« PreviousContinue »
thereof appointed for a decent order, to preach the word of God, to use the sacraments, to have com-. mon prayers, to provide for the poor, is to be observed, that all things may be done in order. (1 Cor. xiv. 40.)
As for the other laws that they have made concerning fasting and satisfaction for sin, and which they would defend under the pretence and title of mortification of the flesh; that gloss serveth not for their purpose. But their hypocrisy layeth wait to destroy the true doctrine of Christ, if it be not. avoided. They teach neither what mortification is, neither how the flesh may be best kept under to obey the Spirit. Mortification signifieth either patience, which God requireth in the time of adversity; or temperance, commanded of God to refrain the lusts and concupiscence that fighteth against the Spirit. It signifieth not such voluntary fasts, celebrating of masses, or any such other doings of superstitious ceremonies, as man chooseth to do without the commandment of God. Of patience under the cross and of adversity St. Paul speaketh (2 Cor. iv. 10): “ Always,” saith he,
.” saith he, “bear about with us the mortification of the Lord Jesu in the body, to that end that the life of Jesus may be manifested in the body." And in the same place, “ Always we, that be living, for the love of Jesus are delivered to death, that the life of Jesus might appear in our mortal fiesh:” this St. Paul calleth mortification, that is like unto the affliction of Christ.
Of temperance and sobriety in meat, drink, and all other things, it is written in Luke: “ Beware your hearts be not oppressed with gluttony and drunkenness.” (Matt.xvii. 21.) These kinds of spirits be not cast out, but with fasting and praying. Likewise whether we speak of patience in adversity, or temperance in felicity, both these works are com,
manded of God.' And it is lawful for every man to choose for himself such exercises, as best be convenient to his own age and condition of his body; therefore Paul saith (1 Cor. ix. 27), “I chasten my body and bring it into servitude” to this end, that intemperance let not the Holy Ghost, withdraweth not his mind from prayer, make him not unapt to study, and to the vocation he was appointed unto. This is the end why we should do these works, not to merit our reconciliation for sin, but to labour against the devil, the world, sin, and the flesh, and with the Holy Ghost to preserve ourselves in the favour of God.
Temperance is in general commended unto all men and at all times. Howbeit, not one manner of exercise in this virtue can be appointed for all men, but
every man may choose for himself, what exercise he listeth, and is most convenient for his disease. Such as be passed in age, and with the cares of this world have lost the strength of their bodies, need not so great abstinence from meats and drinks as those that be young and in the midst of their strength. As we may see in one man, David, who needed more exercises before he was put into exile than after ; when scarce could the bones bear about the weak body that was far broken with the troubles and care of this world. Health is the great gift of God, and the fairest beauty of man or woman : therefore it must not be hurt; neither with over-much abstinence, neither with dissolute living. Would to God, people would follow the Scripture in this mortification, then the world would amend doubtless; but there is now nothing but a carnal liberty of the Gospel, which hindereth much the glory of God.
The pain of such, as violate this commandment, and do any vile work without necessity, is, that they should be stoned to death. (Numb. xv. 32.)
Thus I have rudely opened the first table of the ten commandments, which containeth four commandments: the which division, Josephus, Origen, Ambrose, and Austin do approye. In another place he nuinbereth but three in the first, and seven in the next table, by reason of a certain allegory. And him doth the Master of the Sentences follow: howbeit, the first division is true, as the text in Exodus is plain (xx. 1), where the tenth commandment, “ Thou shalt not covet,” is but one commandment; as I have diligently searched all the editions that we have in the Hebrew tongue. With one point, period, and sentence, he concludeth the whole commandment, which many men divide into two: “ Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house,” that is one with them: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife,” is another. But the text declareth manifestly, that it is but one: for all is comprehended within one and under one sentence. In Deuteronomy (v. 21) certain latter editions make division of the text, but that is nothing to the purpose. There Moses repeateth the words unto them who knew before the division of the tables. Further, the printers therein follow the mind of one Maimonides, an Hebrew, and not the original in Exodus. Further, in the oldest edition and print that I have seen (as far as I know, there is none older ; if there be, it is but one), the tenth commandment in Deuteronomy is not divided, the which edition Venice gave unto us, Anno 1494. Farther, Onkelos, the Chaldee interpreter in Deuteronomy, maketh but one commandment of the tenth. I wonder that some, which be not ignorant of the tongues, follow not the truth of the text, but make the commandment that forbiddeth images a precept ceremonial. So I might say this was also ceremonial, “Thou shalt have no strange gods before my face.” For all the commandments be of one virtue and strength. If the one may be in effect ceremonial, so may the other: but these opinions I pass over at this time.
The Second Table. Honour thy father and mother, that thou mayst
have long life in the land that the Lord thy God shall give unto thee.
In the first table are comprehended all works, that appertain unto such religion and honour as belongeth only unto God: as in the first precept, knowledge, fear, faith, and love of God. In the second is forbid all external idolatry. In the third, external profession of God's names, his word, and his works; as by prayer, thanksgiving, preaching, and confessing his truth before the world. In the fourth, how we should honour him with public sacraments and ceremonies in the church. In this second table are comprehended all such works as appertain unto God and man. And in this table is prescribed how, and by what means, one man may live with another in peace and virtue in this civil life, during the time of this mortal body upon the earth.
Many noble wits have applied great diligence and study to prescribe such laws as might best and most commodiously govern and keep the people in a politic felicity, to live quietly, prosperously, and wealthily: as Lycurgus the Lacedæmonian, Solon, Plato, Aristotle, the Greeks: Numa Pompilius, Cicero, and others, the Romans: amongst Christians, Constantine, Justinian, and others. Those men have done somewhat to associate people in cities and realms by wisdom, to keep them in an honest order with virtuous laws, and to remove the occasion of vice and discord by justice.
Howbeit, none of them all, nor all of thein together, have prescribed so perfect and absolute a form of a politic wealth, as Almighty God hath done unto his people in this second table and six rules. Neither have they so equally pondered the diversity of sin and transgression of justice, as this law doth; nor so indifferently prescribed correction and punishment according unto the gravity and greatness of the fault, but are too cruel in the less offence, or too merciful in the greater : as ye may see in the injuries of theft punished, and blasphemy of God with adultery, unpunished.
After that he had gathered together this people into one company and multitude, brought them out of Egypt, and appointed them a land and cities, where they should live, as members of one commonwealth, he prescribed unto them certain laws, without which no commonwealth can long endure. For it is no less mastery to keep a realm in wealth from the dangers to come, than to win it from adversity, when adversity is present.
The first law to preserve a commonwealth is, that the people thereof know how to reverence and honour God aright, who is the president and defender of all cities and realms. If he be neglected, there followeth doubtless a ruin and change of the commonwealth. This saw all they, who wrote laws for the preservation thereof: not only Moses and Christian writers, but also the ethnics, as Aristotle (Polit. lib. vii. cap. 8); where he numbereth two works to be done in the city : “ the principal work is religion at the altar of God, which men call sacrifice." They knew, that no city nor realm could continue long in wealth, except they had the favour of God; though they could not tell how to honour him aright. We likewise know the same, the favour of God first and chiefly to preserye the commonwealth;