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FROM THE AUTOGRAPH OF JOHN BRADFORD IN A COPY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT OF TYNDALE MEDITATIONS THE SECOND BIRTH FA147 As the sense or affection of the flesh “neither it can be” or ever in this life will “be subject to the law of God,” where-through the most holy on earth hath cause in consideration thereof continually to fight, seeing in himself not only one enemy but enmity itself against God; so the seed of God, which dwelleth in them that are “born of God,” neither will nor can, nor never will nor can, trespass or sin against God: by reason whereof they that are “born of God” have great cause to rejoice, seeing in themselves, through God’s goodness, not only a friend but friendliness itself towards and with God. For, though “in the flesh” and all they have concerning and from the first birth, so often as they consider it, they have great cause to tremble; yet, in respect of their second birth and the seed of God that dwelleth in them, they should much more rejoice, and be certain of eternal salvation:, because “he is stronger that is in them than he that is in the world.” For no less durable and mighty is the seed of God in his children regenerate, than the seed of the serpent in the unregenerate, to move and rule the will of man accordingly; for will followeth nature, corrupt nature hath corrupt will, pure nature hath pure will.
Now then, who doth not then know that the regenerate, in that and insomuch as they be regenerate, that, I say, they have pure will according to the nature of the Spirit of God regenerating them? So that, as their corrupt nature hath his corrupt affections, which never will “be subject nor can be to God’s law,” (wherethrough though the works; of the Spirit in them be something spotted, yet is not that spotting imputed or laid to their charge for the covenant’s sake, which God hath made with him in the blood of Christ, whereof they are and shall be assured by faith;) so the regenerate man hath his pure affection which never can nor will sin against God.
And hitherto appertaineth the saying of St John, how that the children of God “cannot sin,” speaking not of the present time only, but finally and perpetually, no less attributing to God’s seed (which, he saith, “doth abide in them that are born of God”), than to the seed of the devil in our corrupt nature and flesh. So that the children of God are; always sinners and always righteous; sinners in respect of themselves, and of that they be of the first birth; righteous in respect of Christ, and of that they be of the second birth.
And thus we see what free-will man hath. In respect of his first birth his will is free to sin and nothing else: in respect of his second birth his will is free to do good and nothing else; by reason whereof we ought to be in most certainty of salvation. In confirmation whereof, to this of St John, (which is, “they which are born of God cannot sin,”) we may look on other places of scripture confirming the same, as that God promiseth to make his people “a new heart;” item, that he promiseth he will bring it so to pass that they shall “walk in his laws;” item, that Christ promiseth his Spirit “shall be in him to whom he giveth it a spring of water running unto eternal life;” also, that he witnesseth “them which believe in him” already to be “passed” all doubt and death, and to be presently in “eternal life.”
But you will say, perchance, that ‘David a regenerate person not only would sin but could do it, and did it indeed, as Peter also and divers others: where was the seed of God in these men? Did not David pray God to give him [his] Spirit again? Therefore he had lost this seed: and so it followeth that no man is so certain, but that he may utterly lose the Spirit of God, and so perish.’
To answer this, consider David and Peter according to these two births, whereof the one is perfect (I mean it of that which is first); but the second is but begun, and not yet perfect until the soul be delivered out of the body by death, as the body out of the mother’s womb by birth. No marvel then if we see “the old man” in the children of God oftentimes to do ill for a time, as in David and Peter, which proveth not yet that they had lost the Holy Ghost: for, as a sparkle of fire may be covered in the ashes though it appear not, even so I doubt not but that the seed of God was in these men though it appeared not. And as for David praying for the “renovation of a right spirit in him,” [it] doth not fully prove an utter privation of the same; for the children of God do pray often after their sense rather than after the verity, as when Christ said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” which was not so indeed but to his sense. Yea, David prayed that God would “not take away his holy Spirit,” whereby he knowledgeth no utter privation of the same: whereof we have a demonstration in his humble acception of Nathan reproving him, of acknowledging his fault, and humbling himself before the face of God, and praying for pardon. Came this of the seed of the flesh? Were not these evident signs of God’s seed and holy Spirit, which kept so David that he “could not sin,” that is, continue in it finally? though for a time God most justly did give power to the enemy to prevail, and, as it were, to triumph in David’s fall.
Therefore, and in the sins of other the elect, we see that the seed of Satan sleepeth not in the most holy; whereby we should be stirred up more to vigilancy and prayer, that by our negligence it prevail not. We see also that, though for a time God suffer Satan to sift his children, yet his seed reviveth at the length, and getteth the upper hand, (for else they should lie still, and perish for ever:) wherethrough we are taught not to fall and abuse this to a carnality, but rather so to consider it, that in our falls we may arise, and in our standing we may stand still, and be thankful.
Indeed no man, I grant, is so certain as he should be: but that the child of God should not be certain, that I utterly deny. Rather let us a-knowledge our unbelief, and give God this honor, which of all other is most excellent, that he is merciful and true. He that giveth to God this testimony in his heart, and consenteth that God is merciful and kind unto him, and thereto true, the same doth honor him most highly.
ON FOLLOWING CHRIST FA148 MANY would come to thee, O Lord, but few will come after thee. Many would have the reward of thy saints, but very few will follow their ways: and yet we know, or at the least we should know, that the entrance to thy kingdom and paradise is not from a paradise, but from a wilderness; for we come not from pleasure to pleasure, but from pain to pleasure, or from pleasure to pain, as thy story of the rich glutton and Lazarus doth something set forth.
E carcere [from prison], 15 Februarii JOHN BRADFORD.
ON AFFLICTION FA149 ENEMIES to God are such as hate God. So that, when in thyself thou seest not this hatred of God, think that the punishments, how great and grievous soever they be, thou hast, be not the punishments of enemies, but rather the fatherly castigations of children. Therefore be not dismayed, but take occasion as a child to go to God as to thy Father through Christ; and doubt not of love and friendship accordingly, how deeply soever thou hast deserved the contrary.
THE LIFE OF FAITH FA150 Labor for a lively sight and sense of heavenly things, and so shall no sight or sense of earthly things trouble your affections, further than you shall be able enough with ease and pleasure relinquish and forsake them, whensoever God’s glory shall require.Now this sight and sense of heavenly things is not otherwise than by faith; which beginneth not but where reason faileth, or rather maketh an end.
Therfore, in all matters of religion and concerning salvation, leave reason with Abraham’s ass, and leave your corporal senses with his servants in the valley, to be occupied in civil things, if that you will climb up with Isaac into the hill of heaven; whither God our Father bring us for his mercy’s sake. J.B.
ON THE CONFLICT OF FAITH FA152 WHENSOEVER thou seest a blindness in thy mind and a hardness in thine heart, and therefore art troubled, and something therethrough moved to waver and doubt of God’s mercy towards thee, beware that thou be not unthankful to the Lord for the mercy which in this plague he sendeth, in that he suffereth thee not so much to see of thy blindness and hardness as it is: for, if this little piece which thou now dost something see do a little make thy faith to waver, O how much would thy faith waver if thou sawest the thing as it is! Therefore be thou thankful for not seeing so much of the evil thou hast, as it is. FA154 God will never destroy any that is not his enemy: but none is his enemy that would be his friend; that is, that would amend, and do desire to do his will. Whensoever therefore thou dost see in thyself a will consenting to God’s will and lusting to do it, never think that the plague poured out upon thee is to thy destruction, but to thy correction and weal. FA155 If we ought to be patient when any man doth wrong us, much more then when God doth deal roughly with us, in that he cannot wrong us. God is patient: he then that is patient is common with God, or rather hath communion with God in this virtue: whereby it followeth that the patient man cannot perish, inasmuch as none having any communion with God can perish. FA156 This is the treasure of godly men, which the world is very ignorant of, namely, that all evil spiritual and corporal happen to the good and weal of God’s elect; item, that God is then nearest when he seemeth to be farthest; also, then he is most merciful and a sweet savior, when he seemeth to be most wroth and to destroy; moreover, that we then have eternal righteousness, which we look for by hope as a most certain possession, when we feet terror of sin and death. Item, then we are lords of all things when we be most wanting, as “having nothing and yet possessing all things.”
As Moses lifting up his hands, the Israelites prevailed against the Amalekites, even so our souls lifting up their hands to God in earnest prayer, we shall prevail against our enemies: but, as it was needful for:Moses to have his arms underpropped, so have we need of perseverance.Now perseverance is the true and proper daughter of faith; which faith is not without confession, as David and Paul doth witness when they say that they “believed and therefore did they speak,” making speaking the demonstration of believing; and therefore Paul also, where [he] saith that the “belief of the heart and the confession of the mouth” doth justify and “save;” thereby shewing that saving faith is not without confession, and that in the very mouth, much more then in the life. The which confession in that very many now-a-day do want, not daring once to speak, [for] fear of losing that which they shall leave (will they, nill they,) at the length; easily we may see that they want faith also, and so are in danger to “the wrath of God which abideth upon them that believe not;” that is, upon such as confess not the truth for fear of the wrath of the magistrates, which because they would avoid, they fall into “God’s wrath,” which is horrible. JOHN BRADFORD.
ON A GOOD CONSCIENCE FA159 LEARN to let the world daily more and more to die unto you, before you die to it, lest death when it cometh will be more dangerous. When you depart hence, nothing in all this world will go with you: then will it and all things here make as though they never had known you: therefore esteem it not so much as many do, for you shall find no true friendship of it. Rather study to get and keep “a good conscience,” which if you have at your departure, then are you happy. “A good conscience” I call a good purpose in all things to live after God’s will. This is given “by the resurrection of Christ,” that is, by knowing certainly, through faith, that Christ by his death hath made purgation of your sins past., and by his resurrection hath justified you and regenerated you; so that you, purposing to live as God shall teach you, have in God’s sight “a good conscience,” whose root you see is in faith: which God for his mercy’s sake more and more increase in us. Amen.
As Moses and Elias talked with Christ of his departing which he fulfilled at Jerusalem by death, so do they tell and talk with us that our departing is never fulfilled till death cometh: then both in body and soul we shall depart from this life, and go to God our Father.
It is better for the truth’s sake to suffer pain, than for flattery promotion to obtain: he that for fear of any power doth hide the verity, upon his own pate God’s grievous vengeance falleth. He that considereth God and his ways (I mean it concerning his mercies or displeasures) simply out of himself in others, surely the same shall feel little affection; that is, shall little fear or rejoice. Therefore, when you consider the judgments and mercies of God shewed upon others, see that by some means you apply the same in some part to yourself: so shall you find commodities.
To fear God is “the beginning of wisdom;” for by it we “depart from evil,” and so are more meet to receive God’s grace and fellowship, which cannot be had of them that “walk in darkness.” Therefore, inasmuch as this book doth teach true wisdom, if that you will be a reader and student of it, see that you bring with you “the fear of God,” for which you must pray heartily: and, that you may know when you “fear the Lord,” mark how you “depart from evil” and flee from “the works of darkness.” Which things if you do, then come a God’s name, and with reverence read this book knowing for certain that therein the Lord doth speak unto you.
Be not therefore an Eutychus, but rather a Thyophile ; I and God shall give you his blessing; which thing he do for his merey’s sake! [The ten following Meditations and Prayers are collected from various sources.
Five of these are now first printed from MSS. in Emmanuel College, Cambridge, namely the ‘Meditation on the Lord’s Supper,’ p. 260-3; the ‘Prayer for the presence of God,’ p. 264 — 6; the Prayers ‘for deliverance from trouble,’ and ‘in the time of persecution,’ and the ‘Paraphrase of Psalm 74,’ p. 276-91.
The short ‘Admonition written in a Testament,’ p. 264, is reprinted from Bishop Coverdale, ‘Letters of the martyrs,’ 1564.
The ‘Sweet contemplation of heaven,’ p. 266 — 9, is taken from the ‘Godly Meditations’ of Bradford, Allde 1604.
The meditations on the ‘Place and joys of the life everlasting,’ and on the ‘Felicity of the life to come,’ p. 269 — 75, are printed from a copy of the ‘Christian Prayers,’ etc., collected by Henry Bull, Middleton 1570, in the collection of the late George Stokes, Esq.
These two meditations also occur in the first edition of the ornamented ‘Book of Christian Prayers,’ Day 1569, signature F — I 2; but not in the after editions, 1578, 1581, 1590, 1608. Vide prefatory note, p. 223 above.
The ‘Prayer of one standing at the stake’ is printed from a MS. in Emmanuel College, Cambridge, 1.2. 8. no. 92. which is inscribed, ‘Bradford’s prayer at the stake for Robert Harr’[ington] It is also to be found in the ‘Prayers,’ etc. collected by Henry Bull, Middleton, n.d.p. 404, and Beale 1619, p. 266, with the title, ‘A prayer which Master John Bradford said a little before his death in Smithfield.’
It is also given in Foxe, Acts, etc. 1570, p. 2002, or ed. 1843 — 8, 7 686, between the account of the martyrdom and the letters of Adn. Philpot, as if written by that martyr, with the title, ‘A prayer to be said at the stake of all them that God shall account worthy to suffer for his sake ;’ and it has been reprinted from Foxe, ed. 1597, in the ‘Examinations,’ etc. of Philpot, Parker Society, p. 162-4.
Its text in this volume has been collated with another MS. in Emmanuel College, 2. 2. 16. no. 6., which supplies the signature at the end, ‘John Bradford:’ but the variations are only noted where a deviation from MS. 1. 2. 8. is followed.]