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TO THE BRETHREN IN ENGLAND, AND FOUR FAREWELLS TO LONDON, CAMBRIDGE, LANCASHIRE AND CHESHIRE, AND WALDEN.
BY JOHN BRADFORD.
AN EXHORTATION TO THE BRETHREN THROUGHOUT THE REALM OF ENGLAND. FB210 THE Holy Spirit of God, which is “the earnest” and pledge of God given to his people for their comfort and consolation, be poured into our hearts, by the mighty power and merits of our alone Savior Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.
Because I perceive plainly, that to the evils fallen upon us which profess Christ’s gospel greater are most like to ensue, and after them greater, till the measure of iniquity be up-heaped, (except we shrink, and “having put our hands to the plough do look back,” and so with Lot’s wife and the Israelites desiring to return into Egypt fall into God’s heavy displeasure incurably, all which God forbid;) and because I am persuaded of you, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters throughout the realm of England, which have professed unfeignedly the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (for unto such do I write this epistle), that, as ye have begun to take part with God’s gospel and truth, so through his grace ye will persevere and go on forwards, notwithstanding the storms risen and to arise; I cannot but write something unto you lustily to go on forwards in the way of the Lord, and not to become faint-hearted or “fearful” (whose place St. John appointeth with the “unbelievers, murderers, and idolaters,” in eternal perdition), but cheerfully to take “the Lord’s cup,” and drink of it before it draw towards “the dregs” and bottom: whereof at the length they shall drink with the wicked, to eternal destruction, which will not receive it at the first with God’s children; with whom God “beginneth his judgment,” that, as the wicked world “rejoiceth when they lament,” so they may “rejoice” when the wicked world shall mourn, and without end find woe intolerable.
First therefore, my dearly beloved in the world, I beseech you to consider, that though ye be “in the world,” yet ye are “not of the world.” Ye are not of them which look for their “portion in this life,” whose captain is “the god of this world,” even Satan, who now ruffleth it apace as he were wood, because his time on earth is not long.
But ye are of them that look for a city of God’s own blessing. Ye are of them that know yourselves to be here but “pilgrims and strangers;” for here ye have no dwelling-place. Ye are of them whose “portion is the Lord,” and which have their hope “in heaven;” whose Captain is Christ Jesus, the Son of God, and Governor of heaven and earth. “Unto him is given all power;” yea, he is God Almighty, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, praiseworthy forever.
Ye are not of them which receive “the beast’s mark,” which here rejoice, “laugh,” and have their hearts’ ease, joy, paradise, and pleasure: but ye are of them which have received the angel’s mark, yea, God’s mark; which here lament, “mourn,” sigh, sob, weep, and have your wilderness to wander in, your purgatory, and even hell, to purge and burn up your sins.
Ye are not of them which cry, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die.” Ye are not of that number which say, “they have made a covenant with death and hell,” for hurting of them. Ye are not of them which take it for a “vain thing to serve the Lord.” Ye are not of them which are lulled and rocked asleep in Jezebel’s bed, a bed of security. Ye are not of the number of them which say, ‘Tush, God is in heaven, and seeth us not, nor much passeth what we do.’ Ye are not of the number of them which will “fall down,” for the muck of the world, to worship the fiend; or for displeasing of men, to “worship the golden image.” Finally, ye are not of the number of them which set more by your pigs than by Christ; which, for ease and rest in this life, will say and do as Antiochus biddeth you do or say; and will “follow the multitude to do evil,” with Zedekias and the three hundred false prophets, yea, Ahab, Jezebel, and the whole court and country.
But ye are of the number of them which are dead already, or at least be in dying daily to yourselves and to this world. Ye are of them which have made a covenant with God to forsake yourselves in this world and Satan also. Ye are of them which say, Nay, the Lord hath all things “written in his memorial book, for such as fear him and remember his name.” Ye are of them which have “their loins girded about, and their lights burning in their hands, like unto men that wait for their Lord’s coming.” Ye are in the number of them that say, “The Lord looketh down from heaven, and beholdeth the children of men: from the habitation of his dwelling he considereth all them that dwell upon the earth.” Ye are of the number of them which “will worship the only Lord God,” and will not worship “the works of men’s hands,” though the oven burn never so hot. Ye are in the number of them to whom “Christ is precious” and dear; which cry out rather because your habitation is prolonged here, as David did. Ye are of them which follow Mattathias and the godly Jews; which know the way to life to be a “strait way,” and “few to go through it;” which will not stick to follow poor Micheas, although he be racked and cast into prison, having the sun, moon, seven stars, and all against him.
Thus therefore, dearly beloved, remember first that, as I said, ye “are not of this world;” that Satan is not your captain; your joy and paradise is not here; your companions are not the multitude of worldlings, and such as seek to please men, and live here at ease in the service of Satan. But ye are of another world: Christ is your Captain; your joy is “in heaven, where your conversation is;” your companions are the fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, virgins, confessors, and the dear saints of God, which “follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth,” dipping their garments in his blood; knowing this life and world to be full of evil, “a warfare,” “a smoke,” “a shadow,” “a vapor;” and as replenished, so environed with all kind of miseries.
This is the first thing which I would have you often and diligently with yourselves to consider, and to muse well upon; namely, what ye be, and where ye be.
Now, secondly, forget not to call to mind that ye ought not to think it any “strange thing,” if misery, trouble, adversity, persecution, and displeasure, come upon you. For how can it otherwise be, but that trouble and persecution must come upon you? Can the world love you, which are none of his? Can worldly men regard you, which are your chief enemy’s soldiers? Can Satan suffer you to be in rest, which will do no homage unto him? Can this way be chosen of any that make it so narrow and strait as they do? Will ye look to travel, and to have no foul way or rain? Will shipmen shrink, or sailors on the sea give over, if storms arise? Do they not look for such?
Are not ye travelling to your heavenly city of Jerusalem, where is all joy and felicity; and will ye now tarry by the way for storms or showers? The mart and fair will then be past; the night will so come upon you, that ye cannot travel; “the door will be sparred,” and the bride will be at supper.
Therefore away with dainty niceness. Will ye think the Father of heaven will deal more gently with you in this age, than he hath done with others, his dearest friends, in other ages? What way, yea, what storms and tempests, what troubles and disquietness found Abel, Noe, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and good Joseph? Which of these had so fair a life and restful times as we have had? Moses, Aaron, Samuel, David the king, and all the good kings, priests, prophets, in the old Testament, at one time or other, if not throughout their life, did feel a thousand parts more misery than we have felt hitherto.
As for the new Testament, Lord God, how great was the affliction of Mary, of Joseph, of Zachary, of Elizabeth, of John Baptist, of all the apostles and evangelists, yea, of Jesus Christ our Lord, the dear Son and darling of God! And since the time of the apostles, how many and great are the number of martyrs, confessors, and such as have suffered the shedding of their blood in this life, rather than they would be stayed in their journey, or lodge in any of Satan’s inns, lest the storms or winds which fell in their travelings might have touched them! And, dearly beloved, let us think what we are, and how far unmeet to be matched with these; with whom yet we look to be placed in heaven.
But with what face can we look for this, that are so fearful, unwilling, and backward to leave that which, will we, nill we, we must leave; and that so shortly, as we know not the time when? Where is our abrenouncing and forsaking of the world and the flesh, which we solemnly took upon us in baptism? Ah, shameless cowards that we be, which will not follow the trace of so many fathers, patriarchs, kings, priests, prophets, apostles, evangelists, and saints of God, yea, even of the very Son of God!
How many now go with you lustily, as I and all your brethren in bonds and exile for the gospel! “Pray for us;” for, God willing, we will not leave you now, we will go before you. Ye shall see in us, by God’s grace, that we preached no lies nor tales of tubs, but even the very true word of God; for the confirmation whereof we, by God’s grace and the help of your prayers, will willingly and joyfully give our blood to be shed, as already we have given our livings, goods, friends, and natural country: for now be we certain that we be in the highway to heaven’s bliss; as St. Paul saith, “By many tribulations and persecutions we must enter into God’s kingdom.”
And because we would go thither ourselves, and bring you thither also, therefore the devil stirreth up the coals. And forasmuch as we all loitered in the way, he hath therefore received power of God to overcast the weather, and to stir up storms, that we, God’s children, might more speedily go on forwards, and make more haste: as the counterfeits and hypocrites will tarry and linger till the storms be past, and so when they come, the market will be done, and the doors sparred, as it is to be feared. Read Matthew 25.
This wind will blow God’s children forwards, and the devil’s darlings backward. Therefore, like God’s children, let us go on forward apace: the wind is on our backs; hoist up the sails; “lift up your hearts and hands unto God” in prayer, and keep your anchor of faith to cast out in time of trouble on the rock of God’s word and mercy in Christ by the cable of God’s verity; and I warrant you.
And thus much for you secondly to consider; that affliction, persecution, and trouble, is no strange thing to God’s children, and therefore it should not dismay, discourage, or discomfort us; for it is none other thing than all God’s dear friends have tasted in their journey to heaven-wards.
As I would, in this troublesome time, that ye would consider what ye be by the goodness of God in Christ, even citizens of heaven, though ye be presently in the flesh, even in a strange region, on every side full of fierce enemies; and what weather and way the dearest friends of God have found; even so would I have you, thirdly, to consider for your further comfort, that if ye shrink not, but go on forwards, “pressing to the mark appointed,” all the power of your enemies shall not overcome you, nor in any point hurt you.
But this must not you consider according to the judgment of reason, and the sense of old Adam; but according to the judgment of God’s word, and the experience of faith and “the new man;” for else you mar all. For to reason, and to the experience of our sense, or of the outward man, we poor souls which stick to God’s word, to serve him as he requireth only, are counted to be vanquished and to be overcome, in that we are cast into prison, lose our livings, friends, goods, country, and life also at the length, concerning this world.
Shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, either hunger, either nakedness, either peril, either sword? As it is written, For thy sake are we killed all day long, and are counted as sheep appointed to be slain.
Nevertheless in all these things we overcome through him that loved us.
For I am sure that neither death, neither life, neither angels, nor rule, neither power, neither things present, neither things to come, neither high, nor low, neither any creature, shall be able to part us from that love wherewith God loveth us in Christ Jesu our Lord.” Thus spake one which was in affliction, as I am, for the Lord’s gospel’s sake; his holy name be praised therefor, and he grant me grace with the same to continue in like suffering unto the end. This, I say, one spake which was in affliction for the gospel, but yet so far from being overcome, that he rejoiced rather of the victory which the gospel had; for though he was bound, “yet the gospel was not bound.” And therefore giveth he “thanks unto God, which alway giveth the victory in Christ, and openeth the savor of his knowledge by us” and such as suffer for his truth; although they shut us up never so much, and drive us never so far out of our own natural country in every place.
The world for a time may deceive itself, thinking it hath the victory; but yet the end will try the contrary. Did not Cain think he had the victory, when Abel was slain? But how say you now? Is it not found otherwise? Thought not the old world and men then living, that they were wise and well, and Noe a feel, which would creep into an ark, leaving his house, lands, and possessions? for I think he was in an honest state for the world: but, I pray you, who was wise when the flood came? Abraham, I trow, was counted a fool to leave his own country and friends, kith and kin, because of God’s word: but, dearly beloved, we know it proved otherwise.
Tell me, were not they thought to be overcome and stark mad, when for fear of Pharaoh, at God’s word, they ran into the Red Sea? Did not Pharaoh and the Egyptians think themselves sure of the victory? But, I trow, it proved clean contrary. Saul was thought well, and David in an evil case and most miserable, because he had no hole to hide him in: but yet at the length Saul’s misery was seen, and David’s felicity began to appear.
The prophet Micheas, being cast into prison for telling Ahab the truth, was thought to be overcome of Zedekias and the other false prophets: but, my good brethren and sisters, the holy history telleth otherwise. Who did not think the prophets unhappy in their time? for they were slain, prisoned, laughed to scorn, and jested at of every man. And so were all the apostles, yea, the dearly beloved “friend of God,” “than whom among the children of women none arose greater;” I mean John Baptist, who was beheaded, and that in prison, even for a dancing damsel’s desire. As all these to the judgment of reason were then counted heretics, runagates, unlearned, fools, fishers, publicans, etc.; so now unhappy and overcome in deed, if God’s word and faith did not show the contrary.
But what speak I of these? Look upon Jesus Christ, to whom we must be like fashioned here, if we will be like him elsewhere. How say ye? was not he taken for a most fool, a seditious person, a new fellow, an heretic, and one overcome of everybody; yea, even forsaken both of God and men? But the end told them and telleth us another tale; for now is he in majesty and glory unspeakable. When he was led to Pilate or Herod, or when he was in prison in Caiphas’ house, did not their reason think that he was overcome?
When he was beaten, buffeted, scourged, crowned with thorns, hanged upon the cross, and utterly left of all his disciples; taunted of the high priests and holy fathers, cursed of the commons, railed on of the magistrates, and laughed to scorn of the lewd heathen; would not a man then have thought that he had been out of the way, and his disciples fools to follow him and believe him?
Think ye that, whilst he did lie in his grave, men did not point with their fingers, when they saw any that had followed and loved him, or believed in him and his doctrine, saying, ‘Where is their master and teacher now?
What, is he gone? Forsooth, if they had not been fools, they might well have known that this learning he taught could not long continue. Our doctors and Pharisees are no fools, now they may see.’ On this sort either men spake, or might have spoken, against all such as loved Christ or his doctrine: but yet at the length they and all such were proved fools and wicked wretches. For our Savior arose maugre their beards, and published his gospel plentifully spite of their heads and the heads of all the wicked world, with the great powers of the same; always overcoming, and then most of all, when he and his doctrine were thought to have the greatest fall: as now, dearly beloved, the wicked world rejoiceth, the papists are puffed up against poor Christ and his people.
After their old kind now cry they out, ‘Where are these new-found preachers? Are they not in the Tower, Marshalsea, Fleet, and beyond the seas? Who would have thought that our old bishops, doctors, and deans were fools? as they would have made us to believe, and indeed have persuaded some already which are not of the wisest, especially if they come not home again to the holy church.’ These and such like words they have to cast in our teeth, as triumphers and conquerors.
But, dearly beloved, short is their joy; they beguile themselves. This is but a lightning before their death. As God, after he had given the Jews a time to repent, visited them by Vespasian and Titus most horribly to their utter subversion, delivering first all his people from among them; even so, my dear brethren, will he do with this age. When he hath tried his children from amongst them, as now he beginneth, and by suffering hath made us like to his Christ; and, by being overcome, to overcome indeed to our eternal comfort; then will he, if not otherwise, come himself in the clouds; I mean our dear Lord whom we confess, preach, and believe on. He will come, I say, “with the blast of a trump and shout of an archangel,” and so “shall we be caught up in the clouds to meet him in the air;” the angels gathering together the wicked wretches which now walter and wallow as the world and wind bloweth, to be “tied in bundles,” and cast into the fire which burneth forever most painfully. There and then shall they see who hath the victory, they or we, when they shall see us “afar off in Abraham’s bosom.” Then will they say, “Oh, we thought these folks fools, and had them in derision; we thought their life madness, and their end to be without honor: but look how they are counted among the children of God, and their portion is with the saints. Oh, we have gone amiss, and would not hearken.” Such words as these shall the wicked say one day in hell; whereas now they triumph as conquerors.
And thus much for you thirdly to look often upon; namely, that whatsoever is done unto you, yea, even very death itself, shall not dash or hurt you no more than it did Abel, David, Daniel, John Baptist, Jesus Christ our Lord, with other the dear saints of God which suffered for his name’s sake.
Let not reason therefore be judge in this matter, nor present sense, but faith and God’s word, as I have showed. In the which if we set before our eyes the shortness of this present time wherein we suffer, and consider the eternity to come; as our enemies and persecutors shall be in intolerable pains helpless, and we, if we persevere to the end, in such felicity and joys dangerless, as the very heart of man in no point is able to conceive; if we consider this, I say, we cannot but even contemn and set nothing by the sorrows and griefs of the cross, and lustily go through thick and thin with good courage.
Thus have I declared unto you three things necessary to be mused on of every one which will abide by Christ and his gospel in this troublesome time, as I trust you all will: namely, first, to consider that we are not of this world, nor of the number of the worldlings or retainers to Satan; that we are not at home in our own country; but of another world, of the congregation of the saints and retainers to Christ, although in a region replete and full of untractable enemies. Secondly, that we may not think it a strange thing to be persecuted for God’s gospel, from the which the dearest friends of God were in no age free: as indeed it is impossible that they should any long time be, their enemies being always about them to destroy them if they could. And thirdly, that the assaults of our enemies, be they never so many and fierce, in no point shall be able to prevail against our faith, albeit to reason it seemeth otherwise: wherethrough we ought to conceive a good courage and comfort; for who will be affeared, when he knoweth the enemies cannot prevail?
Now will I, for the more encouraging you to the cross, give you a further memorandum; namely, of the commodities and profits which come by the trouble and afflictions now risen and to arise to us, which be God’s children elect through Jesus Christ. But here look not to have a rehearsal of all the commodities which come by the cross to such as are exercised well therein; for that were more than I can do: I will only speak of a few, thereby to occasion you to gather, and at the length to feel and perceive, more.
First, in that there is no cross which cometh upon any of us without the counsel of our heavenly Father, (for as for the fancy of fortune it is wicked, as many places of the scripture do teach,) we must needs, to the commendation of God’s justice (for in all his doings he is just,) acknowledge in ourselves that we have deserved at the hands of our heavenly Father this his cross or rod fallen upon us. We have deserved it, if not by our unthankfulness, slothfulness, negligence, intemperance, uncleanness, and other sins committed often by us, (whereof our consciences can and will accuse us, if we call them to counsel with the examination of our former life,) yet at least by our original and birth sin; as by doubting of the greatness of God’s anger and mercy, by self-love, concupiscence, and such like sins; which as we brought with us into this world, so do the same alway abide in us, and even as a spring do always bring something forth in act with us, notwithstanding the continual fight of God’s Spirit in us against it.
The first commodity therefore that the cross bringeth is knowledge, and that double, of God and of ourselves: of God, that he is just, pure, and hateth sin; of ourselves, that we are “born in sin,” and are from top to toe defiled with concupiscence and corruption, out of the which hath sprung all the evils that ever at any time we have spoken and done: the greatest and most special whereof, by the cross, we are occasioned to call to mind; as did the brethren of Joseph their evil fact against him, when the cross once came upon them. And so by it we come to the first step to get health for our souls; that is, we are driven to know our sins original and actual by God’s justice declared in the cross.
Secondly, the end wherefore God declareth his justice against our sin original and actual, and would by his cross have us to consider the same, and to call to mind our former evil deeds; the end hereof, I say, is this, that we might lament, be sorry, sigh, and pray for pardon, that so doing we might obtain the same by the means of faith in the merits of Jesus Christ his dear Son; and further that we, being humbled because of the evil that dwelleth in us, might become thankful for God’s goodness and love, in continual watching and wariness to suppress the evil which lieth in us, that it “bring not forth fruits to death” at any time. This second commodity of the cross therefore must we not count to be a simple knowledge only, but a great gain of God’s mercy, with wonderful rich and precious virtues of faith, repentance, remission of sins, humility, thankfulness, mortification, and diligence in doing good. Not that properly the cross worketh these things of itself; but because the cross is the mean and way by the which God worketh the knowledge and feeling of these things in his children: as many both testimonies and examples in [the] scriptures are easily found of them that diligently weigh what therein they read.
To these two commodities of the cross join the third, of God’s singular wisdom, that it may be coupled with his justice and mercy. On this sort therefore let us conceive, when we see the gospel of God and his church persecuted and troubled, as now with us it is, that, because the great, learned, and wise men of the world use not their wisdom to love and serve God, as to natural wisdom and reason he openeth himself manifestly by his visible creatures; therefore doth God justly infatuate and make them foolish, giving them up to unsensibleness, especially herein. For on this manner reason they concerning the affliction which cometh for the gospel: ‘If,’ say they, ‘this were God’s word, if these people were God’s children, surely God would then bless and prosper them and their doctrine. But now, in that there is no doctrine so much hated, no people so much persecuted as they be, therefore it cannot be of God. — Rather this is of God, which our queen and old bishops have professed; for how hath God preserved them and kept them! What a notable victory hath God given unto her, where it was impossible that things should so have come to pass as they have done! — And did not the great captain confess his fault, that he was out of the way, and not of the faith which these gospellers profess?
How many are come again from that which they professed to be God’s word! — The most part of this realm, notwithstanding the diligence of preachers to persuade them concerning this new learning which now is persecuted, never consented to it in heart, as experience teacheth. — And what plagues have come upon this realm sithen this gospel, as they call it, came in amongst us! Before we had plenty; but now there is nothing like as it was. — Moreover all the houses of the parliament have overthrown the laws made for the establishing of this gospel and religion; and new laws are erected for the continuance of the contrary. — How miraculously doth God confound their doctrine and confirm ours! For how was Wyat overthrown! How prosperously came in our king! How hath God blessed our queen with fruit of womb! How is the pope’s holiness restored again to his right! All these do teach plainly, that this their doctrine is not God’s word.’
Thus reason the worldly-wise, which see not God’s wisdom. For else, if they considered that there was with us unthankfulness for the gospel, no amendment of life, but all kind of contempt of God, all kind of shameless sinning ensued the preaching of the gospel, they must needs see that God could not but chastise and correct; and, as he let Satan loose, after he had bound him a certain time, for unthankfulness of men, so to let these champions of Satan run abroad, by them to plague us for our unthankfulness. Great was God’s anger against Ahab, because he saved Ben-hadad, king of Syria, after he had given him into his hands; and afterward it turned to his own destruction. God would that double sorrow should have been repaid to them, because of the sorrow they did to the saints of God. Read the eighteenth of the Revelation.
As for the victory given to the queen’s highness, if men had any godly wit, they might see many things in it. First God hath done it to win her heart to the gospel. Again he hath done it, as well because they that went against her put their trust in horses and power of men, and not in God, as because in their doing they sought not the propagation of God’s gospel. Which thing is now plainly seen by the confession of the captain: his heart loved popery, and hated the gospel. Besides this, men may easily see he was purposed never to have furthered the gospel, but so to have handled the livings of ministers, that there should never have been any ministry in manner hereafter. And what one of the councilors, which would have been taken as gospellers in our good king’s days, declare now that even they loved the gospel? Therefore no marvel why God fought against them.
Now for the relenting, returning, and recanting of some from that which they once professed or preached, alas! who would wonder at it? For they never came to the gospel but for commodity and gain’s sake; and now for gain they leave it.
The multitude is no good argument to move a wise man: for who knoweth not more to love this world better than heaven, themselves better than their neighbors? “Wide is the gate,” saith Christ, “and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat: but strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life; and few there be that find it.” All the whole multitude cry out upon Jesus, “Crucify him,” truss him up: but, I trow, not because they were the bigger part, therefore they were to be believed. All Chaldee followed still their false gods: only Abraham followed the true God.
And where they say that greater plagues are fallen upon the realm in poverty and such other things than before, is no argument to move others than such as love their swine better than Christ. For the devil chiefly desireth his seat to be in religion: if it be there, then he will meddle with nothing we have; all shall be quiet enough: but if he be raised thence, then will he beg leave to have at our pigs. Read Matthew 8 of the Gergesites.
As long as with us he had the ruling of religion, which now he hath gotten again, then was he Robin Good-fellow; he would do no hurt: but when he was tumbled out of his throne by preaching of the gospel, then ranged he about as he hath done, but secretly.
Finally, effectual he hath not been but in “the children of unbelief.” Them indeed hath he stirred up to be covetous, oppressors, blasphemers, usurers, whoremongers, thieves, murderers, tyrants: and yet perchance he suffered them to profess the gospel, the more thereby to hinder it, and cause it to be slandered. How many now do appear to have been true gospellers?
As for the parliament and statutes thereof, no man of wisdom can think otherwise but that, look what the rulers will, the same must there be enacted; for it goeth not in those houses by the better part, but by the bigger part. And it is a common saying, and no less true, Major pars vincit meliorem , ‘The greater part overcometh the better.’ So they did in condemning Christ, not regarding the counsel of Nicodemus: so they did also in many general councils. But all wise men know that acts of parliament are not for God’s law in respect of God’s law, but in respect of the people.
Now what we are, God knoweth, and all the world seeth; more meet a great deal to have the devil’s decrees, than God’s religion, so great is our contempt of it. And therefore justly for our sins, as Job saith, God hath set “hypocrites to reign over us,” which can no more abide God’s true religion than the owl the light, or bleared eyes the bright sun; for it will have them to do their duties, and walk in diligent doing of the works of their vocation.
As for miracles of success against Wyat and other, of the king’s coming in, etc., I would to God men would consider two kinds of miracles: one to confirm and prepare men in the doctrine which they have received; and another to prove and try men how they have received it, and how they will stick unto it. Of the former these miracles be not, but of the second. Now, by this success given to the queen, God trieth whether we will stick to his truth simply for his truth sake or no. This is a mighty illusion which God sendeth to prove his people, and to deceive the hypocrites which receive not God’s truth simply, but in respect of gain, praise, estimation. Read how Ahab was deceived. But I will now return to the third commodity coming by the cross. Here let us see “the wisdom of God” in “making the wisdom of the world foolish,” which knoweth little of man’s corruption, how foul it is in the sight of God, and displeaseth him; which knoweth little the portion of God’s people to be in another world; which knoweth little the Patron of Christians, Christ Jesus; which knoweth little the general judgment of God, the great malice of Satan to God’s people, the price and estimation of the gospel; and therefore in the cross seeth not as God’s wisdom would we should see, namely, that God in punishing them which sin least would have his anger against sin seen most, and to be better considered and feared.
In punishing his people here, he kindleth their desire towards their restful home. In punishing his servants in this life, he doth conform and make them like to Christ; that as they be like in suffering, so shall they be in reigning.
In punishing his church in the world, he doth give a demonstration of his judgment which shall come on all men, when the godly shall there find rest, though now they be afflicted; and the wicked now wallowing in wealth shall be wrapped in woe and smart. In punishing the professors of his gospel on earth, he setteth forth the malice of Satan against the gospel and his people, for the more confirming of their faith, and the gospel to be God’s word indeed, and they to be God’s people; for else the devil would let them alone. In punishing the lovers of his truth more than others which care not for it, he putteth them in mind how they have not had in price, as they should have had, the jewel of his word and gospel. Before such trial and experience came, perchance they thought they had believed and had had faith; which now they see was but a lip-faith, a mock faith, or an opinion. All which things we see are occasions for us to take better heed by mean of the cross.
Therefore, thirdly, let us consider the cross to be commodious for us to learn God’s wisdom, and what is man’s foolishness, God’s displeasure at sin, a desire to be with God, the conformity with Christ, the general judgment, the malice of Satan, hatred of sin, the gospel to be God’s word, and how it is to be esteemed, etc. Thus much for this.
Now will I, fourthly, briefly show you the cross or trouble to be profitable for us to learn and behold better the providence, presence, and power of God, that all these may be coupled together as in a chain to hang about our necks; I mean God’s justice, mercy, wisdom, power, presence, and providence.
When all things be in rest, and men be not in trouble, then they are forgetful of God commonly, and attribute too much to their own wisdom, policies, providence, diligence; as though they were the procurers of their own fortune, and workers of their own weal. But when the cross cometh, and that in such sort as their wits, policies, and friends cannot help; though the wicked despair, run from God to saints and such other unlawful means; yet do the godly therein behold the presence, the providence, and power of God. For the scripture teacheth all things to come from God, weal and woe; and that the same should be looked upon as God’s work, although Satan, the devil, be often an instrument by whom God worketh justly and mercifully; justly to the wicked, and mercifully to the godly: as by the examples of wicked Saul and godly Job easily we may see God’s work by Satan his instrument in them both.
The children of God therefore, which before forgat God in prosperity, now in adversity are awaked to see God in his work, and no more to hang on their own forecasts, power, friends, wisdom, riches, etc.; but learn to cast themselves on God’s providence and power, whereby they are so preserved and governed, and very often miraculously delivered, that the very wicked cannot but see God’s providence, presence, and power, in the cross and affliction of his children; as they (his children I mean) to their joy do feel it, thereby learning to know God to be the Governor of all things.
He it is that giveth peace; he it is that sendeth war; he giveth plenty and poverty; he setteth up and casteth down; “he bringeth to death, and after giveth life.” His presence is everywhere; his providence is within and without; his power is the pillar whereby the godly stand, and to it they lean, as to the thing no less able to set up than to cast down. Which thing full well the apostle saw in his afflictions, and therefore greatly rejoiced in them, that eminentia virtutis Dei , ‘God’s power,’ might singularly be seen therein.
Concerning this thing I might bring forth innumerable examples of the affliction of God’s children, both in the old and new Testament, wherein we may see how they felt God’s presence, providence, and power plentifully. But I will omit examples, because every one of us that have been or be in trouble cannot but, by the same, remember God’s presence, which we feel by his hand upon us; his providence which leaveth us not unprovided for, without any of our own provision; and his power which both preserveth us from many other evils which else would come upon us, and also maketh us able to bear more than we thought we could have done.
So very often doth he deliver us by such means as have been thought most foolish, and little to have been regarded: and therefore we shake off our sleep of security and forgetting of God, our trust and shift in our own policies, our hanging on men or on our own power.
So that the cross you see is commodious, fourthly, for to see God’s presence, providence, and power, and our negligence, forgetfulness of God, security, self-love, trust and confidence in ourselves; and things in this life to be cast off, as the other are to be taken hold on.
And this shall suffice for the commodities which come by the cross; wherethrough we may be in love with it for the commodities’ sake, which at length we shall find, though presently in sense we feel them not. ‘No castigation or punishment is sweet for the present instant,’ saith the apostle, ‘but afterwards the end and work of the thing is otherwise:’ as we see in medicines, the more wholesome that they be, the more unpleasant is the taste thereof, as in pills, potions, and such like bitter stuff; yet we will, on the physician’s word, drink them gladly for the profit which cometh of them. And, dearly beloved, although to lose life and goods, or friends, for God’s gospel sake, it seem a bitter and sour thing; yet in that our “Physician” which cannot lie (Jesus Christ I mean) doth tell us that it is very wholesome, howsoever it be [un]-toothsome, let us with good cheer take the cup at his hand, and drink it merrily. If the cup seem unpleasant, and the drink too bitter, let us put some sugar therein, even a piece of that which Moses cast into the bitter water, and made the same pleasant; I mean an ounce, yea, a dram of Christ’s afflictions and cross which he suffered for us. If we call this to mind, and cast of them into our cup, (considering what he was, what he suffered, of whom, for whom, to what end, and what came thereof,) surely we cannot loath our medicine, but wink, and drink it lustily.
Lustily therefore drink the cup which Christ giveth, and will give unto you, my good brethren and sisters; I mean, prepare yourselves to suffer whatsoever God will lay upon you for the confessing of his holy name. If not because of these three things, that ye are not of the world, ye suffer not alone, your trouble shall not hurt you; yet, for the commodities which come of the cross, I beseech you heartily to embrace it. The fight is but short, the joy is exceeding great. Oportet semper orare : “We must pray alway.” Then shall we undoubtedly be directed in all things by God’s holy Spirit, which Christ hath promised to be our doctor, teacher, and Comforter: and therefore we need not to fear what man or devil can do unto us either by false teaching or cruel persecution; for our Pastor is such a one that “none can take his sheep out of his hands.” To him be praise forever. Amen. Thus much, my dear brethren and sisters in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I thought good to write unto you for your comfort in these troublesome days, and for the confirmation of the truth that ye have already received: from the which if ye for fear of man, loss of goods, friends, or life, do swerve or depart, then ye depart and swerve from Christ, and so snarl yourselves in Satan’s sophistry to your utter subversion. Therefore, as St. Peter saith, “watch and be sober, for as a roaring lion he seeketh to devour you.” “Be strong in faith,” that is, mammer not, nor waver not, in God’s promises, but believe certainly that they pertain to you, that God “is with you in trouble, that he will deliver you and glorify you.” But yet see that ye call upon him specially “that ye enter not into temptation,” as he taught his disciples, even at such time as he saw Satan “desire to sift them,” as now he hath done to sift us.
O dear Savior, prevent him now, as thou didst then with thy prayer, I beseech thee; and grant that our “faith faint not;” but strengthen us to confirm the weak that they deny not thee and thy gospel, that they “return not to their vomit” and puddle of mire in popery and superstition; as massing, praying to saints, praying for the dead, or worshipping the work of men’s hands, instead of thee their Savior. Oh, let us not so run down headlong into perdition, stumbling on those sins from the which there is no recovery, causing thee to “deny them before thy Father,” making “their latter end worse than the beginning:” as it chanced to Lot’s wife, Judas Iscariot, Francis Spira, and to many others. But rather strengthen them and us all in thy grace, and in those things which thy word teacheth, that we may here hazard our life for thy sake; and so shall we be sure to save it; as, if we seek to “save it, we cannot but lose it:” and that being lost, “what profit can we have, if we win the whole world?” O set thou always before our eyes, not as reason doth, this life, the pleasure of the same, death of the body, and prisonment, etc.; but everlasting life, and those unspeakable joys which undoubtedly they shall have, which “take up the cross and follow thee.” Set ever before us also the eternal hell-fire and destruction of soul and body forevermore, which they must needs at length fall into, the which are afraid for the hoar frost of adversity that man or the devil stirreth up to stop or hinder us from going forward in our journey to heaven’s bliss. To the which do thou bring us for thy name’s sake. Amen.
Pray for all your brethren which be in prison and exile, and so absent from you in body, but yet present with you in spirit: and heartily pray God once to prove us, and trust us again with his holy word and gospel; that we may be suffered to speak, and you to hear his voice, as heretofore we and you have done, but unthankfully and negligently, I may say, yea, very unworthily and carnally. And therefore is his most just anger fallen now upon us.
FAREWELL TO THE CITY OF LONDON. FB238 To all that profess the gospel and true doctrine of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the city of London, John Bradford, a most unworthy servant of the Lord, now not only in prison, but also excommunicated and condemned to be burned for the same true doctrine, wisheth “mercy, grace, and peace,” with increase of all godly knowledge and piety, from God “the Father of mercy,” through the merits of our alone and omnisufficient Redeemer Jesus Christ, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, forever. Amen.
My dearly beloved brethren in our Savior Christ, although the time I have to live is very little, (for hourly I look when I should be had hence to be conveyed into Lancashire, there to be burned, and to render my life by the providence of God where I first received it by the same providence;) and although the charge is great to keep me from all things whereby I might signify anything to the world of my state; yet, having as now I have pen and ink through God’s working, maugre the head of Satan and his soldiers, I thought good to write a short confession of my faith, and thereto join a little exhortation unto you all to live according to your profession.
This my faith I would gladly particularly declare and expound to the confirmation and comfort of the simple; but, alas! by starts and stealth I write in manner that that I write, and therefore I shall desire you all to take this brevity in good part. First for my faith, I do confess and pray all the whole congregation of Christ to bear witness with me of the same, that I do believe constantly, through the gift and goodness of God (for “faith is God’s only gift”), all the twelve articles of the symbol or creed commonly attributed to the collection of the apostles; not because of the creed itself, but because of the word of God, the which teacheth and confirmeth every article accordingly. This word of God, written by the prophets and apostles, left and contained in the canonical books of the holy Bible, I do believe to contain plentifully ‘all things necessary to salvation;’ so that nothing, as necessary to salvation, ought to be added thereto: and therefore the church of Christ, nor none of his congregation, ought to be burdened with any other doctrine than which hereout hath his foundation and ground. In testimony of this faith I render and give my life, being condemned, as well for not acknowledging the antichrist of Rome to be Christ’s vicar-general and supreme head of his catholic and universal church, here and elsewhere, upon earth; as for denying the horrible and idolatrous doctrine of transubstantiation, and Christ’s real, corporal, and carnal presence in his supper, under the forms and accidents of bread and wine.
To believe Christ our Savior to be “the Head of his church,” and kings in their realms to be “the supreme powers” to whom every soul oweth obedience; and to believe that in the supper of Christ (which ‘the sacrament of the altar,’ as the papists call it and use it, doth utterly overthrow) is a true and very presence of whole Christ, God and man, to the faith of the receiver, (but not to the stander by and looker upon,) as it is a true and very presence of bread and wine to the senses of men; to believe this, I say, will not serve; and therefore as an heretic I am condemned and shall be burned. Whereof I ask God heartily mercy that I do no more rejoice than I do, having so great cause as to be an instrument wherein it may please my dear Lord God and Savior to suffer.
For, albeit my manifold sins even sithen I came into prison have deserved at the hands of God not only this temporal, but also eternal fire in hell, (much more then my former sinful life, which the Lord pardon for his Christ’s sake, as I know he of his mercy hath done, and never will lay mine iniquities to my charge to condemnation, so great is his goodness, praised therefor be his holy name!) although, I say, my manifold and grievous late sins have deserved most justly all the tyranny that man or devil can do unto me; and therefore I confess that the Lord is “just, and that his judgments be true,” and deserved on my behalf; yet the bishops and prelates do not persecute them in me, but Christ himself, his word, his truth, and religion.
And therefore I have great cause, yea, most great cause, to rejoice that ever I was born and hitherto kept of the Lord; that by my death, which is deserved for my sins, it pleaseth the heavenly Father to glorify his name, to testify his truth, to confirm his verity, to repugn his adversaries.
And you, my dearly beloved, for the Lord Jesu Christ’s sake, I humbly and heartily in his bowels and blood do now, for my last vale and ‘farewell’ in this present life, beseech you and every of you, that you will consider this work of the Lord accordingly; first by me to be admonished to beware of hypocrisy and carnal security: profess not the gospel with tongue and lips only, but in heart and verity; frame and fashion your lives accordingly.
Beware God’s name be not evil spoken of, and the gospel less regarded, by your conversation. God forgive me that I have not so heartily professed it as I should have done, but have sought much myself therein!
The gospel is a new doctrine to the “old man:” it is “new wine,” and therefore cannot be “put in old bottles” without more great hurt than good to “the bottles.” If we will talk with the Lord, we must “put off our shoes” and carnal affections: if we will hear the voice of the Lord, we must “wash our garments,” and be holy: if we will be Christ’s disciples, we must “deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ.” We “cannot serve two masters:” if we seek Christ’s kingdom, we must also seek for “the righteousness thereof.” To the petition of, “Let thy kingdom come,” we must join, “Thy will be done,” done, done “on earth as it is in heaven.” If we will “not be doers of the word but hearers of it only, we sore deceive ourselves.” If we hear the gospel and love it not, we declare ourselves to be but fools and “builders upon the sand.” The Lord’s Spirit hateth feigning; deceitfulness the Lord abhorreth. If we come to him, we must beware we come not to him “with a double heart;” for then it may chance that God will answer us according to the block which is in our heart, and so we shall deceive ourselves and others. To faith see that we couple “a good conscience,” lest we “make a shipwreck.” To the Lord we must come “with fear and reverence.” If we will be gospellers, we must be Christ’s: if we “be Christ’s, we must crucify our flesh, with the lusts and concupiscences thereof.” If we will “be under grace, sin must not bear rule in us.” We may not come to the Lord, and “draw nigh to him with our lips, and leave our hearts elsewhere;” lest the Lord’s wrath wax hot, and he take from us the good remaining. In no case can the kingdom of Christ approach to them that repent not.
Therefore, my dearly beloved, let us repent and be heartily sorry that we have so carnally, so hypocritically, so covetously, so vain-gloriously professed the gospel. For all these I confess of myself, to the glory of God and mine own confusion here, that he may “cover mine offenses” in the day of judgment. Let the anger and plagues of God, most justly fallen upon us, be applied to every one of our deserts, that from the bottom of our hearts every of us may say: ‘It is I, Lord, that have sinned against thee: it is mine hypocrisy, my vainglory, my covetousness, uncleanness, carnality, security, idleness, unthankfulness, self-love, and such like, which have deserved the taking away of our good king, of thy word and true religion, of thy good ministers by exile, prisonment, and death: it is my wickedness that causeth success and increase of authority and peace to thine enemies. O “be merciful, be merciful, unto us.” “Turn to us again,” O Lord of hosts, and “turn us unto thee.” “Correct us, but not in thy fury, lest we be consumed.” “In thine anger chastise us not.” “In thy wrathful displeasure reprove us not,” but “in the midst of thine anger remember thy mercy;” for, “if thou wilt mark what is done amiss, who shall be able to abide it? But with thee is mercifulness, that thou mightest be worshipped.” O then be merciful unto us, that we might truly worship thee. “Help us for the glory of thy name;” “be merciful unto our sins, for they are great.” O heal us and help us for thine honor: let not the wicked people say, “Where is their God?” ‘ etc.
On this sort, my right dearly beloved, let us heartily bewail our sins, repent us of our former evil life, heartily and earnestly purpose to amend our lives in all things, continually “watch in prayer,” diligently and reverently attend, hear, and read the holy scriptures, labor after our vocation to amend our brethren. Let us “reprove the works of darkness;” let us “fly from all idolatry;” let us abhor the antichristian and Romish rotten service, detest the popish mass, abrenounce their Romish god, prepare ourselves to the cross; be obedient to all that be in authority in all things that be not against God and his word: for then answer with the apostles, “It is more meet to obey God than man.”
Howbeit, never for anything resist or rise against the magistrates; “avenge not yourselves,” but “commit your cause to the Lord,” “to whom vengeance pertaineth;” and he in his time will reward it. If ye feel in yourselves an hope and trust in God that he “will never tempt you above that he will make you able to bear,” be assured the Lord will be true to you, and you shall be able to bear all brunts. But if you want this hope, flee and get you hence, rather than by your tarrying God’s name should be dishonored.
In sum, “cast your care upon the Lord, knowing for most certain that he is careful for you.” With him “are all the hairs of your head numbered,” so that “not one of them shall perish” without his good pleasure and will; much more then nothing shall happen to your bodies which shall not be profitable, howsoever for a time it seem otherwise to your senses. Hang on the providence of God, not only when you have means to help you, but also when you have no means, yea, when all means be against you. Give him this honor, which of all other things he most chiefly requireth at your hands, namely, believe that you are his children through Christ; that he is your Father and God through him; that he loveth you, pardoneth you all your offenses; that “he is with you in trouble,” and will be with you forever. When you fall, he will put under his hand; you shall not lie still. “Tofore you call upon him, he heareth you:” “out of evil he will finally bring you, and deliver you to his eternal kingdom.” Doubt not, my dearly beloved, hereof; doubt not, I say, this will God your Father do for you in respect not of yourselves, but in respect of Christ your Captain, your Pastor, your Keeper, “out of whose hands none shall be able to catch you.”
In him be quiet, and often consider your dignity; namely, how that you be God’s children, the saints of God, citizens of heaven, “temples of the Holy Ghost,” the thrones of God, “members of Christ,” and lords over all.
Therefore be ashamed to think, speak, or do anything that should be unseemly for God’s children, God’s saints, Christ’s members, etc. “Marvel not though” the devil and “the world hate you,” though ye be persecuted here; for “the servant is not greater nor above his Master.” Covet not earthly riches, fear not the power of man, “love not this world, nor things that be in this world;” but long for the Lord Jesus his coming, at which time your “bodies shall be made like unto his glorious body.” “When he appeareth, you shall be like unto him.” When your life thus shall be revealed, “then shall ye appear with him in glory.” In the mean season live in hope thereof.
Let the life you lead be in “the faith of the Son of God:” for “the just doth live by faith;” which faith flieth from all evil, and followeth the word of God as “a lantern to her feet and a light to her steps.” Her eyes be above where Christ is; she beholdeth not the “things present,” but rather “things to come;” she “glorieth in afflictions,” she knoweth that “the afflictions of this life are not like to be compared to the glory which God will reveal to us and in us.”
Of this glory God grant us here a lively taste! Then shall we run after the scent it sendeth forth; it will make us valiant men to take to us the kingdom of God: whither the Lord of mercy bring us in his good time, through Christ our Lord; to whom with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, three Persons and one God, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.
My dearly beloved, I would gladly have given here my body to have been burned for the confirmation of the true doctrine I have taught here unto you; but that my country must have: therefore, I pray you, take in good part this signification of my good-will towards every of you; impute the want herein to time and trouble. Pardon me mine offensive and negligent behavior when I was amongst you.
With me repent, and labor to amend; continue in the truth which I have truly taught unto you by preaching, in all places where I have come, God’s name therefor be praised. “Confess Christ” when you are called, whatsoever cometh thereof: and “the God of peace be with us all. Amen.”
This eleventh of February, anno 1555.
FAREWELL TO THE UNIVERSITY AND TOWN OF CAMBRIDGE.
To all “that love the Lord Jesus” and his true doctrine, being in the university and town of Cambridge, John Bradford, a most unworthy servant of the Lord, now not only prisoned but also condemned for the same true doctrine, wisheth “grace, peace, and mercy,” with increase of all godliness, from God “the Father of all mercy,” through the bloody passion of our alone full Savior Jesus Christ, by the lively working of the Holy Spirit, forever. Amen.
Although I look hourly when I should be had to the stake, my right dearly beloved in the Lord, and although the charge over me is great and strait; yet, having by the providence of God secretly pen and ink, I could not but something signify unto you my solicitude which I have for you and every of you in the Lord, though not as I would, yet as I may.
You have often and openly heard the truth, especially in this matter wherein I am condemned, disputed and preached, that it is needless to do any more but only to put you in remembrance of the same: but hitherto you have not heard it confirmed, and as it were sealed up, as now you do and shall hear by me, that is, by my death and burning. For, albeit I have deserved through my uncleanness, hypocrisy, avarice, vain-glory, idleness, unthankfulness, and carnality, (whereof I accuse myself to my confusion before the world, that before God through Christ I might, as my assured hope is I shall, “find mercy,”) eternal death and hell-fire, much more then this affliction and fire prepared for me; yet, my dearly beloved, it is not these or any of these things wherefore the prelates do persecute me: but God’s verity and truth, yea, even Christ himself, is the only cause and thing wherefore I now am condemned and shall be burned as an heretic. For, because I will not grant the antichrist of Rome to be Christ’s vicar-general and supreme head of his church here and everywhere upon earth, by God’s ordinance; and because I will not grant such corporal, real, and carnal presence of Christ’s body and blood in the sacrament, as doth transubstantiate the substance of bread and wine, and is received of the wicked, yea, of dogs and mice also; I am excommunicated, and counted as a dead member of Christ’s church, as a rotten branch, and therefore shall be cast into the fire.
Therefore ye ought heartily to “rejoice with me” and to give thanks for me, that God the eternal Father hath vouched-safe our mother to bring up any child in whom it would please him thus to magnify his holy name, as he doth, and I hope for his mercy and truth’s sake will do, in me and by me. O what such like benefit upon earth can it be, as that that which deserved death by reason of my sins should be diverted to a demonstration, a testification, and confirmation of God’s verity and truth?
Thou, my mother, the university, hast not only had the truth of God’s word plainly manifested unto thee by reading, disputing, and preaching, publicly and privately; but now (to make thee altogether excuseless, and as it were almost to sin “against the Holy Ghost,” if thou put to thy helping hand with the Romish rout to suppress the verity, and set out the contrary) thou hast my life and blood as a seal to confirm thee, if thou wilt be confirmed, or else to confound thee and bear witness against thee, if thou wilt take part with the prelates and clergy; which now “fill up the measure of their fathers which slew the prophets” and apostles, “that all the righteous blood from Abel” to Bradford “shed upon the earth” may be required at their hands.
Of this therefore I thought good tofore my death, as time and liberty would suffer me, for the love and duty I bear unto thee, to admonish thee, good mother, and my sister the town, that you would call to mind from whence you are fallen, and study to “do the first works.” Ye know, if you will, these matters of the Romish supremacy, and the anti-christian transubstantiation, whereby Christ’s supper is overthrown, his priesthood evacuate, his sacrifice frustrate, the ministry of his word unplaced, repentance repelled, faith fainted, godliness extinguished, the mass maintained, idolatry supported, and all impiety cherished; you know, I say, if you will, that these opinions are not only besides God’s word, but even directly against God’s word: and therefore to take part with them is to take part against God, against whom you cannot prevail.
Therefore, for the tender mercy of Christ in his bowels and blood, I beseech you to take Christ’s collyrium and “eye-salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see” what you do and have done in admitting (as I hear you have admitted, yea, alas! authorized and by consent confirmed) the Romish rotten rags which once you utterly expelled. O be not canis reversus ad vomitum, [“ the dog returned to his vomit;”] be not sus lota, reversa ad volutabrum coeni , [“ the washed sow returned to her rolling in the mire.”] Beware lest old Satan “enter in with seven other spirits,” and then postrema “the last shall be worse than the first.” It had been better ye had never known the truth, than after knowledge to run from it. Ah, woe to this world and the things therein, which hath now so wrought with you!
O that ever this dirt of the devil should daub up the eye of the realm! For thou, O mother, art as it were the eye of the realm. If thou be light and give shine, all the body shall fare the better; but if thou, “the light, be darkness,” alas, “how great will the darkness be!” “What is man whose breath is in his nostrils, that thou shouldest thus be afraid of him?”
Oh, what is honor and life here, but plain bubbles? What is glory in this world, and of this world, but plain shame? Why art thou afraid “to carry Christ’s cross?” Wilt thou come into his kingdom, and not “drink of his cup?” Dost thou not know Rome to be Babylon? Dost thou not know that as the old Babylon had the children of Judah in captivity, so hath this true Judah, that is, the confessors of Christ? Dost thou not know that, as destruction happened unto it, so shall it do unto this? And trowest thou that God will not deliver his people now, when the time is come, as he did then? Hath not God commanded his people to “come out from her;” and wilt thou give ensample to the whole realm to run into her? Hast thou forgotten the woe that Christ threateneth to offense-givers? Wilt thou not remember that “it were better a millstone were hanged about thy neck, and thou thrown into the sea, than that thou shouldest offend the little ones?”
And, alas, how hast thou offended; yea, how dost thou still offend! Wilt thou consider things according to the outward show? Was not the synagogue more seemly and like to the true church, than the simple flock of Christ’s disciples? Hath not the whore of [Babylon more costly array and rich apparel externally to set forth herself, than the homely housewife of Christ? Where is the beauty of “the king’s daughter,” the church of Christ, without or within? Doth not David say, “within?” O remember that as “they are happy which are not offended at Christ,” so are they happy which are not offended at his poor church.
Can the pope and his prelates mean honestly, which make so much of the wife, and so little of the “Husband?” The church they magnify, but Christ they contemn. If this church were an honest woman, that is, Christ’s wife, except they would make much of her “Husband” Christ and his word, she would not be made much of of them. When Christ and his apostles were upon earth, who was more like to be the true church; they, or the prelates, bishops, and synagogue? If a man should have followed custom, unity, antiquity, or the more part, should not Christ and his company have been cast out of the doors? Therefore bade Christ, “Search the scriptures.”
Who was taken in Noe’s time for the church, poor Noe and his family, or others? Who was taken for God’s church in Sodom, Lot or others? And doth not Christ say, “As it went then, so shall it go now towards the coming of the Son of man?” What meaneth Christ, when he saith, “Iniquity shall have the upper hand?” Doth not he tell that “charity shall wax cold?”
Therefore, dear mother, receive some admonition of one of thy poor children now going to be burned for the testimony of Jesus. Come again to God’s truth; “come out of Babylon;” “confess Christ” and his true doctrine; repent that which is past; make amends by declaring thy repentance by the fruits. Remember the readings and preachings of God’s prophet and true preacher, Martin Bucer. Call to mind the threatenings of God now something seen by thy children, Lever and others. Let the exile of Lever, Pilkington, Grindal, Haddon, Horne, Scory, Ponet, etc., something awake thee. Let the imprisonment of thy dear sons, Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, move thee. Consider the martyrdom of thy chickens, Rogers, Saunders, Taylor: and now cast not away the poor admonition of me going to be burned also, and to receive the like crown of glory with my fellows.
Take to heart God’s calling by us. Be not as Pharaoh was; for then will it happen unto thee as it did unto him. What is that? “Hardness of heart.” And what then? Destruction eternally both of body and soul.
Ah, therefore, good mother, awake, awake, repent, repent; buskel thyself, and make thee bowne to turn to the Lord; for else “it shall be more easy for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for thee.” O “harden not your hearts.” O stop not your ears today in hearing God’s voice, though it be by me a most unworthy messenger. O fear the Lord, for his anger is begun to kindle. “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the tree.”
You know I prophesied truly to you before the sweat came, what would come if you repented not your carnal gospelling: and now I tell you before I depart hence, that the ears of men will tingle to hear of the vengeance of God that will fall upon you all, both town and university, if you repent not, if you leave not your idolatry, if you turn not speedily to the Lord, if ye still be ashamed of Christ’s truth, which you know.
O Perne, repent; O Thomson, repent; O ye doctors, bachelors, and masters, repent; O mayor, aldermen, and town-dwellers, repent, repent, repent, that you may escape the near vengeance of the Lord. “Rend your hearts,” and come apace, calling on the Lord. Let us all say, ‘Peccavi-mus , “we have sinned, we have done wickedly, we have not hearkend to thy voice, O Lord. Deal not with us after our deserts, but be merciful to our iniquities, for they are great.” O pardon us our offenses. “In thine anger remember thy mercy.” Turn us unto thee, O Lord God of hosts, for the glory of thy name’s sake. Spare us, and be merciful unto us. Let not the wicked people say, “Where is now their God?” Oh, for thine own sake, for thy name’s sake, deal mercifully with us. “Turn thyself unto us,” and us unto thee: and “we shall praise thy name forever.” ‘ If in this sort, my dearly beloved, in heart and mouth we come unto God our Father, and prostrate ourselves before “the throne of his grace,” then surely, surely, we shall “find mercy;” then shall the Lord look merrily upon us for his mercy’s sake in Christ; then shall we hear him “speak peace unto his people:” for he “is gracious and merciful, of great pity and compassion;” “he cannot be chiding forever, his anger cannot last long” to the penitent. Though we weep in the morning, yet at night we shall have our sorrow to cease; for he is exorable, and “hath no pleasure in the death of a sinner:” he “rather would our conversion and turning.”
O “turn you now and convert,” yet once again I humbly beseech you; and then “the kingdom of heaven” shall “draw nigh.” “The eye hath not seen, the ear hath not heard, nor the heart of man is able to conceive” the joys prepared for us, if we repent, amend our lives, and heartily turn to the Lord. But if you repent not, but be as you were, and go on forwards with the wicked, following the fashion of the world, “the Lord will lead you on with wicked doers,” you shall perish in your wickedness, “your blood will be upon your own heads;” your part shall be with hypocrites, “where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth;” ye shall be cast “from the face of the Lord” forever and ever; eternal shame, sorrow, woe, and misery, shall be both in body and soul to you, “world without end.”
O therefore, right dear to me in the Lord, “turn you, turn you;” repent you, repent you; amend, amend your lives, “depart from evil, do good,” “follow peace and pursue it.” “Come out from Babylon,” “cast off the works of darkness,” “put on Christ,” confess his truth, be not ashamed of his gospel, prepare yourselves to the cross, drink of God’s cup before it come to “the dregs:” and then shall I with you and for you “rejoice” in the day of judgment, which “is at hand:” and therefore prepare yourselves thereto, I heartily beseech you.
And thus I take my vale in aeternum [farewell forever] with you in this present life, mine own dear hearts in the Lord. The Lord of mercy be with us all, and give us a joyful and sure meeting in his kingdom! Amen, Amen.
Out of prison, ready to the stake, the 11th of February, anno 1555.
Your own in the Lord forever, JOHN BRADFORD.
FAREWELL TO LANCASHIRE AND CHESHIRE.
To all those that profess the name and true religion of our Savior Jesus Christ in Lancashire and Cheshire, and specially abiding in Manchester and thereabout, John Bradford, a most unworthy servant of the Lord, now not only in bonds, but also condemned for the same true religion, wisheth “mercy and grace, peace” and increase of all godliness, from God the Father of all pity, through the deserts of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the working of the most mighty and lively Spirit the Comforter, forever. Amen.
I hear it reported credibly, my dearly beloved in the Lord, that my heavenly Father hath thought it good to provide that, as I have preached his true gospel and doctrine amongst you by word, so I shall testify and confirm the same by deed; that is, I shall with you leave my life, which by his providence I first received there, (for in Manchester was I born,) for a seal to the doctrine I have taught with you and amongst you: so that, if from henceforth you waver in the same, you have none excuse at all.
I know the enemies of Christ which exercise this cruelty upon me (I speak it in respect of mine offense which is none to them-wards) think, by killing of me amongst you, to affray you and others, lest they should attempt to teach Christ truly, or believe his doctrine hereafter. But I doubt not but my heavenly Father will by my death more confirm you in his truth forever.
And therefore I greatly rejoice to see Satan and his soldiers supplanted in their own sapience, which is plain “foolishness” amongst the wise indeed, that is, amongst such as have heard God”s word, and do follow it; for they only are counted “wise” of the wisdom “of God our Savior.”
Indeed, if I should simply consider my life with that which it ought to have been, and as God in his law requireth, then could I not but cry as I do, Justus es, Domine, et omnia judicia tua vera : “Righteous art thou, O Lord, and all thy judgments are true;” for I have much grieved thee, and transgressed thy holy precepts, not only before my professing the gospel, but sithen also, yea, even sithen my coming into prison. I do not excuse, but accuse myself before God and all his church, that I have grievously offended my Lord God. I have not lived his gospel as I should have done; I have sought myself, and not simply and only his glory, and my brethren’s commodity; I have been too unthankful, secure, carnal, hypocritical, vainglorious, etc. All which my evils the Lord of mercy pardon me for his Christ’s sake, as I hope and certainly believe he hath done for his great mercy in Christ our Redeemer.
But when I consider the cause of my condemnation, I cannot but lament that I do no more rejoice than I do: for it is God’s verity and truth; so that the condemnation is not a condemnation of Bradford simply, but rather a condemnation of Christ and his truth: Bradford is nothing else but an instrument, in whom Christ and his doctrine are condemned. And therefore, my dearly beloved, rejoice, rejoice, and give thanks, with me and for me, that ever God did vouchsafe so great a benefit to our country, as to choose the most unworthy (I mean myself) to be one in whom it would please him to suffer any kind of affliction, much more this violent kind of death, which I perceive is prepared for me with you for his sake. All glory and praise be given unto God our Father, for this his exceeding great mercy towards me, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
But perchance you will say unto me, ‘What is the cause for the which you are condemned? We hear say that ye deny all presence of Christ in his holy supper, and so make it a bare sign and common bread, and nothing else.’
My dearly beloved, what is said of me and will be, I cannot tell. It is told me that Master Pendleton is gone down to preach with you, not as he once recanted (for you all know how he hath preached contrary to that he was wont to preach before I came amongst you), but to recant that which he hath recanted, How he will speak of me and report tofore I come, when I am come, and when I am burned, I much pass not; for he that is so uncertain and will speak so often against himself, I cannot think he will speak well of me except it make for his purpose and profit: but of this enough.
Indeed the chief thing which I am condemned for as an heretic is, because I deny the sacrament of the altar; which is not Christ’s supper, but a plain perverting of it, (being used as the papists now use it to be a real, natural, and corporal presence of Christ’s body and blood under the forms and accidents of bread and wine;) that is, because I deny transubstantiation, which is the darling of the devil, and daughter and heir to antichrist’s religion, whereby the mass is maintained, Christ’s supper perverted, his sacrifice and cross imperfited, his priesthood destroyed, the ministry taken away, repentance repelled, and all true godliness abandoned.
In the supper of our Lord or sacrament of Christ’s body and blood I confess and believe that there is a true and very presence of whole Christ, God and man, to the faith of the receiver, (but not of the stander-by or looker-on,) as there is a very true presence of bread and wine to the senses of him that is partaker thereof. This faith, this doctrine, which consenteth with the word of God, and with the true testimony of Christ’s church, which the popish church doth persecute, will I not forsake: and therefore am I condemned as an heretic, and shall be burned.
But, my dearly beloved, this truth (which I have taught and you have received, I believed and do believe, and therein give my life) I hope in God shall never be burned, bound, nor overcome; but shall triumph, have victory, and be at liberty, maugre the head of all God’s adversaries. For there is no counsel against the Lord, nor no device of man can be able to defeat the verity in any other than in such as be “children of unbelief,” which have no “love to the truth,” and therefore are given up to “believe lies.” From which plague the Lord of mercies deliver you and all this realm, my dear hearts in the Lord, I humbly beseech his mercy. Amen.
And to the end you might be delivered from this plague, right dear to me in the Lord, I shall, for my farewell with you forever in this present life, heartily desire you all, in the bowels and blood of our most merciful Savior Jesus Christ, to attend unto these things which I now shall shortly write unto you out of the holy scriptures of the Lord.
You know an heavy plague, or rather plagues, of God is fallen upon us, in taking away our good king, God’s true religion, God’s true prophets and ministers, etc., and setting over us such as seek not the Lord after knowledge; whose endeavors God prospereth wonderfully to the trial of many, that his people may both better know themselves, and be known.
Now the cause hereof is our iniquities and grievous sins. We “did not know the time of our visitation,” we were unthankful unto God, we contemned the gospel, and carnally abused it to serve our hypocrisy, our vain-glory, our viciousness, avarice, idleness, security, etc. Long did the Lord linger and “tarry to have shown mercy upon us;” but we were ever the longer the worse. Therefore most justly hath God dealt with us, and dealeth with us.
Yea, yet we may see that his justice is tempered with much mercy: whereto let us attribute “that we are not utterly consumed;” for if the Lord should deal with us after our deserts, alas! “how could we abide it?”
In his anger therefore, seeing he doth “remember his mercy” undeserved, yea, undesired on our behalf, let us take occasion the more speedily to go out to meet him, not with force and arms, (for we are not so able to withstand him, much less to prevail against him,) but to beseech him to “be merciful unto us,” and according to his wonted mercy to deal with us. Let us arise with David and say, Ne intres in judicium cum servo tuo, etc.: “Enter not into judgment, O Lord, with thy servant, for in thy sight no flesh living shall be justified.” Let us send ambassadors with the centurion, and say, “Lord, we are not worthy to come ourselves unto thee; speak the word, and we shall have peace.” Let us penitently with the publican look down on the earth, knock our hard hearts to burst them, and cry out, ‘O God, be merciful unto us wretched sinners.’ Let us with the lost son return and say, ‘O Father, we have sinned against heaven and earth, and before thee; we are unworthy to be called thy children.’ Let us, I say, do on this sort; that is, heartily repent us of our former evil life and unthankful gospelling past, convert and “turn to God” with our whole hearts, hoping in his great mercy through Christ, and heartily calling upon his holy name: and then undoubtedly we shall find and feel otherwise than yet we feel, both inwardly and outwardly. Inwardly we shall feel peace of conscience between God and us, “which peace passeth all understanding;” and outwardly we shall feel much mitigation of these miseries, if not an utter taking of them away.
Therefore, my dearly beloved in the Lord, I your poorest brother now departing to the Lord, for my vale in aeternum [farewell forever] for this present life, pray you, beseech you, and even from the very bottom of my heart, for all the mercies of God in Christ showed unto you, most earnestly beg and crave of you out of prison, (as often out of your pulpits I have done,) that you will repent you, leave off your wicked and evil life, be sorry for your offenses, and turn to the Lord, whose arms are wide open to receive and embrace you; whose stretched out hand to strike to death stayeth that he might show mercy upon you. For he is the Lord of mercy and “God of all comfort;” he “will not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should return,” convert, and amend; he hath no pleasure in the destruction of men; his “long suffering draweth us to repentance” tofore the time of vengeance and the day of wrath, which is at hand, doth come. “Now is the axe laid to the root of the tree,” utterly to destroy the impenitent. Now is the fire gone out before the face of the Lord: and who is able to quench it? O therefore repent you, repent you. It is enough to have lived as we have done; it is enough to have played the wanton gospellers, the proud protestants, hypocritical and false Christians, as, alas! we have done. Now the Lord speaketh to us in mercy and grace: O turn tofore he speak in wrath. Yet is there “mercy with the Lord and plenteous redemption;” yet he hath not forgotten to show mercy to them that call upon him. O then “call upon him while he may be found;” for “he is rich in mercy and plentiful to all them that call upon him, so that he that calleth on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” “If your sins be as red as scarlet,” the Lord saith, he “will make them as white as snow.” He hath sworn, and never will repent him thereof, that he will “never remember our iniquities;” but as he is good, faithful, and true, so “will he be our God, and we shall be his people; his law will he write in our hearts, and engraft it in our minds, and never will he have in mind our unrighteousness.”
Therefore, my dear hearts in the Lord, turn you, turn you to the Lord your Father, to the Lord your Savior, to the Lord your Comforter. Oh, why do you stop your ears and “harden your hearts” today, when you hear his voice by me your poorest brother? O forget not how that the Lord hath showed himself true, and me his true preacher, by bringing to pass these plagues which at my mouth you oft heard me preach of before they came; specially when I treated of Noe’s flood, and when I preached of the 23rd chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel on St. Stephen’s day, the last time that I was with you.
And now by me the same Lord sendeth you word, dear countrymen, that if you will go on forwards in your impenitency, carnality, hypocrisy, idolatry, covetousness, swearing, gluttony, drunkenness, whoredom, etc., wherewith, alas, alas! our country floweth; if, I say, you will not turn and leave off, seeing me now burned amongst you, to assure you on all sides how God seeketh you, and is sorry to do you hurt, to plague you, to destroy you, to take vengeance upon you; Oh, your blood will be upon your own heads; you have been warned and warned again by me in preaching, by me in burning.
As I said therefore, I say again, my dear hearts and dearlings in the Lord, turn you, turn you, repent you, repent you; “cease from doing evil, study to do well.” Away with idolatry, flee the Romish god and service, leave off from swearing, cut off carnality, abandon avarice, drive away drunkenness, rice from fornication and flattery, from murder and malice; destroy deceitfulness, and “cast away all the works of darkness.” Put on piety and godliness, serve God after his word and not after custom, use your tongues to glorify God by prayer, thanksgiving, and confession of his truth, etc. Be spiritual, and by the Spirit mortify carnal affections; be sober, holy, true, loving, gentle, merciful: and then shall the Lord’s wrath cease, not for this your doing’s sake, but for his mercies’ sake.
Go to therefore, good countrymen, take this counsel of the Lord by me now sent unto you as the Lord’s counsel, and not as mine, that in the day of judgment I may rejoice with you and for you; the which thing I heartily desire, and not to be a witness against you. My blood will cry for vengeance, as against the papists, God’s enemies, (whom I beseech God, if it be his good will, heartily to forgive, yea, even them which put me to death, and are the causers thereof, “for they know not what they do;”) so will my blood cry for vengeance against you, my dearly beloved in the Lord, if ye repent not, amend not, and turn not unto the Lord.
Turn unto the Lord, yet once more I heartily beseech thee, thou Manchester, thou Ashton-under-line, thou Bolton, Bury, Wigan, Liverpool, Mottrine, Stepport, Winsley, Eccles, Prestwich, Middleton, Radcliffe, and thou city of West-chester, where I have truly taught and preached the word of God. Turn, I say unto you all and to all the inhabitants thereabouts, unto the Lord our God, and he will turn unto you; he will say unto his angel, “It is enough, put up thy sword.”
Ah, good brethren, take in good part these my last words unto every one of you. Pardon me mine offenses and negligences in behavior amongst you.
Out of prison, ready to come to you; the 11th of February, anno 1555. JOHN BRADFORD . FAREWELL TO THE TOWN OF WALDEN.
To the faithful and such as profess the true doctrine of our Savior Jesus Christ, dwelling at Walden and thereabouts, John Bradford, a most unworthy servant of the Lord, now in bonds and condemned for the same true doctrine, wisheth “grace, mercy, and peace,” with the increase of all godliness in knowledge and living, from God “the Father of all comfort,” through the deserts of our alone and full Redeemer Jesus Christ, by the mighty working of the most Holy Spirit the Comforter, forever. Amen.
When I remember how that, by the providence and grace of God, I have been a man by whom it hath pleased him, through my ministry, to call you to repentance and amendment of life, something effectually as it seemed, and to sow amongst you his true doctrine and religion; lest that by my affliction, and the storms now arisen to try the faithful, and to conform them like to the image of the Son of God into whose company we are called, you might be faint-hearted, I could not but out of prison secretly (for my keepers may not know that I have pen and ink) to write unto you a signification of the desire I have that you should not only be more confirmed in the doctrine I have taught amongst you, (which I take on my death, as I shall answer at the day of doom, I am persuaded to be God’s assured, infallible, and plain truth,) but also should after your vocation avow the same by confession, profession, and living.
I have not taught you, my dearly beloved in the Lord, fables, tales, or untruth; but I have taught you the verity, as now by my blood gladly (praised be God therefor) I do seal the same. Indeed, to confess the truth unto you and to all the church of Christ, I do not think of myself but that I have most justly deserved not only this kind but also all kinds of death, and that eternally, for mine hypocrisy, vain-glory, uncleanness, self-love, covetousness, idleness, unthankfulness, and carnal professing of God’s holy gospel, living therein not so purely, lovingly, and painfully, as I should have done. The Lord of mercy for the blood of Christ pardon me, as I hope, yea, I certainly believe he hath done, for his holy name’s sake through Christ. But, my dearly beloved, you and all the whole world may see and easily perceive, that the prelates persecute in me another thing than mine iniquities, even Christ himself, Christ’s verity and truth, because I cannot, dare not, nor will not confess transubstantiation; and how that wicked men, yea, mice and dogs, eating the sacrament which they term of the altar, (thereby overthrowing Christ’s holy supper utterly,) do eat Christ’s natural and real body born of the virgin Mary.
To believe and confess, as God’s word teacheth, the primitive church believed, and all the catholic and good holy fathers taught for five hundred years at the least after Christ, that in the supper of the Lord (which the mass overthroweth, as it doth Christ’s priesthood, sacrifice, death and passion, the ministry of his word, true faith, repentance, and all godliness,) whole Christ, God and man, is present by grace to the faith of the receiver (but not of the standers-by and lookers-on), as bread and wine is to their senses, will not serve: and therefore I am condemned, and shall be burned out of hand as an heretic. Wherefore I heartily thank my Lord God, that will and doth vouch me worthy to be an instrument in whom he himself doth suffer: for you see my affliction and death is not simply because I have deserved no less, but much more, at his hands and justice; but rather because I confess his verity and truth, and am not afraid through his gift that to do, that you also might be confirmed in his truth.
Therefore, my dearly beloved, I heartily do pray you, and so many as unfeignedly love me in God, to give with me and for me most hearty thanks to our heavenly Father, through our sweet Savior Jesus Christ, for this his exceeding great mercy towards me and you also, that your faith waver not from the doctrine I have taught, and ye have received. For what can you desire more to assure your consciences of the verity taught by your preachers, than their own lives?
Go to therefore, my dear hearts in the Lord, waver not in Christ’s religion truly taught you and set forth in king Edward’s days. Never shall the enemies be able to burn it, to prison it, and keep it in bonds. Us they may prison, they may bind, and burn, as they do, and will do so long as shall please the Lord: but our cause, religion, and doctrine, which we confess, they shall never be able to vanquish and put away. Their idolatry and popish religion shall never be built in the consciences of men that love God’s truth. As for those that love not God’s truth, that have no pleasure to walk in the ways of the Lord, in those, I say, the devil shall prevail; for “God will give them strong illusion to believe lies.”
Therefore, dear brethren and sisters in the Lord, I humbly beseech you and pray you in the bowels and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, now going to the death for the testimony of Jesus, as oftentimes I have done before this present out of your pulpit, that you would love the Lord’s truth, love, I say, to live it and frame your lives thereafter.
Alas! you know, the cause of all these plagues fallen upon us, and of the success which God’s adversaries have daily, is for our not living God’s word. You know how that we were but gospellers in lips, and not in life.
We were carnal, concupiscentious, idle, unthankful, unclean, covetous, arrogant, dissemblers, crafty, subtle, malicious, false, backbiters, etc., and even glutted with God’s word; yea, we loathed it, as did the Israelites the manna in the wilderness: and therefore, as to them the Lord’s wrath waxed hot, so doth it unto us. So that there is no remedy but that (for it is better late to turn than never to turn) we confess our faults even from the bottom of our hearts, and with hearty repentance (which God work in us all, for his mercy’s sake) we run unto the Lord our God, which is exorable, merciful, and sorry for the evil poured out upon us; and cry out unto him with Daniel, saying: ‘We have sinned, we have sinned grievously, O Lord God, against thy majesty. We have heaped iniquity upon iniquity; the measure of our transgressions floweth over: so that just is thy vengeance and wrath fallen upon us: for we are very miserable, we have contemned thy long-suffering, we have not hearkened to thy voice. When thou hast called us by thy preachers, we hardened our hearts; and therefore now deserve that thou send thy curse hereupon to “harden our hearts” also, that we should henceforth “have eyes and see not, ears and hear not, hearts and understand not, lest we should be converted and saved.” O be merciful unto us; spare us, good Lord, and all thy people, whom thou hast dearly bought. Let not thine enemies triumph altogether and always against thee; for then will they be puffed up. “Look down, and behold the pitiful complaints of the poor;” “let the sorrowful sighing of the simple come in thy sight, and be not angry with us for ever.” “Turn us,” O Lord God of hosts, “unto thee,” and turn thee unto us, “that thou mayest be justified” in thy sweet sentences, and “overcome when thou art judged,” as now thou art of our adversaries; for they say,’ “Where is their God?” Can God deliver them now? Can their gospel save them?’ O Lord, how long? For the glory of thy name, and for thy honor’s sake, in the bowels and blood of Jesus Christ, we humbly beseech thee, come and help us; for we are very miserable.
On this sort, I say, dearly beloved, let us publicly and privately bewail our sins; but so that hereto we join ceasing from willfulness and sin of purpose: for else “the Lord heareth not our prayers” as David saith; and in St. John it is written, The impenitent “sinners God heareth not.” Now impenitent are they which purpose not to amend their lives: as for example, not only such which follow still their pleasures in covetousness, uncleanness, carnality; but those also which for fear or favor of man do against their conscience consent to the Romish rags, and resort to the rotten religion, communicating in service and ceremonies with the papists; thereby declaring themselves to love more the world than God, to fear man more than Christ, to dread more the loss of temporal things than of eternal; in whom it is evident “the love of God abideth not,” for “he that loveth the world hath not God’s love abiding in him,” saith St. John.
Therefore, my dear hearts, and dear again in the Lord, remember what you have professed, Christ’s religion and name, and the renouncing of the devil, sin, and the world. Remember that tofore ye learned A. B. C. your lesson was Christ’s cross. Forget not that Christ will have no disciples but such as will promise “to deny themselves, to take up their cross (mark, they must take it up) and follow him,” and not the multitude, custom, and use. Consider for God’s sake, that “if we gather not with Christ, we scatter abroad.” “What should it profit a man to win the whole world, and lose his own soul?” We must not forget that this life is a wilderness, and not a paradise. Here is not our home; we are now in warfare; we must needs fight, or else be taken prisoners. Of all things we have in this life we shall carry nothing with us. If Christ be our Captain, we must follow him as good soldiers. If we keep company with him in affliction, we shall be sure of his society in glory. If we forsake not him, he will never forsake us. “If we confess him, he will confess us: but if we deny him, he will deny us:” if we be ashamed of him, he will be ashamed of us. Wherefore, as he forsook Father, and heaven, and all things, to come to us; so let us forsake all things and come to him, being sure and most certain that we shall not lose thereby. Your children shall find and feel it double, yea, treble, whatsoever you lose for the Lord’s sake: and you shall find and feel peace of conscience and friendship with God, which is more worth than all the goods of the world.
My dearly beloved, therefore, for the Lord’s sake consider these things, which now I write unto you of love, for my vale and last ‘farewell’ forever, in this present life. Turn to the Lord, repent you your evil and unthankful life, declare repentance by the fruits. Take time while you have it; come to the Lord whiles he calleth you; run into his lap whiles his arms be open to embrace you; “seek him whiles he may be found;” “call upon him” whiles time is convenient. Forsake and “flee from all evil,” both in religion, and in the rest of your life and conversation. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and praise God in the day of his visitation.” “O come again, come again, you strange children, and I will receive you,” saith the Lord. “Convert and turn to me, and I will turn unto you.” “Why will ye needs perish? As sure as I live,” sweareth the Lord, “I will not your death; turn therefore unto me.” “Can a woman forget the child of her womb? If she should, yet will not I forget you, saith the Lord your God.” “I am he, I am he which put away your sins for mine own sake.”
O then, dear friends, turn, I say, unto your dearest Father. Cast not these his sweet and loving words to the ground, and at your tail; for the Lord watcheth on his word to perform it, which is in two sorts: to them that lay it up in their hearts and believe it, will he pay all and eternal joy and comfort; but to them that cast it at their backs and willfully forget it, to them, I say, will he pour out indignation and eternal shame.
Wherefore I heartily yet once more beseech and pray you and every of you not to contemn this poor and simple exhortation, which now out of prison I make unto you, or rather the Lord by me. Loth would I be to be a witness against you in the last day; as of truth I must be if ye repent not, if ye love not God’s gospel, yea, if ye live it not.
Grant all this, thou gracious Lord God, to every of us for thy dear Son’s sake, our Savior Jesus Christ: to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be eternal glory, forever and and ever, Amen. The 12th of February, 1555.