A Faithful Admonition
to the Professors of God's Truth in England 1554
From: Selected Writings of John Knox: Public Epistles, Treatises, and Expositions to the Year 1559
After dispatching the "Two Comfortable Epistles", Knox awaited further news on the Protestant cause in England. The information he received within the next few weeks was certainly discouraging. The government of Queen Mary conducted a crackdown against Protestants; faithful preachers (including Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley) were placed under arrest. Popish prelates were restored to the positions of highest authority: notably Edmund Bonner to the bishopric of London, Stephen Gardiner to his former see of Winchester, and Cuthbert Tonstall to Durham.
Further, among the laity, many professing Protestants had begun to drift back to the Romish communion, partaking of the papal Mass. Some tried to cover their deeds with the explanation that their outward conformity to Romish rites did not necessitate their inward acceptance of the corruptions of Rome. Writing to his mother-in-law, on July 20th, Knox records with grief his knowledge that "a great part, under pretence that they may keep faith secret in the heart, and yet do as idolaters do, begin now to fall before that idol."
Meanwhile, others were holding fast the good confession, refusing to submit to Romish idolatry. Secret meetings of Protestants were held throughout the land, as the true church went underground.
Knox's previous letters were styled comfortable epistles; he now sees the need for a firmer admonition. While acknowledging the risk of persecution to the faithful, the reformer perceives a greater danger in compromising with idolatry. Government persecution may bring the disfavour of men, loss of personal goods and, in some cases, physical death; but idolatry brings down the wrath of God, resulting in grievous punishments, now and through eternity. Idolatry also invites a curse upon the posterity of the nation. In an intense pastoral appeal, Knox strongly admonishes his readers to avoid conforming to the Romish rites of worship.
This treatise also has important ramifications respecting the duties of Christians confronted by political or ecclesiastical tyranny.
A Faithful Admonition to the Professors of God's Truth in England
Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, with the perpetual comfort of the Holy Ghost, be with you, for ever and ever. So be it.
Having no less desire to comfort such as now are in trouble within the realm of England (and especially you, for many causes most dear to me), than the natural father has to ease the grief and pain of his dearest child; I have considered with myself, what argument or parcel of God's scriptures was most convenient and meet to be entreated for your consolation, in these most dark and dolorous days. And so, as for the same purpose I was turning [the pages of] my book, I chanced to see a note in the margin, written thus in Latin, Videat Anglia, "Let England beware;" which note, when I had considered, I found that the matter written in my book in Latin was this: "Seldom it is that God works any notable work to the comfort of his church, but that trouble, fear, and labour come upon such as God has used for his servants and workmen; and also tribulation most commonly follows that church where Christ Jesus is most truly preached."
This note was made upon a place of scripture written in the fourteenth chapter of St. Matthew's gospel (14:15-33): which place declares that, after Christ Jesus had used the apostles as ministers and servants, to feed (as it had been by their hands) five thousand men, besides women and children, with five barley-loaves and two fishes, he sent them to the sea, commanding them to pass over before him to the other side. Which thing, as they attempted to obey, and for the same purpose did travail and row forth in the sea, the night approached, the wind was contrary, the vehement and raging storm arose, and was likely to overthrow their poor boat and them. When I considered (as dolour and my simplicity would suffer) the circumstances of the text, I began to reckon and ask account of myself (and as God knows, not without sorrow and sobs), whether at any time I had been so plain by my tongue, as God had opened his holy will and wisdom in the matter unto me, as mine own pen and note bear witness to my conscience. And shortly it came to my mind, that the same place of scripture I had entreated in your presence, what time God gave opportunity and space that you should hear, and God's messenger should speak the words of eternal life. Wherefore I thought nothing more expedient, than shortly to call to mind again such things as then I trust were touched ? albeit peradventure neither of me so plainly uttered, neither of you so plainly perceived, as these most dolorous days declare the same to us.
It shall not be necessary to entreat the text word by word, but of the whole sum to gather certain notes and observations (which shall not far disagree from the estate of these days) shall be sufficient.
And, first, it is to be observed, that after this great miracle that Christ had wrought, he neither would retain with himself the multitude of people whom he had fed, neither yet his disciples (John 6:15-16); but the one he sent away, every man to return to his place of accustomed residence (Matt. 14:22); and the others he sent to the danger of the seas ? not as he that was ignorant what should chance unto them, but knowing and foreseeing the tempest, yea, and appointing the same so to trouble them.
It is not to be judged, that the only and true Pastor would remove and send away from him the wandering and weak sheep; neither yet that the only provident Governor and Guide would set out his rude warriors to so great a jeopardy, without sufficient and most just cause.
Why Christ removed and sent away from him the people, the evangelist St. John declares, saying, "When Jesus knew that they were come, and to take him up, that they might make him a king, he passed secretly (or alone) to the mountain" (John 6:15). Whereof it is plain what chiefly moved Christ to send away the people from him; because that by him they sought a carnal and worldly liberty, regarding nothing his heavenly doctrine of the kingdom of God his Father, which before he had taught and declared unto them plainly; showing them that such as should follow him must suffer persecution for his name's sake, must be hated of all men, must deny themselves, must be sent forth as sheep among wolves (Matt. 10:16-42).. But no part of this doctrine pleased them, or could enter into their hearts; but their whole mind was upon their bellies, for sufficing whereof they devised and imagined that they would appoint Christ Jesus to be their worldly king (John 6:15, 26); for he had power to multiply bread at his pleasure. Which vain opinion and imagination [being] perceived by Christ Jesus, he withdrew himself from their company, to avoid all such suspicion, and to let them understand that no such honours did agree with his vocation, who came to serve, and not to be served (Matt. 20:28). And when the same people sought him again, he sharply rebuked them, because they sought him more to have their bellies fed with corruptible meat, than to have their souls nourished with lively bread that came down from heaven (John 6:26). And thus in the people there was just cause why Christ should withdraw himself from them for a time.
Why the disciples should suffer that great danger, fear, and anguish, St. Mark, in his gospel, plainly shows, saying, "That their hearts were blinded, and therefore did neither remember nor consider the miracle of the loaves" (Mark 6:52). That is, albeit with their hands they had touched that bread, by which so great a multitude was fed; and albeit also they had gathered up twelve baskets full of that which remained of a few loaves, which, before the miracle, a boy was able to have borne; yet did they not rightly consider the infinite power of Christ Jesus by this wonderful miracle; and therefore it was of necessity, that in their own bodies they should suffer trouble for their better instruction.
When I deeply consider (dearly beloved in our Saviour Christ), how abundantly, and how miraculously the poor and small flock of Christ Jesus was fed within the realm of England, under that elect and chosen vessel of God to glory and honour, Edward VI; and now again behold, not only the dispersion and scattering abroad, but also the appearing destruction of the same, under these cursed, cruel, and abominable idolaters; methinks I see the same causes to have moved God, not only to withdraw his presence from the multitude, but also to have sent his well-beloved servants to the travels of the seas, wherein they were sorely tossed and turmoiled, and apparently most likely to perish.
What were the affections of the greatest multitude that followed the gospel in this former rest and abundance, is easy to be judged, if the life and conversation of every man should have been thoroughly examined. For who lived (in that rest) as that he had refused himself? Who lived in that rest as that he had been crucified with Christ? Who lived in that rest, as that he had certainly looked for trouble to come upon him? Yea, who lived not rather in delicacy and joy, seeking the world and the pleasures thereof, caring for the flesh and carnal appetites, as though death and sin had been clean devoured? And what was this else, than to make of Christ an earthly king? The word that we professed, daily cried in our ears: that our kingdom, our joy, our rest and felicity neither was, is, nor should be in the earth (John 18:36), neither in any transitory thing thereof, but in heaven, "into which we must enter by many tribulations" (Acts 14:22). But alas! we slept in such security, that the sound of the trumpet could never be perfectly understood of many, but we always persuaded ourselves of a certain tranquillity, as though the troubles, whereof mention is made in the scriptures of God, appertained nothing at all to this age, but unto such as of long time are passed before us. And therefore was our heavenly Father compelled to withdraw from us the presence of his verity (whose voice in those days we could not believe), to the end that more earnestly we may thirst for the same, and with more obedience embrace and receive it, if ever it shall please his infinite goodness in such abundance to restore the same again.
I mean nothing of those that followed Christ only for their bellies. For such, perceiving that they could not obtain their hearts' desire of Christ, have grudged, and left him in body and heart; which thing their blasphemous voices, spoken against his eternal verity, do witness and declare. For such, brethren, be you not moved; for in the time of their profession they were not of us, but were very dissemblers and hypocrites (1 John 2:19); and therefore God justly permits that they blaspheme the truth, which they never loved. I mean not that ever such dissembling hypocrites shall embrace the verity, but I mean of such as, by infirmity of the flesh, and by natural blindness (which in this life is never altogether expelled), they could not give the very obedience which God's word required, neither now, by weakness of faith, dare openly and boldly confess that which their hearts know to be most true, and yet lament and mourn, both for the imperfection bypast and present. From such the amiable presence of Christ shall not be withdrawn for ever; but yet again shall the eyes of their sorely troubled hearts behold and see that light of Christ's gospel, wherein they most delight.
[We] the ministers, who were the distributors of this bread (the true word of God), wherewith the multitude within England was fed, lacked not our offences, which also moved God to send us to the sea. And because the offences of no man are so manifest unto me as mine own, only of myself will I be the accuser.
It is not unknown unto many, that I (the most wretched) was once of that number whom God appointed to receive that bread (as it was broken by Christ Jesus), to distribute and give the same to such as he had called to this banquet, in that part of his table where he appointed me to serve. It is not in my knowledge nor judgment to define, nor determine what portion or quantity every man received of this bread, neither yet how that which they received agreed with their stomachs. But of this I am assured: that the benediction of Christ Jesus so multiplied the portion which I received of his hands, that during the banquet (I write this to the praise of his name, and to the accusation of mine own unthankfulness) the bread never failed when the hungry soul craved or cried for food. And at the end of the banquet, mine own conscience bears witness, that my hands gathered up the crumbs that were left, in such abundance, that my basket was full among the rest.
To be plain, mine own conscience bears record to myself, how small was my learning, and how weak I was of judgment, when Christ Jesus called me to be his steward; and if I should conceal how mightily, day by day, and time by time, he multiplied his graces with me, I were most wicked and unthankful.
But, alas! this day mine own conscience bears witness to myself, how blinded was my heart, and how little did I consider the dignity of that office, and the power of God, who then multiplied and blessed the bread which the people received of my hands. I take God to record in my conscience, that I delivered the same bread which I received of Christ's hands, and that I mixed no poison with the same: that is, I taught Christ's gospel without any mixture of men's dreams, devices, or fantasies. But, alas! I did it not with such fervency, with such indifferency [impartiality], and with such diligence, as this day I know my duty was to have done.
Some complained in those days, that the preachers were indiscreet persons; yea, and some called them railers, and worse, because they spoke against the manifest iniquity of men, and especially of those that then were placed in authority, as well in the court, as in other offices universally throughout the realm, both in cities, towns and villages. And among others, peradventure, my rude plainness displeased some, who complained that I did speak rashly of men's faults; so that all men might know and perceive of whom I meant. But, alas! this day my conscience accuses me, that I spoke not so plainly as my duty was to have done; for I ought to have said to the wicked man expressly by his name, "Thou shalt die the death" (Ezek. 3, 33). For [this] I find Jeremiah the prophet to have done to Pashur the high priest, and to Zedekiah the king (Jer. 20:1-6; 34:1-22). And not only him, but also Elijah, Elisha, Micah, Amos, Daniel, Christ Jesus himself, and after him his apostles, expressly to have named the bloodthirsty tyrants, abominable idolaters, and dissembling hypocrites of their days (1 Kings 18:1-46; 21:17-29; 22:6-40; Amos 7; Dan. 5; Matt. 23; Acts 14:4-12, 45-46, 50-51). If we the preachers, within the realm of England, were appointed by God to be the salt of the earth (as his other messengers were before us), alas! why held we back the salt, where manifest corruption did appear? (I accuse none but myself.) The blind love that I did bear to this my wicked carcass, was the chief cause that I was not fervent and faithful enough in that behalf: for I had no will to provoke the hatred of all men against me; and, therefore, I so touched the vices of men in the presence of the greatest, that they might see themselves to be offenders; (I dare not say that I was the greatest flatterer;) but yet, nevertheless, I would not be seen to proclaim manifest war against the manifestly wicked; whereof unfeignedly I ask my God mercy.
As I was not so fervent in rebuking manifest iniquity, as it became me to have been; so was I not so indifferent [impartial] a feeder as is required of Christ's steward. For, in preaching Christ's gospel, albeit mine eye (as God knows) was not much upon worldly promotion, yet the love of friends, and carnal affection of some men with whom I was most familiar, allured me to make more residence in one place than in another, having more respect to the pleasure of a few, than to the necessity of many. That day I thought I had not sinned, if I had not been idle; but this day I know it was my duty to have had consideration how long I had remained in one place, and how many hungry souls were in other places, to whom, alas! none took pains to break and distribute the bread of life.
Moreover, remaining in one place, I was not diligent as mine office required; but sometime, by counsel of carnal friends, I spared the body; sometime I spent in worldly business of particular friends; and sometime in taking recreation and pastime by exercise of the body.
And albeit men may judge these to be light and small offences, yet I acknowledge and confess, that unless pardon should be granted to me in Christ's blood, that every one of these three offences aforenamed ? that is to say, lack of fervency in reproving sin, the lack of indifferency [impartiality] in feeding those that were hungry, and the lack of diligence in the execution of mine office ? deserved damnation.
And besides these, I was assaulted, yea, infected and corrupted with more gross sins; that is, my wicked nature desired the favours, the estimation and praise of men; against which, albeit that sometimes the Spirit of God did move me to fight, and earnestly did stir me (God knows I lie not) to sob and lament for those imperfections; yet they never ceased to trouble me, when any occasion was offered. And so privily and craftily did they enter into my breast, that I could not perceive myself to be wounded, till vain glory had almost gotten the upper hand.
"O Lord! be merciful to my great offence, and deal not with me according to my great iniquity, but according to the multitude of thy mercies. Remove from me the burden of my sin; for of purpose and mind, to have avoided the vain displeasure of man, I spared little to offend thy godly Majesty."
Think not, beloved of the Lord, that I thus accuse myself without just cause, as though in so doing I might appear more holy, or that yet I do it of purpose and intent by occasion thereof to accuse others of my brethren, the true preachers of Christ, of like or greater offences. No, God is judge to my conscience, that I do it even from an unfeigned and sorely troubled heart, as that I know myself grievously to have offended the majesty of my God, during the time that Christ's gospel had free passage in England. And this I do to let you understand, that the taking away of the heavenly bread, and this great tempest that now blows against the poor disciples of Christ within the realm of England (as touching our part), comes from the great mercy of our heavenly Father, to provoke us to unfeigned repentance; for that neither preacher nor professor did rightly consider the time of our merciful visitation. But altogether we so spent the time, as though God's word had been preached rather to satisfy our fantasies, than to reform our evil manners; which thing, if we earnestly repent, then shall Jesus Christ appear to our comfort, be the storm ever so great. "Haste, O Lord! for thy name's sake!"
The second thing I find to be noted is, the vehemency of the fear which the disciples endured in that great danger, being of longer continuance than ever they had at any time before.
In St. Matthew's gospel (8:23-27) it appears that another time there arose a great stormy tempest, and sorely tossed the boat wherein Christ's disciples were labouring: but that was upon the daylight, and then they had Christ with them in the boat, whom they awaked, and cried for help unto him (for at that time he slept in the boat), and so [they] were shortly delivered from their sudden fear. But now were they in the midst of the raging sea, and it was night, and Christ their Comforter [was] absent from them, and comes not to them, neither in the first, second, nor third watch. What fear, trow you, were they in then? And what thoughts arose out of their so troubled hearts during that storm? Such as this day are in like danger within the realm of England, do by this storm better understand, than my pen can express. But of one thing I am well assured, that Christ's presence would in that great perplexity have been to them more comfortable than ever it was before; and that patiently they would have suffered their incredulity to have been rebuked, so that they might have escaped the present death.
But profitable it shall be, and somewhat to our comfort, to consider every parcel of their danger. And first, you shall understand, that when the disciples passed to the sea, to obey Christ's commandment, it was fair weather, and no such tempest [was] seen. But suddenly the storm arose with a contrary flow of wind, when they were in the midst of their journey. For if the tempest had been as great in the beginning of their entrance into the sea, as it was after when they were about the midst of their journey, neither would they have ventured such a great danger; neither yet had it been in their power to have attained to the midst of the sea. And so it may be evidently gathered, that the sea was calm when they entered into their journey.
Secondly, it is to be marked, by what means and instruments this storm was moved. Was the plunging of their oars, and force of their small boat, such as might stir the waves of that great sea? No, doubtless; but the Holy Ghost declares that the seas were moved by a vehement and contrary wind, which blew against their boat in the time of darkness. But seeing the wind is neither the commander nor mover of itself, some other cause is to be inquired, which hereafter we shall touch.
And last, it is to be noted and considered, what the disciples did in this vehement tempest. Truly they turned not back to be driven on land or shore by the vehemence of the contrary wind; for so it might be thought that they could not have escaped shipwreck and death. But they continually laboured in rowing against the wind, abiding the ceasing of that horrible tempest.
Consider and mark, beloved in the Lord, what we read here to have chanced to Christ's disciples, and their poor boat; and you shall well perceive that the same thing has chanced, does, and shall chance, to the true church and congregation of Christ (which is nothing else in this miserable life but a poor boat), traveling in the seas of this unstable and troublesome world, toward the heavenly port, and haven of eternal felicity, which Christ Jesus has appointed to his elect.
This I might prove by the posterity of Jacob in Egypt, by the Israelites in their captivity, and by the church during the time that Christ himself did preach (and sometime after his resurrection and ascension): against whom the vehement storm did not rage immediately after they entered into the boat of their travail and tribulation. For the bloody sentence of Pharaoh was not pronounced against the seed of Jacob, what time he first did enter into Egypt (Ex. 1:7-16). Neither was the cruel counsel and devilish device of proud Haman invented by and by [soon] after Israel and Judah were translated from their possessions (Esther 3:6-15). Neither yet, in the time of Christ Jesus being conversant with his apostles in the flesh, was there used any such tyranny against the saints of God, as shortly after followed in the persecution of St. Stephen, and other disciples (Acts 7). But all these, in the beginning of their travail, with a contrary wind, had always some calm: that is, albeit they had some trouble, yet they had not extreme persecution.
Even so, most dearly beloved, is happened now to the afflicted church of God within the realm of England. At all times the true word of God suffered contradiction and repugnancy. And so the wind blew against us, even from the beginning of the late upspringing of the gospel in England. But yet it could not stop our course, till now of late days the raging wind blows without bridle upon the unstable seas, in the midst whereof we are in this hour of darkness.
To write my mind plainly unto you, beloved brethren: this wind that always has blown against the church of God, is the malice and hatred of the devil, which rightly in this case is compared to the wind.
For as the wind is invisible, and yet the poor disciples feel that it troubles and lets their boat; so is the pestilent envy of the devil, working always in the hearts of the reprobate, so subtle and crafty, that it cannot be espied by God's elect, nor by his messengers, till first they feel the blasts thereof to blow their boat backward. And as the vehement wind causes the waves of the sea to rage, and yet the dead water neither knows what it does, neither yet can it cease nor refrain; so that both it is troubled by the wind, and also its does trouble Christ's disciples in their poor boat; so, by the envy and malice of the devil, are wicked and cruel subjects, as well as princes (whose hearts are like the raging sea), compelled to persecute and trouble the true church of Christ. And yet so blinded are they, and so thrall under the bondage of the devil, that they neither can see their manifest iniquity, neither yet can they cease to run to their own destruction. And hereof, England, have you manifest experience; for, in the time of King Henry VIII, how the wolf, that wicked Winchester, and others, by the vehement wind of six bloody articles (devised by the devil), intended to have overthrown the poor boat and Christ's disciples, is too evidently known already. But then we had Christ Jesus with us sleeping in the boat, who did not despise the faithful crying of such as then were in trouble; but by his mighty power, gracious goodness, and invincible force of his holy word, he compelled those wicked winds to cease, and the raging of those seas to be stilled and calmed. So that all the hearts of God's elect, within the realm of England, did wonder at that sudden change, while that under a lamb, the fearful edge of that devouring sword was taken from the necks of the faithful; and the tyranny of those ravening and bloodthirsty wolves (I mean of wily Winchester, and of some others his brethren, the sons of the devil) was repressed for a time.
But yet the devil ceased not to blow his wind, but by his wicked instruments found the means how, against nature, the one brother should assent to the death of the other: but he could not hinder the course of the traveling boat, but forth she goes in despite of the devil; who then more cruelly raged, perceiving his own honour and service ? that is, his detestable Mass ? to be disclosed and opened before the people to be damnable idolatry, and assured damnation to such as put their trust in it. And therefore began he more craftily to work; and finding the same instruments apt enough, whose labours he had used before, he blew such mortal hatred between two, which appeared to be the chief pillars under the king. For that wretched (alas!) and miserable Northumberland could not be satisfied, till such time as simple Somerset most unjustly was bereft of his life. What the devil, and his members, the pestilent Papists, meant by his away-taking, God compelled my tongue to speak in more places than one; and specially before you, and in Newcastle, as Sir Robert Brandling did not forget of long time after. God grant that he may understand all other matters spoken before him then, and at other times, as rightly as he did that my interpretation of the vineyard, whose hedges, ditches, towers, and wine-press God destroyed, because it would bring forth no good fruit (Isa. 5); and that he may remember, that whatever was spoken by my mouth that day, is now complete, and come to pass; except that the final destruction and vengeance is not yet fallen upon the greatest offenders, as assuredly shortly it shall, unless that he, and such others of his sort, who then were enemies to God's truth, will speedily repent, and that earnestly, of their stubborn disobedience.
God compelled my tongue, I say, openly to declare, that the devil and his ministers intended only the subversion of God's true religion, by that mortal hatred among those which ought to have been most assuredly knit together by Christian charity, and by benefits received; and especially that the wicked and envious Papists, by that ungodly breach of charity, diligently minded the overthrow of him that, to his own destruction, procured the death of his innocent friend. Thus, I say, I was compelled of conscience oftener than once to affirm, that such as saw, and invented the means how the one should be taken away, saw and should find the means also to take away the other; and that all that trouble was devised by the devil and his instruments, to stop and let [hinder] Christ's disciples and their poor boat; but that [he] was not able, because she was not yet come to the midst of the sea.
Transubstantiation, the bird that the devil hatched by Pope Nicolas, and since that time fostered and nourished by all his children, priests, friars, monks, and others his conjured and sworn soldiers, and in these last days, chiefly by Stephen Gardiner, and his black brood in England ? transubstantiation (I say) was then clearly confuted and mightily overthrown; and therefore God put wisdom in the tongues of his ministers and messengers to utter [disclose] that vain vanity; and specially gave such strength to the pen of that reverend father in God, Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, to cut the knots of devilish sophistry linked and knit by the devil's Gardiner (and his blind buzzards), to hold the verity of God under bondage, that I rather think they shall condemn his works (which, notwithstanding, shall continue and remain to their confusion), than that they shall enterprise to answer the same. And also God gave boldness and knowledge to the court of Parliament, to take away the round clipped god, wherein stands all the holiness of Papists, and to command common bread to be used at the Lord's table; and also to take away the most part of superstitions (kneeling at the Lord's Supper excepted), which before profaned Christ's true religion.
Then, dear brethren, was the boat in the midst of the sea, and suddenly arises the horrible tempest, most fearful and dolorous. Our king is taken away from us; and the devil blows in such organs as he had always found obedient to his precepts; and by them he inflames the heart of that wretched and unhappy man (whom I judge more to be lamented than hated), to covet the imperial crown of England to be established to his posterity; and what thereupon has succeeded, it is not now necessary to be written.
Of this short discourse, beloved in the Lord, you may consider and perceive two special notes:
The first, that the whole malice of the devil has always this end, to vex and overthrow Christ's afflicted church; for what else intended the devil and his servants, the pestilent Papists, by all these their crafty policies, during the time that Christ's gospel was preached in England, than the subversion of the same gospel, and that they might recover power to persecute the saints of God; as this day, in the hour of darkness, they have obtained for a time, to their own utter destruction?
Let no man wonder, though I say that the crafty policies of pestilent Papists wrought all mischief; for who could better work greater mischief, than such as bore authority and rule? And who, I pray you, ruled the roost in the court all this time, by stout courage and proudness of stomach, but Northumberland? But who, I pray you, under King Edward, ruled all by counsel and wit? Shall I name the man? I will write no more plainly now than my tongue spoke, the last sermon it pleased God that I should make before that innocent and most godly King, Edward VI, and before his council at Westminster, and even to the faces of such as of whom I meant; entreating this place of scripture, Qui edit mecum panem, sustulit adversus me calcaneum suum: that is, "He that eateth bread with me, hath lifted up his heel against me" (John 13:18; Ps. 41:9). I made this affirmation, that commonly it was seen that the most godly princes had officers and chief counsellors most ungodly, conjured enemies to God's true religion, and traitors to their princes. Not that their wickedness and ungodliness was speedily perceived and espied out of the said princes and godly men, but that for a time those crafty colourers could so cloak their malice against God and his truth, and their hollow hearts toward their loving masters, that, by worldly wisdom and policy, at length they attained to high promotions. And, for the proof of this mine affirmation, I recited the histories of Ahithophel, Shebna, and Judas: of whom the two former had high offices and promotions, with great authority, under the most godly princes David and Hezekiah (2 Sam. 17; Isa. 22); and Judas was purse-master with Christ Jesus (Matt. 26:14-16, 24-25, 47-51; John 12:4-6). And when I had made some discourse on that matter, I moved this question:
"Why so godly princes permitted so wicked men to be upon their council, and to bear office and authority under them?"
To which I answered, that they so abounded in worldly wisdom, foresight, and experience, touching the government of a commonwealth, that their counsel appeared to be so necessary, that the commonwealth could not lack them; and so, by the colour to preserve the tranquillity and quietness in realms, they were maintained in authority. Or else they kept their malice, which they bore towards their masters and God's true religion, so secret in their breasts, that no man could espy it, till, by God's permission, they waited for such occasion and opportunity, that they uttered all their mischief so plainly, that all the world might perceive it. And that was most evident by Ahithophel and Shebna; for of Ahithophel it is written, that he was David's most secret counsellor; and that because his counsel in those days was like the oracle of God.
And Shebna was sometime comptroller, sometime secretary unto good King Hezekiah, and last of all treasurer (2 Sam. 15:12; 16:23); to the which offices he had never been promoted under so godly a prince, if the treason and malice which he bore against the king, and against God's true religion, had been manifestly known (Isa. 22:15-25). No, quod I, Shebna was a crafty fox, and could show such a fair countenance to the king, that neither he nor his council could espy his malicious treason. But the prophet Isaiah was commanded by God to go to his presence, and to declare his traitorous heart and miserable end.
Were David, said I, and Hezekiah, princes of great and godly gifts and experience, abused by crafty counsellors and dissembling hypocrites? What wonder is it then, that a young and innocent king should be deceived by crafty, covetous, wicked, and ungodly counsellors? I am greatly afraid that Ahithophel is counsellor, that Judas bears the purse, and that Shebna is scribe, comptroller, and treasurer.
This, and somewhat more, I spoke that day, not in a corner (as many yet can witness), but even before those whom my conscience judged worthy of accusation. And this day no more do I write (albeit I may justly, because they have declared themselves most manifestly), but yet do I affirm that, under that innocent king, pestilent Papists had greatest authority. Oh! who was judged to be the soul and life to the council, in every matter of weighty importance? Who but Shebna? Who could best dispatch business, that the rest of the council might hawk and hunt, and take their pleasure? None like unto Shebna. Who was most frank and ready to destroy Somerset, and set up Northumberland? Was it not Shebna? Who was most bold to cry, "Bastard, bastard, incestuous bastard, Mary shall never reign over us?" And who, I pray you, was most busy to say, "Fear not to subscribe with my lords of the king's majesty's most honourable privy council? Agree to his grace's last will and perfect testament, and never let that obstinate woman come to authority. She is an errant Papist. She will subvert the true religion, and will bring in strangers, to the destruction of this commonwealth." Which of the council, I say, had these and greater persuasions against Mary, to whom now he crouches and kneels? Shebna the treasurer. And what intended such traitorous and dissembling hypocrites by all these and such like crafty sleights and counterfeit conveyance? Doubtless the overthrow of Christ's true religion (which then began to flourish in England), the liberty whereof fretted such pestilent Papists, who now have gotten the days which they long looked for, but yet to their own destruction and shame; for, in the spite of their heads, the plagues of God shall strike them. They shall be comprehended in the snare which they prepare for others; for their own counsels shall make themselves slaves to a proud, mischievous, unfaithful, and vile nation.
But now to the second note of our discourse, which is this: Albeit the tyrants of this earth have learned, by long experience that they are never able to prevail against God's truth; yet, because they are bound slaves to their master the devil, they cannot cease to persecute the members of Christ, when the devil blows his wind in the darkness of the night ? that is, when the light of Christ's gospel is taken away, and the devil reigns by idolatry, superstition, and tyranny.
This most evidently may be seen, from the beginning of the world to the time of Christ, and from thence till this day. Ishmael might have perceived, that he could not prevail against Isaac, because God had made his promise unto him; as no doubt Abraham, their father, taught to his whole household (Gen. 21:9-11). Esau likewise understood the same of Jacob (Gen. 28:1-6). Pharaoh might plainly have seen, by many miracles, that Israel was God's people whom he could not utterly destroy (Ex. 5, 12). And also, the scribes and Pharisees, and chief priests were utterly convicted in their conscience that Christ's whole doctrine was of God (and that, to the profit and commodity of man), [and] his miracles and works were wrought by the power of God (John 5, 12); and therefore, that they could never prevail against him. And yet, as the devil stirred them, none of those could refrain to persecute him, whom they knew most certainly to be an innocent.
This I write, that you shall not wonder, albeit now you see the poisoned Papists, wicked Winchester, and dreaming Durham, with the rest of their faction (who sometimes were so confounded, that neither they durst nor could speak nor write in the defence of their heresies), now so to rage and triumph against the eternal truth of God, as though they had never assayed the power of God speaking by his true messengers.
Wonder not hereat, I say, beloved brethren, that the tyrants of this world are so obedient, and ready to follow the cruel counsels of such disguised monsters; for neither can the one nor the other refrain, because both sorts are as subject to obey the devil (their prince and father), as the unstable sea is to lift up the waves when the vehement wind blows upon it.
It is fearful to be heard, that the devil has such power over any man, but yet the word of God has so instructed us. And therefore, albeit it be contrary to our fantasy, yet we must believe it; for the devil is called the prince and god of this world (John 12:31), because he reigns [in it], and is honoured by tyranny and idolatry in it.
He is called the prince of darkness, that has power in the air (2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2). It is said that he works in the children of unbelief, because he stirs them to trouble God's elect as he invaded Saul, and compelled him to persecute David (1 Sam. 16:14-23; 18:6-11); and likewise he entered into the heart of Judas, and moved him to betray his Master (John 13:2). He is called prince over the sons of pride, and father of all those that are liars and enemies to God's truth ? over whom he has no less power this day, than sometimes he had over Annas and Caiaphas, whom no man denies to have been led and moved by the devil to persecute Christ Jesus and his most true doctrine (John 8:44). And, therefore, wonder not, I say, that now the devil rages in his obedient servants, wily Winchester, dreaming Durham, and bloody Bonner, with the rest of their bloody butcherly brood. For this is their hour, and power [is] granted to them; they cannot cease nor assuage their furious fumes, for the devil, their sire, stirs, moves, and carries them even at his will. But in this that I declare of the power of the devil working in cruel tyrants, think you that I attribute or give to him or them power at their pleasure? No, not so, brethren, not so. For as the devil has no power to trouble the elements, but as God shall suffer, so worldly tyrants (albeit the devil has fully possessed their hearts) have no power at all to trouble the saints of God, but as their bridle shall be loosed by God's hands.
And herein, dear brethren, stands my singular comfort this day, when I hear that those bloody tyrants within the realm of England do kill, murder, destroy, and devour man and woman, as ravenous lions now loosed from bonds. Therefore, I lift up the eyes of mine heart, [as far] as my iniquity and present dolour will suffer, and to my heavenly Father I will say:
"O Lord! those cruel tyrants are loosed by thy hand, to punish our former ingratitude, whom, we trust, thou wilt not suffer to prevail for ever; but when thou hast corrected us a little, and hast declared unto the world the tyranny that lurked in their boldened breasts, then wilt thou break their jaw-bones, and wilt shut them up in their caves again, that the generation and posterity following may praise thine holy name before thy congregation. Amen."
When I feel any taste or motion of these promises, then I think myself most happy, and that I have received a just compensation, albeit I, and all that belong to me in earth, should suffer present death; knowing that God shall yet show mercy to his afflicted church within England, and that he shall repress the pride of these present tyrants, as he has done of those that were before our days.
And therefore, beloved brethren in our Saviour Jesus Christ, hold up to God your hands that are faint through fear; and let your hearts, that have in these dolorous days slept in sorrow, awake and hear the voice of your God, who swears by himself, that he will not suffer his church to be oppressed for ever; neither that he will despise our sobs to the end, if we will row and strive against this vehement wind (Isa 48, 51, 54, 62). I mean, that if we will not run back headlong to idolatry, then shall this storm be assuaged in despite of the devil. Christ Jesus shall come with speed to your deliverance; he shall pierce through the wind, and the raging seas shall obey, and bear his feet and body, as the massy, stable, and dry land. Be not moved from the sure foundation of your faith. For albeit that Christ Jesus be absent from you, by his bodily presence (as he was from his disciples in that great storm), yet he is present by his mighty power and grace. He stands upon the mountain in security and rest: that is, his flesh (and whole humanity) is now in heaven, and can suffer no such trouble as sometimes he did; and yet he is full of pity and compassion, and does consider all our travail, anguish, and labours. Wherefore it is not to be doubted but that he will suddenly appear to our great comfort. The tyrants of this world cannot keep back his coming, [any] more than the blustering wind and raging seas let [hinder] Christ to come to his disciples, when they looked for nothing but present death.
And therefore, yet again I say, beloved in the Lord, let your hearts attend to the promises that God has made unto true repentant sinners; and be fully persuaded with a constant faith, that God is always true and just in his performance of his promises. You have heard these days spoken of very plainly, when your hearts could fear no danger, because you were nigh the land, and the storm was not yet risen: that is, you were young scholars of Christ, when no persecution was seen or felt. But now you are come into the midst of the sea (for what part of England heard not of your profession?), and the vehement storm, whereof we then spoke of, in almost every exhortation, is now suddenly risen up. But what! Has God brought you so far forth that you shall, both in souls and bodies, every one perish? Nay. My whole trust in God's mercy and truth is to the contrary. For God brought not his people into Egypt, and from thence through the Red Sea, to the intent they should perish therein, but that he of them should show a most glorious deliverance. Neither sent Christ his apostles into the midst of the sea, and suffered the blustering storm to assault them and their boat, to the intent they should there perish; but because he would the more have his great goodness towards them felt and perceived, in so mightily delivering them out of the fear of perishing; giving us thereby an example that he would do the like to us, if we abide constant in our profession and faith, withdrawing ourselves from superstition and idolatry.
We gave you warning of these days long ago. For the reverence of Christ's blood, let these words be marked: "The same truth that spoke before of these most dolorous days, forespake also the everlasting joy prepared for such as should continue to the end." The trouble is come, O dear brethren! Look for the comfort, and (after the example of the apostles), abide in resisting this vehement storm a little space.
The third watch is not yet ended; remember that Christ Jesus came not to his disciples till it was the fourth watch, and they were then in no less danger than you are now; for their faith fainted, and their bodies were in danger. But Christ Jesus came when they looked not for him; and so shall he do to you, if you will continue in the profession that you have made. This I dare be bold to promise, in the name of him whose eternal verity and glorious gospel you have heard and received, who also puts into my heart an earnest thirst (God knows I lie not) of your salvation, and some care also for your bodies, which now I will not express.
Thus shortly have I passed through the outrageous tempest, wherein the disciples of Christ were tempted, after the great multitude were, by Christ, fed in the desert ? omitting many profitable notes which might well have been marked in the text, because my purpose is, at this present [time], not to be tedious, nor yet curious, but only to note such things as are agreeable to these most dolorous days.
And so, let us now speak of the end of this storm and trouble, in which I find four things chiefly to be noted. First, that the disciples, at the presence of Christ, were more afraid than they were before.
Secondly, that Christ uses no other instrument but his word to pacify their hearts.
Thirdly, that Peter, in a fervency, first left his boat, and yet afterwards feared.
Last, that Christ permitted neither Peter, nor the rest of his disciples, to perish in that fear; but gloriously delivered all, and pacified the tempest.
Their great fear, and the cause thereof, are expressed in the text, in these words: "When the disciples saw him walking upon the sea, they were afraid, saying that he was a spirit. And they cried through fear" (Matt. 14:26).
It is not my purpose in this treatise to speak of spirits, nor yet to dispute, whether spirits, good or bad, may appear and trouble men; neither yet to inquire why man's nature is afraid for spirits, and so vehemently abhors their presence and company. But my purpose is only to speak of things necessary for this time.
And, first, let us consider that there were three causes why the disciples knew not Christ, but judged him to be a spirit. The first cause was the darkness of the night.
The second was the unaccustomed vision that appeared.
And, the third was the danger and the tempest, in which they so earnestly laboured for the safeguard of themselves. The darkness (I say) of the night, letted [prevented] their eyes to see him; and it was above nature, that a massy, heavy, and weighty body of a man (such as they understood their master Christ to have), should walk, go upon, or be borne up by the water of the raging sea, and not sink. And, finally, the horror of the tempest, and great danger that they were in, persuaded them to look for none other, but certainly to be drowned. And so all these three things, concurring together, confirmed them in this imagination: that Christ Jesus, who came to their great comfort and deliverance, was a fearful and wicked spirit appearing to their destruction.
What here chanced to Christ Jesus himself, I might prove to have chanced, and daily to chance, to the verity of his blessed word, in all ages from the beginning. For as Christ himself, in this their trouble was judged and esteemed by his disciples, at the first sight, a spirit or fantastical body; so are the truth and the sincere preaching of his glorious gospel ? sent by God for man's comfort, deliverance from sin, and quietness of conscience, when it is first offered, and truly preached ? it is, I say, judged to be no less but heresy and deceitful doctrine, sent by the devil to man's destruction.
The cause hereof is the dark ignorance of God, which, in every age from the beginning, so overwhelmed the world, that sometimes God's very elect were in like blindness and error with the reprobate: as Abraham was an idolater (Josh. 24:2); Moses was instructed in all the ways of the Egyptians; Paul, a proud Pharisee, conjured against Christ and his doctrine; and many in this our same age, when the truth of God was offered unto them, were sore afraid and cried against it, only because the dark clouds of ignorance had troubled them before. But this matter I omit and let pass, till further opportunity.
The chief note that [I] would have you well observe and mark, in this preposterous fear of the disciples, is this:
The more nigh deliverance and salvation approaches, the more strong and vehement is the temptation of the church of God; and the more nigh God's vengeance approaches to the wicked, the more proud, cruel, and arrogant they are. Whereby it commonly comes to pass, that the very messengers of life are judged and deemed to be the authors of all mischief; and this in many histories is evident. When God had appointed to deliver the afflicted Israelites, by the hand of Moses, from the tyranny of the Egyptians, and Moses was sent to the presence of Pharaoh for the same purpose, such was their affliction and anguish by the cruelty which was newly exercised over them, that with open mouths they cursed Moses (and, no doubt, in their hearts they hated God who sent him), alleging that Moses and Aaron were the whole cause of their last extreme trouble (Ex. 5-6, etc.).
The like is to be seen in the book of the Kings, both under Elisha and Isaiah the prophets. For in the days of Joram, son of Ahab, Samaria was besieged by the king of Syria: in which Samaria, no doubt (albeit the king and most [of] the multitude were wicked), there were yet some members of God's elect church, which were brought to such extreme famine, that not only things of small price were sold beyond all measure, but also women, against nature, were compelled to eat their own children. In this same city Elisha the prophet most commonly was conversant and dwelt, by whose counsel and commandment, no doubt, the city was kept; for it appears the king, to lay that to his charge, when he, hearing of the piteous complaint of the woman (who, for hunger had eaten her own son), rent his clothes, with a solemn oath and vow that the head of Elisha should not stand upon his shoulders that day. If Elisha had not been of counsel that the city should have been kept, why should the king have fumed more against him than against others? But whether he was the author of the defending [of] the city or not, all is one to my purpose; for before the deliverance the church was in such extremity, that the chief pastor of that time was sought to be killed by such as should have defended him.
The like is read of Hezekiah, who defending his city Jerusalem, and resisting proud Sennacherib (no doubt obeying the counsel of Isaiah), at length was so oppressed with sorrow and shame by the blasphemous words of Rabshakeh, that he had no other refuge but in the temple of the Lord (as a man desperate and without comfort) to open the disdainful letters sent unto him by that haughty and proud tyrant (Isa. 36-37).
By these and many more histories, it is most evident, that the more nigh salvation and deliverance approaches, the more vehement is the temptation and trouble.
This I write to admonish you, that albeit yet you shall see tribulation so abound, that nothing shall appear but extreme misery, without all hope of comfort; yet you [should] not decline from God. And that albeit sometimes you are moved to hate the messengers of life, that therefore you shall not judge that God will never show mercy after. No, dear brethren, as he has entreated others before you, so will he do [to] you.
God will suffer tribulation and dolour to abound, that no manner of comfort shall be seen in man, to the intent that, when deliverance comes, the glory may be his, whose word only [alone] may pacify the most vehement tempests.
He drowned Pharaoh and his army (Ex. 14:23-28). He scattered the great multitude of Benhadad, and by his angel killed the host of Sennacherib, and so delivered his afflicted, when nothing appeared to them but utter destruction (2 Kings 7:6-7; 19:35-37). So shall he do to you, beloved brethren, if patiently you will abide his consolation and counsel. God open your eyes, that you may rightly understand the meaning of my writing. Amen.
But yet, peradventure, you wonder not a little why God permits such bloodthirsty tyrants to molest and grieve his chosen church. I have recited some causes before, and I could recite yet more, but at this time I will hold myself content with one. The justice of God is such, that he will not pour forth his extreme vengeance upon the reprobate, until such time as their iniquity is so manifest, that their very flatterers cannot excuse it. Pharaoh was not destroyed, till his own household servants and subjects abhorred and condemned his stubborn disobedience (Ex. 10:7). Jezebel and Athaliah were not thrust from this life into hell, till all Israel and Judah were witnesses of their cruelty and abominations. Judas was not hanged, till the princes of the priests bore witness of his traitorous act and iniquity.
And to pass over the tyrants of old times, whom God has plagued, let us come to the tyrants who now are within the realm of England, whom God will not long spare. If Stephen Gardiner, Cuthbert Tonstall, and butcherly Bonner (false bishops of Winchester, Durham, and of London) had for their false doctrine and traitorous acts suffered death, when they justly deserved the same, then would errant Papists have alleged (as I and others have heard them do), that they were men reformable; that they were meet instruments for a commonwealth; that they were not so obstinate and malicious as they were judged; neither that they thirsted for the blood of any man. And of lady Mary, who has not heard that she was sober, merciful, and one that loved the commonwealth of England? Had she, I say, and such as now are of her pestilent council, been sent to hell before these days, then their iniquity and cruelty should not so manifestly have appeared to the world. For who could have thought that such cruelty could have entered into the heart of a woman, and into the heart of her that is called a virgin, that she would thirst [for] the blood of innocents, and of such as by just laws and faithful witnesses can never be proved to have offended by themselves?
I find that Athaliah, through appetite to reign, murdered the seed of the kings of Judah (2 Kings 11:1); and that Herodias's daughter, at the desire of an whorish mother, obtained the head of John the Baptist (Matt. 14:3-11). But that ever a woman, that suffered herself to be called "the most blessed virgin," caused so much blood to be spilled for establishing of a usurped authority, I think is rarely to be found in scripture or other history.
I find that Jezebel, that cursed idolatress, caused the blood of the prophets of God to be shed, and Naboth to be murdered unjustly for his own vineyard (1 Kings 18:4; 21:1-16); but yet I think she never erected half so many gallows in all Israel, as mischievous Mary has done within London alone.
But you, Papists, will excuse your Mary the virgin. Well, let her be your virgin, and a goddess meet to maintain such idolaters, yet shall I rightly lay to her charge that which I think no Papist within England will justify nor defend. And therefore, O you Papists! here I will a little turn my pen unto you. Answer unto this question, O seed of the serpent! Would any of you have confessed two years ago, that Mary, your mirror, had been false, dissembling, inconstant, proud, and a breaker of promises, except such promises as she made to your god the pope, to the great shame and dishonour of her noble father? I am sure you would fully little have thought it in her. And now, does she not manifestly show herself to be an open traitress to the imperial crown of England, contrary to the just laws of the realm, to bring in a stranger, and make a proud Spaniard king, to the shame, dishonour, and destruction of the nobility; to the spoil from them and theirs of their honours, lands, possessions, chief offices, and promotions; to the utter decay of the treasures, commodities, navy, and fortifications of the realm; to the abasing of the yeomanry; to the slavery of the commonalty, to the overthrow of Christianity and God's true religion; and, finally, to the utter subversion of the whole public estate and commonwealth of England? Let Norfolk and Suffolk, let her own promise and proclamation, let her father's testament, let the city of London, let the ancient laws and acts of Parliaments before established in England, be judges betwixt my accusation and her most tyrannical iniquity.
First, her promise and proclamation did signify and declare, that neither would she bring in, neither yet marry any stranger; Norfolk and Suffolk, and the city of London, do testify and witness the same. The ancient laws and acts of Parliament pronounce it treason to transfer the crown of England into the hands of a foreign nation. And the oath made to observe the said statutes cry out, that all are perjured who consent to that her traitorous fact.
Speak now, O you Papists! and defend your monstrous mistress; and deny, if you can for shame, that she has not uttered herself to be born (alas, therefore!) to the ruin and destruction of noble England. Oh! who would ever have believed (I write now in bitterness of heart) that such unnatural cruelty should have had dominion over any reasonable creature? But the saying is too true, that the usurped government of an affectionate woman is a rage without reason.
Who would ever have thought that the love of that realm, which has brought forth, which has nourished, and so nobly maintained that wicked woman, should not somewhat have moved her heart with pity? Who sees not now that she, in all her doings, declares most manifestly that under an English name she bears a Spaniard's heart? If God (I say) had not for our scourge suffered her and her cruel council to have come to authority, then never could these their abominations, cruelty, and treason ? against God, against his saints, and against the realm whose liberties they are sworn to defend ? so manifestly have been declared.
And who ever could have believed, that glorious Gardiner, and treacherous Tonstall (whom all Papists praised, for the love they bore to their country), could have become so manifest traitors, not only against their solemn oaths (that they should never consent nor agree unto, that a foreign stranger should reign over England), but also that they would adjudge the imperial crown of the same to appertain to a Spaniard by inheritance and lineal descent? O traitors, traitors! how can you for very shame show your faces?
It comes to my mind [that], upon Christmas-day, in the year of our Lord 1552, preaching in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and speaking against the obstinacy of the Papists, I made this affirmation: that whosoever in his heart was an enemy to Christ's gospel and doctrine, which then were preached within the realm of England, was enemy also to God, and [a] secret traitor to the crown and commonwealth of England. For as they thirsted after nothing more than the king's death, which their iniquity would procure; so they regarded not who should reign over them, so that their idolatry might be erected again. How these my words at that time pleased men, the crimes and action intended against me did declare. But let my very enemies now say [from] their conscience, if those my words have not proved true.
And what is the cause that Winchester, and the rest of his pestilent sect, so greedily would have a Spaniard to reign over England? The cause is manifest. For as that whole nation surmounts all others in pride and licentiousness, so, for idolatry, vain papistical and devilish ceremonies, they may rightly be called the very sons of superstition. And therefore are they found and judged, by the progeny of Antichrist, most apt instruments to maintain, establish, and defend the kingdom of that cruel beast, whose head and wound is lately cured within England, which (alas, for pity!) must now be brought into bondage and thralldom, that pestilent Papists may reign without punishment.
"But, O you beast! ? I speak to you, Winchester, more cruel than any tiger ? shall neither shame, neither fear, neither benefits received, bridle your tyrannical cruelty? Shame you not, bloody beast, to betray your native country, and the liberties of the same? Fear you not to open such a door to all iniquity, that whole England should be made a common stew to Spaniards? Will you recompense the benefits which you have received of that noble realm with such ingratitude? Remember you not, that England has brought you forth? that England has nourished you? that England has promoted you to riches, honour, and high promotion? And will you now, O wretched caitiff [villain]! for all these manifold benefits received, be the cause that England shall not be England? Yea, verily, for so will you gratify your father the devil, and his lieutenant the pope, whom, with all his baggage, you labour now, with tooth and nail, to [make] flourish again in England. Albeit, like a dissembling hypocrite, and double-faced wretch, you, being thereto compelled by the invincible verity of God's holy word, wrote long ago your book, entitled True Obedience, against that monstrous whore of Babylon, and her falsely usurped power and authority. But now, to your perpetual shame, you return to your vomit, and are become an open arch-Papist again. Furthermore, why seek you the blood of Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, of good father Hugh Latimer, and of that most learned and discreet man, doctor Ridley, true bishop of London? Do you not consider, that the lenity, sincere doctrine, pure life, godly conversation, and discreet counsel of these three, are notably known in more realms than England? Shame you not to seek the destruction of those who laboured for the safeguard of your life, and obtained the same, when you justly deserve death?
"O you son of Satan! well [do] you declare, that nothing can mollify the cruel malice, nor purge the deadly venom of him, in whose heart the devil bears the dominion. You are brother to Cain, and fellow to Judas the traitor; and therefore can you do nothing, but thirst for the blood of Abel, and betray Christ Jesus and his eternal verity."
But thus, dear brethren, must the sons of the devil declare their own impiety and ungodliness, that when God's vengeance (which shall not sleep) shall be poured forth upon them, all tongues shall confess, acknowledge, and say, that God is righteous in all his judgments. And to this end are cruel tyrants permitted and suffered for a space and time, not only to live in wealth and prosperity, but also to prevail and obtain victory, as touching the flesh, over the very saints of God, and over such as enterprise to resist their fury at God's commandment (Rev. 13). But now to the subsequent, and that that follows.
The instrument and means wherewith Christ Jesus used to remove and put away the horrible fear and anguish of his disciples, is only his word. For so it is written, "But by and by Jesus spake unto them, saying, 'Be of good comfort, it is I; be not afraid'" (Matt. 14:27).
The natural man (that cannot understand the power of God) would have desired some other present comfort in so great a danger; as either to have had the heavens to have opened, and to have shown unto him such light in that darkness, that Christ might have been fully known by his own face; or else, that the winds and raging waves of the seas suddenly should have ceased; or some other miracle that had been subject to all their senses whereby they might have perfectly known that they were delivered from all danger. And truly, it had been equal to Christ Jesus to have done any of these (or any greater work), as to have said, "It is I, be not afraid." But willing to teach us the dignity and effectual power of his most holy word, he uses no other instrument to pacify the great and horrible fear of his disciples, but the same, his comfortable word and lively voice. And this is not done only at one time, but whensoever his church is in such strait perplexity, that nothing appears but extreme calamity, desolation, and ruin; then the first comfort that ever it received, is by the means of his word and promise; as may appear in the troubles and temptations of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Paul.
To Abraham was given no other defence, after he had discomfited four kings (whose posterity and lineage, no doubt he, being a stranger, greatly feared), but only this promise of God made to him by his holy word, "Fear not, Abraham, I am thy buckler" (Gen. 15:1): that is, your protection and defence.
The same we find of Isaac, who flying from the place of his accustomed habitation, compelled thereto by hunger, got no other comfort nor conduct but this promise only, "I shall be with thee" (Gen. 26:3).
In all the journeys and temptations of Jacob the same is to be espied; as when he fled from his father's house for fear of his brother Esau; when he returned from Laban; and when he feared the inhabitants of the region of the Canaanites and Perizzites, for the slaughter of the Shechemites committed by his sons; he received no other defence, but only God's word and promise (Gen. 28, 31, 32, 35).
And this is most evident in Moses, and in the afflicted church under him. For when Moses himself was in such desperation, that he was bold to chide with God, saying, "Why hast thou sent me? For since that time I have come to Pharaoh, to speak in thy name, he hath oppressed this people; neither yet hast thou delivered thy people" (Ex. 5:22-23).
This same expostulation of Moses declares how sorely he was tempted; yea, and what opinion he had conceived of God: that is, that God was either impotent, and could not deliver his people from such a tyrant's hand; or else, that he was mutable, and unjust of his promises. And this same, and sorer temptations, assaulted the people; for in anguish of heart, they refused both God and Moses (as we have before partly touched). And what means [did] God use to comfort them in that great extremity? Did he straightway suddenly kill Pharaoh, the great tyrant? No. Did he send them a legion of angels to defend and deliver them? No such thing. But he only recites and beats into their ears his former promises to them, which oftentimes they had before. And yet the rehearsal of the same wrought so mightily in the heart of Moses, that not only was bitterness and desperation removed away, but also he was inflamed with such boldness, that without fear he went in again to the presence of the king, after he had been threatened and repulsed by him. This I write, beloved in the Lord, that you, knowing the word of God not only to be that whereby heaven and earth were created, but also to be the power of God to salvation to all that believe, the bright lantern to the feet of these that by nature walk in darkness, the life to those that by sin are dead, a comfort of such as are in tribulation, the tower of defence to such as are most feeble, the wisdom and great felicity of such as delight in the same; and, to be short, you know God's word to be of such efficacy and strength, that thereby sin is purged, death vanquished, tyrants suppressed, and, finally, the devil, the author of all misery, overthrown and confounded ? this (I say) I write, that you, knowing this of the holy word, and most blessed gospel and voice of God (which once you have heard, I trust to your comfort), may now, in this hour of darkness, and most raging tempest, thirst and pray, that you may hear yet once again this amiable voice of your Saviour Christ, "Be of good comfort, it is I, fear not" (Matt. 14:27). And also that you may receive some consolation from that blessed gospel which before you have professed, assuredly knowing that God shall be no less merciful unto you, than he has been to others afflicted for his name's sake before you. And albeit God by and by [speedily] removes not this horrible darkness, neither yet that he suddenly pacifies this tempest, yet shall he not suffer his tossed ship to be drowned.
Remember, brethren, that God's vengeance plagued not Pharaoh the first year of his tyranny (Ex. 14:24-28). Neither did the dogs devour and consume both the flesh and bones of wicked Jezebel, when she first erected and set up her idolatry (2 Kings 9:30-37); and yet as none of them escaped due punishment, so did God preserve his afflicted church, in despite of Satan, and of his blind and most wretched servants; as he shall not fail to do in this great tempest and darkness within the realm of England. And therefore yet again, beloved in the Lord, let the comfort of God's promises somewhat quicken your dull spirits. Exercise yourselves now secretly, in revolving that which sometimes you have heard openly proclaimed in your ears; and be every man now a faithful preacher unto his brother. If your communication be of Christ, assuredly he will come before you are aware (Luke 24:13-32). His word is like unto sweet-smelling ointment, or fragrant flowers, which never can be moved nor handled, but the odor goes forth to the comfort of those that stand by ? which is not so delectable if the ointment remains within the box, and the flowers stand or lie without touching or motion.
Mark well, dear brethren: before Christ spake, his disciples judged him to have been some wicked spirit, which was to them no delectable savour; but when he speaks, the sweet odor [aroma] of his voice pierces their hearts. For what comfort was in the hearts of his disciples, when they heard these words: "Be of good comfort; it is I" (Matt. 14:27): that is, "Judge not that I am a spirit come to your destruction. No, I am come even for your deliverance. It is I, your Master; yea, your Master most familiar. It is I, whose voice and doctrine you know, for you are my sheep. It is I, whose works you have seen, although you considered not the same perfectly. It is I, who commanded you to enter into this journey, and therefore am I come to you now in the hour of your trouble; and therefore, be not afraid; this storm shall cease, and you shall be delivered."
What comfort, I say, dear brethren, was in the hearts of the disciples, hearing Christ's voice and knowing him by the same, neither the tongue nor pen of man can express; but only such as after long conflict and strife (which is betwixt the flesh and the spirit, in the time of extreme troubles, when Christ appears to be absent) feel at last the consolation of the Holy Ghost, can witness and declare.
And Peter gives some external sign of what Christ's words wrought inwardly in his heart. For immediately after he heard his Master's voice, he says, "Lord, if it be thou, command me to come unto thee upon the waters" (Matt. 14:28). Here it may be seen what Christ's voice had wrought in Peter's heart; truly not only a forgetting and contempt of the great tempest, but also such boldness and love that he could fear no danger following; but assuredly did believe that his Master Christ's puissance, power, and might was such, that nothing might resist his word and commandment. And therefore he says, "Command me to come;" as though he should say, "I desire no more than the assurance of thy commandment. If thou wilt command, I am determined to obey; for assuredly I know that the waters cannot prevail against me, if thou speak the word; so that whatsoever is possible unto thee, by thy will and word may be possible unto me."
Thus Christ, to instruct Peter further, and us by his example, condescended to his petition, and commanded him to come. And Peter, quickly leaving the boat, came down from it, and walked upon the waters to come to Christ. Thus far of Peter's fact, in which lies great abundance of doctrine; but I will pass over all that especially appertains not to the quality of this time within the realm of England.
It was before said, well beloved brethren, that sometimes the messengers of life are judged to be the very messengers of death; and that not only with the reprobate, but also with God's elect; as was Moses with the Israelites, Jeremiah with the city of Jerusalem, and Christ himself with his apostles. But that is not a permanent sin which abides for ever with God's elect; but it vanishes away in such sort, that not only they know the voice of their pastor, but also they earnestly study to obey and follow it, with the danger of their own lives. For this is the special difference betwixt the children of God and the reprobate.
The one obeys God speaking by his messengers, whom they embrace with unfeigned love. And that they do, sometimes not only against all worldly appearance, but also against civil statutes and ordinances of men. And therefore in their great extremity they receive comfort beyond expectation.
The other always resist God's messengers, and hate his word. And therefore, in their great adversity, God either takes from them the presence of his word, or else they fall into such deadly desperation, that although God's messengers are sent unto them, yet neither can they receive comfort by God's promises, neither follow the counsel of God's true messengers, be it never so perfect and fruitful. Hereof have we many evident testimonies within the scriptures of God.
Of Saul, it is plain that God so left him, that neither would he give him answer by prophet, by dream, nor by vision (1 Sam. 28:6).
To Ahaz king of Judah, in his great anguish and fear, which he had conceived by the multitude of those that were conjured against him, Isaiah the prophet was sent, to assure him by God's promise that his enemies should not prevail against him (2 Kings 16:5; Isa. 7:1-16. And to confirm him in the same, the prophet required him to desire a sign of God, either from the heaven, or beneath in the deep; but such was the deadly desperation of him, that always had despised God's prophets, and had most abominably defiled himself with idolatry, that no consolation could enter into his heart, but desperately, and with a dissembling and feigned excuse, he refused all the offers of God.
And albeit God kept touch with [relieved] that hypocrite for that time (which was not done for his cause, but for the safety of the afflicted church), yet afterwards he escaped not the vengeance of God.
The like we read of Zedekiah, the wretched and last king of Judah before the destruction of the city of Jerusalem; who, in his great fear and extreme anguish, sent for Jeremiah the prophet, and secretly demanded of him how he might escape the great danger that appeared when the Chaldeans besieged the city. And the prophet boldly spoke, and commanded the king, if he would save his life and the city, to render and give up himself into the hands of the king of Babylon (Jer. 37-38). But the miserable king had no grace to follow the prophet's counsel, because he never delighted in the prophet's doctrine, neither yet had shown unto him any friendly favour. But even as the enemies of God, the chief priests and false prophets, required of the king, so was the good prophet treated evil ? sometimes cast into prison, and sometimes judged and condemned to die. The most evident testimony of the willful blinding of wicked idolaters is written and recited in the same prophet Jeremiah, as follows:
After that the city of Jerusalem was burnt and destroyed, the king led away prisoner, his sons and chief nobles slain, and the whole vengeance of God poured out upon the disobedient (Jer. 39:4-10); yet there was left a remnant in the land, to occupy and possess the same, who called upon the prophet Jeremiah, to know the will and pleasure of God concerning them (Jer. 42); whether they should remain still in the land of Judah, as was appointed and permitted by the Chaldeans, or if they should depart and flee into Egypt. To certify them of this their duty, they desire the prophet to pray for them unto God, who, condescending and granting their petition, promised to keep back nothing from them which the Lord God should open unto him. And they, in like manner, taking God to record and witness, made a solemn vow to obey whatsoever the Lord should answer by him. But when the prophet, by the inspiration of the Spirit of God (and assured revelation and knowledge of his will), commanded them to "remain still in the land" that they were in, promising them if they would so do, that "God would there plant them;" and that he would repent of all the plagues that he had brought upon them, and that he would be with them, to deliver them from the hands of the king of Babylon: but, contrariwise, "if they would not obey the voice of the Lord," but would, against his commandment, go to Egypt, thinking that there they should live in rest and abundance, without any fear of war and penury of victuals, then the very plagues which they feared should come upon them, and take them ? for (says the prophet), it shall come to pass, that all men that obstinately will go to Egypt, there to remain, shall die either by sword, by hunger, or pestilence ? but when the prophet of God had declared unto them this plain sentence and will of God, I pray you, what was their answer? The text declares it, saying: "Thou speakest a lie; neither hath the Lord our God sent thee unto us, commanding that we should not go into Egypt; but Baruch the son of Neriah provoketh thee against us, that he may give us into the power of the Chaldeans, that they might kill us, and lead us prisoners unto Babylon" (Jer. 43:2-3). And thus they refused the counsel of God, and followed their own fantasies.
Here may be espied in this people great obstinacy and blindness. For nothing which the Lord had before spoken by this godly prophet Jeremiah had fallen in vain. Their own eyes had seen the plagues and miseries, which he had threatened, take effect in every point as he had spoken before. Yea, they were yet green and fresh both in mind and presence (for the flame and fire wherewith Jerusalem was consumed and burnt were then scantily quenched); and yet could they not believe his threatenings then spoken, neither yet could they follow his fruitful counsel, given for their great wealth and safeguard. And why so? Because they never delighted in God's truth, neither had they repented [of] their former idolatry, but still continued and rejoiced in the same, as manifestly appears in the forty-fourth chapter of the same prophet. And therefore would they and their wives have been in Egypt, where all kinds of idolatry and superstition abounded, that they, without reproach or rebuke, might have their bellies full thereof, in despite of God's holy laws and prophets.
In writing hereof it came to mind, that after the death of that innocent and most godly king, Edward VI, while that great tumult was in England for the establishing of that most unhappy and wicked woman's authority (I mean of her that now reigns in God's wrath), in treating the same argument in a town in Buckinghamshire, named Amersham, before a great congregation, with sorrowful heart and weeping eyes, I fell into this exclamation:
"O England! now is God's wrath kindled against you. Now has he begun to punish, as he has threatened a long while, by his true prophets and messengers. He has taken from you the crown of your glory, and has left you without honour, as a body without a head. And this appears to be only the beginning of sorrows, which appears to increase. For I perceive that the heart, the tongue, and the hand of one Englishman is bent against another, and division to be in the whole realm, which is an assured sign of desolation to come.
"O England, England! Do you not consider that your commonwealth is like a ship sailing on the sea; if your mariners and governors shall consume one another, shall you not suffer shipwreck in [a] short process of time?
"O England, England! alas! these plagues are poured upon you, for that you would not know the most happy time of your gentle visitation. But will you yet obey the voice of your God, and submit yourself to his holy words? Truly, if you will, you shall find mercy in his sight, and the state of your commonwealth shall be preserved.
"But, O England, England! if you obstinately will return into Egypt: that is, if you contract marriage, confederacy, or league, with such princes as maintain and advance idolatry (such as the emperor, who is no less enemy unto Christ than ever was Nero): if for the pleasure and friendship (I say) of such princes, you return to your old abominations, before used under the Papistry, then assuredly, O England! you shall be plagued and brought to desolation, by means of those whose favours you seek, and by whom you are procured to fall from Christ, and to serve Antichrist."
This, and much more, in the dolour of my heart, that day, in the audience of such as yet may bear record, God would that I should pronounce. The thing that I then most feared, and which also my tongue spoke (that is, the subversion of the true religion, and bringing in of strangers to reign over that realm), I see come to pass this day in men's counsels and determinations. Which if they proceed and take effect (as by men is concluded), then so assuredly as my God lives, and as those Israelites that obstinately returned into Egypt again were plagued to the death, so shall England taste what the Lord has threatened by his prophets before. God grant us true and unfeigned repentance of our former offences.
"God, for his great mercies' sake, stir up some Phinehas, Elijah, or Jehu, that the blood of abominable idolaters may pacify God's wrath, that it consume not the whole multitude. Amen."
But to return to our matter. Of the premises it is plain, that such as contemn God's eternal verity and grace, can neither in their troubles receive comfort by God's messengers; neither yet can they follow the counsel of God, be it never so profitable. But God gives them over, and suffers them to wander in their own vanities, to their own perdition. Whereas, contrariwise, such as bear a reverence to God's most holy word, are drawn by the power and virtue of the same (as before is said), to believe, follow, and obey that which God commands, be it never so hard, so unapparent, or contrary to their affections. And therefore, as God always keeps appointment with them, so are they wondrously preserved, when God's vengeance is poured forth upon the disobedient. And this is most evident in Abraham, at God's commandment, leaving his country, and going forth he knew not whither (Gen. 12:1-5); which was a thing not so easy to be done, as it is to be spoken or read. It appears also in Abraham's believing God's promises, against all appearance; and in Abraham offering his child Isaac, against all fatherly love and natural affection (Gen. 15:6; 22:1-19). The same is to be said in Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Micaiah, and others of the prophets, who, at the commandment of God's word, boldly passed to the presence of tyrants, and there to them did their message, as charge was given unto them (Ex. 5, 7, 10; 1 Sam. 15; 1 Kings 21).
But lest that some should allege, that these examples appertain nothing to a multitude, because they were done in singular men: to answer this objection, we will consider what the power of God's word has wrought in many at one instance.
After the Israelites had made the golden calf, and so fallen into idolatry, Moses, coming down from the mountain, and beholding their abominations (the honour that they gave to an idol), and the people spoiled of their ear-rings and jewels to their great rebuke and shame, was inflamed with such zeal, indignation and wrath, that first he broke the tables of the commandments (Ex. 32). Then he beat their calf to powder, and gave it [to] them to drink, to cause them [to] understand that their filthy guts should receive that which they worshipped for God. And, finally, he commanded that every man that was of God should approach and come nigh unto him. And all the sons of Levi (says the text) came to him; to whom he said, "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, 'Let every man put his sword upon his thigh, and go in and out from port to port in the tents, and let every man kill his brother, his neighbour, and every man his nigh kinsman.' And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And there fell the same day of the people nigh three thousand" (Ex. 32:27-28).
It is evident by this history, that the power of God's word, pronounced by the mouth of a man, prevailed at one time in a great number against nature, and compelled them to be executors of God's vengeance, regarding nothing the affinity nor nighness of blood. And also, that their doing so well pleased Moses, the ambassador of God, that said unto them, "Consecrate your hands this day every man in his own son, and in his own brother, that a fortunate benediction may be given to you this day." As though Moses should say, "Your father Levi profaned and defiled his hands, killing the Shechemites in his blind rage, which moved his father Jacob, in his last testament, to damn, execrate, and curse that his most vehement and ungodly zeal; but, because in this work you have preferred God's commandment before blood, nature, and also affection, in place of that rebuke and curse, you have obtained blessing and praise" Gen. 34:25-31; 49:5-7).
The like puissance and virtue of God's word working in a multitude, is to be read in the prophet Jeremiah; who, perceiving the time of God's vengeance to draw nigh, and the city of Jerusalem to be besieged, boldly cried out in his open sermon, "He that remaineth in this city shall die, either by sword, by hunger, or by pestilence. But he that shall go forth to the Chaldeans shall live, and shall find his soul for a prey" (Jer. 21:9; 38:2). This might have appeared a deceivable, seditious, and ungodly sermon, to command subjects to depart from the obedience and defence of their native prince, rich citizens and valiant soldiers [to depart] from their possessions and strongholds, and to will them to render themselves, without all manner of resistance, into the hands of strangers, being their enemies. What carnal man would not have judged these persuasions of the prophet most foolish and false? And yet in the hearts of such as God had elected and appointed to life, this sermon wrought so effectually, that a great number of Jerusalem left their king, their city, riches, and friends, and obeyed the prophet's counsel. For so may be espied by the answer of Zedekiah the king, when Jeremiah counselled that he should also render himself into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar; he says, "I fear these Jews that are fled to the Chaldeans, lest perchance they give me into their hands" (Jer. 38:19). Hereof it is plain, that many were departed from him, whom he feared more than he did his enemies.
Many more testimonies might be brought to declare how mightily God's word, spoken by man, had wrought in the hearts of great multitudes; as in the hearts of the Ninevites, who, at Jonah's preaching, damned their former religion, conversation, and life (Jonah 3); and in the hearts of those three thousand who, at Peter's first sermon (openly made after Christ's ascension), acknowledged their offences, repented, and were by and by [soon] after baptized (Acts 2:14-42). But these premises are sufficient to prove, as well that God's word draws his elect after it ? against worldly appearance, against natural affections, and against civil statutes and constitutions ? as also, that such as obey God, speaking by his ministers, never lack just reward and recompense (Jer. 39). For only such as obeyed the voice of the prophet, found favour and grace, to the praise and glory of God's name, when his just judgments took vengeance upon the disobedient. But now shortly, by notes, we will touch the rest of Peter's act, and Christ's merciful deliverance of them; which is the end of all troubles sustained by God's elect.
And first, that Peter, seeing a mighty wind, was afraid, and so, when he began to sink, he cried, "Lord, save me," three things are principally to be noted (Matt. 14:30). The first, from whence comes this fear of God's elect?
The second, what is the cause that they faint and fall in adversity?
The third, what rests with them in the time of this fear and down-sinking?
And first, [it] is plain, that so long as Peter had his eyes fixed upon Christ, and attended upon no other thing but the voice of Christ, he was bold and without fear. But when he saw a mighty wind (not that the wind was visible, but the vehement storm and waves of the sea, that were stirred up and carried by the wind, were seen), then he began to fear, and to reason, no doubt, in his heart, that it had been better for him to have remained in his boat, for so Christ might have come to him; but now the storm and rage of wind were so vehement, that he could never come to Christ, and so he greatly feared. Whereof it is plain, that the only cause of our fear that have left our boat, and through the storms of the sea would go to Christ with Peter, is that we more consider the dangers and lets [hindrances] that are in our journey, than we do the almighty power of him who has commanded us to come to himself. And this is a sin common to all the elect and chosen children of God, that whensoever they see a vehement trouble appearing to let [hinder] them, and drive them back from the obedience of God, then they begin to fear and doubt of God's power and good will.
With this fear Abraham was struck when he denied his wife (Gen. 12:14-20). Moses saw this storm when he refused to be God's messenger (Ex. 3:11-4:17). And Hezekiah's sore complaint declares that he more believed, considered, and looked upon the proud voice and great power of Sennacherib, than he did the promises of the prophet (Isa. 36-37).
This I note for this purpose, that albeit this late and most raging storm within the realm of England has taken from you the presence of Christ for a time, so that you have doubted whether it was Christ whom you saw before, or not; and albeit that the vehemency of this contrary wind that would drive you from Christ has so occupied your ears, that you have almost forgotten what he was who commanded you to come to himself, when he cried, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are burdened, and I shall refresh you" (Matt. 11:28); "Pass from Babylon, O my people" (Rev. 18:4), etc. ? albeit, I say, this raging tempest has struck such fear in your hearts that almost all is forgotten; yet, dear brethren, despair not; such offences have chanced to God's elect before you. If you shall not continue obstinately, you shall yet find mercy and grace. It had been your duty indeed, and agreeable to your profession, to have looked to Christ alone, and to have contemned all impediments; but such perfection is not always with man; but happy is he that feels himself to sink.
The cause why God's elect begin to faint and sink down, in the time of great adversity, is fear and unbelief, as appears in Peter; for so long as he neither feared danger, neither mistrusted Christ's word, so long the waters (above and contrary to their nature), did obey and serve his feet, as [if] they had been the dry, solid, and sure ground. But so soon as he began to despair and fear, so soon he began to sink: to instruct us, that lively faith makes man bold, and is able to carry us through such perils as are inescapable to nature. But when faith begins to faint, then man begins to sink down in every danger; as in the histories before rehearsed it may appear, and in the prophets it is plain. For Elijah, at God's commandment, passing to the presence of King Ahab, in the fervency of his faith, obtained the fire to come from heaven, and to consume his sacrifice, by which also he was made so bold, that in the presence of the king he feared nothing to kill his false prophets (1 Kings 18). But the same Elijah, hearing of the manacing and threatenings of cursed Jezebel, and considering that the wrath of a wicked woman could by no reasonable means be appeased, he saw a storm, and feared the same, and so he prepared to flee (1 Kings 19); which he did not without some sinking down; for he began to reason and dispute with God, which never can be done by the creature without foolishness and offence. The same we find in Jeremiah and diverse more.
But the question may be asked, "Seeing Christ knew before what should happen to Peter, why did he not let [hinder] him from coming from his boat? Or else, why did he not so confirm him in faith, that he should not have doubted?"
To the which may be thus answered: Albeit we could render no reason of this work of Christ, yet were the work itself a sufficient reason. And it were enough to answer, that so it pleased him, who is not bound to render a reason of all his works. But yet, if we shall mark with diligence to what office Peter was to be called, and what offences long rested with him, we shall find most just and necessary causes of this work of Christ, and [the] down-sinking of Peter. It is plain that Peter had many notable virtues, as a zeal and fervency towards Christ's glory, and a readiness and forwardness to obey his commandments. But it is likewise plain, that of long continuance there rested with Peter a desire of honour and worldly rest (and that moved him to persuade Christ that he should not die). There rested with him pride, presumption, and a trust in himself: which presumption and vain trust in his own strength, unless it had been corrected and partly removed, he had never been apt nor meet to have fed Christ's flock; and such sins can never be fully corrected and reformed, till they be felt, known, and confessed. And, doubtless, so arrogant is our nature, that neither will it know, neither confess the infirmity of itself, until such time as it has a trial by experience of itself. And this is most plain by Peter, long after this tempest; for when Christ said to his disciples, "This night shall ye all be slandered [offended] in me;" Peter boldly bragged and said, "Albeit that all should be slandered, and should flee from thee, yet I shall not be slandered; but I am ready to go to prison, and to die with thee" (Matt. 26:31, 33).
This was a bold presumption, and an arrogant promise, spoken in contempt of all his brethren, from which he could not be reduced by Christ's admonition. But the more that Christ showed him that he should deny him, the more bold was he to affirm the contrary; as though his master, Christ, the author of all truth, yea, rather the Truth itself, should make a loud lie. And therefore it was of necessity that he should prove in experience, what was the frailty of man's nature, and what was the imbecility and weakness of faith, even of those that were his chief apostles, which had continually heard his heavenly doctrine, seen daily his wonderful miracles, which had heard themselves so many admonitions of him, which also had followed and obeyed him in many things. That imbecility and weakness of faith, if Peter had not proved and felt it in himself, neither could he rightly have praised God's infinite goodness, and embraced his free mercy; neither had he been apt and meet to have been a pastor to the weak sheep and tender lambs of Christ; but he should have been as presumptuous a boaster of his own strength as the Papists are of their free will. And he should have been as proud a contemner and despiser of his weak brethren, as the arrogant Papists, that contemn and despise all godly and great learned men, though they are a thousand parts more excellent than they [themselves].
But to correct and inform both presumptuous arrogance, and frail imbecility and weakness of faith, Peter was permitted once to sink, and thrice most shamefully to refuse and deny his Master; to the intent that, by the knowledge of his own weakness, he might be the more able to instruct others of the same; and also that he might more largely magnify God's free grace and mighty deliverance. And that Christ taught him before his falling, saying, "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren" (Luke 22:32): as though Christ should have said, "Peter, you are yet too proud to be a pastor. You cannot stoop, nor bow your back down to take up the weak sheep. You do not yet know your own infirmity and weakness, and therefore you can do nothing but despise the weak ones. But when you shall be instructed by experience of your own self, what hidden iniquity lurks within the nature of man, then shall you learn to be humble, and stoop among other sinners. And also, you shall be an example to others, which after shall offend as you did. So that, if they repent as you did, they need not despair of mercy, but may trust most assuredly in Christ to obtain grace, mercy, and forgiveness of sins, as you did."
This fruit have we to gather, dear brethren, from Peter's down-sinking in the sea (which was a secret knowledge and private admonition, that he afterwards should deny his master Christ), that we are assured by the voice of Christ, that if in the time of our trouble and extreme danger we cry with Peter, we shall be delivered as he was; and if we mourn for our denial of Christ, as he did, we shall find the same grace and favour at Christ's hand that he found.
But now let us touch the third note, which is this: that with God's elect, in their greatest fear and danger, there rests some small spark of faith, which, by one means or other, declares itself, albeit the afflicted person, in fear or danger, does not presently perceive the same. As here, in Peter, is most clear and manifest; for perceiving himself to sink down, he cried, "Lord, save me;" which words were a declaration of a lively and quick faith, which lay hid within his afflicted and sorely afraid heart, whose nature is (I mean of faith) to hope against hope: that is, to look for help and deliverance against all appearance or likelihood, as the words of Peter witness that he did. He saw nothing but the raging sea ready to swallow him up. He felt nothing but himself sinking down in body, and sorely troubled in heart. And yet he cried, "Lord, save me;" which words first declare, that he knew the power of Christ [was] able to deliver him; for it had been foolishness to have called for that help of him whom he had known to be impotent and unable to help.
The calling for Christ's help by prayer, in this extreme danger, also declared that Peter had some hope, through his gracious goodness, to obtain deliverance. For, in extreme perils, it is impossible that the heart of man can cry for God's help without some hope of his mercy.
It is also to be noted that, in his great jeopardy, Peter murmurs not against Christ; neither does he impute or lay any crime or blame upon Christ, albeit at his commandment he had left his boat. He says not, "Why lettest thou me sink, seeing that I have obeyed thy commandment?" Moreover, Peter asks help of Christ alone, of whom he was persuaded both could and would help at a pinch. He cried not upon Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David; neither upon any other of the patriarchs, prophets, or saints departed; neither yet upon his own fellows in the boat, but upon Christ, at whose commandment he had left the boat.
All these things together considered, declare that Peter, in this his extreme fear and danger, had yet some spark of faith (albeit in that present jeopardy he felt neither consolation nor comfort); for these premises are undoubted tokens that he had faith. But now to the end, which is this:
"And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, 'O thou of little faith! Wherefore didst thou doubt?' And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. And they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, 'Of a truth thou art the Son of God'" (Matt. 14:31-33). "And immediately the ship was at the land whither they went" (John 6:21).
Hereof first is to be noted, that God is always nigh to those that call upon him faithfully; and so willing is he to deliver them, that neither fear nor extreme danger can hinder his godly hand (Ps. 144). Peter was sinking down, and looked for no other thing but present death, and yet the hand of Christ prevented him. That which was visibly and openly done to Peter in that his great peril, is invisibly and secretly done to Christ's holy church, and to the chosen members of Christ's mystical body in all ages.
How nigh and ready was the hand of God to deliver his people Israel, when they were almost overwhelmed with despair, in the days of Moses and Esther, the histories do witness! (Ex. 14; Esther 7-9). How nigh was God to Daniel amongst the lions, to Jonah in the whale's belly, to Peter in the prison, is likewise most evidently declared in the holy scriptures (Dan. 6; Jonah 2; Acts 12). How suddenly, and beyond all expectation, was David many times delivered from Saul's tyranny: his own heart confessed, and compelled his pen to write, and tongue to sing, saying (Ps. 18:16), "He hath sent from above, and hath delivered me: he hath drawn me forth of many waters!"
Erect your ears, dear brethren, and let your hearts understand, that as our God is unchangeable, so his gracious hand is not shortened this day. Our fear and trouble is great; the storm that blows against us is sore and vehement; and we appear to be drowned in the deep. But if we unfeignedly know the danger, and will call for deliverance, the Lord's hand is nearer than is the sword of our enemies.
The sharp rebuke that Christ Jesus gave to Peter, teaches us that God does not flatter nor conceal the faults of his elect, but makes them manifest, to the end that the offenders may repent, and that others may avoid the like offences.
That Christ called Peter "of little faith," argues and declares (as we before have noted) that Peter was not altogether faithless, but that he fainted, or was uncertain in his faith. For so sounds the Greek term oligopisos; whereof we ought to be admonished, that in passing to Christ through the storms of this world, is not only required a fervent faith in the beginning, but also a constancy to the end; as Christ says, "He that continueth to the end shall be saved" (Matt. 10:22); and Paul, "Unless a man shall strive lawfully, he shall not be crowned" (2 Tim. 2:5). The remembrance of this ought to put us in mind, that the most fervent man (and such as has long continued in the profession of Christ), is not yet sure to stand at all hours, but that he is subject to many dangers, and that he ought to fear his own frailty; as the apostle teaches us, saying, "He that standeth, let him beware that he fall not" (1 Cor. 10:12). For if Peter, that began so fervently, yet fainted ere he came to Christ, what ought we to fear, in whom such fervency was never found? No doubt we ought to tremble and fear the worst, and by the knowledge of our own weakness, to pray incessantly with the apostles, "O Lord! increase our faith" (Luke 17:5).
Christ's demand and question, asking of Peter, "Why doubtest thou?" contains in itself a vehemency (Matt. 14:31), as [if] Christ would say, "Why doubt you of my power, or of my presence, or of my promises, or of my good will? If my power had not been sufficient to have saved you, then I could neither have come to you through the stormy sea, neither have made the waters obey you when you began to come to me. And if my good will had not been to have delivered you and your brethren, then I had not appeared unto you; neither had I called upon you, but had permitted the tempest to devour and swallow you up. But considering that your eye saw me present, your ears heard my voice, and you, Peter, especially knew the same, and obeyed my commandment, why, then, doubted you?"
Beloved brethren, if this same demand and question were laid to our charge, we should have less pretence of excuse than Peter had; for he might have alleged, that he was not advertised that any great storm should have risen betwixt him and Christ, which we cannot justly allege. For since the time that Christ has appeared unto us by the brightness of his word, and called upon us by his lively voice, he has continually blown in our ears, that persecution and trouble should follow the word that we professed; which days are now present. Alas! then, why doubt we through this storm to go to Christ? "Support, O Lord! and let us sink no further."
Albeit that Peter fainted in faith, and therefore was worthy most sharply to be rebuked, yet Christ does not leave him in the sea, neither long permitted he that fear and tempest to continue. But first they both entered into the boat, and thereafter the wind ceased; and last, their boat arrived, without longer delay, at the place for which they long had laboured.
O blessed and happy are those that patiently abide this deliverance of the Lord. The raging sea shall not devour them. Albeit they have fainted, yet shall not Christ Jesus leave them behind in the stormy sea, but suddenly he shall stretch forth his mighty hand, and shall place them in the boat amongst their brethren: that is, he shall conduct them to the number of his elect and afflicted church, with whom he will continue to the end of the world (Matt. 28:20).
The majesty of his presence shall put to silence this boisterous wind, the malice and envy of the devil, which so blows in the hearts of princes, prelates, kings, and of earthly tyrants, that they are altogether conjured against the Lord, and against his anointed, Christ (Ps. 2); in despite of whom, he shall safely conduct, convey, and carry his sorely troubled flock to the life and rest for which they travail.
Albeit, I say, that sometimes they have fainted in their journey, albeit that weakness in faith permitted them to sink, yet from the hand of Christ they cannot be rent; he may not suffer them to drown, nor the deep to devour them. But for the glory of his own name he must deliver, for they are committed to his charge, protection, and keeping (John 10); and therefore must he keep and defend such as he has received from his Father, from sin, from death, from the devil and hell.
The remembrance of these promises is to mine own heart such occasion of comfort, as neither any tongue nor pen can express. But yet, peradventure, there are some of God's elect who cannot be comforted in this tempest, by any meditations of God's election or defence; but rather beholding such as have sometimes boldly professed Christ's verity, to be now returned to their accustomed abominations; and also, themselves to be overcome with fear, against their knowledge and conscience; they stoop to an idol, and with their presence maintain the same. And being at this point, they begin to reason, whether it is possible that the members of Christ's body may be permitted so horribly to fall to the denial of their Head, and in the same to remain for long continuance? And from this reasoning they enter into dolour, and from dolour they begin to sink to the gates of hell and ports of desperation.
The dolour and fear of such I grant to be most just; for, oh! how fearful is it, for the love of this transitory life, in the presence of man, to deny Christ Jesus, and his known and undoubted verity!
But yet to such as are not obstinate contemners of God, and of all godliness, I would give this my weak counsel, that they should rather appeal to mercy, than, by the severe judgments of God, to pronounce against themselves the fearful sentence of condemnation; and consider that God concludes all under unbelief, that he may have mercy upon all (Rom. 11:32); that the Lord kills and gives life; he leads down to hell, and yet lifts up again.
But I will not that any man think, that by this my counsel, I either justify such as are horribly returned back to their vomit, either yet that I flatter such as maintain that abominable idol with their daily presence. God forbid; for then I were but a blind guide, leading the blind headlong to perdition. Only God knows the dolour and sobs of my heart, for such as I hear daily to turn back. But the cause of my counsel is that I know the conscience of some to be so tender, that whensoever they feel themselves troubled with fear, wounded with anguish, or to have slidden back in any point, that then they judge their faith to be quenched, and themselves to be unworthy of God's mercies for ever. To such I direct my counsel, to those, I mean, that rather offend by weakness and infirmity than of malice and set purpose. And I would that such should understand and consider that all Christ's apostles fled from him, and denied him in their hearts (Matt. 26:56). And also I would they should consider, that no man ever from the beginning stood in greater fear, greater danger, or greater doubt, than Peter did when Christ's presence was taken from him. Yea, no man felt less comfort, nor saw less appearance of deliverance; and yet neither were the disciples rejected for ever, neither was Peter permitted to drown in that deep.
But some shall object, Faith was not utterly quenched in them; and therefore they got deliverance, and were restored to comfort.
Answer: I would that the afflicted and troubled consciences in this age should consider, that neither fear, neither danger, neither yet doubting, nor backsliding, may utterly destroy and quench the faith of God's elect, but that always there remains with them some root and spark of faith, howbeit in their anguish they neither feel nor can discern the same. Yet some may demand, "How shall it be known in whom the spark and root of faith remains, and in whom not; seeing that all flee from Christ, and bow down to idolatry?" Hard it is, and in a manner impossible, that one man shall wittingly judge of another (for that Elijah could not do of the Israelites in his days), but every man may easily judge of himself (1 Kings 19:9-18). For the root of faith is of that nature, that it will not be long idle, but of necessity, by process of time, it will send forth some branches that may be seen and felt by the outward man, if it remain lively in the heart; as you heard it did in Peter, compelling him to cry unto Christ when he was in the greatest necessity. Will you have a trial whether the root of faith remains with you or not? (I speak to such as are weak, and not to proud contemners of God.)
[Do] you feel your soul fainting in faith, as Peter felt his body sink down into the waters?
Are you as sorely afraid that your soul should drown in hell, if you consent [to], or obey idolatry, as Peter was that his body should drown in the waters? [Do] you as earnestly desire the deliverance of your soul, as Peter did the deliverance of his body?
[Do] you believe that Christ is able to deliver your soul, and that he will do the same according to his promise?
Do you call upon him without hypocrisy, now in the day of your trouble?
Do you thirst for his presence, and for the liberty of his word again?
[Do] you mourn for the great abominations that now overflow the realm of England?
If these premises, I say, remain yet in your heart, then are you not altogether destitute of faith, neither shall you descend to perdition for ever; but mercifully shall the Lord stretch forth his mighty hand, and shall deliver you from the very throat and bottom of hell. But by what means he shall perform that his merciful work, it neither appertains to you to demand, nor to me to define; but this is requisite, and [is] our bounden duty, that such means as the hand of our God shall offer (to avoid idolatry), we refuse not, but that willingly we embrace the same, albeit it partly disagrees to our affections. Neither yet, think I, that suddenly, and by one means, shall all the faithful in England be delivered from idolatry. No, it may be that God so strengthens the hearts of some of those that have fainted before, that they will resist idolatry to the death; and that were a glorious and triumphant deliverance. God may so touch the hearts of others, that they will rather choose to walk, and go as pilgrims from realm to realm, suffering hunger, cold, heat, thirst, weariness, and poverty, than that they will abide (having all abundance) in subjection to idolatry. To some God may offer such occasion, that in despite of idolaters (be they princes or prelates), they may remain within their own dominions, and yet neither bow their knees to Baal, neither yet lack the lively food of God's most holy word.
If God offers unto us any such means, let us assuredly know, that Christ Jesus stretches forth his hand unto us, willing to deliver us from that danger wherein many are likely to perish. And therefore let us not refuse it, but with gladness let us take hold of it, knowing that God has a thousand means (very unlikely to man's judgment) whereby he will deliver, support, and comfort his afflicted church. And therefore, most dearly beloved in our Saviour Jesus Christ, considering that the remembrance of Christ's banquet (whereof I doubt not some of you have tasted with comfort and joy) is not yet utterly taken from your mind, and that we have entered in this journey at Christ's commandment; considering that we feel the sea winds blow contrary and against us (as before was prophesied unto us), and that we see the same tempest rage against us, that ever has raged against Christ's elect church; and considering also that we feel ourselves ready to faint, and likely to be oppressed by these stormy seas; let us prostrate ourselves before the throne of grace, in the presence of our heavenly Father; and, in the bitterness of our hearts, let us confess our offences; and for Christ Jesus' sake, let us seek after deliverance and mercy, saying, with sobs and groans from our troubled hearts:
"O God! the heathen are entered into thine inheritance. They have defiled thy holy temple, and have profaned thy blessed ordinance. In place of thy joyful signs they have erected their abominable idols (Ps. 79, 74). The deadly cup of all blasphemy is restored again to their harlot's hand (Rev. 17). Thy prophets are persecuted, and none are permitted to speak thy word freely (Ps. 74, 88). The poor sheep of thy pasture are commanded to drink the venomous waters of men's traditions. But, O Lord! thou knowest how sorely they grieve us; but such is the tyranny of these most cruel beasts, that plainly they say, they shall root us out at once, so that no remembrance shall remain of us on earth.
"O Lord! thou knowest that we are but flesh, and that we have no power of ourselves to withstand their tyranny; and therefore, O Father! open the eyes of thy mercy upon us, and confirm thou in us the work which thine own mercy hath begun. We acknowledge and confess, O Lord! that we are punished most justly, because we lightly regarded the time of our merciful visitation. Thy blessed gospel was in our ears like a lover's song, pleasing us for the time; but alas! our lives did nothing agree with thy statutes and holy commandments. And thus we acknowledge that our iniquity hath compelled thy justice to take the light of thy word from the whole realm of England. But be thou mindful, O Lord! that it is thy truth which we have professed, and that thy enemies blaspheme thy holy name, and our profession, without cause. Thy holy gospel is called heresy, and we are accused as traitors for professing the same. Be merciful, therefore, O Lord! and be salvation unto us in this time of our anguish
(Isa. 33). Albeit our sins accuse and condemn us, yet do thou according to thine own name. We have offended against thee; our sins and iniquities are without number; and yet art thou in the midst of us. O Lord! albeit tyrants bear rule over our bodies, yet our souls thirst for the comfort of thy word (Jer. 4).
"Correct us, therefore, but not in thy hot displeasure; spare thy people, and permit not thine inheritance to be in rebuke for ever (Ps. 74). Let such, O Lord! as now are most afflicted, yet once again praise thy holy name before thy congregation. Repress
the pride of those bloodthirsty tyrants; consume them in thine anger,
according to the reproach which they have laid against thy holy name (Ps. 59.
79). Pour forth thy vengeance upon them, and let our eyes behold the blood of
thy saints required of their hands. Delay not thy vengeance, O Lord! but let
death devour them in haste; let the earth swallow them up, and let them go down
quick to the hells (Jer. 10-12; Ps. 55). For there is no hope of their
amendment; the fear and reverence of thy holy name are quite banished from
their hearts. And, therefore, yet again, O Lord! consume them in thine
anger, and let them never bring their wicked counsels to effect; but, according
to the godly powers, let them be taken in the snare which they have prepared
for thine elect. Look upon us, O Lord! with the eyes of thy mercy, and show
pity upon us, thy weak and sorely oppressed flock. Gather us yet once again to
the wholesome treasures of thy most holy word, that openly we may confess thy
blessed gospel within the realm of England. Grant this, O heavenly Father! for
Christ Jesus thy Son's sake. Amen."
If on this manner, or otherwise (as God shall put in our hearts), without hypocrisy, in the presence of our God (respecting more his glory than our private wealth), we continually pour forth our complaint, confession, and prayers; then so assuredly as our God lives, and as we feel these present troubles, our God himself shall rise to our defence; he shall confound the counsels of our enemies, and trouble the wits of such as most wrongfully trouble us. He shall send Jehu to execute his just judgments against idolaters, and against such as obstinately defend them. Jezebel herself shall not escape the vengeance and plagues that are prepared for their portion. The flatterers and maintainers of her abominations shall drink the cup of God's wrath with her. And, in despite of the devil, the glory of Christ Jesus, and the brightness of his countenance, shall yet so shine in our hearts by the presence of his grace ? and before our eyes, by the true preaching of his gospel ? that altogether we shall fall before him, and say:
"O Lord! thou art our God; we shall extol thee, and shall confess thy name, for thou hast brought wondrous things to pass according to thy counsels, which albeit they appear to be far off, yet they are true and most assured (Isa. 25). Thou hast brought to ruin the palaces of tyrants; and therefore shall the afflicted magnify thee, and the city of tyrannical nations shall fear thee. Thou hast been, O Lord, a strong defence to the poor, a sure place of refuge to the afflicted in the time of his anguish."
This, no doubt, dear brethren, shall one day be the song of God's elect within the realm of England, after God has poured forth his vengeance upon these disobedient and bloodthirsty tyrants who now triumph in all abominations. And therefore, yet again, beloved in the Lord, abide patiently the Lord's deliverance, avoiding and fleeing such offences as may separate and divide you from the blessed fellowship of the Lord Jesus at his second coming. Watch and pray, resist the devil, and row against this vehement tempest; and shortly shall the Lord come to the comfort of your hearts, which now are oppressed with anguish and care; but then shall you so rejoice, that through gladness you shall say, "Behold, this is our God; we have waited upon him, and he has saved us. This is our Lord; we have long thirsted for his coming; now shall we rejoice and be glad in his salvation" (Isa. 26). So be it. The great Bishop of our souls, Jesus our Lord, so strengthen and assist your troubled hearts with the mighty comfort of the Holy Ghost, that [neither] earthly tyrants, nor worldly torments have power to drive you from the hope and expectation of that kingdom, which for the elect was prepared from the beginning by our heavenly Father, to whom be all praise and honour, now and ever. Amen.
Remember me, dear brethren, in your daily prayers. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen.
Yours with sorrowful heart, John Knox
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