347. THE DEATH OF JOHN CARELESS, IN THE KING'S BENCH.
Illustration -- John Careless Dying in Prison
About this time, the first day of July, amongst divers other prisoners which died the same year in the King's Bench, was also one John Careless, of Coventry, a weaver: who though he were by the secret judgment of Almighty God prevented by death, so that he came not to the full martyrdom of his body, yet is he no less worthy to be counted in honour and place of Christ's martyrs, than others that suffered most cruel torments, as well for that he was for the same truth's sake a long time imprisoned, as also for his willing mind and zealous affection he had thereunto, if the Lord had so determined it, as well may appear by his examination had before Dr. Martin:--
"When I came into his chamber, Master D. called me to him, saying, "Come you hither, sirrah; what is your name?" "Forsooth," quoth I, "my name is John Careless."
Dr. Martin.--"Careless! by my faith I think the same; and so I ween it will appear by thy conditions, by that time we have done with thee."
Careless.--"Though my name be Careless, yet perchance you shall not find me so careless in my conditions, as your Mastership doth pre-suppose."
Martin.--"No! that I shall prove anon. I pray thee of what church art thou, or of what faith? for I hear say that you have divers churches and faith in the King's Bench; and here I have two of your faiths which you sent to Newgate. Come hither; look upon them; and I pray thee tell me which is thy faith; for the one of them is thine, and thine own hand-writing."
With that I came near him, saying, "If your Mastership have any thing of my hand-writing, show it me, and I will not deny it."
Martin.--"Nay marry, thou canst not deny it. Lo! here is thy own name at it." And so he began to read it, but suddenly he stayed, saying, "How sayest thou to it? Canst thou deny that this is thy faith, fact, and deed, and this is thine own hand?"
Careless.--"If it please your Mastership, it is not of my hand-writing, but the tenor of it was of my first drawing indeed, howsoever you came by it; and it is the very truth in all points, as I am able to prove by the word of God. And if your Mastership, or any other, can reprove any thing in it by the same, I shall he glad to be reformed; for I will maintain nothing further than I have the word of God for my warrant."
Martin.--"Yea, so you will say all the sort of you, and yet ye be of divers faiths. But whose hand is this, if it be not thine? Here is thy name, but methinks it is blotted out."
Careless.--"I do not know in whose handwriting it is, but well I wot the thing itself is my fact and deed, though my name be blotted forth, for what purpose I cannot tell."
Then he turned the other side of the paper, where Henry Hart had wickedly written against my true articles, whose hand and name I knew as soon as I had seen it; for indeed my good brother Tyms had sent me a copy of the same before. Then he said, "Lo! here is another of thy fellows' faith, clean contrary to thine; whose faith is this? Dost thou know this hand?"
Careless.--"No, forsooth, I do not know whose faith, nor yet whose hand it is, neither will I make me any thing to do with other men's faiths. I stand here to make answer to your Mastership for mine own; and if any man have wrote against the same, I would I might come to talk with him face to face, to see how he were able to prove his party good."
Martin.--"Prove! a wise proof that you would make. You will prove yourselves a sort of fools before you have all done." And many other mocks and taunts he gave me all the time of our talk, the which I will leave out for brevity's sake. Then he said, "Dost thou not know one Henry Hart, or hast thou not heard of him?"
Careless.--"No forsooth; I do not know any such, nor have I heard of him, that I wot of."
But yet I lied falsely; for I knew him indeed, and his qualities too well. And I have heard so much of him, that I dare say it had been good for that man if he had never been born: for many a simple soul hath he shamefully seduced, beguiled, and deceived with his foul Pelagian opinion, both in the days of that good King Edward and since his departure, and with other things which I will forbear to name for divers considerations. But I would wish all men that be godly-wise, to beware of that man, whose opinions in many points are very noisome and wicked: God convert him, or confound him shortly, for his name's sake, Amen.
Martin.--"No have, forsooth; and it is even he that hath written against thy faith. Lot here is his name at his faith." And then he read Hart's most blasphemous articles against those which I had written and sent to Newgate, whereunto all those twelve godly men that were last condemned had set to their hands, whom Hart, Kemp, and M. Gypson, would have persuaded from the same again: but, thanks be unto God, the serpent prevailed not.
Then Martin said, "Host thou not know one Master Chamberlain?"
Careless.--"No forsooth; I know him not."
Martin.--"No dost! and he hath written a book against thy faith also."
Careless.--"Well, as for that I know not, neither pass I what they write. I stand here to make answer to that which I have written myself: and as for this writing of Hart's, I think your Mastership will not allow it for good yourself."
Martin.--"No indeed, he is a rank heretic as any can be, and so art thou; but yet I note this, to see how you are one against the other, and both against the catholic church." And upon this he dilated his tale to the marshal with great triumphing, the which grieved my poor heart not a little: therefore I said, "Alas, Master Doctor! why do you so triumph against me, which am of the true church, and have the truth on my side, as by these articles which you have of mine it doth plainly appear, and though the Arians, Anabaptists, or any other kind of heretic, as you confess those to be, do write against the truth which I hold, doth it therefore follow that I am a heretic as they be? No, I trow not; but it is rather a plain demonstration that I am a true Christian, in that these heretics do so contend against [me]; and, if I did intend to be singular, it is like that I would soon be of their sect."
Martin.--"Sect, quotha! In good faith you are heretics, sectaries, and schismatics, all the sort of you."
Careless.--"Sir, that shall you never prove; for I abhor all heretics, sectaries, and schismatics, from the bottom of my heart. I am of the true catholic church of Christ, and a quiet member of the same, and I so intend to continue."
Martin.--"Yea, so you say, all the sort of you, and yet you be of divers faiths. But I pray thee, where canst thou point me out the church that thou art a member of; canst thou tell me where that church is?"
Careless.--"Yea, forsooth, that I can, I praise God for it; and it was here also in England in the days of good King Edward, though it be now so persecuted of such as think they do God good service thereby."
Martin.--"Yea, marry, as you say, that was your church, and therefore you have made it one of the articles of your faith of the second book, see you, Master Marshal; for they had two books of Common Prayer: but this man saith the second book was in all points agreeable to God's word, that was then used."
Careless.--"Yea, forsooth, I say so indeed."
Martin.--"But, I pray thee, how sayest thou now? Thy second book is also in divers points condemned of heresy at Frankfort, among the brethren there: which book will you allow you
Careless.--"I am sure that it is not there in any point condemned of heresy, unless it be of the Anabaptists, as it is here. And I do not think but there be some as well there as in England; and it is like enough that such do find fault with it."
Martin.--"Nay, even of Master Cox himself, and others that were preachers in King Edward's time; they have disproved your second book in divers points, and you have now made a third book. How say you, which of these three books will you allow now?
Careless.--"Forsooth, I say still as I have written, that the second book is good and godly, and in all points agreeing to the word of God. And I am sure that neither Master Cox, nor any other of our godly preachers that be fled unto Frankfort, have condemned that book in any point as repugnant to the word of God, though perchance they have altered something therein, according to the usage of that country where they now are. And I have not denied in my article but the church of Christ hath authority to enlarge or diminish any thing in the same good book, so far forth as is agreeable to the Scriptures."
Martin.--"But what authority have you, or how durst you be so bold, to make an article of the faith concerning that book to be believed of all men under pain of damnation?"
Careless.--"Ah, Master Doctor, have I bound any man to believe that article under pain of damnation, as you do charge me? I am sure there is no such word in all my articles. I have there written what I do hold and believe myself, as I am bound to do in conscience. And now I will add thus much more, that the same book, which is so consonant and agreeable to God's word, being set forth by common authority both of the king's Majesty that dead is and the whole parliament-house, ought not to be despised of me, or of any other private man, under pain of God's curse and high displeasure, and damnation, except they repent."
Martin.--"Well, let it pass. I pray thee tell me what is the cause of so much contention between you that lie in the King's Bench for religion?"
Careless.--"Forsooth there is no contention amongst us, that I know of."
Martin.--"What! wilt thou lie to me? Is there not great contention between thee and one Trew that was here with me erewhile? Yes, that there is; and I can tell thee by what token well enough. I hear say one of your matters is about predestination. How dost thou believe about predestination?"
Careless.--"According to the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures, and none otherwise."
Martin.--"How is that? Trew told me that thou dost affirm that God hath predestinated some to salvation that cannot be damned, live they never so wickedly, and some to damnation that cannot be saved, live they never so godly, well, and virtuously."
Careless.--"This is not the first lie that he hath made on me, (God forgive him!) but indeed I do not, nor ever did so affirm. For I am sure that such as God hath elected he doth guide and govern by his grace and Holy Spirit, in such sort, that they do love his laws, and always seek to do his will; and full sorry are they when they do speak or think any thing contrary to the same."
Martin.--"Well then, none that be elected shall be damned, you say?"
Careless.--"Sir, I did not say so yet. But now I put your Mastership out of doubt that I say it, and verily believe it, because the Holy Scriptures do plainly affirm it."
.Martin.--"What! that all shall be saved by election, and none be damned?"
Careless.--"No, sir, I speak of God's elect children only, according to your Mastership's former question."
Martin.--"Well then, the rest must needs be damned: there is no remedy."
Careless.--"I say with St. Paul, I have nothing to do with them that are without. I will leave them to God, whose judgments are just. My whole desire is to feel the depth of God's mercy towards his elect; of which blessed number my sure belief is, that I am one, though of myself I am most unworthy so to be."
Martin.--"What other things do you contend for in the King's Bench? I pray thee, Careless, tell me the truth."
Careless.--"Surely we have no contention there, nor ever had but for this matter of predestination; and that is ended between us, many a day agone." This I spake to make the best of the matter; for I was sorry that the papists should hear of our variance.
Martin.--"What! will you lie indeed? I know there are a great many of other matters between you. Tell me the truth, I pray thee; for I promise thee I do ask thee for no hurt, but to do you good: for I think you will be burned all the sort of you. But yet I would send some man to you, to reform you of some of your errors."
Careless.--"If you send any man to me, he shall be welcome, but I trust he shall not find me a maintainer of any errors, neither can your Mastership prove any of these articles that I have written to be heresy; if you can, I pray you do here, before Master Marshal."
Martin.--"But what if I should examine you of the sacrament, and other things: should I not find thee a heretic? Yes, I trove I should; but I have no commission to examine you of any such things, but I am commanded by the council to know of thee what opinions are amongst you in the King's Bench, for the which you do strive amongst yourselves; therefore look that you tell me."
Careless.--"Surely, Master Doctor, I do know no man's conscience but my own; neither will I meddle with other men's matters. Your Mastership may send for them that be there, or send somebody to them, and so you may know every man's faith and opinions."
Martin.--"Yea, but I command thee to tell me; for thou canst do it well enough."
Careless.--"Your Mastership shall pardon me herein; for I will recite no man's faith or opinions but mine own; neither can I, if I would."
Martin.--"Lo! what a stubborn fellow is this. Dost thou pass so little upon the council's commandment? I promise thee that they shall know it, and be thou sure that thou shalt fare the worse for it."
Careless.--"'Why, Master Doctor, would your Mastership have me to become any other man's accuser? That will I never do whilst I live, whatsoever come of it! I have more need to answer such accusations as shall be brought against myself. Therefore I pray yon do not will me to tangle myself with other men's matters."
Martin.--"Why, thou canst not deny but there is contention amongst you, and wilt not thou declare wherefore it is? What a fellow art thou! "
Careless.--"Indeed I do not deny but there hath been some earnest reasoning amongst us, but not a great while; for Master Marshal hath shut us asunder for the same as much as he can, so that we can neither come nor speak together."
Then Martin said to his clerk, Write that he saith, he doth not deny but that there is contention amongst them in the King's Bench; but he will not tell wherefore it is. But first write, that he doth confess the articles which were sent to Newgate, to be of his drawing forth first, but not of his hand-writing. "To whom didst thou send it in Newgate?"
Careless.--"Forsooth to my bed-fellow Tyms, that was burned yesterday."
Martin. -- "Tyms! who is that? I know him not."
Scribe.--"It was one of the six that were burned yesterday."
Martin.--"Ah, very well. Was he thy bedfellow? Where was he thy bedfellow?"
Careless.--"Forsooth he was one of my fellow prisoners in the King's Bench."
Martin.--"Hast thou any more copies of these articles?"
Martin.--"Write that he saith he sent his articles to his bed-fellow Tyms, that was burned yes.. terday, and that he hath no more copies of them." So that was written.
Careless.--"Nay, you should have written him my couch-fellow, for we lay in no bed almost these three years, but upon a poor couch of straw." This I said for a good consideration; though indeed it was otherwise--God be praised for his providence!
Martin.--"Well, write him his couch-fellow; for I think they will couch together one day. I am sure thou dost intend to be burned as he was. How sayest thou? dost thou not?"
Careless.--"I hold nothing worthy of death, neither have I done any thing wherefore I should be burned. Therefore I trust neither your Mastership, nor the queen's Majesty's council, will be guilty of mine innocent blood. But if there be no remedy for the truth, but I must be fain to do as other good men have done before me, the Lord's will be fulfilled! And verily, to say the truth, it were better to be burned out of hand, than for to lie two years longer in a miserable prison, as we have done." And this I set forth with many words for the nonce.
Martin.--"Why, wouldst thou so fain be burned? hast thou no wife and children?"
Careless.--"Yes, forsooth, that I have; and such as I love full well, and would full fain live with them to see them brought up in the fear of God, so that I might keep a safe conscience; neither would I have your Mastership think that I am weary of my life, though I have lain long in prison, but would yet rather choose to lie two years more there, than be burned so cruelly as my brethren be. And though I have now spent up all that I had of mine own to find me, yet I dare say mine honest neighbours would gladly bear a pain with me, to keep me in prison, rather than I should perish. For I praise God I have the love of them, although they favour not my religion all of them."
Martin.--"Where dost thou dwell?"
Careless.--"Forsooth in Coventry."
Martin.--"At Coventry? what so far, man? How tamest thou hither? Who sent thee to the King's Bench to prison?"
Careless.--"I was brought thither by a writ, I trow; what it was I cannot tell. I think Master Marshal can tell you."
Marshal.--"In good faith I cannot tell what the matter is; but indeed my Lord Chief Justice sent him from the bar."
Martin.--"Well Careless, I would thou shouldst play the wise man's part. Thou art a handsome man, and it is pity but thou shouldst do well, and save that which God hath bought."
Careless.--"I thank your good Mastership most heartily: and I put you out of doubt, that I am most sure Ind certain of my salvation by Jesus Christ, so that my soul is safe already, whatsoever pains my body suffer here for a little time."
Martin.--"Yea marry, you say truth; for thou art so predestinate to life, that thou canst not perish, in whatsoever opinion thou dost die."
Careless.--"That God hath predestinated me to eternal life in Jesus Christ, I am most certain; and even so am I sure that his Holy Spirit (wherewith I am sealed) will so preserve me from all heresies and evil opinions, that I shall die in none at all."
Martin.--"Go to, let me hear your faith in predestination. For that shall be written also."
Careless.--"Your Mastership shall pardon me herein: for you said yourself erewhile, that you had no commission to examine my conscience. I will trouble myself with answering no more matters than I needs must, until I come before them that shall have more authority further to examine me."
Martin.--"I tell thee then I have commission, yea, and commandment from the council, to examine thee, for they delivered me thy articles."
Careless.--"Yea, I think indeed that your Mastership is appointed to examine me of my articles, which you have there in writing, and I have told you the truth. I do confess them to be mine own fact and deed: but you do now examine me of predestination, whereof my articles speak nothing at all."
Martin.--"I tell thee yet again, that I must also examine thee of such things as be in controversy between thee and thy fellows in the King's Bench, whereof predestination is a part, as thy fellow Trew hath confessed, and thyself dost not deny it."
Careless.--"I do not deny it. But he that first told you that matter, might have found himself much better occupied."
Martin.--"Why? what if he had not told me? thinkest that I would not have known it? Yes, or else thou shouldst have withstood my commission. For I tell thee truth, I may now examine thee of the blessed sacrament, or any other thing that I list, but that I would show thee favour, and not be too hasty with thee at the first."
Marshal.--"Yea indeed, Careless, Master Doctor hath commission to examine you, or any other of your fellows."
Martin.--"Yea marry have I, I tell thee the truth of it."
Careless.--"Then let your scribe set his pen to the paper, and you shall have it roundly, even as the truth is. I believe that Almighty God, our most dear loving Father, of his great mercy and infinite goodness, did elect in Christ."
Martin.--"Tush, what need all that long circumstance? Write, I believe God elected, and make no more ado."
Careless.--"No, not so, Master Doctor. It is a high mystery, and ought reverently to be spoken of. And if my words may not be written as I do utter them, I will not speak at all."
Martin.--"Go to, go to, write what he will. Here is more business than needeth."
Careless.--"I believe that Almighty God, our most dear loving Father, of his great mercy and infinite goodness (through Jesus Christ) did elect and appoint in him before the foundation of the earth was laid, a church or congregation, which he doth continually guide and govern by his grace and Holy Spirit, so that not one of them shall ever finally perish."
When this was written, Master Doctor took it in his hand, and read it, saying, "Why, who will deny this?"
Careless.--"If your Mastership do allow it, and other learned men when they shall see it, I have my heart's desire."
Martin.--"And do you hold none otherwise than is there written?"
Careless.--"No verily, nor ever did."
Martin.--"Write what he saith: otherwise he holdeth not." So that was written. "It was told me also that thou dost affirm, that Christ did not die effectually for all men."
Careless.--"Whatsoever hath been told you, it is not much material unto me: let the tellers of such tales come before my face, and I trust to make them answer. For indeed I do believe that Christ did effectually die for all those that do effectually repent and believe, and for no other." So that was written also.
Martin.--"Now sir, what is Trew's faith of predestination? He believeth that all men be predestinate, and that none shall be damned. Doth he not?
Careless.--"No forsooth, that he doth not."
Careless.--"Truly I think he doth believe as your Mastership and the rest of the clergy do believe of predestination, that we be elected in respect of our good works, and so long elected as we do them, and no longer."
Martin.--"Write that he saith, that his fellow Trew believeth of predestination, as the papists do believe."
Careless.--"Ah, Master Doctor! did I so term you? Seeing that this my confession shall come before the council, I pray you place my terms as reverently as I speak them."
Martin.--"Well, well, write that Trew is of the same faith as the catholics be."
Careless.--"I did not so call you neither; I wonder what you mean?"
Marshal.-"You said, the clergy, did you not, Careless?"
Careless.--"Yes, forsooth, did I." So then it was written of the clergy.
Martin.--"Now, sir, what say you more?"
Careless.--"Forsooth I have no further to say in this matter."
Martin.--"What, have you any other matter? How say you to the two brethren that are in the King's Bench which deny the Divinity of Christ? How say you to their opinion?"
Careless.--"O Lord! I. perceive your Mastership knoweth that which of all other things I wish to have been kept from you: verily he was to blame that told you of that. Truly, sir, these be two simple poor men, for whom I am sorry at my very heart. They did indeed deny the Divinity of Jesus Christ; but whether they do so still or no I cannot say; for I spake with neither of them this quarter of a year and more, as Master Marshal can tell, who keepeth me as a close prisoner from them and all the rest, except it be sometimes at a chink of the door. But as for their opinion, if they do hold it still, I do most heartily detest and abhor it."
Martin.--"Write that he saith, he doth detest the opinion of the two brethren against the Divinity of Christ."
Careless.--"As for the two brethren, I know not whether they hold it still or no: they may be converted since I saw them, and I trust they he. But that I do abhor that opinion it appeareth plainly in my first and second articles, as your Mastership may perceive."
Martin.--"It is truth: but how art thou able to prove it, if thou wert put to it? Truly, not by the Scripture, but by the general councils."
Careless.--"If I were not able to prove the same most evidently by the Holy Scriptures, I would not believe it though all the general councils in the world had determined it; and yet I bear as much reverence to the determinations of the general councils as any poor man can do in the world, so that the same be agreeable to the word of God, as I am sure the article of Christ's Divinity is, as I will prove before you by and by, if it please you to hear me."
Martin.--"Well, it shall not need now. I pray thee prove thyself a wise man, and do not cast away thy life wilfully."
Careless.--"Now the Lord he knoweth, good Master Doctor, I would full gladly live, so that I might do the same with a safe conscience. And your Mastership shall right well perceive that I will be no wilful man, but in all things that I stand upon, I will have sure ground."
Martin.--"Now the Lord knoweth, good Careless, that I would gladly make some means to preserve thy life. But thou speakest so much of the Lord, the Lord -- wilt thou be content to go with my Lord Fitzwalter into Ireland? methinks thou art a goodly tall fellow to do the queen service there. How sayest thou?"
Careless.--"Verily Master Doctor, whether I be in Ireland, France, or Spain, or any place else, I am ready to do her Grace the best service that I can, with body, goods, and life, so long as it doth last."
Martin.--"That is honestly said, I promise thee; every man will not say so. How say you, Master Marshal? This man is meet for all manner of service. Indeed thou art worthy, Careless, to have the more favour."
Careless.--"Indeed sir, I hope to be meet and ready unto all things that pertain unto a true Christian subject to do. And if her Grace or her officers under her do require me to do any thing contrary to Christ's religion, I am ready also to do my service in Smithfield for not observing it, as my bedfellow and other brethren have done, praised be God for them."
Martin.--"By my troth thou art a pleasant fellow as ever I talked with of all the protestants, except it were Tomson. I am sorry that I must depart with thee so soon; but I have such business now, that I can tarry with thee no longer. Well, yet thou canst not deny, but you are at jar amongst yourselves in the King's Bench, and it is so throughout all your congregation: for you will not be a church."
Careless.--"No, Master Doctor, that is not so. There is a thousand times more variety in opinions among your doctors, which you call of the catholic church, yea, and that in the sacrament, for the which there is so much blood shed now-a-days -- I mean of your latter doctors and new writers; as for the old, they agree wholly with us."
Martin.--"No, Careless, this is not so; there thou art deceived."
Careless.--"Verily it is so, Master Doctor; I am not deceived therein any thing at all, as it hath been and is evidently proved by such as God hath indued with great learning." Then he turned to the marshal, and whispered with him a while.
Turning unto me again, Martin said, "Farewell, Careless; for I can tarry no longer with thee now, my business is such."
Careless.--"God be with you, good Master Doctor; the Lord give your Mastership health of body and soul."
Martin.--"God have mercy, good Careless, and God keep thee from all errors, and give thee grace to do as well as I would wish myself."
Careless.--"I thank your good Mastership; I pray God I may do always that is acceptable in his sight." Whereunto they all said, "Amen." And so I departed with a glad heart; God only have the whole praise. Amen.
It appeareth by the examination of the foresaid John Careless, that he endured prisoner the space of two whole years, having wife and children: in the which his captivity, first being in Coventry jail, he was there in such credit with his keeper, that upon his word he was let out to play in the pageant about the city with his companions. And that done, keeping touch with his keeper, he returned again into prison at his hour appointed. And after that, being brought up to London, he was indued with such patience and constant fortitude, that he longed for nothing more earnestly than to come to that promotion to die in the fire for the profession of his faith: and yet it so pleased the Lord to prevent him with death that he came not to it, but died in the prison, and afterwards was buried in the fields, in a dunghill.
N the mean time, while he was in prison in the King's Bench, it chanced he was in great heaviness and perturbation of mind and conscience, whereupon he wrote to Master Philpot, being then in the coal-house. Upon the occasion hereof Master Philpot sent an epistle consolatory unto him, specified before among Master Philpot's letters. Unto the which epistle John Careless maketh answer again as followeth.
"A faithful friend is a strong defence; whoso findeth such a one, findeth a treasure.
"A faithful friend hath no peer; the weight of gold and silver is not to be compared to the goodness of his faith.
"A faithful friend is a medicine of life, and they that fear the Lord shall find him.
"The Father of mercy and God of all consolation comfort you with his eternal Spirit, my most dear and faithful-loving friend, good Master Philpot, as you have comforted me by the mighty operation of the same; the everlasting God be praised therefor for ever. Amen.
"Ah, my dear heart and most loving brother! if I should do nothing else day and night so long as the days of heaven do endure, but kneel on my knees, and read psalms, I can never be able to render unto God condign thanks, for his great mercy, fatherly kindness, and most loving compassion extended unto me, most vile, sinful, wicked, and unworthy wretch. O that the Lord would open my mouth and give me a thankful heart, that from the bottom of the same might flow his continual praise. O that my sinful flesh (which is the cause of sorrow) were clean separated from me, that I might sing psalms of thanksgivings unto the Lord's name for ever; that with good Samuel's mother I might continually record this noble verse following, the which by good experience I have found most true, praised be my good God there-for. 'The Lord,' saith that good woman, 'killeth and maketh alive; he bringeth down to hell, and fetcheth up again.' Praised be the Lord for ever, yea, and praised be his name for that he hath given me true experience and lively feeling of the same. Blessed be the Lord God, whose mercy endureth for ever, which hath not dealt with me according to my deep deserts, nos destroyed me in his displeasure when I had justly deserved it. O what reward shall I give again unto the Lord for all the great benefits that he hath done for my soul! I will gladly receive the cup of salvation at his hand, and will worship his name with prayer and with praise.
"Ah, my dear heart! yea, most dear unto me in the Lord, think not this sudden change in me to be some fickle phantasy of my foolish head, (as indeed some others would surely suspect it to be,) for doubtless it is the marvellous doing of the Lord, most merciful unto me, his unworthy creature. God for his great mercies' sake give me grace to be more thankful unto him than I heretofore have been, and keep me that I never fall forth of his favour again.
"And now, my dear brother and most blessed messenger of the Lord, whose beautiful feet have brought much glad tidings to my soul, what shall I do or say unto you, in the least part to recompense the fatherly affection and godly care that you continually keep for me? O that God would give me the spirit of fervent prayer, that I might yet that way supply some little part of my duty toward you. Ah, my true loving friend! how soon did you lay aside all other business, to make a sweet plaster for my wounded conscience, yea, and that out of a painful pair of stocks, which place must needs be uneasy to write in! But God hath brought you into a strait place, that you might set my soul at liberty. Out of your pinching and painful seat, you have plentifully poured upon me your precious nard, the sweet savour whereof hath greatly refreshed my tried soul. The Lord likewise refresh you, both body and soul, by pouring the oil of his gracious Spirit into your sweet heart.
"Ah, good Jeremy! hath Pashur put thee into the stocks? Why, now thou hast the right reward of a prophet. Thy glory never began to appear until now. I doubt not but shortly, instead of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Jesus the Son of the living God will come and deliver thee forth of the hands of all thine enemies, and will also make good against them and their antichristian synagogue, all the words that thou hast spoken in his name. The Lord hath made thee here, this day, a strong defenced tower, an iron pillar, and a brazen wall against the whole rabble of antichrist; and though they fight against thee never so fiercely, yet shall they not overcome thee, for the Lord himself is with thee, to help and deliver thee; and he will rid thee out of the hands of the wicked, and will deliver thee out of the hands of the tyrants. And in that you are not busy in casting pearls before swine, nor in giving the holy things unto dogs, you are much to be commended, in my simple judgment. And sure I am, that your circumspect and modest behaviour hitherto hath been as much to God's glory, and to the shame and confusion of your enemies, as any men's doings that are gone before you. Wherefore mine advice and most earnest desire is, with all other of your loving friends, that you still.keep that order with those bloodthirsty bite-sheeps (bishops, I should say) that you have begun. For though in conclusion they will surely have your blood, yet shall they come by it with shame enough, and to their perpetual infamy while the world doth endure. They would indeed condemn you in hugger-mugger, to darken God's glory, if it might be; but Satan's thoughts are not unknown to you, and the depth of his subtlety is by you well foreseen. Therefore let them do whatsoever God shall suffer them to do: for I know all things shall turn to your best. Though you lie in the dark, slorried with the bishops' black coal-dust, yet shall you be shortly restored unto the heavenly light, and made as white as snow in Salmon, and as the wings of a dove that is covered with silver wings, and her feathers like gold. You know the vessel, before it be made bright, is soiled with oil, and other things, that it may scour the better.
"O how happy be you that you be now in the scouring house for shortly you shall be set upon the celestial shelf as bright as angels. Therefore, my dear heart, I will now, according to your loving request, cast away all care, and rejoice with you, and praise God for you, and pray for you day and night; yea, I will now with God's grace sing psalms of praise and thanksgiving with you. For now my soul is turned to her old rest again, and hath taken a sweet nap in Christ's lap. I have cast my care upon the Lord, which careth for me, and will be careless, according to my name, in that respect you would have me. I will leave out my unseemly addition as long as I live: for it can take no place where true faith and hope is resident. So soon as I had read your most godly and comfortable letter, my sorrows vanished away as smoke in the wind; my spirit revived, and comfort came again, whereby I am sure the Spirit of God was author of it.
"O my good Master Philpot, which art a principal pot indeed, filled with most precious liquor, as it appeareth by the plenteous pouring forth of the same -- O pot most happy, of thy high Potter ordained to honour, which dost contain such heavenly treasure in thy earthen vessel; O pot thrice happy, in whom Christ hath wrought a great miracle, altering thy nature, and turning water into wine, and that of the best, whereout the Master of the feast hath filled my cup so full, that I am become drunken in the joy of the Spirit through the same. When martyrdom shall break thee, O vessel of honour, I know the fragrant savour of thy precious nard will much rejoice the heavy hearts of Christ's true members, although the Judases will grudge and murmur at the same; yea, and burst out into words of slander, saying, 'It is but lost and waste.'
"Be not offended, dear heart, at my metaphorical speech; for I am disposed to be merry, and with David to dance before the ark of the Lord: and though you play upon a pair of organs not very comely or easy to the flesh, yet the sweet sound that came from the same, causeth me thus to do. O that I were with you in body, as present I am in spirit, that I might sing all care away in Christ: for now the time of comfort is come. I hope to be with you shortly, if all things happen right. For my old friends of Coventry have put the council in remembrance of me not six days ago, saying, that I am more worthy to be burned than any that was burned yet. God's blessing on their hearts for their good report! God make me worthy of that dignity, and hasten the time, that I might set forth his glory!
"Pray for me, dear heart, I beseech you, and will all your company to do the same; and I will pray God for you all, so long as I live. And now farewell in Christ, thou blessed of God's own mouth. I will for a time take my leave, but not my last farewell. Blessed be the time that ever I came into the King's Bench, to be joined in love and fellowship with such dear children of the Lord. My good brother Bradford shall not be dead whiles you be alive: for verily the spirit of him doth rest on you in most ample wise. Your letters of comfort unto me in each point do agree, as though the one were a copy of the other. He hath planted in me, and you do water; the Lord give good increase! My dear brethren and fellow prisoners here, have them humbly and heartily commended unto you and your company, mourning for your misery, but yet rejoicing for your plenteous consolation and comfort in Christ. We are all cheerful and merry under our cross, and do lack no necessaries, praised be God for his providence and great mercy towards us for evermore, Amen."
To his wife.
"As by the great mercy of God, at the time of his good-will and providence appointed, my dearly beloved wife, you and I were joined together in the holy and Christian state of godly matrimony, as well to our great joy and comfort in Christ, as also to the increase of his blessed church and faithful congregation, by having lawful children by and in the same, with the which God of his mercy hath blessed us, praised be his name there-for: even so now, by his merciful will and divine ordinance, the time is come, (so far as I can perceive,) wherein he will, for his glory and our eternal comfort, dissolve the same, and separate us asunder again for a time. Wherefore I thought it good, yea, and my bounden duty, by this simple letter to provoke, stir, and admonish you, to behave yourself in all your doings, sayings, and thoughts, most thankfully unto our good God for the same. And therefore, my dear wife, as you have heartily rejoiced in the Lord, and oftentimes given God thanks for his goodness in bringing us together in his holy ordinance: even so now I desire you, when this time of our separation shall come, to rejoice with me in the Lord, and to give him most hearty thanks, that he hath (to his glory and our endless commodity) separated us again for a little time, and hath mercifully taken me unto himself, forth of this miserable world, into his celestial kingdom; believing and hoping also assuredly, that God of his goodness, for his Son Christ's sake, will shortly bring you and your dear children thither to me, that we may most joyfully together sing praises unto his glorious name for ever. And yet once again I desire you for the love of God, and as ever you loved me, to rejoice with me, and to give God continual thanks for doing his most merciful will upon me.
"I hear say that you do oftentimes use to repeat this godly saying, 'The Lord's will be fulfilled.' Doubtless it rejoiceth my poor heart to hear that report of you; and, for the Lord's sake, use that godly prayer continually, and teach your children and family to say the same day and night: and not only say it with your tongues, but also with your heart and mind, and joyfully submit your will to God's will in very deed, knowing and believing assuredly, that nothing shall come to you or any of yours otherwise than it shall be his almighty and fatherly good-will and pleasure, and for your eternal comfort and commodity. Which thing to be most true and certain, Christ testifieth in his holy gospel, saying, Are not two little sparrows sold for a farthing, and yet not one of them shall perish without the will of our heavenly Father? and he concludeth saying, Fear not ye therefore, for ye are better than many sparrows. As though he should have said, If God have such respect and care for a poor sparrow, which is not worth one farthing, that it shall not be taken in the lime-twig, net, nor pitfall, until it be his good will and pleasure; you may be well assured, that not one of you (whom he so dearly loveth, that he hath given his only dear Son for you) shall perish, or depart forth of this miserable life without his almighty good-will and pleasure.
"Therefore, dear wife, put your trust and confidence wholly and only in him, and ever pray that his will be fulfilled, and not yours, except it be agreeing to his will; the which I pray God it may ever be, Amen. And as for worldly things, take you no care, but be you well assured the Lord, your dear God and Father, will not see you nor yours lack, if you continue in his love and childly fear, and keep a clear conscience from all kind of idolatry, superstition, and wickedness, as my trust is that you will do, although it be with the loss and danger of this temporal life. And, good Margaret, fear not them that can but kill the body, (and yet can they not do that until God give them leave,) but fear to displease him that can kill both body and soul, and cast them into hell-fire. Let not the remembrance of your children keep you from God. The Lord himself will be a father and a mother, better than ever you or I could have been unto them. He himself will do all things necessary for them; yea, as much as rock the cradle, if need be. He hath given his holy angels charge over them, therefore commit them unto him. But if you may live with a clear conscience, (for else I would not have you to live,) and see the bringing up of your children yourself, look that you nurture them in the fear of God, and keep them far from idolatry, superstition, and all other kind of wickedness. And for God's sake help them to some learning, if it be possible, that they may increase in virtue and godly knowledge, which shall be a better dowry to marry them withal, than any worldly substance. And when they be come to age, provide them such husbands as fear God, and love his holy word. I charge you take heed that you match them with no papists; and if you live and marry again yourself, (which thing I would wish you to do, if need require, or else not,) good wife, take heed how you bestow yourself, that you and my poor children be not compelled to wickedness. But if you shall be able well to live God's true widow, I would counsel you so to live still, for the more quietness of yourself and your poor children. Take heed, Margaret, and play the wise woman's part. You have warning by others, if you will take an example. And thus I commit you and my sweet children unto God's most merciful defence. The blessing of God be with you, and God send us a merry meeting together in heaven. Farewell in Christ, farewell mine own dear hearts all. Pray, pray.
To my good brother, Master John Bradford.
"The peace of God in Jesus Christ, the eternal comfort of his sweet Spirit, which hath surely sealed you unto eternal salvation, be with you and strengthen you in your joyful journey towards the celestial Jerusalem, my dear friend and most faithful brother, Master Bradford, to the setting forth of God's glory, and to your eternal joy in Christ. Amen.
"Ever since that good Master Philpot showed me your last letter, my dear heart in the Lord, I have continued in great heaviness and perplexity: not for any hurt or discommodity that I can perceive coming towards you, unto whom doubtless death is made life and great felicity, but for the great loss that God's church here in England shall sustain by the taking away of so godly, worthy, and necessary an instrument, as the Lord hath made you to be. O that my life and a thousand such wretched lives more might go for yours! O, why doth God suffer me and such other caterpillars to live, that can do nothing but consume the alms of the church; and take away you, so worthy a workman and labourer in the Lord's vineyard? But woe be to our sins and great unthankfulness, which is the greatest cause of the taking away of such worthy instruments of God, as should set forth his glory, and instruct his people. If we had been thankful unto God for the good ministers of his word, we had not been so soon deprived both of it and them. The Lord forgive our great ingratitude and sins, and give us true repentance and faith, and hold his hand of mercy over us, for his dear Son Christ's sake. Take not away all thy true preachers forth of this realm, O Lord, but leave us a seed, lest England be made like unto Sodom and Gomorrah, when thy true Lots be gone.
"But what go I about to mingle your mirth with my mourning, and your just joy with my deserved sorrow? If I loved you indeed, as I have pretended, I should surely rejoice with you most heartily, and praise God on your behalf from the very bottom of my heart; I should praise God day and night for your excellent election in and through his great mercy, and should give him most humble thanks for your vocation by his gospel, and your true knowledge in the same; I should earnestly praise him for your sweet justification, whereof you are most certain by God's grace and Spirit, and should instantly pray unto him for your glorification, which shall shortly ensue; I should rejoice and be glad to see you so dignified by the crown of martyrdom, and to be appointed to that honour, to testify his truth, and to seal it with your blood; I should highly extol the Lord, who hath given you a glorious victory over all your enemies visible and invisible, and hath given you grace and strength to finish the tower that you have begun to build. Finally, if I loved you, I should most heartily rejoice and be glad to see you delivered from this body of sin, and vile prison of the flesh, and brought into that heavenly tabernacle where you shall be safely kept, and never offend him more.
"This and much more should I do, if I had a good heart towards God, or you his dear child. But, alas! I am a hypocrite, and do seek nothing but mine own commodity. I would have God's everlasting providence give place to my peevish will and purpose, although it were to the hinderance of his glory and your sweet commodity. God forgive me my horrible ingratitude, sins, and offences against him! and, good brother, do you forgive me my great negligence and unthankfulness toward you; and henceforth, I promise you, I will put my will to God's will, and pray that the same may be fulfilled in you, as long as you be on this earth; and when you are taken hence, I will most heartily praise the Lord for you, so long as I have my being in this world. Ah, my dear heart! now I must take my leave of you, and, as I think, my ultimum vale in this life; but in the life to come I am right well assured we shall merrily meet together, and that shortly I trust. And in taking of my leave of you, my dear heart in the Lord, I shall desire you faithfully to remember all the sweet messages that the Lord our good God and most dear loving Father hath sent you to me his most unworthy servant, which as they are most true, so shall they be most truly accomplished upon you eternally; and for the more assurance and certificate thereof to your godly conscience, he hath commanded me to repeat the same unto you again, in his own name and word.
"Therefore now give ear and faithful credence. Hearken, O ye heavens, and thou earth, give ear, and bear me witness at the great day, that I do here faithfully and truly the Lord's message unto his dear servant, his singularly beloved and elect child John Bradford. John Bradford, thou man so specially beloved of God, I pronounce and testify unto thee in the word and name of the Lord Jehovah, that all thy sins, whatsoever they be, be they never so many, so grievous, or so great, be fully and freely pardoned, released, and forgiven thee, by the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, thine only Lord and sweet Saviour, in whom thou Bost undoubtedly believe. Christ hath cleansed thee with his blood, and clothed thee with his righteousness, and hath made thee in the sight of God his Father, without spot or wrinkle; so that when the fire doth his appointed office, thou shalt be received (as a sweet burnt sacrifice) into heaven, where thou shalt joyfully remain in God's presence for ever, as the true inheritor of his everlasting kingdom, unto the which thou wast undoubtedly predestinate and ordained by the Lord's infallible purpose and decree, before the foundation of the world was laid. And that this is most true that I have said, I call the whole Trinity, the almighty and eternal majesty of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, to my record at this present; whom I humbly beseech to confirm and stablish in thee the true and lively feeling of the same. Amen. Selah.
"Now with a merry heart and joyful spirit, something mixed with lawful tears, I take my farewell of you, mine own dear brother in the Lord; who send us shortly a merry meeting in his kingdom, that we may both sing praises together unto him with his holy angels and blessed spirits for ever and ever! Farewell, thou blessed in the Lord, farewell in Christ; depart unto thy rest in the Lord; and pray for me for God's sake.
"As I had made an end of this simple letter, I heard some comfort both of good Master Philpot's servant and yours: but, alas! I do scarcely believe them. Well, I will hope in God, and pray all night that God will send me some comfort to-morrow, and if the Lord give you sparing to-morrow, let me hear four words of comfort from you, for God's sake. The blessing of God be with you now and for ever. Amen.
"Yours for ever in the Lord Jesus,
John CARELESS, living in hope against hope."
N reading this letter of John Careless to Master Bradford above prefixed, wherein he maketh so much mention of a certain letter of his sent to him, and of the great exceeding consolation he received of the same, thou wilt wish peradventure, good loving reader, in thy mind, to have some sight also of the said letter of Master Bradford; wherein to satisfy thy desire, or rather to prevent thy petition, I have hereunto annexed the same, to the intent thou mayest not only understand the contents thereof, but also receive fruit thereof to thy consolation likewise. The purport of the letter here followeth.
"Almighty God our dear Father, through and for the merits of his dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ, be merciful unto us, pardon us our offences, and under the wings of his mercy protect us from all evil, from henceforth and for ever. Amen.
"Dear brother Careless, I heartily pray you to pray to God for me, for the pardon of my manifold sins and most grievous offences, which need none other demonstration unto you than this, namely, that I have behaved myself so negligently in answering your godly triple letters, which are three witnesses against me. God lay not them, nor any other thing, to my charge to condemnation, though to correction not my will, but his will be done. Concerning your request of absolution, my dearest brother, what shall I say, but even as truth is? that the Lord of all mercy, and Father of all comfort, through the merits and mediation of his dear Son thy only Lord and Saviour, hath clearly remitted and pardoned all thy offences whatsoever they be, that ever hitherto thou hast committed against his majesty: and therefore he hath given to thee as to his child, dear brother John Careless, in token that thy sins are pardoned, he (I say) hath given thee a penitent and believing heart, that is, a heart which desireth to repent and believe; for such a one is taken of him (he accepting the will for the deed) for a penitent and believing heart indeed.
"Wherefore, my good brother, be merry, glad, and of good cheer, for the Lord hath taken away thy sins; thou shalt not die. Go thy ways; the Lord hath put away thy sins. The east is not so far from the west, as the Lord hath now put thy sins from thee. Look how the heavens be in comparison of the earth: so far hath his mercy prevailed towards thee his dear child, John Careless, through Christ the Beloved. Say therefore with David, Praise the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, praise his holy name: for he hath forgiJOHNee all thy sins; as truly he hath. And hereof I desire to be a witness. God make me worthy to hear from you the like true message for myself. Mine own dearly beloved, you have great cause to thank God most heartily that he hath given you such repentance and faith: the Lord increase the same in you and me a most miserable wretch, whose heart is harder than the adamant-stone, or else I could not thus long have stayed from writing unto you. If I live and may, I purpose and promise you to make amends. Pray for me, my most dear brother, I heartily beseech you, and forgive me my long silence. God our Father be with us for ever, Amen.
"Yours in the Lord,
To my most dear and faithful brethren in Newgate, condemned to die for the testimony of God's everlasting truth.
"The everlasting peace of God, in Jesus Christ, the continual joy, strength, and comfort of his most pure, holy, and mighty Spirit, with the increase of faith and lively feeling of his eternal mercy, be with you, my most dear and faithful loving brother Tyms, and with all the rest of my dear hearts in the Lord, your faithful fellow soldiers, and most constant companions in bonds, yea, of men condemned most cruelly for the sincere testimony of God's everlasting truth, is the full finishing of that good work, which he hath so graciously begun in you all, that the same may be to his glory, the commodity of his poor afflicted church and to your everlasting comfort in him, Amen.
"Ah, my most sweet and loving brethren, and dearest hearts in the Lord! what shall I say, or how shall I write unto you, in the least point or part to utter the great joy that my poor heart hath conceived in God, through the most godly example of your Christian constancy and sincere confession of Christ's verity? Truly my tongue cannot declare, nor my pen express, the abundance of spiritual mirth and gladness that my mind and inward man hath felt, ever since I heard of your hearty boldness and modest behaviour before that bloody butcher, in the time of all your crafty examinations, especially at your cruel condemnation, in their cursed consistory place. Blessed be God the Father of all mercy, and praised be his name, for that he hath so graciously performed upon you, his dear darlings, his most sweet and comfortable promises, in not only giving you the continual aid, strength, and comfort of his holy and mighty Spirit to the faithful confession of his Christ, for whose cause, O most happy men, ye are condemned to die; but also in giving you such a mouth and wisdom as all your wicked enemies were not able to resist, but were fain to cry, 'Peace, peace,' and not suffer you to speak. As truly as God liveth, my dear brethren, this is not only unto you a most evident probation that God is on our side, and a sure certainty of your everlasting salvation in him, but also to your cruel adversaries (or rather God's cursed enemies) a plain demonstration of their just eternal woe and damnation, which they shall be full sure shortly to feel, when ye shall full sweetly possess the place of felicity and pleasure prepared for you from the beginning.
"Therefore, my dearly beloved, cease not, so long as ye be in this life, to praise the Lord with a lusty courage, for that of his great mercy and infinite goodness he hath vouched you worthy of this great dignity, to suffer for his sake not only the loss of goods, wife, and children, long imprisonment, cruel oppression, &c.; but also the very deprivation of this mortal life,with the dissolution of your bodies in the fire. The which is the greatest promotion that God can bring you or any other unto in this vale of misery; yea, so great an honour as the highest angel in heaven is not permitted to have; and yet hath the Lord for his dear Son Christ's sake reputed you worthy of the same, yea, and that before me and many others, which have both long looked and longed for the same.
"Ah, my most dear brother Tyms! whose time resteth altogether in the hands of the Lord, in a full and happy time earnest thou into this troublesome world, but in a much more blessed hour shalt thou depart out of the same; so that the sweet saying of Solomon, or rather of the Holy Ghost, shall be full well verified upon thee, yea, and all thy faithful fellows, Better is the day of death, saith he, than the day of birth. This saying cannot be verified upon every man, but upon thee, my dear brother, and such as thou art, whose death is most precious before God; and full dear shall your blood be in his sight. Blessed be God for thee, my dear brother Tyms, and blessed be God again that ever I knew thee, for in a most happy time I came first into thy company. Pray for me, dear brother, pray for me, that God will once vouch me worthy of that great dignity whereunto he hath brought you.
"Ah, my loving brother Drake! whose soul now draweth nigh unto God, of whom ye have received the same, full glad may you be that ever God gave you a life to leave for his sake: full well will be restore it to you again in a thousand-fold more glorious wise. Praise God, good brother, as you have a great cause; and pray for me, I beseech you, which am so much unworthy (so great are my sins) of that great dignity whereunto the Lord hath called you, and the rest of your godly brethren, whom I beseech you to comfort in the Lord as you can full well; praised be God for his gifts, which you have heartily applied to the setting forth of his glory, and the commodity of his poor afflicted church: which thing shall surely redound to your everlasting joy and comfort, as you shall most effectually feel ere ever it be long, though the wicked of the world judge far otherwise.
"Ah, mine own hearts, and most dearly beloved brethren, Cavel, Ambrose, and both the Spurges, blessed be the Lord on your behalf, and praised be his name, which hath given you such a glorious victory: full valiant have you showed yourselves in the Lord's fight, and full faithful in your painful service. Faint not, but go on forward as ye have most godly begun, for great shall your reward be at the end of this your travail. Ah, my good faithful brethren all! what shall I say, or what shall I write unto you? but even the same Mary, thed Elizabeth did say to her godly kinswoman Mary,the blessed mother of Christ, Happy art thou, quoth that good woman, which hast believed: for all things which the Lord hath spoken to thee, shall be fulfilled. So I say to you, my dear hearts in the Lord, happy are ye all, yea, twice happy shall you be for evermore, because ye have stedfastly believed the most sweet promises which God the Father hath made unto you with his own mouth, in that he hath promised you, (which are the faithful seed of the. believing Abraham,) that ye shall be blessed ever, world without end. The promises of God your sweet Father, as ye do believe, so do ye bear record that God is true. The testimony whereof ye have full worthily borne to the world, and, shortly, will full surely seal the same with your blood, yea, even to-morrow, I do understand. O constant Christians! O valiant soldiers of the high Captain Jesus Christ! who for your sake hath conquered the devil, death, sin, and hell, and hath given you full victory over them for evermore. O worthy witnesses, and most glorious martyrs! whose invincible faith hath overcome that proud, sturdy, bragging prince of the world, and all his wicked army, over whom ye shall shortly triumph for evermore. Ah, my sweet hearts! the everlasting treasures are full surely laid up for you in heaven. The immarcessible and most glorious crown of victory is already made and prepared for you, to be shortly clapt upon all your happy heads. The holy angels of your heavenly Father are already appointed to conduct your sweet souls into Abraham's bosom. All the heavenly host rejoiceth already, for that they shall shortly receive you with joy and felicity, into their blessed fellowship. Selah.
"Rejoice with double joy, and be glad, my dear brethren, for doubtless ye have more cause than can be expressed. But, alas! I that for my sins am left behind, may lie and lament with the holy prophet, saying, Woe is me that the days of my joyful rest are prolonged. Ah, cursed Satan! which hath caused me so sore to offend my most dear loving Father, whereby mine exile and banishment is so much prolonged. O Christ, my dear Advocate! pacify thy Father's wrath, which I have justly deserved, that he may take me home to him in his sweet mercy. O that I might now come home unto thee, with my blessed brethren. Well, thy will, O Lord! be effectuously fulfilled; for it is only good, and turneth all things to the best, for such as thou in thy mercy hast chosen.
"And now farewell, my dear hearts, most happy in the Lord. I trust in my good God, yet shortly to see you in the celestial city, whereof undoubtedly the Lord hath already made you free citizens. Though you be yet with us for a little time, your very home is in heaven, where your treasure doth remain with your sweet Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ, whose calling you have heard with the ears of your hearts, and therefore ye shall never come into judgment, but pass from death to life. Your sins shall never be remembered, be they never so many, so grievous, or so great: for your Saviour hath cast them all into the bottom of the sea; he hath removed them from you, as far as the east is from the west, and his mercy hath much more prevailed over you, than is distance between heaven and earth: and he hath given you for an everlasting possession of the same, all his holiness, righteousness, and justification, yea, and the Holy Ghost into your hearts, wherewith ye are surely sealed unto the day of redemption, to certify you of your eternal election, and that ye are his true adopted sons, whereby ye may boldly cry unto God, Abba, dear Father, for evermore: so that now no creature in heaven, earth, nor hell, shall be able to accuse you before the throne of the heavenly King. Satan is now cast out from you; he himself is judged, and hath no part in you. He will once more bite you by the heel, and then he hath done; for at that time you shall squeeze his head through your own good Christ, and so have you final victory for evermore. In joyful triumph whereof, ye shall sweetly ascend into the place of eternal rest, whither your eldest brother Christ is gone before you to take possession for you, and to prepare your,place under the holy altar, with Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, Rogers, Hooper, Saunders, Ferrar, Taylor, Bradford, Philpot, with many others, who will be full glad of your coming, to see six more of their appointed number, that their blood may so much the sooner be revenged upon them that dwell on the earth.
"Thus I make an end, committing you all to God's most merciful defence, whose quarrel ye have defended, whose cause ye have promoted, whose glory ye have set forth, and whose name ye have constantly confessed.myrewell for a while, my. dear hearts in the Lord; I will make as much haste after you as I may. All our dear brethren salute you. They pray for you, and praise God for you continually. Blessed be the dead that die in the Lord, for they rest from their labours, saith the Holy Ghost, and their works follow them.
"Your own JOHN. CARELESS,
a most unprofitable servant of the Lord.
Pray, pray, pray."
Ye heard before the letter of Thomas Whittle, written to John Careless, wherein he yieldeth great thanks unto him for the singular joy and consolation received by his letters. The copy of which letters sent unto him, if any be disposed to peruse, hereunder followeth to satisfy his desire.
To Master Green, Master Whittle, and certain other prisoners in Newgate, condemned, and ready to be burnt for the testimony of our Lord Jesus.
"The everlasting peace in Jesus Christ, the continual comfort of his most pure and Holy Spirit, be with you, my dear and faithful brethren and sisters of Newgate, the Lord's appointed sheep unto the slaughter, to the good performance of the great and notable work of the Lord, which he hath so graciously begun in you all; that the same may redound to the setting forth of his glory, and to the commodity of his church, and to your own everlasting comfort in him. So be it.
"Ah, my dear hearts, and most faithful brethren and sisters in the Lord! what high lauds and praise, yea, what humble and continual thanks, am I bound to give to God our Father for you and on your most happy behalf, who so mightily hath magnified himself in you thus far forth, in giving you his holy and mighty Spirit, to the constant confessing of Christ's verity, even to the cruel condemnation; and I doubt not but he will do the same to the death. O happy and blessed are you that ever you were born, that the Lord willruch you worthy of this great dignity, to die fotpr his sake. Doubtless it is the greatest honour that God can give you in this life. Yea, if they be so blessed of God that die in the Lord, (as the Holy Ghost saith they be,) how much more blessed and happy then are you that die not only in the Lord, but also for the Lord. O that it were the good will of God, that the good hour were now come, that I might go with you. Ah that my sins made me not unworthy of such an excellent dignity!
"Be thankful, dear hearts, be thankful and rejoice in the Lord; for mighty is his mercy towards you, and great is your reward in heaven, the which you, like faithful persons, have plucked to you with a godly violence of an invincible faith. O worthy warriors of the most high Captain! O constant confessors of the everlasting verity! how glorious a crown of victory shall you shortly receive, which is prepared for all such as do continue to the end! O you sweet saints of the Lord, how precious shall your death be in his sight! O how dear are your souls to your Redeemer, in whose hand they shall most joyfully rest, and the pains of death shall never touch you! O how blessed shall you be, when Christ shall appear, at the which time you shall receive your bodies again full of immortality! O how joyful shall you be, when Christ, according to his promise, shall knowledge you before his Father and his holy angels, as you have most constantly confessed him to be your Lord and only Saviour before men!
"O blessed Green, thou meek and loving lamb of the Lord, how happy art thou to be appointed to die for his sake! a full dainty dish art thou for the Lord's own tooth. Fresh and green shalt thou be in the house of the Lord, and thy fruits shall never wither nor decay. Although thou go here forth sowing thy good fruit with tears, the time shall come that thou shalt reap with joy and gladness the fruits of everlasting life, and that without ceasing. Be merry therefore and fear not, for it is thy Father's will to give thee a kingdom, whereunto he hath chosen thee before the foundations of the world were laid.
"O happy minister, thou man of God, how glad mayest thou be of God's most precious favour, which hath prevented thee in the day of thy trial! O happy Peter, whose part thou hast well played; therefore thy reward and portion shall be like unto his. Now hast thou good experience of man's infirmity, but much more proof and taste, yea, sense and feeling, of God's abundant bottomless mercy. Although Satan desired to sift thee, yet Christ thy good Captain prayed that thy faith should not fail. God's strength is made perfect by thy weakness, and his grace is sufficient for thee his dear child. Thine example did so encourage and strengthen thy poor brethren, that God is every way glorified by thee; and shortly will he glorify thee with himself, with that glory which he hath prepared for thee his elect dearling before the world was made. Therefore rejoice and be glad, for thou hast good occasion, in finding such favour in his sight.
"This is most true, O my other brethren, whom I do not know, neither have I heard much of you, happy are you that ever you were born, and blessed be our God which hath given you such victory over the bloody beast: shortly shall you be clothed in large white garments, and fine robes of righteousness; and so shall you follow the Lamb on Mount Sion with new songs of mirth and melody, for your delivery forth of Satan's power and tyranny. God for evermore be blessed for you, and strengthen you to the end, as I doubt not but he will: for he never failed them that put their trust in him.
"O my dear and faithful sister, Joan Warne, what shall I say to thee? Thy trial hath been great; thy victory in Christ hath been notable. Thou hast overcome many a sharp shower and storm. Shortly shalt thou arrive at the haven of quiet rest, and receive a reward due to a constant martyr. Thou shalt go home to thy heavenly Father, and possess for ever the inheritance which Christ hath purchased for thee, where thy earthly parents be, still looking for thee, which have triumphed over antichrist most victoriously. O blessed parents of happy children, which have showed such an example as the like hath been seldom seen! I salute thee, dear sister of like constant mind, whose constant example is worthy of continual memory. Praised be God for you, mine own sweet sisters; which hath made you play such wise virgins' parts. He hath plentifully poured the oil of his Spirit into the lamps of your faith, so that the light thereof shall never be extinct. You shall enter with your Bridegroom into everlasting joy, whereunto you were chosen in him from the beginning.
"O my dear brethren and sisters, you blessed saints of the Lord, how much and how deeply am I bound to praise God for you, both day and night. Pray, pray for me, my dear hearts, for the tender mercy of God, that I may be made worthy to follow your trace. O that I had run the race of my life as far as you have done yours, and were as nigh my journey's end as you be unto yours. But, alas, I lie like the lame man at the pool's side by Solomon's porch, and every man goeth into the place of health before me. But God will appoint me one, one day to put me in. I trust my Lord of London's coal-house is empty, and all his officers idle. Therefore they must shortly fetch more sheep to the shambles; for he is the common slaughter-slave of all England. But happy are you that are passed through the pikes, and delivered out of his hands, and from all the angels of the darkness of this world, which long tempted you in the wilderness of the same: but now shall the angels of God come and minister unto you; for they are your servants to hold you up in their hands, that you shall not hurt your foot, no, nor one hair of your head shall perish. They shall carry you up to heaven in a fiery chariot, though you leave your mantle behind you for a time, until God restore the same again in a more ample and glorious sort.
"Thus in haste, as it doth appear, I am constrained to make an end, committing you all to God's most merciful defence, who ever have you in his blessed keeping; desiring you all to remember me in your godly and faithful prayers, as I will not forget you in mine, by God's grace. The blessing of God be with you all, my dear brethren and sisters. All our brethren and fellow prisoners here have them most heartily commended unto you, and pray for you without ceasing. God send us a merry meeting in his kingdom. Amen.
"By your brother and unfeigned lover, JOHN CARELESS, prisoner, abiding his most merciful will and pleasure. Pray, pray, pray."
To my dear and faithful brother William Tyms, prisoner in Newgate.
"The everlasting peace of God in Jesus Christ, with the continual joy, comfort, and strength of his sweet Spirit, be multiplied, and daily more and more increased in your good heart, my most faithful and dear brother Tyms, to the full quieting of your conscience, and beating back of all the fiery darts of the wicked, that you may shortly receive the glorious crown of victory, and in the same triumph over all your enemies for evermore. Amen.
"I cannot express the exceeding great joy and consolation of my poor heart, considering the marvellous works of God most graciously wrought upon you, not only in proving you and trying your faith by his great and huge crosses both inwardly and outwardly, but also in giving you so great consolation and constancy in the midst of the same. Faithful is God, and true of his promises, who hath said, that he will never suffer his chosen children to be tempted above their strength, but in the midst of their temptation will make an out-scape for them, by such means as may make to his glory and their everlasting consolation. My dear heart, great cause have you to be of good comfort; for I see in you as lively a token of God's everlasting love and favour in Jesus Christ, as ever I perceived in any man. In respect whereof, I do even with my heart love, honour, and reverence you, beseeching God for his glorious name's sake, in the bowels and blood of our Lord and only Saviour Jesus Christ, to finish his good work in you, as I doubt not but he will do, according to his infallible promises; yea, I am well assured thereof, forasmuch as you have so effectually received his Holy Spirit into your heart, as a pledge and a sure seal of your eternal redemption, and a testimony of your adoption in Christ Jesus. For which cause Satan so sore envieth you, that he hath now bent all his fierce ordnance against you, thinking thereby utterly to destroy the invincible fort of your faith, founded most firmly upon the unmovable Rock Christ, against the which neither the devil, sin, nor yet hell-gates, shall ever prevail. Selah.
"Therefore, mine own bowels in the Lord, be not discomforted for this your conflict, which doubtless shall greatly increase your crown of glory, triumph, and victory; but take a good heart unto you, and buckle boldly with Satan, both in himself and his subtle members. It is the very divine ordinance of God, that all his regenerate people shall be tempted, proved, and tried, as we see by the example of our Saviour Christ; who as soon as he was baptized, was straightways led of the Holy Ghost into the wilderness, there to be tempted of the devil. But there got he such a glorious victory of Satan, that he could never since finally prevail against any of his poor members, but in every assault that he maketh, either inwardly or outwardly, he getteth a foil, and taketh shame; so that now he rageth with all the spite possible, specially because he knoweth his time is but short. St. James testifieth that he is but a very coward, that will soon flee, if he be faithfully resisted. And as for his tempting tools, the Lord hath made them manifest unto us, so that he cannot deceive us though he assault us; for, as St. Paul saith, his very thoughts are not unknown to us, as it doth in you largely appear, praised be the Lord's name there-for.
"You see, dear brother, that now to molest you and such as you are, that be even passing from this vale of misery, he hath but two ways, or two pieces of ordnance to shoot at you, with the which he cannot hurt you, because you have two bulwarks to defend you. The first of these terrible guns that Satan hath shot at you, is the very same that he continually shooteth at me, that is to say, fear and infidelity; for the uglisomeness of sin, and horror of my sins, which be so many, grievous, and great. But this pellet is easily put away with the sure shield of faith, in the most precious death and blood-shedding of our dear Lord and only Saviour Jesus Christ, whom the Father hath given unto us wholly to be ours for evermore, and with him hath given us all things, as Paul saith; so that though we be never so great sinners, yet Christ is made unto us holiness, righteousness, and justification. He hath clothed us with all his merits, mercies, and most sweet sufferings, and hath taken unto him all our misery, wretchedness, sin, and infirmity: so that if any should now be condemned for the same, it must needs be Jesus Christ, which hath taken them upon him. But indeed he hath made satisfaction for them to the uttermost jot; so that for his sake they shall never be imputed to us, if they were a thousand times so many more as they be. This do you most effectuously feel and know, dear brother, a great deal better than I can tell you, blessed be God there-for.
"And now Satan, seeing that he cannot prevail with his boisterous battery against this bulwark of faith, which doth so quench all his fiery darts that they can do you no harm, but rather do you good service to cast you down, under the mighty hand of God, that he may take you up by his only grace and power, and so you may render him all the glory by Jesus Christ, (which thing the enemy can in no wise abide,) therefore he shooteth off his other piece most pestilent, to provoke you to put some part of your trust and confidence in yourself, and in your own holiness and righteousness, that you might that way rob God of his glory, and Christ of the honour and dignity of his death. But blessed be the Lord God, you have also a full strong bulwark to beat back this pestiferous pellet also, even the pure law of God, which proveth the best of us all damnable sinners in the sight of God, if he would enter into judgment with us according to the severity of the same, and that even our best works are polluted and defiled in such sort as the prophet describeth them. With which manner of speaking our freewill Pharisees are much offended; for it felleth all man's righteousness to the ground, (I had like to have said to the bottom of hell,) and extolleth only the righteousness of Jesus Christ, which is allowed before God, and is freely given to all those that firmly believe, as blessed be God you do.
"Ah, my good brother Tyms, Satan hath put his hand in a wrong box when he beginneth to tempt you, either to vain-glory or mistrust: for you are an old beaten soldier, and have had good experience of this manner of temptations, both by yourself and others, whom you know well were beloved of God. Be of good cheer therefore, dear heart; be of good cheer, for now Satan hath wrought all his malice; he hath done all that he can, and hath shot off all his last pieces, wherewith he hath thought to have done most mischief. But now he seeth he cannot prevail, (the strong Tower of your faith being so invincible,) he will pluck up all his tents, and get him to some other place to practise the like assaults, and then will the angels of God come and minister unto you the most sweet and heavenly consolations of the Holy Ghost. To him therefore who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that ever we can desire or think, I do most heartily commit you, with all the rest of your godly prison-fellows, who comfort, strengthen, and defend you with his grace and mighty operation of his Holy Spirit, as he hath hitherto done; that you, having a most glorious victory over the subtle serpent and all his wicked seed, may also receive the crown of glory and immortality prepared for you before the foundations of the world were laid, and so surely kept for you in the hands of him whose promise is infallible, that the devil, sin, death, or hell, shall never be able to deprive you of the same. The blessing of God be with you now and for evermore: Amen. Pray, pray, pray for me.
"Your own for ever,
JOHN CARELESS "
To my good sister, Mrs. Cotton.
"The peace of God in Jesus Christ, and the eternal comforts of his sweet Spirit, be with you, my dear and faithful sister, to the full accomplishment of that good work which he hath most graciously begun in you, that the same may be effectual to the setting forth of his glory, and to your everlasting consolation in him. Amen.
"My loving and faithful sister in the Lord, I thank you for all your loving-kindness showed unto me, but specially for your godly remembrance of me in your fervent and faithful prayers, and for your most godly and comfortable letter, whereby you do not only much increase my joy and comfort, but also put me in remembrance of my duty towards you.
"Blessed be the Lord God, which of his great mercy hath so beautified his church in these our days, that even unto many godly women he hath given most excellent gifts of knowledge and understanding of his truth, so that they are not only well able to inform their own consciences in all things necessary to salvation, but also most sweetly comfort their sorrowful brethren and sisters that sustain any trouble for the testimony of God's truth, yea, and that which is more, even in the midst of their great conflicts of conscience: of which most happy number of godly and virtuous women, my dear heart, you are one, and that of the chiefest, being plentifully indued with the gifts of God's most gracious Spirit, as it doth full well appear in your daily doings: God only have the praise there-for!
"Forasmuch then as God hath given you the gift to write, I shall most heartily desire you to let me hear from you sometimes, be it never so little, for truly I take great comfort and courage thereby; specially in my poor conscience, which is sore assaulted of subtle Satan, and in a manner oppressed of my sins. Pray, dear sister, that God may give me true, hearty, and earnest repentance, and increase my faith; for they are both the good gifts of God only, and far pass the reach of my power to take at my pleasure.
"Therefore, dear sister, if you help me to beg the same of our dear-loving Father, I am sure that he both can and will give them me in his good time. As for the fear of death, or terror of the fire, I most heartily thank my good God, I feel it not; only it is mine own sins and unthankfulness which hold hard battle, and wage strong war against me, which only go about to separate me from my good Captain, Christ, that I should not enjoy his glorious victory; but God being on my side, (as I am sure he is,) that cannot continually prevail against me. Though God for a time permit Satan to take his pleasure on me, as he did upon Job, yet I doubt not but in the end all shall turn to my profit, through the merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whose most merciful defence I commit you, dear sister, with all the rest of the Lord's elect. Farewell in Christ.
"Pray, pray, pray, pray."
To my dear brother, T. V.
The everlasting peace of God in Jesus Christ, the continual comforts of his most pure and Holy Spirit, be with you, my most dear friend and faithful brother V., to the increase of your faith, and comfort of your sorrowful spirit, which is to the Father a sweet sacrifice through Christ, for whose sake he will never despise your humble and contrite heart, but doth favourably accept the same, and will in most ample wise perform the desire thereof, to his glory and your eternal comfort in him.
"In the midst of my manifold crosses and troubles, wherein I am constrained to flee unto God for refuge and succour by earnest and faithful prayer, I cannot forget you, my dear heart in the Lord, but esteeming your state for mine own, I do pour forth my complaint for you, as I do for myself, and rather more, as I think present need doth require, desiring most heartily to hear the good success of the same in you. The Lord God, for his great mercies' sake, accomplish my desire, as I doubt not but he will, when he seeth it good and most to his glory, and to your comfort and commodity. O that I might once see you so merry in Christ as you have just cause to be, that you might say with David, Awake my glory, awake lute and harp. Bring forth the psalter with the merry song, that I might sing a new song of praise and thanksgiving unto the Lord, for the light of his favourable countenance, his help and deliverance. Oh! that would refresh me as a most precious oil, and gladden my poor heart, which is assaulted with sorrow more ways than one. I doubt not but the same shall by your means receive much comfort, though for a time it doth mourn with you, that we may be made both glad together, yea, and that with such gladness, as shall continue for ever. But in the mean space (I say) most happy are you, that so heartily mourn for the absence of the Bridegroom. If you were not a wedding child, you could never do it. Only Christ's true disciples do mourn far his absence: therefore shall they doubtless rejoice at his presence, which will be so much more joyful, by how much the absence is more sorrowful.
"Therefore, my good brother, take a good heart unto you, and be of good cheer. Say with the prophet David, O my soul, why art thou so heavy, and why art thou so disquieted within me? O put thy trust in God, for I will yet give him thanks for the help of his loving countenance, and because he is my God. Read Psalms xli. and xlii. for your comfort, and consider that the holy king and prophet, at the making and first saying of them, was even in the same case that you are now in; but he still comforted himself with the sweet promises of God. And so do you, my dear heart, for to you they do as well pertain as they did to him, and as surely shall they be performed upon you, as they were upon him: for he is one God and dear Father unto you both, and for his mercy, truth, and promise sake, he must needs make good unto you all that he hath said. If his love towards you stood in the respect of your own merit and worthiness, you might well mourn, lament, and complain; yea, you had good cause to doubt, fear, and mistrust. But, seeing he loveth you only for and in Jesus Christ, who is your whole holiness, righteousness, and redemption; lay away all mourning, lamenting, and complaining; banish from you all fear, mistrust, and infidelity, and know that as long as Christ doth continue God's Son, so long must the love of the Father continue towards you immutable, and his good-will unchangeable, and cannot be altered through any of your infirmities. For this is most true, that as long as the cause of any thing doth last, so long must the effect remain. But Christ is the whole cause why the Father loveth you, and he also continueth for ever: then must I needs conclude, that the love of the Father continueth towards you for ever, and (as the psalmist most joyfully so often singeth) his mercy endureth for ever and ever.
"This is most true, mine own dear heart, although the Lord for a time hide it from your senses, that you might be the more earnest in prayer to him for the feeling of it, and also the more thankful for it when he doth give the lively taste of it, as doubtless he will do, ere ever it be long; and then shall you be well able to comfort others in the same state that you are now in, with the same comfort wherewith you are, and further shall be, comforted of God.
"Therefore lift up your hands that are now a little fallen down, and stretch forth the weak knees of your troubled mind, which now mourneth with a godly mourning, and therefore shall it be full well comforted with that sweet peace of God which passeth all understanding: and you are sure already to enjoy the blessing that Christ gave unto the godly mourners of Sion upon the mount, at the first sermon that be made. O happy V., in whose mourning company I had rather be, than in the house of mirth and banqueting of such as see not what cause they have to mourn and be sorry. But yet, my good brother, use a measure in this your godly mourning, and make not your faithful friends too much sorry for you. Let the persuasions of such godly lovers as you do daily company withal, or rather the persuasions of the Holy Ghost by them, move you to some godly mirth and rejoicing. Con-. sider that you are commanded of God by the mouth of St. Paul thereto: Rejoice in the Lord, saith he, and I say again, Rejoice. Mark how he doubleth the sentence, that we may perceive it is a most earnest and necessary thing he requireth. Obey the commandment of God in this behalf; wherein, as you cannot but highly please him, so I assure you, you shall very much rejoice my poor heart, and the hearts of others which pray for you with mourning tears, and make that cruel enemy Satan and all your adversaries sorry, which will rejoice and laugh to see you mourn. O my good brother, let it manifestly appear, that the Lord of his great mercy hath heard our faithful and hearty requests for you. O how would that rejoice me in the midst of my troubles!
"Therefore now to conclude, because the darkness constraineth me to make an end for this time, I say, my dear and faithful brother V., in respect of the great cause you have of your own part through Christ, and for the glory and honour of Almighty God, the comfort, joy, and rejoicing of your dear brethren and sisters in Christ, also your own duty by the commandment of God; and last of all, to vex, molest, and grieve Satan withal, rejoice in the Lord, and be most heartily glad in him, who is wholly yours, and you are his, and shall be for evermore. Selah.
"Farewell, mine own bowels in the Lord! and praise God with joyful lips and a merry heart, and pray for me his most unprofitable servant, which have more cause concerning myself to lament, than any one man living. But my good Bridegroom is present, and biddeth me cast away my mourning garments, and therefore I must needs be merry with him: and so he biddeth you to be, by my mouth; for he is present with you, although for sorrow you cannot know him, as Magdalene could not in the garden, until he spake unto her. The Lord God speak these words of comfort in your heart, and open the eyes of your mind, that you may perfectly perceive and feel his blessed presence, and so rejoice in the same for evermore. Amen. Comfort your heart in Christ, and cast your care upon him, for he careth for you.
"Your brother in the Lord, abiding his good pleasure,
JOHN CARELESS "
To my dear and faithful brother, Augustine Bernher.HE peace of God in Jesus Christ, the help, comfort, and assistance of his eternal Spirit, be with you, my dear and faithful brother Augustine, and with all the rest of my good brethren and sisters of the houses of Baxterley and Mancetter, (which mourn for the misery of God's people,) to your everlasting consolation in him. Amen.
"Right glad I am to hear, my dear and faithful brother Augustine, that God of his great mercy and infinite goodness hath yet so graciously delivered and preserved you out of your enemies' hands, beseeching Almighty God also, from the bottom of my heart, to be your continual defence unto the end, as hitherto he hath most graciously been, that you may live and die both to God's glory, the commodity of his church, and to the increase of your own everlasting joy and comfort in him.
"Know you, dear brother, that I have received your letter, for the which I heartily thank you. Indeed I think it very short, although it seemeth something sharply to rebuke me in the beginning, for the breach of my promise in not writing to you of this long time. Well, brother, I am content to bear it with patience, considering that you are troubled otherwise (the Lord comfort you and all heavy hearts): neither will I spend ink and paper for my purgation in this point. God he knoweth whether I be so mindless of my promise, as it appeareth in your sight I am. Your request I will truly perform to the uttermost of my power, as gladly as any poor wretch shall do in the world, and I thank God I have done no less of long time. And as my poor prayer shall be a handmaid to wait upon you which way soever you ride or go; so I beseech you that my simple counsel may take some place in you, in this time of your pilgrimage, which you pass in no small peril. God keep and preserve you for his name's sake!
"I do not disallow, but much praise and commend, your hearty boldness in putting yourself in press, when any one of God's people needeth your help in any point. But yet I would not have you thrust yourself in danger, when you can do them no good, or at leastwise when they may well enough spare that good you would do them: for if you should then chance to be taken, you shall not only be no comfort unto them, but also a great discomfort, adding sorrow unto their sorrow.
"I do not persuade you to absent yourself from any place where your presence of necessity is required; for in all such places, I know, God will preserve you as he hath hitherto wonderfully done, praised be his name there-for: or if it shall please him to permit you in any such place to be taken, I know he will most sweetly comfort your conscience with this consideration, that it is the very providence and appointment of God, that you should there and then be taken up for a witness of his truth unto the world: but I cannot allow, nor be contented, that you should rashly or negligently thrust yourself into that place where your wicked enemies do continually haunt, yea, and lay wait for you, when no necessity of yourself, nor of any other of God's people, doth require your company. If they need any of your godly counsel, you may write unto them that thing that you think good; which, I dare say, will be sufficient unto them. For (continual thanks and praises be given unto the everlasting God!) there is none of those that be cruelly condemned for God's truth, that now be weaklings; for they have manfully passed through the pikes, and they have boldly abiden the brunt of the battle; and therefore I reckon the worst is passed with them already. So that now and then a godly letter from you to them shall do as much good as your company shall do, and perchance more too; for writing sticketh longer in the memory than words do, yea, though your letters were as short to them, as your last was to me, so that the same be something sweeter, and not all-thing so sharp.
"This, dear brother, is the simple counsel which I would gladly have you observe, partly for that I heartily pray for your preservation to the commodity of Christ's church, and partly for that I unfeignedly wish the peace, comfort, and tranquillity of your own conscience, which I know will be quickly ready to accuse you, if you do any thing wherein you have not the word of God for your warrant. For as in a glass that is clear, a small mote will soon appear; even so the good conscience of God's chosen children, being more clear than crystal, will quickly accuse them at the least fault they do commit: whereas the wicked worldlings have their conscience so clogged and corrupted through the custom of sin, that they cannot once see or perceive their shameful deeds and wicked works, until God set the same before them for their utter destruction; and then despair they immediately. But, seeing that God hath given you a clear conscience, and a pure, sharp, quick, and lively sight in your soul, I would wish you to beware that you do nothing unadvisedly, but upon a good ground: for an accusing conscience is a sore thing when death doth approach; and then Satan will not stick to tell you that you have too much tempted God, when peradventure you have done nothing so at all. For this cause (I say) partly, I have thought it good to admonish you, as I have done often, to be circumspect, according to the counsel of Christ, which biddeth you beware of men. Other things I have not to write, for I know this bearer can certify you of all things at large, better than I can declare it by writing.
"I beseech you, good Augustine, help me forwards with your hearty prayers, for I trust I have but a small time to tarry in this troublesome world. Dr. Story told our marshal that we should be all despatched so soon as he came from Oxford, whither he and other bloody butchers be gone to make slaughter of Christ's sheep that lie there appointed to be slain. God for Christ's sake put them and such-like beside their cruel purpose, if it be his good will and pleasure! Amen, good Lord. I pray you do my most hearty commendations to my dear sister and faithful friend, good Mistress Mary Glover. I beseech God be her comfort, as I doubt not but he is. I am very glad to hear that she doth so joyfully and so patiently bear this great cross that God hath laid upon her. I pray God strengthen her, and all other his dear saints unto the end, Amen. Commend me unto my dear and faithful sister Elizabeth B. I thank her most heartily for my napkin, and so I do your dear brother, for my shirt. Truly that day that we were appointed to come to our answer before the commissioners, (which had sent word the same morning that they would come to the King's Bench by eight of the clock, and the house and all things were trimmed and made ready for them,) I got that shirt on my back, and that napkin in my hand, and methought they did help to harness me, and weapon me well to go fight against that bloody beast of Babylon. And trust me, truly, if they had come, I would have stricken three strokes the more for your two sakes, as well as God would have abled me to have set them on, as by God's grace I will not fail to do at the next skirmish that I come to. Wherefore I pray you pray for me, that I may be strong and hardy to lay on good load. O that I might so strike him down, that he should never be able to rise again! But that stroke belongeth only unto the Lord, to strike at his coming, the which I trust will be shortly. O hasten it, good Lord, and shorten these sorrowful and sinful days, for thy great mercies' sake!
Farewell, my dear and faithful loving brother! The Lord defend, keep, and preserve you from the power of your enemies visible and invisible, and send us a most joyful and merry meeting here or elsewhere, as it shall please his goodness to appoint us!
"In the mean space I shall most earnestly desire you to pray for me, for I never had more need in my life; and doubtless you shall never want my poor prayer, if it shall please God to accept the prayer of so sinful a wretch as I am. The Lord impute not my sins to me, for Jesus Christ's sake; unto whose most merciful defence I do most heartily commit you. The blessing of God be with you now and ever, Amen. I pray you do my most hearty commendations unto Master John Glover. I do not forget him in my daily prayers, and I trust he doth remember me.
"Your poor brother, always mindful of you in my prayer, JOHN CARELESS, prisoner abiding God's pleasure.
To my dear brother, Harry Adlington, prisoner in the Lollards' Tower.
"The everlasting peace of God in Jesus Christ, the continual aid, strength, joy, and comfort of his most pure, holy, and mighty Spirit, with the increase of faith, and lively feeling of his mercies, be most effectuously wrought in your heart, my dear and faithful loving brother Adlington, and in the hearts of all your other godly prison-fellows, to the full finishing of that good work, which the Lord hath most graciously begun in you; that the same may be to the advancing and setting forth of his glory, the commodity of his poor afflicted church, and to your own eternal joy and comfort in him, Amen.
"My most dear and faithful loving brother in the Lord, I, with all the rest of my loving brethren here with me, do most humbly and heartily commend us unto you, with all faithful remembrance of you in our daily prayers, giving God earnest thanks on your most happy behalf, for that he hath given you such hearty boldness and Christian constancy in the faithful confession of his everlasting verity. Blessed be God for thee, my dearly beloved brother, which hath vouched thee worthy of so great dignity as to suffer for his sake, and setting forth of his glory. Oh! glad in heart mayest thou be, to whom it is given, not only to believe in thy Lord and Christ most lively, but also to suffer for his sake, as one of his silly sheep appointed to the slaughter. Be of good comfort therefore, my good brother; for your calling unto the cross of Christ was after a marvellous sort. Surely, it was only the Lord's appointment, and therefore he will well perform his own work in and upon you, to the great magnifying of his glory, and comfort of your brethren, whose hearts are mightily refreshed to hear how heartily you have behaved yourself hitherto.
"This present day I received a letter from you, at the reading whereof my brethren and I were not a little comforted, to see your conscience so quieted in Christ and your continuance so stedfast in him; which things be the special gifts of God, not given unto every man, but to you his dear darling, elect and chosen in Christ, and such as you be. And whereas you do require to know my simple mind concerning your answer unto Dr. Story and the chancellor, truly I say you did answer them very well: for there are but two sacraments indeed, that is to say, the sacrament of baptism, and the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, as you have full well answered them, praised be God for his good gifts, who chooseth the weak to confound the strong, and the foolish to confound the worldly wise. If, when you come before them again, they do ask you what a sacrament is, say you that a sacrament, being ministered according to Christ's institution, is a visible sign of an invisible grace, and hath the promise of God's mercy annexed unto it, available to all such as do worthily receive it, and not unworthily worship it, as they would have us to do, contrary to God's commandment. And these properties belonging to Christ's true sacraments, cannot be applied unto any of those five sacraments which they have invented of their own brain, since antichrist began to reign, to blind the people withal.
"I perceive, dear heart, that upon Friday they do intend to condemn you, and give you your judgment. Therefore I think they will have no great reasoning with you, but bid you answer them directly, either yea or nay, to all such things as they have to charge you withal, which they have gathered of you since you came into their cruel hands. But if they will needs make many words with you, because you are but a simple man, and therefore perchance they will be the busier with you to trouble you with many questions, to cumber your knowledge, and then seem to triumph over you and that truth that you do bold -- if, I say, they do this, (as perhaps for some evil purpose they will,) then be you so plain and as short as you can, saying roundly unto them these or such-like words, as nigh as you can:
"'Be it known unto you, that I in all points do believe as it becometh a true Christian, and as I have been truly taught in the days of that good King Edward, of such godly preachers and prophets sent of God, as have sealed their doctrine with their blood, from whom I will dissent in no point: for I am a poor man without learning, but am commanded of God to follow the counsel of his constant preachers; and so do I intend to do, God giving me grace and assistance thereto!
"As for you, I know you to be none of Christ's shepherds, but ravening wolves, which come to kill and scatter the flock of Christ, as the Lord said you should; and doth will us to beware of you and your poisoned doctrine, bidding us to judge you according to your fruits, whereby all men may see and know what ye be, that will not be wilfully blind. But the good shepherds have given their lives for the defence of Christ's flock; and I am commanded to follow their faithful and godly example, and to confess with them one truth, even to the fire, if God shall see it good. And this as a true Christian I have hitherto done, and henceforth by God's grace intend to do. And if, for the same, God shall suffer you to take away my life, as you have done theirs, I am contented therewith: his will be done, for that only is good. But of this be you sure, the Lord will shortly call you to account for all the innocent blood that is shed within this realm; which you have brought into a most woeful case, and made many a heavy heart in the same; and more I perceive you will make, so long as the Lord for our sins will suffer you to prosper, and until the time that your iniquities shall be full ripe. But then, be you sure, the Lord will sit in judgment upon you, as well as you do now upon his saints, and will reward you according to your deservings; to whom with my whole heart I commit my cause: and he will make answer for me, when the full time of my refreshing cometh.
"'In the mean space, I will keep silence with this that I have said, trusting that I have sufficiently discharged my conscience in confessing my faith and religion to you, declaring of what church I am, even of the catholic church of Jesus Christ, which was well known to be here in England in our. late good King Edward's days, by two special tokens which cannot deceive me, nor yet suffer me to be deceived; that is to say, the pure preaching of his holy word, and the due administration of his holy sacraments, which is not to be seen in your Romish church, and therefore it cannot justly be called the church and spouse of Christ. I believe in the holy Trinity, and all the other articles of the Christian faith contained in the three creeds; and finally, all the canonical Scripture to be true in every sentence. And I detest all sects both of the Arians and Anabaptists, or any others that divide themselves from the true church of Christ, which is his mystical body, the ground and pillar of truth, and the very house of the living God. And if for these things you take away my life, and make yourselves guilty of my blood, you may; for I am in your hands as the sheep brought to the shambles, abiding the grace of the butcher. And be you sure your judgment sleepeth not, but when you cry, Peace, peace, and, All is safe, then shall your plagues begin like the sorrow of a woman travailing with child, according to Christ's infallible promise.'
"This kind of answer, my dear heart, it shall be best for you to make: and by God's grace I do intend to take the same order myself in time to come, when the Lord shall vouch me worthy of that great dignity, whereunto he hath called you. And if they shall laugh you to scorn, as I know they will, saying, 'Thou art a fool, and an unlearned ass-head, and art able to make answer to nothing,' &c., care you not for it, but still commit your cause unto God, who will make answer for you; and tell them that they have been answered again and again of divers godly and learned men: but all will not help; for you have one solution of all manner of questions, even a fair fire and faggots; this will be the end of your disputations. Therefore I pray you to trouble me no more, but do that which you are appointed, when God shall permit the time. I am no better than Christ, his apostles, and other of my good brethren that are gone before me.'
"This kind of answer will cut their combs most, and edify the people that stand by, so that the same be done coldly, with sobriety, meekness, and patience; as I heard say our sweet brethren Thomas Harland and John Oswald did at Lewes in Sussex, to the great rejoicing of the children of God that were in those parts. And I hear say, that they were dissolved from this earthly tabernacle at Lewes, on Saturday last, and were condemned but the Wednesday before; so that we may perceive the papists have quick work in hand, that they make such haste to have us home to our heavenly Father. Therefore let us make ourselves ready to ride in the fiery chariot, leaving these sorry mantles and old cloaks behind us for a little time, which God shall restore to us again in a more glorious wise.
"My good brother Harry, you shall understand that bragging John T. hath beguiled his keepers, (who trusted him too well,) and is run away from them, and hath brought the poor men into great danger by the same. The one of them is cast by the council's commandment into the Gate-house at Westminster, the other is fled forth of the country for fear. Thus you may see the fruits of our freewill men, that made so much boast of their own strength. But that house which is not builded surely upon the unmovable Rock, will not long stand against the boisterous winds and storms, that blow so strongly in these days of trouble.
"But, my dearly beloved brother, blessed be God for you, and such as you be, which have played the parts of wise builders. You have digged down past the sand of your own natural strength, and beneath the earth of your own worldly wisdom, and are now come to the hard stone and unmovable Rock Christ, who is your only keeper; and upon him alone have you builded your faith most firmly, without doubting, mistrust, or wavering. Therefore neither the storms nor tempests, winds nor weathers, that Satan and all his wily workmen can bring against you, with the very gates of hell to help them, shall ever be able once to move your house, much less to overthrow it; for the Lord God himself, and no man, is the builder thereof, and hath promised to preserve and keep the same for ever. Unto his most merciful defence therefore I do heartily commit you and all your good company, desiring him for his sweet Son Jesus Christ's sake to confirm and strengthen you all, that you may be constant unto the very end; that after the final victory is once gotten, you may receive the immarcessible crown of glory, of God's free gift, through his great mercy in Jesus Christ our only Saviour. To whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honour, glory, praise, thanks, power, rule, and dominion, for ever and evermore, Amen. -- The blessing of God be with you all.
To my most clear and faithful brother T. V.
"The everlasting peace of God in Jesus Christ, the continual joy and comfort of his most pure, holy, and mighty Spirit, with the increase of faith, and lively feeling of his mercy, be with you, my dear heart in the Lord, and faithful loving brother T. V., to the full accomplishing of that good work which he hath so graciously begun in you, that the same by all means may be to the setting forth of his glory, to the commodity of his poor afflicted congregation, and to the sweet comfort and quietness of your conscience in him now and evermore, Amen.
"With such due honour, love, and reverence, as it becometh me to bear unto the sweet saints and dearly beloved children of God, I have me most heartily commended unto you, my dear brother V.; with all earnest and faithful remembrance of you in my daily prayers, thanking God right heartily that you do likewise remember me in yours; assuring you that my poor heart doth daily feel great consolation thereby, God only have the praise for the same and all other his benefits. Ah, my dear heart in the Lord! well is me that ever I was born, that God of his great mercy and infinite goodness hath used me, most miserable wretch, at any time, as his instrument to minister any thing unto you either by word or writing, that might be an occasion of your joy and comfort in the Lord, and a provoking of you to praise and thanksgiving unto God for the same, as your most loving and godly letter seemeth to import. Oh! happy am I that the Lord hath appointed me unto so good a ground to sow his seed upon; but much more happy are you, whose heart the Lord hath prepared and made so meet to receive the same so effectuously, giving thereto the sweet showers and heavenly dews of his grace and Holy Spirit, that it may bring forth fruit in due season accordingly; the increase whereof we shall shortly reap together with perfect joy and gladness, and that continually.
"Therefore, my dear brother, I say unto you as good Elizabeth did to her dear cousin Mary, Happy are you, and happy shall you be for evermore, because you have believed. The most sweet and faithful promises of your Redeemer, Jesus Christ, you have surely laid up in the treasury of your heart; his comfortable callings you have faithfully heard; his loving admonitions you have humbly obeyed: and therefore you shall never come into judgment. Your sins shall never be remembered; for your Saviour hath cast them all into the bottom of the sea. He hath removed them from you as far as the east is from the west, and hath given you for an everlasting possession, his justification and holiness; so that now no creature, neither in heaven nor in earth, shall be able to accuse you before the throne of the heavenly King.
"Satan is now judged; he is now cast out from you; he hath no part in you; you are wholly given unto Christ, which will not lose you. Your stedfast faith in him hath overcome the sturdy and bragging prince of the world; Christ hath given you the final victory over him and all his army, that they shall never hurt you.
"What would you have more? Oh, my dear heart, how great treasures are laid up in store for you, and how glorious a crown is already made and prepared for you!
"And albeit the Holy Ghost doth bear witness of all these things in your heart, and maketh you more sure and certain thereof, than if you had all the outward oracles in the world; yet I, being certainly persuaded and fully assured by the testimony of God's Spirit in my conscience, of your eternal and sure salvation in our sweet Saviour Jesus Christ, have thought it good, yea, and my bounden duty, not only at this time to write unto you, and to show you my joyful heart in that behalf, but also, by the word and commandment of Christ, to pronounce and affirm in the name and word of the heavenly King Jehovah, and in the behalf of his sweet Son Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom all knees shall bow, whom all creatures shall worship, and also by the impulsion of the Holy Ghost, by whose power and strength all the faithful be regenerate -- I do (I say) pronounce to thee, my dear brother T. V., that thou art already a citizen of heaven.
"The Lord thy God, in whom thou dost put all thy trust, for his dear Son's sake, in whom thou dost also undoubtedly believe, hath freely forgiven thee all thy sins, clearly released all thine iniquities, and fully pardoned all thy offences, be they never so many, so grievous, or so great, and will never remember them any more to condemnation. As truly as he liveth, he will not have thee die the death, but hath verily determined, purposed, and eternally decreed, that thou shalt live with him for ever. Thy sore shall be healed and thy wounds bound up even of himself, for his own name's sake. He doth not nor will he look upon thy sins in thee; but he respecteth and beholdeth thee in Christ, into whom thou art lively grafted by faith in his blood, and in whom thou art most assuredly elected and chosen to be a sweet vessel of his mercy and salvation, and wast thereto predestinated in him before the foundation of the world was laid: in testimony and earnest whereof he hath given thee his good and Holy Spirit, which worketh in thee faith, love, and unfeigned repentance, with other godly virtues contrary to the corruption of thy nature. Also he hath commanded me this day (although a most unworthy wretch) to be a witness thereof by the ministry of his holy word, grounded upon the truth of his most faithful promises; the which thou believing shalt live for ever. Believest thou this, my dear heart? I know well thou dost believe. The Lord increase thy faith, and give thee a lively feeling of all his mercies, whereof thou art warranted and assured by the testimony of the Holy Ghost, who confirm in thy conscience (to the utter overthrowing of Satan, and those his most hurtful dubitations, whereby he is accustomed to molest and vex the true children of God) all that I have said: and by God's grace I will, as a witness thereof, confirm and seal the same with my blood, for a most certain truth.
"Wherefore, my good brother, praise the Lord with a joyful heart, and give him thanks for this his exceeding great mercy, casting away all dubitation and wavering, yea, all sorrow of heart, and pensiveness of mind: for this, the Lord your God, and most dear and loving Father, commandeth you to do by me, nay, rather by his own mouth and word pronounced by me. But now, my dear brother, after that I have done my message, or rather the Lord's message, indeed I could find in my heart to write two or three sheets of paper, declaring the joy I bear in my heart for you, mine own bowels in the Lord: yet the time being so short, (as you do well know,) I am here constrained to make an end, desiring you to pardon my slackness, and to forgive my great negligence towards you; promising you still, that so long as my poor life doth last, my prayer shall supply that my pen doth want, as knoweth the Almighty God, to whose most merciful defence I do heartily commit you and all other his dear children, as well as though I had rehearsed them by name, desiring them most heartily to remember me in their hearty and daily prayers, as I know right well they do; for I feel the daily comfort and commodity thereof, and therefore I neither will nor can forget them, nor you, nor any such-like. The blessing of God be with you all, Amen.
"Yours, for ever unfeignedly,
A letter of thanks to a faithful friend of his, by whom he had received much comfort in his inward troubles.
"Blessed be God, the Father of all mercy, for the great comfort and Christian consolation which he hath so mercifully ministered unto my poor afflicted heart by your means, my most dear and faithful brother. Truly methinketh your words, or rather God's words by you uttered, have a wonderful power and efficacy working in my heart at the hearing and reading of them. Rejoice therefore, my dear brother, and be thankful unto God; for verily he both is and will be mightily magnified in you, and that divers and many ways, both to the strengthening of them that stand in his truth, and also to the raising up of such as are fallen from the same. God make me thankful for you, and on your behalf; for verily great is the goodness of God towards me, in giving me acquaintance in faithful love and amity with you; God's name be praised for ever there-for, and he perform all his merciful promises upon you, as I doubt not but he will, for his sake in whom you trust.
"I thank my God most heartily, and also you, my good brother, for that you are careful for me in your faithful prayers, remembering my just deserved sorrows, as though they were your own, and labouring so much to solace the same. Ah, my gracious good God! what am I, for whom thou and thy dear children should be so careful? O sweet Lord, forgive me my great ingratitude and sin, and grant that I never abuse thy great benefits! O let the love of thine elect, which love me for thy sake, be a sure sign and token, yea, a most firm testimony and seal to my sinful conscience, of thine everlasting love and mercy towards me in Christ; as verily it would and ought to be, if mine infidelity did not let it. O circumcise therefore the foreskin of my heart, that I may with lively faith behold thy great love towards me in all thine elect; that I may always be thankful for the same, and love thee and them again most heartily and unfeignedly.
"Ah, my dear heart! how sweetly and how truly, yea, how godly and how comfortably, have you rehearsed the sweet saying of Solomon concerning prosperity with true and godly friends! I will join with it the sentence which goeth a little before, for doubtless it may be well verified on you. A sure friend, saith the wise man in Ecclesiasticus vi., will be unto thee even as thine own soul, and deal faithfully with thy household-folk. If thou suffer trouble and adversity, he is with thee, and hideth not his face from thee. A faithful friend is a strong defence: whoso findeth such an one, findeth a treasure. A faithful friend hath no peer: the weight of gold is not to he compared to the goodness of his faith. A faithful friend is a medicine of life, and they that fear the Lord shall find him, &c. Lo, my dear heart in the Lord, here is a lively image or description of you; for verily such an one have I always found you unto me, not only sorrowing for my great sorrow, but also oftentimes making me merry and joyful, with such joys as the world cannot feel. Now let the World brag of his feigned friendship; but I will boast of this true friendship in God, and esteem it a more treasure than all transitory things. And as for my mourning, dear brother, God hath made you to turn it unto mirth; for God hath put you instead of them to be my comfort, whom he hath in his great mercy taken away. I trust henceforth to leave the mourning for my great loss, and to praise God for gaining unto himself so great glory by his chosen children. God make me a true mourner of Sion, both for mine own sin and wickedness, and also to see his honour defaced, that I may be made meet and apt to bear the joyful and comfortable message that your beautiful feet shall bring me. God bless thee, my dear heart, and faithful loving brother, and increase his good gifts of grace in thee, as he hath most happily begun, that you may daily more effectually feel and lively perceive the certainty of God's grace wherein you stand, and firmly testify the same to the conversion or confounding of all gainsayers, and to the comfort and confirmation of all God's dear children, Amen. Farewell, mine own sweet brother, farewell as mine own heart!
"Your own in Christ,
Another letter to a certain godly faithful sister, by the name of E. K.
"The grace and free mercy of God in Jesus Christ, the sweet consolations of the Holy Ghost, the guide of all God's dear children, be with you, strengthen and comfort you, my dearly beloved sweet sister, E. K., now and ever. Amen.
"Albeit, my dearly beloved sister in Christ, as yet we did never see one another personally to any knowledge, yet by the virtuous report that I have heard of you, and also by the large loving token that I have received from you, methinks that I do even presently see you, and behold your person faithfully walking in the fear and love of God, joying and rejoicing with you in the Spirit, as though we were sweetly talking together of Christ's verity. The Lord God do I humbly beseech, in the bowels and blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, that he will strengthen us both with his holy and mighty Spirit, that we may constantly continue in the confession of his truth unto the end; that like as we now see one another presently in spirit, we may also see one another personally in the glorious presence of God and his holy angels, where undoubtedly we shall know one another's personage, to our great joy, felicity, and endless comfort.
"And now therefore, dear sister K., be strong in the Lord our God, for doubtless the time of trial is at hand; a great persecution, with cruel murdering of God's dear saints, is like to be very shortly in this woeful wicked realm of England. Therefore, dear sister, for the love of God prepare you to the cross with all diligence, and make yourself ready to die with Christ, that you may also, live with him for ever. There is no remedy: if you will be Christ's disciple, you must needs take up your cross and follow him; for the disciple must not look to be above his Master, nor the servant to be better entreated than his Lord. If we were of the world, good sister, no doubt the world would love us. But forasmuch as Christ hath chosen us out of the world to serve God in spirit and verity, let us be well assured the world will hate us and persecute us, as it hath done our Lord and Master Christ. But yet let us be of good cheer, for Christ hath overcome the world. The pain is but short that we can feel here, but the pleasure is perpetual that we shall feel elsewhere.
"Let us set before us the example of Christ, which abode the cross, and despised the shame, in respect of the joy that was set before him: even so let us consider for whose sake we suffer, whose cause we defend, and what glorious reward we shall have at the day of our victory; and then doubtless the consolation of these things will make sweet all our sufferings, and soon swallow up all the sorrows that we are soused in for God's sake. I could recite divers texts of the Scriptures to confirm this point; but I need not, for I am well assured that you do know them most perfectly already. The Lord give you strength, and assist you with his Holy Spirit, that you may continually walk in all points according to your godly knowledge: and then shall you not do as the most part of our gospellers do now-a-days, the more is the pity.
"There are a great many in England that do perfectly know that the idolatrous mass is abominable, devilish, and detestable in the sight of God. And yet, alas, they be not afraid to pollute and defile their bodies, which ought to be the temples of the Holy Ghost, with being present at it; so sinning against God and their own conscience.
"But, dear sister K., do you fly from it both in body and soul, as you would fly from the very devil himself. Drink not of the whore of Babylon's cup by any means; for it will infect the body, and poison the soul. Be not partakers of her sins, saith the angel, lest ye be partakers of the plagues that shall shortly be poured upon her. O what an array is this, that so many that know God's truth, will now turn again and defile themselves in the filthy puddle of antichrist's stinking religion! They go about to save their lives with their double dissimulation; but, doubtless, they shall lose everlasting life by it, if they do not repent in time, and turn unto the Lord. But, dear sister, my trust is, that you do utterly abhor the coming to any such thing. I hope that you will not by any means turn back into Egypt now, but that you will boldly venture through the wilderness of trouble and persecution, that you may come into the land that floweth with all kind of heavenly pleasures and joyful delectations, and possess the same for ever.
"Let us consider, how that every one of us doth owe unto God a death by nature; and, how soon the Lord will require it of us, we know not. O how happy are we then, if God of his goodness appoint us to pay nature's debt with suffering for his truth and gospel's sake; and so making us his faithful witnesses with the prophets, apostles, martyrs, and confessors, yea, with his dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ, to whom he doth here begin to fashion us like in suffering, that we might be like him also in glory. Thus, my dearly beloved sister, I have been bold to trouble you a little with my rude and simple letter, being made in haste, as it doth appear yet I desire you to take it in good worth, as a token of my poor zeal unto you, and to accept my good will; and if it please God to spare me life and liberty, I trust hereafter to write unto you more largely. Fare ye well, dear sister E. K.; the Lord bless you and all yours, and pour upon you the heavenly dew of his grace. The Lord endue you with plentiful knowledge of his verity; and fill you with his holy and mighty Spirit, that you may continually rejoice in the comforts of the same now and ever. Amen.-- Pray, pray, pray, with stedfast faith.
"Your daily orator, JOHN CARELESS, prisoner of the Lord."
n the letters of William Tyms, ye heard before much mention made of Agnes Glascock. This Agnes Glascock, through infirmity, and her husband's persuasions, was allured to go to mass. For which cause she, falling into great sorrow and repentance, was raised up again by the comfortable letters of William Tyms and John Careless, as before you may read; and, after that, was constant in the sincere profession of the verity, and in danger for the same of persecution; unto whom John Careless writeth therefore his letter, as followeth.
"The everlasting peace of God in Jesus Christ, the continual aid, strength, and comforts of his most pure, holy, and mighty Spirit, be with you, my dear and faithful sister Glascock, to the good performance of that good work which God hath so graciously begun in you, to his glory, the commodity of his poor afflicted church, and to your own eternal comfort in him. Amen.
"In our Lord I have my most humble and hearty commendations unto you, my dear sister and most faithful mother Glascock, with all remembrance of you in my daily prayers, giving God most hearty laud, praise, and thanks for you, and on your behalf, in that he of his great mercy hath hitherto so mightily strengthened you, constantly to cleave unto your Captain Christ, notwithstanding the great assaults and manifold temptations that you have had to the contrary. Doubtless, dear heart, it cannot be expressed what joy and comfort it is unto my very soul, to see how mightily the Lord hath magnified himself in you, and other his dear elect darlings, whom he will shortly glorify with himself, as he hath done other of his sweet saints that are gone before you. Rejoice therefore, and be glad; for verily you have good cause, if you diligently consider the great dignity that God hath called you unto, even now in your old age, to be one of his worthy witnesses unto the world: and I think you shall, with me and other your brethren in bonds, seal the Lord's verity with the testimony of your blood. Surely, sweet sister, this is the greatest promotion that God can bring you or any other unto, in this life; and an honour that the highest angel in heaven is not permitted to have.
"Therefore happy are you, O faithful daughter of Abraham! that the Lord will now prefer you before many others, yea, or any other of your age, that I do know in England. O faithful and virtuous matron, which wilt not be moved from the sure Rock Christ, upon whom you have so firmly built your house, that neither storms nor tempests, neither yet hell-gates, or any other temptations, shall ever be able once to prevail against it. Full well doth it appear by your constant continuance, that you have played the part of a wise builder, in counting the cost aforehand, belonging to the finishing of your tower. And I doubt not but (through God's gift) you have sufficient to the performance thereof, that the hypocrites of their part shall have no just cause to triumph against you, or to mock you, saying, Lo, this woman began to build, but is not able to make an end. Therefore go on boldly and fear not; for God is faithful, (as St. Paul saith,) which will not suffer you to be tempted above your strength, but either he will give you grace and strength to stand unto the death, (which is the gate and entrance into life,) or else he will make such an outscape for you, as shall be to the setting forth of his glory; the which, above all other things, we that are his chosen children ought to seek, yea, even with the loss of our own lives, being yet well assured that the same shall not be shortened one minute of an hour before the time that God hath appointed.
"Cast therefore, dear sister, all your care upon the Lord, which (as St. Peter saith) careth for you. Great is his providence for you, and mighty is his love and mercy towards you. With his grace he will defend you, and with his Holy Spirit he will evermore guide you, wherewith he hath surely sealed you unto the day of redemption: he hath also given you the same in earnest for the recovery of the purchased possession, which he hath prepared for you before the foundation of the world was laid. Be strong therefore, and take a good heart, as I hear say you be. God for ever be blessed for you, which hath grafted his love in your good heart, that nothing is able to separate you from the same, but will rather choose to suffer adversity with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a little season. O happy woman, that canst find in thy heart to esteem the rebukes of Christ to be greater riches than all the treasures of the world, as good Moses did. Doubtless great is your reward in heaven; which you shall shortly receive of his free gift, and not of any deserving.
"Thus, dear mother Glascock, I have been bold to trouble you with my rude and simple letters, desiring you to take them in good worth, being done in great haste, as it doth appear, but yet proceeding from a poor heart which floweth over in love towards you, as my daily prayers for you can testify; which I trust shall supply that part of my duty towards you, that my pen now wanteth. I thank you, dear heart, for all your loving tokens, and for the great kindness you have hitherto showed unto my poor brother Tyms and his wife and children, with all other of God's people, to whom you daily do good: the Lord recompense the same sevenfold into your bosom, as I doubt not but he will, according to his infallible promises! I pray you have my hearty commendations unto your husband. I beseech the Lord strengthen him in the confession of his truth, (as my trust is that he will,) that we may all joyfully rest with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God; unto the which he bring us, that with his most precious blood hath bought us! The blessing of God be with you now and ever. Amen.
"Your daily orator and unfeigned lover, JOHN CARELESS, prisoner of the Lord. Pray,pray, pray."
A brief admonition written to Mistress Agnes Glascock, in a book of hers, when she came to the prison to visit him.
"There is nothing that the Holy Scripture throughout doth so much commend unto us, as true faith and stedfast trust in the promises of God's eternal mercies towards us in Jesus Christ. For from the same, as forth of the chief fountain and well-spring of life, do flow all kind of virtues and godly fruits, specially true love towards God, in the which we ought purely to serve him all the days of our life; and also Christian charity towards our neighbours, as well to help them at all needs, as also not to hurt them by any means. Therefore pray earnestly for the increase of faith and lively feeling of God's mercy; for all things are possible unto him that can undoubtedly believe. Faith is that thing which assureth us of God's mercy, and whereby we vanquish all the fiery darts of the devil; our victory that overcometh the world; the knife that killeth and mortifieth the flesh: and finally that which setteth us at peace with God, and quieteth our consciences always before him, and maketh us merry and joyful under the cross, with many more things than I can now express. Pray therefore for faith, in faith: and, for the Lord's sake, beware of popery and popish idolatry, the idol of the wicked mass, and other idolatrous service. Make not your body, which is a member of Christ, a member of antichrist. Remember that we shall receive of God according to that we do in the body, be it good or evil. Therefore glorify God in your body, which is dearly bought. Betray not the truth, lest the Lord deny you. If God be God, follow him. You cannot serve two masters. I write not this as doubting you, but by the way of admonition. God keep you from all evil.
"My sister dear, God give you grace,
With stedfast faith in Christ his name,
His gospel still for to embrace,
And live according to the same.
To die there-for think it no shame,
But hope in God with faithful trust;
And he will give you praise with fame,
When you shall rise out of the dust.
For which most sweet and joyful day,
To God with faith your prayer make;
And think on me, I do you pray,
The which did write this for your sake.
And thus to God I you betake,
Who is your Castle and strong Rock;
He keep you, whether you sleep or wake;
Farewell, dear Mistress A. Glascock! "
Another letter to Mistress Agnes Glascock, to comfort her in her repentance, after she had been at mass; fruitful for all them to read, which have fallen, and are to be raised up again.
"The peace of God in Jesus Christ, the eternal comforts of his sweet Spirit, be with you, and strengthen and comfort you, my dear and faithful sister. Amen.
"Although the perilous days be come, whereof Christ prophesied that if it were possible the very elect should be deceived; yet let the true faithful Christians rejoice and be glad, knowing that the Lord himself is their Keeper, who will not suffer one hair of their heads to perish without his almighty good will and pleasure, neither will suffer them to he further tempted than he will give them strength to bear; but will in the midst of their temptation make a way for them to escape out: so good and gracious a God is he to all his chosen children. And though sometimes he do let his elect stumble and fall, yet (no doubt) he will raise them up again, to the further increase of their comfort, and to the setting forth of his glory and praise. Which thing, my dear and faithful loving sister, I trust shall be well verified on you: for I do hear say, that by the manifold allurements, enticements, procurements, yea, and enforcements, that you, dear heart, have had, your foot hath chanced to slip forth of the way, to the great discomfort of your soul, and the heaviness of your heart. But, my good sister, be of good cheer, for the Lord will not so leave you, but he will raise you up again, and make you stronger than ever you were; so that your fall shall turn to his glory and your profit. For if you had not by this proved the experience of your own strength, or rather your own weakness, you would have stood too much in your own conceit, or perchance have gloried in yourself, and have despised and condemned other weak persons that have committed the like offence. Therefore now you may see what the best of us all can do, if God leave us to ourselves. Which thing ought to move you to be diligent to call earnestly upon God for his grace and the strength of his Holy Spirit, (without the which we are not able to stand one hour,) and to be most thankful for the same when you have it; and then to be more circumspect in time to come.
"Therefore, dear sister, seeing that you have done otherwise than the word of God and your own conscience would allow; yet, dear heart, do you not think that God therefore will cast you clean away, but know that he hath mercy enough in store for all them that truly repent and believe in him, although the sins of them were as many in number as the sands in the sea, and as great as the sins of the whole world. It is a greater sin to mistrust the mercy and promises of God, than to commit the greatest offence in the world. Therefore, good sister, beware in any wise, that you do not once mistrust the promises of God's mercy towards you; but know for a very surety, that all your sins be utterly forgiven you for Christ's sake, be they never so many, so grievous, or so great.
"But now, dear heart, take heed and beware that you do not cloak that sin, and increase the same daily, in communicating with the wicked in their idolatry, and devilish doings at their den of thieves. Do not, I say, dear sister, come at any of their antichristian service, lest by little and little you utterly lose a good conscience, and at length esteem it for no offence; as, alas! a great number do at this day, to the great peril of their souls. The Lord be merciful to them, and give them grace to repent in time and turn to the Lord, and then they shall be sure to find mercy at the Lord's hand, as doubtless you have done, praised be his name there-for.
"Ah, my dear sister! you may now see the words of Christ verified upon yourself, that a man's greatest foes shall be they of his own household; for your husband hath gotten you to do that, which all the tyrants in the world could never have made you to do. Doubtless he may be sorry for it. God give him grace to repent, or else, without doubt, it will be laid to his charge one day, when he would not, by his will, hear it for all the goods in the world. Well, I think my brother Tyms will write him a letter shortly that shall touch his conscience, if he have any conscience at all.
"But now again to you, dear sister. The thing that is done cannot be undone, and you are not the first that hath offended, neither are you so good and so holy, as hath at a time slipped forth of the way. Therefore I would not have you to be so much discomforted as I hear say you be, as though God were not as able to forgive you your offence, as he was to forgive his dear saints that offended him in times past; or as though God were not as merciful now as ever he was. Whereas in very deed, there is with the Lord, as the prophet saith, mercy and plentiful redemption, and his mercy far surmounteth all his works; and he never faileth any that put their whole trust and confidence in him, how great an offender or how wicked a trespasser soever he be. No, he maketh their falls and backslidings many times to turn to their profit and commodity, and to the setting forth of his glory; as doubtless, dear sister, yours shall do, if you put your whole faith, hope, and trust, only in his infinite and eternal sweet mercies.
"O what a subtle, crafty, lying serpent is that Satan our old enemy! that when he seeth that he cannot make us to continue in our wickedness to do him service, would then bring us into a doubting and mistrusting of the mercy of God, which is the greatest offence that can be; yea, infidelity is the root and original of all other sins. Therefore, my sweet sister, give no place to that cruel adversary of mankind, who hath been a liar and a murderer from the beginning; but stedfastly believe the Lord, who hath sent you word by me his most unworthy servant, that all your sins be pardoned, forgiven, and clean released for Jesus Christ's sake our only Lord and Saviour. To whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honour, glory, praise, thanks, power, rule, and dominion, for ever and for ever, Amen. Farewell, my dear sister; be of good cheer. Believe in the Lord, and you shall live for ever. The Lord increase your faith, Amen, Amen.
"Your poor brother, and daily faithful orator,
JOHN CARELESS, prisoner of the Lord.
Pray for me."
Another letter of John Careless to A. B., a faithful minister of the Lord; containing certain fruitful precepts of matrimony.
"I beseech the same everlasting Lord, my dear and faithful brother, (that blessed young Tobias with his wife Sarah, and brought them together in due time with reverence and fear,) preserve and bless you both, and your seed after you, that they may increase the number of the faithful by thousands and thousands. And as the Lord, of his great mercy and fatherly providence, hath been always careful for you, and now hath for your comfort accomplished his good work in coupling you with a faithful mate; so see that you be thankful for his providence towards you, that it may every way in you be an increase of love and godliness, yea, of Christian joy and gladness in these sorrowful days,-- but yet so, that you mourn with the true mourners of Sion, and be sorry (yet in measure) for the hurt of the same. Pray also in faith for her prosperity, that the Lord may build up the walls of Jerusalem again.
"O that the Lord would turn Sion's captivity as the rivers into the south: then should our hearts be made glad, and our mouths filled with laughter. Then would the heathen hypocrites say, the Lord hath done much for them. Oh, the Lord hath done great things for us already, whereof let us heartily rejoice and praise his name there-for. For though we now sow with tears, yet shall we be sure to reap with gladness; and as we now go forth weeping, hearing forth good seed, so shall we come again with joy, and bring our sheaves full of corn. Yea, the death of the martyrs (which is most precious in his sight) shall be the life of the gospel, spite of the papists' hearts.
"Pray for me, dear heart, that I may be counted worthy to sow some seed amongst the sweet saints of the Lord, that I may reap the same again, without ceasing, at the harvest. It is now sowing time of the year, men say in the country, and I think that I shall make an end of sowing before all March be past; for I hear say that I shall prove how my plough will enter into the stony ground of the hardhearted papists, within these four days. I hope to hold fast, and not to look back, neither for fear nor flattery, until I have made an end of sowing; and then will I set me down and rest me, and ask them all no leave, and look for the lively fruit and increase thereof with joy and gladness.
"My dear brother, the time approacheth near (I praise God there-for) that I must put off this sinful tabernacle, and go home to my heavenly Father, where divers of my dear brethren are already looking and wishing for me. I beseech you therefore, that you will help me forward with your faithful prayers, as I know you do, for I do feel the comfort and commodity thereof.
"That you have observed my simple counsel I am right glad; and I trust in the Lord God, you shall find comfort in the same. And that you may so do indeed, I have been so bold to write these few words unto you, because I shall see you no more in this corruptible life; therefore mark them well. First, and above all things, you must be very circumspect to keep the band of love, and beware that there never spring up the root of bitterness between you. If at any time there happen to rise any cause of unkindness between you, (as it is impossible always to be free from it,) see that you weed up the same with all lenity, gentleness, and patience; and never suffer yourself, nor your wife, to sleep in displeasure.
"If you have cause to speak sharply, and sometimes to reprove, beware that you do not the same in the presence of others, but keep your words until a convenient time, (which is the point of a wise man, saith Solomon,) and then utter them in the spirit of meekness, and the groaning spirit of perfect love; which you must also let sometimes to cover faults, and wink at them if they be not intolerable. Whatsoever loss and mischance shall happen unto you, take it patiently, and bear it merrily; and though the same should come partly through your wife's negligence, yet let it rather be a loving warning to take heed in time to come, than a cause of sorrow for that which is past and cannot be holpen. I know by mine own experience, that we are in this life subject to many inconveniences, and that of nature we are prone to displeasure, and ready to think unkindness for every little trifle, and specially with our best friends, yea, soonest with our loving wives, which be most loth to displease us.
"But let us beware of this cankered corruption, and consider that we ought most of all in love to bear with them, according to Christ's example towards his congregation, for whom he gave himself to cleanse it, &c. I had thought to have treated this matter at large, but even now I am interrupted and otherwise letted. I doubt not but you know your duty therein a great deal better than I can declare it unto you; and as you know it, so will do it: but I love to be bold with you. I intend to write also to your wife very shortly, and so take my last farewell of you for ever in this world. And thus in great haste I am now constrained to make an end. The blessing of God be always with you.
"Your own for ever, JOHN CARELESS.
Pray, pray, pray with faith."
Another letter of John Careless, to Elizabeth, wife of the said A. B., containing certain godly precepts of matrimony pertaining to her duty.
"The everlasting peace of God in Jesus Christ, the continual aid, strength, and comfort of his most holy and mighty Spirit, with increase of knowledge, faith, and perfect feeling of God's eternal mercy, be with you, my dear and faithful loving sister E. B., and with your godly loving husband, my dear and faithful brother, to the full performance of that good which he hath so graciously begun in you, that in all things you may be made rich and blessed in him, and your seed after you, now and ever, Amen.
"As I have been long desirous to write unto you, my dear heart in the Lord, not only being thereto bound of duty, but also often provoked of him, to whom I owe myself and all that I am able to do, (I mean even that blessed of the Lord's own mouth, whom God hath joined with you in that holy and Christian state of matrimony,) even so at the last I have obtained time and occasion, in some part, to perform that which I have long purposed. And forasmuch as the Lord, of his great mercy and fatherly care and providence over you his dear child, hath now graciously accomplished that good work, amongst many others, which I (as a friend of the Bridegroom) have full heartily wished and often prayed for; I think it good, yea, and my bounden duty, to treat of such things as may be profitable to preserve mutual love and faithful amity between you, which I know Satan will chiefly labour to diminish, (if he cannot altogether destroy the same,) lest by many joyful occasions you should be provoked continually to praise God for his good gift, which that enemy hath by all means sought to hinder from you.
"As for all other things, I know you are sufficiently instructed, and also have a most learned companion, who is well able further to teach you, if need do require. But in this thing I know my experience is more than his. Therefore, my good sister, first and before all things see that you do diligently consider, that as every good and perfect gift, pertaining to soul and body, is given from above, and cometh from the Father of light, even so to whomsoever the Lord dealeth any of his benefits, of them he doth chiefly require always a thankful heart for the same. For else he will either take away his good gifts again, or turn the same to their great discommodity, and in the end to the increase of their damnation: so detestable in his sight is the sin of ingratitude. But to such as be thankful for his benefits, he doth not only to the old ever add new, but also maketh the commodity of his former gifts ever more and more to increase, until by them they are fully persuaded and thoroughly certified of his everlasting love in Christ Jesus, which is eternal life itself: so much doth he of his great mercy delight in a thankful heart.
"Therefore I do yet once again earnestly require you, that above all things you be thankful to God for his benefits; not only for your election, creation, redemption, and preservation; but also for his other temporal gifts, wherewith he hath indued you: amongst the which the chief and most excellent is (as testifieth the Holy Ghost) your good, godly, and faithful loving husband. For, as the wise man saith, goods and possessions may come to a man by the death of his friends; but a good wife is the gift of God, which the Lord will give for a good portion to such as fear him.
"And the like is of a good husband, as the Lord hath now given you, praised be his name therefor. He hath not given you an ignorant, froward, churlish, brawling, wasteful, rioting, drunken husband, wherewith he hath plagued many others (as he might also have done you); but he hath given you a most godly, learned, gentle, loving, quiet, patient, thrifty, diligent, and sober husband, by whom he will nourish, cherish, keep, and defend you, instruct and teach you, yea, care and provide for you and your children (the which he will also by him give you) such things as be necessary for you. He hath not dealt so with every body, and yet he hath done this and much more for you, my dear sister; and will thereto increase joy and love between you. For as he delighteth in the love and godly agreement of man and wife together; so is it he only that maketh them and all the whole household to be of one mind: unto the which his gracious work he requireth your diligence, and will use you as his instrument and mean, the more effectuously to accomplish the same. And therefore I now require you to observe this my simple counsel, the which I have here written as a testimonial of my good-will towards you, because I think in this life I shall never more see you.
"Now as I have showed you how you should be thankful unto God for his good gifts, so I exhort you, and (as much as in me lieth) charge you, to be evermore thankful unto your dear loving husband, who hath given himself unto you; which is a more precious jewel in the church of God, than perchance you are yet aware of. Think yourself unworthy to be matched with such an instrument of God; and also reverence evermore the gifts of God in him, and seek with true obedience and love to serve him, in recompence of his true and painful heart towards you. Be loth in any wise to offend him, yea, rather be careful and diligent to please him, that his soul may bless you. If at any time you shall chance to anger him, or to do or speak any thing that shall grieve him, see that you never rest until you have pacified him, and made him merry again.
"If at any time he shall chance to blame you without a cause, or for that you cannot do therewith, (which thing happeneth sometimes to the best man living,) see that you bear it patiently, and give him no uncomely or unkind word for it; but evermore look upon him with a loving and cheerful countenance; and rather take the fault upon you, than seem to be displeased.
"Be always merry and cheerful in his company, but not with too much lightness. Beware in any wise of swelling, pouting, or louring; for that is a token of a cruel and unloving heart -- except it be in respect of sin, or in the time of sickness.
"Be not sorrowful for any adversity that God sendeth; but beware that nothing be spilt or go to waste through your negligence. In any wise see that you be quick and cleanly about his meat and drink, and prepare him the same according to his diet in due season. Go cleanly and well-favouredly in your apparel, but beware of pride in any wise.
"Finally, in word and deed show yourself wise, humble, merry, and loving towards him, and also towards such as he doth love, and then shall you lead a blessed life. I could speak of many things, the which I have learned and proved true by experience; but I know that you will do in all things much better than I can teach you, because you have that anointing that teacheth you all things, which hath also given you a heart to obey and serve him. Yet I trust you will not be offended for this which I have written, but rather accept my good-will towards you, whom I love in the Lord, as well as I do my daughter Judith.
"Thus as mine own soul I commend you both to God, desiring him to bless you with all manner of spiritual blessings in heavenly things, and also with the dew of heaven, and fatness of the earth, that in all things you may be made rich in Jesus Christ, our Lord and only Saviour. The Lord increase and bless the fruit of your bodies, that your children may stand round about your table, thick, fresh, and lusty, like the olive branches. God give you both a long life, that you may see and bless your children's children unto the third and fourth generation, and teach them the true fear and love of God, and that faith for the which they shall be accepted in his sight.
God let you see the prosperity of Sion, for whose lying in the dust let your hearts mourn. The Lord make perfect your love together in him, and always increase the same, and bring you both in peace to your graves, at a good age. And now I bid you both most heartily farewell; and I think I shall now take my leave of you for ever in this life. I beseech you both to aid me with your continual prayers, (as I will not forget you in mine,) that I may have a joyful victory through Jesus Christ: to whose most merciful defence I do most heartily for ever commend you to be kept unblamable until his coming. The which I beseech him to hasten for his mercy's sake.
"Your own unfeignedly, JOHN CARELESS, prisoner of the Lord."
Another letter of John Careless to Mistress Cotton.
"The everlasting peace of God in Jesus Christ, the eternal comfort of his most pure, holy, and mighty Spirit, with the increase of faith in his sweet mercies, be with you, my dear sister, good Mistress Cotton, to the full increase of your joy in Christ, now and ever. Amen.
"As, from the very bottom of my poor heart, I wish unto you health both of body and of soul, my dear loving sister in the Lord, so will I never cease praying unto God for the same, according unto my most bounden duty. Howbeit of your body upon condition, but of your soul without any condition, being well assured that the Lord, for his dear Son's sake, will perfectly grant me the same, so far forth as shall be most for your profit; so that, if the health of your body will stand with the wealth of your soul, I am sure I shall have my petition granted for the health of the same. But if the sickness of your body be for the health of your soul, as I am sure it is, then have I also my desire granted, because I ask the same no further than it may stand with the other: but for the everlasting health of your soul do I heartily pray without the addition of any condition; for it is the Lord's good will I should so do. Therefore I am sure my request is already granted therein, for his sake who hath redeemed the same with his most precious blood, yea, in whom you were elected before the foundation of the world was laid. This is most true, and therefore let nothing persuade you to the contrary. Rest upon this rock, and you are sure the gates of hell shall not prevail against you. I know, dear heart, that you have done much good to the poor for Jesus Christ's sake; yet beware you do not put any trust or confidence in your good deeds, merits, or deservings, but only in Jesus Christ, who hath given himself wholly to be yours, with all his holiness, righteousness, justification, and redemption, and all that ever he may.
"On the other side, he hath taken upon himself all your sins, miseries, and infirmity, and hath made a full satisfaction for them, with the sacrifice of his own body and blood offered once for all; this I do know, my good sister, you do constantly confess and believe, as the godly fruits of your Christian faith do daily testify. I trust to be a witness with you, at the great day, that your faith is unfeigned and full of godly charity: the Lord increase the same. I am constrained to make an end, full sore against my will. My poor prayers shall supply that which my pen doth lack. The blessing of God be with you now and ever, Amen.
"Your daily orator,
JOHN CARELESS "
A prayer to be said of every true Christian.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
"O almighty, everlasting God, and most gracious dear loving Father! I beseech thee for Jesus Christ's sake, thy most dear and only Son, to have mercy, pity, and compassion upon me, a most vile, wretched, and miserable sinner; whose innumerable offences, both old and new, be most horrible, grievous, and great, where-through I have justly deserved thy grievous wrath and everlasting damnation.
"But now, good Lord, here I do appeal to thy great mercy only, which far surmounteth all thy works, as thou hast promised the same in thy holy and infallible word, where thou hast said, yea, and sworn as truly as thou livest, that thou wouldest not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should convert and live. Ah! dear Lord, I confess that I am a great and a puissant sinner, and yet now, by the grace and good working of thy Holy Spirit, something turned unto thee. O let me live, and not die the everlasting death of the soul, which I have so deeply deserved; but make me a vessel of thy great mercy, that I may live and praise thy name among thy chosen children for ever. O let not my horrible sins separate me from the sweet sight of thy Majesty, but let thy great power and mercy be magnified in me, as it is in David, in Peter, in Magdalene, and in the notable thief, who was crucified with Christ thy dear Son; in whose most precious death and bloodshedding only, O Lord, I put my whole trust and confidence, for he only hath taken away the sins of the world. He came not to condemn the world, but to save it, that none that truly believe in him should perish, but have life everlasting. He saith, he came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Oh! gracious God, give me true, hearty, earnest, and unfeigned repentance, that I may, from the very bottom of my heart, continually lament my manifold sins and wickedness, my great ingratitude and unthankfulness towards thee, for all thy merciful benefits so abundantly poured upon me through Jesus Christ, who wouldest vouchsafe (he being thine own only dear darling, in whom was and is all thy whole pleasure and delight) to give him for me to the very death of the cross, (yea, and that when I was thine utter enemy,) of mercy inestimable and love incomprehensible.
"Who ever saw such a thing? God became man and was crucified for me, that, by his death, I might live. Alas! that ever I should become so wicked a wretch and so unkind a, creature, to displease so loving, kind, and merciful a God and Father. Oh, forgive me! Forgive me for thy great mercy's sake, for thy truth and promise' sake, and I will never trespass again against thy divine Majesty any more, but will gladly serve thee in true holiness and righteousness all the days of my life, by the grace and assistance of thy true and Holy Spirit: the which I beseech thee to give me also, that he may govern me, and guide my heart in thy true faith, fear, and love; that in all my works, words, and thoughts, I may glorify thy holy name, who livest and reignest one God and three persons, to whom be all honour, glory, praise, thanks, power, rule, and dominion, for ever and ever, Amen."