But will these men, I pray you, think nothing at all of themselves, while they accuse us so maliciously? And while they have leisure to behold so far off, and see both what is done in Germany and in England, have they either forgotten, or can they not see what is done at Rome? or be they our accusers, whose life is such as no man is able to make mention thereof but with shame and uncomeliness? Our purpose here is, not to take in hand, at this present, to bring to light and open to the world those things which were meet rather to be hid and buried with the workers of them. It beseemeth neither our religion, nor our modesty, nor our shamefastness. But yet he, which giveth commandment that he should be called the “Vicar of Christ,” and the “Head of the Church;” who also heareth that such things be done in Rome, who seeth them, who suffereth them (for we will go no further), he can easily consider with himself what manner of things they be. Let him on God’s Name call to mind, let him remember that they be of his own canonists, which have taught the people that fornication between single folk is no sin (as though they had fette that doctrine from Mitio in Terence), whose words be: “It is no sin (believe me) for a young man to haunt harlots.” Let him remember they be of his own which have decreed, that a priest ought not to be put out of his cure for fornication. Let him remember also how Cardinal Campegius, Albertus Pighius, and others many more of his own, have taught, that the priest which “keepeth a concubine” doth live more holily and chastely than he which hath a “wife in matrimony.” I trust he hath not yet forgotten that there be many thousands of common harlots in Rome; and that himself doth gather yearly of the same harlots upon, a thirty thousand ducats, by the way of an annual pension. Neither can he forget, how himself doth maintain openly brothel houses, and by a most filthy lucre doth filthily and lewdly serve his own lust. Were all things then pure and holy in Rome, when “Joan a woman,” rather of perfect age than of perfect life, was Pope there, and bare herself as the “head of the Church:” and after that for two whole years in that holy see she had played the naughty pack, at last, going in procession about the city, in the sight of all the cardinals and bishops, fell in travail openly in the streets.
But what need we rehearse concubines and bawds? as for that is now an ordinary and a gainful sin at Rome. For harlots sit there now-a-days, not as they did in times past, without the city walls, and with their faces hid and covered, but they dwell in palaces and fair houses: they stray about in court and market, and that with bare and open face: as who say, they may not only lawfully do it, but ought also to be praised for so doing. What should we say any more of this? Their vicious and abominable life is now thoroughly known to the whole world. Bernard writeth roundly and truly of the Bishop of Rome’s house, yea, and of the Bishop of Rome himself. “Thy palace,” saith he, “taketh in good men, but it maketh none; naughty persons thrive there, and the good appayre and decay.” And whosoever he were which wrote the Tripartite work, annexed to the Council Lateranense, saith thus: “So excessive at this day is the riot, as well in the prelates and bishops as in the clerks and priests, that it is horrible to be told.”
But these things be not only grown in ure, and so by custom and continual time well allowed, as all the rest of their doings in manner be, but they are now waxen old and rotten ripe. For who hath not heard what a heinous act Peter Aloisius, Pope Paul the Third’s son, committed against Cosmus Cherius, the Bishop of Fanum; what John, Archbishop of Beneventum, the Pope’s legate at Venice, wrote in the commendation of a most abominable filthiness: and how he set forth, with most loathsome words and wicked eloquence, the matter which ought not once to proceed out of anybody’s mouth! To whose ears hath it not come, that N. Diasius, a Spaniard, being purposely sent from Rome into Germany, so shamefully and devilishly murdered his own brother John Diasius, a most innocent and a most godly man, only because he had embraced the Gospel of Jesu Christ, and would not return again to Rome?
But it may chance to this they will say: These things may sometime happen in the best governed commonwealths, yea, and against the magistrates’ wills: and besides, there be good laws made to punish such. I grant it be so: but by what good laws (I would know) have these great mischiefs been punished amongst them? Petrus Aloisius, after he had done that notorious act that I spake of, was always cherished in his father’s bosom, Pope Paul the Third, and made his very derling. Diasius, after he had murdered his own brother, was delivered by the Pope’s means, to the end he might not be punished by good laws. John Casus, the Archbishop of Beneventum, is yet alive, yea, and liveth at Rome, even in the eyes and sight of the most holy father.
They have put to death infinite numbers of our brethren, only because they believed truly and sincerely in Jesu Christ. But of that great and foul number of harlots, fornicators, adulterers, what one have they at any time (I say not killed, but) either excommunicated, or once attached? Why! voluptuousness, adultery, ribaldry, whoredom, murdering of kin, incest, and others more abominable parts, are not these counted sin at Rome? Or, if they be sin, ought “Christ’s vicar, Peter’s successor, the most holy father,” so lightly and slightly to bear them, as though they were no sin, and that in the city of Rome, and in that principal tower of all holiness?
O holy Scribes and Pharisees, which knew not this kind of holiness! what a Catholic faith is this! Peter did not thus teach at Rome: Paul did not so live at Rome: they did not practise brothelry, which these do openly: they made not a yearly revenue and profit of harlots: they suffered no common adulterers and wicked murderers to go unpunished. They did not receive them into their entire familiarity, into their council, into their household, nor yet into the company of Christian men. These men ought not therefore so unreasonably to triumph against our living. It had been more wisdom for them either first to have proved good their own life before the world, or at least to have cloaked it a little more cunningly. For we do use still the old and ancient laws, and (as much as men may do, in the manners used at these days, all things are so wholly corrupt) we diligently and earnestly put in execution the ecclesiastical discipline: we have not common brothel-houses of strumpets, nor yet flocks of concubines, nor herds of harlot-hunters: neither do we prefer adultery before matrimony: neither do we exercise beastly sensuality: neither do we gather ordinary rents and stipends of stews: nor do we suffer to escape unpunished incest and abominable naughtiness, nor yet such manquellers as the Aloisians, Casians, and Diazians were. For if these things would have pleased us, we needed not to have departed from these men’s fellowship, amongst whom such enormities be in their chief pride and price. Neither needed we, for leaving them, to run into the hatred of men, and into most wilful dangers. Paul the Fourth, not many months sithence, had at Rome in prison certain Augustine friars, many bishops, and a great number of other devout men, for religion’s sake. He racked them and tormented them: to make them confess, he left no means unassayed. But in the end how many brothels, how many whoremongers, how many adulterers, how many incestuous persons could he find of all those? Our God be thanked, although we be not the men we ought and profess to be, yet, whosoever we be, compare us with these men, and even our own life and innocency will soon prove untrue and condemn their malicious surmises. For we exhort the people to all virtue and well-doing, not only by books and preachings, but also with our examples and behaviour. We also teach that the Gospel is not a boasting or bragging of knowledge, but that it is the law of life, and that a Christian man (as Tertullian saith) “ought not to speak honourably, but ought to live honourably; nor that they be the hearers of the law, but the doers of the law, which are justified before God.”
Besides all these matters wherewith they charge us, they are wont also to add this one thing, which they enlarge with all kind of spitefulness: that is, that we be men of trouble, that we pluck the “sword and sceptre out of kings’ hands;” that we arm the people: that we overthrow judgment places, destroy the laws, make havoc of possessions, seek to make the people princes, turn all things upside down: and, to be short, that we would have nothing in good frame in a commonwealth. Good Lord, how often have they set on fire princes’ hearts with these words, to the end they might quench the light of the Gospel in the very first appearing of it, and might begin to hate the same ere ever they were able to know it, and to the end that every magistrate might think he saw his deadly enemy as often as he saw any of us!
Surely it should exceedingly grieve us to be so maliciously accused of most heinous treason, unless we knew that Christ Himself, the Apostles, and a number of good and Christian men, were in times past blamed and envied in manner for the same faults. For although Christ taught “they should give unto Caesar that which was Caesar’s,” yet was He charged with sedition, in that He was accused to devise some conspiracy and covet the kingdom. And hereupon they cried out with open mouth against him in the place of judgment: “If thou let this man escape, thou art not Caesar’s friend.” And though the Apostles did likewise evermore and steadfastly teach, that magistrates ought to be obeyed, “that every soul ought to be subject to the higher powers, not only for fear of wrath and punishment, but even for conscience sake;” yet bare they the name to disquiet the people, and to stir up the multitude to rebel. After this sort did Haman specially bring the nation of the Jews into the hatred of the king Assuerus, because, said he, “they were a rebellious and stubborn people, and despised the ordinances and commandments of princes.” Wicked King Ahab said to Elie [Elijah] the prophet of God, “It is thou that troublest Israel.” Amasias, the priest at Bethel, laid a conspiracy to the prophet Amos’ charge before King Jeroboam, saying, “See, Amos hath made a conspiracy against thee in the midst of the house of Israel.” To be brief, Tertullian saith, this was the general accusation of all Christians while he lived, that they were traitors, they were rebels, and the enemies of mankind. Wherefore, if now-a-days the truth be likewise evil spoken of, and being the same truth it was then, if it be now like despitefully used as it was in times past, though it be a grievous and unkind dealing, yet can it not seem unto us a new or an unwonted matter.
Forty years ago and upward, was it an easy thing for them to devise against us these accursed speeches, and other, too, sorer than these; when, in the midst of the darkness of that age, first began to spring and to give shine some one glimmering beam of truth, unknown at that time and unheard of: when also Martin Luther and Hulderic Zuinglius, being most excellent men, even sent of God to give light to the whole world, first came unto the knowledge and preaching of the Gospel; whereas yet the thing was but new, and the success thereof uncertain; and when men’s minds stood doubtful and amazed, and their ears open to all slanderous tales; and when there could be imagined against us no fact so detestable, but the people then would soon believe it for the novelty and strangeness of the matter. For so did Symmachus, so did Celsus, so did Julianus, so did Porphyrius, the old foes to the Gospel, attempt in times past to accuse all Christians of sedition and treason, before that either prince or people were able to know who those Christians were, what they professed, what they believed, or what was their meaning. But now, sithence our very enemies do see, and cannot deny, but we ever in all our words and writings have diligently put the people in mind of their duty, to obey their princes and magistrates, yea, though they be wicked (for this doth very trial and experience sufficiently teach, and all men’s eyes, whosoever and wheresoever they be, do well enough see and witness for us), it was a foul part of them to charge us with these things; yea, seeing they could find no new and late faults, therefore to seek to procure us envy only with stale and out worn lies.
We give our Lord God thanks, whose only cause this is, there hath yet at no time been any such example in all the realms, dominions, and commonweals, which have received the Gospel. For we have overthrown no kingdom, we have decayed no man’s power or right, we have disordered no commonwealth. There continue in their own accustomed state and ancient dignity, the kings of our country of England, the kings of Denmark, the kings of Sweden, the dukes of Saxony, the counts palatine, the marquesses of Brandenburg, the landgraves of Hesse, the commonwealth of the Helvetians and Rhaetians, and the free cities, as Argentine, Basil, Frankfort, Ulm, Augusta, and Nuremberg; do all, I say, abide in the same authority and estate wherein they have been heretofore, or rather in a much better, for that by means of the Gospel they have their people more obedient unto them. Let them go, I pray you, into those places where at this present through God’s goodness the Gospel is taught. Where is there more majesty? Where is there less arrogancy and tyranny? Where be the prince more honoured? Where is the people less unruly? Where hath there at any time the commonwealth or the Church been in more quiet? Perhaps ye will say, from the first beginning of this doctrine the common sort everywhere began to rage and to rise throughout Germany. Allow it were so, yet Martin Luther, the publisher and setter forward of this doctrine, did write marvellous vehemently and sharply against them, and reclaimed them, home to peace and obedience.
But whereas it is wont sometime to be objected by persons wanting skill touching the Helvetians’ change of state, and killing of Leopoldus the Duke of Austria, and restoring by force their country to liberty, that was done, as appeareth plainly by all stories, for two hundred and threescore years past or above, under Boniface the Eighth, when the authority of the “Bishop of Rome” was in greatest jollity; about two hundred years before Huldericus Zuinglius either began to teach the Gospel, or yet was born: and ever since that time they have had all things still and quiet, not only from foreign enemies, but also from civil dissension. And if it were a sin in the Helvetians to deliver their own country from foreign government, specially when they were so proudly and tyrannously oppressed, yet to burden us with other men’s faults, or them with the faults of their forefathers, is against all right and reason.
But O immortal God! and will the Bishop of Rome accuse us of treason? Will he teach the people to obey and follow their magistrates? or hath he any regard at all of the majesty of princes? Why doth he then, as none of the old bishops of Rome heretofore ever did, suffer himself to be called of his flatterers “lord of lords,” as though he would have all kings and princes, who and whatsoever they are, to be his underlings? Why doth he vaunt himself to be “king of kings,” and to have kingly royalty over his subjects? Why compelleth he all emperors and princes to swear to him fealty and true obedience? Why doth he boast that the “emperor’s majesty’s is a thousandfold inferior to him:” and for this reason specially, because God hath made two lights in heaven, and because heaven and earth were created not at two beginnings, but in one? Why hath he and his complices (like Anabaptists and Libertines, to the end they might run on more licentiously and carelessly) shaken off the yoke, and exempted themselves from being under a civil power? Why hath he his legates (as much to say as most subtle spies) lying in wait in all kings’ courts, councils, and privy chambers? Why doth he, when he list, set Christian princes one against another, and at his own pleasure trouble the whole world with debate and discord? Why doth he excommunicate, and command to be taken as a heathen and a Pagan any Christian prince that renounceth his authority? And why promiseth he his “indulgences and his pardons” so largely to any that will (what way soever it be) kill any of his enemies? Doth he maintain empires and kingdoms? or doth he once desire that common quiet should be provided for? You must pardon us, good reader, though we seem to utter these things more bitterly and bitingly than it becometh divines to do. For both the shamefulness of the matter, and the desire of rule in the Bishop of Rome is so exceeding and outrageous, that it could not well be uttered with other words, or more mildly. For he is not ashamed to say in open assembly, “that all jurisdiction of all kings doth depend upon himself.” And to feed his ambition and greediness of rule, he hath pulled in pieces the “empire of Rome,” and vexed and rent whole Christendom asunder. Falsely and traitorously also did he release the Romans, the Italians, and himself too, of the oath whereby they and he were straitly bound to be true to the “emperor of Greece,” and stirred up the emperor’s subjects to forsake him: and calling Carolus Martellus out of France into Italy, made him emperor, such a thing as never was seen before. He put Chilpericus, the French king, being no evil prince, beside his realm, only because he fancied him not, and wrongfully placed Pipin in his room. Again, after he had cast out King Philip, if he could have brought it to pass, he had determined and appointed the kingdom of France to Albertus King of Romans. He utterly destroyed the state of the most nourishing city and commonweal of Florence, his own native country, and brought it out of a free and peaceable state, to be governed at the pleasure of one man: he brought to pass by his procurement, that whole Savoy on the one side was miserably spoiled by the Emperor Charles the Fifth, and on the other side by the French king, so as the unfortunate duke had scant one city left him to hide his head in.
We are cloyed with examples in this behalf, and it should be very tedious to reckon up all the notorious deeds of the bishops of Rome. Of which side were they, I beseech you, which poisoned Henry the Emperor even in the receiving of the sacrament? which poisoned Victor the Pope even in the receiving of the chalice? which poisoned our King John, king of England, in a drinking cup? Whosoever at least they were and of what sect soever, I am sure they were neither Lutherans nor Zuinglians. What is he at this day, which alloweth the mightiest kings and monarchs of the world to kiss his blessed feet? What is he that commandeth the emperor to go by him at his horse bridle, and the French king to hold his stirrup? Who hurled under his table Francis Dandalus the duke of Venice, king of Crete and Cyprus, fast bound with chains, to feed of bones among his dogs? Who set the imperial crown upon the Emperor Henry the Sixth’s head, not with his hand, but with his foot; and with the same foot again cast the same crown off, saying withal, “he had power to make emperors, and to unmake them again at his pleasure”? Who put in arms Henry the son against the emperor his father Henry the Fourth, and wrought so that the father was taken prisoner of his own son, and being shorn and shamefully handled, was thrust into a monastery, where with hunger and sorrow he pined away to death? Who so ill-favouredly and monstrously put the Emperor Frederick’s neck under his feet, and, as though that were not sufficient, added further this text out of the Psalms, “Thou shalt go upon the adder and cockatrice, and shalt tread the lion and dragon under thy feet”? Such an example of scorning and contemning a prince’s majesty, as never before that was heard tell of in any remembrance; except, I ween, either of Tamerlane’s, the king of Scythia, a wild and barbarous creature, or else of Sapor king of the Persians.
All these notwithstanding were Popes, all Peter’s successors, all most holy fathers, whose several words we must take to be as good as several Gospels. If we be counted traitors which do honour our princes, which give them all obedience, as much as is due to them by God’s word, and which do pray for them, what kind of men then be these, which have not only done all the things before said, but also allow the same for specially well done? Do they then either this way instruct the people, as we do, to reverence their magistrate? Or can they with honesty appeach us as seditious persons, breakers of the common quiet, and despisers of princes’ majesty?
Truly, we neither put off the yoke of obedience from us; neither do we disorder realms; neither do we set up or pull down kings; nor translate governments; nor give our kings poison to drink; nor yet hold to them our feet to be kissed; nor, opprobriously triumphing over them, leap into their necks with our feet. This rather is our profession; this is our doctrine: that every soul, of what calling soever he be–be he monk, be he preacher, be he prophet, be he Apostle–ought to be subject to kings and magistrates; yea, and that the Bishop of Rome himself–unless he will seem greater than Evangelists, than the Prophets, or the Apostles–ought both to acknowledge and to call the emperor his lord and master, which the old Bishops of Rome, who lived in times of more grace, ever did. Our common teaching also is, that we ought so to obey princes as men sent of God; and that whoso withstandeth them, withstandeth God’s ordinance. This is our showing, and this is well to be seen, both in our books and in our preachings, and also in the manners and modest behaviour of our people.
But where they say we have gone away from the unity of the Catholic Church, this is not only a matter of malice, but, besides, though, it be most untrue, yet hath it some show and appearance of truth. For the common people and ignorant multitude give not credit alone to things true and of certainty, but even to such things also, if any chance, which may seem to have but a resemblance of truth. Therefore, we see that subtle and crafty persons, when they had no truth on their side, have ever contended and hotly argued with things likely to be true, to the intent they which were not able to espy the very ground of the matter, might be carried away at least with some pretence and probability thereof. In times past, where the first Christians, our forefathers, in making their prayers to God, did turn themselves towards the east, there were that said, “they worshipped the sun, and reckoned it as God.” Again, where our forefathers said, that as touching immortal and everlasting life, they lived by no other means, but by the “flesh and blood of that Lamb who was without spot,” that is to say, of our Saviour Jesus Christ, the envious creatures and foes of Christ’s Cross, whose only care was to bring Christian religion into slander by all manner of ways, made people believe that they were wicked persons, that they “sacrificed men’s flesh, and drunk men’s blood.” Also, where our forefathers said that before God “there is neither man nor woman,” nor, for attaining to the true righteousness, there is no distinction at all of persons, and that they did call one another indifferently by the name of sisters and brothers: there wanted not men which forged false tales upon the same, saying that the Christians made no difference among themselves either of age or of kind, but like brute beasts without regard had to do one with another. And where, for to pray and hear the Gospel, they met often together in secret and bye places, because rebels sometime were wont to do the like, rumours were everywhere spread abroad, how they made privy confederacies, and counselled together either to kill the magistrates or to subvert the commonwealth. And where, in celebrating the holy mysteries after Christ’s institution, they took bread and wine, they were thought of many not to worship Christ, but Bacchus and Ceres; forsomuch as those vain gods were worshipped of the heathens in like sort, after a profane superstition, with bread and wine.
These things were believed of many, not because they were true, indeed (for what could be more untrue?), but because they were like to be true, and through a certain shadow of truth might the more easily deceive the simple. On this fashion likewise do these men slander us as heretics, and say that we have left the Church and fellowship of Christ: not because they think it is true–for they do not much force of that, but because to ignorant folk it might, perhaps, some way appear true. We have, indeed, put ourselves apart not as heretics are wont, from the Church of Christ, but as all good men ought to do, from the infection of naughty persons and hypocrites.
Nevertheless, in this point they triumph marvellously–“that they be the Church, that their Church is Christ’s spouse, the pillar of truth, the ark of Noah;” and that without it there is no hope of salvation. Contrariwise they say, “that we be renegades; that we have torn Christ’s seat;” that we are plucked quite off from the body of Christ, and have forsaken the Catholic faith. And when they leave nothing unspoken that may never so falsely and maliciously be said against us, yet this one thing are they never able truly to say, that we have swerved either from the Word of God, or from the Apostles of Christ, or from the primitive Church. Surely we have ever judged the primitive Church of Christ’s time, of the Apostles and of the holy fathers, to be the Catholic Church; neither make we doubt to name it, “Noah’s ark, Christ’s spouse, the pillar and upholder of all truth;” nor yet to fix therein the whole mean of our salvation. It is doubtless an odious matter for one to leave the fellowship whereunto he hath been accustomed, and specially of those men, who, though they be not, yet at least seem and be called Christians. And, to say truly, we do not despise the Church of these men (howsoever it be ordered by them now-a-days), partly for the name’s sake itself, and partly for that the Gospel of Jesus Christ hath once been therein truly and purely set forth. Neither had we departed therefrom, but of very necessity, and much against our wills. But I put case, an idol be set up in the Church of God, and the same desolation, which Christ prophesied to come, stood openly in the holy place. What if some thief or pirate invade and possess “Noah’s ark?” These folks, as often as they tell us of the Church, mean thereby themselves alone, and attribute all these titles to their own selves, boasting, as they did in times past which cried, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord;” or as the Pharisees and Scribes did, which craked they were “Abraham’s children.”
Thus with a gay and jolly show deceive they the simple, and seek to choke us with the very name of the Church. Much like as if a thief, when he had gotten into another man’s house, and by violence either hath thrust out or slain the owner, should afterward assign the same house to himself, casting forth of possession the right inheritor; or if Anti-Christ, when he had once entered into “the temple of God,” should afterward say, “This house is mine own, and Christ hath nothing to do withal.” For these men now, after they have left nothing remaining in the Church of God that hath any likeness of this Church, yet will they seem the patrons and valiant maintainers of the Church, very like as Gracchus amongst the Romans stood in defence of the treasury, notwithstanding with his prodigality and fond expenses he had utterly wasted the whole stock of the treasury. And yet was there never anything so wicked, or so far out of reason, but lightly it might be covered and defended by the name of the Church. For the wasps also make honey-combs as well as bees, and wicked men have companies like to the Church of God: yet, for all that, “they be not straightway the people of God which are called the people of God; neither be they all Israelites as many as are come of Israel the father.” The Arians, notwithstanding they were heretics, yet bragged they that they alone were Catholics, calling all the rest now Ambrosians, now Athanasians, now Johannites. And Nestorius, as saith Theodoret, for all that he was an heretic, yet covered he himself [Greek text]: that is, to wit, with a certain cloak and colour of the true and right faith. Ebion, though he agreed in opinion with the Samaritans, yet, as saith Epiphanius, he would needs be called a Christian. The Mahometists at this day, for all that all histories make plain mention, and themselves also cannot deny, but they took their first beginning of “Agar the bond-woman,” yet for the very name and stock’s sake, chose they rather to be called Saracens, as though they came of “Sarah the free woman, and Abraham’s wife.”
So likewise the false prophets of all ages, which stood up against the prophets of God, which resisted Esaias, Jeremy, Christ, and the Apostles, at no time craked of anything so much as they did of the name of the Church. And for no other cause did they so fiercely vex them, and call them runaways and apostates, than for that they forsook their fellowship, and kept not the ordinances of the elders. Wherefore, if we would follow the judgments of those men only who then governed the Church, and would respect nothing else, neither God nor His word, it must needs be confessed, that the Apostles were rightly and by just law condemned of them to death, because they fell from the bishops and priests, that is, you must think, from the “Catholic Church:” and because they made many new alterations in religion, contrary to the bishops’ and priests’ wills, yea, and for all their spurning so earnestly against it. Wherefore, like as it is written that Hercules in old time was forced in striving with Antaeus, that huge giant, to lift him quite up from the earth that was his mother, ere he could conquer him, even so must our adversaries be heaved from their mother, that is, from this vain colour and shadow of the Church, wherewith they so disguise and defend themselves: otherwise they cannot be brought to yield unto the word of God. “And therefore,” saith Jeremy the prophet, “make not such great boast that the temple of the Lord is with you. This is but a vain confidence: these are lies.” The angel also saith in the Apocalypse, “They say they be Jews; but they be the synagogue of Satan.” And Christ said to the Pharisees when they vaunted themselves of the kindred and blood of Abraham, “Ye are of your father, the devil;” for you resemble not your father Abraham; as much to say as ye are not the men ye would so fain be called: ye beguile the people with vain titles, and abuse the name of the Church to the overthrowing of the Church.
So that these men’s part had been, first to have clearly and truly proved that the Romish Church is the true and right instructed Church of God, and that the same as they do order it at this day doth agree with the primitive Church of Christ, of the Apostles, and of the holy fathers, which we doubt not but was indeed the true Catholic Church. For our parts, if we could have judged ignorance, error, superstition, idolatry, men’s inventions, and the same commonly disagreeing with the Holy Scriptures, either to please God or to be sufficient for the obtaining everlasting salvation; or if we could ascertain ourselves, that the word of God was written but for a time only, and afterward again ought to be abrogated and put away: or else that the sayings and commandments of God ought to be subject to man’s will, that whatsoever God saith and commandeth, except the Bishop of Rome willeth and commandeth the same, it must be taken as void and unspoken: if we could have brought ourselves to believe these things, we grant there had been no cause at all why we should have left these men’s company. As touching that we have now done to depart from that Church, whose errors were proved and made manifest to the world, which Church also had already evidently departed from God’s word: and yet not to depart so much from itself, as from the errors thereof; and not to do this disorderly or wickedly, but quietly and soberly; we have done nothing herein against the doctrine either of Christ or of His Apostles. For neither is the Church of God such as it may not be dusked with some spot, or asketh not sometime reparation. Else what needeth there so many assemblies and councils, without the which, as saith AEgidius, the Christian faith is not able to stand? “For look,” saith he: “how often councils are discontinued, so often is the Church destitute of Christ.” Or if there be no peril that harm may come to the Church, what need is there to retain to no purpose the names of bishops, as is now commonly used among them? For if there be no sheep that may stray, why be they called shepherds? If there be no city that may be betrayed, why be they called watchmen? If there be nothing that may run to ruin, why be they called pillars? Anon after the first creation of the world the Church of God began to spread abroad, and the same was instructed with the heavenly word which God Himself pronounced with His own mouth. It was also furnished with Divine ceremonies. It was taught by the Spirit of God, by the patriarchs and prophets, and continued so even till the time that Christ showed Himself to us in the flesh.
This notwithstanding, how often, O good God, in the meanwhile, and how horribly was the same Church darkened and decayed! Where was that Church then, when “all flesh upon earth had denied their own way?” Where was it, when amongst the number of the whole world there were only eight persons (and they neither all chaste and good) whom God’s will was should be saved alive from that universal destruction and mortality? when Elie the prophet so lamentably and bitterly made moan, that “only himself was left” of all the whole world which did truly and duly worship God? and when Esay said, “The silver of God’s people (that is, of the Church) was become dross: and that the same city, which aforetime had been faithful, was now become a harlot: and that in the same there was no part sound throughout the whole body, from the head to the foot?” or else, when Christ Himself said, “that the house of God was made by the Pharisees and priests a den of thieves?” Of a truth, the Church, even as a corn-field, except it be eared, manured, tilled, and trimmed, instead of wheat it will bring forth thistles, darnel, and nettles. For this cause did God send ever among both Prophets and Apostles, and last of all His “own Son,” who might bring home the people into the right way, and repair anew the tottering Church after she had erred.
But lest some man should say, that the aforesaid things happened in the time of the law only, of shadows, and of infancy, when truth lay hid under figures and ceremonies, when nothing as yet was brought to perfection, when the law was not graven in men’s hearts, but in stone: and yet is that but a foolish saying, for even at those days was there the very same God that is now, the same Spirit, the same Christ, the same faith, the same doctrine, the same hope, the same inheritance, the same league, and the same efficacy and virtue of God’s word: Eusebius also saith: “All the faithful, even from Adam until Christ, were in very deed Christians” (though they were not so termed), but, as I said, lest men should thus speak still, Paul the Apostle found the like faults and falls even then in the prime and chief of the Gospel in chief perfection, and in the light; so that he was compelled to write in this sort to the Galatians, whom he had well before that instructed: “I fear me,” quoth he, “lest I have laboured among you in vain, and lest ye have heard the Gospel in vain.” “O my little children, of whom I travail anew till Christ be fashioned again in you.” And as for the Church of the Corinthians, how foully it was denied, is nothing needful to rehearse. Now tell me, might the Churches of the Galatians and Corinthians go amiss, and the Church of Rome alone may not fail, nor go amiss? Surely Christ prophesied long before of His Church, that the time should come when desolation should stand in the holy place. And Paul saith, that Antichrist should once set up his own tabernacle and stately seat in the temple of God: and that the time should be, “when men should not away with wholesome doctrine, but be turned back unto fables and lies,” and that within the very Church. Peter likewise telleth, how there should be teachers of lies in the Church of Christ. Daniel the Prophet, speaking of the latter times of Antichrist: “Truth,” saith he, “in that season shall be thrown under foot, and trodden upon in the world.” And Christ saith, how the calamity and confusion of things shall be so exceeding great, “that even the chosen, if it were possible, shall be brought into error;” and how all these things shall come to pass, not amongst Gentiles and Turks, but that they should be in the holy place, in the temple of God, in the Church, and in the company and fellowship of those which profess the name of Christ.
Albeit these same warnings alone may suffice a wise man to take heed he do not suffer himself rashly to be deceived with the name of the Church, and not to stay to make further inquisition thereof by God’s word; yet beside all this, many fathers also, many learned and godly men, have often and carefully complained how all these things have chanced in their lifetime. For even in the midst of that thick mist of darkness, God would yet there should be some, who, though they gave not a clear and bright light, yet should they kindle, were it but some spark, which men might espy, being in the darkness.
Hilarius, when things as yet were almost uncorrupt, and in good ease too: “Ye are ill deceived,” saith he, “with the love of walls: ye do ill worship the Church, in that ye worship it in houses and buildings: ye do ill bring in the name of peace under roofs. Is there any doubt but Antichrist will have his seat under the same? I rather reckon hills, woods, pools, marshes, prisons, and quagmires, to be places of more safety: for in these the prophets, either abiding of their accord or forced thither by violence, did prophesy by the Spirit of God.”
Gregory, as one which perceived and foresaw in his mind the wrack of all things, wrote thus to “John, Bishop of Constantinople,” the first of all others that commanded himself to be called by this new name, the “universal bishop of whole Christ’s Church:” “If the Church,” saith he, “shall depend upon one man, it will at once fall down to the ground.” Who is he, that seeth not how this is come to pass long since? For long agone hath the Bishop of Rome willed to have the “whole Church depend upon” himself alone. Wherefore it is no marvel though it be clean fallen down long agone.
Bernard the abbot, above four hundred years past, writeth thus: “Nothing is now of sincerity and pureness amongst the clergy: wherefore it resteth, that the man of sin should be revealed.” The same Bernard, in his work of the conversion of Paul; “It seemeth now,” saith he, “that persecution hath ceased: no, no; persecution seemeth but now to begin, even from them which have chief pre-eminence in the Church. Thy friends and neighbours have drawn near, and stood up against thee: from the sole of thy foot to the crown of thy head there is no part whole. Iniquity is proceeded from the elders, the judges, and deputies, which pretend to rule thy people. We cannot say now, Look how the people be, so is the priest. For the people is not so ill as the priest is. Alas, alas, O Lord God, the selfsame persons be the chief in persecuting thee, which seem to love the highest place, and bear most rule in Thy Church!” The same Bernard again, upon the Canticles, writeth thus: “All they are thy friends, yet are they all thy foes: all thy kinsfolk, yet are they all thy adversaries. Being Christ’s servants, they serve Antichrist. Behold, in my rest, my bitterness is most bitter.” Roger Bacon, also a man of great fame, after he had in a vehement oration touched to the quick the woeful state of his own time: “These so many errors,” saith he, “require and look for Antichrist.” Gerson complaineth, that in his days all the substance and efficacy of sacred divinity was brought unto a glorious contention and ostentation of wits, and to very sophistry. The friars of Lyons, men, as touching the manner of their life, not to be misliked, were wont boldly to affirm, that the Romish Church (from whence alone all counsel and order was then sought) was the very same “harlot of Babylon and rout of devils,” whereof is prophesied so plainly in the Apocalypse.
I know well enough the authority of these foresaid persons is but lightly regarded among these men. How then if I call forth those for witness, whom they themselves have used to honour? What if I say that Adrian, the Bishop of Rome, did frankly confess that all these mischiefs brast out first from the high throne of the Pope? Pighius acknowledgeth herein to be a fault, that many abuses are brought in, even into the very mass, which mass otherwise he would have seem to be a reverend matter. Gerson saith, that through the number of most fond ceremonies, all the virtue of the Holy Ghost, which ought to have operation in us, and all true godliness, is utterly quenched and dead. Whole Greece and Asia complain, how the bishops of Rome, with the marts of their purgatories and pardons, have both tormented men’s consciences and picked their purses.
As touching the tyranny of the bishops of Rome, and their barbarous Persian-like pride, to leave out others, whom perchance they reckon for enemies, because they freely and liberally find fault with their vices, the same men which have led their life at Rome in the holy city, in the face of the most holy father, who also were able to see all their secrets and at no time departed from the Catholic faith: as, for example, Laurentius Valla, Marsilius Patavinus, Francis Petrarch, Hierom Savonarola, Abbot Joachim, Baptist of Mantua, and, before all these, Bernard the abbot, have many a time and much complained of it, giving the world also sometime to understand that the Bishop of Rome himself (by your leave) is very Antichrist. Whether they spake it truly or falsely, let that go. Sure I am they spake it plainly. Neither can any man allege that those authors were Luther’s or Zuinglius’ scholars: for they were not only certain years, but also certain ages ere ever Luther’s or Zuinglius’ names were heard of. They well saw that even in their days errors had crept into the Church, and wished earnestly they might be amended.
And what marvel if the Church were then carried away with errors in that time, specially when neither the Bishop of Rome, who then only ruled the roost, nor almost any other, either did his duty, or once understood what was his duty? for it is hard to be believed, while they were idle and fast asleep, that the devil also all that while either fell asleep or else continually lay idle. For how they were occupied in the meantime, and with what faithfulness they took care of God’s house, though we hold our peace, yet I pray you, let them hear Bernard their own friend. “The bishops,” saith he, “who now have the charge of God’s Church, are not teachers, but deceivers: they are not feeders, but beguilers: they are not prelates, but Pilates.” These words spake Bernard of that bishop who named himself the highest bishop of all, and of the other bishops likewise which then had the place of government. Bernard was no Lutheran: Bernard was no heretic. He had not forsaken the Catholic Church: yet nevertheless he did not let to call the bishops that then were, deceivers, beguilers, and Pilates. Now when the people was openly deceived, and Christian men’s eyes were craftily bleared, and when Pilate sat in judgment-place, and condemned Christ and Christ’s members to sword and fire, O good Lord, in what case was Christ’s Church then? But yet tell me, of so many and so gross errors, what one have these men at any time reformed? or what fault have they once acknowledged and confessed?
But, forsomuch as these men avouch the universal possession of the Catholic Church to be their own, and call us heretics, because we agree not in judgment with them, let us know, I beseech you, what proper mark and badge hath that Church of theirs, whereby it may be known to be the Church of God. I wiss it is not so hard a matter to find out God’s Church, if a man will seek it earnestly and diligently. For the Church of God is set upon a high and glittering place, in the top of a hill, and built upon the “foundation of the Apostles and Prophets:” “There,” saith Augustine, “let us seek the Church; there let us try our matters.” “And,” as he saith again in another place, “the Church must be showed out of the holy and canonical Scriptures: and that which cannot be showed out of them is not the Church.” Yet, for all this, I wot not how, whether it be for fear, or for conscience, or despair of victory, these men alway abhor and fly the Word of God, even as the thief flieth the gallows. And no wonder truly. For, like as men say, the cantharus by-and-bye perisheth and dieth as soon as it is laid in balm: notwithstanding balm be otherwise a most sweet-smelling ointment; even so these men well see their own matter is damned and destroyed in the Word of God, as if it were in poison.
Therefore the Holy Scriptures, which our Saviour Jesus Christ did not only use for authority in all His speech, but did also at last seal up the same with His own blood, these men, to the intent they might with less business drive the people from the same, as from a thing dangerous and deadly, have used to call them a bare letter, uncertain, unprofitable, dumb, killing, and dead: which seemeth to us all one as if they should say, “The Scriptures are to no purpose, or as good as none.” Hereunto they add a similitude not very agreeable, how the Scriptures be like to a nose of wax, or a shipman’s hose: how they may be fashioned and plied all manner of ways, and serve all men’s turns. Woteth not the Bishop of Rome, that these things are spoken by his own minions? or understandeth he not he hath such champions to fight for him? Let him hearken then how holily and how godly one Hosius writeth of this matter, a bishop in Polonia, as he testifieth of himself; a man doubtless well spoken and not unlearned, and a very sharp and stout maintainer of that side. One will marvel, I suppose, how a good man could either conceive so wickedly or write so despitefully of those words which he knew proceeded from God’s mouth, and specially in such sort as he would not have it seem his own private opinion alone, but the common opinion of all that band. He dissembleth, I grant you indeed, and hideth what he is, and setteth forth the matter so, as though it were not he and his side, but the Zuenckfeldian heretics that so did speak. “We,” saith he, “will bid away with the same Scriptures, whereof we see brought not only divers but also contrary interpretations; and we will hear God speak, rather than we will resort to the naked elements, and appoint our salvation to rest in them. It behoveth not a man to be expert in the law and Scripture, but to be taught of God. It is but lost labour that a man bestoweth in the Scriptures. For the Scripture is a creature, and a certain bare letter.” This is Hosius’ saying, uttered altogether with the same spirit and the same mind wherewith in times past Montane and Marcion were moved, who, as men report, used to say, when with a contempt they rejected the Holy Scriptures, that themselves knew many more and better things than either Christ or the Apostles ever knew.
What then shall I say here, O ye principal posts of religion, O ye arch-governors of Christ’s Church! Is this that your reverence which ye give to God’s Word? The Holy Scriptures, which, St. Paul saith, came by the inspiration of God, which God did commend by so many miracles, wherein are the most perfect prints of Christ’s own steps, which all the holy fathers, Apostles, and Angels, which Christ Himself the Son of God, as often as was needful, did allege for testimony and proof; will ye, as though they were unworthy for you to hear, bid them avaunt away? That is, will ye enjoin God to keep silence, who speaketh to you most clearly by His own mouth in the Scriptures? or that Word, whereby alone, as Paul saith, we are reconciled to God, and which the prophet David saith, is “holy and pure, and shall last for ever;” will ye call that “but a bare and dead letter?” or will ye say that all our labour is lost which is bestowed in that thing which Christ hath commanded us diligently to search, and to have evermore before our eyes? And will ye say that Christ and the Apostles meant with subtlety to deceive the people when they exhorted them to read the Holy Scriptures, that thereby they might flow in all wisdom and knowledge? No marvel at all though these men despise us and all our doings, which set so little by God Himself and His infallible sayings. Yet was it but want of wit in them, to the intend they might hurt us, to do so extreme injury to the Word of God.
But Hosius will here make exclamation, saying we do him wrong, and that these be not his own words, but the words of the heretic Zuenckfeldius. But how then, if Zuenckfeldius make exclamation on the other side, and say, that the same very words be not his, but Hosius’ own words? For tell me where hath Zuenckfeldius ever written them? or, if he have written them, and Hosius have judged the same to be wicked, why hath not Hosius spoken so much as one word to confute them? Howsoever the matter goeth, although Hosius peradventure will not allow of those words, yet he doth not disallow the meaning of the words For well near in all controversies, and namely touching the use of the holy “communion under both kinds,” although the words of Christ be plain and evident, yet doth Hosius disdainfully reject them, as no better than “cold and dead elements;” and commandeth us to give faith to certain new lessons, appointed by the Church, and to I wot not what revelations of the Holy Ghost. And Pighius saith: “Men ought not to believe, no not the most clear and manifest words of the Scriptures, unless the same be allowed for good by the interpretation and authority of the Church.”
And yet, as though this were too little, they also burn the Holy Scriptures, as in times past wicked King Aza did, or as Antiochus or Maximinus did, and are wont to name them heretics’ books. And out of doubt, to see too, they would fain do as Herod in old time did in Jewry, that he might with more surety keep still his dominion: who being an Idumaean born, and a stranger to the stock and kindred of the Jews, and yet coveting much to be taken for a Jew, to the end he might establish to him and his posterity the kingdom of that country, which he had gotten of Augustus Caesar, he commanded all the genealogies and pedigrees to be burnt, and made out of the way, so that there should remain no record whereby he might be known to them that came after that he was an alien in blood: whereas even from Abraham’s time these monuments had been safely kept amongst the Jews, and laid up in their treasury; because in them it might easily and most assuredly be found of what lineage everyone did descend. So (in good faith) do these men, when they would have all their own doings in estimation, as though they had been delivered to us even from the Apostles, or from Christ Himself: to the end there might be found nowhere anything able to convince such their dreams and lies, either they burn the Holy Scriptures, or else they craftily convey them from the people surely.
Very rightly and aptly doth Chrysostom write against these men. “Heretics,” saith he, “shut up the doors against the truth: for they know full well, if the door were open, the Church should be none of theirs.” Theophylact also: “God’s Word,” saith he, “is the candle whereby the thief is espied.” And Tertullian saith, “The Holy Scripture manifestly findeth out the fraud and theft of heretics.” For why do they hide, why do they keep under the Gospel which Christ would have preached aloud from the housetop? Why whelm they that light under a bushel which ought to stand on a candlestick? Why trust they more to the blindness of the unskilful multitude, and to ignorance, than to the goodness of their cause? Think they their sleights are not already perceived, and that they can walk now unespied, as though they had Gyges’ ring, to go invisibly by, upon their finger? No, no. All men see now well and well again, what good stuff is in that chest of the “Bishop of Rome’s bosom.” This thing alone of itself may be an argument sufficient that they work not uprightly and truly. Worthily ought that matter seem suspicious which flieth trial, and is afraid of the light. “For he that doeth evil,” as Christ saith, “seeketh darkness, and hateth the light.” A conscience that knoweth itself clear cometh willingly into open show, that the works which proceed of God may be seen. Neither be they so very blind but they see this well enough, that their own kingdom straightway is at a point if the Scriptures once have the upper hand: and that, like as men say, the idols of devils in times past, of whom men in doubtful matters were then wont to receive answers, were suddenly stricken dumb at the sight of Christ, when He was born and came into the world: even so they see that now all their subtle practices will soon fall down headlong upon the sight of the Gospel. For Antichrist is not overthrown but by the brightness of Christ’s coming.
As for us, we run not for succour to the fire, as these men’s guise is, but we run to the Scriptures; neither do we reason with the sword, but with the Word of God: and therewith, as saith Tertullian “do we feed our faith; by it do we stir up our hope, and strengthen our confidence.” For we know that the “Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation;” and that therein consisteth eternal life. And as Paul warneth us, “We do not hear, no, not an Angel of God coming from Heaven, if he go about to pull us from any part of this doctrine.” Yea, more than this, as the holy martyr Justin speaketh of himself, we would give no credence to God Himself, if He should teach us any other Gospel.
For where these men bid the Holy Scriptures away, as dumb and fruitless, and procure us to come to God Himself rather, who speaketh in the Church and in councils, which is to say, to believe their fancies and opinions; this way of finding out the truth is very uncertain and exceeding dangerous, and in manner a fantastical and mad way, and by no means allowed of the holy fathers. Chrysostom saith, “There be many oftentimes which boast themselves of the Holy Ghost; but truly whoso speak of their own head do falsely boast they have the Spirit of God. For like as (saith he) Christ denied He spake of Himself, when He spake out of the law and Prophets, even so now, if anything be pressed upon us in the Name of the Holy Ghost, save the Gospel, we ought not to believe it. For as Christ is the fulfilling of the law and Prophets, so is the Holy Ghost the fulfilling of the Gospel.” Thus far goeth Chrysostom.