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1029 [1005]

K. Henr. 8. Goldy letters of Tho. Bilney Martyr to Tonstall B. of London

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Iannes and Iambres were two of Pharaos priestes which resisted Moyses, but their names be not expressed in the 7. cha. of Exo. but onely in 2. Tim. 3.

God neuer buildeth a church, but the deuill hath some chappell by.

there shall neuer be lacking some * Marginalia* Elymas magus. Act. 13. Elemates, which will go about to subuert the strayght wayes of the Lord: and finally, that some Demetrius, * Marginalia* Pithonissa. Act. 16. Pithonesse, Balaams, Nicolaites, Marginalia* Nicolaites of Nicolaus. Apoc. 2. Cayns, and Ismaels, will be alwayes at hande which will greedely hunt and seeke after that which perteineth vnto themselues, and not that whiche perteyneth to Iesus Christ. How can it then be, that they can suffer Christ to be truly and sincerely preached (For if the people begin once wholy in euery place, to put their confidence in Christ, which was for them crucified, then straight wayes that which they haue hetherto embraced in stead of Christ shall vtterly decay in the hartes of the faythfull. Then they shall vnderstand that Christ is not in this place, or in that place, but the kingdome of God to be in themselues. Then shall they playnly see that the Father is not to be worshipped, neither in the mount of Samaria, neither at Hierusalem, but in all places, in spirit and in trueth. Which thing if it come once to passe, the beastes of the fielde will thinke all theyr gayne and lucre lost. In whom the saying of Ezechiel is fulfilled: MarginaliaEzech 34.My sheepe are dispersed because they had no shepheard, & are deuoured of the beastes of the field, & strayd abroad: my flocke hath erred and wandred in euery mountaine, and vpon euery high hill, and is dispersed throughout all the earth, & there is no man which hath sought to gather thē together: no, there was no man which once sought after them. But if any man would seeke to reduce those which were gone astray into the folde of Christ, that is, the vnity of fayth: by and by, there rise vp certein agaynst him, which are named Pastors, but in deed are wolues, which seeke no other thing of theyr flocke, but the milke, wooll, and fell, leauing both theyr owne soules, and the soules of theyr flocke, vnto the deuill.

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These men (I say) rise vp like vnto Demetrius, crying out, this hereticke disswadeth and seduceth much people euery wher, saying: MarginaliaDemetrius the siluer smith cryed out against Paul Act. 19.that they are not gods, which are made with hands. These are they, these I say (most reuerent father) are they, which vnder the pretence of persecuting heretitkes, folow theyr owne licentious life: enemies vnto the crosse of Christ, which can suffer and beare any thing rather, thē the sincere preachinge of Christ crucified for our sinnes. MarginaliaPretensed Priestes and Prelates vnder colour of persecuting heretickes, crucifie Christ, and treade downe his truth. These are they vnto whō Christ threatneth eternall dānation, where he sayth: Wo be vnto you Scribes, Phariseis, & hipocrites, which shut vp the kingdome of heauen before men, and you your selues enter not in, neither suffer those which would ēter, to come in. These are they which haue come in another way, to the charge of soules, as it appeareth. For if any man (sayth Christ) come in by me, he shall be saued, and shal come in and go out, and finde pasture. MarginaliaIohn 10. These men do not finde pasture (for they neuer teach) & draw others after them, that they should not enter by Christ, which alone is the dore, wherby we must come vnto the father: MarginaliaA wrong way to come to God by good works.but set before the people an other way, perswading them to come vnto God thorow good workes, oftentimes speaking nothing at all of Christ, therby secking rather theyr owne gayne and lucre: then the saluation of soules: Marginalia1. Cor. 3.in this poynt beyng worse thē they which vpon Christ being the foundation, doe builde wood, hey and straw. These men confesse that they knowe Christ, but by theyr deedes they deny him.

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MarginaliaFalse priests and prelates compared to the Phisitions, vpon whom the womā with the bloudie flixe, spent all her goods, and was not helped.These are those Phisitions, vpon whom that woman which was 12. yeares vexed with the bloudy flixe, had consumed all that she had, and felt no helpe, but was stil worse and worse, vntill suche time as at the last, shee came vnto Christ, and after she had once touched the hemme of his vesture through fayth, she was so healed that by and by, shee felte the same in her bodye. O mighty power of the moste highest: whiche I also miserable sinner, haue often tasted and felt. MarginaliaBilney here speaketh by his owne experience.Which before that I coulde come vnto Christ, had euen likewise spent all that I had vppon those ignoraunt Phisitions, that is to say, vnlearned hearers of confession so that there was but small force of strength lefte in me, (which of nature was but weake) small store of mony, and very litle witte or vnderstanding: for they appoynted me fastings, watching, buying of pardons, and Masses: MarginaliaThe end & effect of the Popes diuinitie.in all which thinges (as I now vnderstand) they sought rather theyr owne gayne, then the saluation of my sicke and languishing soule.

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MarginaliaThe first cōuersion of M. Bilney by reading the newe Testament set out by Erasmus.But at the last I heard speake of Iesus, euen then when the new Testament was first set forth by Erasmus. 

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The book Bilney was reading was the Novum Instrumentum, the first version of the New Testament that Erasmus issued in 1516 that printed the original Greek of scripture in parallel columns with the Latin Vulgate.

Which, when I vnderstood to be eloquently done by him, being allured rather for the Latine, then for the woorde of God (for at that time, I knew not what it ment) I bought it euen by the prouidence of God, as I do now well vnderstand and perceiue: And at the first reading, as I remēber I chaunced vpon this sentence of S. Paule (O most sweet and comfortable sentence to my soule) in hys firste Epistle to Timothy and first chapiter: 
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The sentence that matters here is; 'Sed tandem de Iesu audiebam, nimirum tum, cum nouum Testamentum primum ad Erasmo aederetur'. It must be noted that Bilney did not use the word 'conuersio' to refer to the exhilarating effect that his reading had upon him.

It is a true saying and worthy of all mē to be embraced, that Christ Iesus came into the world to saue sinners, of whom I am the chiefe and principall. This oursentence, through Gods instruction and inward working, which I dyd not then perceiue, did so exhilerate my hart, being before wounded with the guilt of my sinnes and being almost in despayre, that immediately, I felt a maruellous comfort and quietnesse, in so much, MarginaliaPsal. 50.that my brused bones leapt for ioy.

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After this, the Scripture began to bee more pleasaunt vnto me thē the hony or the hony comb: wherin I learned that all my trauelies, all my fasting and watching, all the redemption of Masses and pardons, being done wythout trust in Christe, which onely saueth his people from theyr sinnes: these (I say) I learned to be nothing else but euen (as S. Augustin saith) a hasty and swift running out of the right way, MarginaliaAl the trauailes of men, without Christ, are but an hastie running out of the right way. or els much like to the vesture made of fig leaues, wherwithall Adam and Eue went about in vayne, to couer theyr priuities, and could neuer before obteyne quietnes and rest, vntill they beleued in the promise of God, that Christ the seede of the woman, should tread vpon the serpentes head: Neither could I be releued or eased of the sharpe stings and bitings of my sinnes, before that I was taught of God that lesson, which Christ speaketh of, in the third chapiter of Iohn: MarginaliaM. Bilney looking vp to the Brasen serpent. Iohn. 3. 

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For the association of the crucified Christ with the brazen serpent of Moses (from Numbers 21:4-9 and John 3:14-15), see Diarmaid MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer: a Life (New Haven, 1996), pp. 118-120. Bilney's essential dependence upon the sacrifice of Christ in his theology may help to explain his attack on idolatry at the church of St Magnus the Martyr (which was always an important City church, as it stood on the north end of London Bridge), where the parishioners were gilding their new rood. Bilney argued there that just as Ezechias destroyed the brazen serpent that Moses had made, so too should kings and princes in the present day destroy and burn the images of saints that were set up in churches and other places. See Gregory Walker, 'Saint or schemer?: the 1527 heresy trial of Thomas Bilney reconsidered', Journal of Ecclesiastical History, vol. 40 (1989), pp. 219-38.

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Euen as Moyses exalted the serpent in the desert, so shall the sonne of man be exalted, that all which beleue on him should not perish, but haue life euerlasting.

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As soone as (according to the mesure of grace geuen vnto me of God) I began to tast & sauour of this heauenly lesson, whiche no man can teache but onely God, which reueled the same vnto Peter: I desired þe Lord to encrease my faith: and at last, I desired nothing more, then that I being so comforted by him, mighte bee strengthened by his holy spirit and grace from aboue, that I mighte teache the wicked his wayes, which are mercy and truth, MarginaliaThe wayes of the Lord be mercy and truth. and that þe wicked might be conuerted vnto him by me, which somtime was also wicked, whiche thing, whilest that with all my power, I did endeuour before my Lord Cardinall and your fatherhoode, Christ was blasphemed in me (and this is my onely comforte in these my afflictions) whome with my whole power I do teach and set forth. Marginalia1. Cor. 1.being made for vs by God his father, our wisedome, righteousnes, sanctification, & redemption, and finally, our satisfaction. Who was made sinne for vs Marginalia2. Cor. 5. (that is to say a sacrifice for sinne) that we through him, should be made the righteousnes of God. MarginaliaGal. 2. We became accursed for vs, to redeeme vs from the curse of the law: MarginaliaMath, 9.Who also came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentaunce. The righteous (I saye) which falsely iudge and thinke themselnes soe to bee MarginaliaRom. 3.(for all men haue sinned and lacke the glorye of God, wherby he freely forgeueth sinnes vnro all beleuers, through redemption which is in Christ Iesu) because that all mankinde was greuouslye wounded in hym whiche fell amongest theeues betweene Ierusalem and Ierico.

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MarginaliaThe summe of all M. Bilneys teaching.And therfore with all my whole power I teach that all men should first acknowledge theyr sinnes and condemne them, and afterward hunger and thirst for that righteousnesse, wherof Saint Paul speaketh: MarginaliaRom. 3.The righteousnes of God by faith in Iesus Christ, is vpon all them which Beleue in him, for there is no difference all haue sinned, and lacke the glory of God, and are iustified freely thoroughe his grace, by the redemption which is in Iesus Christ. The which, who so euer dothe hūger or thirst for, without doubte, they shall at the lengthe so be satisfied, that they shall not hunger & thirst for euer

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MarginaliaA difference betwene mans righteousnes, and the righteousnes of God.But forsomuch as this hunger and thirst was wont to be quenched with the fulnes of mans righteousnes, which is wrought through the faith of our owne electe and chosen workes, as pilgrimages, buying of pardōs, offring of candles, electe and chosen fastes, and oftentimes supersticious, MarginaliaVoluntary deuotions spoke against.& finally all kinde of volūtary deuotions (as they call thē) against the which gods word speaketh plainely in þe fourth of Deut. and in the 12. saying: MarginaliaDeut. 4. 12.Thou shalte not doe that which seemeth good vnto thy selfe, but that whiche I commaunde thee for to doe, that do thou neither adding to, neither diminishing any thing from it: therefore I say oftentimes I haue spoken of those woorkes, not condemning them (as God I take to my witnesse) but reprouing theyr abuse, making the law full vse of them manifest, euen vnto children, exhorting all men not so to cleaue vnto them, that they being satisfyed therewith, should loath or waxe weary of Christ, as many do. In whom I bidde your Fatherhood most prosperously well to fare.

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And this is the whole somme, If you will appoynt me to dilate more at large the things here touched, I will not refuse to do it, so that you will graunt me time: For to doe it out of hand, I am not able for the weakenes of my body, being redy alwayes if I haue erred in any thing, to be better instructed.

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¶ An
SSs.iij.
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