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1183 [1183]

K. Henry. 8. Letters of Tho. Bilney, to Tonstall Byshop of London.

ger of bread, neyther thyrst of water, but of hearing the word of God, and the people shall be moued from sea to sea, and from the West vnto the East, and shall runne about seekyng for the worde of God, but shall not finde it. In those dayes the fayre virgins and younge mē shall peryshe for thyrst. &c. But now to passe ouer many thinges, wherby I am moued to feare, that the worde of God hath not bene purely preached, this is not þe least argument, that they which come and are sent, and endeuor them selues to preach Christ truely, are euill spoken of for hys name, which is the rocke of offence and stombling blocke vnto them which stomble vppon hys worde, and do not beleue on hym, on whom they are builded.

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MarginaliaThys letter may well aunswere the note of Doct. Saunders booke, intituled: The rocke of the church, fo. 14. & nota 5.But you will aske who are those men, and what is their doctrine? Truely I say, whosoeuer entreth in by the doore Christ, into the shepefolde: which thing all such shall doe, as seeke nothyng ells but the glory of God, and saluation of soules. Of all such it may bee truely sayd, that whom the Lord sendeth, he speaketh the worde of God. And why so? Because he representeth the Angell of the church of Philadelphia, vnto whom S. Iohn writeth, saying: MarginaliaApoc. 3.Thys sayth he, which is holy and true, which hath the keyes of Dauid, which openeth and no man shutteth, shutteth and no man openeth. Beholde, sayth he (speaking in the name of Christ, which is the doore & doore keeper) I haue set before thee an open doore, that is to say, of the Scriptures, opening thy senses, þt thou shouldest vnderstand the scriptures, & that, because thou hast entred in by me which am the doore: MarginaliaIohn. 10.For whosoeuer entreth in by me which am the doore, shall bee saued, he shall go in and come out, and finde pasture, for the doore keeper openeth the doore vnto hym, and the sheepe heare hys voyce. MarginaliaWho entreth in by the doore, and who not.But cōtrariwyse, they which haue not entred in by the doore, but haue climed 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 of Ieremie verified: MarginaliaLament. 1.All beautie is gone away from the daughter of Sion, because her Princes are become lyke rammes, not findyng pasture. And why so? Because lyke theeues & robbers, they haue climed vp an other way, not being called nor sent. And what maruaile is it, if they do not preach, when as they are not sent, but runne for lucre, seeking their own glorye, and not the glorye of God, and saluation of soules? And this is the roote of all mischiefe in the church, that they are not sent inwardly of God. MarginaliaOutward calling by kinges and princes in Christes ministrie aueyleth nothing with the inward calling of God.For without thys inward calling, it helpeth nothing before God to bee a hundreth tymes electe and consecrate, by a thousand Bulles, eyther by Pope, king, or Emperour. God beholdeth the hart, whose iudgementes are accordyng to truth, how soeuer we deceaue the iudgement of men for a tyme: which also at the last, shall see their abhomination. 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 do not thirst, nor seeke for, but altogether our own lucre and profite.

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Hereupon it commeth, that we knowe not how to preach Christ purely: For how shoulde they preach Christ (sayth the Apostle) except they be sent? for otherwyse many theeues and robbers do preach hym, but with their lippes onely, for their hart is farre from hym. MarginaliaThe roote of all mischiefe in the church.Neither yet doe we suffer those which doe knowe how to preach, but persecute them, and goe about to oppresse the Scriptures now springing, vnder the pretence of godlines, fearing (as I suppose) least the Romaines should come and take our place. MarginaliaEx Prudētio.
Lay this letter agaynst Doct. Saunders boke aforesaid.
Ah thou wicked enemye Herode, why art thou afrayde that Christ shoulde come? he taketh not awaye mortall and earthly kyngdomes, which geueth heauenly kyngdomes. O blindnes, O our great blindnes, yea more then that of Ægypt? of the which if there be any that would admonishe the people, by and by sayth MarginaliaExod. 5.Pharao: Moyses and Aaron, why doe ye cause the people to cease from theyr labours? and truely called their labours. Get you to your burdens: Lay more worke vpon them, and cause them to do it, that they harken not vnto lyes. MarginaliaThe persecutors of our tyme cōpared to Pharao.Thus the people was dispersed throughout all the land of Ægypt, to gather vp chaffe: I say to gather vp chaffe. Who shall graunt vnto vs that God shall say: I haue looked downe, and beholden the affliction of my people, which is in Ægypt, and haue heard their 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 pertyneth to you, reuerent father, to iudge therupon.

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Now you doe looke that I should shewe vnto you at large (as you write) how that they ought syncerely to preach, to the better edifying hereafter, of your flocke. Here I confesse, I was afraide, that you had spoken in some derision, vntill that I well perceaued, that you had written it with your owne hand. Then agayne, I beganne to doubt for what intent Tonstall shoulde require that of Bilney: an olde souldiour, of a younge beginner: the chiefe Pastor of London, of a poore sillie sheepe. But for what entent so euer you dyd it, I trust it was of a good minde. And albeit that I am weake of bodye, yet through the grace of Christ geuen vnto me, I will attempt thys matter, although it doe farre passe my power: vnder the which burden, if I bee oppressed, yet I will not deceaue you, for that I haue promised nothing, but a prompt and ready will to do that which you haue commaunded.

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As touching that perteyneth to the preaching of the Gospell, I would to God you would geue me leaue priuately to talke with you, that I might speake freely, that which I haue learned in the holy Scriptures, for the consolatiō of my cōscience: which if you will so do, I trust you shall not repent you. All thinges shall be submitted vnto your iudgement: who (except I be vtterly deceaued) will not breake the reede that is brused, and put out the flaxe that is smokyng, MarginaliaEsa. 42.but rather, if I shall bee founde in any errour (as in deede I am a man) you as spirituall, shall restore me through the spirite of gentlenes, considering your selfe, lest that you also bee tempted: For euery Byshop which is taken from among men, is ordayned for men, not violentlye to assault those which are ignoraunt and doe erre, for he hym selfe is compassed in with infirmitie, that he being not voyde of euills, shoulde learne to haue compassion vppon other miserable people. MarginaliaHeb. 5.

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I desire you that you will remember me to morowe, that by your ayde, I may bee brought before the tribunall seate of my Lord Cardinall, before whom I had rather stand, then before any of hys deputies.

¶ Yours Thomas Bilney.

¶ A letter of M. Bilney fruitfull and necessary for all Ministers to read. 
Commentary  *  Close

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 Maister Bilney, to Tonstall Byshop of London.MOst reuerent father, salutations in Christ. You haue required me to write vnto you at large, wherein mē haue not preached as they ought, and how they should haue preached better. This is a burden to heauye for my strength: vnder the which if I shall fainte, it belongeth to you, whiche haue layde this burden vpon my shoulders, to ease me therof. MarginaliaPreachers of the popes church, leauing the worde of God, preach their owne traditionsAs touchyng the first part, they haue not preached as they ought, whiche leauyng the worde of God, haue taught their owne traditions: of the whiche sorte there are not a few, as it is very euident, in that they do reporte those which preach the word of God sincerely, to teache new doctrine. MarginaliaPriestes of the popes church, fewe learned in the Scriptures.This also is no small testimonie therof, that in all England you shall scarse finde one or two that are mightie in the Scriptures, and what meruayle is it if all godly things do seme new vnto them, vnto whom the Gospell is new & straunge, beyng nousled in mens traditiōs now a long time? 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 either haue wrasted 

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

þe Scriptures thē selues, or haue rashly gathered thē out of old rotten papers, beyng wrasted by others. And how should it be but þt they should wraste thē, or els how should they iudge thē being falslye interpreted by others, whē as they haue not once read ouer the Bible orderly? Of this sorte there is truly a very great nōber, frō which nūber many great Rabines or Masters shall hardly excuse them selues, whom the people hetherto haue reuerēced in stead of gods. MarginaliaBalaams Asse is not to be dispised setting forth Gods worde, ergo, much lesse other obiectes.And these are they which now serue their bellyes, sekyng their owne glory, and not the true glory of God, which might be set forth euen by Balaams Asse: much lesse thē ought we to contemne such abiectes whiche preache the woorde of God. We haue (sayth S. Paul) Marginalia1. Cor. 1.this treasure in brickell vesselles, that the glory of the power might be of God and not of vs. God hath chosen the folishe thinges of the world, to confound the wise: and the weake thinges God hath chosen, to cōfound the mighty: and vile thinges of the worlde & dispised, hath he chosen, and thinges that are not, to bryng to nought things that are, that

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