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1004 [1003]

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

better. This is a burden too heauy for my strength: vnder the which if I shall faint, it belongeth to you, which haue layde this burden vpon my shoulders, to ease me thereof. MarginaliaPreachers of the popes church leauing the word of God, preach their owne traditions. As touching the first part, they haue not preached as they ought, which leauyng the worde of God haue taught theyr owne traditiōs: of þe which sort there are not a few, as it is very euident, in that they do report those which preach þe word of God sincerely to teach new doctrine. MarginaliaPriestes of the Popes church, fewe learned in the scriptures. This also is no smal testimonie thereof, that in all England you shall scarse finde one or two that are mighty in the Scriptures, and what meruaile is it if all godly thinges do seme new vnto them, vnto whom the Gospell is new and straunge, beyng nousled in mens traditions now a long tyme? Would to God these thinges were not true, which I vtter vnto you: but alas, they are to true.

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MarginaliaPreachers in the popish tyme haue wrasted the Scriptures. They also haue preached euill, which eyther haue wrasted 

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'wrasted' scripture: the past tense of `to wrest' or twist. It means to deliberately misinterpret.

the Scriptures themselues, or haue rashly gathered them out of old rottē papers, beyng wrasted by others. And how should it be but that they should wrast them, or els how should they iudge them beyng falsly interpreted by others, when as they haue not once read ouer the bible orderly? Of this sorte there is truely a very great number, from which number many great Rabines or maisters shall hardly excuse themselues, whome the people hitherto haue reuerenced in stead of Gods. MarginaliaBalaams Asse is not to be despised settyng forth gods word, ergo, much lesse other abiectes. And these are they which now serue theyr bellies, seekyng their owne glory, and not the true glory of God, which might be set forth euē by Balaams Asse: much lesse then ought we to contemne such abiectes which preach the word of God. We haue (sayth S. Paul) Marginalia1. Cor. 1. this treasure in brickele vessels, that the glory of the power might be of God and not of vs. God hath chosen the foolish thinges of the world, to confound the wyse: and the weake thinges God hath chosen, to confound the mighty: and vile thinges of the world and despised, hath he chosen, and thinges that are not, to bryng to nought thinges that are, that no flesh should glory in hys sight. But now all men in a maner wil be wise, and therfore they are ashamed of the simple Gospel, they are ashamed truely to say with Paule: & to performe it in deede: Marginalia1. Cor. 2. I brethren when I came vnto you, dd not come with excellency of wordes, or of wysedome, preaching the testimonie of Christ, for I estemed not my selfe to know any thyng amongest you, but onely Iesus Christ and hym crucified. O voyce of a true Euangelist? But now we are ashamed of this foolish preaching, by the which it hath pleased God, to saue all those whiche beleue in hym, and beyng puffed vp with our owne fleshly mynde, chuse rather, proudly to walk in those thinges which we haue not seene, preachyng fables and lyes, and not the law of God, which is vndefiled, conuertyng soules. MarginaliaPsal. 18.

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MarginaliaIgnoraunce of the lawe of God in Prelates noted. But how should they teach the law of God, which they haue not once read in the bookes, much lesse learned at the mouth of God? But in a Pastor and a Bishop this is required: Thou sonne of man (sayth God) lay vp in thy harte all my wordes which I do speake vnto thee. &c. And shortly after he saith: Thou sonne of man, I haue ordeyned and geuen thee a watchman vnto the house of Israell. I haue geuen thee, MarginaliaEzech. 3. sayth he, not commyng in by ambitiō, nor thrustyng in thy selfe nor climyng in another way, but I gaue thee, when thou lookedst not for it, that thou shouldest attende thereupon and geue warnyng from the toppe of the watch Tower, if any enemies should approche. I haue geuen thee vnto the house of Israell, and not the house of Israell vnto thee MarginaliaGod geueth [illegible text] hys [illegible text] that thou shouldest acknowledge thy selfe to be the seruaunt of the shepe, and not theyr Lord, for I haue not geuen the sheepe for the shepeheard, but the shepeheard for the shepe. Marginalia[illegible text] He that sitteth downe is greater then he that doth minister and serue vnto hym. Marginalia[illegible text] Which thyng was well knowen of hym which truely sayd: We are your seruauntes for Christes cause.

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But for what purpose haue I geuen thee vnto the house of Israell? That thou shouldest onely minister the Sacramentes, consecrate wood, stones, and churchyardes? (this I take God to witnesse) with great sighes and grones I write vnto you, pouryng out before you the griefe of my hart.) No truely. What then? Marginalia[illegible text] office [illegible text] out of Ezechiell. First followeth the office of the Bishop. Thou shalt heare the word out of my mouth. This is but a short lesson, but such, as all the world cannot comprehende, without they be inwardly taught of God. And what elles meaneth thys, Out of my mouthe thou shalt heare the worde, but that thou shalt be taught of god. Therefore as many as are not taught of God although they be neuer so well excercised in the Scriptures, by mans help, yet are they not watchmen geuen by God, and much lesse they which do not vnderstand and know the Scriptures. And therfore such as these be, least they should kepe silence and say nothing, are alwayes harpyng vpon the traditions and doctrines of men, that is, lyes: for he that speaketh of hymselfe, speaketh lyes. Of these it is written: Marginalia1. Tim. 1.They would be doctours of the law, not vnderstandyng what they speake neyther of whom they speake. Such of necessitie they must all be, who speake that with their mouth which they do not beleue, because they are not inwardly taught of God, neither are persuaded in their hartes, that it is true: and therfore they are not to be accompted as shepe, although they boast themselues to be shepeheardes. But contrariwyse touching the true and learned Pastors geuen by God, it may be truly said: Marginalia1. Iohn. 1. we speake that which we know, and that which we haue seene (euen with the vnfallible eyes of our fayth) we doe witnesse: MarginaliaThe propertie of true pastors. and these are neither deceiued, neither do deceiue. Moreouer the deceiuers procede to worse and worse, erring themselues, and bringing others also to errour, and because they are of the world, the world doth willingly heare them. They are of the world (saith S. Iohn) Marginalia1. Iohn. 4. and therefore they speake those thinges which are of the worlde, and the world geueth eare vnto them.

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Behold reuerent father, this is the touchstone of our daily preaching. Hath not the world geuen eare vnto them now a long tyme with great pleasure and delite? But the flesh could neuer suffer the preaching of the crosse, nor yet the wisedome of the flesh, which is enemy vnto God, neyther is subiect vnto his law, nor cannot be. MarginaliaA true note of syncere doctrine. And why then are they accused to be heretickes and Schismatickes, whiche will not seeke to please men, but onely to their edifiyng? beyng myndefull of that place of Scripture: MarginaliaEsay. 30. God hath dispersed the bones of them which please men, saying vnto them, speake vnto vs pleasaunt thinges. But now lettyng these matters passe, we will come vnto the second poynt, wherin you aske how a man should preach better? MarginaliaAn information to preachers, to preach rightlye. Forsoth if we had heard hym, of whom the father spake saying: This is my dearly beloued sonne in whome I am well pleased, heare him. Who also speakyng of hymselfe, sayd: It was mete that Christ should suffer and rise agayne the third day frō death and that in hys name repentaunce and remission of sinnes should be preached vnto all people. What other thyng is that, then the same which the other Euangelists doe write: Go ye into the whole world and preache the Gospell vnto euery creature: he that beleueth and is Baptised, shalbe saued. MarginaliaMath. 28. What can be more pleasaunt, sweet, or acceptable vnto afflicted consciences beyng almost in dispaire, then this most ioyfull tydings?

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But here, whether Christ haue bene a long tyme heard I know not, for that I haue not heard all the preachers of England, and if I had heard them, yet till it was within this yeare or two, I could not sufficiently iudge of them. But this I dare be bold to affirme, þt as many as I haue heard of late preach (I speake euen of þe most famous) they haue preached such repentaunce, that if I had heard suche preachers of repentaunce in times past, I shoulde vtterly haue bene in despayre. MarginaliaThe preaching after the Popes church, is all to beare downe, & not to lift vp. And to speake of one of those famous men (not vttering his name) 

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The famous preacher Bilney mentioned here cannot be identified.

after he had sharpely inueyed agaynst vyce, (wherein he pleased euery godly man, for so much as it could not be sufficientlye cryed out vpon) he concluded: behold (sayd he) thou haste lyen rottyng in thyne own lustes, by the space of these lx. yeares, euen as a beast in his owne dunge, and wilt thou presume in one yeare, to goe forward toward heauen, and that in thyne age, asmuch as thou wentest backwardes from heauē towardes hell in lx. yeres? MarginaliaBy this one you may see what all the rest are. Is not this thinke you a goodly argument? Is this the preachyng of repentaunce in the name of Iesus? or rather to tread down Christ with Antichristes doctrine? for what other thyng dyd he speake in effect, then that Christ dyed in vayne for thee? He will not bee thy Iesus or Sauiour thou must make satisfaction for thy selfe, or els thou shal perishe eternally. MarginaliaMarke the maner of the common preaching of the papistes. Then doth S. Iohn lye whiche sayth: Behold the Lambe of God whiche taketh away the sinnes of the worlde. And in an other place: His bloud hath cleanesed vs from all our sinnes. And again: He is the propitiation for the sinnes of the whole worlde: Marginalia1. Iohn. 1. Beside an infinite number of other places. What other thyng is this, then that whiche was spoken by the holy Ghost, by the mouth of Peter, saying: There shall be false teachers that shall deny the Lord Iesus, which hath redemed them. MarginaliaThe effect & end of the popes doctrine. And what foloweth vpon such doctrine of Deuis speaking lies thorough hypocrisie? a conscience dispairing and without all hope, and so geuen ouer vnto all wicked lustes, according to the saying of S. Paule: After that they be come to this poynte that they sorow no more, they geue themselues ouer vnto wantonnes, to commit al kynde of filthines, euen with a gredy desire: For seyng that it is impossible for them to make satisfaction to God, either they murmure against god, or els they do not beleue hym to be so cruell as they doe preach and declare him to be. The lack of paper wil not suffer me to write any more, and I had rather to speake it in priuate talk vnto your selfe. Wherunto if you would admitte me, I trust you should not repēt you therof: & vnto me (Christ I take to my witnes) it would be a great comfort: in whom I wish you

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