which are ignoraunt and do erre, for he hymselfe is compassed in with infirmitie, that he beyng not voyde of euils, should learn to haue compassion vpon other miserable people.
I desire you that you will remember me to morrowe that by your ayde, I may be brought before the tribunall seate of my Lorde Cardinall, before whome I had rather stand, then before any of his deputies.
Yours Thomas Bilney.
The actual number of letters that passed between Thomas Bilney and Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall is confused. What is clear is that Tunstall carefully saved Bilney's letters, and used them here in examining him in 1527.
MarginaliaAn other letter of M. Bilney, to Tonstall Byshop of Lōdon.MOst reuerent father, salutations in Christ. You haue required me to write vnto you at large, wherein men not preached as they ought, & how they should haue preached better. This is a burdē too heauy for my strength: vnder þe which if I shall faint, it belongeth to you which haue layd this burden vpon my shoulders, to ease me therof.[Back to Top]
As touching the first part, MarginaliaPreachers of the popes church leauing the worde of God, preach their owne traditions.they haue not preached as they ought, which leauing the word of God, haue taught theyr own traditiōs, of þe whiche sort there are not a few, as it is very euidēt, in þt they do report those which preach þe worde of God sincerely to teach newe doctrine. This is also no smal testimony therof, þt in al England you shal scarse find one or two that are mightye in the Scriptures, MarginaliaPriestes of the Popes church, fewe learned in the Scriptures.and what meruaile is it if al godly things do seeme newe vnto them vnto whom the Gospell is new and straunge, being nousled in mens traditions now a long tyme? Would to God these thinges were not true, whiche I vtter vnto you, but alas they are to true.[Back to Top]
They haue also preached euill, MarginaliaPreachers in the popish tyme haue wrasted the Scriptures.which either haue wrasted
'wrasted' scripture: the past tense of `to wrest' or twist. It means to deliberately misinterpret.
MarginaliaIgnorance 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 Byshop this is required: Thou sonne of man (sayth God) lay vp in thy hart al my wordes which I do speake vnto thee. &c. MarginaliaEzech. 3. And shortly after hee sayth: Thou sonne of man, I haue ordayned and geuen thee a watchman vnto the house of Israel. I have geuen thee sayth hee, not comming in by ambition, nor thrusting in thy selfe, nor clyming in another way, but I gaue thee when thou lookedst not for it, that thou shouldest attend thereupon and geue warning from the toppe of the watch Tower, if any enemies shoulde approche. I haue geuen thee vnto the house of Israell, and not the house of Israell vnto thee, MarginaliaGod geueth pastours to his flocke: and not hys flocke to pastours. that thou shouldest acknowledge thy selfe to be the seruaunt of the sheepe, and not theyr Lorde, for I haue not geuen the sheepe for the shepheard, but the shepheard for the sheepe. MarginaliaThe congregation sitteth downe: The pastours bee but seruitorsHe that sitteth downe is greater then he that doth minister and serue vnto hym. Which thinge was well knowen of hym which truely sayde: Wee are your seruauntes for Christes cause.[Back to Top]
But for what purpose haue I geuen thee vnto þe house of Israell? That thou shouldest onely minister the Sacramentes, consecrate wood, stoones, & churchyardes? (this Itake God to witnesse with great sighes and grones I write vnto you, pouring out before you the griefe of my hart. MarginaliaPastours seruauntes to the congregation for Christes cause, and not maisters. No truely. What then? First followeth the office of the byshop. Thou shalt heare the word of God out of my mouth. This is but a short lesson, but suche as all the world cannot comprehende, without they bee inwardly taught of GOD.[Back to Top]
And what els meaneth this, MarginaliaThe true office of pastors, well described out of Ezechiell.Out of my mouth thou shalt heare the word, but that thou shalt be taught of God. Therfore as many as are not taught of God, althoughe they be neuer so well exercised in the Scriptures by manns helpe yet are they not watchmen geuen by God, and muche lesse they which do not vnderstand and know the Scriptures. And therfore such as these be, least they should keep silence and say nothing, are alwayes harping vpon the traditiōs and doctrines of men, that is, lyes: for hee that speaketh of himselfe, speaketh lyes. Of this it is written: Marginalia1. Tim. 1.They would be doctours of the lawe, not vnderstandyng what they speake neyther of whome they speake, Such of necessitie they must all be, who speake that with theyr mouth which they doe not beleue, because they are not inwardly taught of God, neither are perswaded in their harts, that it is true: and therefore they are to be accompted as sheepe, although they boaste themselues to be shepheardes. But contrariwise touchyng the true and learned Pastors geuen by God, it may be truly said: we speake that which we know, and that whiche we haue seene (euen with the infallible eyes of our fayth) we doe witnesse: Marginalia1. Iohn 1. The propertie of true pastors. and these are neyther deceyued, neither do deceiue Moreouer, the deceiuers proceede to worse and worse, erring themselues, and bringing others also to errour, and because they are of the worlde, the worlde doth willingly heare them. Marginalia1. Iohn 4.They are of the worlde (saith S. Iohn) and therefore they speake those thinges whiche are of the worlde, and the world geueth eare vnto them.[Back to Top]
Behold reuerent father, this is the touchstone of oure daily preaching. Hath not the world geuen eare vnto thē now a long tyme with great pleasure and delite? But the flesh could neuer suffer þe preaching of the crosse, nor yet the wisedome of the flesh, which is enemy vnto God, neyther is subiect vnto hys law, nor cannot be. And why then are they accused to be heretickes and Schismatickes, MarginaliaA true note of sincere doctrine.whiche will not seek to please men, but onely to theyr edifying? beyng mindfull of that place of Scripture: MarginaliaEsay. 30. God hath dispearsed the bones of them whiche please men, saying vnto them, speake vnto vs pleasaunt thinges. But nowe letting these matters passe, wee will come vnto the second poynt, wherein you aske how a man should preach better: MarginaliaAn information to preachers, to preach rightly. Forsooth, if wee had heard of him whō the father spake saying: This is my dearly beloued sonne in whome I am well pleased, heare hym. Who also speaking of hymself, said it was meete that Christ should suffer and rise agayne the third daye from death and that in his name repentaunce and remission of sinnes should be preached vnto all people. What other thing is that, thē the same which the other Euangelists do write: MarginaliaMath. 28.Goe ye into the whole world & preach the Gospell vnto euery creature: he that beleueth and is Baptised, shalbe saued. What can be more pleasaunt, sweete, or acceptable vnto afflicted consciences being almost in despayre, then this most ioyfull tidinges?[Back to Top]
But here, whether Christ haue bene a long time heard I know not, for that I haue not heard all the preachers of England, and if I heard them, yet till it was within thys yeare or two, I could not sufficiently iudge of them, But this I dare be bolde to affirme, that as manye as I haue heard of late preach (I speake euē of the most famous) they haue preached suche repentaunce, that if I had heard suche preachers of repentaunce in tymes past, I shoulde vtterly haue bene in despayre. MarginaliaThe preaching after the popes church, is all to beate downe, and not to lyft vp.And to speak of one of these famous men (not vttering hys name)
The famous preacher Bilney mentioned here cannot be identified.