- T h e e x p o s i t i o n
o f t h e f y r s t e E p i s t l e
o f s e y n t I h o n
w i t h a P r o l o g g e
b e f o r e i t :
b y W . T .
P r o l o g g e
- Excepte a man haue the professione
of his baptyme in his herte
he can not vnderstonde the scripture.
AS a man can by no meanes reade / excepte he be first taught the lettres of the crosserowe / euen so it is vnpossible for a man of what so euer degre or name he be of / to vnderstonde ought in the scripture vn to the honoure of god / and healthe of his soule / excepte he be first taught the professione of his baptym and haue it also written in his herte.
Whiche profession stondyth in .ij. thynges. The one is the knowlege of the lawe of God vnderstondinge it spiritually / as Christ expoundeth it Mattheu in the .v. vj. and .vij. so that the rote and life of all lawes be this. Loue thy lorde God with all thyne hert / all thy soule / & all thy myght / and thy neyboure as thy self for his sake and that love only be the fulfillynge of the lawe (as Paule teachythe) and that what so euer dede we doo and not of that loue / that same fulfillythe no lawe in the sight of God.
And the other is to knowe the promises of mercie / whiche ar in oure sauioure Cryste / vnderstandynge them also purely with out all leuen / after the mercifullest facion as scripture soundith them / and after all fatherly loue and kyndenesse of God vnto all that repent towarde the lawe and beleue in Christe.
And to haue this profession wrytten in thyne herte / is to consente vnto the lawe that it is righteous / and good / and to loue it in thine herte [A2v] and to submyt thy selfe therunto for to lerne it / and to reule and square all thy dedes therby / & then to beleue in Crist / that for his sake / all thy synnes whiche thou dyddist before the knoulege of this profession are forgeuen the clerly bothe pena and culpa to vse the popes termes / and that for no nother satisfaction to God warde then Cristes bloude / and even so / that all the synne whiche we doo after this knowlege / eyther of chaunce / ignoraunce / infirmite / negligencie / or prouokyde and ouercome of the flesshe / is forgyuen vs lykwise bothe pena and culpa thorou repentaunce and faithe in Criste without oure satisfaction of workes to Godwarde.
Not with stondinge we beinge al sonnes of one God / and seruauntes of one Christe must agre amonge our selues / and he that hathe offendyd must mekly knowlege his fault / and offer hym selfe to make amendes vn to vtmost of his poure / and if he haue not wher with axe forgyvenes for Christes sake / the other is bounde to forgive hyme. Nether with out reconcyling him selfe vnto his brother maye any man be at the fyrst receavyd vnto the profession of Christes faythe nor contynewe therin / nor be receavyd in agayne if he be for his open offenses put therout. For howe can a man love his neyboure as well as him selfe / and be sory that he hath hurt him excepte he shulde offer him selfe to make amendes?
And we must from hence forth walke in the life of penaunce (if ye wil haue it so callyd) and after the doctrine of Christ every man tame his fleshe with prayer / fastinge / and the continuall meditations of Christes Penaunce / and passions for vs / and of the holy sainctes / and with suche abstinence / and kynde of lyuing as euery man [A3] thinketh most mete for his complexion / the younger confessinge their infirmities to the elder discreter / and better lernyd / & axynge their aduise and holsome councell for the repressinge of their diseases / but all / to tame the fleshe / and to serue thy neyboure / with owte any superstitious mynde.
But to Godwarde is ther no satisfaction saue faithe in Christes bloude oute of a repentynge herte. For oure outwarde dedes can not be referryde vnto God to doo hym seruice in his awne persone / and to helpe hym or make hym better therwith. We can doo no more with them / wer they neuer so perfyte / and done with all loue / then satisfie the lawe for the present tyme / & do oure duty vnto oure neyboures / & tame oure awne flesche / but not to make satisfactione to God for synne that is ons paste. The synne that is ones commyttyd must God forgyue frelye of a fatherly loue for Cristes sake.
When God visiteth vs with syknes / pouerty / or what so euer aduersite it be / he doth it not of a tyrannouse mynde to satisfie his lust in oure soffrerynge of euell to make satisfactione for the synne that is paste of whiche we repent and be sory. But of a fatherly loue to make vs know our selfes / and feale his mercy / and to tame oure fleshe / and to kepe vs from synninge agayne. As no natural father punissheth his childe because he delytethe in tormentynge of him / to take satisfactione for the sinne that is paste. But fyrste teachyth kyndly and sofferythe and forgiueth once or twise / and then at the last / when he sethe the body so wanton that the childe can not contynewe in the right waye for the rage of wilde lustes / he beatythe / to subdewe the flesche only [A3] and to tame it / that the doctryne of the father may haue hyr due course in the herte of the chylde / and shulde not be chokyd with lustes.
Euen so is it of God / if any of hys chyldren that haue professed his lawe / and the faithe of oure sauioure / be negligent to tame his fleshe / with prayer / fastynge / and good dedes after the doctrine of Chryst / he wyll suerly scourge hym / to brynge hym in to the right way agayne and to kepe that the doctrine of his soules healthe peryshe not in hym. But he takyth not his mercy from vs ner thynketh on the sinne that is paste / after that we repent and be full conuertyd / but absoluyth vs both a pena and culpa for Crystes sake / and is as myghtie and as mercyfull to doo it for Cristes sake / as the Pope for money besydes that he hathe promysed mercyfully so to doo.
The knowlege of oure baptyme
is the key and the lyght of the scripture.
ANd agayne as he whiche knowythe his lettres well / & can spell perfytly can not but reade if he be diligent / and as he which hath cleare eyes with out impedyment or let and walkyth therto in the lyght and open day can not but se / if he attende and take hede / euen so who so euer hathe the profession of baptyme wryten in his harte / can not but vnderstond the scripture if he exercice hym selfe therin / and compare one place to an other / and marke the maner of speache and axe here and there the meanynge of a sentence of them that be bettre exercysed. [A4] For as the doctryne whiche we shulde be taught before we were baptised / and for lacke of age is deferryd vnto the yeres of discretion is the key that byndeth and lowseth / lockyth and vnlockyth the conscience of all synners / euen so that lessone / wher it is vnderstonde is only the keye that opennyth all the scripture / and euen the hole scripture in it self gatheryd to gether in a narowe compas and brought in to a compendiousnes. And till thou be taught that lesson that thyne herte fele the swetnes of it / the scripture ys lockyd and shut op from the / and so darke that thou couldest not vnderstonde it / thoughe Peter / Paule or Cryst hym selfe dyde expounde it vnto the / no more then a blynde man can se / thoughe thou set a Candle before hym / or shewdest hym the sonne or poyntyddest with thy fyngre vnto that thou woldest haue hym loke vpon.
Nowe be we all baptysed / But alas not one from the hyest vnto the lawest euer taught the professione or meanyng therof. And therfore we remayne all blinde generally / as well oure greate Rabines for all their hie lernyng which they seme to haue / as the lay people / ye and so moche the more blynde ar oure greate Clerkes / that where the lay people for a greate numbre of them ar taught nought at all / they be all wronge taught and the doctrine of their baptyme is all corrupte vnto them / with the leuen of false gloses / yere they come to reade the scripture. So that the lyght whiche they bringe with them to vnderstonde the scripture with all / is vtter darkenes and as contrary vnto the scripture as the deuele vnto Christ. [A4v] By reason wherof the scripture is lokkyd vp and become so darke vnto them / that they grope for the dore and can fynde no way in / and is become a mase vnto them / in whiche they wandre as in a myst / or (as we saye) led of Robyn Goodfelowe / that they can not come to the right way / no thoughe they turne their Cappes / and the brightnes therof hathe blynded their eyes with malice / so that thoughe they beleve not the scripture to be false / yet they persecute the right vnderstondinge therof / and can not beleve it trewe in the playne sence / whiche it speakythe to them in. It is become a torneagaine lane vn to them / which they can not go thorowe / ner make .iij. lynes agre to gether. And finally the sentences of the scripture are no thinge but very ridels vnto them / at the whiche they cast as the blynde man dothe at the crowe / & expounde by gesse / an hundrethe doctoures an hundrethe wayes and one man in .xx. sermons alleginge one texte after .xx. facions / hauinge no sure doctrine to cleue vnto / and al for lacke of the right knowelege of the profession of our baptyme.
He that hathe the profession
of his baptyme writen in hert
can be no heretyke.
ANother conclusion is this. As he whiche ever crepith alonge by the grounde & never clymneth can not fal frome an hie. Even so no man that hath the profession of his baptym writen in his harte can stomble in the scripture / and fal vnto heresies or become a maker of diuision and sektes and a defendre of wylde and vayne opinions. For the hole and only cause of heresies and sectes is Pride. Nowe the lawe of God truly interpreted robbeth al them in whose hartes it is w[A5]riten / and makyth them as bare as Iob of al thinges wherof a man can be mouyd to pryde. And on the other syde they haue vtterly forsaken them selues with al their hie lerninge and wisdome and are become the seruantes of Christe only whiche hathe bought them with his bloude / and haue promised in theire hertes vnfaynedly to folowe hym and to take hym only for the auctor of their religion & his doctrine only for their wisdome and lernyng / and to mayntene it in worde and dede / and to kepe it pure and to builde no straunge Doctrine therupon / and to be at the hiest neuer but felowe with their brethren / & in that felowshippe to wax euer lower and lower / and euery day more seruant then other / vnto his weaker brethren / after the ensample and ymage of Christ and after his commaundemente and ordinaunce / and not in fayned wordes of the pope.
This be sayde because of them that say that the scripture makythe men heretiques & corrupteth with false opinions contrarie vnto the professione of their baptym / and the light wher with they shulde expounde the scripture is tornyd in to darknes in their hertes / and the dore of the scripture lockyd and the welles stoppyd vp yer they come at it.
And therfore because their darknes can not comprehend the light of scripture / as it is writen Iohn .i. The light shyned in darknes but the darknes could not comprehende it / they torne it in to blynde ridles and reade it with out vnderstanding as lay men do owre lady Mattens or as it were Marlynes propheties euer their mindes vpon their heresies. And whan they come to a place that soundithe lyke / there they rest [A5v] and wringe out wonderful expositions to stablishe their heresies with al / after the tale of the boy that wold fayne haue eaten of the pastie of lamprese but durst not vnto the belles sang vn to hym. Syt doune Iake boy and eate of the lamprey / to stablishe his waueringe conscience withe al. Is it not a greit blyndenes to say in the beginninge of al to gether / that the hole scripture is false in the litteral sence / and kyllith the soule. Which pestilent heresi to proue they abuse the texte of Paule saing. The lettre killeth / because that texte was become a rydle vnto them & they vnderstode it not. When Paule by this worde lettre vnderstode the lawe given by Moses to condemne al conscience & to robbe them of al rightwisnes to compel them vnto the promises of mercy that are in Christ.
Heresie springeth not of the scripture no more then darknes of the soone / but is a darke cloude that springeth out of the blinde hertes of hypocrites / & coverithe the face of the scripture / & blindeth their eyes that they can not beholde the bryght beames of the scripture.
The hole & some then of al to gether is this. If our hertes wer taught thappoyntment made betwen god & vs in Christes bloud when we wer baptised / we had the kay to open the scripture / & light to se & perceyue the true meaning of it / & the scripture shulde be easy to vnderstonde. And because we be not taght that profession / is the cause whi the scripture is so darke / & so fare passinge our capacyte. And the cause why our expositions ar heresies / is because we be wrong taught / & corrupte with false opinions befor hande & made heretikes yer we come at the scripture / & haue corrupte it / & it not vs / as the taste of the [A6] sike makithe holsome & wel seasonyd meate bitter / werish & vnsauery. Neuertheles yet the scripture abydeth pure in hyr self & bright / so that he which is sounde in the faithe shal attonce perceyue that the iudgement of the heretikes is corrupte in their expositions / as an hole man doth feale attonce euen with smellinge to the meate that the tast of the sike is infectyd. And with the scripture shal thei euer improue heresies & false expositions / for the scripture purgithe hyr selfe / euen as the water once in the yere casteth al filthines vnto the sides. Which to be true ye se by the auctorite of Paule .2. Timoth. 3. saing. Al the scripture was giuen of god by insperation / & is good to teache with al / to improue & so forth. And by the ensample of Christ & the Appostles / how they confoundid the Iewes with the same scripture which thei had corrupte / & vnderstode them amisse after their awne darknes / & as ye se by the ensample of vs nowe also / howe we haue manifestly improuid the hipocrites in an hundreth textes which they had corrupte to proue their false opinions brought in besides the scripture / & haue driuen them of. And they be fled & openly confesse vnto their shame that they haue no scripture & sing a nother songe / & say they receauyd them by the mouth of the Appostles. Vnto which stoppinge oystre / I aunswer here grosly / seing thei ar answerde befor. That as he were a fool which wolde trust him to tel his money in his absence that hath pyked his purse befor his face / euen so sithe ye haue corrupte thopen scripture befor our eyes & taken with maner that ye can not denie / we wer madde to beleue that / which hath lyen .xvc. yer as ye say in your roten mawes / shuld nowe be holzom for vs. Ye haue chwed & mingled it with yur poizon spetel. [A6v] Can ye beare vs in hande & perswade vs thynk ye with your sophistry to beleue that ye shulde ministre youre secret traditions with out grounde truly / when we se youe ministre the open scripture falslie? Can ye bewyche oure wittes with youre poetry to beleue that ye shulde ministre your secret traditions for oure profyt when we se youe corrupte the open scripture to the losse of oure soules for youre profyt? Nay it is an hundreth tymes more lykly that ye shulde be false in secret thinges then in open. And therfore in the very sacrementys whiche the scripture testifieth / that Christ hym self ordenyd them we must haue an eye onto youre hande / howe ye ministre them. And as we restore the scripture vnto hir right vnderstondyng frome youre false gloses: euen so delyuer we the sacrementes and cerimones vnto their right vse from youre abuse. And that must we doo with the scripture / which can corrupte no man that commyth therto with a meke spryte / sekynge there only to fation hym self like Christ / accordinge to the profession and vowe of oure baptyme. But contrary wise / he shal ther fynde the myghtie power of God / to altre hym / and chaunge hym in the inner man a litle and litle in processe vntill he be full shappen after the image of oure sauioure / in knowlege and loue of all treuth and power to worke ther after.
Finally then for as moche as the scripture is the light and lif of Godes electe / and that mightie pouwer wher with God creatyth them and shapeth them / after the similitude / likenes & very facion of Christ / and therfore sustenaunce / comforte / and strengthe to corrage them / that they may stonde faste / and endure and meryly beare their soules health / where with the lustes of the [A7] fleshe subdued and kylled / and the spryt mollified and made softe / to receyue the print of the ymage of oure sauioure Iesu. And as moche as the scripture ys so pure of it self that it can corrupt no man / but the wykyd only / which ar infect before hand and yer they come at it / corrupte it with the heresies they bringe with them. And for as moche as the complaynt of the hypocrites that the scripture makythe heretykes is vayne and fayned / and the reasons wherwith they wolde proue that the lay people ought not to reade the scripture false / wekyd / & the frute of roten tres / therfor are they faithfull seruauntes of Christ & faithefull ministres and dispensars of his doctrine / and trewe hertyd toward their brethern / which haue giuen them selues vp in to the hande of God / and put them selues in ieoperdy of all persecution / their very lyf dispised / and haue translated the scripture puerly and with good conscience / submittynge them selues / and desiringe them that can to amend their translation / or (if it pleise them) to translate it their selues / after their best maner / ye and let them sowe to their gloses / as many as they thinke they can make cleue therto / and then put other mens translation out of the waye.
Howe be it though God hathe so wrought with them that a greate part is translated / yet as it is not ynoughe that the father and the mother haue bothe begotten the childe and brought it in to this world / except they care for it & bringe it vp till it can helpe the self. Euen so it is not ynoughe to haue translated thoughe it were the hole scripture in to the vulgar and comen tonge / except we also brought agayne / the light to vnderstond it by / & expell that darke cloude whi[A7v]ch the hypocrites haue spred ouer the face of the scripture to blynd the right sence and true meaninge ther of. And therfore ar there diuerse introductions ordeyned for youe / to teache youe the profession of your baptyme the only light of the scripture / one vpon the pistle of Paule to the Romains and a nother callyd The pathe way in to the scripture. And for the same cause / have I taken in hande to enterpret this pistle of sainct Ihan the Euangeliste to edifie the laye man and to teache him howe to reade the scripture / and what to seke therin / & that he may haue to answer the hipocrites and to stoppe their mouthes withe all.
And first vnderstande that al the epistles that the Apostles wrote / ar the Gospel of Christ / thoughe al that is the gospel be not an Epistle. It is called a Gospel / that is to say glade tydinges / because it is an open preachinge of Christ / and an Epistle / because it is sent as a lettre or a bil to them that ar absent.