Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 335. THE NORFOLK SUPPLICATION

335. THE NORFOLK SUPPLICATION

/span>ABOUT this time, or somewhat before, came down certain commissioners assigned by the queen and council, to Norfolk and Suffolk, (as to other countries else besides,) to inquire of matters of religion: unto the which commissioners there was a supplication then exhibited by some good and well-disposed men (as by the same may appear) dwelling about those parts: which supplication, as I thought it not unworthy to be read, bearing the date of this present year, to be printed; so I thought it was not to be omitted, nor unworthy here to be placed, in consideration of the fruit which thereof might ensue to the reader.

 

A certain godly supplication exhibited by certain inhabitants of the countof Norfolk, to the commissioners come down to Norfolk and Suffolk, fruitful to be read and marked of all men.

            "In most humble and lowly wise, we beseech your Honours, right honourable commissioners, to tender and pity the humble suit of us poor men, and true, faithful, and obedient subjects, who as we have ever heretofore, so intend we, with God's grace, to continue in Christian obedience unto the end, and (according to the word of God) with all reverend fear of God, to do our bounden duty to all those superior powers, whom God hath appointed over us, doing as St. Paul saith: Let every soul be subject to the superior powers; for there is no power but of God; but those powers that are, are ordained of God. Wherefore whosoever resisteth the powers, the same resisteth God; and they that resist, get themselves judgment.

            "These lessons, right honourable commissioners, we have learned of the holy word of God, in our mother tongue. First, that the authority of a king, queen, lord, and other their officers under them, is no tyrannical usurpation, but a just, holy, lawful, and necessary estate for man to be governed by; and that the same is of God, the fountain and author of righteousness. Secondly, that to obey the same in all things not against God, is to obey God; and to resist them, is to resist God. Therefore, as to obey God in his ministers and magistrates bringeth life; so to resist God in them, bringeth punishment and death. The same lesson have we learned of St. Peter, saying, Be ye subject to all human ordinances for the Lord's sake, whether it be to the king, as to the most highest, or to the lieutenants sent from him, to the punishment of evil-doers, but to the praise of such as do well. For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye should stop the mouths of foolish and ignorant men; as free, and not as having the liberty to be a cloak to malice, but as the servants of God.

            "Wherefore, considering with ourselves, both that the magistrates' power is of God, and that for the Lord's sake we be bound to Christian obedience unto them, having now presently a commandment, as though it were from the queen's Majesty; with all humble obedience due to the regal power and authority ordained of God, (which we acknowledge to stand wholly and perfectly in her Grace,) and with due reverence unto you her Grace's commissioners, we humbly beseech you with patience and pity to receive this our answer unto this commandment, given unto us.

            "First, right honourable commissioners, we have considered ourselves to be not only Englishmen, but also Christians, and therefore bound by the holy vow made to God in our baptism, to prefer God's honour in all things, and that all obedience (not only of us mortal men, but even of the very angels and heavenly spirits) is due unto God's word; insomuch that no obedience can be true and perfect, either before God or man, that wholly and fully agreeth not with God's word.

            "Then have we weighed the commandment concerning the restitution of the late abolished Latin service, given unto us, to dissent and disagree from God's word, and to command manifest impiety, and the overthrow of godliness and true religion, and to import a subversion of the regal power of this our native country and realm of England, with the bringing in of the Romish bishop's supremacy, with all errors, superstitions, and idolatry, wasting of our goods and bodies, destroying of our souls, bringing with it nothing but the severe wrath of God, which we already feel, and fear lest the same shall be more fiercely kindled upon us. Wherefore we humbly protest, that we cannot be persuaded that the same wicked commandment should come from the queen's Majesty, but rather from some other, abusing the queen's goodness and favour, and studying to work some feat against the queen, her crown, and the realm, to please with it the Roman bishop, at whose hands the same thinketh hereafter to be advanced.

            "As the Agagite Haman wrought maliciously against the noble king Ahasuerus, and as the princes of Babel wrought against the good king Darius; so think we the queen's most gentle heart to be abused of some, who, seeking themselves and their own vainglory, procure such commandments as are against the glory of God. For we cannot have so evil an opinion in her Majesty, that she should subvert the most godly and holy religion, (so accordingly to God's word set forth by the most noble, virtuous, and innocent king, a very saint of God, our late most dear King Edward, her Grace's brother,) except she were wonderfully abused; who, as hating reformation, will rather the destruction of all others, than acknowledge their errors, and to be according to God's word reformed. For truly, the religion lately set forth by King Edward, is such in our consciences as every Christian man is bound to confess to be the truth of God; and every member of Christ's church here in England must needs embrace the same in heart, and confess it with mouth, and (if need require) lose and forsake, not only house, land, and possessions, riches, wife, children, and friends; but also (if God will so call them) gladly to suffer all manner of persecution, and to lose their lives in the defence of God's word and truth set out amongst us. For our Saviour Christ requireth the same of us, saying, Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and my word before this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man will also be ashamed of him, when he shall come in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. And again saith he, Whosoever will confess me before men, I will confess him before my Father that is in heaven. And whosoever will deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father that is in heaven. And, Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him, but whosoever shall rail against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him.

            "We humbly beseech the queen's Majesty, and you her honourable commissioners, be not offended with us, for confessing this truth of God, so straitly given us in charge of Christ; neither bring upon us that great sin that never shall be forgiven, and shall cause our Saviour Jesus Christ in the great day of judgment, before his heavenly Father and all his angels, to deny us, and to take from us the blessed price and ransom of his bloodshed, wherewith we are redeemed. For in that day, neither the queen's Highness, neither you, nor any man, shall be able to excuse us, nor to purchase a pardon of Christ for this horrible sin and blasphemy of casting aside and condemning his word. We cannot agree nor consent unto this so horrible a sin; but we beseech God for his mercy to give us and all men grace, most earnestly to flee from it, and rather (if the will of God be so) to suffer all extremity and punishment in this world, than to incur such damnation before God.

            "Manasseh, who restored again the wickedness of idolatrous religion, (before put down by Hezekiah his father,) brought the wrath of God upon the people; so that the Scripture saith, Notwithstanding the reformation made by Josias, the Lord turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath wherewith he was angry against Judah, because of the provocation with which Manasseh provoked him. And the Lord said, Even Judah will I take away from my presence, as I cast away Israel: and I will cast away this city of Jerusalem, and the house whereof I said, My name shall be there. Jeroboam, who at Bethel and Dan erected up a new-found service of God, and not only sinned himself, but also made all Israel to sin with him, so that not only he was damned for commanding, but the wrath of God came upon all Israel for obeying that his ungodly commandment; yet was it not so heinous an offence to bring in an idolatry never yet heard of, as after reformation made by the godly kings and princes, by the virtuous and holy bishops, by the prophets and servants of God, to reject and cast off the word and true religion of God, and to receive again a damned impiety.

            "This most heinous offence is now offered unto us, although the same be painted and coloured with the name of reformation, restoring of religion, ancient faith, with the name of the catholic church, of unity, catholic truth, and with the cloak of feigned holiness. These are sheepskins, under the which (as Christ saith) ravening wolves cover themselves. But Christ willeth us to look upon their fruits, whereby we may know them: and truly that is no good fruit, to cast aside God's word, and to banish the English service out of the churches; and in the place of it to bring in a Latin tongue, unknown unto the people, which as it edifieth no man, so it hath been occasion of all blindness and error among the people. For afore the blessed reformation, (begun by the most noble prince of godly memory the queen's good father, and by our late holy and innocent king her good brother finished,) it is not unknown what blindness and error we were all in, when not one man in all this realm unlearned in the Latin, could say in English the Lord's prayer, or knew any one article of his belief, or [could] rehearse any one of the ten commandments. And that ignorance, mother of mischief, was the very root and well-spring of all idolatry, sodomitical monkery, and whorish chastity of unmarried priests, of all whoredom, drunkenness, covetousness, swearing, and blasphemy, with all other wicked sinful living. These brought in the severe wrath and vengeance of God, plaguing sin, with famine and pestilence; and at last the sword consumed and avenged all their impiety and wicked living, as it is greatly to be feared the same or more grievous plagues shall now again follow.

            "We cannot therefore consent nor agree that the word of God and prayers in our English tongue, which we understand, should be taken away from us, and for it a Latin service, (we wot not what, for none of us understand it,) to be again brought in amongst us, specially seeing that Christ hath said, My sheep hear my voice, and follow me; and I give to them everlasting life. The service in English teacheth us that we are the Lord's people, and the sheep of his pasture, and commandeth that we harden not our hearts, as when they provoked the Lord's wrath in the wilderness; lest he swear unto us, as he did swear unto them, that they should not enter into his rest.

            "The service in Latin is a confused noise; which if it be good, (as they say it is,) yet unto us that lack understanding, what goodness can it bring? St. Paul commandeth, that in the churches all things should be done to edifying, which we are sure is God's commandment. But in the Latin service nothing is done to edifying, but contrarily all to destroy those that are already edified, and to drive us from God's word and truth, and from believing of the same; and so to bring us to believe lies and fables, that, tempting and provoking God, we should be brought into that judgment that blessed Paul speaketh of, saying, Antichrist shall come according to the working of Satan, with all manner of power and signs, and lying wonders, in all deceivableness of unrighteousness in those that perish: because they have not received the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And therefore God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe lies and be damned; as many as have not believed the truth, but have approved unrighteousness.

            "Thus, altogether drawn from God, we shall fall into his wrath through unbelief, till he swear unto us as he did unto the unfaithful Jews, that such infidels shall not enter into his rest.

            "In the administration of the Lord's supper, which we confess to be the holy communion, and partaking with Christ and his holy congregation, we have learned God's holy commandments; and, at the rehearsal of every one of them, to ask God mercy for our most grievous transgressions against them; and to ask grace of God, to keep them in time to come, that the same may not only outwardly sound in our ears, but also inwardly by the Holy Ghost be written in our hearts.

            "We have learned also the holy prayer made for the queen's Majesty, wherein we learn that her power and authority is of God; therefore we pray to God for her, that she, and all magistrates under her, may rule according to God's word, and we her subjects obey according to the same.

            "Truly, most honourable commissioners, we cannot think these things evil, but think them most worthy to be retained in our churches; and we would think ourselves not to have true subjects' hearts, if we should go about to put away such godly prayers, as put us perpetually in memory of our bounden obedience and duty to God and our rulers. For, as we think, at this present the unquiet multitude had more need to have these things more often and earnestly beaten and driven into them, (specially given in many places to stir and trouble,) than to take from them that blessed doctrine, whereby only they may to their salvation be kept in quiet.

            "Furthermore, we cannot forsake that blessed partaking of the body and blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ's institution, ministered with such godly prayers, exhortations, and admonitions, teaching us the knowledge of God, the exceeding love and charity of our loving Redeemer Christ, breaking his body upon the cross for our sins, and shedding his most precious blood for our redemption; which we, in eating of that blessed bread and drinking of the blessed cup, assuredly believe that we receive, and be perfectly joined with Christ and his holy catholic church into one body, and into one unity and brotherly love, whereby each member faithfully embraceth other. We must needs confess this institution of Christ to be most holy and godly, whereof we have the only comfort in conscience against sin ,and damnation, with the assurance of salvation, and whereof hath ensued reformation of many heinous sins; much lawing, strife, and contention is ended; drunkenness, whoredom, and other vices, in some reformed; goodness and virtue increased and nourished.

            "In the Latin mass we never had no such edifying, but only we saw a great many of ceremonies and strange gestures; as turning of the priest, crossings, blessings, breathings, washing of hands, and spreading abroad of his arms, with like ceremonies that we understand not. And concerning the Latin tongue, wherein the priest prayeth, we wot not whether he blesseth or curseth us. We are not partakers of the sacrament, as Christ's institution appointeth we should be.

            "In the ministering of the sacrament, the priests alter the institution of Christ, committing theft and sacrilege, robbing us of the cup of Christ's blood, contrary to Christ's commandment, saying, Drink ye all of this.

            "They rob us also of God's word, speaking all things in Latin, which nothing edifieth us either in faith or manners. Christ commandeth not that his supper should be ministered in an unknown tongue; but forasmuch as faith cometh by hearing, and hearing cometh of God's word, how can we believe Christ's word and promise made unto us in this holy sacrament, saying, This is my body broken for you, and this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for you, for the remission of sins, if the same promises of Christ either be not at all recited, or else so recited in Latin, that the congregation understandeth not, nor heareth not what is spoken? St. Paul saith thus, reciting the saying of Isaiah, As truly as I live, saith the Lord, all knees shall bow unto me, all tongues shall give praise unto God. Also he saith, All tongues must confess, that Jesus Christ is the Lord, unto the glory of God the Father. The Holy Ghost came upon the apostles in fiery tongues, so that they spake the tongues of all nations under heaven. St. Paul ministered to the Corinthians, and preached to them in their own mother tongue, and rebuked the bringing in of strange tongues into the congregations. We cannot think it to be well, that so holy an apostle rebuked. And whatsoever virtue the Latin tongue hath to such as understand it, to us Englishmen not understanding it, it is altogether without virtue and edifying, and therefore unmeet for our churches.

            "The priests complain that we laymen love them not, nor have them in honour; but it is their own fault, for how should we love them, that only seek to keep us in blindness and ignorance, to damn our souls, to destroy our bodies, to rob and spoil our goods and substance under a colour of pretended holiness? We know, right honourable commissioners, what honour is due to such wolves, and how, by the authority of God's word, such are to be fled, as pestilences to the Lord's lambs, whom they miserably daily murder.

            "But we have rather chosen by this our meek supplication, humbly to desire the queen's Majesty, and you her honourable commissioners, to render God's word again unto the churches, and to permit us freely to enjoy the same. For we certainly know, that the whole religion lately set out by the holy saint of God, our late most dear King Edward, is Christ's true religion written in the Holy Scripture of God, and by Christ and his apostles taught unto his church. Wherefore we cannot allow with safe consciences this refusal of it, and casting of it out of our churches; forasmuch as to refuse, cast off, and to reject it, is to cast off Christ himself, and to refuse our part in his blessed body broken for our sins, and his blood shed for our redemption; which thing whoso doth, the same without repentance can look for no sacrifice for his sins, but most fearfully waiteth for the judgment, and for that vehement fire that shall destroy Christ's adversaries. For if he that despiseth the law of Moses, is without mercy put to death under two or three witnesses, how much more grievous torments shall he suffer, that treadeth under foot the Son of God, and esteemeth the blood of the testament (whereby he was sanctified) as a profane thing, and contumeliously useth the Spirit of grace?

            "Wherefore, we most humbly pray and beseech the queen's gracious Majesty, to have mercy and pity upon us her poor and faithful subjects, and not to compel us to do the thing that is against our consciences, and shall so incurably wound us in heart, by bringing into the church the Latin mass and service that nothing edifieth us, and casting out of Christ's holy communion and English service, so causing us to sin against our redemption. For such as willingly and wittingly against their consciences shall so do, (as it is to be feared many a one doth,) they are in a miserable state, until the mercy of God turn them; which if he do not, we certainly believe that they shall eternally be damned; and as in this world they deny Christ's holy word and communion before men, so will Christ deny them before his heavenly Father and his angels.

            "And whereas it is very earnestly required, that we should go in procession, (as they call it,) at which time the priests say in Latin such things as we are ignorant of, the same edifieth nothing at all unto godliness, and we have learned that to follow Christ's cross, is another matter, namely, to take up our cross, and to follow Christ in patient suffering for his love, tribulations, sickness, poverty, prison, or any other adversity, whensoever God's holy will and pleasure is to lay the same upon us. The triumphant passion and death of Christ, whereby in his own person he conquered death, sin, hell, and damnation, hath most lively been preached unto us, and the glory of Christ's cross declared by our preachers; whereby we have learned the causes and effects of the same more lively in one sermon, than in all the processions that ever we went in, or shall ever go in.

Illustration -- A Romish Funeral Procession by Moonlight

            "When we worshipped the divine Trinity kneeling, and, in the litany, invocating the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, asking mercy for our sins, and desiring such petitions as the need of our frail estate and this mortal life requireth, we were edified, both to know unto whom all Christian prayers should be directed, and also to know that of God's hand we receive all things, as well to the salvation of our souls, as to the relief of our mortal necessities. And we humbly beseech the queen's Majesty, that the same most holy prayers may be continued amongst us; that our ministers praying in our mother tongue, and we understanding their prayers and petitions, may answer 'Amen 'unto them. At evening service we understood our ministers' prayers; we were taught and admonished by the Scriptures then read, which in the Latin even-song is all gone.

            "At the ministration of holy baptism, we learned what league and covenant God had made with us, and what vows and promises we upon our part had made; namely, to believe in him, to forsake Satan and his works, and to walk in the way of God's holy word and commandments.

            "The Christian catechism continually taught and called to remembrance the same, whereas before no man knew any thing at all. And many good men of forty years, that had been godfathers to thirty children, knew no more of the godfather's office, but to wash their hands ere they departed the church, or else to fast five Fridays with bread and water.

            "O merciful God, have pity upon us! shall we be altogether cast from thy presence? We may well lament our miserable estate, to receive such a commandment, to reject and cast out of our churches all these most godly prayers, instructions, admonitions, and doctrines, and thus to be compelled to deny God, and Christ our Saviour, his holy word, and all his doctrine of our salvation, the candle to our feet, and the light to our steps, the bread coming down from heaven that giveth life, which whoso eateth, it shall be in him a wellspring streaming unto eternal life; whereby we have learned all righteousness, all true religion, all true obedience towards our governors, all charity one towards another, all good works that God would us to walk in, what punishment abideth the wicked, and what heavenly reward God will give to those that reverently walk in his ways and commandments.

            Wherefore, right honourable commissioners, we cannot without impiety refuse and cast from us the holy word of God which we have received, or condemn any thing set forth by our most godly late King Edward and his virtuous proceedings, so agreeable to God's word; and our most humble suit is, that the commandment may be revoked, so that we be not constrained thereunto. For we protest before God, we think if the holy word of God had not taken some root amongst us, we could not in times past have done that poor duty of ours, which we did in assisting the queen, our most dear sovereign, against her Grace's mortal foe, that then sought her destruction. It was our bounden duty, and we thank God for the knowledge of his word and grace, that we then did some part of our bounden service.

            "And we meekly pray and beseech the queen's Majesty for the dear passion of Jesus Christ, that the same word be not taken away out of her churches, nor from us her loving, faithful, and true subjects; lest if the like necessity should hereafter chance, (which God for his mercy's sake forbid, and ever save and defend her Grace, and us all,) the want of knowledge and due remembrance of God's word may be occasion of great ruin to an infinite number of her Grace's true subjects. And truly we judge this to be one subtle part of the devil, (enemy to all godly peace and quietness,) that by taking God's word from among us, and planting ignorance, he may make a way to all mischief and wickedness; and by banishing the holy gospel of peace, he may bring upon us the heavy wrath of God, with all manner of plagues; as death, strange sickness, pestilence, murrain, most terrible uproars, commotions, and seditious. These things did the Lord threaten unto the Jews for refusing his word, saying, Go, and thou shalt say unto this people; Ye shall hear indeed, but ye shall not understand; ye shall plainly see, and not perceive. Harden the heart of this people, stop their ears, and shut their eyes, that they see not with their eyes, hear not with their ears, and understand not with their hearts, and convert and be healed. And I said, How long, Lord? And he answered, Until the cities be destroyed, utterly wasted without inhabitants, and the houses without men, till the land also be desolate and lie unbuilded. And the prophet Micah, considering the contempt of God's word among the Israelites, threatened them thus, When the day that thy preachers warned thee of, cometh, thou shalt be wasted away. And let no man believe his friend, or put confidence in his brother. Keep the door of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom; for the son shall put his father to dishonour, and the daughter shall rise against her mother, the daughter-in-law against the mother-in-law, and a man's foes shall be even they of his own household. The same plague threatened Christ unto the Jews, for refusing his peace proffered them in the gospel; and he wept on the city Jerusalem, which murdered the prophets, and stoned such as were sent unto her.

            "The same plagues, we are afraid, will also fall upon us. For whereas heretofore with the receiving of Christ's word and peaceable gospel, we had great benedictions of God, especially this Christian concord and holy peace, so that all were at a full and perfect stay in religion, no man offended with another, but as the sons of peace, each of us with Christian charity embraced other; now, alas for pity! the devil (riding upon the red horse, showed unto St. John in the Revelation) is come forth, and power is given unto him to take peace from the earth. For now a man can go to no place, but malicious busybodies curiously search out his deeds, mark his words, and if he agree not with them in despising God's word, then will they spitefully and hatefully rail against him and it, calling it error and heresy, and the professors thereof heretics and schismatics, with other odious and spiteful names, as 'traitors,' and 'not the queen's friends,' 'not favourers of the queen's proceedings,' as if to love God's word were heresy, and as though to talk of Christ were to be schismatic; as though none could be true to the queen, that were not false to God; as though none were the queen's friends, but such as despitefully rail on her Grace's father and brother, and on God's word that they set forth; as though none favoured the queen's Majesty, but such as hate all godly knowledge.

            "And in very deed these things that all this turmoil is made for, are mere inventions of popes, brought into the church of their own imaginations, without commandment or ensample either of Christ, or of his apostles; and there is not one word in the Bible that, being truly alleged, maintaineth them, nor any doctor of antiquity before St. Augustine's days, as it hath been divers times sufficiently proved before all the whole parliament and convocation of this realm. Yet these, being mere traditions of bishops, are set out for God's commandments; and the queen's authority (given to her of God to maintain his word) must be abused to put down God's word. And you, right honourable justices, and keepers of laws and righteousness, are also abused and made the bishop's apparitors, to set forth such Romish trash as is to Christ's dishonour, and against the supreme authority of the regal estate of this realm. And we poor subjects, for speaking of that which is truth, and our bounden allegiance, are daily punished, railed upon, and noted for seditious, and not the queen's friends.

            "But God, who is blessed for ever, knoweth that they slander us, and pull the thorn out of their own foot, and put it in ours; for the Searcher of hearts knoweth, that we bear a faithful and true heart unto her Grace, and unto all her proceedings, that are not against God and his holy word. And we daily pray unto the heavenly Father, to enlighten her Grace's royal heart with the glorious light of the gospel, that she may establish and confirm that religion, that her Grace's brother, our most dear king, did set out amongst us; and so governing and ruling this her realm in the fear and true way of God, she may long live, and with prosperity, peace, and honour reign over us.

            "But we cannot think that those men do seek either God's honour, or her Grace's prosperity, or wealth of the realm, that take from her Grace's faithful subjects God's word, which only is the root of all love and faithful obedience under her Grace, and of all honesty, good life, and virtuous concord among her commons. And this we fear, lest the root being taken away, the branches will soon wither and be fruitless; and when the Philistines have stopped up the well-spring, the fair streams that should flow shall soon be dried up. All our watchmen, our true preachers, have taught us, that as long as we retained God's word, we should have God our gracious merciful Father; but, if we refused and cast off the Lord's yoke of his doctrine, then shall we look for the Lord's wrath and severe visitation to plague us, as he did the Jews for the like offences. And Paul saith, God gave to them the spirit of unquietness and uproar, eyes wherewith they should not see, and ears wherewith they should not hear, until this day. And as David said; Let their table be made a snare to take themselves withal, a trap to catch them, and a stumbling-block to fall at. Let their eyes be blinded that they see not, and bow thou down their hacks always.

            "O merciful God, all this is now come upon us, and daily more and more increased, and we fear at last it will so bow down our backs, that we shall utterly be destroyed. The troublesome spirit of uproar and unquietness daily troubleth men's hearts, and worketh such unquietness in all places, that no man that loveth quietness, can tell where to place himself. Men have eyes, and see not how grievous an offence it is to cast off the yoke of God's doctrine, and to bear the heavy burden that unfaithful hypocrites lay upon us. We have ears, and hear not the warning of God's word, calling us to true repentance, nor his threats against our impiety. Our most sweet table of Christ's word and most holy communion is taken away, and turned to a most perilous snare, through the brawling disputations of men. And as the idol of abomination betokened final subversion unto the Jewish nation; so we fear, this setting aside of the gospel and holy communion of Christ, and the placing in of a Romish religion, betokeneth desolation of this noble realm of England to be at hand.

            "For the plagues of hunger, pestilence, and sword, cannot long tarry; but except we repent, and turn again to the Lord, our backs shall be so bowed, that the like horrible plagues were never seen. And no marvel; for the like offence was never committed, as to reject and cast off Christ and his word, and in plain English to say, We will not have him to reign over us. O Lord, how terrible is it that followeth in the gospel! Those mine enemies that would not have me to reign over them, bring them hither, and slay them before me. God be merciful unto us, and move the queen's Majesty's heart, and the hearts of her honourable council, and your hearts, right honourable commissioners, to weigh these dangers in due time; and to call God's word into your council, and then you shall see how it agreeth with this bishoplike commandment; and to be as wary to avoid the contempt of the eternal God, and dangers of the same, as you are prudent and wise in matters of the world; lest, if the Almighty be contemned, he stretch forth his arm which no man can turn, and kindle his wrath, that no man can quench.

            "We have humbly opened unto you our consciences, doubtless sore wounded and grieved by this commandment; and we meekly pray and beseech the queen's Majesty, for the precious death and bloodshedding of Jesus Christ our Saviour, to have mercy and pity upon us her Grace's poor commons, faithful and true subjects, members of the same body politic, whereof her Grace is supreme head. All our bodies, goods, lands, and lives are ready to do her Grace faithful obedience and true service of all commandments that are not against God and his word; but in things that import a denial of Christ, and refusal of his word and holy communion, we cannot consent nor agree unto it. For we have bound ourselves in baptism to be Christ's disciples, and to keep his holy word and ordinances. And if we deny him before men, he will deny us before his heavenly Father and his holy angels in the day of judgment; which we trust her benign Grace will not require of us.

            "And we humbly beseech her Majesty, that we be not enforced unto it; but as we serve her Grace with body and goods, and due obedience, according to God's commandment; so we may be permitted freely to serve God and Christ our Saviour, and keep unto him our souls, which he hath with his precious blood redeemed, that so (as Christ teacheth) we may render to Caesar that which is due to Caesar, and to God that which is due to God.

            "For we think it no true obedience unto the queen's Highness, or to any other magistrate ordained of God under her, to obey in the things contrary to God's word, although the same be never so straitly charged in her Grace's name. The bishop of Winchester hath truly taught in that point, in his book of True Obedience, that true obedience is in the Lord, and not against the Lord; as the apostles answered before the council at Jerusalem, commanding them no more to preach in the name of the Lord Jesus; 'Judge you,' said they, 'whether it be right in the sight of God, to hear you rather than God.' And again they said, 'We must obey God rather than man.' Wherefore we learn, that true obedience is to obey God, King of all kings, and Lord of all lords; and for him, in him, and not against him and his word, to obey the princes and magistrates of this world, who are not truly obeyed when God is disobeyed, nor yet disobeyed when God is faithfully obeyed.

            "Tobias disobeyed not his king, although, contrary to his commandment, and contrary to the usage of all other, when they went to Dan and Bethel, he went unto Jerusalem, and worshipped in the temple of the Lord. The three young men in Babylon, refusing king Nebuchadnezzar's commandment, pleased God more than the whole multitude that obeyed. And Daniel, that prayed to the God of heaven, contrary to king Darius's commandment, bare a more true and faithful heart to the king, than those wicked counsellors that procured that wicked law, or those that for fear or flattery obeyed it; which two pestilences, fear and flattery, have ever destroyed true obedience to God and man; when wicked godless men (that care not if the devil were worshipped, so they might get and obtain riches, promotions, and dignity, and worldly glory) turn to and fro, as every wind bloweth; and weak and frail men, fearing loss of goods, punishment, or death, do outwardly in body that thing, that their hearts and consciences inwardly abhor, and so outwardly disobey God, and in heart dissemble with man, which dissimulation we think worthy hate of all men, and most uncomely for Christian men.

            "Wherefore, we humbly beseech the queen's Majesty with pity and mercy to tender the lamentable suit of us her poor subjects, which be by this commandment sore hurt and wounded in our consciences, and driven to many miseries; and by the malicious attempts of wicked men suffer great wrongs and injuries, slanders, loss of goods, and bodily vexations. We think not good, by any unlawful stir or commotion to seek remedy; but intend, by God's grace, to obey her Majesty in all things -- not against God and his holy word; but unto such ungodly bishoplike commandments, as are against God, we answer with the apostles, God must be obeyed rather than man. If persecution shall ensue, (which some threaten us with,) we desire the heavenly Father, according to his promise, to look from heaven; to hear our cry; to judge between us and our adversaries; and to give us faith, strength, and patience to continue faithful unto the end, and to shorten these evil days, for his chosen's sake; and so we faithfully believe be will.

            "Notwithstanding, we trust the queen's gracious and merciful heart will not suffer such tyranny to be done against her poor, innocent, faithful, and obedient subjects, that daily pray unto God for her; which have no remedy in this world, but to sue unto her Highness, our most gracious and benign sovereign whom we pray and beseech, for the dear blood of Christ, to pity our lamentable case and hurt of conscience, and to call back all such commandments as are against God's honour, as the good king Darius, Ahasuerus, Trajan, and Theodosius, and divers other have done, and permit the holy word of God and true religion (set forth by our most holy and innocent King Edward, a very saint of God) to be restored again unto our churches, to be frequented amongst us. So shall we grow and increase in the knowledge of God and of Christ, in true repentance and amendment of life; so shall we exhibit true obedience to our lawful magistrates and all superiors ordained of God; so shall love and charity (of late through this commandment so decayed) be again restored, the honour of her regal estate the more confirmed and established, and godliness and virtuous life among her loving subjects increased and maintained.

            "And we most heartily pray you, right honourable commissioners, to be means unto the queen's Highness, and to her honourable council, that this our humble suit may be favourably tendered, and graciously heard and granted. And we shall not cease day and night to pray unto the heavenly Father long to preserve her Grace and all other magistrates in his fear and love, and in prosperous peace and wealth, with long life and honour. Amen.

            "Your poor suppliants, the lovers of Christ's true religion in Norfolk and Suffolk."

 

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