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1030 [1006]

K. Hen. 8. Godly and learned letters of Thomas Bilney to Tonstall Bishop of London.
An other letter or epistle of M. Bilney, to Cuthbert Tonstall B. of London.

MarginaliaAn other letter of M. Bilney.ALbeit I do not remēber, reuerēt father in Christ, whether I haue either spoken or written, that the Gospell hath not bene sincerely preached now of long time, which your Lordshippe seemeth to haue gathered eyther by some Momes and sinister hearers of my Sermons, MarginaliaMalchus hearing of Sermons.who lyke Malchus hauing theyr right eare cut off, onely bring theyr left eare to Sermons, or els by some wordes or writinges of mine, which haue rashly passed me, rather then vppon any euill intent: yet for so much as in this behalfe, your reuerence doth commaund me, and that of a good minde. I trust (for how can I thinke in Tonstal any craft or doublenes to dwell:) I will briefly declare vnto you, what I haue learned of God through Christ, in the Scriptures, & howe that the Doctors euen of great name & renowme, haue not taught the same of late in theyr sermōs, referring or rather submitting all things vnto your fatherly iudgemēt, which is more quicke and sharpe, then it can by any meanes be blinded, and so sincere, that it will not in any point seek slaunder or discord. MarginaliaNotes and differences betwene the true and false church. Therfore I do confesse that I haue oftē ben afraid, that Christ hath not bene purely preached now a long time. For who hath bene now a long season offēded through him? Who hath now this many yeares suffered any persecution for the Gospels sake? Where is the swoord which he came to send vpon the earth? And finally where are the rest of the sincere and vncorrupt fruites of the Gospell? which, because we haue not a long time seene, is it not to be feared that the tree which bringeth forth those fruites hath now a long time bene wanting in our region or coūtrey? much lesse is it to be beleued, that it hath bene nourished amongest vs. 

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In this section, Foxe used Bilney as his point of reference against the papal supremacy to answer Nicholas Sander, The rocke of the Churche wherein the primacy of S. Peter and of his successours the Bishops of Rome is proued out of Gods worde (Louvain: John Fowler, 1567, STC 21692). Sander had the audacity to dedicate his book to Archbishop Matthew Parker, and he attacked Thomas Cranmer's memory from the perspective of one who was in Oxford at the time of the archbishop's incarceration and burning there: 'And a little before his death, for a few hours of temporall life' Cranmer `sold his poore faith twise a day.' (sig. ****5r). The rocke of the Churche was one of several works that Sander wrote to attack Bishop John Jewel of Salisbury, following the `challenge sermons' that Jewel delivered at Paul's Cross and at Queen Elizabeth I's court starting in 1559. John Day inaugurated Jewel's controversy into print in 1560 when he issued The Trve Copies of the letters between the reuerend father in God Iohn Bisshop of Sarum and D. Cole, vpon occasion of a Sermon that the said Bishop preached before the Quenes Maiestie, and hir moste honorable Counsel. 1560 (STC 14613), fols. 4B-5A. Jewel invited English theologians to consider doctrinal matters that were crucial to the Reformation, and important again following Elizabeth's accession. He asked whether it could be established in ancient times that scripture, the early Councils or the writings of the ancient Fathers of the Church had taught that the Bishop of Rome was the head of the universal Church; whether the Bible might be read by the laity, and if in the sacrament after the words of Consecration whether the substance of bread and wine 'departeth awaye'. The resulting hard-hitting controversies involved not only Sander, but also Henry Cole and Thomas Harding.

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Haue we not sene all thinges quiet and peaceable a long time? But what sayth the church? MarginaliaEsay 38.My grief most bitter, is turned to peace. &c. But the malignant church sayth: MarginaliaIere. 6. 8.Peace, peace, and there is no peace: but onely that wherof it is written: MarginaliaLuke 11.When the mighty armed man kepeth his gates, he possesseth all thinges in quiet. But when he seeth, that he shal be vanquished of a stronger then he him selfe is, he spoyleth and destroyeth all thinges. What now a dayes beginneth agayne to be attempted? I dare not say. God graunt vs grace that we doe not refuse and reiect (if it bee Christ) him that commeth vnto vs, least that we doe feele that terrible iudgement agaynst vs: Marginalia2. Thess. 2.because (sayth he) they haue not receiued the loue of trueth, that they might be saued: therefore God will send vpon them the blindnesse of errour, that they shall geue credite vnto lyes: O terrible sentence (whiche God knoweth whether a great number haue not alreadye incurred) that all they might bee iudged which haue not geuen credite vnto the trueth, but consented vnto iniquity. The tyme shall come (sayth he) when that they will not suffer the true doctrine to be preached. MarginaliaNotes and argumentes prouing, that it is not the true word of God, which hath bene preached in the Popes Church.And what shall we thē say of that learning, which hath now so lōg time raigned and triumphed, so that no man hath once opened his mouth agaynst it? Shall we think it sound doctrine? Truely iniquity did neuer more abound, nor charity was neuer so cold. And what should we say to be the cause therof? hath the cause bene for lacke of preaching agaynst the vices of men, and exhorting to charity? That cannot be, for many learned and greate Clearkes sufficiently can witnesse to the contrary. And yet all these notwithstanding, we see the life and maners of mē do greatly degenerate from true Christianity, and seme to cry out in deede, that it is fulfilled in vs, which God in times past threatned by his Prophet Amos, saying: MarginaliaAmos. 8.Beholde, the day shall come (sayth the Lord) that I will send hunger vpon the earth, not hunger of bread, neither thirst of water, but of hearing the word of God, and the people shall be moued from sea to sea, and from the West vnto East, and shall runne about seekinge for the word of God, but shall not finde it. In those dayes the fayre Virgines and young men shall perish for thirst. &c. But now to passe ouer many thinges, whereby I am mooued to feare, that the word of God hath not bene purely preached, thys is not the leaste argument, that they whiche come and are sent, and endeuour themselues to preach Christ truely, are euyll spoken of for his name, MarginaliaThis letter may well answere to the note of D. Saunders booke, intituled: The rocke of the Church. fol. 14. & nota. 5.which is the rocke of offence, and stumbling blocke vnto them which stumble vpon hys woorde, and doe not beleue on hym, on whome they are builded.

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But you will aske who are those men, & what is theyr doctrine? Truely I say, whosoeuer entreth in by the doore Christ, into the sheepfolde: which thing all such shall do as seeke nothing els but the glory of God, and saluation of soules. Of all such it may be truely said, that whom þe Lord sendeth, he speaketh the woord of God. And why so? Because he representeth the Aungel of the church of Philadelphia, vnto whom Saynt Iohn writeth, saying: MarginaliaApoc. 3.This sayth he, which is holy and true, which hath the keyes of Dauid, whicheopeneth and no man shutteth, shutteth and no man openeth. Behold, saith he speaking in the name of Christ (which is the dore and dorekeper) I haue set before thee an open dore, that is to say, of the Scriptures opening thy senses, that thou shouldest vnderstand the Scriptures, and that, because thou hast entred in by me which am the dore: MarginaliaIohn 80.For whosoeuer, entreth in by me which am the dore shalbe saued, he shall goe in and come out and find pasture, for the dorekeeper openeth the dore vnto him, and the sheepe heare his voyce. MarginaliaWho entreth in by the doore, & who not.But contrariwise, they whiche haue not entred in by the doore, but haue clymed in some other way, by ambition, auarice or desire of rule, they shall, euen in a moment goe downe into hell, except they repent. And of them is the saying if Ieremy verefied: MarginaliaLament. 1.All beautye is gone away from the daughter of Syon, because her princes are become lyke rammes, not finding pasture And why so? Because like theeues & robbers they haue clymed an other way, not being called nor sent. And what maruaile is it, if they doe not preach, when as they are not sent, but runne for lucre, seeking theyr owne glory, and not the glory of God and saluation of soules? And this is þe roote of all mischeife in the Church, that they are not sent inwardly of God. MarginaliaOutward callyng by kynges and princes in Christes ministry auayleth nothing without the inward calling of God.For without this inward calling, it helpeth nothing before God to be a hundreth times electe and consecrate, by a thousande Bulles, eyther by Pope, King, or Emperour. God beholdeth the harte, whose iudgementes are according to truth, howsoeuer we deceyue the iudgement of men for a tyme: which also at the last, shall see theyr abhomination. MarginaliaThe roote of all mischiefe in the Church. Ex Prudenio.This (I say) is the originall of all mischiefe in the Church, that we thrust in our selues into the charge of soules, whose saluation and the glory of God (which is to enter in by the doore) we doe not thirst nor seeke for, but altogether our owne lucre & profit.

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Hereupon it commeth, that wee knowe not howe to preach Christ purely: For how should they preach Christ (saith the Apostle) except they be sent? for otherwise many theeues and robbers do preach him, but with theyr lippes onely, for theyr hart is farre from him. Neither yet do we suffer those which do know how to preach, but persecute them, and go about to oppresse the Scriptures now springing, vnder the pretence of godlinesse, fearing (as I suppose) least the Romaines should come & take our place. Ah thou wicked enemy Herode, why art thou afrayd that Christe shoulde come? he taketh not away mortall and earthly kingdomes, which geueth heauenly kingdomes. MarginaliaLay thys letter against Doct. Saunders booke aforesayd.O blindnesse, O our great blind nesse, yea more then that of Egypt? of the which if there be any that would admonish the people, by and by sayth Pharao: MarginaliaExod. 5.Moyses and Aaron, why do ye cause the people to cease from theyr labours? and truely called theyr labours. Get you to your burdens: Lay more worke vpon them, and cause them to do it, that they harken not vnto lyes. MarginaliaThe persecuters of our time compared to Pharao.Thus the people was dispersed throughout all þe land of Egypt, to gather vp chaffe: I say to gather vp chaffe. Who shall graunt vnto vs the God shall say: I haue looked downe, and beholden the affliction of my people, which is in Ægypt, and haue heard theyr sighes, and am come downe to deliuer them. But whether hath thys zeale caryed me? whether after knowledge or not, I dare not say: it perteyneth to you, reuerent father, to iudge thervpon.

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Now you do looke þt I should shewe vnto you at large (as you write) how that they ought sincerely to preach, to the better edefying hereafter, of your flocke. Here I cōfesse I was afraide, that you had spokē in some derision, vntill that I well perceiued, that you had written it with your owne hand. Then agayne, I beganne to doubte for what intent Tonstall should require that of Bilney: an old soldiour, of a young beginner: the cheife Pastor of London, of a poore silly sheepe. But for what intente so euer you did it, I trust it was of a good minde. And albeit that I am weake of bodie, yet through the grace of Christ geuen vnto me, I will attempt this matter, although it doe farre passe my power: vnder the which burden, if I be oppressed, yet I will not deceiue you, for that I haue promised nothing, but a prompte and readye will to do that which you haue commaunded.

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As touching that pertayneth to þe preaching of the Gospell, I would to God you would geue me leaue priuately to talke wt you, that I mighte speake freely, that which I haue learned in the holy Scriptures for the consolation of my consciēce: which if you will so do, I trust you shall not repent you. All things shalbe submitted vnto your iudgement: who (except I be vtterly deceaued) will not breake the reede that is bruised, and put out the flaxe that is smoking, MarginaliaEsay 42. but rather, if I shalbe found in any error (as in deed I am a man) you as spirituall, shal restore me thoroughly þe spirite of gentlenesse, considering your selfe, least that you also be tempted: MarginaliaHebr. 5.For euery Byshop which is taken from among men, is ordayned for menne, not violentlye to assaulte those

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