Thus, good Christian reader, ye see how it is no new thing, though at this day the religion of Christ be entertained with despites and checks, being but lately restored, and as it were, coming up again anew; forsomuch as the like hath chanced both to Christ Himself and to His Apostles: yet nevertheless, for fear ye may suffer yourself to be led amiss and seduced with these exclamations of our adversaries, we have declared at large unto you the very whole manner of our religion, what our opinion is of God the Father, of His only Son Jesus Christ, of the Holy Ghost, of the Church, of the Sacraments, of the ministry, of the Scriptures, of ceremonies, and of every part of Christian belief. We have said, that we abandon and detest, as plagues and poisons, all those old heresies which either the sacred Scriptures, or the ancient councils have utterly condemned: that we call home again, as much as ever we can, the right discipline of the Church, which our adversaries have quite brought into a poor and weak case. That we punish all licentiousness of life, and unruliness of manners, by the old and long-continued laws, and with as much sharpness as is convenient, and lieth in our power. That we maintain still the state of kingdoms, in the same condition and plight wherein we have found them, without any diminishing or alteration, reserving unto our princes their majesties and worldly pre-eminence, safe and without impairing, to our possible power. That we have so gotten ourselves away from that Church, which they had made a den of thieves, and wherein nothing was in good frame, or once like to the Church of God, and which, themselves confessed, had erred many ways, even as Lot in times past gat him out of Sodom, or Abraham out of Chaldea, not upon a desire of contention, but by the warning of God Himself. And that we have searched out of the Holy Bible, which we are sure cannot deceive, one sure form of religion, and have returned again unto the primitive Church of the ancient fathers and Apostles; that is to say, to the first ground and beginning of things, as unto the very foundations and headsprings of Christ’s Church. And in very truth we have not tarried for in this matter the authority or consent of the Tridentine council, wherein we saw nothing done uprightly, nor by good order; where also everybody was sworn to the maintenance of one man; where our prince’s ambassadors were contemned; where not one of our divines could be heard, and where parts-taking and ambition was openly and earnestly procured and wrought; but, as the holy fathers in former time, and as our predecessors have commonly done, we have restored our churches by a provincial convocation, and have clean shaken off, as our duty was, the yoke and tyranny of the bishop of Rome, to whom we were not bound; who also had no manner of thing like, neither to Christ, nor to Peter, nor to an Apostle, nor yet like to any bishop at all. Finally, we say, that we agree amongst ourselves touching the whole judgment and chief substance of Christian religion, and with one mouth, and with one spirit, do worship God, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Wherefore, O Christian and godly reader, forasmuch as thou seest the reasons and causes, both why we have restored religion, and why we have forsaken these men, thou oughtest not to marvel, though we have chosen to obey our Master Christ, rather than men. Paul hath given us warning how we should not suffer ourselves to be carried away with such sundry learnings, and to fly their companies, in especial, which would sow debate and variances, clean contrary to the doctrine which they had received of Christ and the Apostles. Long since have these men’s crafts and treacheries decayed, and vanished, and fled away at the sight and light of the Gospel, even as the owl doth at the sun-rising. And albeit their trumpery be built up, and reared as high as the sky, yea even, in a moment, and as it were of the own self, falleth it down again to the ground and cometh to nought. For you must not think that all these things have come to pass rashly, or at adventure; it hath been God’s pleasure, that, against all men’s wills well nigh, the Gospel of Jesu Christ should be spread abroad throughout the whole world at these days. And, therefore, men, following God’s biddings, have of their own free will resorted unto the doctrine of Jesus Christ. And for our parts, truly we have sought hereby, neither glory, nor wealth, nor pleasure, nor ease. For there is plenty of all these things with our adversaries. And when we were of their side, we enjoyed such worldly commodities much more liberally and bountifully than we do now. Neither do we eschew concord and peace, but to have peace with man we will not be at war with God. The name of peace is a sweet and pleasant thing, saith Hilarius; but yet beware, saith he, “peace is one thing, and bondage is another.” For if it should so be, as they seek to have it, that Christ should be commanded to keep silence, that the truth of the Gospel should be betrayed, that horrible errors should be cloaked, that Christian men’s eyes should be bleared, and that they might be suffered to conspire openly against God; this were not a peace, but a most ungodly covenant of servitude. There is a peace, saith Nazianzen, that is unprofitable; again, there is a discord, saith he, that is profitable. For we must conditionally desire peace, so far as is lawful before God, and so far as we may conveniently. For otherwise Christ Himself brought not peace into the world, but a sword. Wherefore, if the pope will have us be reconciled to him, his duty is first to be reconciled to God. For from thence, saith Cyprian, spring schisms and sects, because men seek not the Head, and have not their recourse to the fountain (of the Scriptures), and keep not the rules given by the heavenly Teacher. For, saith he, that is not peace, but war; neither is he joined unto the Church, which is severed from the Gospel. As for these men, they used to make a merchandise of the name of peace. For that peace which they so fain would have, is only a rest of idle bellies. They and we might easily be brought to atonement; touching all these matters, were it not that ambition, gluttony, and excess did let it. Hence cometh their whining, their heart is on their halfpenny. Out of doubt their clamours and stirs be to none other end, but to maintain more shamefully and naughtily ill-gotten things.
Nowadays the pardoners complain of us, the dataries, the pope’s collectors, the bawds, and others which take gain to be godliness, and serve not Jesus Christ but their own bellies. Many a day ago, and in the old world, a wonderful great advantage grew hereby to these kinds of people. But now they reckon, all is lost unto them, that Christ gaineth. The pope himself maketh a great complaint at this present, that charity in people is waxen cold. And why so, trow ye? Forsooth, because his profits decay more and more. And for this cause doth he hale us into hatred, all that ever he may, laying load upon us with despiteful railings, and condemning us for heretics, to the end, they that understand not the matter may think there be no worse men upon earth than we be. Notwithstanding, we in the mean season are never the more ashamed for all this; neither ought we to be ashamed of the gospel. For we set more by the glory of God, than we do by the estimation of men. We are sure all is true that we teach, and we may not either go against our own conscience, or bear any witness against God. For if we deny any part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ before men, He on the other side will deny us before His Father. And if there be any that will still be offended, and cannot endure Christ’s doctrine, such, say we, be blind, and leaders of the blind; the truth, nevertheless, must be preached and preferred above all, and we must with patience wait for God’s judgment. Let these folk, in the meantime, take good heed what they do, and let them be well advised of their own salvation, and cease to hate and persecute the Gospel of the Son of God, for fear lest they feel Him once a redresser and revenger of His own cause. God will not suffer Himself to be made a mocking stock. The world espieth a good while agone what there is a doing abroad. This flame, the more it is kept down, so much the more with greater force and strength doth it break out and fly abroad. Their unfaithfulness shall not disappoint God’s faithful promise. And if they shall refuse to lay away this their hardness of heart, and to receive the Gospel of Christ, then shall publicans and sinners go before them into the kingdom of Heaven.
God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ open the eyes of them all, that they may be able to see that blessed hope, whereunto they have been called; so as we may altogether in one glorify Him alone, who is the true God, and also that same Jesus Christ, whom He sent down to us from Heaven, unto whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be given all honour and glory everlastingly. So be it.