« PreviousContinue »
to the doing thereof, that the bishops in their decrees, that attribute the remission of sin neither to contrition, nor to faith, nor to Christ, but unto the external sprinkling of a drop of water. For thus they say of the water and of the bread in the exorcism or conjuration of the water, “ I conjure thee in the name of God,” as it is in the beginning of the conjuration, “ to be a water blessed to expel all the power of the devil.”
Of the bread thus, “ Bless, Lord, this bread, that as many as taste thereof may receive health both of body and soul.” By this law thou mayst judge who defendeth the better opinion, Numa Pompilius, who forbad images, or else the bishops' laws, that say, idols can teach the unlearned people, and be to be used. Bring the matter to judgment, and see which opinion God's law will defend. “ Thou shalt make no image, &c.” Whose law is more consonant with God's laws-the decrees and precepts of Cato, that say, “ Love thy father, and fear the magistrate;" or the bishops' laws, that park young children in cloisters, that never know their parents' need ; and likewise exempt the clergy from all obedience to the higher powers ?
God's laws say with Cato, “ Honour thy father, and every man be subject unto the superior powers.” The Romans reprehended and deposed likewise the tyrant Nero for his cruelty, and killed the vicious prince Tarquinius Sextus for vitiating of the chaste matron Lucretia.
The bishops' laws say thus, If the Pope care neither for his own health nor for his brothers; be found unprofitable and negligent in his works; further, a man apt to do no good, that hurteth himself and others, leadeth with him people innumerable by legions unto the devil to be punished with hin in pains most dolorous for ever ; being Pope, no morial man should presume to reprehend his faults, for he judgeth all men, and is to be judged
of no man.
What law was there ever written more pernicious or contrary unto God's laws than this ?
Cyril against Julian allegeth the writings of the philosopher Pythagoras, who proveth that there is one only God, who made and preserveth only the things made. So do Sophocles, Cicero, Seneca. Bring these ethnic laws unto the word of God with the law of bishops, that teach the invocation and aid of saints departed out of this world, and then thou shalt see that the ethnics' laws are approved by God's word, and the bishops' laws condemned. For God's law saith, “ I am the Lord thy God, and thou shalt have no more gods before me.” And if we pray for any thing, God's word commandeth us to ask in Christ’s name (Johin, xiv. 13). Seeing the knowledge and use of God's word is so necessary, and only telleth us what is good and what is ill, what true and what false, every man should give diligence to know it, setting all other business of the world apart.
A Preparation unto the Ten Commandments. Moses, before he repeateth the Ten Commandments in the book of Deuteronomy, prescribeth certain necessary rules and instructions, which he useth as preparatives and means to dispose and make apt the hearts of the people to receive this holy and most blessed sermon of Almighty God, the Ten Commandments, with condign honour and reverence; and that these laws and precepts might work their operation and virtue in man, which is to purge and cleanse the soul and mind from all unwholesome and contagious disease and sickness of sin, and to preserve the body in health and all honesty of life.
As'a purgation made for the body (which Galen doth call a cleansing of such humours as be hurtful),
many times worketh not its operation by reason of the ill temperament of the body, or else of the region that too much by reason of the heat thereof draweth the humours of man into the exterior parts of the body: so the word of God poured into the ears and understandings of man, worketh not many times its operation in cleansing the soul from the humours and corruption of sin by reason of the ill temperature and disposition of the persons that use to read and hear the Scripture. As the physician therefore giveth the patient first some preparative to dispose and make apt the body to receive the purgation with fruit and commodity, so doth Moses prepare first to make bis auditors apt to hear the commandments, that afterward they might receive thein with fruit and profit. How to proceed in the science and practice of physic, learn of Galen or Hippocrates, or of such as profess that art.
My purpose is to shew, how Moses proceedeth in the celestial science of divinity, to cure the soul of man. He prescribeth unto his audience seven rules, or precepts, wherewith he prepareth them unto the receiving of the Ten Commandments, and without them it availeth nothing to hear or read the commandments, or any other place of the Scripture.
The first rule is, confidence and a right persuasion of God's word, that all his promises be true;
and that he will doubtless give the good promised unto the good, and the ill promised unto the ill, though it seem never so impossible into the flesh. This preparative is most necessary for all men that will be the disciples and hearers of God's word.
For when men think that God is not indeed as severe to panish sin, as it is written in his commandments that he is ; and likewise that he will favour and preserve them that fear him; they never take profit, nor ever shall,
in hearing or reading the Scripture; for they have no more evidence to it than to a vain and faithless tale.
This unbelief and incredulity towards God's word is the occasion and let, that the word heard or read worketh not its operation, and the man no better at night than in the morning, in age than in youth. Moses therefore persuadeth them unto a certain right confidence, saying, “ I have presented before
your face the land which the Lord promised to give unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to their posterity. Come and possess ye the land.” (Deut. i. 8.) Jacob and his posterity were in such bondage in Egypt, that it seemed impossible that ever they should possess the land of Canaan promised by God. Read the fourteen first chapters of Exodus, and see then, as thou canst not choose, but believe him to be true in the one promise of his help towards the good : so believe him that he will likewise punish the ill. And though he suffer and dissemble for a tiine at our sin, to call us unto penance (Rom. ii. 1); yet at length we shall be assured he will keep promise as well in punishing the ill, as in doing good to those that repent. If thou read the Scripture, thou shalt find examples of both, how he favoured and kept proinise with the good and the bad. Noah saved and his family; the whole world drowned with water. Lot saved, and the cities burned. Joshua and Caleb entered the land promised; all the rest died for their sin in the desert. If thou canst not read to stablish thy faith in the word of God, yet canst thou lack no master to teach thee this confidence in God. Turn thine eye on which side thou list, up or down. Behold the birds of the air and the flowers of the field (Matt. vi. 26. Luke, xii. 24), and acknowledge not only the power of God, that made them ; but also his providence in feeding and apparelling them : for they be seals and confirma
tions of God's promises, who will clothe thee, seed thee, and help thee in all necessities. They were not created only to be eaten and smelled unto, but to teach thee to credit and believe God's promises. (Matt. vi. 30.)
The second rule or preparative is, that thou have a right opinion of the magistrates and superior powers of the earth, that thou give thein no more, neither less honour and reverence than the word of God conmandeth. This he declareth by the twelve princes that were sent to explore and search the privities and condition of the land of Canaan. Two of them persuaded the people to believe God's promise, and not to fear the people that dwelt in the land ; but unto these godly princes was no faith or credit given by the people. The princes who persuaded the thing contrary unto God were believed by the people, and their counsel adınitted. By this we learn, that such magistrates, as persnade the people by God's word, should be believed and obeyed, the others not : in the cause of conscience God only must be heard (Acts, iv. 19. Matt. X. 28), or else the people shall fail of a right faith. For he, that knoweth not what his duty is to God and his laws, will believe rather a lie with his forefathers, than the truth with the word of God; and this man is no meet auditor nor disciple of the word of God.
For lack of this preparative, the world hath erred from the truth this many years, to the dishonour of God and danger of Christian souls. Men do not look what God's word saith, but extol the authority of man's laws, preferring the decree of a general or provincial council before the word of God: which hath brought this abomination and subversion of all godly doctrine into the church of Christ.
The third preparative is obedience both unto God and man. It were as good never to read the Scrip