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16 [938]

The vtility of this history.

Christes quarell, were receiued and solennised, and that not without good and reasonable cause. For the church did well consider how much she was beholding to their benefites, by whose deathes she vnderstoode her treasures to encrease. Now then if Martyrs are to be compared with Martyrs, I see no cause why the Martyrs of our time deserue not as great commendation as the other in the primitiue church, which assuredly are inferiour vnto them in no point of praise, whether we looke vpon the nomber of them that suffered, or the greatnes of their tormentes, or their constancy in dieng, or also consider the fruite that they brought to the amendement of mens liues, and the encrease of the gospel. for those did but water the truth with their bloud, that was nowe springinge vppe. And these by their deathes did restore it againe, when it was sore decayed and fallen downe. Those standing in the foreward of the battell, did receiue the first encountre and violence of their enemies, and taught vs by that meanes to ouercome such tiranny. But these as spedely, lyke olde beaten soldiours did winne the field in the rereward of the battaile. Those did, like famous husband men of the world, sow the fieldes of the church, that first lay vnmanured and waste. And these with the fatnes of their bloude did cause it to battell and fructifie. Would to God the fruit might be spedely gathered into the barne, which one thing is yet to come. Again, if we geue so much laud vnto godly preachers (and that for iust consideration) which do diligently preach the gospell of Christ, when they liue notwithstanding by the benefite of time, withoute all feare of persecution: how much more reasonable cause haue we to praise and extoll such men, as stoutlye spende their liues for the defense of the same? All these thinges duly of our partes considered and marked, seinge wee haue found so famous Martyrs in this our age, let vs not faile then in publishing and setting fourth their doinges, least in that point we seme more vnkinde to them, then the writers of the primatiue church were vnto theirs. And though we repute not their ashes, chaines, and swerdes in the stede of reliques: yet let vs yelde thus muche vnto their commemoration, to glorifie the Lord in his Saintes, and imitate their death (as muche as we maye) with like constancy, or their liues at the least with like innocencye. They offered their bodies willinglye to the rough handling of the Tormentours. Is it so great a matter then for our part, to mortifie our flesh, with all the members therof? They neglected not onelye the riches and glorye of the worlde for the loue of Christe, but also their liues. And shall we then keepe so great a stirre one with an other for the vaine and transitorye trifles of this world? They continued in patient suffering, when they had most wrong done vnto them, and when their very hart bloudes did gush out of their bodies. And yet wyll not wee forgeue oure poore brother the smallest wrong that may be, but are ready for euery trifling offense to seke his destruction and cut his throte. They wishing well to all men, did of their own accorde forgeue their Persecutors: and therfore ought we, which after a sort are the posterity and children of Martirs, not to degenerate from their former steppes, but beinge admonished by their examples, if we cannot expresse the same charity toward all men, to imitate it at leaste wayes to our power and strēgth. Let vs geue no cause of offense to any man. And if any be geuen to vs, let vs ouercom it with patience, forgeuing and not reuenging the same. And let vs not onely keepe our handes from shedding of bloud, but our tonges also from hurting the fame of others. Besides, let vs not shrinke or make much a doo, if the case require martirdome, of loße of our lyues, but accordinge to their example let vs yelde vp the same in the defense of the Lords flock. Which thing if mē would do, much lesse contention and busines would be in the worlde then there is. And thus much touching the vtility and fruit to be taken of this history. After these thinges thus premised, now, the Lord Iesus prospering vs with his grace, let vs enter into the matter therof, deducing the cours of the sayd history, from the time of the thousand yeare after Christ, that is from the beginning of these last fyue hundreth yeares, vnto thys present tyme, as by the contentes hereof may appeare.

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