Enchiridion. Chapter 15. Here Follow Opinions Meet for a Christian Man
23 min read
23 min read
Let this excellent learning and paradoxes of the true christian faith be sure and stedfast with thee, that no christian man may think that he is born for himself: neither ought to have the mind to live to himself: but whatsoever he hath, whatsoever he is, that altogether let him ascribe not to himself, but unto God the author thereof, and of whom it came, all his goods let him think to be common to all men. The charity of a christian man knoweth no property: let him love good men in Christ, evil men for Christ’s sake, which so loved us first when we were yet his enemies, that he bestowed himself on us altogether for our redemption: let him embrace the one because they be good: the other nevertheless to make them good: he shall hate no man at all, no more verily than a faithful physician hateth a sick man: let him be an enemy only unto vices: the greater the disease is, the greater cure will pure charity put thereto: he is an adulterer, he hath committed sacrilege, he is a Turk: let a christian man defy the adulterer, not the man: let him despise the committer of sacrilege, not the man: let him kill the Turk, not the man: let him find the means that the evil man perish such as he hath made himself to be, but let the man be saved whom God made: let him will well, wish well, and do well, to all men unfeignedly: neither hurt them which have deserved it, but do good to them which have not deserved it; let him be glad of all men’s commodities as well as of his own, and also be sorry for all men’s harms none otherwise than for his own. For verily this is that which the apostle commandeth: to weep with them that weep, to joy with them that joy, yea let him rather take another man’s harm grievouser than his own: and of his brother’s wealth be gladder than of his own. It is not a christian man’s part to think on this wise: what have I to do with this fellow, I know not whether he be black or white, he is unknown to me, he is a stranger to me, he never did aught for me, he hath hurt me sometime, but did me never good. Think none of these things: remember only for what deserving can those things which Christ hath done for thee, which would his kindness done to thee, should be recompensed, not in himself, but in thy neighbour. Only see of what things he hath need, and what thou art able to do for him. Think this thing only, he is my brother in our Lord, co-heir in Christ, a member of the same body, redeemed with one blood, a fellow in the common faith, called unto the very same grace and felicity of the life to come, even as the apostle said, one body and one spirit as ye be called in one hope of your calling, one lord and one faith, one baptism, one God, and father of all which is above all and everywhere, and in all us. How can he be a stranger to whom thou art coupled with so manifold bonds of unity? Among the gentiles let those circumstances of rhetoricians be of no little value and weight, either unto benevolence or unto malevolence, he is a citizen of the same city, he is of alliance, he is my cousin, he is my familiar friend, he is my father’s friend, he hath well deserved, he is kind, born of an honest stock, rich or otherwise. In Christ all these things either be nothing, or after the mind of Paul be all one, and the very selfsame thing: let this be ever present before thine eyes and let this suffice thee, he is my flesh, he is my brother in Christ.
Whatsoever is bestowed upon any member reboundeth it not to all the body, and from thence into the head? We all be members each one of another, members cleaving together make a body. The head of the body is Jesu Christ, the head of Christ is God. It is done to thee it is done to everyone, it is done to Christ it is done to God: whatsoever is done to any one member whichsoever it be, whether it be well done or evil: All these things are one, God, Christ, the body, and the members. That saying hath no place conveniently among christian men, like with like. And the other saying, diversity is mother of hate: for unto what purpose pertain words of dissension where so great unity is, it savoureth not of christian faith that commonly a courtier to a town dweller: one of the country to an inhabiter of the city: a man of high degree, to another of low degree: an officer, to him that is officeless: the rich to the poor: a man of honour, to a vile person: the mighty to the weak: the Italyen to the Germayne: the Frenssheman to the Englysshman: the Englysshe to the Scotte: the grammarian to the divine: the logician to the grammarian: the physician to the man of law: the learned to the unlearned: the eloquent to him that is not facounde and lacketh utterance: the single to the married: the young to the old; the clerk to the layman: the priest to the monk: the Carmelytes to the Jacobytes: and that (lest I rehearse all diversities) in a very trifle unlike to unlike, is somewhat partial and unkind: where is charity which loveth even his enemy: when the surname changed, when the colour of the vesture a little altered, when the girdle or the shoe and like fantasies of men make me hated unto thee? Why rather leave we not these childish trifles, and accustom to have before our eyes that which pertaineth to the very thing: whereof Paul warneth us in many places, that all we in Christ our head be members of one body, endued with life by one spirit (if so be we live in him) so that we should neither envy the happier members, and should gladly succour and aid the weak members: that we might perceive that we ourselves have received a good turn, when we have done any benefit to our neighbour: and that we ourselves be hurt, when hurt is done to our brother: and that we might understand how no man ought to study privately for himself, but every man for his own part should bestow in common that thing which he hath received of God, that all things might redound and rebound thither again, from whence they sprung, that is to wit, from the head. This verily is the thing which Paul writeth to the Corynthes, saying, As the body is one and hath many members, and all the members of the body though they be many, yet be they but one body: even so likewise is Christ, for in one spirit we be all baptised to make one body, whether we be Jews or gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and all we have drunk of one spirit, for the body (saith Paul) is not one member but many: if the foot shall say, I am not the hand, I am not of the body: is he therefore not of the body? If the ear shall say, I am not the eye, I am not of the body: is he therefore not of the body? If all the body should be the eye, where is then the hearing: if all the body were the hearing, where then should be the smelling?
But now God hath put the members every one of them in the body, as it pleased him: for if all were but one member, where were the body? but now verily be there many members, yet but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand I have no need of thy help, or again the head to the feet, ye be not to me necessary: but those members of the body which seem to be the weaker are much more necessary: and to those which we think to be the viler members of the body we give more abundant honour: and those which be our unhonest members have more abundant honesty, for our honest members have need of nothing. But God hath tempered and ordered the body, giving plenteous honour to that part which lacked, because there should be no division, debate or strife in the body, but that the members should care one for another indifferently. But it is ye which are the body of Christ and members one depending of another. He writeth like things to the Romans, saying, in one body we have many members, and all members have not one office.
Even so we being many are but one body in Christ: but singularly we be members each one of another, having gifts divers after the grace which is given to us. And again to the Epheses. Working verity (saith he) in charity, let us in all manner things grow in him which is the head, that is to wit Christ, in whom all the body compact and knit by every joint, whereby one part ministereth to another according to the operation and virtue which springeth of the head and capacity of every member, in receiving maketh the increase of the body for the edifying of himself in charity. And in another place he biddeth every man to bear one another’s burden, because we be members one of another. Look then whether they pertain unto this body whom thou hearest speaking everywhere after this manner, it is my good, it came to me by inheritance, I possess it by right and not by fraud, why shall not I use it and abuse it after mine own mind, why should I give them of it any deal at all to whom I owe nothing? I spill, I waste, I destroy, that which perisheth is mine own, it maketh no matter to other men. Thy member complaineth and grinneth for hunger and thou spuest up partridges. Thy naked brother shivereth for cold, and with thee so great plenty of raiment is corrupt with moths and long lying. One night’s dicing hath lost thee a thousand pieces of gold, while in the mean season some wretched wench (need compelling her) hath set forth her chastity to sell, and is become a common harlot, and thus perisheth the soul for whom Christ hath bestowed his life. Thou sayest again: what is that to me? I entreat that which is mine own after mine own fashion: and after all this with this so corrupt mind thinkest thou thyself to be a christian man, which art not once a man verily? Thou hearest in the presence of a great multitude the good name or fame of this or that man to be hurt, thou holdest thy peace, or peradventure rejoicest and art well content with the backbiter. Thou sayest, I would have reproved him if those things which were spoken had pertained to me, but I have nothing ado with him which was there slandered. Then to conclude, thou hast nothing ado with the body, if thou have nothing ado with the member, neither hast thou aught ado with the head, verily, if the body nothing appertain to thee. A man (say they now-a-days) with violence may defend and put aback violence: what the Emperour’s laws permit I pass not thereon. This I marvel, how these voices came in to the manners of christian men. I hurt him, but I was provoked, I had liefer hurt than be hurt. Be it man’s laws punish not that which they have permitted. But what will the Emperour Christ do, if thou beguile his law which is written in Matthew?
I command you (saith Christ there) not once to withstand harm: but if a man shall give thee a blow on the right cheek, offer to him also the other. And whosoever will strive with thee in the law, and take from thee thy coat, yield up to him also thy cloak or mantle. And whosoever shall compel thee to go with him one mile, go with him two more other. Love your enemies, and do good to them which hate you, and pray for them which persecute you and pick matters against you, that ye may be the sons of your father which is in heaven, which maketh the sun to rise upon good and evil, and sendeth rain upon just and unjust. Thou answerest, he spake not this to me, he spake it to his apostles, he spake it to perfect persons. Heardest thou not how he said that ye may be the sons of your father? if thou care not to be the son of God, that law pertaineth not to thee.
Nevertheless he is not good verily which would not be perfect. Hark also another thing: if thou desire no reward, the commandment belongeth not to thee: for it followeth. If ye love them which love you, what reward shall ye have? as who should say, none: for verily, to do these things (that is to say, to love them that loveth thee) is not virtue: but not to do it, is an evil thing: there is debt of neither side where is just recompense made of both sides. Hear Paul, both a great wise man and cunning and an interpreter also of Christ’s law. Bless (saith he) them that persecute you, bless them, and curse them in no wise, rendering to no man evil for evil, if it may be as much as in you is, having rest and peace with all men, not defending yourself, my best beloved brethren, but give place and withstand ye not wrath: for it is written, Vengeance shall be reserved to me and I will requite them saith our Lord. But if thine enemy shall be hungry, give to him meat: if he be athirst, give to him drink: for if thou do this, thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, that is to say, thou shalt make him to love fervently. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil in goodness. What shall then follow, sayest thou, if I shall with my softness nourish up the knappyshnes or malice and froward audacity of another man, and in suffering an old injury provoke a new? If thou can without thine own evil either avoid or put by evil, no man forbiddeth thee to do it: but if not, look thou say not, it is better to do than to suffer. Amend thine enemy if thou can, either lading him with benefits, or overcoming him with meekness: if that help not, it is better that the one perish than both: it is better that thou wax rich with the lucre and advantage of patience than that while either to other rendereth evil both be made evil.
Let this therefore be a decree among christian men, to compare with all men in love, in meekness, and in benefits, or doing good: but in striving, hate or backbiting, in rebukes and injury, to give place ever to them that be of lowest degree, and that with good will. But he is unworthy to whom a good turn should be done, or an evil forgiven, yet is it meet for thee to do it, and Christ is worthy for whose sake it is done. I will neither (say they) hurt any man, neither suffer myself to be hurt: yet when thou art hurt, see thou forgive the trespass with all thy heart, providing always that nothing be which any man should remit or forgive unto thee. Be as ware and diligent in avoiding that none offence or trespass proceed from thee, as thou art easy and ready to remit another man’s.
The greater man thou art, so much the more submit thyself, that thou in charity apply thyself to all men. If thou come of a noble stock, manners worthy of Christ shall not dishonour, but honour the nobleness of thy birth. If thou be cunning and well learned, so much the more soberly suffer and amend the ignorance of the unlearned. The more is committed and lent to thee, the more art thou bound to thy brother. Thou art rich, remember thou art the dispenser, not the lord: take heed circumspectly how thou entreatest the common good.
Believest thou that property or impropriation was prohibit and voluntary poverty enjoined to monks only? Thou art deceived, both pertain indifferently to all christian men. The law punisheth thee if thou take away anything of another man’s: it punisheth not if thou withdraw thine own from thy needy brother: but Christ will punish both. If thou be an officer, let not the honour make thee more fierce, but let the charge make thee more diligent and fuller of care. I bear not (sayest thou) no office of the church, I am not a shepherd or a bishop. Let us grant you that, but also art thou not a christian man, consider thou of whence thou art, if thou be not of the church. So greatly Christ is coming into contempt to the world, that they think it a goodly and excellent thing to have nothing to do with him: and that so much the more every man should be despised, the more coupled he were to him. Hearest thou not daily of the lay persons in their fury, the names of a clerk, of a priest, of a monk, to be cast in our teeth, instead of a sharp and cruel rebuke, saying, thou clerk, thou priest, thou monk, that thou art: and it is done, utterly with none other mind, with none other voice or pronouncing, than if they should cast in our teeth incest or sacrilege. I verily marvel why they also cast not in our teeth baptism, why also object they not against us with the Sarazyns the name of Christ as an opprobrious thing. If they said, an evil clerk, an unworthy priest, or an unreligious monk, in that they might be suffered as men which note the manners of the persons, and not despise the profession of virtue. But whosoever counteth praise in themselves the deflowering of virgins, good taken away in war, money either won or lost at dice or other chance, and have nothing to lay against another man more spiteful or opprobrious or more to be ashamed of, than the names of a monk or a priest. Certainly it is easy to conjecture what these, in name only christian men, judge of Christ. There is not one Lord of the bishops and another of the temporal officers, but both be under one, and to the same both must give accounts: If thou look any other where save unto him only, either when thou receivest the office or when thou ministerest it, it maketh no matter though the world call thee not a symonyake, he surely will punish thee as a symonyake. If thou labour and make means to obtain a common office, not to profit in common, but to provide for thine own wealth privately, and to avenge thyself of them to whom thou owest a grudge, thy office is bribery or robbery afore God. Thou huntest after thieves not that he should receive his own that is robbed, but lest it should not be with thee which is with the thieves. How much difference I pray thee is there between the thieves and thee, except peradventure that they be the robbers of merchants, and thou the robber of robbers.
In conclusion, except thou bear thine office with this mind, that thou be ready, and that with the loss, I will not say of thy goods but, of thy life to defend that which is right, Christ will not approve thy administration. I will add also another thing of the mind or judgment of Plato: no man is worthy of an office which is gladly in an office. If thou be a prince, beware lest these perilous witches, the voices of flatterers, do enchant or bewitch thee. Thou art a lord, over the laws thou art free, whatsoever thou doest is honest, to thee is lawful whatsoever thou list. Those things pertain not to thee which are preached daily of priests to the common people: yea, but think thou rather which is true, that there is one master over all men, and he is Christ Jesus, to whom thou oughtest to be as like as is possible, to whom thou oughtest to conform thyself in all things, as unto him certainly whose authority or room thou bearest. No man ought to follow his doctrine more straitly than thou, of whom he will ask accounts more straitly than of other. Think not straightway that to be right that thou wilt, but only will thou which is right. Whatsoever may be filthy to any man in the world, see that thou think not that an honest thing to thee, but see thou in no wise permit to thyself any thing which is used to be forgiven and pardoned among the common sort. That which in other men is but a small trespass, think in thyself to be a great outrage or excess. Let not thy riches greater than the common people bring unto thee honour, reverence, and dignity, favour, and authority: but let thy manners better than the common people’s utterly deserve them.
Suffer not the common people to wonder at those things in thee, wherewith are provoked and enticed the very same mischievous deeds which thou punishest daily. Take away this wondering and praise of riches, and where be thieves, where be oppressors of the commonwealth, where be committers of sacrilege, where be errant thieves and robbers or rievers: take away wondering at voluptuousness, and where be ravishers of women, where be adulterers? As often as thou wilt appear somewhat according after thy degree among thy friends and subjects or them over whom thou bearest office, room or authority, set not open thy riches and treasure to the eyes of foolish persons. When thou wilt seem somewhat wealthy, shew not in boast the riotous example of expense and voluptuousness. First of all let them learn in thee to despise such things, let them learn to honour virtue, to have measure in price, to rejoice in temperance, to give honour to sober lowliness or meekness. Let none of those things be seen in thy manners and conversation, which thine authority punisheth in the manners and conversation of the people. Thou shalt banish evil deeds in the best wise, if men shall not see riches and voluptuousness, the matter and ground of evil deeds to be magnified in thee. Thou shalt not despise in comparison of thyself any man, no not the vilest of the lowest degree, for common and indifferent is the price wherewith ye both were redeemed. Let not the noise of ambition, neither fierceness, neither weapons, nor men of the guard, defend thee from contempt, but pureness of living, gravity, manners uncorrupt and sound from all manner vices of the common people.
Nothing forbiddeth (in bearing rule) to keep the chief room, and yet in charity to discern no room. Think bearing of room or rule to be this, not to excel and go before other men in abundance of riches, but to profit all men as much as is possible. Turn not to thine own profit things which are common, but bestow those things which be thine own, and thine own self, altogether upon the commonwealth. The common people oweth very many things to thee, but thou owest all things to them. Though thine ears be compelled to suffer names of ambition, as most mighty, most christened, holiness, and majesty, yet let thy mind not be a-knowen of them, but refer all these things unto Christ, to whom only they agree. Let the crime of treason against thine own person (which other with great words make an heinous offence) be counted of thee a very trifle.
He violateth the majesty of a prince indeed, which in the prince’s name doth any thing cruelly, violently, mischievously, contrary to right. Let no man’s injury move thee less than that which pertaineth to thee privately: remember thou art a public person, and that thou oughtest not to think but of common matters. If thou have any courage with thee and readiness of wit, consider with thyself not how great a man thou art, but how great a charge thou bearest on thy back: and the more in jeopardy thou art so much the less favour thyself, fetching example of ministering thine office not of thy predecessors or else of flatterers, but of Christ: for what is more unreasonable than that a christian prince should set before him for an example Hanyball, great Alexandre, Cesar or Pompey, in the which same persons when he cannot attain some certain virtues, he shall counterfeit those things most chiefly which only were to be refused and avoided. Let it not forth withal be taken for an example if Cesar have done anything lauded in histories, but if he have done anything which varyeth not from the doctrine of our Lord Jesu Christ, or be such that though it be not worthy to be counterfeited yet may it be applied to the study or exercise of virtue. Let not an whole empire be of so great value to thee that thou wouldest wittingly once bow from the right: put off that rather than thou shouldest put off Christ. Doubt not Christ hath to make thee amends for the empire refused, far better than the empire.
Nothing is so comely, so excellent, so glorious unto kings as to draw as nigh as is possible unto the similitude of the highest king Jesu, which as he was the greatest so was he also the best. But that he was the greatest, that dissimuled he, and hid secret here in earth: that he was the best, that he had liefer we should perceive and feel, because he had liefer we should counterfeit that. He denied his kingdom to be of this world, when he was Lord of heaven and earth also. But the princes of the gentiles use dominion upon them. A christian man exerciseth no power over his but charity, and he which is the chiefest thinketh himself to be minister unto all men, not master or lord.
Wherefore I marvel the more a great deal how these ambitious names of power and dominion were brought in, even unto the very popes and bishops, and that our divines be not ashamed no less indiscreetly than ambitiously to be called everywhere our masters, when Christ forbade his disciples that they should not suffer to be called either lords, or masters: for we must remember that one is in heaven both lord and master Christ Jesus, which is also head unto us all.
Apostle, a shepherd, a bishop, be names of office or service, not of dominion and rule: A pope, an abbot, be names of love, not of power. But why enter I into that great sea of the common errors? Unto whatsoever kind of men he shall turn himself, a very spiritual man shall see many things which he may laugh at, and more which he ought to weep at, he shall see very many opinions so far corrupt and varying from the doctrine of Christ both far and wide: of the which a great part springeth there hence, that we have brought even into christendom a certain world, and that which is read of the world among the old divines, men of small learning now-a-days refer to them which be not monks. The world in the gospel, with the apostles, with Saint Augustyne, Ambrose, and Hierome, be called infidels, strangers from the faith, the enemies of the cross of Christ. Blasphemers of God, they that are such care for to-morrow and for the time to come, for whosoever mistrusteth Christ neither believe on him, they be they which fight and strive for riches, for rule, for worldly pleasure, as men which, blinded with delyces of sensible things, set their minds and whole affections upon apparent good things, instead of very good things. This world hath not known Christ the very and true light. This world is altogether set on mischief, loveth himself, liveth to himself, studyeth for himself and for his own pleasure, and all for lack he hath not put upon him Christ which is very and true charity. From this world separated Christ not his apostles only, but all men whosoever and as many as he judged worthy of him. After what manner then and fashion I pray you do we mingle with christendom this world, everywhere in holy scripture condemned? And with the vain name of the world favour, flatter, and maintain our own vices. Many doctors and teachers augment this pestilence, which corrupting the word of God (as Paul saith) wrest and fashion his holy scripture according to the manners of every time, when it were more convenient that the manners should be addressed and amended by the rule of his scripture. And no mischievouser kind of flattering verily is there, than when with the words of the gospel and of the prophets we flatter the diseases of the mind and cure them not.
A prince heareth all power is of God: forthwith (as the proverb saith) his comb riseth. Why hath the scripture made thee high or swelling in mind rather than circumspect and careful? Thinkest thou that God hath committed to thee an empire to be governed, and thinkest thou not that the same will require of thee a strait reckoning of the ordering thereof? The covetous man heareth it to be forbid unto christian men to have two coats at once.
The divine interpreteth the second coat to be whatsoever should be superfluous and more than enough for the necessity of nature, and should appertain to the disease of covetousness: that is very well (saith the gross fellow) for I yet lack very many things. The natural wise man and cold from charity heareth this to be the order of charity, that thou shouldest regard and set more of thine own money than of another man’s, of thine own life than of another man’s, of thine own fame than of another man’s. I will therefore, saith he, give nothing lest peradventure I should lack myself. I will not defend another man’s good fame or good name, lest mine own be spotted thereby. I will forsake my brother in jeopardy, lest I myself should fall in peril also. To speak shortly I will live altogether to myself that no incommodity come to me for any other man’s cause. We have also learned if holy men have done anything not to be counterfeited or followed, that only to take of them and draw in to the example of living. Adulterers and murderers flatter and clawen themselves with the example of David. Such as gapeth after worldly riches lay against us for their excuse rich Abraham. Princes which count it but a sport or pastime everywhere to corrupt and defile virgins, number and reckon up to cloke their vice the queens concubines of Salomon. They whose belly is their god, layeth for their excuse the drunkenness of Noe. Incests which pollute their own kinswomen, cloke and cover their filthiness with the example of Loth, which lay with his own daughters. Why turn we our eyes from Christ to these men?
I dare be bold to say that it ought not to be counterfeited and followed, no not so much as in the prophets or Christ’s apostles verily, if anything swerve or wry from the doctrine of Christ. But if it delight men so greatly to counterfeit holy sinners, I do not gainsay them, so that they counterfeit them whole and altogether. Thou hast followed David in adultery, much more follow him in repentance. Thou hast counterfeited Mary Magdalayne a sinner, counterfeit her also loving much, counterfeit her weeping, counterfeit her casting herself down at the feet of Jesu. Thou hast persecuted the church of God as Paul did, thou hast forsworn thyself as Peter did: see likewise that thou stretch forth thy neck for the faith and religion of Christ after the example of Paul, and that thou fear not the cross no more than Peter. For this cause God suffereth even great and right excellent men also to fall into certain vices, that we when we have fallen should not despair, but with this condition, if that we, as we have been their fellows in sinning and doing amiss, even so will be their companions and partners in the amending of our sins and misdeeds.
Now do we greatly praise and magnify that same thing which was not to be counterfeited and followed, and certain things which were well done of them, we do deprave and corrupt, after the manner of spiders sucking out the poison only, if any be therein, or else turning even the wholesome juice also into poison to ourselves.
What doth Abraham’s example belong to thee, which makest of thy money thy God? Because he was enriched with increase of cattle (God making his substance and goods prosperously to multiply) and that in the old law which was but carnal: shall it therefore be lawful to thee which art a christian man, by right or wrong, by hook or crook, from whencesoever it be, to heap together riches as much as ever king Cresus had (whose exceeding great riches is come into a common proverb), which riches once gotten thou mightest either evil spend and lewdly waste, or else (which is a great deal worse) hide and bury most covetously deep in the ground? How little Abraham did set his mind upon his goods and riches, which came to him abundantly by their own accord, even this thing may be an evident token and proof, that without delay at the voice of God commanding him, he brought forth his only son to be slain. How much thinkest thou despised he his droves of oxen which despised even his own son? And thinkest thou which dreamest nothing else but of filthy lucre and advantage, which praisest and settest by nothing but only money, which art ready as soon as there chance any hope of lucre, be it never so little, either to deceive thy brother, or to set Christ at naught, that there is any similitude or like thing between thee and Abraham? The simple and innocent wenches, the daughters of Loth, when they beheld all the region round about on every part burning and flaming with fire, and supposed that it, which was then in sight afore their eyes, had been all the whole world, and that no man was preserved from that so large and wasteful fire but only themselves, lay privily and by stealth with their own father, not of a filthy but virtuous and holy purpose, that is to wit, lest none issue of mankind should have remained after them, and that, when this precept of God (grow and multiply) was as yet in full vigour and strength. And darest thou compare thy filthy and prodigious voluptuousness and lechery with the deed of these wenches?
Nay I would not doubt to count thy matrimony not so good as their incest committed with their father, if in matrimony thou dost not study for issue, but to satisfy thine own voluptuous appetite or lust. David, after so many excellent and noble examples of virtue and good living shewed, fell once into adultery by occasion and opportunity given him: and shall it be lawful therefore to thee straightway at thy liberty, to roll, welter, and tumble from house to house in other men’s beds all thy life long? Peter once for fear of death denied his master Christ, for whose sake afterward he died with good will: Shall it be lawful thinkest thou then to thee for that cause, to forswear thyself for every trifle? Paul sinned not purposely and for the nonce, but fell through ignorance: when he was warned and taught, he repented forthwith and came into the right way. Thou both ware and wise, and seeing what thou doest, wittingly and willingly continuest from youth to age in vices and sins, and yet by the example of Paul strokest thou thine own head. Matthew being commanded but with one word, without any tarrying, at once utterly forsook all his office of receiving custom or tollage: but thou art so sworn and married to thy money that neither so many examples of holy men, neither the gospels of often heard, nor so many preachings can divorce or pluck thee from it.
The bishops say unto me, Saint Augustyne (as it is read) had two sovereign ladies or concubines: yea but he then was an heathen man, and we be nourished up in christendom: he was young, and our heads be hoar for age. A worshipful comparison, because that he being young, and also an heathen man, to avoid the snares of matrimony, had a little wench instead of a wife, and yet to her which was not his wife kept he the promise of wedlock. Shall it be therefore the less shame for us christian men being old, being priests, yea being bishops, to be altogether spotted and defiled in every puddle one after another of bodily lusts? Farewell good manners when we have given to vices the names of virtues, and have begun to be more wily and subtle in defending our vices than diligent to amend them, most specially when we have learned to nourish, to underset, and to strengthen our froward opinions, with the help and aid of holy scripture. Thou therefore my most sweet brother (the common people altogether set at naught with their both opinions and deeds) purely and wholly hasten thee unto the christian sect. Whatsoever in this life appeareth to thy sensible powers either to be hated or loved, all that for the love of piety and virtuous life indifferently despised, let Christ only to thee be sufficient, the only author both of true judging and also of blessed living. And this verily the world thinketh to be pure foolishness and madness: nevertheless by this foolishness it pleaseth God to save them which on him believe. And he is happily a fool that is wise in Christ: and he is wofully wise that is foolish in Christ. But hearest thou, as I would have thee to vary strongly from the common people, so I would not that thou shewing a point of currishness, shouldst everywhere bark against the opinions and deeds of other men, and with authority condemn them, prattle odiously against all men, furiously preach against the living of every person, lest thou purchase to thyself two evils together. The one that thou shouldest fall into hate of all men: the other that when thou art hated thou shouldest do good to no man. But be thou all things to all men, to win all men to Christ; as much as may be (piety not offended) so shape and fashion thyself to all men outwardly, that within thy purpose remain sure, stedfast and unmoved, withoutforth let gentleness, courteous language, softness, profitableness allure and entice thy brother, whom it is meet with fair means to be induced to Christ, and not to be feared with cruelness. In conclusion that which is in thy breast is not so greatly to be roared forth with cruel words, as to be declared and uttered with honest manners. And again thou oughtest not so to favour the infirmity of the common people that thou durst not at a time strongly defend the verity: with humanity men must be amended, and not deceived.