A Short Treatise of Political Power, and of the True Obedience which Subjects Owe to Kings and Other Civil Governors, with an Exhortation to all True Natural English Men,
compiled by Dr. John Ponet. Trans. by D.R.M.S.
A Short Treatise on Political Power by John Ponet was written in 1556 in response to current corruption in society, government, and church, the last two of which were at that time generally connected. This translation is primarily a modernization of spelling and type characters, although some syntax is updated as well. Short aside passages not pertinent to the topic and needlessly offensive to modern readers were omitted so as not to distract from the meaning. The original was published under conditions of severe persecution toward those who stood for truth and uprightness and thus the author’s name was encrypted in initials. The current translator is identified in that tradition.
Whether Kings, princes, and other political governors be subject to God’s laws, and the positive laws of their countries.
He who notes the proceedings of princes and governors in these our days, how ambitious they are to usurp other’s dominions, and how negligent they be to see their own well governed, might think that they believe that either there is no God or that He has no care over the things of the world: or that they think themselves exempt from God’s laws and power. But the wonderful overthrow of their devices (when they think themselves most sure and certain) is so manifest, that it is not possible to deny, but that both there is a God, and that He has care over the things of the world. And His word is so plain, that none can gainsay, but that they should be subject and ought to be obedient to God’s laws and word. For the whole Decalog and every part thereof is as well written to kings, princes, and other public persons, as to private persons. A king may no more commit idolatry, than a private man: he may not take the name of God in vain, he may not break the Sabbath, no more than any private man. It is not lawful for him to disobey his parents, to kill any person contrary to the laws, to be a whoremonger, to steal, to lie and bear false witness, to desire and covet any man’s house, wife, servant, maid, ox, ass, or anything that is another’s, more than any other private man. No, he is bound and charged under greater pains to keep them than any other, because he is both a private man in respect of his own person, and a public in respect of his office, which may appear in a great many of places whereof part I will recite. The Holy Ghost by the mouth of a king and prophet, says, “And now you kings understand, be you learned that judge the earth. Serve the Lord in fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son,” that is, receive with honor, ” lest the Lord be angry, and you lose the way, when His wrath shall in a moment be kindled.” And in another place thus, ” The Lord upon your right hand shall smite and break in pieces even kings in the day of His wrath.” Isaiah the prophet also said, “The Lord shall come to judgment against the princes and elders of the people.” Likewise the prophet Micah said speaking to all princes and governors under the heads of the house of Jacob, and leaders of the house of Israel, “Hear you princes and governors, should you not know what is lawful and right? But you hate the good, and love the evil, you pluck off men’s skins, and the flesh from their bones: you chop them in pieces, as it were in to a caldron, and as flesh into a pot. Now the time shall come, that when you call to the Lord, He shall not hear you, but hide His face from you, because through your own imaginations you have dealt so wickedly.” And again he said, ” O hear you rulers and governors, you that abhor the thing that is lawful, and distort the thing that is straight: you that build up Zion with blood, your majesty and tyranny with doing wrong,” for so may Zion and Jerusalem be well expounded, ” O you judges, you give sentence for gifts: O you priests, you teach for lucre: O you prophets, you prophesy for money: yet will they be taken as those that hold upon God, and say: is not the Lord among us? How can then any misfortune happen to us? But Zion (that is, your cities) for your sakes shall be plowed like a field: and Jerusalem (that is, your palaces) shall become a heap of stones, and the hill of the temple (that is, your monasteries, friaries, and chantries ) shall become a high wood.” The Holy Ghost also by the mouth of King Solomon said, ” Hear O you kings, and understand. Learn that you are judges of the end of the earth. Give care that you rule the multitudes, and delight in much people. For the power is given to you of the Lord, and the strength from the Highest, who shall try your works, and search out your imaginations, how that you being officers of His kingdom have not kept the law of righteousness nor walked after His will. Horribly and that Son shall he appear to you, for unto the most high, He will execute most severe judgment. Mercy is granted unto the simple, but they that be in authority, shall be sorely punished. For God which is Lord over all, shall except no man’s person, neither shall He regard any man’s greatness for He has made the small and the great and cares for all alike, but the mighty shall have the sorer punishment. To you therefore (O princes) do I speak, that you may learn wisdom, and not offend.”
These sayings need no particular examples to confirm them, but look on all governors and rulers named in the Holy Bible, or in any other history: and among all you will find, that none have escaped God’s punishment, but always their iniquity has been plagued in themselves or their posterity.
The cause and manner of King Saul’s punishment and extinguishing of his posterity, is more commonly known, than needs any rehearsal. Rehoboam because he would reign as a tyrant and not be subject to law nor counsel, had 10 tribes of His kingdom taken from him, and given to Jeroboam: who also did not content himself to be subject to God’s written word and law, but fell to his own idolatrous inventions, and caused his subjects to follow his proceedings: was so stripped from the inheritance of his crown, that his seed was utterly rooted out.
The end of Ahab and Jezebel is well enough understood. And King Joram for his stout striving against God’s laws and order of his country was sorely stricken of the Lord with horrible diseases, that at length his guts for extreme anguish flew out of his belly. But why do I bring out particular examples of God’s plagues and punishments upon kings and princes that would not be subject to God’s laws, and the laws of nature, seeing the whole body of the Bible, and writers of profane histories be full of them?
Therefore seeing no king or governor is exempted from the laws, hand, and power of God, but that he ought to fear and tremble at it, we may proceed to the other part of the question: that is, whether kings, princes, and other governors ought to be obedient and subject to the positive laws of their country. To discuss this question, the right way is as in all other things, to resort to the fountains and roots, and not to depend on the rivers and branches. For if men should admit that the church of Rome were the Catholic Church, and the pope the head of it, and God’s only vicar on earth, and not seek further how he comes by that authority: then could no man say, but that all his doings (were they never so wicked) should seem just: so if men should build upon the authority that kings and princes usurp over their subjects, and not seek from whence they have their authority, nor whether that which they use be just, there could be nothing produced to stop their cruel tyranny. But for as much as we see from whence all political power and authority comes, that is, from God: and why it was ordained, that is, to maintain justice: we ought (if we will judge rightly) by God’s word examine to try this matter.
St. Paul treating who should do obedience, and to whom obedience should be done, said, “Let every soul be subject to the powers that rule, for there is no power but of God.” There are those that would have this word, ” soul ,” taken for man, not as he consists of soul and body both together, but only of the flesh: and that so by the word ( soul ) should be understood only a worldly man, that is, a layman or a temporal man (as we term it) and not a spiritual man and a minister of the church. For the bishop of Rome, seeking for subjects to be under his kingdom, has taken for his subjects the clergy with tag and rag that to them belong: and had made laws, that they should be his subjects, obedient to him and not to the political power and authority, to which he leaves only the temporal men as subjects.
But in Scripture this word “soul” is taken for every kind of man, as may appear when it says that all the souls (that is, man and woman) that were in the ark with Noah were 8. And that all the souls of the house of Jacob which came into Egypt were 70. In which numbers it cannot be denied, but that there were as holy and as spiritual persons, as any are or were in the kingdom of the bishop of Rome. And Chrysostom (a priest) expounding this text (Let every soul be subject to the higher powers) says, “Yes, if you are an apostle, and evangelist, a prophet, or what ever you are : for this subjection does not destroy religion.” So that it cannot be denied, but by this word ” soul” is comprehended every person, and none excepted. Now touching this word “power”, some would have it interpreted for all those persons that execute justice, be he kaiser, king, mayor, sheriff, constable, or never so low: and some would have it to be interpreted only of kings and chief officers . But it is here to be taken for the ministry and authority, that all officers of justice do execute: and so it may appear by Christ’s own words, when He says, “The kings of the nations rule over them, and those that exercise authority or power, are called gracious benefactors, or well-doers .” For as all men and women that seem to live together in the holy ordinance of matrimony be not man and wife, for it may be that the man has another wife living, or the wife another husband, or that they came together not for the love of God only, and to avoid sin, but for sensuality, and to get riches, and so the ordinance itself is one thing, and the persons, that is the man and woman, another. Even so is the political power or authority being the ordinance and good gift of God one thing, and the person that executes the same (be he king or kaiser) another thing. The ordinance being godly, the man may be evil and not of God, nor come thereto by God, as the prophet Isaiah said, “They have made themselves a king, and not through Me: a prince, and not through My council and will.”
Neither is that power and authority which kings, princes, and other ministers of justice exercise, only, called a power. But also the authority that parents have over their children, and masters over their servants, is also called a power . And neither are the parents nor masters the power itself, but they are ministers and executors of the power being given to them by God. St. Paul in another place also plainly shows this, saying to Titus, “Warn them to be subject to the principalities and powers,” which some interpret princes and powers, to make a distinction between the minister and ministry. And it follows, “to obey the officers,” so that always the difference may be perceived. So that if by this word “soul” is meant every person spiritual and temporal, man and woman; and by this word “power” the authority that kings and princes execute, then cannot kings and princes but be contained under this general word “soul” as well as others. And they being but executors of God’s laws, and men’s just ordinances, are also not exempted from them, but are bound to be subject and obedient to them. For good and just laws of man are God’s power and ordinances, and they are but ministers of the laws, and not the laws themselves. And if they were exempt from the laws, and so it were lawful for them to do what they lust, their authority being of God, it might be said that God allowed their tyrannical robbery of their subjects, killing them without law, and thus, God, the author of evil, which is a great blasphemy. Justinian the emperor well considered, when he made this saying to be put into the body of the laws. It is a worthy saying (said he) for the majesty of him that is authority, to confess that the prince is subject to the laws. The authority of the prince does so much depend on the authority of the laws. And certainly it is more honor than the honor of the empire to submit the principality to the laws. For indeed laws are made, that the willful self-will of man should not rule, but that they should have a line to lead them, as they might not go out of the way of justice, and that (if any would say they did them wrong) they might allege the law for their warrant and authority. It is also a principal of all laws grounded on the laws nature, that every man should be obedient to that law that he wills others to be bound to. For otherwise he takes away that equality (for there is no difference between the head and foot, concerning the use and benefit of the laws) whereby commonwealths are maintained and kept up. What equality (I ask you) should there be, where the subject should do to his ruler all the ruler would, and the ruler to the subject, what the ruler lusted?
The good emperor Traianus (who for his just behavior the Senate of Rome took to be a god) being in possession of his office, and minding to show that he was not ordained to be a tyrant, but to see the people well governed, and that although he was the minister of the laws, yet he was subject to the laws, took a sword and gave it to the captain of the horsemen and said, “Take this sword. Use it for me against my enemies in just causes. And if I myself do not justly use it, then use it against me.”
Zaleuchus, the ruler and maker of laws to the Locrians, when he made the law that an adulterer should be punished with the loss of both his eyes, and his son had offended the same, although the people made great intercession that his pains might be pardoned him, he would not consent to it. But pulling out one of his sons eyes, to fulfill and keep the law, he suffered one of his own eyes also to be pulled out.
But you will say, “What have we to do with pagans? Why should we be ordered by pagans’ doings?” I answer that when pagans do by nature what you are bound also to do, not only by nature, but by the laws of God and man, such pagans shall rise in the universal judgment, to accuse you, and work your condemnation. The bishop of Rome’s laws (which although he uses not in himself, yet he will have them practiced in others) say thus, “It is requisite and just, that a prince obey his own laws. For then may he see that others shall keep his laws, when he himself has them in honor. Justice wills that princes be obedient and bound to their own laws, and that they can not in their own doings condemn those laws which they prescribe for others. The authority of their saying is just and indifferent, if they do not allow themselves to do that which they prohibit unto their people.” This says the bishop of Rome’s law. And upon this principle, in the great general counsel of Lateran, which Pope Innocent III held, it may seem it was ordained and decreed (as they say) that when kings and princes that acknowledge no superior, should fall out among themselves, or should misuse their power and authority over their subjects, that then the matter should be heard and corrected by the bishop of Rome.
But here it may be asked, “Who did this justice on kings and princes before that time, since it was but then committed to the bishop of Rome?” To that at this time we shall not need to answer, for we do not seek presently to know who should be judged, but only to declare and prove that kings and princes ought, both by God’s law, the law of nature, man’s laws, and good reason, to be obedient and subject to the positive laws of their country, and may not break them. And that they be not exempt from them, nor may dispense with them, unless the makers of the laws give them express authority to do so.
Who shall be the kings’ judges? Hereafter you will hear.
Whether It Be Lawful to Depose An Evil Governor, and Kill a Tyrant.
As there is no better nor happier commonwealth nor no greater blessing of God, than where one rules if he be a good, just, and godly man; so there is none worse nor none more miserable, nor greater plague of God, than where one rules that is evil, unjust, and ungodly. A good man, knowing that he or those by whom he claims was called to such office for his virtue, neglects utterly his own pleasure and profit to see the whole state well governed and the people defended from injuries. And he bestows all his study and labor to see his office well discharged. And as a good physician earnestly seeks the health of his patient and a ship master the wealth and safeguard of those he has in his ship, so does a good governor seek the wealth of those he rules. And therefore the people, feeling the benefit coming by good governors, used in time past, to call such good governors fathers, and gave them no less honor than children owe to their parents. An evil person coming to the government of any state either by usurpation, or by election, or by succession, utterly neglecting the cause for which kings, princes, and other governors in commonwealths are made (that is, the wealth of the people) seeks only and chiefly his own profit and pleasure. And as a sow coming into a fair garden roots up all the fair and sweet flowers and wholesome simples, leaving nothing behind but her own filthy dirt: so does an evil governor subvert the laws and orders, or make them to be wrenched or racked to serve his affections, that they can no longer do their office. He spoils the people of their goods, either by open violence, making his ministers take it from them without payment; or promising and never paying; or craftily under the name of loans, benevolences, contributions, and such-like gaily painted words; or for fear he gets out of their possession what they have, and never restores it. And when he has it, consumes it, not to the benefit and profit of the commonwealth, but on whores, whoremongers, dicing, carding, banking, unjust wars, and such like evils and mischiefs wherein he delights. He spoils and takes away from them their armor and harness, that they shall not be able to use any force to defend their right. And not contented to have brought them into such misery (to be sure of his state), seeks and takes all occasions to despoil them of their lives. If a man keep his house, and meddle in nothing, then it shall be said that he frets at the state. If he comes abroad and speaks to any other, it is further taken as a just conspiracy. If he says nothing, and shows a merry countenance, it is a token that he despises the government. If he looks sorrowfully, then he laments the state of his country. How many so ever be for any cause committed to prison are not only asked, but also are racked to show whether he be privy of their doings. If he departs, because he would live quietly, then he is proclaimed open enemy. To be short, there is no doing, no gesture, no behavior, no place to pursue or defend innocency against such a governor’s cruelty. But as a hunter makes wild beasts his prey, and uses toils, nets, snares, traps, dogs, ferrets, mining and digging the ground, guns, bows, spears, and all other instruments, engines, devices, subtleties, and means, whereby he may come by his prey: so does a wicked governor make the people his game and prey, and uses all kinds of subtleties, deceits, crafts, policies, force, violence, cruelty, and such like devilish ways, to spoil and destroy the people, that are committed to his charge. And when he is not able without most manifest cruelty to do by himself what he desires, then he feigns just causes to cast them into prison, where as the bear keepers muzzle the bears and tie them to the stakes while they are baited and killed by mastiffs and curres; so he keeps them in chains, while the bishops and his other tormentors and heretical inquistors do tear and devour them. Finally, he says and denies, he promises and breaks promises, he swears and forswears, and no other passes on God nor the devil (as the coming saying is) so he may bring to pass what he desires. Such an evil governor men properly call a tyrant.
Now as much as there is no express positive law for punishment of a tyrant among Christian men, the question is whether it is lawful to kill such a monster and cruel beast covered with the shape of a man.
And first for the better and more plain proof of this matter, the manifold and continual examples that have been from time to time of the deposing of kings and killing of tyrants, do most certainly confirm it to be most true, just, and consonant to God’s judgment. The history of kings in the Old Testament is full of it. And as Carnal Phoole truly cites, England lacks not the practice and experience of the same. For they deprived King Edward II because without law he killed his subjects, spoiled them of their goods, and wasted the treasure of the realm. And upon what just causes Richard II was thrust out, and Henry IV put in his place, I refer it to their own judgment. Denmark also now in our days nobly did the same act, when they deprived Christian the tyrant, and committed him to perpetual prison.
Zacharias the pope that invented first the lamps in the church, disposed Childeric III, King of France, because he was said to be a lecherous person, and an unprofitable governor of the realm, and forced him to be a monk, and made Pippin (father of Charles) King of France.
Pope Honorious (as you heard before) commanded that the King of Hungary should be deprived, because he diminished the rights of the crown; unless he repented, and undid all that he had done.
A certain King of Portugal was very negligent in his office. He consumed and wasted away the treasure of his realm. He oppressed his subjects, and misused them. Therefore Pope Innocent IV made the King’s brother, the Earl of Bologne, coadjutor to the King, gave him the whole charge of the realm, discharged the people of their oath to the King, and commanded them to be obedient to the King’s brother in all things, as king. But the pope’s learned council said that he ought to have been utterly deposed of the crown. These doings of popes I rehearse not as though their usurped authority were to be allowed, but so that you may see, that it is no new thing to depose evil kings and governors, and that those that have the just authority may, and ought for the like causes, do as they did. For although the authority of the pope is not lawful, yet the reason that moved them to do so is honest and just, and meet to be received and executed among reasonable creatures. And this law of nature to depose and punish wicked governors has not been only received and exercised in political matters, but also in the church. For the canonists (the pope’s own champions) grounding themselves upon this law of nature, say that popes who may be in deed (by their saying) the lieutenants of the devil, although they call themselves the vicars of God, may be deprived by the body of the Church. And so at one clap, at the council held at Constance in Germany, in the year of our Lord 1415, were three popes popped out of their places: Gregory, John, and Benet, and the fourth (called Martin V) chosen. Afterward in the Council of Basil was Pope Eugenius served with that sauce. For the unluckiness of the country the rest of popes have since refused that any general council should be kept in Germany, fearing lest they all, having deserved as much as the other four deposed, should have the like punishment. And thus they confirm their doings. If (say they) the pope had not a superior, he might, being allowed in his evil, bring the church to destruction. And therefore if he cannot otherwise be brought to amend himself, it is lawful to use the law of nature, that is, to remove him from his office. For he is no bishop or pope, that abuses his popedom and bishopric. An evil and unreformable prelate seems not to be ordained by the will of God, say the canonists, alleging the words of St. Jerome on the saying of the prophet Isaiah, that a prince or judge is not always ordained by God. And he brings for example King Saul, against whom God said, “Seeing the people have made themselves a king, and not a ruler by me, and not by my counsel,” and yet God had chosen Saul. But because he was not chosen according to the will of God, but according to the mind and desires of sinful people, God denied him to be ordained by His will or counsel. The canonists also say that although the popedom be by the law of God (as it is not in deed, says the truth) yet that this man or that, Paul or Julius, is pope by the act of man. For the Cardinals representing the universal church chose him. And therefore if he be not according to the will of God and for the wealth of the universal church, that is: if he be not one that seeks God’s glory and the wealth of Christ’s church, he may be justly deprived, because they erred in choosing him. And God seems not to be against putting out of such an evil person, but to favor and further it. For he said, “If the salt be unsavory, it is good for no use, but to be cast out, and trodden under foot of all men.” And again, “If your right eye offends you, pull it out and cast away. For it is better that one member perish, than that the whole body should be cast into hell.” And again say the canonists (the pope’s lawyers) in rehearsing Christ’s words, “If our eye, foot, or hand offend us, let it taken from the rest of the body. For it is better to lack members in this world, than that they should carry the rest of the body into hell. By salt, eye, foot, and hand, is understood the heads and rulers, and not the other members and subjects. And not only the heads and rulers in the church, but also in all policies and commonwealths.”
Now if it is lawful for the body of the church to depose and punish a pope, being the chief priest, anointed not on the arm or shoulder, as kings are, but on the head and hands, to declare a higher authority than kings have; nor crowned with a simple crown, as emperors and kings are, but with a triple crown, to show his regality and power above all others; how much more by like arguments, reasons, and authority, may emperors, kings, princes, and other governors abusing their office, be deposed and removed out of their places and offices by the body or state of the realm or commonwealth?
By this law and arguments of the canonists and example of deprivation of a pope, are all cloaks (wherewith popes, bishops, priest, kaisers, and kings use to defend their iniquity) utterly taken away. They say, “We are anointed. You may not touch us. We are only subject to God, and every man to us. God will have us reign to plague you people for your iniquity.
But here you see, the body of every state may (if it will), yes and ought to redress and correct the vices and heads of their governors. And as much as you have already seen, whereof political power and government grow, and the end whereunto it was ordained; and seeing it is before manifestly and sufficiently proved that kings and princes do not have an absolute power over their subjects; that they are and ought to be subject to the law of God, and the wholesome positive laws of their country; and that they may not lawfully take or use their subjects’ goods at their pleasure; the reasons, arguments, and law that serve for the deposing and displacing of an evil governor will do as much as for the proof, that it is lawful to kill a tyrant, if they may be indifferently heard. As God has ordained magistrates to hear and determine private men’s matters, and to punish their vices; so also He wills that the magistrates’ doings be called to account and reckoning, and their vices corrected and punished by the body of the whole congregation or commonwealth.
This is manifest by the memory of the ancient office of the High Constable of England, unto whose authority it pertained, not only to summon the King personally before the Parliament or other courts of judgment (to answer and receive according to justice) but also upon just occasion to commit him to the warden.
Kings, princes, and governors have their authority of the people, as all laws, usages and policies do declare and testify.
For in some places and countries they have more and greater authority, in some places less. And in some the people have not given this authority to any other, but retain and exercise it themselves. And is any man so unreasonable to deny that the whole may do as much as they have permitted one member to do? Or those that have appointed an office upon trust, have not authority upon just occasion (as the abuse of it ) to take away what they gave? All laws do agree, that man may revoke their proxies and letters of attorney, when it pleases them: much more when they see their proctors and attorneys abuse it.
But now to prove the later part of this question affirmatively, that is lawful to kill a tyrant: no man can deny but that the pagans (albeit they had not the right and perfect true knowledge of God) were endued with the knowledge of the law nature.
For it is no private law to a few or certain people, but common to all: not written in books, but grafted in the hearts of men: not made by man, but ordained of God: which we have not learned, received, or read, but have taken, sucked, and drawn it out of nature: whereunto we are not taught, but made: not instructed, but seasoned: and (as St. Paul said) man’s conscience bearing witness of it.
This law testifies to every man’s conscience, that it is natural to cut away an incurable member, which being allowed would destroy the whole body.
Kings, princes, and other governors, although they are the heads of a political body, yet they are not the whole body. And though they be the chief members, yet they are but members: nor are the people ordained for them, but they are ordained for the people.
Upon this law of nature, and to conserve the whole body, the pagans (not knowing that that soul is immortal, nor that there shall be a resurrection of the body and soul to judgment, but thought the soul perished with the body, and that there was no difference between a brute beast and man’s life) thought it reasonable, and made it lawful (by the positive law) for every man to kill a tyrant. And to encourage men to enterprise to kill a tyrant, they esteemed the deed to be worthy so great reward, that they thought him worthy of pardon that killed a tyrant, though he had killed his own natural father before. And besides this, when they saw that tyrants used to have their bodies defended with great garrisons and guards of foreign people, or kept themselves in strongholds and secret chambers, so as none without great hazard and peril might come near them; they propounded great rewards to him that should destroy a tyrant. Nor thought they rewards or gifts to be a sufficient recompense for so virtuous an act, but they also used to make the image of him that killed a tyrant in brass, and to set it up in the most solemn place of the city, for a perpetual memory of the act, the commendation of the doer, and the encouragement of others to do the like. They dedicated to his praise and honor songs and verses, and would have them taken by men as gods worthy of immortality.
From where came the name of nobility, or how were those that are called heroical and noble personages divided from others and had such honor and reverence, seeing all men came from one man and one woman? Was it for their lusty hawking and hunting? For their nimble dicing and cunning carding? For their fine singing and dancing? For their open bragging and swearing? For their false flirting and flattering? For their subtle picking and stealing? For their cruel polling and pilling? For their merciless man murdering? For their unnatural destroying of their natural countrymen, and traitorous betraying of their country? No, no, there was no such thing. The respect only of their virtue and love to their country brought them there. Because they revenged and delivered the oppressed people out of the hands of their governors who abused their authority and wickedly, cruelly, and tyrannously ruled over them, the people of a grateful and thankful mind gave them that estimation and honor. Of this kind of nobility was Hercules, Theseus, and such like.
Good kings, governors, and states in times past took it to be the greatest honor that could be, not to take cities and realms to their own use (when they were called to aid and release the oppressed) as princes do nowadays; but to rescue and deliver the people and countries from the tyranny of the governors, and to restore them to their liberties. So did the Romans,the Lacedemonians out of the tyranny of Onabis, and all Greece from the bondage that Phillipus (Demetrius’ son) king of Macedonia had them in. So did the noble men of the people of God also the come to their high estimation and honor, as Gideon, Barak, Jepthah, and Samson, who for the delivery of his country from the power of the idolatrous cruel Philistines, pulled upon himself present death. So that this principle that evil and evil doers ought to be punished, and rotten members to be cut away, was no peculiar law of the pagans, but it proceeded of nature, and therefore common to all men, as is plain by the chronicles and experience of all ages, and purposely exemplified for our sure stay and learning as well in the book of Judges, as in many other histories of holy Scriptures, according to the expressed word and commandment (applied to this sense and meaning) which says, “That evil be taken out of the midst of the congregation, that the rest which hear of it may be afraid, and not enterprise to do the like.” And Christ pronounces that every tree which brings not forth good fruit, shall be cut down and cast into the fire; much more the evil tree, that brings forth evil fruit. And albeit some do hold that the manner and mean to punish evil and evil doers is not all one among Christians (which are indeed what they profess in word) and pagans, which think it lawful for every private man (without respect of order and time) to punish the evil. Yet the laws of many Christian regions do permit that private men may kill malefactors, although they were magistrates in some cases: as when a governor shall suddenly with his sword rain upon an innocent, or go about to shoot him through with a gun, or if he should be found in bed with a man’s wife, or go about to deflower and ravish a man’s daughter: much more if they go about to betray and take away his country to foreigners, etc.. Nevertheless, as much as all things in every Christian commonwealth ought to be done decently and according to order and charity, I think it cannot be mentioned by God’s word that any private man may kill except (the execution of just a punishment upon tyrants, idolaters, and traitorous governors is either by the whole state utterly neglected, or the prince with the nobility and council conspired the subversion or alteration of their country and people) any private man have some special inward commandment or surely proved motion of God: as Moses had to kill the Egyptian; Phineas, the lecherous; and Ehud, King Eglon: or be otherwise commanded or permitted by common authority upon just occasion and common necessity to kill.
But now perhaps you will demand, why Christian men never made express positive law of the kind of punishment of tyrants. Might it not be answered, as Solomon did (excusing that he had not made a law for such as killed their parents), that no man would suspect that so unnatural an act should be thought, much less committed? or that those that should be the ministers, yea the images of God here on earth, charged both by God and man to see the people defended from injuries, should so much abuse their office and authority, as to convert the sword to the destruction of them whose champions and defenders they ought to be? Yea rather of all to say (which is most certain) the simple people deceived by great oaths, and beguiled with fair promises, allowed their governors to usurp such authority and power over them and so long winked and bore with their iniquity, that they were not able to taken from them.
But I ask you, what need is there to make one general law to punish by one name a great many offenses, when the law is already made for the punishment of every one of them particularly. If a prince robs and spoils his subjects, it is theft, and as a thief, he ought to be punished. If he kills and murders contrary to the laws of his country, it is murder, and as a murderer he ought to be punished. If he commits adultery, he is a adulterer and ought to be punished with the same pains that others are. If he violently ravishes men’s wives, daughters, or maidens, the laws that are made against ravishers ought to be executed on him. If he goes about to betray his country and to bring the people under a foreign power , he is a traitor, and as a traitor ought to suffer. And those that are judges in commonwealths, ought (upon complaint) to summon and cite them to answer to their crimes, and so to proceed as they do with others. For the prophet speaking to those that have the rule in commonwealths and that are judges and other ministers of justice says, “Minister justice to the poor and orphan, pronounce the miserable and poor to be innocent, if he is innocent. Take the poor, and deliver the needy out of the hands of the wicked. When you sit to judge, you shall not have respect of persons, whether they are rich or poor, great or small. Fear no man, for you execute the judgment of God.” Thus says the Holy Ghost through the mouth of Moses. “Judge not after the outward appearance of men, but judge rightly,” says Christ.
God himself gave the example of punishment of evil governors. For when the children of Israel had committed idolatry, He commanded Moses to take princes of the people and to hang them up against the sun, that His wrath and fury might be turned from Israel.
When that naughty dame queen Athaliah, the woman tyrant (seeing that her son Ahaziah was dead, that she was childless, and past hope to have any children) had killed all the king’s progeny (saving Joash, whom Jehosheba, Joram’s daughter hid and got with his nurse out of the way) purposing to reign thereby in security, and to transpose the right of the crown to strangers or some other favorer of her cruel proceedings at her pleasure by the help and subtlety of her traitorous counselors, and so went on in all abomination and cruelty without controlling a great space: Did her subjects allow her in her wickedness to go unpunished though she was the undoubted queen and chief governor of land? No, no. But as soon as Joash was a little nursed up and crept somewhat out of the shell, being a child of 7 years old, the nobility and commoners, feeling by experience what misery it was to live under the government of a mischievous woman, not only guarded Joash with men and all decent regal ceremonies unto the house of God (by the advice and appointment of Jehoiada the high priest) and there crowned him solemnly; but also, when Athaliah the Queen’s highness came in, marveling what ado that was, and perceiving the matter, rent her clothes howling and crying, as is the manner of mad women, especially in the hot seasons of the year, they laid hands on her (in spite of all her crying, “Treason, treason.”) and when they had carried her out of the house of God, they slew her. And so was the realm rid of a tyrant, the right inheriter possessed in his regal estate, the people made a new band with God to serve Him sincerely according to His word, and banished all idolatry and false religion (which the queen had set up and used) and the Commonwealth flourished afresh in her former peace and liberty.
The prophet Elijah being no civil magistrate, caused the King and Queen’s chaplans, Baal’s priests, to be killed before Ahab’s face, because they were idolaters and taught and maintained false religion, though scarce so false and idolatrous as the pope’s masses and religion are. And when the Queen’s majesty, Dame Jezebel (that she-devil), saw Jehu come to her palace, she cried and reviled him as a traitor. Jehu not passing upon her words (though she was his sovereign lady and mistress) cried aloud, “Who is on my side, who?” As though he had said, “If there be any among you that set more by God’s true religion and their natural country than by that idolatrous witch the queen: cast her out of the window. And so two or three of her private guards threw her out to him, bursting her neck and bones against the walls. And as soon as Jehu had trod her under his feet, dogs (as you heard before) ate up her flesh and lapped her blood.
Joram was known as the King and right inheriter of the crown of Israel. And yet when he saw Jehu and his company come toward him, he asked him whether he came in peace. Jehu said, “What peace should there be as long as the whoredoms of your mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so great?” And so for his idolatrous tyranny and evil government Jehu slew him. And we have many more such examples in Scripture, which (as the rest of the Bible) is left for the instruction of all Christian Commonwealths in like cases. And we also do not lack the same experience and examples even in our days. Because the remembrance of the horrible destruction of the evil governors and alteration of the Commonwealths in Switzerland and certain other places in high Germany now in our time is not very pleasant, I will purposely pass over it, albeit the matter is still so fresh and green in all men’s sight, that it is spoken of universally throughout the world. And was not Peter Aloyisius (Pope Paul’s third son, and Duke of Placenza) justly slain lately by his own people because of the evil government and tyranny he used among them?
And where this injustice is not executed, but the Prince and the people play together, and one winks and bears with the other’s faults, there cannot be but a most corrupt, ungodly, and vicious state, which although it prospers for a season, yet no doubt at length they may be sure, that to them shall come what came to Sodom, Gomorrah, Jerusalem, and such others that were utterly destroyed.
And on the other side, where the nobility and people look diligently and earnestly upon their authorities, and do see the same executed on their heads and governors, making them to yield account of their doings, then without fail will the princes and governors be as diligent to see the people do their duty. And so shall the Commonwealth be godly and prosper, and God shall be glorified in all. But you will say, “What if the nobility and those that are called to common councils, and should be the defenders of the people, will not or dare not execute their authority. What then is to be done? The people are not so destitute of remedy, but God has provided another means, that is: to complain to some minister of the word of God, to whom the keys are given to excommunicate not only common people for all notorious and open evils, but also kaisers, kings, princes, and all other governors, when they spoil, rob, undo, and kill their poor subjects without justice and good laws. And whatever such a minister of God’s Word binds upon those occasions here on earth, it is fast bound in heaven before the face of God. And there are no means to undo it by any good work (much less by pope’s pardon or friars’ prayers) without repentance of the party offending, satisfaction made to the party offended for the injustice and injuries committed, and the mercy of God through the only merits of our Saviour Jesus Christ. We have the example of St. Ambrose, who was not a pope, nor a pope’s commissary, but Bishop of Milan, and excommunicated the Emperor Theodosius. So that you may better know his doings, I will tell the effect of the history in a few words. This Theodosius, although he was an Emperor and a Christian man, was of a choleric nature, and much disposed to be angry without cause. It happened that in a sedition at Thessalonica, come of his officers were stoned to death and some very evily treated. In a rage he sent out a number of merciless men of war, who, making no difference between the authors of the sedition and the innocent perople, made a horrible slaughter of the poor people: man, woman,and child. Afterward, the Emperor, after His accustomed manner, came toward the church. St. Ambrose met him at the church door and would not allow him to enter. He not only told him it was no place for murderers, but also excommunicated him out of all Christian company till he repented and made satisfaction for the horrible murder committed by his soldiers. The Emperor, being brought up and instructed in the word of God (as I would to God all Christian princes were at this present time) and knowing the office both of the minister of God’s Word and of an Emperor, obeyed and returned weeping and crying to his palace. Eight months later came the feast of the nativity of Christ. Ruffinus, lord great master or steward of his house, came to the Emperor, who he found very heavy, weeping, and sobbing. Being familiar with him, he desired to know the cause of his sorrow. “Ah Ruffinus,” said the Emperor, “you are merry for you do not feel my pains. I lament and mourn for my calamity. It is free for slaves and beggars to go to the church, and there to pray to God., but I may not come there. No, heaven’s gates are shut to me. Christ’s Words do not go out of my heart: Whatever you bind on earth, shall be bound also in heaven.” At length, being encouraged by Ruffinus that he might be absolved by St. Ambrose, he sent him before, to be a mediator for him, and he himself followed. But Ruffinus could not entreat the Bishop. After the Emporer came, but dared not enter into the church, he fell on his knees before St. Ambrose outside the doors and desired absolution. St. Amborse said he was not fit to be absolved; that his coming was more like a tyrant, one that would by force be absolved, than a Christian man that showed himself penitent and sorry. “No,” said the Emperor, “I will not presume against the order of the church to enter in by force, but I humbly beseech you to loose me out of these bonds of excommunication, and that you will remember the mercy that God uses, and that you will not shut against me the gate that God opened to all that are penitent.” The Bishop asked him what worthy penance he had shown since the time he had committed that wicked act, or with what medicine he had healed those most grievous wounds. “It is your part,” said the Emperor, “to prepare the medicine, and mine to receive and use it.” At length St. Ambrose required there might be a law ordained that the execution of revenge should not be done suddenly, but delayed, so it should not proceed from anger. And the Emperor made that law. Afterward he was released of the excommunication. And coming into the church he made his prayers, not standing or kneeling, but lying flat on the ground, pulling his hair, beating his brow, weeping, lamenting, and crying with David, “My soul cleaves to the pavement. Quicken me, O Lord, according to Thy Word.” And he asked mercy and forgiveness. Thus you see what any minister of the church may do upon the greatest prince, if he will execute his office and the power that Christ gives him. But you will say, “What if the minister does not do his duty, but is content to wink at all the devices of the governors, however wicked they are, so he may have a bishopric, a deanry, or a good fat benefit, and live unpunished in all abomination? Yes, and what if there are such special grudges between the nobility and commoners that the one sort neither trusts nor loves the other, so that the one dared not open the necessity and means of such correction and redress of the evil governor’s vices for fear if the purpose comes to light before hand, the matter would be dashed and the motioner leap needless for his labor, as is often seen in these days. What then? Indeed there are certain examples and patterns in the Holy Bible which I will not rehearse nor expound, but only refer them to the further debating and judgment of your own conscience, through the Holy Ghost, by whose Providence they are enrolled for our learning.
We read that after the Lord God had many times delivered His People of Israel from wicked tyrants, with whom He had plagued them for their wickedness and idolatries, at length, when through abundance of wealth and quietness, they fell to a certain careless security of life, not only forgetting God and His Holy sincere Word, but also each one seeking his own self gain with the hurt and contempt of his neighbor, God took from them their natural lord, the good Judge Othniel, and placed, and even strengthened, a strange prince among them, an idolatrous, wicked person called Eglon. This Eglon so bribed the Israelites that they would prefer to be traitors to their natural country. He especially brought in a great power of Ammonites and Amalekites (two kinds of people in beggarly pride and filthiness of life) as well to guard his son, as to fortify the strongholds of munitions. And by and by, seeing himself strong enough with his strangers and inborn traitors, he brought the country and people under his subjection by fine force, so that he continued as their ordinary prince and chief ruler 18 long years. What oppressing of the poor, what robbing of the rich, what taking up of corn and vitals for the king and his strangers, and no money paid for it; what taxes and payments the people were yoked with; what ravishing of men’s wives, daughters, and servants; what heading and hanging of the natural Israelites to make the strangers lords and gentlemen; what common miseries and continual calamities there were during that time, no doubt it is unspeakable.
But what remedy? No man dared make a moan to his neighbor for fear of bewraying [betraying], none dared once whisper against the king. They must bend or break, no remedy, patience by coercion, all were constrained to serve and please King Eglon. But at length they sent (as their yearly accustomed manner was) a present to the king by a witty messenger called Ahud. Having access to the king, he said he had to speak to his majesty secretly from God. And when the king had commanded all his servants away, so that Ahud and the king were alone in his summer parlor, Ahud thrust his dagger so hard into the king’s fat belly, that there lay King Eglon dead, and Ahud fled away.
Now, was this well done or evil? Indeed, the deed is so commended in Scripture that the Holy Ghost reported Ahud to be a savior of Israel.
But note by the way, the text does not say that Ahud was sent by the people to kill the king, nor that he told them what he intended. For by that means, one Judas or other would have betrayed him, and so should he have been drawn, hanged, and quartered for his enterprise, and all his conspirators have lost both life, lands, and goods for their conspiracy.
The Scripture only says, that Ahud (being a private person) was stirred up only by the Spirit of God.
Likewise Sisera, lieutenant general of King Jabin’s wars, fleeing from Barak sought succor to hide his head (having long annoyed and hurt Israel with oppression and wars), was called by a woman named Jael into her house and hidden by her under a covering. He thought himself secure, and for weariness dropped hard on sleep.
Jael took a great long spiking nail and drove it with the hammer so hard into his brains that Sisera troubled Israel no more, nor never told who hurt him.
Mattathias, being by the king’s commissioners required and commanded to conform himself to the king’s proceedings (which was to commit idolatry) as all his countrymen the Jews had done (as the same case stands now in England), not only refused to obey king Antiochus’ commandment or to follow his proceedings in that behalf, but also when he saw a Jew commit idolatry before his face, he ran upon the Jew in a great zeal and slew him, and fell also upon the ordinary commissioners sent from Antiochus the ordinary king of the realm, and slew them out of hand. These examples need no further exposition; the Scripture is plain enough. But if neither the whole state nor the minister of God’s Word would do their common duty, nor any other lawful shift before mentioned can be had, nor dare be attempted: yet the poor people are not destitute altogether of remedy. But God has left unto them two weapons able to conquer and detroy the greatest tyrant that ever was: that is, Penance and Prayer. Penance for their own sins, which provoke the anger and displeasure of God, and make Him to allow tyrants, wars, famine, pestilence, and all plagues to reign among the people. And prayer, that He will withdraw His wrath and show His merciful countenance.
Hereof we have not only commandment, but also manifext examples in the Scriptures. For when the Ark of God was taken away from the people of Israel by the Philistines in battle, and the glory of Israel brought under foot (the people being miserably pressed for their sins and plagued by the Philistines 20 years long) so that the people, despairing of their honor and liberty, and seeing no martial weapon, nor help of man able to redress their state, cried and continued in lamenting their thralldom and grievous condition, at length by the advice and commandment of the good prophet Samuel, the people fell to these two means: penance and prayer, with fasting. And the Lord God not only delivered them out of the oppression of the Philistines unto their former liberty, but also gave them such victories that the Philistines many years after dared not once more war against them.
Thus was also the cruel tyrant Herod vanquished. When the apostles and people in the primitive church lamented their sins, and called to God for mercy, the angel of God struck Herod sitting on his throne in his princely apparel, while he was making an oration to the people, and they were commending it to be the voice of God, and not of man. And so he was eaten up by lice or worms. Likewise when Julian the Emperor and Apostate had long persecuted the church, at length when the people fell to repentance and common prayer, he was slain going into Persia, and none of the family of Constantine (whereof he come) after that was Emporer. And in like manner, recently that tyrant, Duke George of Saxony, persecuted all such as professed the word of God, who were revived and pulled out of purgatory by the worthy instrument of God, Dr. Luther, and at length threatened that he would burn and destroy the University of Wittenburg. When Luther heard this, he went into the pulpit and exhorted every man to put on his armor: that is, penance and prayer. And soon after, God rid the world of that tyrant, and so not only delivered His church, but also augmented it with another university called Lipsia. And all the whole country of this cruel Duke was onverted to Christ’s gospel.
These are the wonderful works of Almighty God, whose power is as great and as ready at a pinch as ever it was. And His mercy is willing to be shown, if His poor afflicted people would put on their weapon: that is, be sorry for their sins and desire Him to withdraw His scourges and to hold His merciful hand over them.
An Exhortation or Rather a Warning to the Lords and Commoners of England
I heartily wish (natural Englishmen and good countrymen) that it had pleased God to have given some cause whereby you with me, and I with you might have rejoiced, and not to have lamented one of us to another of our misery. For sorrowfull sayings are neither great to the hearer, nor pleasant to the teller. But as if one should come to his dear friend or good neighbor, finding him very sorely wounded and did only lament with him, and did not help him to cure his wounds, he would rather augment his pains and increase sorrow; so if in this miserable misery wherein we and our poor country of England stand (and yet is not come to the full ripeness), I should only lament and wail with you (which I cannot do unless I should show myself totally unnatural and unkind), I should increase, I think, your sorrow and pains. And most certainly, I am sure, increase my own. But as it is a most sure token of death when the sick man feels not his disease nor can tell where his grief is, being asked in what place his pain resides; so in all realms and congregations of people, when they do not feel the common calamities and miseries that are among them it is a most certain and infallible sign that the destruction and the end of it is at hand. And therefore give me leave (I beseech you) to open your wounds, and to search the cause of your calamities, and then to minister and pour into them some wholesome balm and cover them with some comfortable plaster.
And I although I do it not so finely as some others can, but boisterously after my rude manner, yet I doubt not but by God’s grace you shall find comfort, or at least perceive that I have an earnest desire to see you helped. For I mean your wealth and health, as one brother ought of another that is born of the same father and mother.
There was never a great misery, destruction, plague, or visitation of God that came on any nation, city, or country (which as they are indeed, so may they justly be called wounds), but are sent by God for sin. And these are not suddenly laid on the people, but prophesied before and declared by the prophets and ministers of God’s Word or by some revelations, wonders, monsters in the earth, or tokens and signs in the elements.
For God, as he is most just and will not fail to punish sin, so is He most merciful and wills not the death of sinners, but rather that they should turn to him and live.
Therefore He gives them warning beforehand what shall follow, if in time they do not repent, as it appears in the histories of all ages. And you have lacked none of these admonitions, countrymen.
For the preachers and ministers of God’s word in the time of the godly Josias, King Edward VI, preached and prophesied to you what miseries and plagues should certainly come to you: the food of God’s Word to be cleanly taken away from you, famine of the body, pestilence, wars, the loss of your goods, the deflowering and ravishing of your wives and daughters before your eyes, the captivity of your bodies, wives, and children, the subversion of the policies and state of the realm, that a strange king and strange people (not only in country, but also in conditions and manners in respect of your own) should reign and rule by force over you; if you in time did not repent of your wickedness, amend your lives, and call to God for mercy.
But then you paid no attention. As the Jews being drowned in sin mocked, scorned, and murdered the prophets of God which long before prophesied to them the captivities and other destruction: so you laughed and jested at your preachers’ words, not regarding the threats of God, but contesting them, and even increasing in your wickedness, and now at length murdering most cruely the ministers of God.
And seeing words of warning took no place with you, God for his loving mercy has warned you also by monstrous marvels on the earth, and horrible wonders in the elements, to put you beyond all manner of excuses. What wonderful monsters have there now lately been born in England? What celestial signs most horrible? A child born besides Oxford in the year 1552 with two heads and two parts of two evil shaped bodies joined in one. A child born at Coventry in the year 1555 without arms or legs. A child born at Fulham by London even now this year, with a great evil-shaped head, the arms with bags hanging out at the elbows, and heels and feet lame. A new born child at London, moreover, speaking as a prophet and messenger of God. A horrible comet this year, besides diverse eclipses which follow. But what were these? Only bare signs? No certainly, they do and must signify the great wrath and indignation of God.
Not long after the passion of our Savior Christ, when the Britains, our countrymen, went about to recover their liberty and to be freed of the most cruel servitude and misery which the Romans kept them in (wherein no Britain was certain of wife, children, goods, nor of their lives, all things being in such bondage of the cruel Romans’ pleasure), there were at one time 10,060 of our countrymen slain, and at another time 30,000. Before those slaughters many wonders were seen in England. The image of the idol which the Romans had in the temple called Victory was turned back as though she gave place to the enemies. The sea was like blood, images of men’s bodies found on the seaside. And women were out of their wits, and cried, “Destruction at hand, destruction at hand.” So that the Britain’s were in great hope, and the Romans in great fear. Before Britain (now called England) came into the full power of the Danes, King Edmund the son of Ethelbert being slain, there were diverse strange things, whereby all men guessed that an alteration of the realm was coming. But chiefly they guessed the great calamity by the sudden swelling of the sea without any evident cause, which so broke into the land that it destroyed many towns and people. Before that great slaughter of English men and Normandys, which was by reason of the wars that were in Normandy between King Henry I of England and Robert Duke of Normandy, his brother (at which time Normandy was joined to England), the river of Trent did not run for one whole day, but was so empty that men passed over on foot. And at that time a sow brought forth a monster with the face of the man and a hen a four-footed monster. So that by what is past, you may more boldly discern that which is to come.
The child of Oxford: what did it betoken, but that our one sweet head, King Edward, should be taken away (as he was indeed) and that there should be in his place two heads, diverse governors, and division of the people, but not altogether. So many followed this that no man can deny it, that two people should be knitted together but not in good proportion or agreement. The child of Coventry without the principal members to help and defend the body signifies that the natural body, that is the people of England, shall be helpless, ready to be trodden under the foot of every creature, with none to relieve or succor it.
The child of Fulham: what can it signify but that the natural body of England shall be weak, the chief members (the arms and legs), which is the nobility, so clogged with chains of gold and bags of money that the hand shall not be able to draw out the sword, nor the heels to spur the horses to help and defend the body, that is the commoners. And as the head is the greatest part, and greater than it ought to be, with too much superfluity which it should not have, such that it must pull from the other members to comfort it, and lacks of that good proportion it ought to have; so shall the governors and heads of England suck up the wealth and substance of the people (the political body) and keep it bare, so that it shall not be able to help itself, yet shall that head never do what nature requires. What is to be gathered of the young child I do not say is true, because the father was forced (unless he would have lost his life) to repent it. But might it not be true? Is there not as much to be said for it as for the pope’s transubstantiation? Does not Eusebius Pamphili (a man of as good credit as Thomas Aquinas, Scotus, Gratianus, and such other inventors and maintainers of transubstantiation) write that a lamb, contrary to nature and possibility, did in plain words declare the nature and disposition of Bochorus King of Egypt? Those that write the Chronicles of the Romans say that a dog, a serpent, and an oxen did speak. But Scripture plainly says that Baalam’s ass (an unreasonable creature without possibility to speak) did say to his master, “Why do you beat me?” And John the Baptist, contrary to the common course of nature, lept and rejoiced in his mother’s womb when Christ’s mother, being with child, came to see Elizabeth, his mother.
If men that did not believe the miracles which the google-eyed Roode of Boxley, the Idol of Walsingham, the bawdy of Willisdom, which every fool might see to be deceits and open illusions, were condemned and burned for heretics, how should they be taken that do not believe the manifest works of God?
The horrible comet and blazing star that was seen this year greater in England than elsewhere: what else does it betoken but the great displeasure of God? And therefore famine, pestilence, wars, sedition, death of princes, invasion of foreign nations, destruction of some or many cities and countries, and the alteration and changing of the state and government? For it is lawful for man to discern by God’s wonderful works, and by similar things in the past, conjecture those that are to come. Why should we not affirm that these plagues will follow? Before the great wars made by Xerxes against the Greecians and the overthrowing of the whole state of Greece, there was a blazing star seen in the shape of a hornet and an eclipse of the sun.
Before the last and utter destruction of the city of Jerusalem, there was seen hanging in the elements over the temple a burning sword for almost whole year. In the time of cruel Nero, there was a comet that continued for six months. After that followed great sedition and alteration in the empire. And the kingdom of the Jews (mark well) was utterly destroyed.
Before the death of our countryman Constantine the great, who was the first professor of the gospel of Christ among all the emperors, and no doubt a special favorer and promoter of it (for he did not prohibit lay men to read God’s word as some princes do at this time, but he caused copies of the Bible to be written at his own charge and sent into to all countries), there was a great comet and afterwards an awesome and cruel war, which those who delight in histories may perceive.
Before the dissention and deadly wars that were between the brethren of Lotarius the Emperor,son of Lodovicus Pius, for the division of the inheritance (whereby such slaughter grew in France that the Frenchmen were never after able to recover perfectly their force), there were many comets seen.
About the year of Christ 1001 there was a horrible comet seen, and then followed awesome famines and pestilence.
In the year 1061, before the invasion of William the Conqueror into England, and the conquest of the same, and in which Harold King of England with 20,000 true English men in the defense of the country against the tyrant were slain; there was seen a wonderful comet which every man thought (and indeed it followed) to be much mischief and the alteration of the state, as hereafter you will hear. A little before the great wars in Normandy (whereof you have heard before) there were seen in Normandy a great comet and two full moons shining at one time, the one in the East and the other in the west.
In the year 1221 there were wars in Asia between the Christian men and the unChristian, whereunto King Henry III sent a power of English men under the Earl of Chester (for the maintenance whereof the nobility first granted the King the wardship of their children, as Polidore writes). Before the Christian men lost the city of L’Amiata and there was a great overthrow of them in Egypt, many wonders were seen in diverse places and also in England: a very great comet; a wonderful great earthquake; horrible thunders all winter, which in England seldom in summer are heard; such great rains and tempests of winds that it overthrew many houses; and the sea flooded many places; which every man said betokened the hurt that followed on Christian men. In the year 1241, a little before Wales was brought to the subjection of the King of England, there appeared in England a terrible comet that lasted 30 days.
In the year 1531 there was a horrible comet. And what followed of it? The Turks occupied a great part of Hungary; and the Christian King of Denmark, invading his country with a great army intending to recover his kingom, was taken with his son. And why should not you of England think that these signs are only (or at least chiefly) for you? Compare yourselves and your lives and doings with the Jews, or the worst nation, and see whether you are not able to match them, yes to over match them, and to vie 3 for 1? In what nation under the canopy of Heaven has God showed greater tokens of His favor as in England? What contempt of Him, His Word, and ministers has been there? What dissimulation with God? What hypocrisy? What swearing and forswearing? What traitory to their country? What disobdience to the governors in good, godly, and necessary things? What ready obedience to their rulers in wicked and evil things? What unnatural bitchery used between the father and daughter, brother and sister? What abominable whoredom allowed unpunished? Yes, in many and the chiefest places the greatest whoremongers, the most impudent ribalds, the most paltry bribers, and the lewdest persons made justices of the peace and correctors of vice? What railing and reviling of the worthy pure preachers of God’s gospel, for only rebuking of vice? What horrible murders both secret and open, not only of private persons, but also of the most honorable peers and reverend ministers of God? What butcheing and burning of true English Christians, young and old, whole and lame, seeing and blind, man, woman, and child, without repect of age, sex, or state? What pillaging and polling, taking and snatching, stealing and robbing, not only among the mean sort, but among the greatest? Where is so great hatred and malice, so little love and charity, as in England? I should never make an end if I should tell only what I have myself seen and known, much less if I should declare all that other credible persons report of their own knowledge to be most certain and true.
But to return to the matter: look well, England, look well, whether this recent comet, and eclipses to come, regard you? Are you not already plagued with famine? Yes, and with such a famine as you never before heard of. It is true, you had dearths in the time of Kings Henry and Edward, but those were dearths without need. They were only occasioned by the greediness and malice of wicked men without security or lack of things, and for lack of diligent overseeing and good government, and not by the direct plague of God. But these two years since King Edward’s death, from the restitution of your cursed popish mass, you have had scarcity by the direct plague of God. The earth has not brought forth such plenty as it usually did before. Where before time the country fed London, London the contrary-wise was and is forced from her former provision to feed the country. whereas Dantisk and other northeast parts were the barns and garners of corn, for they had the provision of corn for many years beforehand, and nourished all the lower parts of Germany, Denmark, Friesland, Halland, Zeeland, Brabant, Flanders, Spain, and many others; now by reason of their bringing so much to relieve England, unless a stay is made in time, they themselves will perish of famine. When ever were things so scarce in England as in this time when the popish mass and other idolatry have been restored? Who ever heard or read before that a pound of beef was at four dollars; a sheep, 20 shillings; a pound of candles at four dollars; a pound of butter at four dollars; a pound of cheese at four dollars; two eggs, a penny; a quarter of wheat, 64 shillings; a quarter of malt at 50 shillings or above; the people driven by hunger to grind acorns for bread meal, and to drink water instead of ale? And what? Shall this famine leave before his walking mate and fellow (pestilence) comes? No surely, without your earnest speedy repentance, and God’s exceedingly miraculous mercy, it is not possible. For in the past the one never left before, but the other came either arm in arm, or else quickly after.
But it shall almost come too late for common people, for they are hanged by 20 and 40 in a group (and a great number of them because they confessed and professed that they should be saved only by the merits of Christ’s passion) that the pestilence shall have little effect among the common sort, and therefore must be more occupied with the great.
And have you (England) had no sedition and inward grudge? Yes, so much that the heads and governors dare not peep out of their private chambers, nor one neighbor seem to talk with another, for fear to be noted and accused of conspiracy. Yes, and that (that is worst of all, and to be lamented by all Englishmen) there is inward grudge and secret malice between the members, that is the nobility and commoners.
The one hates and condemns the other, which is the work of the Devil and his ministers, the popish prelates and priests. They cast water into the coals to make the fire greater, for they know unless such division and dissention be fostered and nourished, their kingdom would soon lie in the dirt. This is the practice of such as mind the conquest or utter destruction of any people: to maintain and prick forward dissention, division, and discord among the people. For Christ’s words are true, Who said that every kingdom divided in itself shall be desolate, and every city or house divided against itself shall not continue. The prophet prophesying of the destruction of the kingdom of the Jews said beforehand that there should be civil and inward sedition, as there was indeed in Jerusalem between three pestilent factions and parties, whereof Simon, John, and Eleazar were the authors and heads. This was Xerxes’ practice: to set the Greecians by the ears, to maintain civil wars and dissention among them, so that when one had destroyed another, he might easily enjoy all. This policy all other ambitious monarchs have practiced since then in all places. And as Gardener did not lament his sins when he died, but sent for the queen and wept to her that he could no longer live to serve her grace, that is, to undo the nobility and commoners of the realm, but he desired her to proceed as he counseled her by his word and writing; so Granvell, when he was also dying, sent word to the Emperor Charles and required him not to forget his council, but still use it, that is, to nourished and maintain dissention among the states of Germany, so that he should at length easily gain all of it. In like manner, if the traitorous bishops and priests can once set the commoners against the nobility and gentlemen, they will soon (once the nobility is suppressed) send the commoners to climb a jackdaw’s nest, and use them at their pleasure.
But wise men and such as loved their country in times past foresaw this mischief that came by inward grudge and civil discord, but ever (as much as in them lay) went about to hinder it. They thought it was most necessary to provide for the safeguard of the whole by all means, and not for any particular part. This may well appear by the wisdom of Thrasibulus, who being driven out of Athens (his country) by the 300 tyrants because he would not consent to their tyranny or to see his country destroyed, at length gathered together all those that were banished with him. By the help of the Thebans, their neighbors, he took a castle beside Athens. Afterward in battle he overcame the tyrants and restored to their country all those that were banished, along with restoring their old laws that were taken away by the tyrants. And seeing what mischief might follow if he did not take away the inward grudge that was among the people and make a unity between them, although the poor banished men were spoiled of all that they had, and their goods in those hands that had no right to them, yet he made them all together promise that none should claim anything of another, but that all should be forgiven and forgotten. And the same wisdom the Romans used many times, to make quietness among the people and to preserve the Commonwealth. Yes, the nobel men of Rome, although they were as ambitious as others, and one envied another’s glory, yet when the Commonwealth was in hazard and their service must be used for the defense of their country, they did cleanly forgive and forget all private injuries and inward grudges. Yes, it was the chief means to reconcile enemies. And yet it was no marvel among wise men, for they saw if the whole body of their country should perish, they could not prosper. There can be no army where there is no body; and it is a feeble body that lacks arms and legs. Yes, it is a most miserable body in which the arms and legs beat the body, and the body goes about to shake off the arms and legs. And although there are no people that have been more plagued by inward sedition and civil discord than English men, yet there is none that consider it less. I cannot tell where it comes from, but commonly they neither remember what is past, nor foresee what is to come, but only (as unreasonable creatures) look upon those things that are present. The dissention and discord that was in Britain (which is now called England) and between our own countrymen, brought first the Romans into England. After they entered they soon took all for themselves: they murdered a great number of the Britains, took some of the children and sent them to Rome, and to rid the realm of strong and lusty persons that there might be none to withstand them, they sent armies and garrisons of them out of the realm to serve in foreign countries. Those that were left at home they spoiled of their goods with great taxes and impositions; of a great number made slaves and bonds-men; and glad was he that could find favor to enjoy any little part of his own as long as he lived. By this means the realm was almost made desolate, and then the Picts (a barbarous and cruel nation) invaded Britain and destroyed men, women, and children that came into their hands. And so greater misery followed. The people were forced to flee into mountains, woods, and caves for their safeguard. For this reason the ground was not tilled, great famine came on them, and then horrible pestilence, as the one does not go without the other. Thus being oppressed by the Picts, our countrymen sought the aid of the Saxons (men of great force, but little truth). When they came into the realm and saw the fertility of it, they subtly devised to marry Ronix, daughter to their captain Hengistus, to the king of Britain called Vortiger. She being instructed what she should do, found the means to have her own countrymen placed next to the king and have the greatest offices. Thus our countrymen the Britains were removed from their king, strangers were placed in all offices and holds, and at length the land was overrun and possessed by strangers. The name of Britain was put away, and the realm was called England.
The Danes, after understanding how fertile and plentiful England was, sought means by little and little to place themselves in England. After a king of Denmark himself invaded England in the North and made horrible cruel wars, they spared none. They burned and wasted Yorkshire, Northumberland, and all places, so that the inhabitants were forced to sue for peace at the Danes hands. Then they built the town of Dancaster (that is, the castle of the Danes), and while they had peace, sent for more Danes. And when they thought their force and power big enough, they did not consider promises and leagues they had made, but renewed the wars, killed, burned, and spoiled in every place, till they came to Exeter. The people and realm were most miserably tormented, and made tribute to them. Diverse of the nobility of England, upon slight or no occasions but only because they were thought not to favor the Danes, were taken, their nostrils most villanously slit, and their hands cut off. Ah good God, who can remember these things without weeping? Who that fears Thy wrath (Lord) will not amend his life, and call to Thee for mercy? What naughty nobility were they, that would oppress the commoners and afterward be used and oppressed themselves by strangers, as the predecessors have been before time? What devilish commoners might they be called that would rebel against the nobility and gentlemen, and then to be overrun themselves with priests and foreigners, and to be pinned with such misery as you hear that our ancestors were: and all because the gentlemen and commoners did not agree among themselves?
Who is a natural English man that will not in time foresee and consider the misery toward his country and himself, and by all means seek to hinder it? Who is it that could hope for quietness, peace, health, plenty, and such gifts of God, without God’s favor and mercy?. And how is it possible that God should show mercy toward them that bear inward hatred and grudge toward one another, and will show no mercy toward others? If you forgive other men their offenses that they commit against you (says Christ) your heavenly Father will forgive the offenses that you have committed against Him. But if you do not forgive other men their faults, neither will your Father forgive your faults. No, while you say the Lord’s prayer and are full of rancor, malice, hatred, and envy toward your neighbor, you condemn yourself and desire God’s plagues and vengeance to fall on yourselves, for you mean vengeance to your neighbors, and wish all evil to fall on them. And so it does fall on you, as you see by the experience of the plagues and miseries that are and shall come to you. But from inward sedition and civil discord that breeds so much mischief, we will come to outward wars and invasions made by strangers. But you say you have no wars with any foreign prince. It is true; but shall you have none? Yes, yes. The time is not yet come. All is not hatched that is under the hen. Your wings must be dubbed, your feathers must be pulled, your combs must be cut, you must be cleanly picked. Your substance shall be gotten little by little out of your hands by taxes and subsidies, by benevolences and loans, and so from a little to more, and from more to more. At length all the merchant’s goods will be confiscated in Flanders by an inquisition, and others in England by an open excommunication. And when you are the ones cleanly stripped of your store and thus weakened out of courage; and your heart in your hose, as they say; then will your king return to his well beloved wife, England, with great pomp and power, and shall compel you (despite your hearts) to render and deliver her wholly into his hands. Then the eastward people (upon hope to recover their old and greater privileges) will aid him with men, money, and ships; as already they have offered and promised, as diverse credible letters have declared. Then they will invade England, and shall carry you by shiploads (if no worse happens to you) into new Spain. Then you will not live at liberty, but because you are a stubborn and unfaithful generation you shall be tied in chains, forced to row in the galley, to dig in the mines, and to pick up the gold in the hot sand. And so with sorrow your three main songs shall be, “Alas, and wail away.” Then you will know the pride and lordliness of the Spaniards, though for a while until they got the upper hand they crept and crouched; fed men with sweet words (Baso las manos); and women with candy, sweet wines, plesant perfumes, gay apparel, and such vain toys. But when they are the ones on high, there is no nation under the canopy of Christ like them in pride, cruelty, unmercifulness, nor so far from all humanity as the Spaniards are. The realm of Naples, the Dukedom of Milan, the city of Sienna, many parts of Germany,and the lands of Julike Cleveland and Geldreland can right well testify to this.
And may it not be thought that the French king (when he sees opportunity) will set in a foot, making claim to England in the right of the Queen of Scots, as heir to King Henry VIII by his eldest sister? And may it not be suspected that the pope (to do the French king a pleasure) shall say the divorce between King Henry and the dowager was by the canon laws lawful, and shall excommunicate the realm unless they revoke the act of parliament whereby the divorce of late was judged unlawful?
Remember, remember (good countrymen and true English hearts) the misery that followed in our poor country upon the conquest made by the ambitious William Duke of Normandy: upon how small title he entered and how tyrannously he used himself. His only color was a bequest or promise made to him by King Edward, brother to Cauntus and Heraldus kings of England, when he was a banished man in Normandy, if he should die without issue, as he did. At his first entry, he had a great battle with the newly chosen king of England, and slew him and 20,000 of our countrymen. This put such a fear in all men (the nobility, the clergy, the Londoners, and other commoners) that it made them sue for peace, and to give pledges for their fidelity, which he sent into Normandy. At first he made them many fair promises of peace, quietness, and justice, wherewith the foolish fond people were soon beguiled. They thought they had God by the toe, but they had the wolf (yes, the devil) by the ears. He first fortified the old and ports by the seaside and in his absence (as many times he was forced, by rebellions in Normandy, to return) he made a council of his own countrymen, and made the Bishop of Baion, his brother, his lieutenant in England. But when he was once settled, and thought himself strong enough to keep the Englishmen down, then farewell all promises. He began to play Rex; yes, the devil indeed. He spoiled the nobility of their goods and possessions; made them slaves, and his own slaves Lords; and upon the commoners he put awful taxes and impositions. He took from the people their weapons and harnesses. He made a law that no man should come out of his house after the bell rang at 8:00, but that he should cover the fire and go to bed. Therefore until this day the bell that rings is called coverfire [curfew]. Then he built at Nottingham, Lincoln, York, and Hastings, and set in them garrisons of Normans. And not contented herewith, he executed many awful cruel things, especially on the nobility and such as he saw to be stout men. Some he caused to be murdered, some their nostrils to be slit and their hands cut off. Happy was he that could flee out of the realm. He so spoiled Yorkshire, Durham, and all the north parts, that for ten years it was laid waste and uninhabited. He could not abide the English nobility, but utterly destroyed them. And all this he did by the law of the devil, which they call the law of arms. The good laws and customs of England he took clean away, and made his own lusts his laws, which he put in his own Normandy tongue so that his friends might always have the interpretation of them and that he might catch the poor English men when it pleased him. He had the laws pleaded and all things done in French. He was not taken to be the Norman’s friend, nor a gentlemen, that could not speak French. And thereof came the old proverb, “Jack would be a gentlemen, but he cannot French.”
He removed the English bishops, and placed Normans by the aid of the Bishop of Rome. He pulled down towns, villages, and houses, and put out the poor people to make himself sporting places, princely pleasures, forests, parks, and chases. O miserable England, that once was thus by a tyrant and outward enemies plagued. But how much more miserable shall you be by the wars that are most certain to come here shortly. God be merciful to you. But I think I hear your papist bishops, priests, friars, and such Anti-Christian monsters say that these plagues which have fallen and shall come to England (for they know they cannot be avoided, nor are they occasioned and helped forward by them) have grown for things done in King Henry and King Edward’s time, when papist abomination was disclosed, their buries and dens dug up, their monasteries thrown down, and the lands divided and sold to the laity. Ah hypocrites, ah subtle wolves, ah viperous generation. When the fox preaches, beware your geese. Where in Scripture do they find that any such belly gods as they are should be maintained? No, Scripture would have such merchants whipped out of the church, such buyers and sellers of men’s souls. Woe be unto you, hypocrites (says Christ) for you swallow up the houses of the poor and miserable (that is, that which should be converted to the relief of the poor and needy), and that under pretense of long prayers. Woe be unto you (you masking Mahounds) which go from place to place, by sea and by land, to make a novice of your own order; and when you have him you make him the child of hellfire twofold more than yourself. I know you not (says Christ). Away from me, you workers of iniquity. It is only their god the belly that they seek to serve. They neither pass on the God in heaven, nor the devil in hell, so they may have wherewith to maintain themselves on earth in their whoredom, prosperity, pride, and all abomination. And what I say is not feigned or imagined, but evident in the eyes of all men that will not be willfully blind.
Those that are desirous to be rulers in monasteries (abbots and friars), pine themselves away with fasting, wear haircloth, and use the rest of the instruments of hypocrisy for awhile. But when they have once caught the fish they cast for, they plainly show what they are. Who are such great belly gods? Who are such great whoremongers? Where is such knavery used? I am ashamed to tell it. In like manner they play chaplains of honor that seek for bishoprics; all saving one man, Dr. Weston, (the common butt of dissembled virginity, and the boar of old rufted widowhood) who before had shown what he will be. But as the world goes, his plain dealing has not, nor will he change his dealings. Where is such an whoremonger (yes worse than a whoremonger) and this old hypocrite Paul IV now Bishop of Rome? Who so great a glutton? Who so proud and ambitious? Who so great a tyrant and tormentor? Who so great a warrior? And yet before he came to that high seat of AntiChrist, he would seem a saint. No religion or order of hypocrites was straight enough for him. He was a friar, a monk, a Capuchin, an anchorite, yes what he not? But you see the mark these hypocrites shoot at. And I can tell you somewhat of my own knowledge, which may not be denied: for the author is a man of good credence both abroad and at home with the greatest and lowest. After the beginning of the Queen’s reign, and the sudden alteration of all things (contrary to oath and promise) there came one of my order to me as I walked in the garden. He went about to persuade me to incline to the Queen’s proceedings. “Play the wise man,” said he, “and do as I and other men do. I have known you for a longtime to be a good fellow. I warrant you, you shall recover your loss and live in honor if you will be ruled by reason.” And with that he lept up to clap me on the shoulder, for unless he stood on tiptoe he could not reach it. “Thus,” said he, “you are a fool. If the Turks ruled in England, I would frame myself to live accordingly.” I may not nor will tell you his name, because I hope he will once remember himself and call to God for grace. But to keep you from musing, I will tell you somewhat. In King Henry’s time, when Gardner was called the bear, he was called the ape. The drunken doctor wisdom, in the midst of his cups (for wine will disclose secrets if it is as well applied as his mastership does) by the mass, said that butcher, the Bishop of London, will cut all the gentlemen’s throats in England if he can. Thus you may see the mark whereat the hypocrites the papist shoot. They make religion and God’s Word nothing else than a color to cover their wickedness and to maintain their lewdeness. And therefore they wrest and writhe Scripture to serve their own purpose. And so they have need to do: for there is not one word in all the Scripture for them, but every word is against them. And because you are returned to their devotions; have forsaken God and His Word; and cleave to the pope and his traditions; and maintain such a sort of hypocrites, dissemblers, and open enemies of God and the realm of England: therefore all these plagues have lighted on you, and the rest will shortly follow without fail. Look at the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy, where it is written thus: “If you will not hearken to the voice of the your God, to keep and to do all His commandments and His ordinances which I command you this day, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you. Cursed will you be in the town, and cursed in the field. Cursed will your basket be and your store. Cursed will be the fruit of your body, the fruit of your land, the fruit of your oxen, and the flocks of your sheep. The Lord will send upon you cursing, destruction, and rebuke, to all that you set your hand to and all that you do, until He destroys you and brings you to nothing quickly, because of the wickedness of your inventions and because you have forsaken me. The Lord will smite you with madness, blindness, and dashing of heart. You will be oppressed and robbed evermore and no man will save you. You will be engaged to a wife, and another man will lie with her. You will build a house, and not dwell in it. Your ox will be killed before your eyes, and you will not eat it. Your donkey will be forcibly taken from you, and will not be restored to you again.
Your sheep will be given to your enemies, and no man will rescue them. The fruit of your land and all your labors will be eaten by a nation you do not know. You will continually suffer violence and always be oppressed, so that you will be beside yourself because of the sight your eyes will see. You will carry much seed out into the field and will gather but a little in, because the grasshoppers will destroy it. All your trees and fruit of your land will be consumed by locusts. The stranger that is among you will climb above you on high, and you will come down lower and lower. Moreover these curses will come upon you and will follow and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not listen to the voice the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and ordinances which He commanded you. They will be upon you and your descendants as wonders and signs forever, because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and with a good heart when you had abundance of all things. Therefore you will serve your enemies, which the Lord will send upon you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and in need all things. He will put a yoke of iron around your neck till He has brought you to nothing. And the Lord will bring a nation upon you whose tongue you will not understand, a fierce looking nation, which will not regard the person of the old, nor have compassion on the young. They will eat the fruit of your cattle, and the fruit of your land, till they have destroyed you. They will leave you neither corn, wine, nor oil, nor the increase of your oxen, nor the flocks of your sheep, till they have brought you to nothing. And the Lord will send upon you and your descendants great plagues and of long continuance, evil sicknesses and of long endurance. And it will come to pass, that as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good and to multiply you, even so He will rejoice over you to destroy you and to bring you to nothing. And among these nations you will find no ease, nor will the sole of your foot have rest. But the Lord will give you an anxious heart, eyes weary with longing, and sorrow of mind.” And in the end of Deuteronomy 29 it follows: “Then will all nations say, ‘ Why has the Lord done this to this land?’ And man will say, ‘Because they left the Covenant of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt. For they went and served strange gods, and worshipped them, gods which they did not know and which had given them nothing. And the wrath of the Lord waxed hot against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book.'” By this Scripture you are plainly told the undeniable cause and reason, whereby the Lord God threatens and sends plagues. Read all the history of the Bible, and the prophecies of the prophets, and you will evidently see how people and nations have been destroyed for maintaining such idolaters and wicked men as the papists are, and where such wickedness has been used (as is among you) and not corrected, as I have before declared. But you will say: “What will we do to avoid the calamity and misery that is both present and coming? Would to God you asked it from the bottom of your heart. But I fear you dissemble and speak it with your lips only, as you are want to do. When the great fever was in England in the time of King Edward (a little signification of a greater scourge following), many that were merry at dinner were buried in the evening. Some that went to sleep at night healthy, were found in bed dead in the morning. Some that did not go far from their own house never returned. Then as long as the ferventness of the plague lasted, there was crying, “Peccavi, Peccavi, Peccavi. (I have sinned, I have sinned, I have sinned.) Mercy good Lord, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” The ministers of God’s Word were sought for in every corner. They could neither rest nor sleep. “You must come to my lord. You must come to my lady. My master asks you to come immediately to him. My mistress needs to speak with you. If you love God and if you love their salvation, do not delay. For God’s sake, M. Minister, tell us what we should do to avoid God’s wrath. Take these bags and pay so much to such a man, for I deceived him. Give him so much, for I got it from him by usury. I made a crafty bargain with such a one; restore him so much and ask him to forgive me. I have taken bribes from such a one; I ask you to give him so much more again. I have spoken evil of such a man; God forgive me. I have been a whoremonger and a bawdy; God pardon me. Divide this bag among the poor. Carry this to the hospital. Pray for me for God’s sake. Good Lord forgive me; I have dissembled with you. I pretended to love your Word with my lips, but I did not think it with my heart. But now I see you know the most secret secrets and will not leave evil unpunished. Have mercy on me and forgive me good Lord. I ask you from the bottom of my heart.” This was the dissimulation of the people for three or four days during the execution. But after, when the rage was somewhat assuaged, they returned to their vomit worse than they ever were. What they had before caused to be restored and given in alms, they sought to recover by more evil. But God is not blind; neither is his hand shortened. He has begun to meet with you, and will pay you what He owes you to the uttermost. But whether you honestly request of me to know how to avoid the plague to come, or to dissemble with me, I would rather you be found in fault than I not do what I promised you before. God’s Word requires and commands every man to help his neighbor in word and deed, as much as in him lies. I will therefore tell you my best advice, and heartily pray God you may earnestly follow it. All these plagues you heard rehearsed before: famine, pestilence, sedition, wars, distructions of countries, captivity of people, and alterations of states, are instruments of God sent and powered on the people for their sins, so that they should be sorry and repent of their former wicked life, call to God for mercy, and lead a new life in holiness and righteousness all the days of their life. If you will earnestly do this, God will show mercy toward you, as He is merciful. For God that never deceived any, but abhors all practices, all deceit, and all practicers (the workers of deceit), promised this by the mouth of His prophet Ezekiel. He says, “If the ungodly will turn away from all his sins that he has done, and will keep all My commandments, and do the thing that is just and right, certainly he will live and not die. For all the sins he did before will not be remembered anymore. But in his righteousness that he has done, he will live. For I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but that he should repent of his wicked life and live.” It follows in the prophet: “Therefore repent and turn from your wickedness, and your wickedness will not be your destruction. Cast from you all your ungodliness. Make yourself a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel (that is, all those who trust to be saved by Christ) seeing I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies,” says the Lord God. “Turn therefore, and you will live.”
This is not holy water of the court, bare words of course, as the princes of the world use while they go about to deceive the poor people with their practices. He says no less than He will do. He promises no more than He will justly and fully perform. Scripture is full of examples to prove it. After the death of Gideon, the children of Israel fell from the worship of the true God, became idolaters, and worshipped Baal, Ashtaroth, and other gods as the pagans did. Therefore God plagued them horribly with invasions and over-running of the Philistines for a period of 43 years. They seemed in words to do penance, but God saw they dissembled with Him, and therefore He would not hear them. But after they had done penance indeed, that is, destroyed the idols and cast them out of their country, then God sent the noble captain Jephthah, who defended them and revenged the malice of the Philistines. Likewise, when the children of Israel had in the time of Eli the priest been slaughtered by the Philistines and had lost many cities and towns because of the idolatry they had committed, yet when by the admonition of Samuel they repented (as you heard before) and turned to God, God turned to them and was merciful. And when the Philistines had prepared a horrible great force against the children of Israel, God suddenly sent such a terrible thunder and lightning that they were dispersed and run away. The children of Israel chased them and killed them, and recovered their cities and all that they had lost. When the Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites tried to overrun Judah in the time of King Jehoshaphat, when the King and his people lamented to God and called for mercy, God turned away His wrath and poured it on their enemies. He made them to fall out among themselves and to kill one another. When Ben-hadad the King of Syria besieged Samaria, there was so great a famine in the city that women ate their own children. But when King Joram and the people felt to repentance and called to God for mercy, they had in one day plenty of all things. For God sent such a terror among the Syrians with the noise of armor, that they fled and left all their food bags and baggage behind them for those of Samaria. You have heard before also, how Sennacherib, who invaded Israel, was destroyed with his whole army by God, after the people repented of their sins and called for mercy. And so you have inumerable examples of the great mercy of God toward all that repented truly and called for mercy. As of the city of Nineveh, whom although God had threatened to utterly destroy them, yet when God saw they repented for their former wicked life and called to Him for mercy, He withdrew his plague and held out His merciful hand over them. Even so you (good countrymen and true English hearts) if you will in time earnestly repent of your sins, leave your idolatry, and honor and worship God truly (as you were taught in blessed King Edward’s time), abhor the fond fantasies and foolish traditions of men, and cleave to the sincere word of God, and be desirous of the knowledge of it: leave your blasphemy, vain swearing, horrible forswearing, and perjury; no longer hate your country, but be true and faithful to it; and by all godly means seek the wealth and safeguard of it. If you will obey God’s commandments before your governors; and your governors in what is godly, honest, and just, and not otherwise; if you will leave your bawdry, whoredom, and bitchery; if you will drive out of all places whores, whoremongers, bath houses, and all such as favor and maintain them; if you will abstain from cruel murdering of the saints of God and innocents, and rather yourselves be content to suffer all martyrdom than to embroil your fingers in their blood or consent to it; if you will leave oppressing of your neighbors, your subtlety, craft, deceit, love of greediness, and inordinate desire of the trash of this world; if you leave your inward hatred, grudge, and malice toward one another; if the nobility will love and cherish the commoners, and the commoners honor and love the nobility; if one will show himself a brother and neighbor indeed to another: then if you do these things from the bottom of your heart, and the mouth and heart agree together, your sayings and doings being all one: then you will perceive that God will be easily entreated to turn. Then you may boldly ask of God in Christ’s name, and your desires will be heard and granted. But you may in no wise dissemble with Him, as the Israelites did when they said they would commit no more idolatry and yet kept their idols, and as you pulled down your images and yet kept them secretly in your chambers. And do not do as Judas Iscariot did, will lamented of his sins and repented, but did not return to God. And do not do as yourselves dissembled in the last fever, while God’s whip was in your necks. But you must cleanly do away with the old man and put on the new. You must refuse and cast away all evils, do what is good, and ever study to do what will please God. In no way look back (as Lot’s wife did), but still go forward. And then if you call to God for mercy, putting your full and only trust in Him, He will hear you and take from you those plagues that lie on you, and the others which most certainly (if you do not repent) hang over you and will come upon you. Then He will send you His and benediction for malediction; plenty for famine; health for pestilence; peace for wars; quietness for trouble; a godly and just government for cruel tyranny; and for sedition, such force and power that you, being few, shall be able to withstand all the tyrannies of the world and enemies of God and our country, and utterly confound them and destroy them. You will avoid the eternal pains of hell prepared for sinners, and at length you will be sure to make a change from your earthly country to the heavenly paradise, from variable England to the constant Jerusalem, from the company of men to the fellowship of angels, from mutable and frowning countenances of worldly powers to the unchangeable and most comfortable sight of the King of the Kings, our most merciful eternal heavenly Father, to whom with the Son and the Holy Ghost be all honor, praise, and glory now and forever. Amen.