328. LETTERS OF MASTER PHILPOT.
A letter which he sent to the Christian congregation, exhorting them to refrain from the idolatrous service of the papists, and to serve God after his word.
T is a lamentable thing to behold at this present in England the faithless departing both of men and women. from the true knowledge and use of Christ's sincere religion. which so plentifully they have been taught, and do know, their own consciences bearing witness to the verity thereof. If that earth be cursed of God. which, eftsoons, receiving moisture and pleasant dews from heaven, doth not bring forth fruit accordingly; how much more grievous judgment shall such persons receive, which, having received from the Father of heaven the perfect knowledge of his word by the ministry thereof, do not show forth God's worship after the same! If the Lord will require in the day of judgment a godly usury of all manner of talents which he lendeth unto men and women; how much more will he require the same of his pure religion revealed unto us, (which is of all other talents the chiefest and most pertaining to our exercise in this life,) if we hide the same in a napkin, and set it not forth to the usury of God's glory, and edifying of his church by true confession! God hath kindled the bright light of his gospel, which in times past was suppressed, and hid under the vile ashes of man's traditions, and hath caused the brightness thereof to shine in our hearts, to the end that the same might shine before men to the honour of his name.
"It is not only given us to believe, but also to confess and declare what we believe in our outward conversation. For as St. Paul writeth to the Romans, The belief of the heart justifieth, and to acknowledge with the mouth maketh a man safe. It is all one before God, not to believe at all, and not to show forth the lively works of our belief. For Christ saith, Either make the tree good and his fruits good; or else make the tree evil and the fruits evil: because a good tree bringeth forth good fruits, as an evil tree doth evil fruits. So that the person which knoweth his master's will, and doth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes. And, Not all they which say, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of God, but he that doth the will of the Father. And, Whosoever in the time of trial is ashamed of me, saith Christ, and of my words, of him the Son of man will be ashamed before his Father. After that we have built ourselves into the true church of God, it hath pleased him, by giving us over into the hands of the wicked synagogues, to prove our building, and to have it known as well to the world as to ourselves, that we have been wise builders into the true church of God, upon the rock and not on the sand; and therefore now the tempest is risen, and the storms do mightily blow against us, that we might notwithstanding stand upright, and be firm in the Lord, to his honour and glory, and to our eternal felicity. There is no new thing happened unto us, for with such tempests and dangerous weathers the church of God hath continually been exercised. Now once again, as the prophet Haggai tells us, The Lord shaketh the earth, that those might abide for ever, which be not overcome.
"Therefore, my dearly beloved, be stable and immovable in the word of God, and in the faithful observation thereof, and let no man deceive you with vain words, saying, that you might keep your faith to yourselves, and dissemble with antichrist, and to live at rest and quietness in the world, as most men do, yielding to necessity. This is the wisdom of the flesh; but the wisdom of the flesh is death and enmity to God, as our Saviour for ensample aptly did declare in Peter, who exhorted Christ not to go to Jerusalem to celebrate the passover, and there to be slain, but counselled him to look better to himself.
"Likewise the world would not have us to forsake it, neither to associate ourselves to the true church, which is the body of Christ, whereof we are lively members, and to use the sacraments after God's word with the danger of our lives. But we must learn to answer the world as Christ did Peter, and say, Go behind me, Satan; thou savourest not the things of God. Shall I not drink of the cup which the Father giveth me? For it is better to be afflicted and to be slain in the church of God, than to be counted the son of the king, in the synagogue of false religion. Death for righteousness is not to be abhorred, but rather to be desired, which assuredly bringeth with it the crown of everlasting glory. These bloody executioners do not persecute Christ's martyrs, but crown them with everlasting felicity: we were born into this world to be witnesses unto the truth, both learned and unlearned.
"Now since the time is come that we must show our faith, and declare whether we will be God's servants in righteousness and holiness, as we have been taught, and are bound to follow, or else with hypocrisy to serve unrighteousness: let us take good heed that we be found faithful in the Lord's covenant, and true members of his church, in the which, through knowledge, we are ingrafted; from the which if we fall by transgression with the common sort of people, it will more straitly be required of us, than many yet do make account thereof. We cannot serve two masters; we may not halt on both sides, and think to please God; we must be fervent in God's cause, or else he will cast us out from him. For by the first commandment we are commanded to love God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our power and strength. But they are manifest transgressors of this commandment, which with their heart, mind, or bodily power, do communicate with a strange religion, contrary to the word of God, in the papistical synagogue, which calleth itself the church, and is not. As greatly do they offend God now which so do, as the Israelites did in times past by forsaking Jerusalem, the true church of God, and by going to Bethel to serve God in a congregation of their own setting up, and after their own imaginations and traditions; for the which doing God utterly destroyed all Israel, as all the prophets almost do testify. This happened unto them for our ensample, that we might beware to have any fellowship with any like congregation to our destruction.
"God hath one catholic church dispersed throughout the world, and therefore we are taught in our creed to believe one catholic church, and to have communion therewith: which catholic church is grounded upon the foundation of the prophets, and of the apostles, and upon none other, as St. Paul witnesseth to the Ephesians. Therefore wheresoever we perceive any people to worship God truly after his word, there we may be certain the church of Christ to be; unto the which we ought to associate ourselves, and to desire with the prophet David, to praise God in the midst of his church. But if we behold, through the iniquity of the time, segregations to be made with counterfeit religion, otherwise than the word of God doth teach, we ought then, if we be required to be companions thereof, to say again with David, I have hated the synagogue of the malignant, and will not sit with the wicked. In the Apocalypse the church of Ephesus is highly commended, because she tried such as said they were apostles, and were not indeed, and therefore would not abide the company of them. Further, God commanded his people that they should not seek Bethel, neither enter into Gilgal where idolatry was used, by the mouth of his prophet Amos. Also we must consider that our bodies be the temple of God, and whosoever (as St. Paul teacheth) doth profane the temple of God, him the Lord will destroy. May we then take the temple of Christ, and make it the member of a harlot? All strange religion and idolatry is counted as whoredom with the prophets, and more detestable in the sight of God than the adulterous abuse of the body. Therefore the princes of the earth, in the Revelation of St. John, be said to go a whoring, when they are in love with false religion, and follow the same. How then by any means may a Christian man think it tolerable to be present at the popish private mass, (which is the very profanation of the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ,) and at other idolatrous worshippings and rites, which be not after the word of God, but rather to the derogation thereof, in setting man's traditions above God's precepts, since God by his word judgeth all strange religion, which is not according to his institution, for whoredom and advoutry?
"Some fondly think that the presence of the body is not material, so that the heart do not consent to their wicked doings. But such persons little consider what St. Paul writeth to the Corinthians, commanding them to glorify God as well in body as in soul. Moreover, we can do no greater injury to the true church of Christ, than to seem to have forsaken her, and disallow her by cleaving to her adversary: whereby it appeareth to others which be weak, that we allow the same, and so, contrary to the word, do give a great offence to the church of God, and do outwardly slander, as much as men may, the truth of Christ. But woe be unto him by whom any such offence cometh! Better it were for him to have a millstone tied about his neck, and to be cast into the bottom of the sea. Such be traitors to the truth, like unto Judas, who with a kiss betrayed Christ. Our God is a jealous God, and cannot be content that we should be of any other than of that unspotted church, whereof he is the Head only, and wherein he hath planted us by baptism. This jealousy which God hath towards us, will cry for vengeance in the day of vengeance, against all such as now have so large consciences to do that which is contrary to God's glory, and the sincerity of his word, except they do in time repent, and cleave unseparably to the gospel of Christ, how much soever at this present both men and women otherwise, in their own corrupt judgment, do flatter themselves. God willeth us to judge uprightly, and to allow and follow that which is holy and acceptable in his sight, and to abstain from all manner of evil, and therefore Christ commandeth us in the gospel to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
"St. Paul to the Hebrews saith, If any man withdraw himself from the faith, his soul shall have no pleasure in him: therefore he saith also, that we are none such as do withdraw ourselves unto perdition, but we belong unto faith, for the attainment of life. St. John in the Apocalypse telleth us plainly that none of those who are written in the book of life, do receive the mark of the beast, which is of the papistical synagogue, either in their foreheads, or else in their hands; that is, apparently or obediently.
"St. Paul to the Philippians affirmeth, that we may not have any fellowship with the works of darkness, but in the midst of this wicked and froward generation we ought to shine like lights, upholding the word of truth. Further he saith, that we may not touch any unclean thing; which signifieth that our outward conversation in foreign things ought to be pure and undefiled as well as the inward; that with a clean spirit and rectified body, we might serve God justly in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life.
"Finally in the Apocalypse, God biddeth us plainly to depart from the Babylonical synagogue, and not to be partakers of her trespass: St. Paul to the Thessalonians commandeth us in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to withdraw ourselves from every brother that walketh inordinately, and not according to the institution which he hath received of him.
"Ponder ye therefore well, good brethren and sisters, these scriptures which be written for your erudition and reformation, whereof one jot is not written in vain; which be utterly against all counterfeit illusion to be used of us with the papists in their fantastical religion, and be adversaries to all them that have so light consciences in so doing. And if they do not agree with this adversary, (I mean the word of God,) which is contrary to their attempts, he will (as is signified in the gospel) deliver them to the judge, which is Christ; and the judge will deliver them to the executioner, that is, to the devil; and the devil shall commit them to the horrible prison of hell-fire, (where is the portion of all hypocrites,) with sulphur and brimstone, with wailing and gnashing of teeth, world without end. But yet many will say, for their vain excuse, 'God is merciful, and his mercy is over all.' But the Scripture teacheth us, that cursed is he that sinneth upon hope of forgiveness. Truth it is, that the mercy of God is above all his works, and yet but upon such as fear him: for it is written in the Psalms, The mercy of God is on them that fear him, and on such as put their trust in him. Where we may learn, that they only put their trust in God that serve him; and to fear God is to turn from evil and do that is good. So that such as do look to be partakers in God's mercy, may not abide in that which is known to be manifest evil, and detestable in the sight of God.
"Another sort of persons do make them a cloak for the rain, under the pretence of obedience to the magistrates, whom we ought to obey although they be wicked. But such must learn of Christ to give to Cæsar that is Cæsar's, and to God that is due to God; and with St. Peter, to obey the higher powers in the Lord, albeit they be evil, if they command nothing contrary to God's word; otherwise we ought not to obey their commandments, although we should suffer death there-for, as we have the apostles for our example herein to follow, who answered the magistrates, as we ought to do in this case, not obeying their wicked precepts, saying, Judge you whether it be more righteous that we should obey man rather than God.
"Also Daniel chose rather to be cast into the den of lions to be devoured, than to obey the king's wicked commandments. If the blind lead the blind, both fall into the ditch. There is no excuse for the transgression of God's word, whether a man doth it voluntarily or at commandment: although great damnation is to them, by whom the offence cometh. Some others there be that, for an extreme refuge in their evil doings, do run to God's predestination and election, saying, that if I be elected of God to salvation, I shall be saved, whatsoever I do. But such be great tempters of God, and abominable blasphemers of God's holy election, and cast themselves down from the pinnacle of the temple in presumption, that God may preserve them by his angels through predestination. Such verily may reckon themselves to be none of God's elect children, that will do evil that good may ensue; whose damnation is just, as St. Paul saith. God's predestination and election ought to be with a simple eye considered, to make us more warily to walk in good and godly conversation, according to God's word, and not set cock in the hoop, and put all on God's back, to do wickedly at large. For the elect children of God must walk in righteousness and holiness after that they be once called to true knowledge: for so saith St. Paul to the Ephesians, that God hath chosen us before the foundations of the world were laid, that we should be holy and blameless in his sight.
"Therefore St. Peter willeth us, through good works, to make our vocation and election certain to ourselves, which we know not but by the good working of God's Spirit in us, according to the rule of the gospel: and he that conformeth not himself to the same in godly conversation, may justly tremble, and doubt that he is none of the elect children of God, but of the viperous generation, and a child of darkness. For the children of light will walk in the works of light and not of darkness; though they fall, they do not lie still.
"Let all vain excusations be set apart, and while ye have light, as Christ commandeth, believe the light and abide in the same, lest eternal darkness overtake you unawares. The light is come into the world, but, alas! men love darkness more than light. God give us his pure eye-salve to heal our blindness in this behalf. Oh! that men and women would be healed, and not seek to be wilfully blinded. The Lord open their eyes, that they may see how dangerous a thing it is to decline from the knowledge of truth, contrary to their conscience.
"But what said I, conscience? Many affirm their conscience will bear them well enough to do all that they do, and to go to the idolatrous church to service; whose conscience is very large to satisfy man more than God. And although their conscience can bear them so to do, yet I am sure that a good conscience will not permit them so to do; which cannot be good, unless it be directed after the knowledge of God's word: and therefore in Latin this feeling of mind is called conscientia, which soundeth by interpretation, as much as, with knowledge.
"And therefore, if our conscience be led of herself, and not after true knowledge, yet we are not so to be excused, as St. Paul beareth witness, saying, Although my conscience accuseth me not, yet in this I am not justified. And he joineth a good conscience with these three sisters, charity, a pure heart, and unfeigned faith. Charity keepeth God's commandments; a pure heart loveth and feareth God above all; and unfeigned faith is never ashamed of the profession of the gospel, whatsoever damage he shall suffer in body thereby. The Lord, which hath revealed his holy will unto us by his word, grant us never to be ashamed of it, and give us grace so earnestly to cleave to his holy word and the true church, that for no manner of worldly respect we become partakers of the works of hypocrisy, which God doth abhor; so that we may be found faithful in the Lord's testament to the end, both in heart, word, and deed, to the glory of God and our everlasting salvation, Amen.
"John Philpot, prisoner in the King's Bench, For the testimony of the truth. 1555."
To his dear friend in the Lord, John Careless, prisoner in the King's Bench.
My dearly beloved brother Careless, I have received your loving letters full of love and compassion, insomuch that they made my hard heart to weep, to see you so careful for one that hath been so unprofitable a member as I have been and am in Christ's church. God make me worthy of that I am called unto, and I pray you cease not to pray for me, but cease to weep for him who hath not deserved such gentle tears: and praise God with me, for that I now approach to the company of them, whose want you may worthily lament. God give your pitiful heart his inward consolation! Indeed, my dear Careless, I am in this world in hell, and in the shadow of death; but he that hath brought me for my deserts down into hell, shall shortly lift me up to heaven, where I shall look continually for your coming, and other my faithful brethren in the King's Bench. And though I tell you that I am in hell in the judgment of this world, yet assuredly I feel in the same the consolation of heaven, I praise God; and this loathsome and horrible prison is as pleasant to me, as the walk in the garden of the King's Bench.
"You know, brother Careless, that the way to heaven out of this life is very narrow, and we must strive to enter in at a narrow gate. If God do mitigate the ugliness of mine imprisonment, what will he do in the rage of the fire whereunto I am appointed? And this hath happened unto me, that I might be hereafter an ensample of comfort, if the like happen unto you, or to any other of my dear brethren with you, in these cruel days, in the which the devil so rageth at the faithful flock of Christ: but in vain (I trust) against any of us, who be persuaded that neither life, neither death, is able to separate us from the love of Christ's gospel, which is God's high treasure committed to our brittle vessels to glorify us by the same. God, of his mercy, make us faithful stewards to the end, and give us grace to fear nothing, whatsoever in his good pleasure we shall suffer for the same. That I have not written unto you erst, the cause is our strait keeping and the want of light by night: for the day serveth us but a while in our dark closet. This is the first letter that I have written since I came to prison, besides the report of mine examinations; and I am fain to scribble it out in haste.
"Commend me to all our faithful brethren, and bid them with a good courage look for their redemption, and frame themselves to be hearty soldiers in Christ. They have taken his prest money a great while, and now let them show themselves ready to serve him faithfully, and not to fly out of the Lord's camp into the world, as many do. Let them remember that in the Apocalypse the fearful be excluded the kingdom. Let us be of good cheer, for our Lord overcame the world, that we should do the like. Blessed is the servant, whom, when the Lord cometh, he findeth watching. O let us watch and pray earnestly one for another, that we be not led into temptation! Be joyful under the cross, and praise the Lord continually, for this is the whole burnt sacrifice which the Lord delighteth in. Commend me to my father Hunt, and desire him to love and continue in the unity of Christ's true church, which he hath begun, and then shall he make me more and more to joy under my cross with him. Tell my brother Clements, that he hath comforted me much by his loving token in signification of an unfeigned unity with us; let him increase my joy unto the end perfectly. The Lord of peace be with you all. Salute all my loving friends, Master Me-ring, Master Crooch, with the rest, and specially Master Marshal and his wife, with great thanks for his kindness showed unto me. Farewell, my dear Careless. I have dallied with the devil awhile, but now I am over the shoes: God send me well out.
"Out of the coal-house, by your brother,
Another letter to John Careless, profitable to be read of all them which mourn in repentance for their sins.
"The God of all comfort, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, send unto thee, my dear brother Careless, the inward consolation of his Holy Spirit, in all the malicious assaults and troublous temptations of our common adversary the devil, Amen.
"That God giveth you so contrite a heart for your sins I cannot but rejoice, to behold the lively mark of the children of God, whose property is to think more lowly and vilely of themselves than of any others, and oftentimes do set their sins before them, that they might the more be stirred to bring forth the fruits of repentance, and learn to mourn in this world, that in another they might be glad and rejoice. Such a broken heart is a pleasant sacrifice unto God: Oh that I had the like contrite heart! God mollify my stony heart, which lamenteth not in such wise my former detestable iniquities. Praised be God that he hath given you this sorrowful heart in respect of righteousness, and I pray you let me be partaker of these godly sorrows for sin, which be the testimony of the presence of the Holy Ghost. Did not the sword of sorrow pierce the heart of the elect and blessed mother of our Lord? Did not Peter weep bitterly for his sins, which was so beloved of Christ? Did not Mary Magdalene wash the feet of our Saviour with her tears, and received therewithal remission of her seven-fold sins?
"Be of good comfort therefore, mine own dear heart, in this thy sorrow, for it is the earnest penny of eternal consolation. In thy sorrow, laugh, for the Spirit of God is with thee: Blessed be they, saith Christ, that mourn, for they shall be comforted. They went forth and wept, saith the prophet: such shall come again, having their gripes full of gladness. And although a sorrowful heart, in consideration of his sins, be an acceptable sacrifice before God, whereby we are stirred up to more thankfulness unto God, knowing that much is forgiven us that we might love the more, yet the man of God must keep a measure in the same, lest he be swallowed up by much sorrow. St. Paul would not the Thessalonians to be sorry as other men which have no hope. Such a sorrow is not commendable, but worketh damnation, and is far from the children of God, who are continually sorrowful in God when they look upon their own unworthiness, with hope of forgiveness. For God, to this end, by his Spirit setteth the sins of his elect still before them, that where they perceive sin to abound, there they might be assured that grace shall superabound; and bringeth them down unto hell, that he might lift them up with greater joy unto heaven. "Wherefore, mine own bowels in Christ, as long as you are not void altogether of hope, be not dismayed through your pensive heart for your sins, how huge soever they have been, for God is able to forgive more than you are able to sin: yea, and he will forgive him, which with hope is sorry for his sins.
"But know, brother, that as oft as we do go about, by the help of God's Spirit, to do that is good, the evil spirit, Satan, layeth hard wait to turn the good unto evil, and goeth about to mix the detestable dame! of desperation with the godly sorrow of a pure penitent heart. You be not ignorant of his malicious subtlety, and how that continually he assaulteth that good, which the grace of God planteth. I see the battle betwixt you and him, but the victory is yours; yea, and that daily: for you have laid hold upon the anchor of salvation, which is hope in Christ, the which will not suffer you to be made ashamed.
"Be not discomforted that you have this conflict: but be glad that God hath given you the same to try your faith, and that you might appear daily worthy of the kingdom of God, for the which you strive. God beholdeth your striving faith against Satan, and is pleased with your mighty resistance. The Spirit which is in you, is mightier than all the adversary's power. Tempt he may, and lying await at your heels, give you a fall unawares, but overcome he shall not: yea, he cannot, for you are sealed up already with a lively faith to be the child of God for ever; and whom God hath once sealed for his own, him he never utterly forsaketh. The just falleth seven times, but he riseth again. It is man's frailty to fall, but it is the property of the devil's child to lie still.
"This strife against sin is a sufficient testimony that you are the child of God: for if you were not, you should feel no such malice as he now troubleth you withal. When this strong Goliath hath the hold, all things are in peace which he possesseth; and because he hath you not, he will not suffer you unassaulted. But stand fast, and hold out the buckler of faith, and with the sword of God's promises smite him on the scalp: that he may receive a deadly wound, and never be able to stand against you any more. St. James telleth you that he is but a coward, saying, Resist the devil, and he will fly from thee. It is the will of God that he should thus long tempt you and not go away as yet; or else he had done with you long ere this. He knoweth already that he shall receive the foil at your hands, and increase the crown of your glory: for he that overcometh shall be crowned. Therefore glory in your temptations, since they shall turn to your felicity. Be not afraid of your continual assaults which be occasions of your daily victory. The word of God abideth for ever. In what hour soever a sinner repenteth him of his sins, they be forgiven. Who can lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? Do you not perceive the manifest tokens of your election? first, your vocation to the gospel, and after your vocation the manifest gifts of the Spirit of God, given unto you above many others of your condition, with godliness which believeth and yieldeth to the authority of the Scriptures, and is zealous for the same? Seeing you are God's own dearling, who can hurt you? Be not of a dejected mind for these temptations, neither make your unfeigned friends to be more sorrowful for you than need doth require.
"Since God hath willed you at your baptism in Christ to be Careless, why do you make yourself careful? Cast all your care on him. Set the Lord before your eyes always, for he is on your right side, that you should not be then moved. Behold the goodness of God toward me. I am careless, being fast closed in a pair of stocks, which pinch me for very straitness; and will you be careful? I would not have that unseemly addition to your name. Be as your name pretendeth, for doubtless you have no other cause but so to be. Pray, I beseech you, that I may be still careless in my careful estate, as you have cause to be careless in your easier condition. Be thankful, and put away all care, and then I shall be joyful in my strait present care. Commend me to all our brethren, and desire them to pray for me, that I may overcome my temptations: for the devil rageth against me. I am put in the stocks in a place alone, because I would not answer to such articles as they would charge me withal in a corner, at the bishop's appointment, and because I did not come to mass when the bishop sent for me. I will lie all the days of my life in the stocks, by God's grace, rather than I will consent to the wicked generation. Praise God, and be joyful that it hath pleased him to make us worthy to suffer somewhat for his name's sake. The devil must rage for ten days. Commend me to Master F., and thank him for his law books: but neither law nor equity will take any place among these blood-thirsty. I would for your sake the unjust dealing were noted unto the parliament-house, if it might avail. God shorten these evil days. I have answered the bishop meetly plain already, and I said to him, if he will call me in open judgment, I will answer him as plainly as he will require: otherwise I have refused, because I fear they will condemn me in hugger-mugger. The peace of God be with you, my dear brother. I can write no more for lack of light, and that I have written I cannot read myself, and God knoweth it is written far uneasily. I pray God you may pick out some understanding of my mind towards you.
"Written in a coal-house of darkness, out of a pair of painful stocks, by thine own in Christ,
Another letter, to certain godly women, forsaking their own country for the gospel, full of fruitful precepts and lessons for all good women.
"The Spirit of truth, revealed unto you my dearly beloved, by the gospel of our Saviour Jesus Christ, be continually abiding with you, and augmented into a perfect building of you into the lively temple of God, through the mighty operation of his holy power. Amen.
"I read in the Evangelists, of certain godly women, that ministered unto Christ; following him in the days of his passion, and never forsook him, but being dead in his grave, brought oil to anoint him, until that he had showed himself unto them after his resurrection, and bidden them show unto his disciples, which at his passion were dispersed, and tell them that he was risen, and that they should see him in Galilee. To whom I may justly compare you, my loving sisters in Christ, who of late have seen him suffer in his members, and have ministered to their necessity, anointing them with the comfortable oil of your charitable assistance, even to the death. And now, since ye have seen Christ to live in the ashes of them whom the tyrants have slain, he willed you to go away upon just occasion offered you, and to declare to our dispersed brethren and sisters, that he is risen, and liveth in his elect members in England, and by death doth overcome infidelity; and that they shall see him in Galilee, which is by forsaking this world, and by a faithful desire to pass out of this world by those ways which he, with his holy martyrs, hath gone on before.
"God therefore, entire sisters, direct your way, as he did Abraham and Tobias, unto a strange land! God give you health both of body and soul, that ye may go from virtue to virtue, and grow from strength to strength, until ye may see face to face the God of Sion in his holy hill, with the innumerable company of his blessed martyrs and saints. Let there be continual ascensions unto heaven in your hearts: let there be no decrease of any virtue which is already planted in you. Be as the light of the just, such as, Solomon saith, increaseth to the perfect day of the Lord. Let the strength of God be commended in your weak vessels, as it is. Be examples of faith and sobriety, to all that ye shall come in company withal. Let your godly conversation speak where your tongue may not, in the congregation. Be swift to hear, and slow to speak, after the counsel of St. James. Be not curious about other men's doings, but be occupied in prayer, and continual meditation, with reverent talking of the word of God, without contentions among the saints. Let your faith shine in a strange country, as it hath done in your own, that your Father which is in heaven may be glorified by you to the end.
"This farewell I send you, not as a thing needful, (which know already what your duty is, and be desirous to perform the same,) but as one that would have you understand that he is mindful of your godly conversation, whereof he hath had good experience, and therefore writeth this to be as a perpetual memorial betwixt you and him, until our meeting together before God, where we shall joy that we have here lovingly put one another in memory of our duty to perform it.
"Farewell again, mine own bowels in Christ! and take me with you wheresoever you go, and leave yourselves with me, that in spirit we may be present one with another. Commend me to the whole congregation of Christ, willing them not to leave their country without witness of the gospel, after that we all be slain, which already be stalled up and appointed to the slaughter; and in the mean season to pray earnestly for our constancy, that Christ may be glorified in us and in them, both by life and death. Farewell in the Lord.
"Yours for ever,
An exhortation to his own sister, constantly to stick to the truth, which she had fruitfully professed.
"God the eternal Father, who hath justified you by the blood of his Son Jesus Christ, and called you to hallow his name through a good conversation and profession of life, he sanctify you with daily increase of virtue and faith by his Holy Spirit, that you may appear a vessel of sanctification, in the midst of this wicked and perverse generation, to the laud and praise of the gospel. Amen.
"I have occasion, mine own dear sister, to praise God in you for two causes: the one, that to your ability you are ready to show yourself a natural loving sister to me your poor afflicted brother, as by your gentle tokens you have eftsoons testified being absent, as also by presently visiting me; which well declareth that you be a very natural sister indeed, and to be praised in this behalf. But in the other, that you be also a sister to me in faith after Christ's gospel, I am occasioned to thank God so much the more, how much the one excelleth the other; and the spiritual consanguinity is more perdurable than that which is of flesh and blood, and is a worker of that which is by nature: for commonly such as be ungodly, be unnatural, and only lovers of themselves, as daily experience teacheth us. The living Lord, which through the incorruptible seed of his word hath begotten you to be my liege sister, give you grace so to grow in that generation, that you may increase to a perfect age in the Lord, to be my sister with Christ for ever.
"Look therefore that you continue a faithful sister, as you are called and are godly entered, not only to me, but to all the church of Christ, yea, to Christ himself, who voucheth you, in this your unfeigned faith, worthy to be his sister. Consider this dignity to surmount all the vain dignities of the world, and let it accordingly prevail more with you than all earthly delights: for thereby you are called to an equal portion of the everlasting inheritance of Christ, if now in no wise you do show yourself an unnatural sister to him in forsaking him in trouble, which I trust you will never for any kind of worldly respect do. You are under dangerous temptations to be turned from that natural love you owe unto Christ, and you shall be tried with God's people through a sieve of great affliction: for so Satan desireth us to be sifted, that through fear of sharp troubles we might fall from the stableness of our faith, and so be deprived of that honour, joy, and reward, which are prepared for such as continue faithful brothers and sisters in the Lord's covenant to the end. Therefore the wise man in the book of Ecclesiasticus, biddeth them that come to the service of the Lord, to prepare themselves to suffer temptations.
"Since then that, for the glory of God and our faith, we are called now to abide the brunt of them, and that when our adversary hath done all that he can, yet we may be stable and stand, this, Christ, our first-begotten Brother, looketh for at our hands; and all our brethren and sisters in heaven desire to see our faith, through afflictions, to be perfect, that we might fulfil their number; and the universal church, here militant, rejoiceth at our constancy, whom all, by the contrary, we should make sorry, to the danger of the loss both of body and soul. Fear not therefore, whatsoever be threatened of the wicked world; prepare your back, and see it be ready to carry Christ's cross. And if you see any untowardness in you, (as the flesh is continually repugnant to the will of God,) ask with faithful prayer, that the good Spirit of God may lead your sinful flesh whither it would not: for if we will dwell in the flesh, and follow the counsel thereof, we shall never do the will of God, neither work that tendeth to our salvation.
"You are at this present in the confines and borders of Babylon, where you are in danger to drink of the whore's cup, unless you be vigilant in prayer. Take heed the serpent seduce you not from the simplicity of your faith, as he did our first mother Eve. Let not worldly fellowship make you partaker of iniquity. He that toucheth tar, cannot but be defiled thereby. With such as be perverse, a man shall soon be perverted; with the holy you shall be holy. Therefore say continually with the prophet David, Unto the saints that be on the earth, all my will is on them. You have been sanctified and made pure through the truth; take heed you be not unholied and defiled, lest the last be worse than the first. I write not this because I stand in any doubt of your sincere continuance, of the which I have had so good experience; but, because the days be evil, and in the same it is the duty of every one of us to exhort and stir up one another, I am bold to put you, my good sister, in remembrance of that which doth not a little comfort me to remember in my troubles and daily temptations. Wherefore I doubt not you will take that in good part which cometh from your brother both in spirit and body, who tendereth your salvation as earnestly as his own, that we might joy together eternally, with such joy as the world shall never be able to take from us. Thanks be unto God, you have begun to run a good and a great time well in the ways of the Lord: run out the race to the end, which you have begun, and then shall you receive the crown of glory. None shall be crowned, but such as lawfully strive. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good, and the Lord shall make you one of those faithful virgins, that shall follow the Lamb wheresoever he goeth; the which Christ grant both you and me. Amen.
"Commend me to all them that love me in the Lord unfeignedly. God increase our faith, and give us never to be ashamed of his gospel! That same request which I have made to my brother Thomas, I make also to you, desiring you, by all means you can, to accomplish my request, that my sureties might be satisfied with that is mine own, to the contentation of my mind, which cannot be quiet until they be discharged: therefore I pray you help to purchase quietness, that I might depart out of this world in peace. My dissolution I look for daily; but the Lord knoweth how unworthy I am of so high an honour, as to die for the testimony of his truth. Pray that God would vouchsafe to make me worthy, as he hath done, of long imprisonment, for the which his name be praised for ever. Pray and look for the coming of the Lord, whose wrath is great over us, and I will pray for you as long as I live.
"The 9th of July, in the King's Bench.
Your own loving brother, as well in faith as in body,
JOHN PHILPOT "
Another letter of exhortation to certain godly brethren.
"The grace of God the Father, and the peace of our Saviour Jesus Christ his eternal Son, and the consolation of the Holy Ghost our Comforter, strengthen your hearts, and comfort your minds, that you may rejoice, and live in the truth of Christ's gospel to the end. Amen.
"I do much rejoice, dearly beloved in the Lord, to hear of your constant faith in the word of God, which you have so purely received; who do not with the worldlings decline from the purity thereof, albeit you suffer grief and trouble thereby; for the which I praise God most heartily: and the Lord of all strength, who hath begun this good work in you, make it perfect to the end, as I doubt not but he will, for the faithful zeal ye have to his truth and to his afflicted church. Therefore that ye may the better stand and bear the brunt of many temptations, which you are all like to be assaulted withal in these wicked and stormy days; I thought it good, as it is the duty of one Christian man to exhort another in the time of trouble, to put you in remembrance thereof, and to will you, with the wise man, to prepare yourselves to temptations; and to beware that ye, which yet do stand by the goodness of God, may not fall from your lively knowledge and hope. It is an easy thing to begin to do well, but to continue out in well doing, is the only property of the children of God, and such as assuredly shall be saved. For so saith our Saviour in his gospel: Blessed are they that persevere to the end.
"Let not therefore this certainty of your salvation, which is continuance in the sincerity of faith, slide from you. Esteem it more than all the riches and pleasures of this world, for it is the most acceptable treasure of eternal life. This is that precious stone, for the which the wise merchantman, after the gospel, doth sell all that he hath, and buyeth the same. God, in the Apocalypse, doth signify to the church, that there shall come a time of temptation upon the whole world, to try the dwellers on the earth; from the danger of which temptation all such shall be delivered as observe his word: which word there is called the word of patience; to give us to understand that we must be ready to suffer all kind of injuries and slanders for the profession thereof.
"Therefore God commandeth us there to hold it fast, that no man might bereave us of our crown of glory; and St. Peter telleth us, now we are afflicted with divers assays, as it is need it should so be, that the trial of our faith, being much more precious than gold that perisheth, and yet is tried by fire, might redound to the laud, glory, and honour of Jesus Christ. St. Paul to the Hebrews showeth us, that Christ our Saviour was in his humanity made perfect by afflictions, that we, being called to perfection in him, might more willingly sustain the troubles of the world, by the which God giveth all them that be exercised in the same for his sake, his holiness. And in the twelfth chapter of the said Epistle is written, My son, refuse not the correction of the Lord, nor shrink when thou art rebuked of him: for the Lord doth chastise every son whom he receiveth, &c. Christ, in the Gospel of St. John, biddeth his disciples to look after afflictions, saying, In the world ye shall have trouble, but in me ye shall have joy. And therefore in the midst of their trouble, in the twenty-first of St. Luke, he biddeth them look up and lift up their heads, for your redemption, saith he, is at hand. And in the twenty-second, he saith to all such as be afflicted for him, You are those that have abiden with me in my temptations, and therefore I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed for me, to eat and drink upon my table in my kingdom.
"Oh how glorious be the crosses of Christ, which bring the bearers of them unto so blessed an end! Shall we not be glad to be partakers of such shame as may bring us to so high a dignity? God open our eyes to see all things as they be, and to judge uprightly! Then doubtless we would think with Moses, that it is better to be afflicted with the people of God, than to be counted the king of Egypt's son. Then should we joyfully say with David, in all our adversities and troubles, It is good, O Lord, thou hast brought me low, to the end I might learn thy righteousness. Therefore St. Paul would not glory in any other thing of the world, but in the cross of Christ, and in other his infirmities: we have the commandment of Christ, daily to take up his cross and follow him. We have the godly en-samples of all his apostles and holy martyrs, which with great joy and exultation have suffered the loss of all lands, goods, and life, for the hope of a better reward, which is laid up for all those in heaven, that unfeignedly cleave to the gospel, and never be ashamed thereof.
"Great is the felicity of the world to the outward man, and very pleasant are the transitory delights thereof: but the rewards of the righteous after the word of God, doth incomparably excel them all, insomuch that St. Paul to the Romans doth plainly affirm, that all the tribulations of this world cannot deserve that glory which shall be showed unto us.
"Let us therefore, good brethren and sisters, be, merry and glad in these troublesome days, the which be sent of God to declare our faith, and to bring us to the end and fruition of that which we hope for. If we would enter into the Lord's sanctuary, and behold what is prepared for us, we could not but desire the Lord to haste the day of our death, in the which we might set forth by true confession his glory. Neither should we be afraid to meet our adversaries, which so earnestly seek our spoil and death, as Christ did Judas and that wicked rout which came to apprehend him, saying, I am he whom ye seek. It is commanded us by the gospel, not to fear them that kill the body, but to fear God, who can cast both body and soul into hell-fire. So much we are bound to observe this commandment as any other which God hath given us. The Lord increase our faith, that we may fear God more than man! The Lord give us such love towards him and his truth, that we may be content to forsake all and follow him! Now will it appear what we love best; for to that we love we will stick. There is none worthy to be counted a Christian, except he can find in his heart for Christ's sake, if the confession of the truth doth require it, to renounce all which he hath, and follow him; and in so doing he gaineth a hundred-fold more in this life, (as our Saviour said to Peter,) and hereafter is assured of eternal life. Behold, I pray you, what he loseth which in this life receiveth a hundred for one, with assurance of eternal life. O happy exchange! Perchance your outward man will say, If I were sure of this great recompence here, I could be glad to forsake all: but where is this hundred-fold in this life to be found? Yes truly; for instead of the worldly riches which thou dost forsake, which be but temporal, thou hast found the everlasting riches of heaven, which be glory, honour, and praise, both before God, angels, and men; and for an earthly habitation, hast an eternal mansion with Christ in heaven; for even now thou art of the city and household of the saints with God, as it is verified in the fourth to the Philippians. For worldly peace, which can last but a while, thou dost possess the peace of God, which passeth all understanding; and for the loss of a few friends, thou art made a fellow of the innumerable company of heaven, and a perpetual friend of all those that have died in the Lord, from the beginning of the world. Is not this more than a hundred-fold? Is not the peace of God, which we in this world have through faithful imitation of Christ, (which the world cannot take from us,) tenthousand-fold more than those things that most highly be esteemed in the world, without the peace of God? All the peace of the world is no peace, but mere anguish and a gnawing fury of hell: as of late God hath set example before our eyes, to teach us how horrible an evil it is to forsake the peace of Christ's truth, which breedeth a worm in conscience that never shall rest.
"Oh that we would weigh this with indifferent balances! Then should we not be dismayed of this troublous time, neither sorrow after a worldly manner, for the loss which we are now like to sustain, as the weak faithless persons do, which love their goods more than God, and the things visible above those which be invisible: but rather would heartily rejoice and be thankful, that it pleased God to call us to be soldiers in his cause against the works of hypocrisy, and to make us like unto our Saviour Christ in suffering, whereby we may assure ourselves of his eternal glory; for blessed are they, saith Christ, that suffer persecution for righteousness' sake. And as St. Paul witnesseth to Timothy, If we die with Christ, we shall live with Christ: and if we deny him, he will deny us.
"Oh that we would enter into the veil of God's promises! Then should we, with St. Paul to the Philippians, reject all, and count all things but for dross, so that we may gain Christ. God, which is the lightener of all darkness, and putter away of all blindness, anoint our eyes with the true eye-salve, that we might behold his glory and our eternal felicity, which is hidden with Christ, and prepared for us that do abide in his testament: for blessed is that servant, whom the master when he cometh (as Christ said) doth find faithful. Let us therefore watch and pray one for another, that we yield not in any point of our own religion to the antichristian synagogue, and that we be not overthrown of these temptations. Stand therefore, and be no cowards in the cause of your salvation; for his Spirit that is in us, is stronger than he which in the world doth now rage against us. Let us not put out the Spirit of God from us, by whose might we shall overcome our enemies; and then death shall be as great a gain to us, as it was to the blessed apostle St. Paul. Why then do ye mourn? why do ye weep? why be ye so careful, as though God hath forsaken you? He is never more present with us than when we be in trouble, if we do not forsake him. We are in his hands, and nobody can do us any injury or wrong without his good will and pleasure. He hath commanded his angels to keep us, that we stumble not at a stone without his divine providence. The devil cannot hurt any of us, and much less any of his ministers, without the good will of our eternal Father. Therefore let us be of good comfort, and continually give thanks unto God for our estate, whatsoever it be; for if we murmur against the same, we murmur against God, who sendeth the same: which if we do, we kick but against the prick, and provoke more the wrath of God against us; which, by patient suffering, otherwise would sooner be turned into our favour through faithful prayer.
"I beseech you, with St. Paul, to give your bodies pure and holy sacrifices unto God. He hath given us bodies to bestow unto his glory, and not after our own concupiscence. If many years God hath suffered us to use our bodies, which be his temples, after the lust of the flesh, in vain delights, not according to his glory; is it not our duty in the latter end of our life, the more willingly to yield unto God's glory our bodies, with all that we have, in demonstration of true repentance of that we have evil spent before? Cannot the example of the blessed man Job, horribly afflicted, cause us to say, The Lord hath given it, the Lord hath taken it: blessed be the name of the Lord! Even as it hath pleased the Lord, so is it come to pass. If we cast our whole care likewise upon God, he will turn our misery into felicity, as well as he did to Job. God tempteth us now, as he did our father Abraham, commanding him to slay his son Isaac in sacrifice to him; which Isaac by interpretation doth signify mirth and joy; who by his obedience preserved Isaac unto long life, and offered in his stead a ram that was tied by the horns in the brambles. Semblably we are all commanded to sacrifice unto God our Isaac, which is our joy and consolation: the which if we be ready to do, as Abraham was, our joy shall not perish, but live, and be increased, although our ram be sacrificed for our Isaac: which doth signify that the pride and concupiscence of our flesh, entangled through sin with the cares of this stinging world, must be mortified for the preservation and perfect augmentation of our mirth and joy, which is sealed up for us in Christ.
"And to withstand these present temptations wherewithal we are now encumbered, ye cannot have a better remedy than to set before your eyes how our Saviour Christ overcame them in the desert, and to follow his ensample; that if the devil himself, or any other by him, willeth you to make stones bread, (that is, to take such a worldly-wise way, that you may have your fair houses, lands, and goods, to live on still,) ye must say, that man liveth not only by bread, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Again, if the devil counselleth you to cast yourselves down to the earth, so as to revoke your sincere belief and godly conversation, and to be conformable to the learned men of the world, pretending that God will be well enough content herewith; ye must answer that it is written, that a man shall not tempt his Lord God.
"Further, if the devil offer you large promises of honour, dignity, and possessions, so that ye will worship idols in his synagogue, ye must say, Go behind me, Satan, for it is otherwise written, that a man must worship his Lord God, and serve him only.
"Finally, if your mother, brother, sister, wife, child, kinsman, or friend, do seek of you to do otherwise than the word of God hath taught you, ye must say with Christ, that they are your mothers, brothers, sisters, wives, children, kinsmen, which do the will of God the Father. To the which will the Lord for his mercy conform us all unfeignedly to the end. Amen.
"Your loving and faithful brother in Christ, in captivity,
JOHN PHILPOT, anno 1555."
To his friend and faithful brother in the Lord, Master Robert Harrington.
"Gentle Master Harrington, I cannot tell what condign thanks I may give unto God for you, in respect of the great gentleness and pain which you have taken for the relief of me and of others our afflicted brethren in Christ. God be praised for his mercy, whose loving providence we have seen towards us by such faithful stewards as you have been towards a great many. Blessed be you of God, for the loving care which you have taken for his poor flock. God hath reserved your reward of thanks in heaven, and therefore I go not about to render you any, lest I might seem to judge that you looked for that here, which is reserved to a better place. I thank God for that I have found by your faithful and diligent industry, and God forgive me my unworthiness of so great benefits. God give me grace to serve him faithfully, and to run out my race with joy. Glorious is the course of the martyrs of Christ at this day. Never had the elect of God a better time for their glory than this is. Now may they be assured under the cross, that they are Christ's disciples for ever.
"Methinketh I see you desiring to be under the same. The flesh draweth back, but the Spirit saith, it must be brought whither it would not. Here is the victory of the world: here is true faith and everlasting glory. Who is he which desireth not to be found faithful to his master? And now is the time that every faithful servant of Christ hath just opportunity to show himself a glorious soldier in the Lord's fight. Now do the Amalekites invade the true Israelites, that the Israelites might with speed be glorified. I need not for want of understanding to admonish you hereof, but as a willing soldier in Christ, to exhort you so to run as you may get the victory, and that speedily with us. A man that is bid to a glorious feast, wisheth his friend to go with him, and be partaker thereof. God doth call me most unworthy, among others, to drink of the bride-cup of his Son, whereby we shall be made worthy (as many of our brethren have been before us) to sit at the right hand and at the left hand of Christ. Oh what unspeakable condition is that! May any worldly thing stay us from the desire thereof? Since we seek the kingdom of God, why do we not apprehend it, being so near offered unto us?
"Let us approach near unto God, and God will draw near unto us. God draw us after him, that we may all run after the savour of his sweet ointments. Christ anoint us, that we may be supplied in these evil days to run lightly unto the glory of the Lord. Shame, imprisonment, loss of goods, and shedding of our blood, be the just price which we must willingly bestow for the same. Wherefore, dearly beloved in the Lord, let not the great charges keep you back from buying this glory: for the reward is ten-thousand-fold greater than the price.
"Since you have married a wife, whom God bless, I cannot excuse you from this mart, but you must bring your wife for a usury to the Lord, whose pleasure is in godly yoke-fellows. I wish you to be as I am, except these horrible bands, but yet most comfortable to the spirit, assuring you that we are made worthy through Christ of the kingdom for the which we suffer. Praised be the Lord for the affliction which we suffer, and he give us strength to continue to the end!
"Commend me to Master Heath, and tell him that I would wish him with me, to prove how apt he is to carry the cross of Christ. I pray for his continuance in Christ, as for mine own: commend me to his wife, and to Mrs. Hall, certifying them that I am brought to the gates of hell, that I might never enter into the same, but be raised up from hell to heaven, through the word that sanctifieth us. Commend me to Master Elsing and his wife, and thank them that they remembered to provide me some ease in prison; and tell them, that though my Lord's coal-house be but very black, yet it is more to be desired of the faithful than the queen's palace. God make her a joyful mother, and preserve them both to the comfort of God's people. Thus for this time farewell, dear brother. -- Written in post-haste because of strait keeping.
"This day I looked to be called before the commissioners again. Pray, dear brother, for the spirit of wisdom to remain with me. Commend me to your wife, and I thank you both for your tokens. Your token I have sent to your wife; and my token unto you, is my faithful heart with this letter. Commend me to all my friends, and tell them, I thank God I am cheerful in Christ, wishing them to fear God more than man, and to learn to despise earnestly the vanities of this world; desiring you all to pray for me, that I may end my journey with fidelity, Amen.
Here followeth another letter of Master Philpot to the Lady Vane: which because, for the length, I could not wholly insert, I have excerpted certain specialties thereout as followeth.
"The principal Spirit of God the Father, given unto us by Christ our merciful Saviour, confirm, strengthen, and stablish you in the true knowledge of the gospel, that your faithful heart, worshipful and dear sister in the Lord, may attain and taste, with all the saints, what is the height, the depth, the length, and the breadth of the sweet cross of Christ, Amen.
"O happy are you amongst all other women, that have found this precious stone which is hidden in the gospel; for the which we ought to sell all other things, and to purchase the same. O happy woman, whose heart God hath moved and enlarged to be in the profession thereof. Others seek worldly goods, honours, and delights; but you seek with a good understanding to serve God in spirit and verity. This is the gate that leadeth to heaven, this is your portion for ever. By this you shall see God face to face (which sight is unspeakable joy); by this shall ye see whatever your heart can desire; by this ye shall have a full sight of all the beautiful heavenly powers, and of all the celestial paradise; by this shall you know them that you never knew, and be joyous and glad with those which you have known here in God, world without end!
"Ah! I lament the infidelity of England, that, after so great light, is stepped into so huge darkness again. The servant that knoweth his master's will, and doth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes. Ah! great be the plagues that hang over England, yea, though the gospel should be restored again. Happy shall that person be whom the Lord shall take out of this world, not to see them. Ah! the great perjury which men have run into so wilfully against God, by receiving antichrist again and his wicked laws, which do threaten a great ruin unto England: Oh that the Lord would turn his just judgments upon the authors of the truce-breaking between God and us, that they might be brought low, (as Nebuchadnezzar was,) that his people might be delivered, and his glory exalted. God grant that that good luck which you hope shortly to come upon the house of God, be a true prophecy, and not a well-wishing only. Ah, Lord! take away thy heavy hand from us, and stretch it out upon thine enemies (those hypocrites) as thou hast begun, that they may be confounded. O let not the weak perish for want of knowledge through our sin. Although thou kill us, yet will we put our trust in thee.
"Thus, dear heart, you teach me to pray with you in writing. God hear your prayers, and give us the spirit of effectual prayer, to pour out our hearts continually together before God, that we may find mercy both for ourselves, and for our afflicted brethren and sisters. I cannot but praise God in you, for that pitiful heart that taketh other folks' calamities to heart, as your own. Blessed be they that mourn, for such shall be comforted. God wipe away all tears from your pitiful eyes, and sorrow from your merciful heart, that you may (as doubtless you shall do shortly) rejoice with his elect for ever. You have so armed me to the Lord's battle both inwardly and outwardly, that except I be a very coward, I cannot faint, but overcome by death. You have appointed me to so good and gracious a General of the field, to so victorious a Captain, and to so favourable a Marshal, that if I should not go on lustily, there were no sparkle of heavenly manhood in me. I will present your coat-armour before my Captain, and in the same I trust by him to overcome. The scarf I desire as an outward sign to show our enemies, who see not our glorious end, neither what God worketh inwardly in us, through the blindness of their hearts, that they persecute Christ's cross in us, whereby he hath sealed up the truth of his gospel by his death unto us, that we by our death (if need be) might confirm the same, and never be ashamed, whatsoever torment we do suffer for his name's sake; and our weak brethren, seeing the same, might be more encouraged to take up Christ's cross, and to follow him. God give us grace to do all things to his glory, Amen!
"The world wondereth how we can be merry in such extreme misery; but our God is omnipotent, which turneth misery into felicity. Believe me, dear sister, there is no such joy in the world as the people of Christ have under the cross. I speak by experience; therefore believe me, and fear nothing that the world can do unto you: for when they imprison our bodies, they set our souls at liberty with God; when they cast us down, they lift us up; yea, when they kill us, then do they bring us to everlasting life. And what greater glory can there be, than to be at conformity with Christ? which afflictions do work in us.
"God open our eyes to see more and more the glory of God in the cross of Jesus Christ, and make us worthy partakers of the same! Let us rejoice in nothing, with St. Paul, but in the cross of Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto us, and we to the world. The cross of Christ be our standard to fight under for ever! While I am thus talking with you of our common consolation, I forget how I trouble you with my rude and inordinate tediousness: but you must impute it to love, which cannot quickly depart from them whom be loveth, but desireth to pour himself into their bosoms. Therefore, though your flesh would be offended (as it might justly be) at such rudeness, yet your spirit will say nay, which taketh all things in good part that come of love. And now I am departing, yet will I take my leave ere I go, and would fain speak somewhat that might declare my sincere love to you for ever: Farewell, O elect vessel of the Lord! to the comfort of his afflicted flock: farewell on earth, whom in heaven I am sure I shall not forget. Farewell under the cross most joyfully; and, until we meet, always remember what Christ saith, Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world, &c.
"God pour his Spirit abundantly upon you, mine own dear bowels in Christ! until you may come to see the God of all gods with his elect, in the everlasting Sion. I send to you the kiss of peace, with the which I do most entirely take my leave of you at this present. It is necessary we depart hence, or else we could not be glorified. Your heart is heavy because I say I must depart from you. It is the calling of our merciful Father, wherewithal you are content, and so am I. Be of good comfort; hold out your buckler of faith—for by the strength thereof we shall shortly meet in eternal glory to the which Christ bring both us, Amen, Amen! -- The tenth of December, 1555.
"Death! why should I fear thee? since thou canst not hurt me, but rid me from misery unto eternal glory.
"Dead to the world, and living to Christ, your own brother, sealed up in the verity of the gospel for ever.
JOHN PHILPOT "
Another letter written to the same lady, being a great supporter of him.
"I cannot but most heartily give God thanks for these his gifts in you, whose brightness many beholding, that are weak, are much encouraged to seek God likewise, and to cleave to him, having the ensample of so faithful and constant a gentlewoman before their eyes. If the queen of the south shall rise with the men of Christ's generation, and condemn them, for that she came from the end of the world to hear the wisdom of Solomon, then shall your sincere and godly conversation, thus shining in this dangerous time of the trial of Christ's people, (being a woman of right worshipful estate and wealthy condition,) condemn in the latter day a great many of these faint-hearted gospellers, which so soon be gone back and turned from the truth, at the voice of a hand-maiden; seeing that neither the fear of imprisonment, neither the possession of the world, (wherewithal you are sufficiently indued above a great many,) can separate you from the love of the truth, which God hath revealed unto you: whereby it appeareth that the seed of God's word which was sown in you, fell neither in the highway, neither among the thorns, neither upon the stones, but upon a good ground, which is blessed of God, and bringeth forth fruit with great affliction, a hundred-fold, to the glory of God and the increase of his church. In consideration whereof St. James biddeth us highly to rejoice, whensoever we fall into many temptations, knowing that it is but the trial of our faith, that we might bring forth that excellent virtue patience, by the which we are made like to our Redeemer Christ, with whom we here being like in suffering, assuredly shall hereafter be partakers of his eternal glory. Therefore St. Paul saith, God forbid that I should glory in any thing but in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. I that am under the cross with you, (thanks be given to God therefore,) have felt in the same more true joy and consolation than ever I did by any benefit that God hath given me in my life before: for the more the world doth hate us, the nigher God is unto us, and there is no perfect joy but in God. Wherefore Christ said, In me ye shall have joy, but in the world affliction. Blessed be God which sendeth us this affliction, that we might perfectly joy in him! For this cause, in the ripest time of iniquity, and in the most fervent season of persecution of the true church, which Christ in the twenty-first of Luke prophesied to come, he willeth us to be of good cheer, and to lift up our heads, for our redemption is at hand.
"Oh that the Lord would come and deliver us from this world, which is a vale of misery, unto his own kingdom, where floweth perpetual joy and consolation. And verily that is the true and only joy which is conceived, not of the creature, but of the Creator, the which when we do possess, nobody can take it away from us; to the which joy all other joys, being compared, are but mournings, all delights sorrow, all sweetness sour, all beauty filth, and finally, all other things that be counted pleasant, are tediousness. Your own self is better witness of this than I. Ask yourself, with whom you are best acquainted. Doth not the Holy Ghost speak the same in your heart? Have you not persuaded yourself this to be true, before I wrote thereof? For how should you, being a woman, and a young gentlewoman, beautiful, and at your own liberty, have overcome this your frail kind and age, and despised your excellent beauty and estate, unless all those things which be subject to the senses had been counted of you vile, and little to be esteemed, in comparison of those things which inwardly do comfort you to overcome the flesh, the world, and the devil.
"God increase your joy in all spiritual things, and stablish your hope to the day of eternal rest. You have forsaken darkness, and are entered into light; God grant the same may shine still in you, until the perfect day come of the Lord, in the which is all our consolation! Here we must be darkened, that there we may appear as bright as the sun in the face of the whole world, and of all them that now condemn us for our well-doing; whose judges then we shall be, to their horrible grief, though now wrongfully they judge us. Pray heartily, and that often, that God once again for his Christ's sake would be merciful to his afflicted church in England. Faithful prayer is the only remedy that we have against the fiery darts of the devil, that be kindled against us. By prayer the Amalekites shall be overcome, and the roarings of the lion which seeketh still to devour us, shall be stopped and put to silence. The Lord stop Leviathan's mouth, that he swallow not up God's silly people, according to his expectation!
"Praise the Lord for the faithful testimony and sacrifice which two of our brethren of late have, through fire, rendered to the truth of the gospel, which now triumpheth by the death of godly martyrs. Thpray.--The hand, therefore watch and pray. --The last of May, 1555. Captive in the King's Bench.
"Yours, with heart in Christ,
JOHN PHILPOT "
Another letter to the godly Lady Vane.
"God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, increase in your godly heart the faith of the gospel, which is your eternal inheritance, and the Holy Ghost comfort your spirit with all spiritual consolation, to the day of the Lord, Amen.
"I cannot but praise God most highly and earnestly, my dear and faithful lady, for the great and unfeigned love which you bear unto me in Christ, declared oftentimes, as well now as of late, by manifest and liberal tokens. Blessed be God that hath made you so worthy a member in his kingdom: for it cannot be but such shall reap with abundance in time of reward, that here do sow so plenteously in well doing; albeit I am most unworthy to receive any such benefit at your hands, as in respect of a pillar of Christ's church, which am scarce a shadow thereof. But the zeal of Christ's church in you wisheth me to be such a one as the time doth require. God fulfil your desire of me, that I may be found constant, and no wandering star! I am not worthy of the name of a prophet, or of a minister of God's word, for that I have (being letted by the iniquity of the time) little or nothing laboured therein. I am a friend of our common spouse Jesus, and do rejoice of the verity of his word, for the which (praised be his name) he hath counted me worthy to suffer; and indeed who that giveth a draught of water in the name of a disciple, as Christ promised, shall lose his reward? Therefore what your gentleness doth in the name of him, the Lord recompense unto you in all his blessings which he is accustomed to pour on them which love his flock unfeignedly.
"Good lady, you have to joy that the kingdom of God is thus continually before your eyes, and that you are not ashamed of the bands of Christ, which you with his people in part do suffer. They may be assured of the glory everlasting, which here are not ashamed to take up the cross of Christ, and to follow him. Here we must weep and lament, while the world laugheth and triumpheth over us; but our tears shall shortly be turned into unspeakable joy, and we shall eternally be merry together, when the world shall lament their infidelity without end.
"I would I were able to do any thing that might show condign thanks for that sincere love you bear unto me in Christ: you adjure me (as it were) by your gentle letters to be bold on you in all my needs. I thank God, which ceaseth not to provide for his, I lack nothing at this present, but only ability to thank your faithful heart for your goodness towards me. I love you, and not yours, as it is meet Christians to love one another in God; and your faith which I behold in you, is more worth unto me than all your possessions. And I think I shall not need long to be chargeable unto you, for that this week I look for commissioners to sit on me and my fellow prisoners in prison, lest the spirit of our breath might blow further abroad. The will of God be done. We are not so good as John the Baptist, which was beheaded in prison. Darkness cannot abide the light. Therefore their doings must declare what they are. We are as sheep appointed for a sacrifice to the Lord. We must not fear the fire, for our Lord is a consuming fire, which will put out the fierceness of raging torments from us. Be not afraid of them that can kill the body, but fear him that can cast both body and soul into hell-fire. God forbid that we should rejoice otherwise than in the cross of Christ; and pray that he would make us worthy to suffer for his sake. God will have our faith tried and known; and therefore let us willingly humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may gloriously lift us up in his good time. There is none perfectly faithful indeed till he can say with St. Paul, I am persuaded that neither death, neither life, neither angels, neither princes, nor powers, neither things present, neither things to come, neither highness, neither lowness, neither any other creature, is able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. This faith God plant both in you and in me unmovably. In this faith we have to rejoice, and in none other.
"All the tribulations of the world are not worthy of the eternal weight of glory which is prepared for them that here do with patience abide the cross. Wherefore let us be strong with the strength of him that is able to make us strong, and lament the weakness, I might say the infidelity, of our faint gospellers. Christ, whom we would pretend to have put upon us, is the strength of God, and how then may they be weak where Christ is? We have more to be glad, touching ourselves, of this time, than we have had of any time before, in the which we have so ready a way to go unto God, and so good occasion to show our duty in glorifying his holy name. For if we be imprisoned in this cause, we are blessed: if we lose all that we have, we are blessed a hundred-fold; if we die, we are blessed eternally; so that in suffering of persecutions, all is full of blessings. Be blessed therefore, O elect lady, of God, with the blessed of God, and flee (as you do) the concupiscence of the world. Embrace that which is perfect, and joyfully look for the coming and cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, &c. Thus desiring God to preserve you to his true peace, and to give you victory of that temptation which now is come to try our faith, Christ be with you, and bless you both in body and soul; and my prayer shall follow you wheresoever you go, as I desire that yours may be with me. The last week I sent your beneficence to Oxford: I could not before have a convenient messenger. As soon as I have word, you shall be satisfied of your request. Love me as you do, and the God of love be with you. The twentieth day of August.
"By yours, with all his power in the Lord,
Another letter full of spiritual consolation to the said lady.
"The mercy of God the Father, and the consolation of the Holy Ghost, through Jesus Christ, be with you, and strengthen you, my dear mother and sister in the Lord, in these dangerous days, to the crown of eternal glory, which is now offered to all faithful soldiers in the gospel, Amen!
"As your good Ladyship doth desire to hear from me, so I am desirous to write, as your gentleness and daily goodness bindeth me. But Satan of late hath letted me, who envying all good exercises which I have had and received by mine easy imprisonment in times past, hath brought me out of the King's Bench into the bishop of London's coal-house, a dark and an ugly prison as any is about London, (but my dark body of sin hath well deserved the same, and the Lord now hath brought me into outward darkness, that I might the more be lightened by him, as he is most present with his children in the midst of darkness,) where I cannot be suffered to have any candle-light, neither ink nor paper, but by stealth. Wherefore I cannot write to you as I would, neither as my duty is. As Christ, my Master, was sent from Annas to Caiaphas, so am I sent from Winchester diocese to London, I trust, to make a speedy end of my course; God give me grace and patience to be a faithful follower of my Master! I have been already this seven-night in his coal-house, and have of late been four times called to mine answer, but hitherto not called to judgment, which I do daily look for; but I fear they will prolong me, and try me by strait imprisonment awhile, in the which God's will be done.
Pray, dear lady, that my faith faint not, which I praise God is presently more lively with me than it hath been in times past. I taste and feel the faithfulness of God in his promise, who hath promised to be with his in their trouble, and to deliver them. I thank the Lord, I am not alone, but have six other faithful companions; who in our darkness do cheerfully sing hymns and praises unto God for his great goodness. We are so joyful, that I wish you part of my joy; for you that are so careful of my bodily relief, how can I but wish your spiritual consolation, and that abundantly? Let not, dear heart, my strait imprisonment any thing molest you; for it hath added, and daily doth, unto my joy: but rather be glad and thankful unto God with me, that it hath pleased him to make me, most wretched sinner, worthy to suffer any thing for his sake. Hitherto we have not resisted unto blood. God make us never to count our blood more precious in our eyes than his truth.
"Ah, my dear sister! I thank you again for the last letter you sent me; it is a singular comfort unto me, as oft as I read the same. I have it in my bosom, and will carry the same even to the stake with me, in witness that Christ hath so constant and faithful a lady in England. God succour and keep that spirit in you; for it is the very spirit of adoption of the child of God. Such cheerful and holy spirits under the cross be acceptable sacrifices in the sight of God; for Christ came to cast fire into the earth, and looketh that it should be kindled. Be you fervent in spirit in our Christ's cause, as you have begun, for that is the principal spirit wherewithal David desired to be confirmed. Oh how do I rejoice, your Ladyship to go arm in arm with me unto Christ, or rather before me! I cannot but joy of such a worshipful fellow. Methinketh I see you to mourn, and desire to be loosed out of the earthly and frail habitacle of this body. Oh how amiable and pleasant is it to dwell in the Lord's tabernacle! Our Christ and his heavenly company look for us: let us haste and run thereto, for behold the Lord is ready to embrace us. Mine own bowels in the Lord! be merry in the Lord with your afflicted brother, who daily offereth your merciful alms, which most unworthily I do receive still of you, unto the Lord. But now, dear mother, you need not to burden so much yourself, (as my last letters did signify,) for that my chargeable imprisonment is cut off, and a little now serveth me: wherefore I pray you send no more until I send to you, for I have sufficient and abound. God's peace be with you for ever.
"Out of my Lord of London's coal-house, the last of October.
Another letter to the said lady, wherein partly lie complaineth of the dissimulation and perjury of Englishmen, falling again to the pope, and partly he expresseth his joy in his afflictions.
"I cannot but joy with you, my heartily beloved in Christ, of the fall of Sennacherib: since it is to the glory of God, and to the consolation of his church, to see the fall of their enemies before their face, according as it is written, The just shall rejoice, when he seeth the vengeance of the wicked. God make this your joy perfect; for as concerning myself, I count not to see those good days whereof you have a glimmering in this life. For although the cockatrice be dead, yet his pestilent chickens, with the whore of Babylon, still live. But a great hope there is of their short confusion, because God doth not prosper their doings according to their expectation. Most happy shall he be, whom the Lord shall soonest take out of this life, that he may not see the plagues which the manifest perjury, and the manifold idolatry and detestable dissimulation, (and that of such as do know the truth,) do threaten to come.
"The Lord is just, and all unrighteousness displeaseth him, and either here, or else in another world, he will punish this gross infidelity of the world: but his elect, and such as he loveth, will he punish here, that they should not be condemned hereafter with the world eternally. We have nothing so much to rejoice in, as in the cross of Jesus Christ, and in that we are partakers of his afflictions, which be the earnest penny of that eternal kingdom, which he upon the cross for us hath purchased. For as Paul his faithful witness saith, If we suffer with him, we shall reign with him: if we die with him, we shall live with him.
"Wherefore, mine own dear bowels! praise God with me most entirely, that it hath pleased him now mercifully to visit the sins of my youth, and my huge unthankfulness, and by the same doth give me much consolation, that he assureth me of his great goodness and mercy, and turneth his fatherly castigation into my crown of glory. O good God! what am I, on whom he should show this great mercy? To Him that is immortal, invisible, and only wise, be all honour, praise, and glory there-for, Amen.
"This is the day that the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in the same. This is the way, though it be narrow, which is full of the peace of God, and leadeth to eternal bliss. Oh how my heart leapeth for joy, that I am so near the apprehension thereof! God forgive me mine unthankfulness, and unworthiness of so great glory. The swords which pierced Mary's heart in the passion of our Saviour, which daily also go through your faithful heart, be more glorious and to be desired than the golden sceptres of this world. O blessed be they that mourn in this world to God-ward, for they shall eternally be comforted! God make my stony heart to mourn more than it doth. I have so much joy of the reward that is prepared for me, most wretched sinner, that though I be in a place of darkness and mourning, yet I cannot lament; but both night and day am so joyful, as though I were under no cross at all: yea, in all the days of my life I was never so merry, the name of the Lord be praised there-for for ever and ever, and he pardon mine unthankfulness! Our enemies do fret, fume, and gnash their teeth to see and hear that we, under this grievous affliction in the world, can be so merry. We are of them counted as desperate persons, for the certain hope and feeling which we have of our everlasting salvation. And it is no marvel, for the worldly men cannot perceive the things of God; it is mere foolishness and abomination to them.
"Be thankful unto God, mine own dear helper, for his wondrous working in his chosen people. Pray instantly that this joy be never taken from us, for it passeth all the delights of this world. This is the peace of God which surmounteth all understanding: this peace, the more his chosen be afflicted, the more they feel; and therefore cannot faint, neither for fire, neither for water. Let us pray, for our weak brethren and sisters' sake, that it may please God to alleviate the grievous and intolerable burden of these cruel days. But, touching ourselves, let us heartily beseech our Saviour to vouchsafe to give us this glorious gift, to suffer for his gospel's sake, and that we may think the shame of the world to be our glory, as it is indeed. God increase our faith, and open our eyes to behold what is prepared for us. I lack nothing, praise be to God! I trust my marriage garment is ready. I will send you my examinations, as soon as I can get them written, if you be desirous of them.
"God of his mercy fill your merciful heart with all joy and consolation of the hope to come.
"Out of the coal-house, the 19th of November.
"Your own lover, JOHN PHILPOT. "
A letter to a friend of his, prisoner the same time in Newgate; wherein is debated and discussed the matter or question of infants to be baptized.
"The God of all light and understanding lighten your heart with all true knowledge of his word, and make you perfect to the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereunto you are now called, through the mighty operation of his Holy Spirit, Amen.
"I received yesternight from you, dear brother saint, and fellow prisoner for the truth of Christ's gospel, a letter, wherein you gently require my judgment concerning the baptism of infants; what is the effect thereof. And before I do show you what I have learned out of God's word, and of his true and infallible church, touching the same, I think it not out of the matter first to declare what vision I had the same night, while musing on your letter I fell asleep, knowing that God doth not without cause reveal to his people who have their minds fixed on him, special and spiritual revelations to their comfort, as a taste of their joy and kingdom to come, which flesh and blood cannot comprehend.
"Being in the midst of my sweet rest, it seemed me to see a great beautiful city, all of the colour of azure, and white, four square, in a marvellous beautiful composition in the midst of the sky, the sight whereof so inwardly comforted me, that I am not able to express the consolation I had thereof, yea, the remembrance thereof causeth as yet my heart to leap for joy: and as charity is no churl, but would others to be partakers of his delight, so methought I called to others, (I cannot tell whom,) and while they came, and we together beheld the same, by and by, to my great grief, it faded away.
"This dream I think not to have come of the illusion of the senses, because it brought with it so much spiritual joy, and I take it to be of the working of God's Spirit for the contentation of your request, as he wrought in Peter to satisfy Cornelius. Therefore I interpret this beautiful city to be the glorious church of Christ, and the appearance of it in the sky, signifieth the heavenly state thereof, whose conversation is in heaven, and that, according to the primitive church which is now in heaven, men ought to measure and judge the church of Christ now in earth; for as the prophet David saith, The foundations thereof be in the holy hills, and glorious things be spoken of the city of God. And, the marvellous quadrature of the same, I take to signify the universal agreement in the same, and that all the church here militant ought to consent to the primitive church throughout the four parts of the world, as the prophet affirmeth, saying, God maketh us to dwell after one manner in one house. And that I conceived so wonderful joy at the contemplation thereof, I understand the unspeakable joy which they have that be at unity with Christ's primitive church; for there is joy in the Holy Ghost, and peace which passeth all understanding, as it is written in the Psalms: As of joyful persons, is the dwelling of all them that be in thee. And that I called others to the fruition of this vision, and to behold this wonderful city, I construe it by the will of God this vision to have come upon me musing on your letter, to the end, that under this figure I might have occasion to move you, with many others, to behold the primitive church in all your opinions concerning faith, and to conform yourself in all points to the same, which is the pillar and stablishment of truth, and teacheth the true use of the sacraments, and having, with a greater fulness than we have now, the first-fruits of the Holy Ghost, did declare the true interpretation of the Scriptures according to all verity, even as our Saviour promised to send them another Comforter, which should teach them all truth.
"And since all truth was taught and revealed to the primitive church, which is our mother, let us all that be obedient children of God, submit ourselves to the judgment of the church for the better understanding of the articles of our faith, and of the doubtful sentences of the Scripture. Let us not go about to show in us, by following any private man's interpretation upon the word, another spirit than they of the primitive church had, lest we deceive ourselves: for there is but one faith and one Spirit, which is not contrary to himself, neither otherwise now teacheth us than he did them. Therefore let us believe as they have taught us of the Scriptures, and be at peace with them, according as the true catholic church is at this day: and the God of peace assuredly will be with us, and deliver us out of all our worldly troubles and miseries, and make us partakers of their joy and bliss, through our obedience to faith with them.
"Therefore God commandeth us in Job, to ask of the elder generation, and to search diligently the memory of the fathers; for we are but yesterday's children, and be ignorant, and our days are like a shadow; and they shall teach thee, saith the Lord, and speak to thee, and shall utter words from their hearts. And by Solomon we are commanded, not to reject the direction of our mother. The Lord grant you to direct your steps in all things after her, and to abhor contention with her; for as St. Paul writeth, If any man be contentious, neither we, neither the church of God, hath any such custom.
"Hitherto I have showed you, good brother S., my judgment generally of that you stand in doubt and dissent from others, to the which I wish you as mine own heart to be conformable, and then doubtless you cannot err, but boldly may be glad in your troubles, and triumph at the hour of your death, that you shall die in the church of God a faithful martyr, and receive the crown of eternal glory. And thus much have I written upon the occasion of a vision before God unfeigned. But that you may not think that I go about to satisfy you with uncertain visions only, and not after God's word, I will take the ground of your letter, and specially answer to the same by the Scriptures, and by infallible reasons deduced out of the same, and prove the baptism of infants to be lawful, commendable, and necessary, whereof you seem to stand in doubt.
Indeed if you look upon the papistical synagogue only, which had corrupted God's word by false interpretations, and hath perverted the true use of Christ's sacraments, you might seem to have good handfast of your opinion against the baptism of infants. But forasmuch as it is of more antiquity, and hath its beginning from God's word, and from the use of the primitive church, it must not in respect of the abuse in the popish church be neglected, or thought not expedient to be used in Christ's church. Auxentius, one of the Arians' sect, with his adherents, was one of the first that denied the baptism of children, and next after him Pelagius the heretic, and some others that were in St. Bernard's time, as it doth appear by his writings, and in our days the Anabaptists, an inordinate kind of men, stirred up by the devil to the destruction of the gospel. But the catholic truth delivered unto us by the Scriptures, plainly determineth, that all such are to be baptized, as whom God acknowledgeth for his people, and voucheth them worthy of sanctification or remission of their sins. Therefore since that infants be in the number or scroll of God's people, and be partakers of the promise by their purification in Christ, it must needs follow thereby, that they ought to be baptized as well as those that can profess their faith: for we judge the people of God as well by the free and liberal promise of God, as by the confession of faith. For to whomsoever God promiseth himself to be their God, and whom he acknowledgeth for his, those no man without great impiety may exclude from the number of the faithful. But God promiseth that he will not only be the God of such as do profess him., but also of infants, promising them his grace and remission of sins, as it appeareth by the words of the covenant made unto Abraham: I will set my covenant between thee and me, (saith the Lord,) and between thy seed after thee in their generations, with an everlasting covenant, to be thy God, and the God of thy seed after thee. To the which covenant circumcision was added, to be a sign of sanctification as well in children as in men; and no man may think that this promise is abrogated with circumcision and other ceremonial laws: for Christ came to fulfil the promises, and not to dissolve them. Therefore in the gospel he saith of infants, (that is, of such as yet believe not,) Let thy little ones come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Again, It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that any of these little ones do perish. Also, He that receiveth one such little child in my name, receiveth me. Take heed therefore that ye despise not one of these babes, for I tell you their angels do continually see in heaven my Father's face. And what may be said more plain than this? It is not the will of the heavenly Father, that the infants should perish: whereby we may gather that he receiveth them freely unto this grace, although as yet they confess not their faith. Since then that the word of the promise, which is contained in baptism, pertaineth as well to children as to men, why should the sign of the promise, which is baptism in water, be withdrawn from children, when Christ himself commandeth them to be received of us, and promiseth the reward of a prophet to those that receive such a little infant, as he for an example did put before his disciples?
"Now will I prove with manifest arguments that children ought to be baptized, and that the apostles of Christ did baptize children. The Lord commanded his apostles to baptize all nations: therefore also children ought to be baptized, for they are comprehended under this word, 'all nations.' Further, whom God doth account among the faithful, they are faithful, for it was said to Peter, That thing which God hath purified, thou shalt not say to be common or unclean. But God doth repute children among the faithful: ergo, they be faithful -- except we had rather to resist God, and seem stronger and wiser than he. And without all doubt the apostles baptized those which Christ commanded: but he commanded the faithful to be baptized, among the which infants be reckoned: the apostles then baptized infants.
"The gospel is more than baptism, for Paul said, The Lord sent me to preach the gospel, and not to baptize: not that he denied absolutely that he was sent to baptize, but that he preferred doctrine before baptism, for the Lord commanded both to the apostles. But children be received by the doctrine of the gospel of God, and not refused: therefore what person being of reason may deny them baptism, which is a thing lesser than the gospel? For in the sacraments be two things to be considered, the thing signified, and the sign; and the thing signified is greater than the sign; and from the thing signified in baptism, children are not excluded. Who therefore may deny them the sign, which is baptism in water? St. Peter could not deny them to be baptized in water, to whom he saw the Holy Ghost given, which is the certain sign of God's people: for he saith in the Acts, May any body forbid them to be baptized in water, who have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? Therefore St. Peter denied not baptism to infants, for he knew certainly, both by the doctrine of Christ, and by the covenant which is everlasting, that the kingdom of heaven pertained to infants.
"None be received into the kingdom of heaven, but such as God loveth, and which are endued with his Spirit: for whoso hath not the Spirit of God, he is none of his. But infants be beloved of God, and therefore want not the Spirit of God: wherefore if they have the Spirit of God as well as men, if they be numbered among the people of God as well as we that be of age, who (I pray you) may well withstand children to be baptized with water, in the name of the Lord?
"The apostles in times past, being yet not sufficiently instructed, did murmur against those which brought their children unto the Lord; but the Lord rebuked them, and said, Let the babes come unto me. Why then do not these rebellious Anabaptists obey the commandment of the Lord? For what do they now-a-days else, that bring their children to baptism, than that they did in times past, which brought their children to the Lord; and our Lord received them, and putting his hands on them, blessed them, and, both by words and by gentle behaviour towards them, declared manifestly that children be the people of God, and entirely beloved of God. But some will say, 'Why then did not Christ baptize them?' Because it is written, Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples.
"Moreover, circumcision in the old law was ministered to infants: therefore baptism ought to be ministered in the new law unto children. For baptism oft is come in the stead of circumcision, as St. Paul witnesseth, saying to the Colossians, By Christ ye are circumcised with a circumcision which is without hands, when ye put off the body of sin of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ; being buried together with him through baptism. Behold, Paul calleth baptism the circumcision of a Christian man, which is done without hands, not that water may be ministered without hands, but that with hands no man any longer ought to be circumcised; albeit the mystery of circumcision do still remain in faithful people. To this I may add, that the servants of God were always ready to minister the sacraments to them, for whom they were instituted. As for an example, we may behold Joshua, who most diligently procured the people of Israel to be circumcised before they entered into the land of promise; but since the apostles were the preachers of the word, and the very faithful servants of Jesus Christ, who may hereafter doubt that they baptized infants, since baptism is in place of circumcision? Item, the apostles did attemperate all their doings to the shadows and figures of the Old Testament: therefore it is certain that they did attemperate baptism according to circumcision, and baptized children; because they were under the figure of baptism; for the people of Israel passed through the Red Sea, and the bottom of the water of Jordan, with their children. And although the children be not always expressed, neither the women, in the Holy Scriptures, yet they are comprehended and understood in the same. Also the Scripture evidently telleth us, that the apostles baptized whole families or households: but the children are comprehended in a family or household, as the chiefest and dearest part thereof: therefore we may conclude, that the apostles did baptize infants or children; and not only men of lawful age. And that the house or household is taken for man, woman, and child, it is manifest in the seventeenth of Genesis, and also in that Joseph doth call Jacob with all his house, to come out of the land of Canaan into Egypt.
"Finally, I can declare out of ancient writers, that the baptism of infants hath continued from the apostles' time unto ours, neither that it was instituted by any councils, neither of the pope, nor of other men, but commanded from the Scripture by thdeclara themselves. Origen, upon the declaration of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, expounding the sixth chapter saith, that the church of Christ received the baptism of infants from the very apostles. St. Jerome maketh mention of the baptism of infants, in the third book against the Pelagians, and in his Epistle to Leta. St. Augustine reciteth for this purpose a place out of John, bishop of Constantinople, in his first book against Julian, chap. ii., and he again, writing to St. Jerome, saith, that St. Cyprian, not making any new decree, but firmly observing the faith of the church, judged with his fellow bishops, that as soon as one was born, he might be lawfully baptized. The place of Cyprian is to be seen in his Epistle to Fidus. Also St. Augustine, in writing against the Donatists, saith, that the baptism of infants was not derived from the authority of man, neither of councils, but from the tradition or doctrine of the apostles.
"Cyril, upon Leviticus, approveth the baptism of children, and condemneth the iteration of baptism. These authorities of men I do allege, not to tie the baptism of children unto the testimonies of men, but to show how men's testimonies do agree with God's word, and that the verity of antiquity is on our side, and that the Anabaptists have nothing but lies for them, and new imaginations, which feign the baptism of children to be the pope's commandment.
"After this will I answer to the sum of your arguments for the contrary. The first, which includeth all the rest, is, It is written, Go ye into all the world, and preach the glad tidings to all creatures. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned, &c.
"To this I answer, that nothing is added to God's word by the baptism of children, as you pretend, but that is done which the same word doth require; for that children are accounted of Christ in the gospel among the number of such as believe, as it appeareth by these words, He that offendeth one of these little babes which believe in me, it were better for him to have a mill-stone tied about his neck, and to be cast into the bottom of the sea. Where plainly Christ calleth such as be not able to confess their faith, believers, because of his mere grace he reputeth them for believers. And this is no wonder so to be taken, since God imputeth faith for righteousness unto men that be of riper age: for both in men and children, righteousness, acceptation, sanctification, is of mere grace and by imputation, that the glory of God's grace might be praised.
"And that the children of faithful parents are sanctified, and among such as do believe, is apparent in 1 Cor. vii. And whereas you do gather by the order of the words in the said commandment of Christ, that children ought to be taught before they be baptized, and to this end you allege many places out of the Acts proving that such as confessed their faith first were baptized after: I answer, that if the order of the words might weigh any thing in this cause, we have the Scripture that maketh as well for us; for in St. Mark we read, that John did baptize in the desert, preaching the baptism of repentance. In the which place we see baptizing go before, and preaching to follow after. And also I will declare this place of Matthew, exactly considered, to make for the use of baptism in children; for St. Matthew hath it written in this wise: All power is given me, saith the Lord, in heaven and in earth, therefore, going forth, μαθητεσατε [Greek: matheteusate], that is, disciple ye, (as I may express the signification of the word,) that is, make or gather to me disciples of all nations. And following, he declareth the way how they should gather to him disciples out of all nations, baptizing them and teaching: by baptizing and teaching ye shall procure a church to me. And both these aptly and briefly severally he setteth forth, saying, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. Now then baptism goeth before doctrine.
"But hereby I do not gather that the Gentiles, which never heard any thing before of God, and of the Son of God, and of the Holy Ghost, ought to be baptized, neither they would permit themselves to he baptized before they knew to what end; but this I have declared to show you upon how feeble foundation the Anabaptists be grounded. And plainly it is not true which they imagine of this text, that the Lord did only command such to be baptized whom the apostles had first of all taught; neither here verily is signified who only be to be baptized: but he speaketh of such as be at perfect age, and of the first foundations of faith, and of the church to be planted among the Gentiles, which were as yet rude and ignorant of religion. Such as be of age may hear, believe, and confess, that which is preached and taught, but so cannot infants: therefore we may justly collect, that he speaketh here nothing of infants or children. But for all this they ought not to be excluded from baptism. It is a general rule, He that doth not labour must not eat; but who is so barbarous that might think hereby, that children should be famished?
"The Lord sent his apostles, at the beginning of his setting up of his true religion, unto all nations unto such as were both ignorant of God, and were out of the covenant of God: and truly such persons it behoved not first to be baptized, and afterward taught; but first to be taught, and after baptized. If at this day we should go to the Turks, to convert them to the faith of Christ, verily first we ought to teach them, and afterward baptize such as would yield to be the servants of Christ. Likewise the Lord himself in time past did, when first he renewed the covenant with Abraham, and ordained circumcision to he a seal of the covenant after that Abraham was circumcised. But he, when he perceived the infants also to pertain to the covenant, and that circumcision was the sealing up of the covenant, did not only circumcise Ishmael his son, that was thirteen years of age, but all other infants that were born in his house, among whom we reckon Isaac.
"Even so faithful people which were converted from heathen idolatry by the preaching of the gospel, and confessing the faith, were baptized: when they understood their children to be counted among the people of God, and that baptism was the token of the people of God, they procured also their children to be baptized. Therefore, as it is written, Abraham circumcised all the male children of his house; semblably we read in the acts and writings of the apostles, that after the master of the house was turned to the faith, all the whole house was baptized. And as concerning those which of old time were compelled to confess their faith before they received baptism, which were called catechumeni, they were such as with our forefathers came from the Gentiles into the church, whom being yet rude of faith they did instruct in the principles of their belief, and afterward they did baptize them: but the same ancient fathers, notwithstanding, did baptize the children of faithful men, as I have already partly declared.
"And because you do require a hasty answer of your letter of one that is but a dull writer, I am here enforced to cease particularly to go through your letter in answering thereto, knowing that I have fully answered every part thereof in that I have already written, although not in such order as it had been meet, and as I purposed. But forasmuch as I understand that you will be no contentious man, neither in this matter, neither in any other, contrary to the judgment of Christ's true primitive church, which is the body and fulness of Christ, I desire you in the entire love of him, or rather Christ desireth you by me, (that your joy may be perfect, whereto you are now called,) to submit your judgment to that church, and to be at peace and unity in the same; that the coat of Christ, which ought to be without seam, but now, alas! most miserably is torn in pieces by many dangerous sects and damnable opinions, may appear by you in no part to have been rent, neither that any giddy head in these dog-days might take an ensample by you to dissent from Christ's true church. I beseech thee, dear brother in the gospel, follow the steps of the faith of the glorious martyrs in the primitive church, and of such as at this day follow the same: decline from them neither to the right hand nor to the left. Then shall death, be it never so bitter, be more sweet than this life; then shall Christ with all the heavenly Jerusalem triumphantly embrace your spirit with unspeakable gladness and exaltation, who in this earth was content to join your spirit with their spirits, according as it is commanded by the word, that the spirit of the prophets should be subject to the prophets. One thing ask with David ere you depart, and require the same, that you may dwell with a full accord in his house, for there is glory and worship: and so, with Simeon in the temple embracing Christ, depart in peace. To the which peace Christ bring both you and me, and all our loving brethren that love God in the unity of faith, by such ways as shall please him, to his glory! Let the bitter passion of Christ, which he suffered for your sake, and the horrible torments which the godly martyrs of Christ have endured before us, and also the inestimable reward of your life to come, which is hidden yet a little while from you with Christ, strengthen, comfort, and encourage you to the end of that glorious race which you are in. Amen.
"Your yoke-fellow in captivity for the verity of Christ's gospel, to live and die with you in the unity of faith,
Divers other letters were written by Master Philpot to divers, but these as most principal I have excerpted and inserted: amongst which I thought here, not much impertinent to the place, to adjoin another certain letter of a godly and zealous gospeller, (whose name in her writing doth not appear,) who, in defending and commending the quarrel of this Master John Philpot, Christ's most famous and worthy martyr, was therefore troubled and brought before Bishop Bonner; and therefore being appointed by the said bishop to appear upon a certain day to answer for herself, indeed kept not her day with the bishop, but instead of her appearance sent him this letter here following.
A godly letter addressed to Bishop Bonner, reproving his cruelty.
"Woe be unto the idolatrous shepherds of England, that feed themselves. Should not the shepherds feed the flock? But ye have eaten the fat, ye have clothed you with the wool. The best fed have ye slain, but the flock have ye not nourished; the weak have ye not holden up, the sick have you not healed, the broken have you not bound together, the out-casts have ye not brought again, the lost have ye not sought, but churlishly and cruelly have ye ruled them, Ezek. xxxiv.
"Forasmuch, my Lord, as my business is such that I cannot come to your Lordship, according to my promise, I have been so bold to write these few words unto you, partly to excuse mine absence, and partly to answer your Lordship's demands at my last most happy departure from you. As touching the breach of my promise with you, in not coming again at the hour appointed, your Lordship shall understand that I take the counsel of the angel, which warned the wise men not to come again to Herod, according to their promise, but to turn home again another way. Now, my Lord, I perceiving your Lordship to be a more cruel tyrant than ever was Herod, and more desirous to destroy Christ in his poor members than ever he was, who, to destroy Christ, killed his own son, I thought good to take the angel's counsel, and to come no more at you: for I see that you are set all in a rage, like a ravening wolf against the poor lambs of Christ, appointed to the slaughter for the testimony of the truth. Indeed you are called the common cutthroat and general slaughter-slave to all the bishops of England; and therefore it is wisdom for me and all other simple sheep of the Lord, to keep us out of your butcher's stall as long as we can; especially seeing that you have such store already, that you are not able to drink all their blood, lest you should break your belly: and therefore let them lie still, and die for hunger. Therefore, my Lord, I thought it good to tarry a time until your Lordship's stomach were come to you a little better: for I do perceive by your great fat cheeks, that you lack no lamb's flesh yet, and belike you are almost glutted with supping so much blood, and therefore you will let some of the leanest die in prison, which will then be meat good enough for your barking beagles, Harpsfield and his fellows. But yet, my Lord, it were a great deal more for your Lordship's honour, if your chaplains might have the meat roasted in Smithfield at the fire of the stake, yea, and when it is something fat and fair-liking; for now they have nothing but skin and bones, and if the dogs come hastily to it, they may chance shortly to be choked; and then your hunting will be hindered greatly, if it be not altogether marred. I hear say, my Lord, that some of the butcherly cure came of late to my house to seek their prey, and that they go round about the city (as David saith) grinning, and grudging that they have not meat enough: therefore belike they have killed my poor brethren and sisters that have lain so long upon the butcherly stall, and eaten them up: for I hear say their friends could not be suffered to see them these three days and more. Therefore I perceive now, that if I had come again according to my promise, your Lordship, like a ravening wolf, or else some of your hellhounds, would quickly have worried me: but I see well my appointed time is not yet come, therefore I will yet live and thank Him for my deliverance, with continual songs of laud and praise. Thus have I been bold to trouble your Lordship with telling you the truth, and the very cause that I came not to you again according to my unpurposed promise. I trust your Lordship will take this in good part, and accept it as a lawful excuse; and not doubting but your Lordship would have done the like, if you had been in my case.
"Now as concerning the second part that caused me to write unto your Lordship, which is to answer unto your subtle, or rather cruel, demand of my judgment of the death of that blessed martyr of Christ Jesus, good Master John Philpot, I will answer your Lordship simply and plainly, what peril soever shall come thereof. Truly, my Lord, I do not only think, but I am also most certain and sure, that he, as a very man of God, died a true martyr and constant confessor of his dear Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom he did most faithfully commit his sweet soul, who will surely keep the same with him in joy for evermore. Also, my Lord, I do verily believe and know that your Lordship hath committed a horrible and most cruel murder in the unjust condemning and killing of him; and that you shall make as heavy an account for his blood, which shortly shall be required at your hand, as ever your great grandfather cruel Cain did or shall do for his innocent brother Abel. Moreover, because I am credibly informed that your Lordship doth believe, and have in secret said, that there is no hell, I certify you, that your Lordship did never any thing in all your life that so much did redound to your Lordship's dishonour and perpetual shame and infamy, as your killing the body of this blessed prophet doth; especially seeing that he was none of your diocese, nor had offended any of your Lordship's devilish and cruel laws. Verily I hear almost every body say in all places where I come, that your Lordship is made the common slaughter-slave to all your fellows -- bite-sheep bishops, I would say; yea, the very papists themselves begin now to abhor your blood-thirstiness, and speak shame of your tyranny. Like tyranny, believe me, my Lord, every child that can any whit speak, can call you by your name and say, 'Bloody Bonner is bishop of London;' and every man hath it as perfectly upon his fingers' ends, as his Pater-noster, how many you, for your part, have burned with fire, and famished in prison: they say, the whole sum surmounteth to forty persons within this three quarters of this year. Therefore, my Lord, though your Lordship believeth that there is neither heaven nor hell, nor God nor devil, yet if your Lordship love your own honesty, which was lost long agone, you were best to surcease from this cruel burning of true Christian men, and also from murdering of some in prison; for that indeed offendeth men's minds most; yea, even your old friends, the rankest papists that be. For, say they, Felix the heathen ruler did not forbid Paul's friends to visit him in prison, and to bring him necessary relief; and therefore it is a very great shame and sin, to see a bishop that beareth the name of a Christian, to be more cruel upon his poor brethren, than a heathen, Turk, or infidel. This is men's sayings in every place, not only of this realm, but also of the most part of the world, and the common talk they have of your Lordship; therefore I thought to be bold so with your Lordship, as to tell you of it, though perchance you will give me but small thanks for my labour. Well, as for that, I put it to your Lordship's choice, for I have as much already as I look for.
"Finally, my Lord, I will give you to understand, that the death of this constant martyr and valiant soldier of Jesus Christ hath given a greater shake towards the overthrowing of your papistical kingdom, than you shall ever be able to recover again these seven years, do the best you can, and set as many crafty daubers to patch it up with untempered clay as you will; yea, though prating Pendleton, that wicked apostate, apply all his wily wits to help them. Verily, my Lord, by all men's reports, his blessed life could never have done the like sorrow to Satan's synagogue, whereof some say your Lordship is a mighty member, as his happy death hath done. You have broken a pot indeed, but the precious nard contained therein is so notably therewithal shed abroad, that the sweet savour thereof hath wonderfully well refreshed all the true household or congregation of Christ, that they cannot abide any more the stinking savour of your filthy ware that came from the dunghill of Rome, though your Lordship's Judases do set them to sale every where to fill your bags. I put your Lordship out of doubt, that if you do break any more such pots, you will mar your own market altogether: for I promise you, most men begin to mislike your devilish doings, and wonderfully to loathe your popish pedlary wares.
"Thus have I (according to your Lordship's commandments) showed you simply what I think of that good man's death, whose blood crieth for vengeance against your Lordship's butcherly bloody proceedings in the ears of the Lord of hosts, who will shortly avenge the same upon your pilled pate, and upon the rest of all your poll-shorn brethren, the very marked cattle of the great antichrist of Rome. The measure of your iniquity is filled up to the brim, therefore will God shortly pour in double unto your deserved destruction. And then I, when your new-made proselytes will be glad to cover their crowns with cow-dung (saving your Lordship's reverence, I should have said first) --Well, I rather desire their conversion than confusion; the Lord send the one of them shortly, as may be most to his glory. Amen.
"I signify also unto your Lordship, that the railing words which your lying preacher showed forth of his filthy fountain upon Sunday against the dear servant of God, good Master Philpot, do greatly redound to your Lordship's dishonesty, and much deface your spiritual honour. Verily I see that the great wrath of God hath so blinded your eyes, that you see not what is with you, nor what is against you, but still you vomit out your own shame, and make all the world wonder upon you. Was it not enough for you to condemn him most unjustly, yea, contrary to your own laws, and to kill his innocent body most tyrannously, but you must also set a lying limb of the devil to blaspheme, slander, and belie him now he is dead? O viperous generation, seed of the serpent, and right children of the devil! Full well do you counterfeit your father's steps, whom Christ calleth a murderer, and a liar from the beginning; which two things be the only weapons of your war, wherewith you maintain all your mischief, that is to say, lying and murder. For those whom ye cannot overcome with your lying persuasions, them you kill most cruelly, and then blaspheme and belie them with railing sentences when they are dead. But all this will not blind the people of God, nor yet make them any whit the less believe the truth, nor abate their love from the true preachers thereof; yea, it is a true sign and a token that they are the very disciples of Christ, for he hath said, Blessed are ye when men revile you, and say all manner of evil sayings against you for my name's sake: rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven. And doubtless great is that good man's reward in heaven by this time, as your Lordship's damnation shall be great in hell, except you repent and surcease from shedding innocent blood. But it is to be feared your heart is hardened as Pharaoh's was, seeing that with Judas ye have sold and betrayed your Master. Take heed, my Lord, lest you come to the same end, or a worse than he did; for verily I cannot perceive how you should escape it long. Therefore say not but a woman gave you warning, if you list to take it. And as for the obtaining of your popish purpose in suppressing the truth, I put you out of doubt, you shall not obtain it so long as you go this way to work as ye do: for verily I believe that you have lost the hearts of twenty thousand that were rank papists within this twelve months.
"It is found very true that one holy doctor saith, 'The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the gospel; when one is put to death, a thousand do rise for him.' And that this is true, you may well perceive by the hearty love that the people showed unto good Master Philpot at his going to his death. They went not about to make an idol of him, as your adder's brood would bear men in hand: but they worshipped God, which gave such strength to his dear child, to die so constantly for the testimony of his truth, unto the utter destruction of that detestable idolatry which your Lordship doth most devilishly maintain with the force of fire, faggots, and sword: yea, and rather than fail, to famish men in prison again, as ye have done already. It is reported of your own tormentors, that the six prisoners that you have in your prison, be put in six several places all the day, and every night brought together, and set in the stocks. Forsooth, my Lord, this doth get you a foul name all abroad the country, and yet all will not help your Lordship's pestilent purpose, but every way hinder the same; for Zerubbabel will be found no liar, which said, The truth shall have victory. You do but strive against the stream, and kick against the prick. The Lord doth laugh your doings to scorn, and will bring all your counsels and devices to nought, (as knoweth the Lord God,) who of his great mercy shortly convert your Lordship, or utterly confound you, and get his name a glory over you. Amen!
"Your Lordship's orator, who prayeth daily to God that he may reward you according to your deeds. Anno 1556."