THE KING AND THE BISHOP.
HOW man has struggled against man! Man is the wolf of mankind. Not the elements in all their fury, nor the wild beasts of prey in all their cruelty, have ever been such terrible enemies to man as man has been to his own fellow. When you read the story of the Marian persecution in England, you are astounded that ever creatures wearing a human form could be so bloodthirsty. Call these Catholics who thus persecuted the Protestants?
Call them Catholics? Much better call them cannibals, for they behaved more like savages than Christians, in their bloody martyrdoms and murders of the saints of God. We do not in this age feel the cruelty of man to that extent, but this is only because the custom of the land will not allow it; for there are many who dare not smite with the hand, who are very busy in laying on their tongue, and this not by exposing our errors, which they have a perfect right to do, but in many cases the children of God are misrepresented, slandered, abused, persecuted, ridiculed for truth’s sake; and we know many instances where other means are resorted to — anything to drive the servants of God away from their integrity and from their simple following of their Master. Well did the Lord Jesus say, “Beware of men.” “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Do not expect men to be the friends of your piety, or if they are, suspect the reality of that piety of which ungodly man is a friend. Thou must expect to be sometimes bullied and sometimes coerced, to be sometimes flattered, and, anon, threatened; thou must expect at one time to meet with the oily tongue which hath tinder it the drawn sword, and at another time with the drawn sword itself. Look out, and expect that men will be against you. But what are they all? Suppose every living man in the world were against you, and that you had to stand in solitude like Athanasius, you might say, as Athanasius did, “I, Athanasius, against the whole world; I know I have truth on my side, and therefore against the world I stand.”
Of what use was the malice of men against Martin Luther? They thought to burn him, but he died in his bed despite them all. They thought to put an end to him, but his little tracts went everywhere, and the words of Luther seemed to be carried on the wings of angels, until in the most distant places the Pope found an enemy suddenly springing up where he thought the good seed had all been destroyed. I do not know that it is of any very great service to have numbers with you. I question whether truth has not generally to be with the minority, and whether it is not quite as honorable to serve God with two or three as it would be with two or three millions; for if numbers could make a thing right, idolatry ought to be the right religion; and if in countries across the sea numbers made the thing right, why, those who fear the Lord would be few indeed, and idolatry and Romanism would be the right thing. Never judge according to numbers; say they are nothing but men after all; if they be good men fight on their side, but if they and the truth fall out, fall out with them. Be a friend to the truth; make your appeal to the law and to the testimony, and if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
That was grand of Latimer, when he preached before Henry VIII. He had greatly displeased his majesty by his boldness in a sermon preached before the king, and was ordered to preach again on the following Sabbath, and to make an apology for the offense he had given. After reading his text, the bishop thus began his sermon; — “Hugh Latimer, dost thou know before whom thou art this day to speak? To the high and mighty monarch, the king’s most excellent majesty, who can take away thy life if thou offendest; therefore, take heed that thou speakest not a word that may displease; but then consider well, Hugh, dose thou not know from whence thou comest; upon whose message thou art sent? Even by the great and mighty God I who is all-present, and who beholdeth all thy ways, and who is able to cast thy soul into hell! Therefore, take care that thou deliverest thy message faithfully.” He then proceeded with the same sermon he had preached the preceding Sabbath, but with considerably more energy, Such courage should all God’s children show when they have to do, with man. Thou art thyself nothing but a worm; but if God puts his truth into thee, do not play the coward, or stammer out his message, but stand up manfully for God and for his truth.
Some people are for ever crying up what they call a becoming modesty.
Modesty is very becoming, but an ambassador of God must recollect there are other virtues besides modesty. If Her Majesty sent an ambassador to a country with whom we were at war, and the little man should step into the conference, and say,” I humbly hope you will excuse my being here; I wish to be in all things complacent to your honors and lordships the plenipotentiaries: I feel I am a young man, and you are much older than I am, and therefore I cheerfully submit my judgment to your superior wisdom and experience,” and so on; why, I am sure Her Majesty would command him back again, and then command him into a long retirement.
What business has he to humble himself when he is an ambassador for the Queen! He must remember he is clothed with the dignity of the power which sent him. And even so is God’s minister, and he counts it foul shame to stoop to any man; he takes for his motto, Cedo nulli, “I yield to none,” and preaching God’s truth in love and honesty he hopes to be able to render a fair account to his Master at last, for unto his Master only doth he stand or fall.