Extracted from: Selected Writings of John Knox: Public Epistles, Treatises, and Expositions to the Year 1559
Although Knox was separated from his flock, the pastoral bonds were not broken. After departing England, he wrote: "Sometimes I have thought that impossible it had been, so to have removed my affection from the realm of Scotland, that any realm or nation could have been equally dear unto me. But God I take to record in my conscience, that the troubles present (and appearing to be) in the realm of England are double more dolorous unto my heart, than ever were the troubles of Scotland" (pp. 117-18 above).
As persecution and apostasy swept across the land, Knox was unable to minister to the flock from the pulpit. Burdened for the souls of his people, the reformer took pen in hand, and addressed them in a series of public epistles which contain various admonitions and consolations.
The Godly Letter of Warning or Admonition is filled with urgency, in view of the spreading apostasy in England. Knox calls upon his readers to hold firm their profession of the Protestant faith. He admonishes them to flee from all practices of idolatry especially the Mass. Knox calls his people to separate from compromising associations with idolaters; the Lord's people must never condone false religion, or give the impression that corrupt worship is a matter of indifference.
Toward the end of the treatise, the reformer makes a moving appeal to the people to consider the ramifications which their actions will have on their posterity. He also discusses the covenantal relationship between God and the church.
Says Thomas M'Crie: "The reader of this letter cannot fail to be struck with its animated strain, when he reflects that it proceeded from a forlorn exile, in a strange country, without a single acquaintance, and ignorant where he would find a place of abode, or the means of subsistence." (Life of John Knox [Edinburgh, 1855], p. 63.) In many ways, this epistle breathes with a prophetic and apostolic spirit indeed a pastoral outlook which seems only too foreign in the modern church.
When I remember the fearful threatenings of God, pronounced against realms and nations to whom the light of God's word has been offered, and contemptuously refused by them (Lev. 26:14-39; Matt. 10:14-15); as my heart unfeignedly mourns for your present estate, dearly beloved in our Saviour Jesus Christ, so do the whole powers of body and soul tremble and shake for the plagues that are to come. But that God's true word has been offered to the realm of England none can deny, except such as by the devil are held in bondage (God justly so punishing their proud disobedience, 1 Tim. 1:9), and have neither eyes to see, nor understanding to discern good from bad, nor darkness from light. Against whom, at this present [time], no otherwise will I contend, nor [than] did the prophet Jeremiah against the stiff-necked and stubborn people of Judea, saying, "The wrath of the Lord shall not be turned away, till he has fulfilled the thoughts of his heart" (Jer. 23:20). And thus I leave them (as of whose repentance there is small hope) to the hands of him who shall not forget their horrible blasphemies spoken in despite of Christ's truth, and of his true messengers. And with you that unfeignedly mourn for the great shipwreck of God's true religion, I purpose to communicate such counsel and admonition, now by my rude pen, as sometimes it pleased God I should proclaim in your ears. The end of which my admonition is, that even as you purpose and intend to avoid God's vengeance, both in this life and in the life to come; that so you avoid and flee, as well in body as in spirit, all fellowship and society with idolaters in their idolatry.
You shrink, I know, even at the first, but if an orator had the matter in handling, he would prove it honest, profitable, easy, and necessary to be done; and in every one point were store enough for a long oration. But as I never laboured to persuade any man in matters of religion (I take God to record in my conscience), except by the very simplicity and plain infallible truth of God's word, no more I intend to do in this behalf. But this I affirm, that to flee from idolatry is so profitable, and so necessary for Christian, that unless he so does, all worldly profit turns to his disprofit and perpetual condemnation. Profit either pertains to the bodies or to the souls of ourselves, or of our posterity.  Corporeal commodities consist in such things as man chiefly covets for the body: as riches, estimation, long life, health, and quietness in the earth. The only comfort and joy of the soul is God by his word expelling ignorance, sin, and death, and in the place of those planting true knowledge of himself, and with the same, justice [righteousness] and life by Christ Jesus his Son. If either profit of body or of soul move us, then it is of necessity that we avoid idolatry. For it is plain that the soul has neither life nor comfort, but by God alone, with whom idolaters have no other fellowship nor participation than the devils have (1 Cor. 6:9).
And albeit that abominable idolaters triumph for a moment, yet the hour approaches when God's vengeance shall strike not only their souls, but even their vile carcasses shall be plagued, as he has threatened before. Their cities shall be burned, their land shall be laid waste, their enemies shall dwell in their strongholds, their wives and their daughters shall be defiled, their children shall fall by the edge of the sword. Mercy shall they find none, because they have refused the God of all mercy, when lovingly and long he called upon them (Lev. 26:14-19; Jer. 6:11-12; Lev. 26:1-13). You would know the time, and what certainty I have thereof. To God will I appoint no time, but these and more plagues shall fall upon the realm of England (and that ere it be long, except repentance prevent), I am so sure as that I am that my God lives.
This, my affirmation, shall displease many, and shall content few. God, who knows the secrets of all hearts, knows that it also displeases me, and yet, like as before, I have been compelled to speak in your audience, and in the audience of others, such things as were not plausible to the ears of men, whereof, alas! one great part is this day come to pass; so I am compelled to write, with the tears of my eyes, I know to your displeasure. But, dear brethren, be subject unto God, and give place to his wrath, that you may escape his everlasting vengeance. My pen, I trust, shall now be no more vehement, nor [than] my tongue has been oftener than once, not only before you, but also before the chief of the realm. What was said in Newcastle and Berwick before the sweating sickness, I trust some in those parts yet bear in mind; and [what was said] upon the day of All Saints (as they call it), in the year that the duke of Somerset was last apprehended, let Newcastle witness! What before him that was then duke of Northumberland, in more places than one. What before the king's majesty (whom God has called from worldly misery for our offences), at Windsor, Hampton Court, and Westminster; and, finally, what was spoken in London in more places nor [than] one, when fires of joy and riotous banqueting were at the proclamation of Mary, your queen. If men will not speak, yet shall the stones and timber of those places cry in fire, and shall bear record that the truth was spoken, and shall absolve me in that behalf in the day of the Lord.
Suspect not, brethren, that I delight in your calamities, or in the plagues that shall fall upon that unthankful nation. No, I take God to record, that my heart mourns within me, and that I am cruciate [tortured] with remembrance of your troubles. But if I should cease, then should I do against my conscience, as also against my knowledge; and so should I be guilty of the blood of them that perish for lack of admonition (Ezek. 33:1-9), and the plague not be delayed a moment longer. For the Lord has appointed the day of his vengeance, before the which he sends his trumpets and messengers, that his elect, watching and praying with all sobriety, may by his mercy escape the vengeance that shall come (Ezek. 3).
But you would know the grounds of my certitude; God grant that hearing them you may understand and steadfastly believe the same. My assurances are not the marvels of Merlin, nor yet the dark sentences of profane prophecies, but (1.) the plain truth of God's word, (2.) the invincible justice of the everlasting God, and (3.) the ordinary course of his punishments and plagues from the beginning, are my assurance and grounds. God's word threatens destruction to all [the] disobedient; his immutable justice must require the same. The ordinary punishments and plagues show examples (Deut. 28:15-68; Jer. 5:15-17; Amos 3:2, 11-15; Deut. 29:10-29). What man, then, can cease to prophesy? The word of God plainly speaks, that if a man shall hear the curses of God's law, and yet, in his heart, shall promise to himself felicity and good luck, thinking that he shall have peace, although he walks after the imaginations of his own will and heart; to such a man the Lord will not be merciful, but his wrath shall be kindled against him, and he shall destroy his name from under heaven. How the Lord threatens plague after plague, and ever the last to be sorest, while, finally, he will consume realms and nations if they repent not, read the twenty-sixth chapter of Leviticus (vvs. 14-39); which chapter oft have I willed you to mark, and I yet do unfeignedly. And think not that it appertains to the Jews only. No, brethren, the prophets are the interpreters of the law, and they make the plagues of God common to all offenders. The punishment ever begins at the household of God (1 Pet. 4:17).
And here must I touch a point of the devilish confession made (alas!) by the miserable man, whose name, for sorrow, I cannot recite. This argument he used to prove the doctrine of late years, preached in the realm of England, to be wicked. "Troubles and plagues," said he, "have followed the same, not only here in England, but also in Germany," as he willed you to mark. This fragile and vain argument at this time no otherwise will I labour to confute, than by plain and evident scriptures, declaring that the vengeance and plagues of God do appertain to all [the] disobedient, howbeit he [God] begins to punish where his grace has been offered and obstinately refused. And that is the cause why Germany and England have been plagued these years bypast; which may be an answer to the blind rage of ignorants who never will know the very cause of God's plagues.
The scriptures declaring God to punish all nations after he has corrected his own people, are written by the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, as also by others (Isa. 13, 15, 17-19; Jer. 50-51; Ezek. 25-27); who after they had proclaimed and denounced plagues to fall upon the people of Israel, and upon the house of Judah, for the contempt of God and of his law, prophesy also against certain nations and cities, not only adjacent to Jerusalem, but also against such as were far distant; as against Moab, Ammon, Egypt, Palestine, Tyre, Damascus, and against Babylon: and, in conclusion, general prophecies were spoken against all [the] disobedient, as in the twenty-fourth chapter of Isaiah plainly appears. As also the Lord commands Jeremiah to give the cup of his wrath to all nations round about, who should drink the same although they refused it of his hand (Jer. 25:15-33): that is, albeit they would not believe the threatenings and voice of the prophet, yet should they not escape the plagues that he spoke: "For every nation like unto this will I punish, saith the Lord of hosts" (Jer. 5:9; 9:9). As also Amos agrees with him, saying, "The eyes of the Lord are upon every sinful nation, to root it out of the earth" (Amos 9:8).
These and many more places evidently prove that the plagues spoken in the law of God do appertain to every rebellious people, be they Jew or be they Gentile Christians in title or Turks in profession. And the ground and assurance of the prophets were the same, which I have rehearsed to be my assurance that England shall be plagued: that is, God's immutable and inviolable justice, which cannot spare in a [one] realm or nation the offences which he most severely punishes in another; for so were he unequal, and making [a] difference as touching execution of his just judgments betwixt realm and realm, and betwixt person and person, which is most contrary to the integrity of his justice. For as the righteous Judge of the whole earth cannot destroy the just with the wicked, so can he not spare a [one] sort of obstinate malefactors and punish another; as himself witnesses by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, "I have begun to punish in the house where my name is called, and shall I spare the rest?" (Jer. 25:29). As [though] the Lord God would say, "How can my justice suffer and permit their crimes and offences to go unpunished in proud contemners, who neither regard me nor my law, seeing I have not spared my own people and children, who externally bear some reverence to my name?"
That God has punished other nations and realms needs no probation [proof], for experience does teach it. But whether like crimes have been committed and yet are committed within the realm of England, as were committed in those nations before their last destruction, that is to be inquired. In this case, nothing can better instruct us than God's plain word, rebuking the vices that reigned in those days. And omitting to recite all, it shall suffice to rehearse for this present [time] some places of the prophet Jeremiah, the time of whose prophecy, well considered, shall make the matter more sensible and better to be understood. He begins his prophecy in the thirteenth year of King Josiah's reign, and continued till after the destruction of Jerusalem, which came in the eleventh year of the reign of King Zedekiah.
Long preached this godly man: to wit, thirty and nine years and six months, before the uttermost of the plagues apprehended this stubborn nation; and that he did with much trouble and injury sustained, as in his prophesies is to be seen. By all likelihood, then, there were some cob churls, that were not pleased with the prophet, neither yet with his preaching. And yet, it is plain that no king so truly turned unto God with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his strength, according to the law of Moses, as did Josiah. And yet (as is said), the prophet of God was troubled, and that not by a mean number; for I find him complaining universally and generally upon the people's iniquity; for thus he induces, God speaking: "My people have committed double iniquity; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and have digged unto themselves cisterns that can contain no water. Why wilt thou justify thy own way," saith the Lord? "Under thy wings are found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents, whom thou found not in corners, and yet thou sayest, 'I am innocent.' Thou hast gotten a whorish forehead. Thou can not think shame." "My people are foolish; they know not me. They are foolish children, and have no wisdom. Wise they are to commit mischief, but to do good they are altogether ignorant." "Every man may beware of his neighbour, and no man assuredly may trust in his brother, for every man is become deceitful; they have practiced their tongues to lies and guile." "They have left my law," saith the Lord, "and have followed the wicked imaginations of their own hearts. They have followed after Baalim, whom their fathers taught them" (Jer. 2:13, 29, 33-35; 3:3; 4:22; 9:4-5, 13-14).
Of these and of many more like places, the general offences of that people appear to have been: defection from God, embracing of false religion, shedding of innocent blood, justification of themselves, and defence of their iniquity; while yet they abounded in rife, murder, oppression, lies, crafty practices, deceit, and manifest idolatry. Following the trade of their fathers, who, under kings Manasseh and Ammon (of whom the one, in the beginning, the other all his life, maintained idolatry) had been the ringleaders to all abomination (Jer. 5:7-9, 19, 25-29), such as in England are Winchester and more.
The prophet of God, wondering at such manifest iniquity, judged that such ignorance and disobedience were only among the rascal sort of men; and therefore he says, "These be but poor ones, for lack of wisdom they are foolish; they know not the way of the Lord, nor the judgment of their God. I will go to the nobles, and I will talk with them; for they know the way of the Lord, and the judgments of their God" (Jer. 5:4-5). But what he finds among that sort he declares in these words, "They have all broken the yoke" (Jer. 5:5); "and they have heaped sin upon sin, and mischief upon mischief;" "from the least unto the most [greatest] they are all bent upon avarice, and they gape for lucre; from the priest to the prophet, every man dealeth deceitfully" (Jer. 6:13; Ezek. 8). "Behold, their ears are uncircumcised; they cannot advert [listen]; the word of God is a rebuke unto them; they delight not in it" (Jer. 6:10). "They have committed abominable mischief; they cannot repent, neither think shame" (Jer. 6:15).
What this abomination was, God showed to Ezekiel. All had forsaken God in their hearts, insomuch that a great number openly had turned their backs unto God, and made sacrifice to the sun, every man in his own secret closet. Yea, women mourned, for that they were not permitted to commit open abomination. Is it not to be wondered that all the estates were so corrupt under so godly a prince? But our prophet Jeremiah proceeds in his complaints, saying: "They have denied the Lord, and said, 'It is not he' (Jer. 5:12), (that is, they have denied and opposed God's word) that it is not the truth, for they have said, 'We shall not see sword nor hunger.'" This was the obedience that this prophet found among the princes of Judah, as also among the common people. And is it not to be wondered at, that the vineyard that was so well manured brought forth no better grapes? They had a king most godly minded, for so witnesses the Holy Ghost of him: "That there was no king that so truly turned to God with all his heart, with all his soul, and all his strength, according to all the law of Moses, as did Josiah." They had prophets most faithful and fervent, for Jeremiah was not alone. They were admonished by diverse plagues, and the prophets ever called for repentance. And yet nothing followed but open contempt of God and of his messengers. "Their repentance," says Hosea (6:4), "is like the morning dew, it abides not." "Albeit they can say, 'The Lord liveth,' yet are their oaths nothing but lies. Find me one man that doth equity and justice, and to him will I be merciful" (Jer. 5:1-2), saith the Lord. Here was narrow inquisition among so great a multitude. Great scarcity of good counsellors with so godly a king: for belike [it is like] there have not been many, when he who knows the secrets of hearts so earnestly seeks for one man.
But before we proceed further in this matter, it shall be necessary to see how these precedents do agree with our estate and time. And first, that we had not God's word truly preached amongst us, none except an errant and despiteful Papist will deny. We had a king of so godly disposition towards virtue and the truth of God, that none from the beginning surpassed him (and, to my knowledge, none of his years did ever match him in that behalf, if he might have been lord of his own will). In this meantime, if sins did abound, let every man accuse his own conscience. For here I am not minded to specify all that I know; neither yet is it necessary, seeing some crimes were so manifest and heinous that the earth could not hide the innocent blood; neither yet could the heavens behold, without shame, the craft, the deceit, the violence, and oppression that universally were wrought; and in the mean season the hand of God was busy over us, and his true messengers kept not silence.
You know that the realm of England was visited with diverse and strange plagues, and whether it was not ever prophesied that (unless with more obedience we embrace God's word) the worst plagues were to follow I appeal to the testimony of your own conscience. But what ensued hereupon? Alas, I am ashamed to rehearse it: universal contempt of all God's admonitions, hatred of them that rebuked vice, authorizing of them that could invent the most villainy against the preachers of God's word. In this matter, I may be admitted for a sufficient witness; for I heard and saw, I understood and knew, with the sorrow of my heart, the manifest contempt and crafty devices of the devil, against those most godly and learned preachers that this last Lent,4 anno 1553, were appointed to preach before the king's majesty; as also against all others whose tongues were not tempered with the holy water of the court [or,] plainly to speak, who could not flatter against their consciences, and say all was well, and [that] nothing needed reformation. What reverence and audience, I say, were given to the preachers this last Lent by such as then were in authority, their own consciences declared assuredly even such as by the wicked princes of Judah was given to Jeremiah. They hated such as rebuked vice, and stubbornly they said, "We will not amend." And yet how boldly their sins were rebuked, even to their faces, such as were present can witness with me.
There was almost none that occupied the place, but he did prophesy and plainly speak the plagues that are begun and assuredly shall end. Master Grindal plainly spoke [of] the death of the king's majesty; complaining of his household servants and officers, who neither [were] ashamed nor feared to rail against God's true word, and against the preachers of the same.[ The godly and fervent man, Master Lever, plainly spoke [of] the desolation of the commonwealth, and the plagues which should shortly follow. Master Bradford (whom God, for Christ his Son's sake, comfort to the end!) spared not the proudest, but boldly declared that God's vengeance should shortly strike those who then were in authority, because they abhorred and loathed the true word of the everlasting God; and, amongst many others, willed them to take example by the late duke of Somerset, who became so cold in hearing God's word, that the year before his last apprehension, he would go and visit his masons, and would not deign himself to go from his gallery to his hall for hearing of a sermon. "God punished him," said the godly preacher, "and that suddenly; and shall he spare you, that are doubly more wicked? No, he shall not! Will you or will you not, you shall drink the cup of the Lord's wrath. Judicium Domini, Judicium Domini: the judgment of the Lord, the judgment of the Lord," lamentably cried he, with weeping tears. Master Haddon most learnedly opened the causes of the by past plagues, affirming that the worse were to follow, unless repentance should shortly be found.
This then, and much more, I heard plainly spoken, after that the whole council had said they would hear no more of their sermons; they were but indifferent fellows (yea, and some of them shamed not to call them prating knaves). But now I will not speak all that I know; for if God continues my life in this trouble, I intend to prepare a dish for such as then led the ring in the [time of the] gospel. But now they have been at the school of Placebo, and amongst ladies have learned to dance, as the devil lists to pipe. Against those whom God has stricken, seeing now rests to them no place of repentance, I mind nothing to speak. But such as live to this day would be admonished, that he who has punished the one will not spare the rest, if they are found alike wicked and treasonous. But to our purpose.
These precedents I judge sufficient to prove the whole multitude, and all estates in this our age, to have been, and yet to remain, alike wicked (if they are not worse), with those against whom Jeremiah did prophesy. Now let us see what followed in Judah: mischief upon mischief, while, finally, in the Lord's anger, he took away King Josiah, because he was determined to destroy Judah, as before he had destroyed Israel (1 Kings 23:26 ff.). After the death of this godly king great was the trouble; diverse and sudden were the alterations of that commonwealth. The kings were taken prisoners one after another in a short space [of time]; and what other were the miseries of that stubborn nation, "O God, for thy great mercies' sake, never let thy small and sorely troubled flock within the realm of England prove nor learn by experience!" But in all their troubles no repentance appeared, as by the prophet you may learn; for thus he cries, "Thou hast stricken them, O Lord, but they have not mourned. Thou hast destroyed them, but they have not received discipline. They have hardened their faces harder than stones; they will not convert" (Jer. 5:3 ff.; cf. Isa. 1:3-4). "The whole land is wasted, but no man will weigh, ponder, and consider the cause" (Jer. 12:11). "This people will not hear my word. They walk in the wicked invention of their own hearts. They go after other gods to worship and serve them" (Jer. 13:10). And of the prophet's natural friends of the men of Anathoth, some plainly said, "Speak no more to us in the name of the Lord, lest thou die in our hands" (Jer. 11:21). Belike [it is like] these men had small fantasy [opinion] of God's prophet.
But more and more the people were bent upon idolatry, as is evident by a sermon (and that which conceived upon the same) made in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim. For the prophet was commanded by God to stand in the entrance of the Lord's house, and to speak to all the cities of Judah that came to worship in the house of the Lord; and was commanded to keep no word back, if peradventure, says the Lord, they will hearken and turn every man from his wicked way. Here is to be noted, that immediately after the death of the good king, they were entered into iniquity, from which God, by his prophets, laboured to call them back, before he began to plague them more extremely.
The tenor of the sermon was this, "Thus saith the Lord, 'If ye will not obey, to walk in my laws which I have given you, and to hear the words of my servants the prophets, whom I send to you, rising up betimes, and [whom I am] still sending; if ye will not hear them,' I say, 'then will I do unto this house as I did unto Shiloh, and will make this city to be abhorred of all people in the earth'" (Jer. 26:4-6). "Hear not the words of the prophets that say unto you, 'Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon;' I have not sent them," saith the Lord, "howbeit they are bold to prophesy lies in my name. If ye give ear unto them, both ye and your false prophets shall perish" (Jer. 27:9-10, 14-17).
Here is first to be noted, as before we have touched, that immediately after the death of their king, whose study and earnest diligence was to root out all monuments of superstition and idolatry, the people after his death, I say, with whole consent, revolted back to idolatry. For such is the engine [disposition] of this our corrupt nature, that no religion can content nor please us, except that which we ourselves have devised. For like as the wisdom of the most wise earthly man in God's presence is nothing but foolishness, so are the ordinances of God in man's presence so wicked and so bare, that man always thinks he can devise a more perfect honouring of God, than that which himself has commanded: Witness the Israelites in the desert (Ex. 32:1-8), the ten tribes under Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:25-33), the Pharisees, and the rest of the sects in Christ's time (Matt. 15:8-9), and the Papists before and in our own time. For let any of them be demanded, "How [do] you know that these your works, rules, and ceremonies please God, seeing you have not his commandment to do the same?" Straight they shall answer, "They are laudable, they are honest, they are decent, they have good significations, they pleased our fathers, and the most part of the world used the same." And thus the corrupt children follow the footsteps of their forefathers into idolatry.
Secondly, it is to be noted and observed, that amongst them were false prophets; not that they were so known and esteemed of the people. No, they were held [to be] the true kirk of God (for so they boasted themselves to be), that could not err (Jer. 18:18). Their false prophets were maintainers of idolatry as Winchester, Durham, [and] London (I mean those members of the devil styled bishops of such places) are now in England and yet they boldly promised to the people prosperity and good luck; wherewith, and by whom, the people were so abused and blinded, that the words of Jeremiah were nothing regarded, as the consequent declared. For his sermon being ended, the priests, prophets, and the whole people apprehended Jeremiah, and with one voice cried, "He shall die; he is worthy of the death" (Jer. 16:8, 11). Great was the uproar against the poor prophet, in which, apparently, he could not have escaped, if the princes of Judah had not hastily come from the king's house into the temple and taken upon them the hearing of the cause; in which, after much debate, while some defended and some others most vehemently accused the prophet, the text says, that the hand of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, was with Jeremiah, that he should not be given unto the hands of the people to be killed.
Albeit the prophet very narrowly escaped death, yet he ceased not from his office; but sometimes he complains unto God, and sometimes he admonishes the people. To God he complains, saying, "Thou hast stricken them, O Lord, but they have not mourned. Thou hast destroyed them, but they have not received discipline. They have hardened their faces harder than stones. They will not convert" (Jer. 5:3 ff.). "The whole land is wasted, but no man will weigh, ponder, nor consider the cause" (Jer. 12:11). "This people will not hear my words. They walk in the wicked inventions of their own hearts; they go after their gods to worship them" (Jer. 13:10).
By these complaints, we may understand the fervency of the prophet, that he had to call the people back from their abominable idolatry. But what he profited, may be understood by the words of his own friends, the men of Anathoth; for they plainly said unto him, "Speak no more unto us in the name of the Lord, lest you die in our hands." Belike [it is like] these men had small delight in the doctrine of the prophets, or their exhortations.
In conclusion, he was prohibited to enter into the temple, and so he might not preach; and then was he commanded by God to write his sermons, which he obeys, and causes the same to be read openly in the temple (alas! I fear a Baruch shall not [now] be found); and afterwards the same sermons came to the ears of the council, and last to the king; and albeit that in despite they were once burnt, yet Jeremiah is commanded to write again, and boldly to say, "Jehoiakim shall have no seed that ever shall sit upon the seat of David. Their carrions [carcasses] shall be cast into the heat of the day, and to the frost of the night. And I shall visit," saith the Lord, "the iniquity of him, of his seed, and of his servants; and I shall bring upon them, upon the indwellers of Jerusalem, and upon all the men of Judah, all the calamities that I have spoken against them" (Jer. 36:30-31).
And albeit, that when these words were spoken and written, so they contemned, that banqueting and feasting were proclaimed in his despite, yet, no word of all his threatenings was spoken in vain. For after many plagues sustained by the mischievous father, the wicked and miserable son, in the third month of his reign, was led [a] prisoner to Babylon (2 Kings 24:8-16). But now when the time of their desolation approached, God stirred up above this wicked generation such a king, such priests, such prophets, as their own hearts wished; even such as should lead filthy dogs to their vomit again.
Zedekiah was king, and such as long had resisted; poor Jeremiah had gotten by their hands the fearful whip of correction; Pashur and his companions led the king as they list; up got Tophet, the hill altars smoked with incense. Baal and his belly gods (before the vengeance of God was poured forth upon them) got the day they long looked for (Jer. 38).
And, in conclusion, so horrible were the abominations of those days, that the Lord cries to his contemned number (there were some that yet feared God): "What has my beloved to do in my house (meaning the temple of Jerusalem), seeing that the multitude commits in it abominable idolatry. They have provoked me to anger, burning incense unto Baal" (Jer. 11:15, 17). Which great abominations, when God had shown not only unto Jeremiah, but also to Ezekiel (then being at Babylon among the prisoners there), God moved the prophets to agree in one voice, that whole [all] Israel should be destroyed. For thus writes Ezekiel; "Ah! upon all the abominations of the house of Israel: they shall fall by the sword, by pestilence, and by famine; he that is far off shall die of the plague; he that is near, shall die by the sword; he that is left, and besieged, shall die of hunger; and I shall complete my wrath upon them" (Ezek. 6:11-12). And Jeremiah says, "Behold I will give this city into the hand of the Chaldeans, in the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, who shall take it. The Chaldeans, verily, shall enter into it, and they shall burn it with fire; they shall burn it, and the houses in which they burnt incense unto Baal" (Jer. 32:32-34). He proceeds, and gives the reason and cause of God's plagues, saying, "The children of Israel, and the children of Judah, have done nothing from their youth but wickedness, even before my eyes, to provoke me to anger. They have turned to me their backs, and not their faces: they, their kings, their princes, their prophets,their priests, whole [all] Judah, and all the city of Jerusalem. They would not hear, nor be reformed. They have placed their dung," so termed he their abominable idols, "in the place that is consecrated unto my name, to defile it."
And when the king of Babylon was lying about the city, he says to the messengers of Zedekiah, who then had sent to ask what should become of the city, "The Chaldeans shall take the city (says the prophet) and shall burn it with fire. Yea, if you had slain all the host of the Chaldeans that besiege you, and\ if the slain men be left, every man should rise in his tent, and should burn this city with fire. He that abides within the city shall die either by sword, by hunger, or by pestilence; but he that shall go forth and fall to the Chaldeans, shall live and shall win his soul for a prey" (Jer. 37:8, 10; 38:2). Let a thing here be noted, that the prophet of God sometimes may teach treason against kings, and yet neither he nor such as obey the word, spoken in the Lord's name by him, offend God. And [yet] the prophet speaks the more plainly, in secret, unto the king asking his counsel. For thus he says, "If suddenly thou shalt go forth and subdue thyself to the princes and chief captains of the Babylonians, thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be set on fire. But if thou go not forth to the chief captains of the king of Babylon, this city shall be given over into the hands of the Chaldeans, who shall burn it with fire, neither yet shalt thou escape their hands."
These were plain advertisements, and thus, without flattery or fear, did these true prophets plainly and openly proclaim the desolation of that place, for such offences as before have been rehearsed. But how pleased such message the city of Jerusalem, and principally those delicate dames that made sacrifice to the queen of heaven? Or how liked the priests, prophets, and princes of Judah, this ambassador? That we shall know by his treatment and reward (Jer. 9, 23; Ezek. 20). I find shortly after this, Jeremiah [was] apprehended and cast into prison as a traitor. He was accused of sedition, and damned of [for] treason.
Plain preaching was made against all that he had spoken before, and such felicity and good luck were promised to the people, that within two years Nebuchadnezzar's yoke [should] be broken from the necks of all people; and the vessels of the Lord's house, together with all the prisoners, should be brought again to Jerusalem (Jer. 23).
Had not these precedents some appearances [of probability]? Yes, verily they had (Jer. 13). The king of Babylon had many enemies, and he was not able to resist them all. The people abounded in wine and oil. Who then could say but God was appeased with them? Their prophets maintained and authorized all that the people did. How could they then do wrong?
Now let us consider the prophet's part. Jeremiah had spoken against the temple, saying it should be destroyed and made like unto Shiloh (which place the Lord had destroyed), removing from them the ark of his covenant, principally for the iniquity of the priests. And was not this judged heresy, think you? No less, I warrant you, nor [than] it is now, in England, to say that all the doctrine that Winchester and his shavelings now maintain, is the doctrine of their father the devil; and therefore that it shortly shall provoke God's vengeance to strike all that adhere thereto. Jeremiah said that Jerusalem should be set on fire and laid waste, unless Zedekiah should surrender himself into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. And was not this as great treason, as to say that the city of London should be made a desert, if Jezebel be maintained in her authority? Jeremiah commanded openly all such as would avoid God's vengeance to leave the city of Jerusalem, and to seek the favour of their enemies. And was not this as great sedition as now to say that England shall be given over into the hands of strange nations? Jeremiah did openly preach that the religion which they then used was devilish, albeit their forefathers had followed the same. And what else is this, than to affirm that general councils, and that which is called the universal church, is the malignant kirk and the congregation of Antichrist?
To be short, if man's judgments may have place, Jeremiah was a heretic; he was a seditious fellow, a seducer of the people. He was one that discouraged the hearts of the strong men of war; and he was unfriendly to that faith which Pashur and his companions taught the people. And therefore he is damned to prison, and judged worthy of death; for the king could deny nothing to his princes amongst whom, I think, Pashur had been, as it were, chief chancellor (an old enemy he was to Jeremiah), by whom not only the king, but also the whole multitude of the people were so blinded, that boldly they durst cry, "No mischance shall come to us. We shall neither see pestilence, nor hunger. The king of Babylon shall never come against this city nor land."
Consider now, dear brethren, the estate of God's true prophet; what anguish was this in his heart, when not only were his admonitions contemned, but almost every creature was conjured against him to his destruction (Jer. 27). In the midst of these stormy troubles, the prophet had no other comfort than to complain to his God, at whose commandment he had spoken. And in his complaint he is so kindled against [their] idolatry and great unthankfulness, that he cries, as in a rage, "O thou Lord of hosts, the trier of the just, thou that seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance taken upon them, for unto thee have I referred my cause" (Jer. 20:12). As this prayer was most fearful to his enemies, if they had seen the efficacy thereof, so was the prophet assured by the same that God's wrath was kindled against that sinful and unthankful nation, and that it should not turn back till he had performed the cogitations of his own heart; which were either to call them back from idolatry, or else to bring upon them the plagues that he had threatened.
Hitherto have I recited the estate of Judah before the destruction of Jerusalem and subversion of that commonwealth. Now I appeal to the conscience of any indifferent [impartial] man, in what one point differs the manners, estate, and regiment of England this day, from the abuse and estate rehearsed of Judah in these days, except that they had a king, a man of his own nature (as appeared) more facile nor [than] cruel, who sometimes was entreated in the prophet's favour, and also in some cases heard his counsel. And you have a queen, a woman of stout stomach, more stiff in opinion nor [than] flexible to the verity, who no wise may abide the presence of God's prophets. In this one thing you disagree; in all other things [they are] so alike, as one bean or nut is like to another. (1.) Their king was led by pestilent priests. Who guides your queen, it is not unknown. (2.) Under Zedekiah and his council, the idolatry which was suppressed by Josiah came to light again. But more abominable idolatry was never in the earth, than is that which of late is now set up again by your pestilent Papists among you. (3.) In Jerusalem, Jeremiah was persecuted and cast in prison, for speaking the truth and rebuking their idolatry. What prison within London torments not some true prophet of God for the same causes? And you, O dungeon of darkness, where that abominable idol of late days was first erected (you Tower of London I mean), in you are tormented more Jeremiahs nor [than] one, whom God shall comfort according to his promise, and shall reward their persecutors even as they have deserved: in which day also you shall tremble for fear, and such as pretend to defend you shall perish with you, because you were first defiled with that abominable idol.
Consider, dear brethren, if all these things be alike between England and Judah before the destruction thereof; yea, if England be worse than Judah was, shall we think that the Lord's vengeance shall sleep, man's iniquity being so ripe? No, dear brethren, "He that has understanding must know the contrary, and he to whom the Lord's mouth has spoken must show the causes why the land shall be wasted" (Jer. 9:12). It may offend you that I call England worse than unthankful Judah. But if good reasons adduced and declared may take place, then I fear not judgment. (1.) From Jerusalem many passed at the admonition of the prophet, leaving all that they had, rather than they would abide the danger of God's plagues that were threatened. God's prophets have threatened and cried many plagues to fall upon England, but I hear not of many that prepare to flee: God grant that they repent not [to flee]! (2.) In Jerusalem were princes and nobles who defended Jeremiah, and also did absolve him when he was accused and unjustly condemned by the pestilent priests. But how many of the nobility within England boldly speak now in defence of God's messengers is easy to be told! (3.) In Jerusalem the prophet of God had liberty to speak in maintenance of his doctrine. How such as seek to have the trial of their doctrine by God's word, have been, and are yet treated amongst you, is heard in strange countries. (4.) In Jerusalem was Ebed-melech, who boldly said to the king that Jeremiah was injured by the false priests, and therefore obtained his liberty, when he was damned to death. But in England, I hear of none (God stir some!) that dare put their hands betwixt the bloodthirsty lions and their prey: that is, betwixt those cruel tyrants that now are loosed from their dens, and the poor saints of God. (5.) In Jerusalem, Jeremiah, being in prison, was daily fed upon the king's charges, and that when great scarcity of bread was in the whole city. In London, where all plenty abounds, are God's messengers permitted to hunger; yea, and ancient fathers so cruelly treated, that seldom has it been that [a] thief or murderer has been so cruelly handled.
In these cases I do not blame you, beloved brethren, for I assuredly know your hearts to mourn for the troubles of your brethren, the faithful preachers; and that you seek all means possible how they may be comforted and released. But these things do I rehearse to the end that you may see that their abomination and less fear of God, more unjust dealing and less shame, more cruel persecution and less mercy and gentleness, is now among your chief rulers in the realm of England, than in those days were in Judea. And yet Jerusalem did not escape the punishment of God. Shall we then believe that England shall avoid the vengeance that is threatened? No, dear brethren, if idolatry continues as it has begun, England may no more escape God's vengeance nor [than] God himself may lose his justice.
And therefore, dearly beloved in our Saviour Jesus Christ, if profit to yourselves or your posterity may move you [in] anything, then must you avoid idolatry. For if the messengers of the Lord that shall be sent to execute his wrath and vengeance shall find you among idolaters, your bodies committing like abominations with them, you have no warrant that you shall escape the plagues prepared for the wicked. [Almost] the whole tribe of Benjamin perished with the adulterers, and yet they were not all adulterers in fact (Judges 20). All Amalek was commanded to be destroyed, and yet not one of them was living that troubled the Israelites in their passing from Egypt (1 Sam. 15:1-3). Pharaoh was not drowned alone (as in another treatise I have plainly written). Neither yet escaped Jonathan, when God punished Saul his father. And why? The apostle gives the answer. "Because," says he, "men knowing the justice of God, and doing the contrary, are worthy of death, not only they that commit iniquity, but also such as consent to the same" (Rom. 1:32). And who can deny but such men as daily do accompany wicked men, and yet never declare themselves offended nor displeased with their wickedness, do consent to their iniquity? But of this shall be spoken more plainly hereafter.
And so yet once again I say, that if profit may move us, most profitable it shall be, yea, even for the body in this present life, to avoid idolatry; for if we do so, then God is obliged to be our Father, our portion, our inheritance, and defence. He promises, and will not deceive us, to carry us upon his own wings from all dangers, to feed us in the time of hunger, to plant us and our posterity in everlasting memorial, and, finally, to fight for us and save us from all miseries and crafts of Satan (Isa. 49; Zech. 2; Ps. 52; Ps. 116, 111).
But now to the subsequent: As it is most profitable for body and soul to avoid idolatry, so is it so necessary, that unless we do so, we refuse to be in league with God, we show ourselves to have no faith, and we deny to be witnesses unto God, and to his truth; and so must he, of his justice, expressed in his word, deny us to pertain to him or his kingdom. And then, alas! what else is the whole life of man but one heap of miseries, leading such as are not in league with God to perpetual damnation? This is the league betwixt God and us: that he alone shall be our God, and we shall be his people. He shall communicate with us of his graces and goodness; we shall serve him in body and in spirit. He shall be our safeguard from death and damnation; we shall seek to him, and shall flee from all strange gods. In making which league, we swear solemnly never to have fellowship with any religion, except with that which God has confirmed by his manifest word. If these precedents by God's scriptures are so plain, that no man of reason can deny any one point of the same, then I have good hope that you will admit it to be necessary that idolatry be avoided, if the league betwixt God and us stands inviolate.
First, it is to be observed that God's justice, being infinite and immutable, requires like obedience in matters of religion of all them that are within his league (in all ages) that he requires of any one nation (or of any particular man) in any age before us. For all that are in his league are one body, as Moses does witness, accounting men, women, children, servants, princes, priests, rulers, officers, and strangers within the covenant of the Lord (Deut. 29:10-13). Then it is plain, that of one body there must be one law; so that whatever God requires of one in that behalf, he requires the same of all. For his justice is immutable, and what he damns in any one, the same he can neither absolve nor excuse in others; for he is righteous without partiality. Then let us search, understand, and consider, what God required of that people, that sometime were in league with him, and what he commanded to be punished amongst them.
Moses, the mouth of God to the Israelites, spoke as follows: "If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy own bosom, or thy neighbour whom thou lovest as thy own life, shall privily solicit thee, saying, 'Let us go serve other gods, which thou hast not known,' etc., obey him not, hear him not, neither yet let thy eye spare him; be not merciful unto him, nor hide him not; but utterly slay him. Let thy hand be first upon him, that such one may be slain. And then the hands of the whole people stone him with stones that he may die," etc. (Deut. 13:6-18). And so likewise he commands to be done with a whole city, if the indwellers thereof turn back to idolatry; adding also that the whole city, and the spoil of the same, should be burnt, and that no portion thereof should be saved; neither yet that the city should be re-edified or built again for ever, because it was accursed of God.
Here is a plain declaration, what God requires of them that will continue in league with him; and what he has damned by his express word (Ex. 20). And do we esteem, beloved brethren, that the immutable God will wink at our idolatry as that he saw it not? seeing that he commanded judgment to be executed so severely against idolaters, and against such as only provoked or solicited to idolatry, that neither should blood nor affinity, multitude nor riches, save such as offended; neither yet that the husband should conceal the offence of his own wife; neither the father the iniquity of his son or of his daughter, but that the father, husband, or brother, should be first to accuse son, daughter, brother, or wife. And why? "Because he intended," says Moses, "to bring thee from the Lord thy God, who led thee forth of the land of Egypt. And therefore let him die, that all Israel hearing may fear, and that thereafter they commit not such abomination in the midst of thee." "Let nothing appertaining to such a man or city cleave unto thy hand, that the Lord may turn from thee the fury of his wrath, and be moved to have compassion over thee, and multiply thee as he has sworn unto thy fathers" (Deut. 13:10-11, 17).
In these words most evidently is expressed unto us, why God wills that we avoid all fellowship with idolatry, and with the maintainers of the same; in which are three things appertaining to our purpose chiefly to be noted. First, that the Holy Ghost pronounces and gives warning unto us, that maintainers of idolatry, and provokers to the same, intend to draw us from God; and therefore he wills that we neither obey them (be they kings or be they queens), neither yet that we conceal their impiety (were they son, daughter, or wife), if we will have the league to stand betwixt God and us. And here is the confirming of my first cause, why it is necessary that we avoid idolatry, because that otherwise we declare ourselves little to regard the league and covenant of God; for that league requires that we declare ourselves enemies to all sorts of idolatry.
Secondly, it is to be noted, that idolatry so incenses and kindles the wrath of God, that it is never quenched till the offenders, and all that they possess, are destroyed from the earth; for he commanded them to be stoned to the death, and their substance to be burnt; and if a city offended, that it shall be altogether destroyed without mercy. This may appear a severe and rigorous judgment. But if you shall consider the cause, God's great mercy towards us shall be espied; for thereunto he declares himself [an] enemy unto our enemies. For all those that would draw us from God (be they kings or queens), being of the devil's nature, are enemies unto God, and therefore God wills that in such cases we declare ourselves enemies unto them; because he would that we should understand how odious is idolatry in his presence, and how that we cannot keep the league betwixt him and us inviolate if we favour, follow, or spare idolaters. "Lord, open our eyes that we may understand the great necessity of this thy precept. Amen."
Thirdly, it is to be noted, that obedience given to God's precepts in this case, is the cause why God shows his mercy upon us, why he multiplies us, and does embrace us with fatherly love and affection. Where by the contrary, by consenting to idolatry, by haunting or favouring of the same, the mercies of God are shut up from us, and we [are] cut off from the body of Christ, left to wither and rot, as trees without sap or moisture; and then, alas! in what estate stand we? In the same assuredly that Christ declares the unfruitful branches to be, which are cut from the stock, wither, and are gathered in fagots to the fire.
O, dearly beloved, if we will stand in league with God, and be accounted the children of faith, we must follow the footsteps of Abraham, who, at God's commandment, left his native country, because it was defiled with idolatry. God gave to him but a commandment, saying, "Pass out of thy father's house;" and he, without further reasoning, did obey. And, alas! shall not so many precepts as are given to us to flee and avoid idolatry, move us, seeing that God shows himself so offended with idolaters, that he commands all such to be slain without mercy?
But now, shall some demand, "What then? Shall we go to and slay all idolaters?" That were the office, dear brethren, of every civil magistrate within his realm. But of you is required only to avoid [the] participation and company of their abominations, as well in body as in soul; as David and Paul plainly teach unto you. David in his exile, in the midst of idolaters, says, "I will not offer their drink offerings of blood, neither yet will I take their name in my mouth" (Ps. 16:4). And Paul says, "Ye may not be partakers of the Lord's table and of the table of devils. Ye may not drink the Lord's cup and the cup of devils" (1 Cor. 10:21). As these two places of God's most sacred scripture plainly resolve the former question, so do they confirm that which is said before, that the league betwixt God and us requires the avoiding of all idolatry.
First, plain it is, that in Gath, among the Philistines, where David was in exile (1 Sam. 27); and in Corinth, when St. Paul wrote his epistles, were no small number of idolaters. Yet neither says David that he will slay any man in that place, neither yet gives Paul any such commandment. Whereof it is plain that the slaying of the idolaters appertains not to every particular man. But in one thing they do both agree, that is to say, that such as have society and fellowship with God, must so abhor idolatry, that no part of their body be defiled therewith. For David says, "I will not take their names in my mouth" (Ps. 16:4); as [if] he would say, "So odious are the names of false and vain gods, that the mention of them to the godly is like to stinking carrion, which neither can be eaten, nor yet smelled, without displeasure of such as have not their senses corrupted. And, therefore, I will neither give my presence before them, neither yet will I defile my mouth with them:" that is, I will never speak one favourable word of them. I think much less would he have crouched and kneeled before them for any man's pleasure.
Advert, brethren, that David, inspired with the Holy Ghost, knew not such shifts as worldly wise men imagine now-a-days, that they may keep their hearts pure and clean unto God, howbeit their bodies dance with the devil. Not so, dear brethren, not so; the temple of God has nothing to do with idols. The cause David expresses in these words, "For the Lord himself is my portion, and mine inheritance" (Ps. 16:5). Great is the cause if it is deeply considered. David, illuminated by the Holy Ghost, sees even the selfsame thing that before we have alleged from the apostle's words: to wit, that God will not part spoil with the devil, permitting him to have the service of the body, and God to stand content with the soul or mind. No, brethren, David states this the fundamental and reason why he will neither offer sacrifice to idols, nor yet defile his mouth with their names, "Because," says he, "the Lord is my portion." As [if] he would say, "Such is the condition of the league betwixt my God and me, that as he is my tower of defence against my enemies, preserving and nourishing both the body and soul; so must I be wholly his, in body and soul; for my God is of that nature, that he will suffer no portion of his glory to be given to another."
In confirmation of this, Isaiah the prophet, after he had rebuked the Jews of their idols and inventions, says, "These are thy portion" (Isa. 57:6). And Jeremiah likewise in mocking of them, says, "Let thy lovers deliver thee; call upon them, and let them hear thee!" "Thou hast committed fornication with them, and hast committed whoredom with stock and stone" (Jer. 2:27-28; 3:9). The prophets meaning thereby, that idolaters can have no league nor covenant with God, insofar as their hearts are alienated from him, which the service of their bodies testifies. And therefore God renounces such league and band as before was offered; for Isaiah would say, "Even such as thou hast chosen, shall be thy portion;" and Jeremiah would say, "Thou hast put thy trust in them (which he means by lying with them in bed), and therefore let them show their power in thy deliverance." And thus he sends them, as it were, to suck water of hot burning coals.
It shall nothing excuse us to say, "We trust not in idols;" for so will every idolater allege. But if either you or they, in God's honour, do anything contrary to God's word, you show yourself to put your trust in somewhat else besides God, and so you are idolaters. Mark brethren, that many make an idol of their own wisdom and fantasy; more trusting to that which they think good, nor [than] unto God, who plainly says, "Not that thing which seemeth good in thy eyes, do unto thy God, but what thy Lord God hath commanded them" (Deut. 12:8, 31-32). But of this some other time, God willing, more shall be spoken.
Hereof I suppose it to be plain, that like as God is immutable, who by his law has not only forbidden all fellowship with idolaters, but straitly has commanded also, that vengeance and punishment be taken on them; and as the saints of God were inspired with the Holy Ghost, who so refused all idolatry, that they would not do so much honour unto idols, as once to speak favourably of them; and last, as the scriptures of God are infallible, which pronounce that God may not abide that our bodies serve the devil in joining ourselves with idolatry; so is it of mere necessity that both in body and soul we abstain from the same, if we will have the league to stand sure betwixt God and us.
I will not answer at this time to any such objections as men that seek to live as they list do now-a-days invent, seeing that partly in another letter I have answered the same. And if God shall grant me any rest in this wicked life, by one occasion or other, I purpose, by God's grace, fully to answer what can be said in their defence, which in very deed, when all is said that they can, they have said nothing that God will admit, unless they can persuade his Majesty to send down some new messengers to repel, retreat, and call back all that is spoken in his law and evangel.
But we proceed: it now rests to show, that true faith, and the confession of the same, necessarily require that the body and soul be clean from idolatry. It is not needful that I labour in the first, seeing that almost no man denies it. But a perfect faith, as it purges the heart, so does it remove, and cast out from the same, superstition and abominable idolatry. But whether an inward faith requires an external confession, and that the body avoid idolatry, some, perchance, may doubt. To the one part the apostle answers, saying, "The heart believes unto justice [righteousness], but by the mouth is confession unto salvation" (Rom. 10:10). And David likewise, "I have believed and therefore have I spoken; but I was sore troubled" (Ps. 116:10). As [if] David would say, "I could not conceal the confession of my faith, howbeit trouble did ensue the same." In this place, the voice of the Holy Spirit joins together faith [and confession] as things that are inseparable, the one from the other; and therefore I dare not take upon me to sever them. But [I] must say, that where true faith is, there is also confession of the same when time and necessity require; and that where confession is absent, there true faith is asleep, or else (which is more to be feared) far from home. For like as eating, drinking, speaking, moving, and other operations of a living body declare the body to be alive, and not to be dead; so does confession, in time convenient, declare the faith to be living. And as impotence to do any of the forenamed offices of the body declares the same either to be dead, or else shortly and assuredly to die; so, likewise, confession not given in due time makes manifest that the soul has no life by true faith.
But now it is to be considered, if this [present] time requires that we give confession of our faith, and that we abstain from manifest idolatry. Christ and his gospel are opposed, his holy sacraments are profaned; Christ's messengers are some exiled, some cruelly tormented in prison. Our adversaries, that long have fought against Christ, have now, as they think, gotten the upper hand. They oppose the doctrine that before we confessed to be Christ's truth; and for a seal of all abominations they have erected and set up that idol. What shall we do now, in this the battle for our Sovereign Lord? We are persuaded that all which our adversaries do is diabolical. Shall we now come into the open presence of the people, and do even as the rest do? God forbid! For so doing we declare ourselves to be of mind and opinion with them; for neither do feet, hands, nor mouth declare the contrary. The feet carry the body to serve an idol. The eye beholds it with a certain reverence. The tongue speaks nothing in the contrary; yea, the hands are extended in signification of humble obedience. What greater signs can we give, that we have refused the fellowship of God, and have shaken hands with the devil? that we are empty and void of faith, and that we are replenished with the bitter gall of incredulity? Assuredly, I can perceive none greater, nor more evident.
But let me have no credit in this behalf, unless the same is proven by manifest plain demonstration of God's word. The Lord our God, by his prophet Isaiah, says to his people of Israel (and this is also answer to the second question, "If I may do as the world does, and yet have faith?"), "Ye are my witnesses, whether there be any God, but I alone. Is there any creature that I should not know him?" (Isa. 43:10). These words were spoken, as it were, to make a witness to rebuke idolatry and the vain inventors of the same. As [though] the Lord would say, "Thou house of Jacob, and ye the natural children descending of Abraham: ye are my people whom peculiarly I have chosen, by you to show to the world the greatness of my name. And to that end, I have spoken unto you things hidden from the beginning, that ye may understand and know that there is no knowledge but in me alone. And therefore I will, that ye, persuaded of my power and wisdom, testify and bear witness of the same to such as have not like understanding with you."
Hereof it is plain, that of such as to whom God grants knowledge, he requires a confession to provoke the ignorant to embrace God and his word, or at the least to show them their vanity and blind foolishness. For so zealous is God over his gifts, that if we labour not to employ them to the glory of God, and to the profit of others, his creatures, he will, according unto the threatening of Jesus Christ, take the talent from us, and will give it to him that will labour thereupon (Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27). Some perchance would gladly labour, but they see not what fruit shall succeed, and therefore they judge [it is] better to cease; even as though God could bring forth no fruit except he made us first of counsel. Neither yet shall it excuse us to allege that we can see no such fruit that our confession shall bring forth. Consider, dear brethren, that God is to be obeyed in his commandments, and the fruit and success is to be committed to him, whose wisdom is unsearchable. He commands us to refrain from idolatry. This precept ought we to obey, albeit the present death should follow; for we are called as witnesses betwixt God and the blind world, as it is before said, "Israel, thou art my witness" (Isa. 43:10).
The question and debate stands yet undecided nor resolved, whether the Mass is God's true service, or is it idolatry? In this question or controversy we, to whom God has revealed his truth, are called for witnesses. When we crouch and kneel, when we beck and when we bow, and finally, when we give and it were but [only] our presence before that idol, what witness bear we? Assuredly false witness against God and against our neighbour: against God, insofar as we honour an idol with our bodily presence, which is no small derogation to his glory in this time of his battle; against our neighbour, for that we confirm ignorant [men] in error, to both our condemnation. But when we abstain from all fellowship of idolatry, whatever ensues thereupon, we bear true witnessing, and do our duty to God's glory. And therefore of necessity shall fruit ensue, how inapparent soever it be to us.
Let no man judge that I am more rigourous and severe in requiring that we abstain from all idolatry nor [than] necessity requires. No, brethren, I have learned always to contain and keep my affirmation within the bounds of God's scriptures. And that shall Jeremiah the prophet witness who, when writing to them that either then were prisoners in Babylon, or else that shortly should be prisoners for their offences to whom the prophet gives his counsel and exhortation after he had forbidden them in any wise to follow the vain religion of that people, by many reasons proving that their idols were no gods: at the last he says, "Ye shall say to them, 'The gods that made neither heaven nor earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heaven'" (Jer. 10:11).
Here is to be observed, as that singular instrument of God, John Calvin, most diligently notes, that the rest of the prophet's works were written in the Hebrew tongue, which then was peculiar to the Jews. But these verses and words, above rehearsed, were written in the Chaldean tongue: in the tongue of that people amongst whom they were to suffer trouble. As that the prophet would constrain them to change their natural tongue, and in plain words declare the hatred and alienation which they had against all idols and worshipping of false gods. Consider, dear brethren, what God requires by his prophet, of his people, when they were in the midst of their enemies who were idolaters. Will he not require the same of us, being in our own country, and amongst such as should be Christians? If he is immutable, he must require the same.
I beseech you, brethren, mark well the words of the prophet. He says not, "Ye may think in your hearts that they are vain, and that they shall perish;" but "ye shall say it," and that shall you do, not privily, but openly to them that put their trust in such vanity; as did the three children, denying boldly in the presence of a king (when a fearful death was prepared) to give the reverence of their bodies before any idol (Dan. 7-9). And, also, Daniel would not keep secret the confession of his faith only thirty days (as in my other letter I have more plainly spoken), but [he] openly prayed, his windows open, and his face turned toward Jerusalem; declaring thereby that the king's laws and commandment, devised by his nobles, were wicked, and therefore they were not to be obeyed, but boldly to be contemned of all such as had faith towards God. And this he did not without great appearance of damage and trouble to follow: as if any of us should openly take that idol most abominable of all others, that now, alas, is worshipped by the blind world, and tread it under our feet, in presence of wicked Winchester and his fellow messengers and servants of the devil.
Hereof it is plain, that requiring you not to profane your bodies with idolatry, I require no more nor [than] God's most sacred scriptures, by plain precepts and examples, teach unto us. And of every man, and at all times, I require not so much, for I constrain no man to go to idolaters in the time of their idolatry, and to say, "Your gods made neither heaven nor earth, and therefore shall they perish, and you with them, for all your worshipping is abominable idolatry." But I require only that we absent our bodies (called by the apostle, the temple of the Holy Ghost, 1 Cor. 6:19) from all such diabolical conventions; which, if we do, is both profitable and necessary, no less to ourselves than to our posterity, of whom now at the end must we speak somewhat.
Every man that is not degenerated to the nature of brute beasts, will appear to bear such love to his children that, to leave them riches, in felicity, and in good estate, he will patiently suffer troubles, and will do many things for the weal [welfare] of his children, that otherwise were contrary to his pleasure. And I wish to God that the perfection of this love were more deeply grounded in man's heart: I mean true love (1 Cor. 13), and not fond foolishness, which under the name of love procures destruction of body and soul; whereas, by the contrary, true and perfect love most carefully labours for the salvation of both. If this love, I say, towards our children and posterity to come, which every man pretends to have, be in us, then of necessity it is that, for these causes, we avoid all society and fellowship with those filthy abominations.
This, my affection, may appear strange, but if it be with indifference [impartiality] perceived, it shall be very easy to be understood. The only way to leave our children blessed and happy is to leave them rightly instructed in God's true religion. For what avails all that is in the earth, if perpetual condemnation follows death yea, and God's vengeance also goes before the same? as of necessity they must where true knowledge of God is absent. And therefore God straitly commands the fathers to teach their sons the laws, ceremonies, and rites. And unto Abraham he opened the secret of his counsel touching the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah: "Because," says the Lord, "I know that Abraham will teach his children, that they fear my name" (Gen. 18:19). Then God would that the life and conversation of the fathers should be a schoolmaster to the children. Plain it is, that the true knowledge of God is not born with man, neither yet comes it unto him by natural power, but he must have schoolmasters to train him up in that which he lacks. The chief schoolmasters (the Holy Ghost excepted) of the age following are the works, practices, and life of the forefathers. And experience does so teach us, that the children are so bound and addicted to the works and practices of their fathers (and especially if it is in idolatry), that scarcely can the power of God, speaking by his own word (as the prophets oft complain), reave or pluck any back from their fathers' footsteps.
Now, if you, altogether refusing God, stoop under idolatry, what schoolmasters are you to your posterity? Assuredly even such as the evil and foolish fathers, that consenting to Jeroboam and to his idolatry, left to their children a pattern of perdition (1 Kings 12:25-33). What image [do] you show to your children; yea, in what estate [do] you leave them, both touching body and soul? Blinded in idolatry (alas, I fear and tremble to pronounce it), and bound slaves to the devil, without hope of redemption, or light to be received, before God takes vengeance upon their disobedience!
"Tusch," some will object, "The Lord knows his own." True it is; but his ordinary means appointed by his eternal wisdom, to retain in memory his benefits and graces received, are nowise to be contemned. God commands you to teach your children his laws, statutes, and ceremonies, that they likewise may teach the same to the generations following. This his precept is to be obeyed, not only for the love of the children (which greatly ought to move you), but also for the reverence you owe to God's high majesty; whose precepts, if you contemn, you and your posterity, to the third and fourth generation, shall be plagued, and shall lack the light of life everlasting.
But yet will some object, "What taught our fathers to us?" O, dear brethren, be not so ungrateful and unthankful to God, neither yet would I that you should flatter yourselves, thinking that such a trumpet shall be blown to your posterity as has been blown unto you. If all come to close sickness, as the messengers of the Lord found the beginning of this our age, when the whole realm of England was drowned in so deadly a sleep, that the sound of the Lord's trumpet was not understood; while first the most part of the blowers gave their blood in a testimony that their doctrine was the same, which by blood was planted, by blood was kept in mind, and by blood did increase and fructify.
But, think you, will the Lord have his messengers to fight alone; or will he bestow such abundance of blood upon your children to encourage them, as he did upon you, for your instruction and encouragement, if you all so traitorously flee from him in this day of his battle? The contrary is to be feared.
Oft revolving how God has used my tongue (my tongue, I say, the most wicked as of myself), plainly to speak the troubles that are come, a certain admonition oft occurs to my mind, that God would I should commonly use in all congregations. The admonition was this: that the last trumpet was then in blowing within the realm of England, and therefore every man ought to prepare himself for battle. For if the trumpet should altogether cease, and be put to silence, then should it never blow again, with the like force, within the said realm, till the coming of the Lord Jesus. Oh, dear brethren! how sorely these threatenings pierce my own heart this day, only God knows. And in what anguish of heart I write the same unto you, God shall declare when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed. I wish myself to be accursed of God, as touching all earthly pleasures or comforts, for one year of that time which, alas! neither you nor I (God be merciful to us!) did righteously esteem when all abounded with us. I sob and groan, I call and pray, that in that point I may be deceived. But I am commanded to stand content, for it is God himself that performs the words of his own true messengers. His justice and order cannot be perverted.
The sun keeps its ordinary course, and starts not back from the west to the south; but when it goes down, we lack the light of the same, till it rises the next day towards the east again. And so is it with the light of the gospel, which has its day appointed wherein it shines to realms and nations; if it be contemned, darkness suddenly follows, as Christ himself in his exhortation does witness, saying, "While ye have the light, believe in the light, that darkness apprehend you not. Walk while ye have the light" (John 12:35-36). And Paul says (Rom. 13:12), "The night is passed, and the day is come" (meaning the gospel); and also, "This day if ye hear his voice, harden not your hearts" (Heb. 3:15); and in diverse other places, the time of the gospel offered is called the day. And albeit "this day" is all time from Christ's incarnation or ascension to the heavens in his human nature till his last gaincoming, yet it is evident that all nations at once, neither have had, neither perfectly have, the light of God's word offered and truly preached unto them. But some were and yet remain in darkness, when some others had the light plainly shining, as God by his eternal wisdom has appointed the times. But, be the contrary, most evident it is, that where the light of God's word, for the unthankfulness of men, has been taken away, there it is not to this day restored again. Witness whole [all] Israel, and all the countries of the Gentiles where the apostles first preached. What is in Asia? Ignorance of God. What in Africa? Abnegation [rejecting] of the very Saviour, of our Lord Jesus Christ. What [is there] in those most notable churches of the Greeks, where Christ Jesus was planted by Paul, and long after watered by others? Mohammed and his false sect. Yea, and what is in Rome? The greatest idol of all others: that adversary, that man of sin (extolled above all that is called God) who, under the name of Christ, most cruelly persecutes true members.
Mark, brethren: Has God punished the nations forenamed, before us? Not only the first offenders, but even their posterity to this day. And shall he spare us, if we are like unthankful as they were; yea, if we are worse than they were? For of them no small number suffered persecution, banishment, slander, poverty, and finally the death, for the profession of Christ (who, having only the knowledge that idols were odious before God, could neither for loss of temporal goods, for honours offered if they would obey, nor yet for the most cruel torments suffered in resisting, be persuaded to bow before idols). And, alas! shall we, after so many graces that God has offered in our days, for pleasure or for vain threatening of them whom our hearts know and our mouths have confessed to be odious idolaters, altogether without resistance, turn back to our vomit and damnable idolatry, to the perdition of ourselves and of our posterity to come? O! horrible to be heard! Shall God's holy precepts work no godlier obedience in us? Shall nature no otherwise mollify our hearts? Shall not fatherly pity overturn this cruelty?
I speak to you, O natural fathers: Behold your children with the eye of mercy, and consider the end of their creation. Cruelty it were to save yourselves, and damn them! But O, more than cruelty and madness that cannot be expressed, if, for the pleasure of a moment, you deprive yourselves and your posterity of that eternal joy that is ordained for them that continue in confession of Christ's name to the end, which assuredly you do if, without resistance altogether, you return to idolatry again. If natural love, fatherly affection, reverence of God, fear of torment, or yet hope of life move you, then will you gainstand that abominable idol; which if you do not, then, alas! the sun is gone down and the light is quite lost, the trumpet is ceased, and idolatry is placed in quietness and rest. But if God shall strengthen you (as unfeignedly I pray that his Majesty may), then there is but a dark misty cloud overspread the sun for a moment, which shortly shall vanish, so that the beams afterwards shall be sevenfold more bright and amiable nor [than] they were before. Your patience and constancy shall be a louder trumpet to your posterity, than were all the voices of the prophets that instructed you; and so is not the trumpet ceased so long as any boldly resists idolatry.
And, therefore, for the tender mercies of God, arm yourselves to stand with Christ in this his short battle. Flee from that abominable idol, the maintainers whereof shall not escape the vengeance of God. Let it be known to your posterity that you were Christians and not idolaters; that you learned Christ in time of rest, and boldly professed him in time of trouble. Think you these precepts are sharp and hard to be observed? And yet again I affirm, that compared with the plagues that assuredly shall fall upon obstinate idolaters, they shall be found easy and light. For avoiding of idolatry you may perchance be compelled to leave your native country and realm; but obeyers of idolatry, without end, shall be compelled, body and soul, to burn in hell. For avoiding idolatry, your substance shall be spoiled; but for obeying idolatry, heavenly riches shall be lost. For avoiding of idolatry you may fall in the hands of earthly tyrants; but obeyers, maintainers, and consenters to idolatry shall not escape the hands of the living God. For avoiding idolatry, your children shall be deprived of father, of friends, riches, and of earthly rest; but by obeying idolatry they shall be left without the knowledge of his word, and without hope of his kingdom.
Consider, dear brethren, how much more dolorous and fearful it is to be tormented in hell, than to suffer trouble in earth; to be deprived of heavenly joy, than to be robbed of transitory riches; to fall into the hands of the living God, than to obey man's vain and uncertain displeasure; to leave our children destitute of God, than to leave them unprovided before the world. So much more fearful is it to obey idolatry, or by dissembling to consent to the same, than by avoiding and fleeing from the abomination, to suffer what inconveniences may follow thereupon by man's tyranny. For the extremity of the one is but transitory pain, and the most easy of the other is to suffer in the fire that never shall have end.
I am not prejudicial to God's mercies, as that such as shall repent shall not find grace. No, brethren, this I most assuredly know: in whatsoever hour a sinner shall repent, God shall not remember one of his iniquities; but albeit his offences were as red as scarlet, yet shall they be made as white as snow; and albeit in multitude they were past all number, yet so shall they be blotted out, that none of them shall appear to the condemnation of the truly penitent (Ezek. 18:21-22, 27-28; 33:14-16; Isa. 1:18). For such is his promise, that none truly believing in Christ Jesus shall enter into judgment; for the blood of Christ Jesus, his Son, purges them from all sin, so that how far the heaven is distant from the earth, so far does he remove the sins from the penitent (John 3:18, 36; 5:24; 1 John 1:7; Ps. 103:11-12).
But consider, dear brethren, that these and the like promises (that are infallible), are made to penitent sinners, and do nothing appertain to profane persons, idolaters, nor to fearful shrinkers from the truth for fear of worldly troubles, or to such as always contemn God's admonitions. And if any allege that God may call them to repentance, how profane and wicked that ever men be: I answer, that I acknowledge and confess God's omnipotence to be so free, that he may do what pleases his wisdom; but yet is not bound to all that our fantasy requires. And likewise I acknowledge that God is so loving and so kind to such as fear him, that he will perform [perfect] their wills and pleasure, although kings and princes had sworn to the contrary. And so there is no doubt but God may call to repentance.
But this is greatly to be doubted, whether, if such as for pleasure of men, or for avoiding temporal punishment, defile themselves with idolatry, fear God? And whether they which all their lives deny Christ, by consenting to idolatry, shall, at the last hour, be called to repentance. No such promise have we within the scriptures of God, but rather the express contrary. And therefore God is not to be tempted, but is to be heard, feared, and obeyed, when he calls us earnestly, and threatens not without cause. "Flee from idolatry; pass from the midst of them, O my people, that ye be not partakers of their plagues" (Rev. 18:4). And that is meant of that abominable whore and of her abomination. "How long will ye halt on both parts?" (1 Kings 18:21). "Ye may not be partakers of the Lord's cup and of the cup of devils" (1 Cor. 10:21). "He that denies me before men, I will deny him before my Father" (Matt. 10:33). "He that refuseth not himself, and takes not up his cross and follows me, is not worthy of me" (Matt. 10:38). "No man putting his hand to the plow, and looking backward, is worthy of the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). And Paul to the Hebrews only means of this sin, when he says, that such as willingly sins after the knowledge of the truth, cannot be renewed again by repentance (Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26-31).
O, dear brethren, remember the dignity of our vocation [calling]: You have followed Christ. You have proclaimed war against idolatry. You have laid hand upon the truth, and have communicated at the Lord's table. Will you now suddenly slide back? Will you refuse Christ and his truth, and make pact with the devil and his deceitful doctrine? Will you tread the most precious blood of Christ's testament under your feet and set up an idol before the people? Which things assuredly you do, as oft as ever you present your bodies amongst idolaters before that blasphemous idol. God, the Father of all mercies, for Christ his Son's sake, preserve you from that sore temptation, whose dolours and dangers very sorrow will not suffer me to express. Alas, brethren, it is to be feared, that if you fall once asleep, you lie too long before you are awakened.
But yet some will object, "Peter the denier obtained mercy." To whom I answer: particular examples make no common law, neither yet is there any resemblance or likeness betwixt the fall of Peter and our daily idolatry. Peter, upon a sudden, without any former purpose, within a short space, thrice denied Christ; we, upon determinate purpose and advised mind, [would] deny Christ daily. Peter had Christ's assurance and promise, that after his denial he should be converted; we have Christ's threatenings that, if we deny, we shall be denied. Peter in the midst of men of war, following Christ to the bishop's house, committed his offence for fear of present death; we, in our own households and cities, seeking the world, do no less, only for fear to lose wicked mammon. Peter, at the warning of the cock, and at Christ's look, left the company that provoked his sin; we, after Christ's admonition, yea, after gentle exhortations and fearful threatenings, obstinately will continue in the midst of idolatry; and, for their pleasure, denying Christ Jesus, we will haunt and frequent abominable idolatry.
What resemblance or likelihood can now be found betwixt the fall of Peter and our daily idolatry, let every man judge. But much I wonder that men can espy so narrowly shifts, as to seek with their father (old Adam) the shadow of a bush to hide themselves from God's presence; that also they cannot espy that Judas was an apostle, in presence of men sometimes of no less authority and estimation than Peter was; that Cain was the first-born in the world; that Saul was the first anointed king over God's people, by the hand of the prophet, at God's commandment (1 Sam. 10:1); and that Ahithophel was a man of such singular wisdom, that his counsel was held as the oracle of God (2 Sam. 16); and yet none of these found place of repentance (2 Sam. 1). And have we any other assurances and particular warrants within the scriptures of God than they had, that all our life we may be in league with the devil, and then at our pleasure we may lay hand upon Christ Jesus and, when we list, clothe us with his justice?
Be not deceived, beloved brethren, for albeit most true it is, that whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Joel 2:32; Rom. 10:9-13); yet like true it is, that whosoever calls upon the name of the Son, shall avoid and eschew all manifest iniquity (2 Tim. 2:19); and that whosoever continues obstinately in iniquity, the same man calls not upon the name of the Lord, neither yet has God any respect to his prayer (Job 9:16; 35:12-13). And greater iniquity was never from the beginning than is contained in worshipping of an abominable idol; for it is the seal of the league which the devil has made with the pestilent sons of Antichrist, and is the very chief cause why the blood of God's saints has been shed near the space of a thousand years: for almost so long has it been in devising and in decking with that whorish garment, wherein now it triumphs against Christ, against the holy institution of his last Supper, against that only one sacrifice acceptable for the sins of all faithful believers. Which whole mass of iniquity you confirm, and in a manner subscribe with your hand, showing yourselves also consenting to the blood-shedding of all them that have suffered for speaking against that abomination, as oft as you ever decor that idol with your presence. And therefore avoid it, as that you will be partakers with Christ, with whom you have sworn to die and live in baptism and in his holy Supper. Shame it were to break promise to men. But is it not more shame to break it unto God? Foolishness it were to leave that king whose victory you saw present, and to take part with him whom you understood and perceived to be so vanquished, that neither might he gainstand, nor yet abide the coming of his adversary.
O brethren, is not the devil, the prince of this world, vanquished and cast out (John 12:31)? Has not Christ Jesus, for whom we suffer, made conquest of him? Has he not in despite of Satan's malice carried our flesh up to glory (Acts 1:9)? And shall not our Champion return? We know that he shall, and that with expedition; when Satan and his adherents, idolaters, and the worshippers of that blasphemous beast, filthy persons, and fearful shrinkers from the truth of God, shall be cast in the lake burning with fire which never shall be quenched (Rev. 20). But, in the meantime, you fear corporeal death. If nature admitted any man to live for ever, then had your fear some appearance of reason. But if corporeal death is common to all, why will you jeopardize to lose eternal life, to decline and escape that which neither rich nor poor, neither wise nor ignorant, proud of stomach nor feeble of courage, and, finally, no earthly creature, by no [any] craft or engine of man, did ever avoid? If any escaped the ugly face and horrible fear of death, it was they that boldly confessed Christ before men.
But yet the flesh grudges (you say) for fear of pain and torment. Let it do its own nature and office; for so must it do, while it is burdened with Christ's cross; and then, no doubt, God shall send comfort, that now we neither can feel nor understand. But why ought the way of life to be so fearful by reason of any pain, considering that a great number of our brethren have passed before us by like dangers as we fear? A stout and prudent mariner, in time of tempest, seeing but one or two ships, or vessels like to his, pass through any danger, and win a sure harbour, will have good esperance [hope] by the like wind to do the same. Alas! shall you be more fearful to win life eternal than the natural man is to have the corporeal life? Have not the most part of the saints of God, from the beginning, entered into their rest by torment and troubles? Of whom, as Paul witnesses, some were racked, some hewn asunder, some slain with swords; some walked up and down in sheep skins, in need, tribulation, and vexation in mountains, dens, and in caves of the earth (Heb. 11)! And in all their extremities, what complaints hear we of their mouths, except it be that they lament the blindness of the world, and the perdition of their persecutors? Did God comfort them, and shall his Majesty despise us, if in fighting against iniquity we will follow their footsteps? He will not, for he has promised the contrary; and therefore, be of good courage; the way is not so dangerous as it appears. Prepare in time and determine with yourselves to abide with Christ Jesus, and his cross shall never oppress you as presently you fear.
And, therefore, dearly beloved in our Saviour Jesus Christ, as you purpose to avoid the grievous vengeance to come, that shortly and assuredly shall strike all obstinate idolaters; as you would have the league betwixt God and you to stand sure and inviolate; and as you will declare yourselves to have true faith, without which no man ever shall enter into life; and finally, and as you would leave the true knowledge of God in possession to your children; avoid all idolatry and all participation thereof, for it is so odious before God's presence, that not only does he punish the inventors and first offenders, but oftentimes their posterity are stricken with blindness and deadness of mind (Deut. 23:2-6). The battle shall appear strong, which you are to suffer, but the Lord himself shall be your comfort. Flee from idolatry, and stand with Christ Jesus in this day of his battle, which shall be short and the victory everlasting! For the Lord himself shall come in our defence with his mighty power; he shall give us the victory when the battle is most strong; and he shall turn our tears into everlasting joy. He shall consume our enemies with the breath of his mouth, and shall let us see the destruction of them that now are most proud, and that most pretend to molest us. From God alone we abide redemption (Zech. 2; Ps. 46, 57, 61; Rev. 7, 22; Ps. 55).
The God of all comfort and consolation, for Christ Jesus his Son's sake, grant that this my simple and plain admonition (yea, rather the warning of the Holy Ghost) may be received and accepted of you, with no less fear and obedience than I have written it unto you with unfeigned love and sorrowful heart. And then I doubt not but both you and I shall be comforted, when all such as now molest us shall tremble and shake, by the coming of our Lord Jesus: whose omnipotent Spirit keep you undefiled, body and soul, to the end. Amen.
The peace of God rest with you all. From a sorely troubled heart, upon my departure from Dieppe, 1553, whither God knows. In God is my trust, through Jesus Christ his Son, and therefore I fear not the tyranny of man, neither yet what the devil can invent against me. Rejoice you faithful, for in joy shall we meet where death may not sever us.
Your brother in the Lord,
1. Marginal note: The sum of the admonition
2. Marginal note: To flee idolatry is profitable and necessary
3. Marginal note: Division of profit
4. Marginal note: Corporeal commodity
5. Marginal note: The joy of the soul
6. This fatal and infectuous disease was prevalent in England during the reign of Edward VI. [D.L.]
7. Marginal note: Northumberland
8. John Dudley, Earl of Warwick and Duke of Northumberland, deceived by hopes of pardon, professed himself to be a Papist at the time of his death, 22nd August 1553. [D.L.]
9. Marginal note: The justice of God
10. Marginal note: England sinful
11. Marginal note: Note well
12. Marginal note: The offences of Judah before the captivity
13. Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, and Lord Chancellor of England. He died in November 1555. [D.L.]
14. Marginal note: Hearken England
15. Marginal note: Comparison betwixt England and Judah before the destruction.
16. Marginal note: King Edward VI
17. Marginal note: Witness certain ballads
18. In speaking of Lent, Knox was merely using common parlance, without implying his approval. When Knox led reform in Scotland, the ecclesiastical festivals and observances of the liturgical year were abolished. (See the First Book of Discipline, "Explication" of the First Head of Doctrine.) Cf. p. 149 above, where Knox refers to "the day of All Saints (as they call it)." Also cf. p. 295ff. below.
19. Marginal note: Master Grindal
20. Edmund Grindal (1519-83). Archbishop of Canterbury from 1576.
21. Marginal note: Master Lever
22. Thomas Lever (d. 1577), one of the king's chaplains. On the accession of Mary, he left England and went to the Continent.
23. Marginal note: Master Bradford
24. John Bradford (1510-55). At this time, Bradford was in prison. He was burned to death during the reign of Bloody Mary.
25. Edward Seymour (c. 1506-52). "Earl of Hertford and Duke of Somerset, uncle of Edward vi, was executed on 22 January 1552." [D.L.]
26. Marginal note: Master Haddon
27. Dr. Walter Haddon was, for a brief time, President of Magdalene College, Oxford.
28. Placebo: Of pleasing men. From the Latin, "I will please," applied to designate a parasite. [Cited by D.L. from Jamieson's Dictionary.]
29. Marginal note: Advert England, this did Judah
30. Marginal note: Winchester
31. Marginal note: Jeremiah
32. Marginal note: Who would not have called the prophet a traitor?
33. Marginal note: Jeremiah's counsel to the people treason against the king
34. Marginal note: The crimes laid against Jerusalem
35. Marginal note: Difference betwixt Judah and England
36. Marginal note: England worse than Judah
37. Marginal note: Wherein Judah was better than England is now
38. Marginal note: Causes
39. Marginal note: Who consents
40. Marginal note: What we do when we join ourselves with idolaters
41. Marginal note: Note well this lesson
42. Marginal note: Note well
43. Marginal note: Mark well what God commands should be done to all idolaters
44. Marginal note: Drawers of men from God are of the devil's nature
45. Marginal note: Question
46. Marginal note: Answer
47. Marginal note: Shift-makers are double dissemblers
48. Marginal note: What league between us and God requires
49. Marginal note: Note well
50. Marginal note: Trusting in man's wisdom is idolatry
51. Marginal note: Mark
52. Marginal note: By frequenting of idolatry men show themselves to have no faith
53. Marginal note: Whether this time requires confession of our faith
54. Marginal note: The Mass
55. Marginal note: Note
56. Marginal note: A good lesson to be followed
57. Marginal note: Why we should abstain from idolatry
58. Marginal note: Note
59. Marginal note: The Mass is abominable idolatry
60. Marginal note: The prophet constrains the Jews to declare their confession against idols, and that changing their natural tongue
61. Marginal note: Note you fathers
62. Marginal note: Note
63. Marginal note: The true knowledge of God is not born with man
64. Marginal note: Note and despise not
65. Marginal note: Evasion
66. Marginal note: Answer
67. Marginal note: Note
68. Marginal note: Note
69. Marginal note: Fearful is the expectation
70. Marginal note: Note
71. Marginal note: God grant you may understand
72. Marginal note: The objection of the flesh
73. Marginal note: Answer
74. Marginal note: Note
75. Marginal note: Note
76. Marginal note: Note
77. Marginal note: The Mass the Devil's sacrament
78. Marginal note: Note
79. Marginal note: Come, Lord Jesus
80. Marginal note: Foolish fear
81. Marginal note: The flesh can do nothing but grudge
82. Marginal note: Others before us have passed to life by torment
Copyright © 1995 by Kevin Reed
Presbyterian Heritage Publications
P.O. Box 180922
Dallas, Texas 75218
This edition has been edited to reflect contemporary spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Bracketed words are supplied where needed to complete the sense of a sentence. Bracketed words in italics are inserted following some antiquated terms or phrases as a convenience to the modern reader. Therefore, the words in brackets are not a part of the original text.
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