Sermons Preached Before King Edward the Sixth
The Second Sermon of Master Hugh Latimer, which he preached before the King's Majesty, within his Grace's Palace at Westminster, the fifteenth day of March, 1549.
Even as in times past all men which were honestly bent to the promoting of virtue and learning, found means that the works of worthy orators, of famous and renowned philosophers, should be, by the benefit of publishing, redeemed from the tyranny of oblivion to the great and high profit of countries, of commonwealths, of empires, and of assemblies of men: likewise ought we to fetch our precedent from those men, and suffer no worthy monument to perish whereby any good may grow, either to the more godly administration of political and civil affairs, or else to the better establishment of christian judgment. Numa Pompilius (who was inaugured and created king of the Romans next after Romulus) was far more careful and busier in grounding of idolatrous religion (as upon rites, ceremonies, sacrifices and superstitions) than we are in the promoting of christian religion, to the advancement of the glory due to the omnipotent Majesty of God himself, who hath revealed and uttered his word unto us by his prophets, and last of all by his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ; whereby he hath confirmed our consciences in a more perfect certainty of the truth than ever they were before. This Numa instituted an archbishop for the preserving of the Commentaries containing the solemnities of their religion, with many other appendices united to the office of the high bishop. What do we? We have suppressed. We have wrestled with fire and sword, not only to deface the writings of such learned men as have painfully travailed to publish God's word, but also we have stirred every stone, and sought all devilish devices to detain the same word of God itself from his people. May not we, and not unworthily, be accounted far under the ethnicks, who wrought only by natural motion and anticipations, without breathing and inspiring of the Holy Ghost, if we would not, I mean, not be equal to them, but be far more zealous in promoting good learning and religion than ever they were? They, when they had such noble and worthy clerks as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, in all diligence caused the fruits of these most rare and profound wits to be preserved for their posterity, that the eyes of all generations might enjoy the fruition and use of them; thinking that such wonderful virtues should not be buried in the same grave that their bodies were. After so manifold and dangerous shipwrecks of religion, as in our times we may well remember, whereas the ambitious and blind prelates (some of wily wilfulness, some of gross ignorance) ruleth the stern, and have evermore blemished the true knowledge of God's word, and did their endeavour to obscure the same with their politic and decent ceremonies, and trumpery of superstitions; how oft hath religion been tossed on the stormy surges and dangerous rocks of the Romish seas! How oft hath it been in such a desperate state, that the true ministers have been enforced, as you would say, to weigh anchor, the tackling of the ship being broken, and, destitute of all other help and succours, to give over the ruling of the ship to God himself; who is only able to save, when all the world by man's reason judgeth it past cure! Such, O Lord, is thy mercy and ineffable power! What christian heart, that favoureth the glory of God, did not even lament and bewail the state of religion, and thought verily the utter ruin of Christ's church to be at hand, seeing the late martyrdom of those that suffered? Yet didst thou, Lord, stir up thousands out of their ashes; and what was done of a popish policy to suppress and keep under the truth, that, of all other, did most set forth the same. Thou hast delivered Daniel out of the den of lions, and he hath set forth thy word abroad. But now, countrymen, whom God hath blessed by delivering you from the tyranny of the lions and her whelps, which went through the whole realm sucking the innocent blood, how unthankful are you to God, so greatly neglecting so special a benefit; falling into such a looseness of lascivious living, as the like hath never been heard of heretofore! Even as ye are grown to a perfection in knowledge, so are ye come to a perfection in all mischief. The heathen, which had no other guide but the law of nature graven in the tables of their heart, were never so poisoned with the contagion of most horrible heresies, as some of us Christians which are not ashamed to brag and boast of the Spirit. But it is a fanatic spirit, a brain-sick spirit, a seditious and a malignant spirit. Christ breathe his Spirit upon you, that ye may read the scripture with all humbleness and reverence, to fetch from thence comfort for your wounded consciences, not to make that lively fountain of life to serve for the feeding of your idle brains, to dispute more subtilly thereby; or else, by misunderstanding of the same, to conceive pernicious anabaptistical opinions! Remember that the servant which knoweth his master's will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes. God is a good God, a merciful God, a father, which beareth much with our crooked nature and unchristian behaviour, and very slow to revenge this blasphemy, this maintenance of so many unscriptural opinions, these babblings and schismatic contentions, wherein a great pack of us delight, and repose our glory; although, as fondly as erroneously, to the great slander of the godly-learned, and also to the hinderance of the good success and free passage of the word of God. But as truly as God is God, if we repent not shortly, his plagues and vengeance are not far off; his indignation and wrath shall be poured from heaven upon our ungodliness. He is long coming, but when he comes he will pay home; and, as Lactantius saith, recompense his long-sufferance with more grievous punishments. The world and the devil hath so bewitched us, that we in our deeds, I fear me, too many of us, deny God to be God, whatsoever we pittle-pattle with our tongues. God's word must not be talked of only, for that is not enough, it must be expressed. Then must we as well live the word as talk the word; or else, if good life do not ensue and follow upon our reasoning, to the example of others, we might as well spend that time in reading of profane histories, of Cantorburye tales, or a fit of Robyn Hode. Let us join good life with our reading, and yet all will be too little. Remember, that the world and all that is in it is mere vanity, and shall have an end. Thou, I say, that thus abuseth the gift of God's holy word, and the graciousness of the king's majesty, which hath licensed thee to read the same for the comfort of thine own soul, for the instruction of thy family, the education of thy children, and edifying of thy neighbour; thou that art so gorgeously apparelled, and feedeth thy corruptible carcase so daintily; thou that purchasest so fast, to the utter undoing of the poor, consider whereof thou camest, and whereunto thou shalt return. Where is then all thy pomp? Where is all thy ruff of thy gloriousness become? What will thou say for thyself in that horrible day of judgment, where thou shalt stand naked before God, where the tables of thine own conscience shall be opened, and laid before thine eyes to accuse thee? Thou which raisest the rents so greedily, as though thou shouldst never have enough. Thy judgment is, through miserable mammon, so captivate and blind, that thou canst not tell when thou hast enough, or what is enough. Truly a little is too much for him that knoweth not how to use much well. Therefore learn first the use of money and riches, and some other honester means to attain them, that this thine insatiable covetousness and unlawful desiring of other men's goods may be reduced to some reasonable measure, and that it do not exceed the limits or compass of honesty, and the bonds of brotherly love; lest God, before whom thou shalt appear one day to render a strait account for the deeds done in the flesh, burden and charge thee with the unmerciful handling of thy tenant, but yet notwithstanding thy brother, whom with new incomes, fines, enhancing of rents, and such like unreasonable exactions, thou pillest, pollest, and miserably oppressest. When that terrible day shall once come, a little of God's mercy will be worth a mass or a whole heap of thy money. There thy wicked mammon, whom thou servest like a slave, can purchase thee no mercy. There thy money, so gleaned and gathered of thee and thine, to the impoverishment of many to make thee only rich, cannot prevail thee, nor yet redeem thy cause before that just and severe judge, which then and there will render to thee the selfsame measure which thou measurest to other men. What did we speak of prevailing, or redeeming of thy cause with money? Nay, then thy money and the rest of thy gold shall be a witness against thee, and shall eat thy flesh as the fire. How frantic and foolish might all wise men well judge and deem him to be, which against the day of his arraignment, when he should stand upon the trial of death and life, would busy himself, his folks, and his friends, to prepare and get many witnesses against him, to cast him away by their evidence and witness, and to provide such men as should be the only cause of his death! Even so frantic, so foolish art thou, which both toil, travail, and turmoil so earnestly and busily about the getting of goods and riches, before thou hast well learned and take; forth of the lesson of well using the same. Howbeit, truly I doubt much of the well using of that which was never well nor truly gotten. Learn, therefore, first to know what is enough; for the wise man saith, "It is better to have a little with the fear of the Lord, than great and unsatiable riches." Sophony saith, "Their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord's wrath." "Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with what ye have already." "Godliness is great riches, if a man be content with such as God sends. For we brought nothing into this world, neither shall we carry anything out. When we have food and raiment, let us therewith be content." Behold, the schoolmaster Paul teaches thee here a good lesson. Here thou mayest learn well enough to know what is enough. But lest thou shouldest fear at any time the want or lack of this enough, hear farther the rest of the lesson; for God verily saith, "The Lord is mine helper, I will not fear what man doeth to me." If the revenues and yearly rents of thy patrimony and lands be not enough nor sufficient for thy finding, and will not suffice thy charges, then moderate thy expenses; borrow of thy two next neighbours, that is to say, of thy back and thy belly. Learn to eat within the tether. Pull down thy sail: say, "Down, proud heart." Maintain no greater port than thou art able to bear out and support of thine own provision. Put thy hand no farther than thy sleeve will reach. Cut thy cloth after thy measure. Keep thy house after thy spending. Thou must not pill and poll thy tenant, that thou mayest have, as they say, Unde, and that thy never enough, to ruffle it out in a riotous ruff, and a prodigal, dissolute, and licentious living. We read in the scriptures, "Give to every man his duty; tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom is due; fear to whom fear belongeth; honour to whom honour pertaineth." But we find not there, nor elsewhere, "fines to whom fines, incomes to whom incomes." Paul was not acquainted with none of these terms. Belike they were not used and come up in his time, or else he would have made mention of them. Yet, notwithstanding, we deny not but these reasonably required, and upon honest covenants and contracts, are the more tolerable; and so used, so may be permitted. But the covenants and contracts we remit to the godly wisdom of the high magistrates, who we pray God may take such order and direction in this, and all other, that the common people may be relieved and eased of many importable charges and injuries, which many of them, contrary to all equity and right, sustain. But wo worth this covetousness, not without skill called the root of all evil! If covetousness were not, we think many things amiss would shortly be redressed. She is a mighty matron, a lady of great power. She hath retained more servants than any lady hath in England. But mark how well, in fine, she hath rewarded her servants, and learn to be wise by another man's harm. Achan, by the commandment of God, was stoned to death, because he took of the excommunicate goods. Saul, moved by covetousness, disobeyed God's word, preserving the king Agag, and a parcel of the fattest of the cattle, and lost his kingdom thereby. Gehize was stricken with leprosy, and all his posterity, because he took money and raiment of Naaman. The rich and unmerciful glutton, who fared well and daintily every day, was buried in hell; and there he taketh now such fare as the devil himself doth. Woe be to you that join house to house, and field to field! Shall ye alone inhabit the earth? Let these terrible examples suffice at this present to teach and admonish the enhancer of rents; the unreasonable exactor, and greedy requirer of fines and incomes; the covetous leasemonger; the devourer of towns and countries, as M. Latimer termeth them rightly. If these scriptures, which they may read in these godly sermons, do not pierce their stony hearts, we fear more will not serve. The Lord be merciful to them! But now the wicked judge, which corrupteth justice for bribes, here he may learn also the lesson that Moses taught long before this time, "Ye magistrates and judges in the commonwealth of Israel, be no acceptors of persons, neither be desirous of gifts; for they make wise men blind, and change the mind of the righteous." "In judgment be merciful to the fatherless, as a father, and be instead of an husband unto their mother." "The ungodly taketh gifts out of the bosom to wrest the ways of judgment." "Let him that rules be diligent," saith Paul. What meaneth he by this term 'diligent'? He requires no such diligence as the most part of our lucrative lawyers do use, in deferring and prolonging of matters and actions from term to term, and in the tracting of time in the same; where, perchance, the title or right of the matter might have come to light, and been tried long before, if the lawyers and judges would have used such diligence as Paul would have them to do. But what care the lawyers for Paul? Paul was but a madman of law to controul them for their diligence. Paul, yea, and Peter too, had more skill in mending an old net, and in clouting an old tent, than to teach lawyers what diligence they should use in the expedition of matters. Why, but be not lawyers diligent? say ye. Yea, truly are they; about their own profit there are no more diligent men, nor busier persons in all England. They trudge, in the term time, to and fro. They apply the world hard. They foreslow [loiter] no time. They follow assizes and sessions, leets, law-days, and hundreds. They should serve the king, but they serve themselves. And how they use, nay rather abuse their office in the same, some good man will tell them thereof. We lack a few more Latimers; a few more such preachers. Such plain Pasquyls we pray God provide for us, as will keep nothing back. Of the which sort and number we may most worthily reckon this faithful minister of God, and constant preacher of his word, Master Hugh Latimer; which, by his perseverance and stedfastness in the truth, hath stablished this wavering world. He hath been tost for the truth's sake, and tried in the storm of persecution, as gold in the furnace. He is one whom, as well for his learned, sound, and catholic judgment in the knowledge of God's word, as for his integrity and example of Christian conversation, all we, and especially ministers and prelates, ought to set before our eyes, as a principal patron to imitate and follow; desiring God, who hath stirred up in him the bold spirit of Helias, may daily more and more augment the same in him, and may also provide many such preaching prelates; which both so well could, and so willingly would, frankly utter the truth, to the extolling of virtue, to the reward of well-doers, the suppressing of vice, the abolishment of all papistry. It is our part, therefore, to pray diligently for his continual health, and that he may live long among us in a flourishing old age; and not, as some ingrate and inhuman persons, to malign and deprave him, for that he so frankly and liberally taxed, perstringed, and openly rebuked before the king's majesty the peculiar faults of certain of his auditors: but it is our part rather thankfully to accept in good part, take his godly advertisement; unless we be minded to prefer our mucky money, and false felicity, before the joys of heaven; or else believe, as the Epicures do, that after this life there is neither hell nor heaven. Receive thankfully, gentle reader, these sermons, faithfully collected without any sinister suspicion of any thing in the same being added or adempt.
The XXI day of June.
THE SERMON Quaecunque scripta sunt, ad nostram doctrinam, &c. Romans xv. 4.
All things that are written in God's book, in the holy bible, they were written before our time, but yet to continue from age to age, as long as the world doth stand.
In this book is contained doctrine for all estates, even for kings. A king herein may learn how to guide himself. I told you in my last sermon much of the duty of a king, and there is one place behind yet, and it followeth in the text: Postquam autem sederit in solio regni sui, &c.; "And when the king is set in the seat of his kingdom, he shall write him out a book, and take a copy of the priests or Levites." He shall have a book with him, and why? "To read in it all the days of his life, to learn to fear God, and learn his laws," and other things, as it followeth in the text with the appurtenances, and hangings on, "that he turn not from God, neither to the right hand, nor to the left." And wherefore shall he do this? "That he may live long, he and his children."
Hitherto goeth the text. That I may declare this the better, to the edifying of your souls and the glory of God, I shall desire you to pray, &c.
Et postquam, &c., "And when the king is set in the seat of his kingdom, &c."
Before I enter into this place, right honourable audience, to furnish it accordingly, which by the grace of God I shall do at leisure, I would repeat the place I was in last, and furnish it with an history or two, which I left out in my last sermon. I was in a matter concerning the sturdiness of the Jews, a froward and stiff-necked kind of people, much like our Englishmen now-a-days, that in the minority of a king take upon them to break laws, and to go by-ways. For when God had promised them a king, when it came to the point they refused him. These men walked by-walks; and the saying is, "Many by-walkers, many balks:" many balks, much stumbling; and where much stumbling is, there is sometimes a fall: howbeit there were some good walkers among them, that walked in the king's highway ordinarily, uprightly, plain Dunstable way ["As plain as Dunstable way" is given by Fuller among the proverbs of Bedfordshire, as descriptive of anything "plain and simple, without either welt or guard to adorn them,"]; and for this purpose I would shew you an history which is written in the third of the Kings.
King David being in his childhood, an old man in his second childhood, (for all old men are twice children, as the proverb is, Senex bis puer, "an old man twice a child") it happened with him, as it doth oftentimes, when wicked men of a king's childhood take occasion of evil.
This king David being weak of nature, and impotent, insomuch that when he was covered with clothes, he could take no heat, was counselled of his servants to take a fair young maid to nourish him, and to keep him warm in his body: I suppose she was his wife. Howbeit he had no bodily company with her, and well she might be his wife. For though the scripture doth say, Non cognovit eam, "He knew her not," he had no carnal copulation with her, yet it saith not, Non duxit eam uxorem, "He married her not." And I cannot think that king David would have her to warm his bosom in bed, except she had been his wife; having a dispensation of God to have as many wives as he would for God had dispensed with them to have many wives. Well, what happened to king David in his childhood by the child of the devil? Ye shall hear: king David had a proud son, whose name was Adonias, a man full of ambition, desirous of honour, always climbing, climbing. Now whilst the time was of his father's childhood, he would depose his father, not knowing of his father's mind, saying, Ego regnabo, "I will reign, I will be king." He was a stout-stomached child, a by-walker, of an ambitious mind: he would not consent to his father's friends, but got him a chariot, and men to run before it, and divers other adherents to help him forward; worldly-wise men, such as had been before of his father's counsel; great men in the world, and some, no doubt of it, came of good-will, thinking no harm; for they would not think that he did it without his father's will, having such great men to set him forth; for every man cannot have access at all times to the king, to know his pleasure. Well, algates [by all means] he would be king. He makes a great feast, and thereto he called Joab, the ring-leader of his father's army; a worldly-wise man; a by-walker, that would not walk the king's high-way; and one Abiathar, the high priest; for it is marvel if any mischief be in hand, if a priest, be not at some end of it. They took him as king, and cried, Vivat rex Adonias; "God save king Adonias." David suffered all this, and let him alone; for he was in his childhood, a bedrid man.
But see how God ordered the matter. Nathan the prophet, and Sadoc a priest, and Banaiah, and the Chrethites and Phelethites, the king's guard, they were not called to the feast. These were good men, and would not walk by-ways therefore it was folly to break the matter to them; they were not called to counsel. Therefore Nathan, when he heard of this, he cometh to Bethsabe, Salomon's mother, and saith, "Hear ye not how Adonias the son of Ageth reigneth king, David not knowing?" And he bade her put the king in mind of his oath that he swore, that her son Salomon should be king after him. This was wise counsel, according to the proverb, Qui vadit plane, vadit sane: "He that walketh in the high plain way, walketh safely."
Upon this she went and brake the matter to David, and desired him to shew who should reign after him in Heirusalem; adding that if Adonias were king, she and her son, after his death, should be destroyed; saying, Nos erimus peccatores, "We shall be sinners, we shall be taken for traitors: for though we meant no harm, but walked uprightly, yet because we went not the by-way with him, he being in authority will destroy us." And by and by cometh in Nathan, and taketh her tale by the end, and sheweth him how Adonias was saluted king; and that he had bid to dinner the king's servants, all saving him, and Sadoc, and Benaiah, and all his brethren the king's sons, save Salomon.
King David remembering himself, swore, "As sure as God liveth, Salomon my son shall reign after me;" and by and by commanded Nathan and Sadoc, and his guard, the Cherites and Phelethites, to take Salomon his son, and set him upon his mule, and anoint him king. And so they did, crying, Vivat Salomon Rex. Thus was Salomon throned, by the advice and will of his father: and though he were a child, yet was his will to be obeyed and fulfilled, and they ought to have known his pleasure.
Whilst this was a doing, there was such a joy and outcry of the people for their new king, and blowing of trumpets, that Joab and the other company being in their jollity, and keeping good cheer, heard it, and suddenly asked, "What is this ado?" And when they perceived, that Salomon, by the advice of his father, was anointed king, by and by there was all whisht: all their good cheer was done; and all that were with Adonias went away, and let him reign alone, if he would. And why? He walked a by-way, and God would not prosper it.
God will not work with private authority, nor with any thing done inordinately. When Adonias saw this, that he was left alone, he took sanctuary, and held by the horns of the altar; and sware that he would not depart thence till Salomon would swear that he should not lose his life.
Here is to be noted the notable sentence and great mercy of king Salomon. "Let him," saith he, "order himself like a quiet man, and there shall not one hair fall from his head: Sed si inventum fuerit malum in eo, "But if there shall be any evil found in him, if he hath gone about any mischief, he shall die for it." Upon this he was brought unto Salomon ; and as the book saith, he did homage unto him. And Salomon said unto him: Vade in domum tuam, "Get thee into thy house:" belike he meant to ward, and there to see his wearing: as if he should say, "Shew thyself without gall of ambition, to be a quiet subject, and I will pardon thee for this time: but I will see the wearing of thee." Here we may see the wonderful great mercy of Salomon: for this notorious treason that Adonias had committed, it was a plain matter, for he suffered himself to be called king; it hung not of vehement suspicion or conjecture, nor sequel, or consequent; yet notwithstanding Salomon for that present forgave him, saying, "I will not forget it utterly, but I will keep it in suspense, I will take no advantage of thee at this time." This Adonias and Absolon were brethren, and came both of a strange mother; and Absolon likewise was a traitor, and made an insurrection against his father. Beware therefore these mothers; and let kings take heed how they marry, in what houses, in what faith. For strange bringing up bringeth strange manners.
Now giveth David an exhortation to Salomon, and teacheth him the duty of a king; and giveth him a lesson, as it followeth at large in the book, and he that list to read it, may see it there at full. But what doth Adonias all this while? He must yet climb again: the gall of ambition was not out of his heart: he will now marry Abisaac, the young queen that warmed king David's bosom, as I told you; and cometh me to Bethsabe, desiring her to be a mean to Salomon her son that he might obtain his purpose; and bringeth me out a couple of lies at a clap; and committeth me two unlawful acts. For first he would have been king without his father's consent, and now he will marry his father's wife. And the two lies are these: first, said he to Bethsabe, "Thou knowest that the kingdom belongeth unto me, for I am the elder; the kingdom was mine." He lied falsely; it was none of his. Then said he, "All the eyes of Israel were cast upon me:" that is to say, all Israel consented to it. And there he lied falsely; for Nathan, Sadoc and other wise men, never agreed to it. Here was a great enterprise of Adonias; he will be climbing still. Well; Bethsabe went at his request to her son Salomon, and asked a boon, and he granted her whatsoever she did ask. Notwithstanding he brake his promise afterward, and that right well; for all promises are not to be kept, specially if they be against the word of God, or not standing with a common profit. And therefore as soon as Salomon heard that Adonias would have married the young queen Abishaac: "Nay, then let him be king too," said he: "I perceive now that he is a naughty man, a proud-hearted fellow; the gall of ambition is not yet out of his heart:" and so commanded him to be put to death. Thus was Adonias put to execution, whereas if he had kept his house, and not broken his injunction, he might have lived still. Abiathar, what became of him? The king, because he had served his father before him, would not put him to death, but made him as it were a quondam. "Because thou hast been with my father," said he, "and didst carry the ark before him, I will not kill thee. But I will promise thee, thou shalt never minister any more; vade in agrum tuum, get thee to thy land, and live there." A great matter of pity and compassion! So God grant us all such mercy!
And here was the end of Elie's stock, according to the promise and threatening of God. As for the Phelethites, we do not read that they were punished. Marry, Shimei transgressed his injunction; for he kept not his house, but went out of Jerusalem to seek two servants of his, that had run from him; and when it came to Salomon's ear, it cost him his life.
I have ript the matter now to the pill, and have told you of plain-walkers, and of by-walkers; and how a king in his childhood is a king, as well as in any other age. We read in scripture of such as were but twelve or eight years old, and yet the word of the Holy Ghost called them kings, saying: Coepit regnare, "He began to reign" or he began to be king. Here is of by-walkers. This history would be remembered: the proverb is, Felix quem faciunt aliena pericula cautum; "Happy is he that can beware by another man's jeopardy." For if we offend not as other do, it is not our own deserts. If we fall not, it is God's preservation. We are all offenders: for either we may do, or have done, or shall do, (except God preserve us,) as evil as the worst of them. I pray God we may all amend and repent! But we will all amend now, I trust. We must needs amend our lives every man. The holy communion is at hand, and we may not receive it unworthily.
Well, to return to my history. King David, I say, was a king in his second childhood. And so young kings, though they be children, yet are they kings notwithstanding. And though it be written in scripture, Væ tibi, O terra, ubi puer est rex, "Wo to thee, O land, where the king is a child;" it followeth in another place, Beata terra ubi rex nobilis, "Blessed is the land where there is a noble king;" where kings be no banqueters, no players; and where they spend not their time in hawking and hunting. And when had the king's majesty a council, that took more pain both night and day for the setting forth of God's word, and profit of the commonwealth? And yet there be some wicked people that will say, "Tush, this gear will not tarry: it is but my lord Protector's and my lord of Canterbury's doing: the king is a child, and he knoweth not of it." Jesu mercy! How like are we Englishmen to the Jews, ever stubborn, stiff-necked, and walking in by-ways! Yea, I think no Jew would at any time say, "This gear will not tarry." I never heard nor read at any time that they said, "These laws were made in such a king's days, when he was but a child; let us alter them." O Lord, what pity is this, that we should be worse than the Jews!
"Blessed be the land," saith the word of God, "where the king is noble." What people are they that say, "The king is but a child?" Have we not a noble king? Was there ever king so noble; so godly; brought up with so noble counsellors; so excellent and well learned schoolmasters? I will tell you this, and I speak it even as I think: his Majesty hath more godly wit and understanding, more learning and knowledge at this age, than twenty of his progenitors, that I could name, had at any time of their life.
I told you in my last sermon of ministers, of the king's people; and had occasion to shew you how few noblemen were good preachers; and I left out an history then, which I will now tell you.
There was a bishop of Winchester in king Henry the Sixth's days, which king was but a child; and yet there were many good acts made in his childhood, and I do not read that they were broken. This bishop was a great man born, and did bear such a stroke, that he was able to shoulder the lord Protector. Well, it chanced that the lord Protector and he fell out; and the bishop would bear nothing at all with him, but played me the satrapa, so that the regent of France was fain to be sent for from beyond the seas, to set them at one, and go between them: for the bishop was as able and ready to buckle with the lord Protector, as he was with him.
Was not this a good prelate? He should have been at home preaching in his diocese with a wanniaunt. [May he equivalent to, "with a vengeance."]?
This Protector was so noble and godly a man, that he was called of every man the good duke Humphrey. He kept such a house as never was kept since in England; without any enhancing of rents, I warrant you, or any such matter. And the bishop for standing so stiffly by the matter, and bearing up the order of our mother the holy church, was made a cardinal at Calais; and thither the bishop of Rome sent him a cardinal's hat. He should have had a Tyburn tippet, a half-penny halter, and all such proud prelates. These Romish hats never brought good into England.
Upon this the bishop goeth me to the queen Margaret, the king's wife, a proud woman, and a stout; and persuaded her, that if the duke were in such authority still, and lived, the people would honour him more than they did the king; and the king should not be set by: and so between them, I cannot tell how it came to pass, but at St Edmunds-bury, in a parliament, the good duke Humphrey was smothered.
But now to return to my text, and to make further rehearsal of the same, the matter beginneth thus: Et postquam sederit rex, "And when the king is set in the seat of his kingdom"- What shall he do? Shall he dance and dally; banquet, hawk, and hunt? No, forsooth, sir. For as God set an order in the king's stable, as I told you in my last sermon, so will he appoint what pastime a king shall have. What must he do then? He must be a student, he must write God's book himself; not thinking, because he is a king, he hath licence to do what he will, as these worldly flatterers are wont to say: "Yea, trouble not yourself, sir, ye may hawk and hunt, and take your pleasure. As for the guiding of your kingdom and people, let us alone with it."
These flattering claw-backs are original roots of all mischief; and yet a king may take his pastime in hawking or hunting, or such like pleasures. But he must use them for recreation, when he is weary of weighty affairs, that he may return to them the more lusty: and this is called pastime with good company. "He must write out a book himself." He speaketh of writing, because printing was not used at that time. And shall the king write it out himself? He meaneth, he shall see it written, and rather than he should be without it, write it himself. Jesus mercy! is God so chary with a king, to have him well brought up and instructed? Yea, forsooth: for if the king be well ordered, the realm is well ordered.
Where shall he have a copy of this book? Of the Levites. And why? Because it shall be a true copy, not falsified. Moses left the book in an old chest, and the Levites had it in keeping. And because there should be no error, no addition, nor taking away from it, he biddeth him fetch the copy of the Levites.
And was not here a great miracle of God, how this book was preserved? It had lain hid many years, and the Jews knew not of it. Therefore at length, when they had found it, and knew it, they lamented for their ignorance that had so long been without it, and rent their clothes, repenting their unfaithfulness. And the holy bible, God's book, that we have among us, it hath been preserved hitherto by wonderful miracle of God, though the keepers of it were never so malicious. First, ever since the bishop of Rome was first in authority, they have gone about to destroy it; but God worketh wonderfully; he hath preserved it, maugre their beards; and yet are we unthankful that we cannot consider it. I will tell you what a bishop of this realm said once to me: he sent for me, and marveled that I would not consent to such traditions as were then set out. And I answered him, that I would be ruled by God's book, and rather than I would dissent one jot from it, I would be torn with wild horses. And I chanced in our communication to name the Lord's Supper. "Tush," saith the bishop, "what do ye call the Lord's Supper? What new term is that?" There stood by him a dubber, one Doctor Dubber: he dubbed him by and by, and said that this term was seldom read in the doctors. And I made answer, that I would rather follow Paul in using his terms, than them, though they had all the doctors on their side. "Why," said the bishop, "cannot we, without scriptures, order the people? How did they before the scripture was first written and copied out?" But God knoweth, full ill, yet would they have ordered them; for seeing that having it, they have deceived us, in what case should we have been now without it? But thanks be to God, that by so wonderful a miracle he hath preserved the book still.
It followeth in the text: Habebit secum, "He shall have it with him:" in his progress, he must have a man to carry it, that when he is hawking and hunting, or in any pastime, he may always commune with them of it. He shall read in it, not once a year, for a time, or for his recreation when he is weary of hawking and hunting, but cunctis deibus vitae suae, "all the days of his life." Where are those worldlings now? These bladder-puffed-up wily men? Wo worth them that ever they were about any king! But how shall he read this book? As the Homilies are read. Some call them homelies, and indeed so they may be well called, for they are homely handled. For though the priest read them never so well, yet if the parish like them not, there is such talking and babbling in the church that nothing can be heard; and if the parish be good and the priest naught, he will so hack it and chop it, that it were as good for them to be without it, for any word that shall be understood. And yet (the more pity) this is suffered of your Grace's bishops, in their dioceses, unpunished. But I will be a suiter to your grace, that ye will give your bishops charge ere they go home, upon their allegiance, to look better to their flock, and to see your Majesty's Injunctions better kept, and send your Visitors in their tails: and if they be found negligent or faulty in their duties, out with them. I require it in God's behalf, make them quondams, all the pack of them. But peradventure ye will say, "Where shall we have any to put in their rooms?" Indeed I were a presumptuous fellow, to move your Grace to put them out, if there were not other to put in their places. But your Majesty hath divers of your chaplains, well learned men, and of good knowledge: and yet ye have some that be bad enough, hangers-on of the court; I mean not those. But if your Majesty's chaplains, and my lord Protector's, be not able to furnish their places, there is in this realm (thanks be to God!) a great sight of laymen, well learned in the scriptures, and of virtuous and godly conversations, better learned than a great sight of us of the clergy. I can name a number of them that are able, and would be glad, I dare say, to minister the function, if they be called to it. I move it of conscience to your Grace, let them be called to it orderly; let them have institution, and give them the names of the clergy. I mean not the name only, but let them do the function of a bishop, and live of the same: not as it is in many places, that one should have the name, and eight other the profit. For what an enormity is this in a christian realm, to serve in a civility, having the profit of a provostship, and a deanery, and a parsonage! But I will tell you what is like to come of it; it will bring the clergy shortly into a very slavery.
I may not forget here my scala coeli, that I spake of in my last sermon. I will repeat it now again, desiring your Grace in God's behalf, that ye will remember it. The Bishop of Rome had a scala coeli, but his was a mass matter. This scala coeli, that I now speak of, is the true ladder that bringeth a man to heaven. The top of the ladder, or first greese, is this: "Whosoever calleth upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." The second step: "How shall they call upon him, in whom they have not believed?" The third stair is this: "How shall they believe in him, of whom they never heard?" The fourth step: "How shall they hear without a preacher?" Now the nether end of the ladder is: "How shall they preach except they be sent?" This is the foot of the ladder, so that we may go backward now, and use the school argument; a primo ad ultimum: take away preaching, take away salvation. But I fear one thing; and it is, lest for a safety of a little money, you will put in chantry priests to save their pensions. But I will tell you, Christ bought souls with his blood; and will ye sell them for gold or silver? I would not that ye should do with chantry priests, as ye did with the abbots, when abbeys were put down. For when their enormities were first read in the parliament-house, they were so great and abominable, that there was nothing but "down with them." But within a while after, the same abbots were made bishops, as there be some of them yet alive, to save and redeem their pensions. O Lord! think ye that God is a fool, and seeth it not? and if he see it, will he not punish it? And so now for safety of money, I would not that ye should put in chantry priests. I speak not now against such chantry priests as are able to preach; but those that are not able. I will not have them put in; for if ye do this, ye shall answer for it.
It is in the text, that a king ought to fear God: "he shall have the dread of God before his eyes." Work not by worldly policy; for worldly policy feareth not God. Take heed of these claw-backs, these venomous people that will come to you, that will follow you like Gnathos and Parasites: if you follow them, you are out of your book. If it be not according to God's word that they counsel you, do it not for any worldly policy; for then ye fear not God.
It followeth in the text: Ut non elevetur cor ejus, "That he be not proud above his brethren." A king must not be proud, for God might have made him a shepherd, when he made him a king, and done him no wrong. There be many examples of proud kings in scripture; as Pharao, that would not hear the message of God: Herod also, that put John Baptist to death, and would not hear him; he told him, that "it was not lawful for him to marry his brother's wife": Jeroboam also was a proud king. Another king there was that worshipped strange gods, and idols of those men whom he had overcome before in battle; and when a prophet told him of it, what said he? "Who made you one of my council?" These were proud kings: their examples are not to be followed.
But wherefore shall a king "fear God, and turn neither to the right hand nor to the left?" Wherefore shall he do all this? Ut longo tempore regnet ipse et filii ejus, "That he may reign long time, he and his children." Remember this, I beseech your Grace. and when these flatterers and flibbergibs another day shall come, and claw you by the back, and say, "Sir, trouble not yourself: what should you study? Why should you do this, or that?" your Grace may answer them thus and say: "What, sirrah? I perceive you are weary of us and our posterity. Doth not God say in such a place, that a king should write out a book of God's law, and read it, learn to fear God, and why? That he and his might reign long. I perceive now thou art a traitor." Tell him this tale once, and I warrant you he will come no more to you, neither he, nor any after such a sort. And thus shall your Grace drive these flatterers and claw-backs away.
And I am afraid I have troubled you too long: therefore I will furnish the text with an history or two, and then I will leave you to God. Ye have heard how a king ought to pass the time. He must read the book of God; and it is not enough for him to read, but he must be acquainted with all scripture; he must study, and he must pray: and how shall he do both these? He may learn at Salomon. God spake unto Salomon when he was made a king, and bade him ask of him what he would, and he should have it. Make thy petition, said God, and thou shalt obtain. Now mark Salomon's prayer. Domine, O Domine Deus, said he, "O Lord God, it is thou that hast caused me to reign, and hast set me in my father's seat; for thou, God, only dost make kings." Thus should kings praise God and thank God, as Salomon did. But what was his petition? Lord, said he, Da mihi cor docile. He asked "a docible heart, a wise heart, and wisdom to go in and to go out": that is, to begin all mine affairs well, and to bring them to good effect and purpose, that I may learn to guide and govern my people.
When he had made his petition, it pleased God well, that Salomon asked wisdom, and neither riches nor long life; and therefore God made him this answer: "Because thou hast chosen wisdom above all things, I will give it thee, and thou shalt be the wisest king that ever was before thee." And so he was, and the wisest in all kinds of knowledge that ever was since. And though he did not ask riches, yet God gave him both riches and honour, more than ever any of his ancestors had. So your Grace must learn how to do, of Salomon. Ye must take your petition; now study, now pray. They must be yoked together; and this is called pastime with good company.
Now when God had given Salomon wisdom, he sent him by and by occasion to occupy his wit. For God gave never a gift, but he sent occasion, at one time or another, to shew it to God's glory. As, if he sent riches, he sendeth poor men to be helped with it. But now must men occupy their goods otherwise. They will not look on the poor; they must help their children, and purchase them more land than ever their grandfathers had before them. But I shall tell you what Christ said: "He that loveth his child better than me, is not worthy to be my disciple." I cannot see how ye shall stand before God at the latter day, when this sentence shall be laid against you.
But to return to my purpose: there were two poor women came before Salomon to complain. They were two harlots, and dwelled together in one house, and it chanced within two days they childed both. The one of these women by chance in the night had killed her child, and rose privily and went to the other woman, and took her live child away, and left her dead child in his place. Upon that they came both before Salomon to have the matter judged, whose the child was. And the one said, "It is my child:" "Nay," saith the other, "it is my child:" "Nay," saith the other, "it is mine." So there was yea and nay between them, and they held up the matter with scolding after a woman-like fashion. At the length Salomon repeated their tale as a good judge ought to do, and said to the one woman: "Thou sayest the child is thine." "Yea," said she. "And thou sayest it is thine," to the other. "Well, fetch me a sword," said he; for there was no way now to try which was the true mother, but by natural inclination. And so he said to one of his servants, "Fetch me a sword, and divide the child between them." When the mother of the child that accused the other heard him say so; "Nay, for God's sake," said she, "let her have the whole child, and kill it not." "Nay," quoth the other, "neither thine nor mine; but let it be divided." Then said Salomon, "Give this woman the child; this is the mother of the child." What came of this? Audivit omnes Israel, "When all Israel heard of this judgment, they feared the king." It is wisdom and godly knowledge that causeth a king to be feared.
One word note here for God's sake, and I will trouble you no longer. Would Salomon, being so noble a king, hear two poor women? They were poor; for, as the scripture saith, they were together alone in a house; they had not so much as one servant between them both. Would king Salomon, I say, hear them in his own person? Yea, forsooth. And yet I hear of many matters before my lord Protector, and my lord Chancellor, that cannot be heard. I must desire my lord Protector's grace to hear me in this matter, that your Grace would hear poor men's suits yourself. Put them to none other to hear, let them not be delayed. The saying is now, that money is heard every where; if he be rich, he shall soon have an end of his matter. Others are fain to go home with weeping tears, for any help they can obtain at any judge's hand. Hear men's suits yourself, I require you in God's behalf, and put it not to the hearing of these velvet coats, these upskips. Now a man can scarce know them from an ancient knight of the country. I cannot go to my book, for poor folks come unto me, desiring me that I will speak that their matters may be heard. I trouble my lord of Canterbury; and being at his house, now and then I walk in the garden looking in my book, as I can do but little good at it. But something I must needs do to satisfy this place. I am no sooner in the garden, and have read awhile, but by and by cometh there some one or other knocking at the gate. Anon cometh my man, and saith: "Sir, there is one at the gate would speak with you." When I come there, then is it some one or other that desireth me that I will speak that his matter might be heard; and that he hath lain this long at great costs and charges, and cannot once have his matter come to the hearing: but among all other, one specially moved me at this time to speak. This it is, sir. A gentlewoman came to me and told me, that a great man keepeth certain lands of hers from her, and will be her tenant in the spite of her teeth; and that in a whole twelvemonth she could not get but one day for the hearing of her matter; and the same day when the matter should be heard, the great man brought on his side a great sight of lawyers for his counsel, the gentlewoman had but one man of law; and the great man shakes him so, that he cannot tell what to do: so that when the matter came to the point, the judge was a mean to the gentlewoman, that she would let the great man have a quietness in her land.
I beseech your grace that ye will look to these matters. Hear them yourself. View your judges, and hear poor men's causes. And you, proud judges, hearken what God saith in his holy book: Audite illos, ita parvum ut magnum. "Hear them," saith he, "the small as well as the great, the poor as well as the rich." Regard no person, fear no man: why? Quia Domini judicium est, "The judgment is God's." Mark this saying, thou proud judge. The devil will bring this sentence at the day of doom. Hell will be full of these judges, if they repent not and amend. They are worse than the wicked judge that Christ speaketh of, that neither feared God, nor the world. There was a certain widow that was a suitor to a judge, and she met him in every corner of the street, crying, "I pray you hear me, I beseech you hear me, I ask nothing but right." When the judge saw her so importunate, "Though I fear neither God," saith he, "nor the world, yet because of her importunateness, I will great her request." But our judges are worse than this judge was; for they will neither hear men for God's sake, nor fear of the world, nor importunateness, nor any thing else. Yea, some of them will command them to ward, if they be importunate. I heard say, that when a suitor came to one of them, he said, "What fellow is it that giveth these folk counsel to be so importunate? He would be punished and committed to ward." Marry, sir, punish me then; it is even I that gave them counsel, I would gladly be punished in such a cause. And if ye amend not, I will cause them to cry out upon you still; even as long as I live: I will do it indeed. But I have troubled you long. As I began with this sentence: Quaecunque scripta sunt, &c., so will I end now with this text: Beati qui audiunt verbum Dei, et custodiunt illud; "Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it."
There was another suit, and I had almost forgotten it. There is a poor woman that lieth in the Fleet, and cannot come, by any means that she can make, to her answer, and would fain be bailed, offering to put in sureties worth a thousand pound; and yet she cannot be heard. Methink this is a reasonable cause; it is a great pity that such things should so be. I beseech God that he will grant, that all that is amiss may be amended, that we may hear his word and keep it, that we may come to the eternal bliss! To the which bliss I beseech God to bring both you and me. Amen.