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196 [196]

The epistle of Huldricke bish. to pope Nicol. priestes mariage.

amorem vt filius, timorem vt seruus. Cum tua (O pater et domine) decreta super clericorum continentiam. &c.

Huldericke bishop onely by name, vnto the reuerent father Nicholas þe vigilant prouisor of the holye church of Rome: with due commendation sendeth loue as a sonne, and feare as a seruaunt. Vnderstanding reuerēt father your decrees which you sent to me concerning the single life of the Clergy, to be farre discrepant from all discretion, I was troubled partly with feare, partly with heauines. With feare, (for that, as it is sayde) the sentence of the pastor, whether it be iuste or vniust, is to be feared.

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For I was afraid for the weake hearers of the scripture (which scarsely obey the iust sentence of their Pastor) much more despising this vniust decreement, thorow the onerous and importable transgression of their Pastor, should shew them selues disobedient. With heauines I was troubled, and with compassion: for that I doubted howe the members of the bodye shoulde to (their head being so greatly out of frame). MarginaliaPriests marige in the old law permitted, in the new law not forbidden. For what can be more greuous or more to be lamented, touching the state of the church: then for you, being the bishop of the principal seate, to whom appertaineth the regiment of the whole church: to swarue neuer so litle, out of the right way? Certes in this you haue not a litle erred, in that you haue gone about to constrayne your Clergye to singlenes of life, through your imperious tyrannye: whom rather ye ought to styrre vp to the continency of mariage. For is not this to bee counted a violence and tiranny to the iudgement of all wyse men: when a man is cōpelled by your decrees to do that which is against þe institution of the Gospel, & the proceeding of the holy ghost? Seing then ther be so many holy examples, both of the olde & new Testamēt, teaching vs (as you know) due information: I desire your pacience not to thynck it greuous, for me to bryng a fewe here out of manye.First in the old law, the Lord permitteth marriage vnto the Priestes, which afterward in the new law, we do not reade to be restrayned: but in the Gospel thus he sayth: There be some Eunuches which haue gelded thē selues for the kingdome of heauen, but all men doo not take this word: he that cā take it, let him take it. Wherfore the Apostle sayth: concerning virgins, I haue no commaundement of the Lord, but onelye I geue counsel. Which counsel also all men doo not take, as in the commaundement of the lord before, but many there be, false dissemblers and flatterers, going about to please men and not God, whom we see vnder a false pretence of continencie, to fall into horrible wickednes: MarginaliaThe inconuenience of single lyfe.Some to lye with their fathers wiues, some to bee Sodomites, and not to abhorre to playe the beastes with brute beastes. And therefore leaste thorowe the infection of this wicked pestilence, the state of the church shoulde to much go to ruine: therfore he sayde: because of fornication, let euery mā haue his own wife. Touching which saying, our false hipocrites falsly doo lie, and faine: as though onelye it pertayned to the laitie, and not to thē. And yet they them selues seming to bee set in the most holy order, are not a frayd to abuse other mens wyues: and as we see with (weeping eyes) al they doo outrage in the foresaid wickednes.

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These men haue not rightly vnderstanded the scripture: whose brestes whyle they sucke so hard (in stede of milke) they sucke out bloud. For the saying of þe apostle: MarginaliaThe saying of the Apostle, let euerye one haue hys own wife.let euery man haue his own wyfe: doth except none in very dede, but him onely which hath the gifte of continency, prefixing with him selfe to keepe and to continue his virgine in the Lord. Wherfore (O reuerent father) it shalbe your part to cause & ouersee, that who soeuer, either with hand or mouth, hath made a vowe of continencie, and afterward would forsake: either shoulde be compelled to keepe his vow, or els by lawful authoritieshould be deposed from his order.

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And to bring this to passe, ye shal not onely haue me, but also all other of my order, to be helpers vnto you. But that you may vnderstand, that such which knowe not what a vow doth mean: are not to be violētly cōpelled thereunto: heare what the apostle sayth vnto Timothie. A bishop (saith he) must be irreprehensible, the husbād of one wyfe. Which sentence, least ye should turne & apply onely to the church, marke what he inferreth after: he that knoweth not (sayth he) to rule his own houshold and family, how should he rule the church of God? And likewyse the Deacons (sayth he) let them be the husbandes of one wyfe, which haue knowledge to gouerne their owne house and children. And this wife, howe she is wont to be blest of the priest, you vnderstande sufficiently: I suppose, by the decrees of holy Siluester þe pope.

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MarginaliaThis decree is contrary to the bishops & prelates in queene Maries tyme.To these and such other holye sentences of the scripture, agreeth also he that is the writer of the rule of the cleargye, writing after this maner. A clarke must be chaste and continent, or els let him bee coupled in the bandes of matrimony, hauing one wyfe. Wherby it is to be gathered, that the bishop and deacō, are noted in, famous and reprehensible, if they be deuided in mo women thē one: otherwise, if they do forsake one, vnder the pretence of religion: both they together, as wel the byshops as the deacon be here condemned by the Canonicall sentence, which saith: let no bishop or priest forsake his own wyfe, vnder the coulour & pretence of religion. If he do forsake her, let him be excommunicate. And if he so continue, let him be disgraded. Saint Austen also, a man of discrete holynes, sayth in these wordes: There is no offence so great or greuous, but it is to auoyde a greater euyl.

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Furthermore, we reade in the seconde booke of the Tripartite history: That when the Councel of Nice, going about to establish the same decree, would enact that bishops, priestes, and deacons, after their consecration, eyther should abstayne vtterly from their own wyues, or els should be deposed. Thē Paphnutius (one of those holy martyrs, whō themperour Maximus had put out the right eye, & hockt their left legs) rising vp amongest them, withstoode their purposed decrement: confessing marriage to be honorable, and calling the bed of matrimonye to be chastitie: and so perswaded the Councell from making that law, declaring thereby what occasiō might come to them selues and their wyues of fornication. And thus much did Paphnutius (being vnmaried himselfe) declare vnto them. And the whole Councell commending his sentence, gaue place thereto, and left the matter freely without compulsion, to the wyl of euery man, to do therein as he thought.

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Notwithstandyng there bee some, whyche take saynt Gregory for their defence in this matter: whose temeritie I laugh at, and ignoraūce I lament: for they know not, being ignorantly deceiued, how dangerously the decree of this heresye was (being made of Saynt Gregory) who afterward, wel reuoked the same, wyth condigne fruite of repentaunce.

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MarginaliaMore thē 6000 heads of infāts found in the Popes mote through the wycked decree of the single lyfe of priests.For vpon a certayne daye as he sent vnto his fishe ponde to haue fish, and did see more then sixe thousande infantes heades brought vnto him, which were taken out of the same pond or mote: did greatly repent in him selfe the decree made before, touching the single lyfe of Priestes, which he confessed to be the cause of that so lamentable a murther. And so purging the same, with cōdigne fruit of repentaunce: aultered againe the thinges which he had decreed before, commending that counsell of the apostle, which sayth: it is better to marrye, then to burne. Adding moreouer of him selfe thereunto, and saying: MarginaliaLet priests note wel the saying of Gregory.it is better to marry, thē to geue occasiō of deth.

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Peraduenture if these men had red with me thys, which so happened: I thinke they would not be so rashe

in
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