Critical Apparatus for this Page
Commentary on the Text
Names and Places on this Page
Unavailable for this Edition
1002 [1001]

K. Henry. 8. Letters of Thomas Bilney to Tonstall Bish. of London.

neyther in the mounte of Samaria, neither at Hierusalem, but in all places, in spirit and truth. Which thyng, if it come once to passe, the beastes of the field will thinke all their gain and lucre lost. In whom the saying of Ezechiell is fulfilled: MarginaliaEzech. 34 My shepe are dispersed because they had no shepeheard, & [illegible text] of the beastes of the field, and strayed abroad: [illegible text] and wandred in euery mountayne, [illegible text] and is dispersed throughout all the [illegible text] no man which hath sought to gather thē [illegible text] there was no man which once sought after [illegible text] [illegible text] reduce those which [illegible text] into the fold of Christ, that is, the vnitie [illegible text] there ryse vp certain against him, which [illegible text] in deede are wolues, which seeke no other thyng [illegible text] but the milke, wood, and fell, leauyng [illegible text] own soules and the soules of theyr flocke, vnto the deuill.

[Back to Top]

These men (I say) ryse vp lyke vnto Demetrius,crying out, Marginalia[illegible text] this hereticke dissuadeth and seduceth much people euery where, saying: that they are not Gods, which are made with handes. MarginaliaPretensed priestes and prelates vnder colour of persecuting heretickes crucifie Christ & treade downe hys truth. These are they, these I say (most reuerent father) are they, which vnder the pretence of persecutyng heretickes, follow their owne licencious lyfe: enemies vnto þe crosse of Christ, which can suffer and beare any thing rather, then the sincere preachyng of Christ crucified for our sinnes. These are they vnto whome Christ threateneth eternall damnation, where he sayth: Wo be vnto you Scribes, Phariseis, and hypocrites, which shut vp the kyngdome of [illegible text] before men, and you your selues enter not in, neither [illegible text] which woulde enter, 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 shall come in and go out, and find pasture. MarginaliaIohn. 10. These men do not finde pasture (for they neuer teach) and drawe others after them, that they should not enter by Christ, which alone is the dore, wherby we must come vnto the father: MarginaliaA wronge way to come to God by good workes. but set before the people an other way, perswadyng them to come vnto God through good workes, oftentymes speakyng no thyng at all of Christ, therby seekyng rather their owne gayne and lucre: thē the saluation of soules: in this poynt beyng worse then they which vpon Christ beyng the foundation, do build wood, hay & straw. Marginalia1. Cor. 3. These mē confesse þt they know Christ, but by their dedes they deny hym.

[Back to Top]

MarginaliaFalse priests & prelates compared to the Phisitiōs, vpō whome the woman with the bloudy flyxe, spent all her goods, and was not helped. These are those Phisitions, vpon whom that woman which was xij. yeares vexed with the bloudy flixe, had consumed all that she had, and felt no helpe, but was still worse and worse, vntill such tyme 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 body. O mighty power of the moste hyghest: which I also miserable sinner, haue often tasted and felt. MarginaliaBilney here speaketh by hys owne experience. Whiche before that I could come vnto Christ, had euen likewise spent all that I had vpon those ignoraunt Phisitions, that is to say, vnlearned hearers of confession so þt there was but small force of strength left in me, (which of nature was but weake) small store of mony, and very litle witte or vnderstādyng: for they appoynted me fastinges, watchyng bying of pardons, and Masses: MarginaliaThe end & effecte of the Popes diuinitie. in all whiche thynges (as I now vnderstand) they sought rather their own gayn, thē the saluation of my sick & languishing soule.

[Back to Top]

But at the last I heard speake of Iesus, euen then when the new Testament was first set forth by Erasmus 

Commentary  *  Close

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 vnderstode to be eloquently done by hym, beyng allured rather for the Latine, then for the word of God (for at þt tyme, I knew not what it ment) MarginaliaThe first conuersion of Maister Bilney by reading the new Testament set out by Erasmus. I bought it euen by the prouidence of God, as I do now wel vnderstand and perceiue: And at the first readyng, as I remēber I chaunced vpon this sentence of S. Paul (O most swete and comfortable sentence to my soule) in his first Epistle to Timothy and first chapter: 
Commentary  *  Close

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 men to be embraced, that Christ Iesus came into the world to saue sinners, of whō I am the chiefe & principall. This one sentence, through Gods instruction, and inward workyng whiche I dyd not then perceiue, did so exhilerate my hart beyng before wounded with the gilte of my sinnes and beyng almost in dispayre, that immediatly, I felt a meruelous comforte and quietnes, insomuch, that my brused bones leapt for ioye. MarginaliaPsal.[illegible text]

[Back to Top]

MarginaliaAll the trauailes of men, without Christ are but an hastie running out of the right way. After this, the Scripture began to bee more pleasaunt vnto me then the hony or the hony combe: wherin I learned that all my trauailes, all my fastyng and watchyng, all the redemption of Masses and pardons, beyng done without trust in Christ, whiche onely saueth his people from their sinnes: these (I say) I learned to bee nothyng els but euen (as S. Augustin sayth) a hasty and swift runnyng out of the right way, or els much lyke to the vesture made of figge leaues, wherwithall Adam and Eve went about in vayne, to couer their priuities, and could neuer before obteyne quietnes and rest, vntill they beleued in the promise of God, that Christ the seede of the woman, shoulde treade vpon the serpentes head: Neither could I be releued or eased of the sharpe stinges and bytynges 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 Brasē Serpent.
Iohn. 4. 

Commentary  *  Close

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.

[Back to Top]
Euen as Moyses exalted the serpent in the desert, so shall the sonne of man be exalted, that al which beleue on hym should not perish, but haue lyfe euerlastyng.

[Back to Top]

As soone as (accordyng to the measure of grace geuen vnto me of God) I began to tast and sauour of this heauēly lesson, whiche no man can teache but onely God, whiche reueled the same vnto Peter: I desired þe Lord to encrease my fayth: and at last, I desired nothyng more, then that I beyng so comforted by hym, might bee strengthened by his holy spirite and grace from aboue, MarginaliaThe wayes of the Lord, be mercy & truth. that I might teache the wicked his wayes, which are mercy and truth, and þt þe wicked might be conuerted vnto him by me, which some time was also wicked. Whiche thyng, whilest that with al my power, I dyd endeuour before my Lorde Cardinall and your fatherhoode, Christ was blasphemed in me (and this is my onely comfort in these my afflictions) whom with my whole power I do teache and set forth, beyng made for vs by God his father, our wisedome, righteousnes, sanctification, and redemption, and finally, our satisfaction. Marginalia1. Cor. 1. Who was made sinne for vs (that is to say, a sacrifice for sinne) that we through hym, should be made the righteousnes of God. Marginalia2. Cor. 5. Who became accursed for vs, to redeeme vs from the curse of the law: MarginaliaGal. 2 Who also came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentaunce. MarginaliaMath 9. The rightuous (I saye) which falsely Iudge & thinke themselues so to be (for all men haue sinned and lacke the glory of God, wherby he freely forgeueth sinnes vnto all beleuers, through the redēption which is in Christ Iesu) MarginaliaRom. 3. because that all mankynde was greuously wounded in him whiche fell amongest theeues betwene Ierusalem and Ierico.

[Back to Top]

MarginaliaThe summe of all M. Bilneys teaching. And therfore withall my whole power I teach that all men should first acknowledge their sinnes and condemne them, and afterwarde hunger and thirste for that rightuousnesse, wherof Saint Paule speaketh: The rightuousnes of God by faith in Iesu Christ, is vppon all them which beleue in hym, for there is no difference: all haue sinned, and lacke the glory of God, and are iustified freely throughe hys grace, by the redemption which is in Iesus Christ. MarginaliaRom. 3. The which, who so euer doth hunger or thirst for without doubt, they shal at the length so be satisfied, that they shall not hunger and thirst for euer.

[Back to Top]

MarginaliaA difference betwene mans righteousnes, & 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 fayth of our owne elect and chosen workes, as pilgrimages, buyng of pardons, offring of candels, elect and chosen fastes, and oftentymes supersticious, MarginaliaVoluntary deuotions spoke against.
Deut. 4. 12.
and finally all kynd of volūtary deuotions (as they call thē) against the which gods word speaketh plainly in the fourth of Deut. and in the xij. saying: Thou shalt not do that which seemeth good vnto thy selfe, but that which I commaunde thee for to do, that do thou neyther addyng to, neyther diminishyng any thyng from it: therefore (I say) oftentymes I haue spoken of those workes, not condemnyng them (as God I take to my witnes) but reprouyng their abuse, makyng the lawfull vse of them manifest, euen vnto children, exhortyng all men not so to cleaue vnto them, that they beyng satisfied therwith, should loth or waxe wery of Christ, as many do. In whom I bid your fatherhode most prosperously well to fare.

[Back to Top]

And this is the whole summe. If you will appoint me to dilate more at large the thinges here touched, I wyll not refuse to do it, so that you wyll graunt me tyme: For to doe it out of hand, I am not able for the weakenes of my body, beyng redy alwayes if I haue erred in any thyng, to be better instructed.

[Back to Top]
An other letter or epistle of M. Bilney, to Cuthbert Tonstall B. of London.

MarginaliaAn other letter of Maister Bilney. ALbeit I do not remēber, reuerent father in Christ, whether I haue eyther spoken or written, that the Gospell hath not bene syncerely preached now of long tyme, whiche your Lordshippe seemeth to haue gathered eyther by some Momes and sinister hearers of my Sermons, MarginaliaMalchus hearing of sermons. who lyke Malchus hauyng their right eare cut of, onely bryng theyr left eare to Sermons) or els by some wordes or writinges of myne, which haue rashly passed me, rather then vppon any euill entent: yet forsomuch as in this behalfe, your Reuerence doth commaund me, and that of a good mynde. I trust (for how can I thinke in Tonstall any craft or doublenes to dwell:) I wyl briefly declare vnto you, what I haue learned of God through Christ, in the Scriptures, and how that the doctours euen of great name and renowme, haue not taught the same of late in their sermons, referring or rather

[Back to Top]
submit-
Go To Modern Page No:  
Click on this link to switch between the Modern pagination for this edition and Foxe's original pagination when searching for a page number. Note that the pagination displayed in the transcription is the modern pagination with Foxe's original pagination in square brackets.
Find:
Type a keyword and then restrict it to a particular edition using the dropdown menu. You can search for single words or phrases. When searching for single words, the search engine automatically imposes a wildcard at the end of the keyword in order to retrieve both whole and part words. For example, a search for "queen" will retrieve "queen", "queene" and "queenes" etc.
in:  
Humanities Research Institute  *  HRI Online  *  Feedback
Version 2.0 © 2011 The University of Sheffield