, the state of those that for fear of trouble, either for loss of goods, will do in the sight of the world those things that they know and are assured are contrary to the will of God, I can do no less but lament their case, being assured the end thereof will be so pitiful, (without speedy repentance,) that I tremble and fear to have it in remembrance. I would to God it lay upon some earthly burden, so that freedom of conscience might be given unto them. I wrote (as God knoweth) not of presumption, but only lamenting the state of those, whom I thought now in this dangerous time should have given both you and me comfortable instruction. But alas! instead thereof we have persuasions to follow (I lament to rehearse it) superstitious idolatry. Yea, and that worst of all is, they will seek to prove it by the Scriptures. The Lord for his mercy turn their hearts; Amen. Commend me, &c.
A worthy letter of Ridley to Master Bradford.
"Brother Bradford, I wish you and your company in Christ, yea, and all the holy brotherhood, that now with you in divers prisons suffereth and beareth patiently Christ's cross for the maintenance of his gospel, grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.
"Sir, considering the state of this chivalry and warfare, wherein I doubt not but we be set to fight under Christ's banner, and his cross, against our ghostly enemy the devil, and the old serpent Satan, methinketh I perceive two things to be his most perilous and most dangerous engines, which he hath to impugn Christ's verity, his gospel, and his faith; and the same two also to be the most massy posts, and most mighty pillars, whereby he maintaineth and upholdeth this Satanical synagogue. These two, sir, are they, in my judgment: the one, his false doctrine and idolatrical use of the Lord's supper; and the other, the wicked and abominable usurpation of the primacy of the see of Rome. By these two, Satan seemeth to me principally to maintain and uphold his kingdom; by these two he driveth down mightily (alas, I fear me) the third part of the stars in heaven. These two poisonful rotten posts he had so painted over with such a pretence and colour of religion, of unity in Christ's church of the catholic faith, and such like, that the wily serpent is able to deceive (if it were possible) even the elect God. Wherefore John saith, not without great cause, If any know not Satan's subtleties and the profundities thereof, I will wish him no other burden to be laden withal.
"Sir, because these be his principal and main posts, whereupon standeth all his falsehood, craft, and treachery, therefore, according to the poor power that God hath given me, I have bended mine artillery to shoot at the same. I know it to be but little, God knoweth, that I can do, and of my shot I know they pass not. Yet I will not (God willing) cease to do the best that I can, to shake those cankered and rotten posts. The Lord grant me good success, to the glory of his name, and the furtherance of Christ's gospel. I have now already (I thank God) for this present time spent a good part of my powder in these scribblings, whereof this bearer shall give you knowledge. Good brother Bradford! let the wicked surmise and say what they list; know you for a certainty, by God's grace, without all doubt, that in Christ's gospel's cause, against and upon the aforesaid God's enemies, I am fully determined to live and die. Farewell, dear brother; and I beseech you and all the rest of our brethren to have good remembrance of the condemned heretics (as they call them) of Oxford, in your prayers. The bearer shall certify you of our state. Farewell in the Lord.--From Bocardo.
"Yours in Christ.
Another letter of Ridley unto Master Bradford, and other his prison fellows, anno 1555.
"Dearly beloved, I wish you grace, mercy, and peace.
"According to your mind, I have run over all your papers, and what I have done (which is but small) therein may appear. In two places I have put in two loose leaves. I had much ado to read that was written in your great leaves, and I ween some where I have altered some words, because I could not read perfectly that which was written. Sir, what shall be best done with these things, now ye must consider; for if they come in sight at this time, undoubtedly they must to the fire with their father, and as for any safeguard that your custody can be unto them, I am sure you look not for it; for as you have been partner of the work, so I am sure you look for none other, but to have and receive like wages, and to drink of the same cup. Blessed be God, that hath given you liberty in the mean season, that you may use your pen to his glory, and the comfort (as I hear say) of many. I bless God daily in you, and all your whole company, to whom I beseech you commend me heartily. Now I love my countryman in deed and in truth, I mean Dr. Taylor, not for my earthly country's sake, but for our heavenly Father's sake, and for Christ's sake, whom, I heard say, he did so stoutly in time of peril confess, and yet also for our country's sake, and for all our mother's sake; but I mean of the kingdom of heaven, and of heavenly Jerusalem, and because of the Spirit, which bringeth forth in him, in you, and in our company, such blessed fruits of boldness in the Lord's cause, of patience and constancy. The Lord which hath begun this work in you all,perform and perfect this his own deed, until his own day come; Amen.
"As yet I perceive ye have not been baited, and the cause thereof God knoweth, which will let them do no more to his, than is his pleased will and pleasure to suffer them to do for his own glory, and to the profit of them which be truly his. For the Father, which doth guide them that be Christ's to Christ, is more mighty than all they, and no man is able to pull them out of the Father's hands: except, I say, it please our Father, it please our Master, Christ, to suffer them, they shall not stir one hair of your heads.
"My brother Punt (the bearer hereof, and Master Hooper's letters) would that we should say what we think good concerning your mind; that is, not to answer, except ye might have somewhat indifferent judges. We are, as ye know, separated, and one of us cannot in any thing consult with another, and much strait watching of the bailiffs is about us, that there be no privy conference amongst us: and yet, as we hear, the scholars bear us more heavily than the townsmen. A wonderful thing, among so many, never yet scholar offered any of us (so far as I know) any manner of favour, either for or in Christ's cause.
"Now as concerning your demand of our counsel, for my part I do not mislike that which I perceive ye are minded to do; for I look for none other. But, if ye answer afore the same commissioners that we did, ye shall be served and handled as we were, though ye were as well learned as ever was either Peter or Paul. And yet further I think, that occasion afterwards may be given you, and the consideration of the profit of your auditory may perchance move you to do otherwise.
"Finally, determinately to say what shall be best, I am not able; but I trust he, whose cause ye have in hand, shall put you in mind to do that which shall be most for his glory, the profit of his flock, and your own salvation. This letter must be common to you and Master Hooper, in whom and in his prison-fellow, good Father Crome, I bless God, even from the bottom of my heart; for I doubt not but they both do to our Master, Christ, true, acceptable, and honourable service, and profitable to his flock; the one with his pen, and the other with his fatherly example of patience and constancy, and all manner of true godliness. But what shall I need to say to you? Let this be common among your brethren, among whom (I dare say) it is with you as it is with us, to whom all things here are common, meat, money, and whatsoever one of us hath, that can or may do another good. Although, I said, the bailiffs and our hostess straitly watch us, that we have no conference or intelligence of any thing abroad, yet hath God provided for every one of us instead of our servants, faithful fellows, which will be content to hear and see, and to do for us whatsoever they can. It is God's work surely, blessed be God for his unspeakable goodness! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communication of the Holy Ghost be with you all: Amen, Amen.
"As far as London is from Oxford, yet thence we have received of late, both meat, money, and shirts, not only from such as are of our acquaintance, but of some (whom this bearer can tell) with whom I had never to my knowledge any acquaintance. I know for whose sake they do it; to him therefore be all honour, glory, and due thanks.
"And yet I pray you do so much as to show them, that we have received their benevolence, and (God be blessed) have plenty of all such things. This I desire you to do; for I know they be of Master Hooper's and your familiar acquaintance. Master Latimer was crazed; but I hear now (thanks be to God) that he amendeth again.
Another letter of Ridley unto Master Bradford.
"O dear brother, seeing the time is now come, wherein it pleaseth the heavenly Father, for Christ our Saviour's sake, to call upon you, and to bid you to come, happy are you that ever you were born, thus to be found awake at the Lord's calling: Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou hast been trusty in small matters, he shall set thee over great things, and thou shalt enter into the joy of thy Lord.
"O dear brother, what meaneth this, that you are sent into your own native country? The wisdom and policy of the world may mean what they will, but I trust God will so order the matter finally by his fatherly providence, that some great occasion of God's gracious goodness shall be plenteously poured abroad amongst his, our dear brethren in that country, by this your martyrdom, where the martyrs for Christ's sake shed their blood, and lost their lives. Oh! what wondrous things hath Christ afterward wrought to his glory, and confirmation of their doctrine! If it be not the place that sanctifieth the man, but the holy man doth by Christ sanctify the place, brother Bradford, then happy and holy shall be that place wherein thou shalt suffer, and which shall be with thy ashes in Christ's cause sprinkled over withal. All thy country may rejoice of thee, that it ever brought forth such a one, which would render his life again in his cause, of whom he had received it. Brother Bradford, so long as I shall understand thou art in thy journey, by God's grace I shall call upon our heavenly Father for Christ's sake, to set thee safely home: and then, good brother, speak you, and pray for the remnant which are to suffer for Christ's sake, according to that thou then shalt know more clearly.
"We do look now every day when we shall he called on, blessed be God! I ween I am the weakest many ways of our company; and yet I thank our Lord God and heavenly Father by Christ, that since I heard of our dear brother Rogers' departing, and stout confession of Christ and his truth even unto the death, my heart (blessed be God) rejoiced of it, that since that time (I say) I never felt any lumpish heaviness in my heart, as I grant I have felt sometimes before. O good brother! blessed be God in thee, and blessed be the time that ever I knew thee. Farewell, farewell.
"Your brother in Christ, NICHOLAS RIDLEY.
To the brethren remaining in captivity of the flesh, and dispersed abroad in sundry prisons; but knit together, in unity of spirit and holy religion, in the bowels of the Lord Jesus.
"Grace, peace, and mercy be multiplied among you. What worthy thanks can we render unto the Lord for you, my brethren; namely, for the great consolation which through you we have received in the Lord, who, notwithstanding the rage of Satan that goeth about by all manner of subtle means to beguile the world, and also busily laboured to restore and set up his kingdom again, that of late began to decay and fall to ruin; ye remain yet still unmovable, as men surely grounded upon a strong rock. And now, albeit that Satan, by his soldiers and wicked ministers, daily (as we hear) draweth numbers unto him, so that it is said of him, that he plucketh even the very stars out of heaven, whiles he driveth into some men the fear of death, and loss of all their goods, and showeth and offereth to others the pleasant baits of the world, namely, riches, wealth, and all kind of delights and pleasures, fair houses, great revenues, fat benefices, and what not; and all to the intent they should fall down and worship, not the Lord, but the dragon, the old serpent, which is the devil, that great beast and his image, and should be enticed to commit fornication with the strumpet of Babylon, together with the kings of the earth, with the lesser beast and with the false prophets, and so to rejoice and be pleasant with her, and to be drunken with the wine of her fornication; yet blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which hath given unto you a manly courage, and hath so strengthened you in the inward man, by the power of his Spirit, that you can contemn as well all the terrors, as also the vain flatterings and allurements of the world, esteeming them as vanities, mere trifles, and things of nought: who hath also wrought, planted, and surely established in your hearts, so stedfast a faith and love of the Lord Jesus Christ, joined with such constancy, that by no engines of antichrist, be they never so terrible or plausible, ye will suffer any other Jesus, or any other Christ, to be forced upon you, besides him whom the prophets have spoken of before, the apostles have preached, the holy martyrs of God have confessed and testified with the effusion of their blood.
"In this faith stand ye fast, my brethren, and suffer not yourselves to be brought under the yoke of bondage and superstition any more. For ye know, brethren, how that our Saviour warned his beforehand, that such should come as would point unto the world another Christ, and would set him out with so many false miracles, and with such deceivable and subtle practices, that even the very elect (if it were possible) should thereby be deceived: such strong delusion to come did our Saviour give warning of before. But continue ye faithful and constant, be of good comfort, and remember that our grand Captain hath overcome the world; for he that is in us is stronger than he that is in the world, and the Lord promiseth unto us that, for the elect's sake, the days of wickedness shall be shortened. In the mean season, abide ye and endure with patience as ye have begun: 'Endure,' I say, 'and reserve yourselves unto better times,' as one of the heathen poets said; cease not to show yourselves valiant soldiers of the Lord, and help to maintain the travailing faith of the gospel.
"Ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye may receive the promises, for yet a very little, and he that shall come, will come, and will not tarry: and the just shall live by faith; but if any withdraw himself my soul shall have no pleasure in him, saith the Lord. But we are not they which do withdraw ourselves unto damnation, but believe unto the salvation of the soul. Let us not suffer these words of Christ to fall out of our hearts by any manner of terror, or threatenings of the world. Fear not them which kill the body; the rest ye know: for I write not unto you as to men which are ignorant of the truth, but which know the truth; and to this end only, that we, agreeing together in one faith, may take comfort one of another, and be the more confirmed and strengthened thereby. We never had a better or more just cause either to contemn our life, or shed our blood; we cannot take in hand the defence of a more certain, clear, and manifest truth. For it is not any ceremony for the which we contend; but it toucheth the very substance of our whole religion, yea, even Christ himself. Shall we, either can we, receive and acknowledge any other Christ instead of him, who is alone the everlasting Son of the everlasting Father, and is the brightness of the glory and a lively image of the substance of the Father, in whom only dwelleth corporally the fulness of the Godhead, who is the only way, the truth, and the life? Let such wickedness, my brethren, let such horrible wickedness be far from us. For although there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, as there be many gods and many lords, yet unto us there is but one God, which is the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him; but every man hath not knowledge. This is life eternal, saith St. John, that they know thee to be the only true God, and whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ. If any therefore would force upon us any other God, besides him whom Paul and the apostles have taught, let us not hear him, but let us flee from him, and hold him accursed.
"Brethren, ye are not ignorant of the deep and profound subtleties of Satan; for he will not cease to range about you, seeking by all means possible whom he may devour: but play ye the men, and be of good comfort in the Lord. And albeit your enemies and the adversaries of the truth, armed with all worldly force and power that may be, do set upon you; yet be ye not faint-hearted, and shrink not therefore, but trust unto your Captain, Christ; trust unto the Spirit of truth, and trust to the truth of your cause; which as it may by the malice of Satan be darkened, so can it never be clean put out. For we have (high praise be given to God there-for) most plainly, evidently, and clearly on our side, all the prophets, all the apostles, and undoubtedly all the ancient ecclesiastical writers which have written, until of late years past.
"Let us be hearty, and of good courage therefor, and thoroughly comfort ourselves in the Lord. Be in no wise afraid of your adversaries; for that which is to them an occasion of perdition, is to you a sure token of salvation, and that of God: for unto you it is given, that not only ye should believe on him, but also suffer for his sake. And when ye are railed upon for the name of Christ, remember that by the voice of Peter, yea, and of Christ our Saviour also, ye are counted with the prophets, with the apostles, and with the holy martyrs of Christ, happy and blessed there-for: for the glory and Spirit of God resteth upon you.
"On their part our Saviour Christ is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified: for what can they else do unto you, by persecuting you, and working all cruelty and villany against you, but make your crowns more glorious, yea, beautify and multiply the same, and heap upon themselves the horrible plagues and heavy wrath of God: and therefore, good brethren, though they rage never so fiercely against us, yet let us not wish evil unto them again, knowing that while, for Christ's cause, they vex and persecute us, they are like mad-men. most outrageous and cruel against themselves, heaping hot burning coals upon their own heads; but rather let us wish well unto them, knowing that we are thereunto called in Christ Jesus, that we should be heirs of the blessing. Let us pray therefore unto God, that he would drive out of their hearts this darkness of errors, and make the light of his truth to shine unto them, that they, acknowledging their blindness, may with all humble repentance be converted unto the Lord, and together with us. confess him to be the only true God, which is the Father of light, and his only Son Jesus Christ, worshipping him in Spirit and verity: Amen. The Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ comfort your hearts in the love of God, and patience of Christ: Amen.
"Your brother in the Lord, whose name this bearer shall signify unto you, ready always by the grace of God to live and die with you."
A letter of Bishop Ridley, wherein he confirmeth the brethren in captivity; translated out of the Latin.
"To the brethren which constantly cleave unto Christ, in suffering affliction with him and for his sake.
"Grace and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, be multiplied unto you: Amen.
"Although, brethren, we have of late heard nothing from you, neither have at this present any news to send to you; yet we thought good something to write unto you, whereby ye might understand that we have good remembrance of you continually, as we doubt not but ye have of us also. When this messenger, coming unto us from you of late, had brought us good tidings of your great constancy, fortitude, and patience in the Lord, we were filled with much joy and gladness, giving thanks to God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, which hath caused his face so to shine upon you, and with the light of spiritual understanding hath so lightened your hearts, that now being in captivity and bonds for Christ's cause, ye have not ceased, as much as in you lieth, by words, but much more by deed and by your example, to stablish and confirm that thing, which when ye were at liberty in the world, ye laboured to publish and set abroad by the word and doctrine; that is to say, holding fast the word of life, ye shine as lights in the world, in the midst of a wicked and crooked nation, and that with so much the greater glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, and profit of your brethren, by how much Satan more cruelly now rageth and busily laboureth to darken the light of the gospel.
"And as for the darkness that Satan now bringeth upon the Church of England, who needeth to doubt thereof? Of late time our Saviour Christ, his apostles, prophets, and teachers, spake in the temple to the people of England in the English tongue, so that they might be understood plainly, and without any hardness, of the godly, and such as sought for heavenly knowledge in matters which of necessity of salvation pertained to the obtaining of eternal life; but now those things, which once were written of them for the edifying of the congregation, are read in a strange tongue without interpretation, manifestly against St. Paul's commandment, so that there is no man able to understand them, which hath not learned that strange and unknown tongue.
"Of late days those heavenly mysteries, whereby Christ hath ingrafted us into his body, and hath united us one to another; whereby also, being regenerate, and born anew unto God, he hath nourished, increased, and strengthened us; whereby moreover he hath taught and set forth an order amongst them which are whole, or else to the sick in soul or body hath given, as it were, wholesome medicines and remedies: those, I say, were all plainly set forth to the people in their own language, so that what great and exceeding good things every man had received of God, what duty every one owed to another by God's ordinance, what every one had professed in his vocation, and was bound to observe, where remedy was to be had for the wicked and feeble, he to whom God hath given a desire and willing heart to understand those things, might soon perceive and understand. But now all these things are taught and set forth in such sort, that the people redeemed with Christ's blood, and for whose sakes they were by Christ himself ordained, can have no manner of understanding thereof at all.
"Of late (forasmuch as we know not how to pray as we ought) our Lord Jesus Christ in his prayer, whereof he would have no man ignorant, and also the Holy Ghost in the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs which are set forth in the Bible, did teach and instruct all the people of England in the English tongue, that they might ask such things as are acording to the will of the Father, and might join their hearts and lips in prayer together: but now all these things are commanded to be hid and shut up from them in a strange tongue, whereby it must needs follow, that the people can neither tell how to pray, nor what to pray for; and how can they join their hearts and voice together, when they understand no more what the voice signifieth, than a brute beast?
"Finally, I hear say, that the catechism which was lately set forth in the English tongue, is now in every pulpit condemned. O devilish malice, and most spitefully injurious to the salvation of mankind, purchased by Jesus Christ! Indeed Satan could not long suffer that so great light should be spread abroad in the world; he saw well enough that nothing was able to overthrow his kingdom so much, as if children, being godly instructed in religion, should learn to know Christ whilst they are yet young; whereby not only children, but the elder sort also, and aged folks that before were not taught to know Christ in their childhood, should now, even with children and babes, be forced to learn to know him. Now therefore he roareth; now he rageth. But what else do they, brethren, which serve Satan, and become his ministers and slaves in maintaining of his impiety, but even the same which they did, to whom Christ our Saviour threateneth this curse in the gospel: Woe unto you which shut up the kingdom of heaven before men, and take away the key of knowledge from them! you yourselves have not entered in, neither have ye suffered them that would enter to come in.
"And from whence shall we say, brethren, that this horrible and mischievous darkness proceedeth, which is now brought upon the world? From whence, I pray you, but even from the smoke of the great furnace of the bottomless pit, so that the sun and the air are now darkened by the smoke of the pit? Now, even now, out of doubt, brethren, the pit is opened against us, and the locusts begin to swarm, and Abaddon now reigneth.
"Ye therefore, my brethren, which pertain unto Christ, and have the seal of God marked in your foreheads; that is to wit, are sealed with the earnest of the Spirit to be a peculiar people of God, quit yourselves like men, and be strong; for he that is in us is stronger than he which is in the world, and ye know that all that is born of God overcometh the world; and this is our victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Let the world fret, let it rage never so much, be it never so cruel and bloody, yet be ye sure that no man can take us out of the Father's hands, for he is greater than all, who hath not spared his own Son, but hath given him to deathfor us all; and therefore how shall he not with him give us all things also? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth, who then shall condemn? It is Christ that is dead, yea rather, which is risen again, who also is at the right hand of God, and maketh request also for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? The rest ye know, brethren. We are certainly persuaded with St. Paul, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that no kind of thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord; which thing, that it may come to pass by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the comfort both of you and of us all, as we for our parts will continually (God willing) pray for you; so, dear brethren in the Lord, with all earnest and hearty request we beseech you, even in the bowels of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye will not cease to pray for us. Fare ye well, dear brethren. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all evermore: Amen."
A letter of Bishop Ridley, answering to a certain letter of one Master West, sometime his chaplain.
"I wish you grace in God, and love of the truth, without the which truly established in men's hearts by the mighty hand of the Almighty God, it is no more possible to stand by the truth in Christ in time of trouble, than it is for the wax to abide the heat of the fire. Sir, know you this, that I am (blessed be God) persuaded, that this world is but transitory, and, as St. John saith, The world passeth away, and the lust thereof. I am persuaded Christ's words to be true, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven: and I believe that no earthly creature shall be saved, whom the Redeemer and Saviour of the world shall before his Father deny. This the Lord grant, that it may be so grafted, established, and fixed in my heart, that neither things present nor to come, high nor low, life nor death, be able to remove me thence. It is a goodly wish, that you wish me deeply to consider the things pertaining unto God's glory; but if you had wished also, that neither fear of death, nor hope of worldly prosperity, should let me to maintain God's word and his truth, which is his glory and true honour, it would have liked me well. You desire me, for God's sake, to remember myself. Indeed sir, now it is time so to do; for, so far as I can perceive, it standeth me upon no less danger, than of the loss both of body and soul; and I trow, then it is time for a man to awake, if any thing will awake him. He that will not fear him that threateneth to cast both body and soul into everlasting fire, whom will he fear? With this fear, O Lord, fasten thou together our frail flesh, that we never swerve from thy laws. You say, you have made much suit for me. Sir, God grant that you have not, in suing for my worldly deliverance, impaired and hindered the furtherance of God's word and his truth.
"You have known me long indeed; in the which time it hath chanced me, as you say, to mislike some things. It is true, I grant; for sudden changes without substantial and necessary cause, and the heady setting forth of extremities, I did never love. Confession unto the minister which is able to instruct, correct, comfort, and inform the weak, wounded, and ignorant conscience, indeed I ever thought might do much good in Christ's congregation, and so I assure you I think even at this day. My doctrine and my preaching, you say, you have heard often, and after your judgment have thought it godly, saving only for the sacrament, which thing although it was of me reverently handled, and a great deal better than of the rest, as you say, yet in the margin you write 'warily,' and in this world 'wisely;' and yet methought all sounding not well. Sir, but that I see so many changes in this world, and so much alteration, else at this your saying I would not a little marvel. I have taken you for my friend, and a man whom I fancied for plainness and faithfulness, as much, I assure you, as for your learning: and have you kept this so close in your heart from me unto this day? Sir, I consider more things than one, and will not say all that I think. But what need you to care what I think, for any thing I shall be able to do unto you, either good or harm? You give me good lessons to stand in nothing against my learning, and to beware of vain-glory. Truly, sir, I herein like your counsel very well, and by God's grace I intend to follow it unto my life's end.
"To write unto those whom you name, I cannot see what it will avail me: for this I would have you know, that I esteem nothing available for me, which also will not further the glory of God. And now, because I perceive you have an entire zeal and desire of my deliverance out of this captivity and worldly misery, if I should not bear you a good heart in God again, methinks I were to blame. Sir, how nigh the day of my dissolution and departure out of this world is at hand, I cannot tell: the Lord's will be fulfilled, how soon soever it shall come. I know the Lord's words must be verified on me, that I shall appear before the uncorrupt Judge, and be accountable to him of all my former life. And although the hope of his mercies is my sheet-anchor of eternal salvation, yet am I persuaded, that whosoever wittingly neglecteth and regardeth not to clear his conscience, he cannot have peace with God, nor a lively faith in his mercy. Conscience therefore moveth me, considering you were one of my family, and one of my household, of whom then I think I had a special cure, and of all them which were within my house; which indeed ought to have been an example of godliness to all the rest of my cure, not only of good life, but also in promoting of God's word to the uttermost of their power (but alas, now, when the trial doth separate the chaff from the corn, how small a deal it is, God knoweth, which the wind doth not blow away): this conscience, I say, doth move me to fear, lest the lightness of my family shall be laid to my charge for lack of more earnest and diligent instruction, which should have been done. But, blessed be God which hath given me grace to see this my default, and to lament it from the bottom of my heart, before my departing hence.
"This conscience doth move me also now to require both you, and my friend Dr. Harvey, to remember your promises made to me in times past, of the pure setting-forth and preaching of God's word and his truth. These promises, although you shall not need to fear to be charged with them of me hereafter before the world, yet look for none other, (I exhort you as my friends,) but to be charged with them at God's hand. This conscience, and the love that I bear unto you, biddeth me now say unto you both, in God's name, Fear God, and love not the world: for God is able to cast both body and soul into hell-fire. When his wrath shall suddenly be kindled, blessed are all they that put their trust in him. And the saying of St. John is true, All that is in the world, as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world; and the world passeth away and the lust thereof, but he that doth the will of God abideth for ever. If this gift of grace (which undoubtedly is necessarily required unto eternal salvation) were truly and unfeignedly grafted and firmly established in men's hearts, they would not be so light, so suddenly to shrink from the maintenance and confession of the truth as is now, alas! seen so manifestly of so many in these days. But here, peradventure, you would know of me, what is the truth. Sir, God's word is the truth, as St. John saith, and that even the same that was heretofore. For albeit man doth vary and change as the moon, yet God's word is stable, and abideth one for evermore: and of Christ it is truly said, Christ yesterday and to-day; the same is also for ever.
"When I was in office, all that were esteemed learned in God's word, agreed this to be a truth in God's word written, that the Common Prayer of the church should be had in the common tongue. You know I have conferred with many, and I assure you I never found man, (so far as I do remember,) neither old nor young, gospeller nor papist, of what judgment soever he was, in this thing to be of a contrary opinion. If then it were a truth of God's word, think you that the alteration of the world can make it an untruth? If it cannot, why then do so many men shrink from the confession and maintenance of this truth received once of us all? for what is it, I pray you, else to confess or deny Christ in this world, but to maintain the truth taught in God's word, or for any worldly respect to shrink from the same? This one thing have I brought for an ensample; other things be in like case, which now particularly I need not rehearse: for he that will forsake wittingly, either for fear or gain of the world, any one open truth of God's word, if he be constrained, he will assuredly forsake God and all his truth, rather than he will endanger himself to lose or to leave that he loveth better indeed, than he doth God and the truth of his word.
"I like very well your plain speaking, wherein you say, I must either agree or die, and I think that you mean of the bodily death, which is common both to good and bad. Sir, I know I must die, whether I agree or no. But what folly were it then to make such an agreement, by the which I could never escape this death which is common to all, and also incur the guilt of death and eternal damnation? Lord, grant that I may utterly abhor and detest this damnable agreement, so long as I live! And because (I dare say) you wrote of friendship unto me this short earnest advertisement, and I think verily, wishing me to live and not to die, therefore, bearing you in my heart no less love in God, than you do me in the world, I say unto you in the word of the Lord, (and that I say to you, I say to all my friends and lovers of us in God,) that if you do not confess and maintain to your power and knowledge that which is grounded upon God's word, but will either, for fear or gain of the world, shrink and play the apostata, indeed you shall die the death: you know what I mean. And I beseech you all, my true friends and lovers in God, remember what I say; for this may be the last time, peradventure, that ever I shall write unto you.
"From Bocardo in Oxford the eighth day of April, 1555."
An answer of Bishop Ridley to Master Grindal's letter sent from Frankfort.
"Blessed be God our heavenly Father, which inclined your heart to have such a desire to write unto me, and blessed be he again, which hath heard your request, and hath brought your letters safe unto my hands; and over all this I bless him, through our Lord Jesus Christ, for the great comfort I have received by the same, of the knowledge of your state, and of other our dearly beloved brethren and countrymen in those parts beyond the sea.
"Dearly-beloved brother Grindal, I say to you, and all the rest of our brethren in Christ with you, Rejoice in the Lord, and as you love me, and the other my reverend fathers and concaptives, (which undoubtedly are the glory of Christ,) lament not our state, but I beseech you and them all to give to our heavenly Father, for his boundless mercies and unspeakable benefits even in the midst of all our troubles given unto us, most hearty thanks. For know ye, that as the weight of his cross hath increased upon us, so he hath not nor doth cease to multiply his mercies, to strengthen us; and I trust, yea, by his grace I doubt nothing but he will so do for Christ our Master's sake even to the end. To hear that you and our other brethren do find in your exile favour and grace with the magistrates, ministers, and citizens at Zurich, Frankfort, and otherwhere, it doth greatly comfort (I dare say) all here, that do indeed love Christ and his true word. I assure you, it warmed my heart to hear you by chance to name some, as Scory, and Cox, &c. Oh! that it had come in your mind to have said somewhat also of Cheek, of Turner, of Leaver, of Sampson, of Chambers; but, I trust in God, they be all well. And sir, seeing you say, that there be in those parts with you of students and ministers so good a number, now, therefore, care you not for us, otherwise than to wish that God's glory may be set forth by us: for whensoever God shall call us home, (as we look daily for none other, but when it shall please God to say, come,) you, blessed be God! are enough, through his aid, to light and set up again the lantern of his word in England. As concerning the copies, ye say, ye have with you, I wonder how ever they did and could find the way to come to you. My disputation, except ye have that which I gathered myself after the disputation done, I cannot think ye have it truly. If ye have that, then ye have therewithal the whole manner after the which I was used in the disputation.
"As for the treatise in English, 'Contra Transubstantiationem,' vix possum adduci ut credam operæ-pretium fore ut in Latinum transferatur. Cæterum, quicquid sit, nullo modo velim ut quid-quam quocunque modo meo nomine ederetur, donec quid de nobis Dominus, constituerit fieri, vobis Arius certo constiterit; and thus much unto your letters. Now, although I suppose you know a good part of our state here, (for we are forthcoming, even as when ye departed, &c.,) you shall understand that I was in the Tower about the space of two months close prisoner, and, after that, had granted to me without my labour, the liberty of the Tower, and so continued about half a year; and then, because I refused to allow the mass with my presence, I was shut up in prison again.
"The last Lent save one, it chanced by reason of the tumult stirred up in Kent, there were so many prisoners in the Tower, that my Lord of Canterbury, Master Latimer, Master Bradford, and I, were put all together in one prison, where we remained till almost the next Easter, and then we three, Canterbury, Master Latimer, and I, were suddenly sent a little before Easter to Oxford, and were suffered to have nothing with us, but that we carried upon us. About the Whitsuntide following, were our disputations at Oxford, after the which all was taken from us, as pen, ink, &c. Our own servants were taken from us before, and every one had put to him a strange man, and we each one appointed to be kept in several places, as we are unto this day.
"Blessed be God, we three, at the writing hereof, were in good health, and (in God) of good cheer. We have looked long ago to have been despatched, for we were all three on one day, (within a day or two of our disputations,) of Dr. Weston, being the head commissioner, condemned for heretics; and since that time we remain as we were of him left. The Lord's will be fulfilled in us, as I do not doubt but by his grace it shall be to his glory, and our endless salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord! Likewise the Lord hath hitherto preserved above all our expectation, our dear brother, and in Christ's cause a strong champion, John Bradford. He is likewise condemned, and is already delivered to the secular power, and writs, as we have heard say, given out for his execution, and called in again."
"Thus the Lord, so long as his blessed pleasure is, preserveth whom he listeth, notwithstanding the wonderful raging of the world. Many (as we hear say) have suffered valiantly, confessing Christ's truth, and nothing yielding to the adversary, yea, not for the fear or pains of death. The names of them which I knew, and have now suffered, are these: Ferrar the bishop of St. David's, Hooper the bishop of Worcester, Rogers, (tuus olim comprebendarius,) Dr. Taylor of Hadley, Master Saunders, and one Tomkins, a weaver; and now, this last day, Master Cardmaker, with another, were burnt in Smithfield at London, and many others in Essex and Kent, whose names are written in the book of life, whom yet I do not know.
"West, your old companion, and sometime mine officer, alas, hath relented, as I have heard; but the Lord hath shortened his days, for anon after he died, and is gone. Grimbold was caught by the heel, and cast into the Marshalsea, but now is at liberty again, but I fear me he escaped not without some becking or bowing, alas, of his knee unto Baal.
"My dear friend Thomas Ridley, of the Bullhead in Cheap, which was to me the most faithful friend that I had in my trouble, is departed also unto God. My brother Shipside, that hath married my sister, hath been almost half a year in prison, for delivering (as he was accused) of certain things, I ween, from me; but now, thanks be to God, he is at liberty again, but so that the bishop hath taken from him his park.
"Of all us three concaptives at Oxford, I am kept most strait, and with least liberty, vel quia viro, in cujus ædibus ego custodior, uxor dominatur (licet modo sit præfectus civitatis)--mulier vetula, morosa, et superstitiosissima, qua etiam hoc sibi laudi ducit quod me dicatur arctissime et cautissime custodire; vir autem ipse, Irischius nomine, mitis satis est omnibus, uxori vero plusquam obsequens. Licet uxorem (uti nosti) nunquam habuerim, tamen ex hac quotidian consuetudine, quam cum istis conjugibus habeo, videor mihi nonnihil posse intelligere, quam grave malum et intolerabile jugum sit cum mala muliere in conjugio collocari. Recta ergo sapiens dixit, Uxor bona donum Dei; et iterum, Mulieris bonæ beatus vir. Vel hæc, inquam, causa est, vel quia à magnis magistratibus (nescio quas ob causas) illud est, ut ita fieret, ipsis mandatum: idque illi, si quando de mea nimia servitute apud eos conqueror, sedulo sæpe rursus mihi inculcant.
"At Cambridge (as I hear say) omnes studiorum et statutorum reformationes nuper factæ nunc sunt denuo deformatæ et deletæ, et omnia sunt in pristinum chaos et in antiquum papismum reducta: omnes collegiorum Præfecti qui sinceritati evangelii favebant, vel qui conjugati erant, loco moti sunt; et alii papisticæ factionis in eorum loca surrogati, quod et de Sociis Collegiorum qui noluerunt flectere genu Baal factum esse audio. Nec mirum, nam idem passim factum est in universo regno Angliæ, in omnibus archiepiscopis, episcopis, decanis, prebendariis, sacerdotibus ecclesiarum, et in toto clero: and to tell you much naughty matter in few words, papismus apud nos ubique in pleno suo autiquo robore regnat.
"The Lord be merciful, and for Christ's sake pardon us our old unkindness and unthankfulness for when he poured upon us the gifts of his manifold graces and favour, alas, we did not serve him nor render unto him thanks according to the same. We pastors many of us were too cold, and bare too much, alas, with the wicked world; our magistrates did abuse, to their own worldly gain, both God's gospel and the ministers of the same. The people in many places was wayward and unkind. Thus of every side and of every sort we have provoked God's anger and wrath to fall upon us: but blessed might he be that hath not suffered his to continue in those ways which so wholly have displeased his sacred Majesty, but hath awaked them by the fatherly correction of his own Son's cross, unto his glory and our endless salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
"My daily prayer is, (as God doth know,) and by God's grace shall be so long as I live in this world, for you, my dear brethen, that are fled out of your own country, because you will rather forsake all worldly things than the truth of God's word. It is even the same that I used to make to God, for all those churches abroad through the world, which have forsaken the kingdom of antichrist, and professed openly the purity of the gospel of Jesus Christ; that is, that God our eternal Father, for our Saviour Christ's sake, will daily increase in you the gracious gift of his heavenly Spirit, to the true setting-forth of his glory and of his gospel, and make you to agree brotherly in the truth of the same;that there arise no root of bitterness among you that may infect that good seed which God hath sown in your hearts already; and finally, that your life may be so pure and so honest, according to the rule of God's word, and according to that vocation whereunto we are called by the gospel of Christ our Saviour, that the honesty and purity of the same may provoke all that shall see or know it, to the love of your doctrine, and to love you for your honesty and virtue's sake; and so, both in brotherly unity of your true doctrine, and also in the godly virtue of your honest life, to glorify our Father which is in heaven.
To Augustine Bernher.
Brother Augustine, I bless God with all my heart in his manifold merciful gifts, given unto our dear brethren in Christ, specially to our brother Rogers, whom it pleased him to set forth first, no doubt out of his gracious goodness and fatherly favour towards him. And likewise blessed be God in the rest, as Hooper, Saunders, and Taylor, whom it hath pleased the Lord likewise to set in the forefront of the battle against his adversaries, and hath endued them all (so far as I can hear) to stand in the confession of his truth, and to be content in his cause, and for his gospel's sake, to lose their life. And evermore and without end blessed be even the same our heavenly Father, for our dear and entirely beloved brother Bradford, whom now the Lord, I perceive, calleth for: for I ween he will no longer vouchsafe him to abide among the adulterous and wicked generation of this world. I do not doubt but that he, for those gifts of grace which the Lord hath bestowed on him plenteously, hath holpen those which are gone before in their journey; that is, hath animated and encouraged them to keep the highway, et sic currere, uti tandem acciperent præmium. The Lord be his comfort, whereof I do not doubt, and I thank God heartily that ever I was acquainted with him, and that ever I had such a one in my house. And yet again I bless God in our dear brother, and of this time protomartyr, Rogers, that he was also one of my calling to be a prebendary preacher of London. And now, because Grindal is gone, (the Lord, I doubt not, hath and knoweth wherein he will bestow him,) I trust to God, it shall please him of his goodness to strengthen me to make up the trinity out of Paul's church, to suffer for Christ whom God the Father hath anointed, the Holy Spirit doth bear witness unto, Paul and all the apostles preached. Thus fare you well. I had no paper, I was constrained thus to write."
Besides these letters of Bishop Ridley, divers other tractations also were written by him, partly out of prison, partly in prison: as namely, among certain others, there remain in my hands certain notes answering to the two notable sermons of Dr. Watson, bishop of Lincoln, &c.