"Flee Outward Idolatry", A Sermon of Master John Calvin that has long been hidden in silence, translated by Bishop Robert Horne.
July 1, 2018
A godly and learned sermon, made by Master John Calvin, wherein all Christians are admonished, to flee outward Idolatry. Taken out, of the fourth verse, of the sixteen Psalm.
I will not communicate with their bloody sacrifices, neither will I take their names, in my mouth.Psalm 16:4
The doctrine, which we shall entreat in this place, is plain enough and easy, saving that the greatest part of those, that profess themselves to be Christians, do seek out and bring, I cannot tell what subtleties, with which to cloak their evil. But the sum of this whole doctrine is, that after we know the living God to be our father, and Jesus Christ our redeemer, we ought to consecrate, both body and soul unto him, who of his infinite goodness has taken us into the number of his sons: and to acknowledge with all kind of benevolence, honour, and obedience, the same benefit which our most dear Saviour, did vouchsafe to bestow on us, after he had bought it with so great a price. And because we are bound, not only to renounce all infidelity, but also to separate ourselves from all superstitions, which do as well disagree with the true service of God, as the honour of his Son, and which can by no means agree, with the pure doctrine of the Gospel, and true confession of the faith: I said this doctrine of itself to be so easy, that only the practise and exercise thereof, ought to remain unto us, saving that many men do seek certain deceitful shifts, through which they will not be overcome in that thing, the which is most chiefly condemned, by God’s own mouth.
This cause constrains us at this time, to tarry longer in the declaration of this matter, that every man may know, his own duty, and deceive not himself, thinking that he is escaped, when he is covered, as the common saying is, under a wet sack. But for that there be many of this opinion, whose churches are thoroughly purged from the filthiness, and idolatries of Papism, that this argument or treatise, is but superfluous, before we pass any further, it is not unprofitable to declare such men, most foully to be deceived. First, when it is declared, how great an offence it is, for us to be polluted and defiled with the idolaters, feigning ourselves to cleave and consent to their impieties, we are admonished to mourn for our former sins, and to ask of God forgiveness of them, with all humbleness, and in this thing to acknowledge, the singular benefit which he gave unto us, drawing us forth of that same filth, wherein we were holden down and drowned. For we truly are not able to set forth, this so great a benefit worthy enough. And for that we know not, what shall happen unto us, and to what end God does reserve us, it is very expedient to be prepared and armed in time, that into what state soever we shall come, or with whatsoever temptations we may be oppugned, we never swerve from the pure word of God.
First, it may be, that many of this our Church and congregation, shall travail into some Papistical country, who ought greatly now to be in a readiness, and armed to battle. Then albeit God does give us at this time liberty, to serve him purely and goodly: yet we know not how long this benefit shall continue. Let us therefore take this time of our quietness and tranquility, not as though it shall always last, but as it were a time of truce? wherein God does give us leisure to strengthen ourselves, least when we shall be called, to utter the confession of our faith, we be found new, & unprepared, because we contened the meditation of that matter in due time. Neither truly ought we to forget in the mean while our brethren, which are kept under the tyranny of Antichrist, oppressed with most miserable bondage, but to take care, remembrance, and pity over them, and so pray God to strengthen them with that constancy, which he requires in his word. We must also admonish and solicit them by all ways, not to rest in places, where men are fast asleep in their voluptuousness, but to apply diligently that they confess the glory due unto God. For we are not taught of God, only for ourselves, but that every man, after the measure of his faith, should brotherly communicate, with his neighbours, and distribute unto them, that thing he has learned, and known in God’s school.
Now, see we then that it is profitable, yea truly necessary so well to ourselves, as to our brethren, that the remembrance of this doctrine, should be renewed very oft, especially seeing the text itself, which we shall expound, does lead us to the same purpose. David does openly protest, and as it were does make a solemn vow, that he will never be partaker, in the sacrifices of idolaters, and also that he will so detest, and grievously hate the idols, that he will not at any time once name them, as though, he should defile his mouth in naming them. This is not the fact of some one mean man, but the example of David, the most excellent King and Prophet, which ought to be unto all God’s children, a certain common rule to a right and godly life. And to the extent, we may better perceive this thing, and more vehemently be moved, with the true fear of God, the cause is to be noted which he adds, wherein truly rests, as it were a certain foundation, of that same alienation and offence, whereby he does most greatly abhor the communion of idolaters. The Lord (saith he) is mine inheritance. But is not this thing common to all faithful, and godly men? There is no man truly, which would not glory in so excellent a thing. And this is sure without all doubt, that God being once given unto us, in the person of his Son, does daily entice us to possess him. But there be very few, which are so affected in this part, as the greatness, and worthiness of this same matter, should seem to ask and deserve. Neither truly can we by any means possess God, unless on this condition, that we also become his. David therefore of good right, and worthily did set forth the foundation of his godliness, and religion in this sentence and reason, seeing that God is his inheritance, he will refrain from all pollutions of idols, which do turn us from God himself.
This is the cause why the Prophet Isaiah, when he had upbraided the Jews, that they had given themselves to false and strange gods, who they had made, added afterward: these, saith he, are thy portion, signifying by these words: that God does deny to the worshippers of idols, all bond and fellowship of covenant, and disinherits them, and utterly deprives them, of that so infinitely great benefit, which he would have bestowed on them, giving himself unto them. So man will except and say, that the Prophet entreats in that place only of them which put their confidence in idols, and deceives themselves through opinion and incredulity.
I grant, but this also I answer, if they that do transfer God’s honour unto idols, are utterly separated and cut off from his fellowship, they also do err and decline somewhat from him, which do feign themselves to consent to superstitions, through fear and weakness of mind. For no man can in heart, or any conformable fashion, or in will, and in purpose of mind, or feigning, or by any true or feigned way, approach to idols, but he must so far go back from God. Wherefore, let this sentence be thoroughly persuaded, and remain deeply printed in our hearts, that they which seek God with a true and pure mind, to the end, to possess him for their inheritance, will have no communion and fellowship with idols, with whom God has that divorce and debate, that he would have all his to proclaim and make continual and deadly war upon them. And in this place David by name does express, That he will never be partaker of their oblations, neither have their names in his mouth and talking. He might have said on this wise, I will not deceive myself with the unwise, and foolish devotions of the unbelievers, I will not put my trust in such abuses, nor I will never forsake God’s truth, to follow these lies, but he speaks not on this manner, but does rather promise constantly, that he will never be conversant among their ceremonies. Therefore he does testify, that so far forth as concerns the service of God, he will abide continually, in all purity and holiness, both of body and soul.
And first in this place we must consider, whether this be not idolatry, to signify and declare by outward tokens, our agreement, with those superstitions, wherewith the service of God is corrupted, and utterly perverted. They that swim (as the common saying is) betwixt two waters, allege this saying, seeing that God would be honoured in spirit, idols can by no ways be honoured, unless a man put his trust in them. But to this may be easily answered, that God does not so require the spiritual service, and adoration of the mind, that he grants and remits the other part of our nature unto idols, as though that part should seem nothing at all, to belong unto him. For it is said in many places, that the knees must be bowed before God, and also the hands lifted up to heaven.
What then? Surely, the chief honour that God requires is spiritual, but the outward signification, whereby the faithful do testify, that it is God only whom they serve and honour, must so immediately follow, that they must at one time be joined together. But one place shall so suffice for all, to confute that objection which they snatch of one word, that they shall be plainly rebuked and convicted.
In the third chapter of Daniel it is written, that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused and denied under any manner of colour, to consent unto the superstition, set up and erected by Nebuchadnezzar, declaring that they would in no wise honour his gods. If these goodly witty Sophisters, had been there at that time, they would have laugh to scorn the simplicity of these three servants of God. For I suppose, they would have taunted them with such like words, you foolish men, this truly is not to honour them, seeing you put no confidence in these things. There is no idolatry, but where there is devotion, that is to say, a certain bending, and application of the mind, to honour and worship the idols. But these godly men, did follow a better and wiser counsel: for this answer which they made, proceeded not of their own wit, but rather of the Holy Ghost, which moved them thus to speak, whom if we will not resist, we must accept this place, and this example, as a certain rule and definition, that idolatry is an outward action against God’s honour, yea, although it proceed not from the will and purpose of the mind, but be only colourable and feigned. In which matter they make goodly cavils that there is no idolatry at all: when as our confidence is not put in idols. Yet shall these men continually remain condemned, by the sentence which the mightiest judge has pronounced. But these men do contend only for that name, only going about somewhat to lessen their fault, which they can by no means defend nor excuse. Yea, they will grant that this thing is evil done, and not rightly: yet notwithstanding, they would have this fact to be judged as a certain venial sin.
But although we grant them, as touching the name, that thing they ask, yet they shall not get so much thereby, that they may make their cause much the better. Let us say thus, that such manner of feigned worshipping of idols, is not called idolatry: yet nevertheless, it shall be a traitorous enterprise against God, a certain fact repugnant to the confession of faith, and a foul filthy pollution, most full of wicked sacrilege. I pray you, when the most sacred service, and honour of God is so violated, that we falsely break that promise we made to him, that through cowardice and faintness of stomach, we deny crookedly and falsely our Christian profession, that we become inconstant and double, that we defile ourselves foul with those things, which God has cursed with all kind of malediction. Is this so light a matter, that after we have done it, we ought only to wipe our mouth, and confess that we have committed a certain small fault? Let us therefore put away these shifts, specially, seeing they serve for no other thing, but to make us bolder, and to give us greater liberty to sin, and does nothing at all to diminish our fault?
There be also other more impudent, which do not only, changing the name, go about to persuade that it is not so great and unworthy a sin: but do plainly and precisely deny it to be sin. It is sufficient (say they) that God be honoured with heart and mind. Even so truly, if the heart itself were not double. For when the mind is truly sound and pure, the body shall never be drawn into a contrary part. I would know of them what that is, that moves and leads their feet to the Temple. For when they go to hear Mass, their legs will never be stirred of their own motion, but must needs be moved by the inward power of the mind. Then must they needs confess, that there is in themselves a certain desire and motion of the mind, whereof they be carried to worship the idols, and chiefly, because they covet to apply themselves after their will and opinion, which are enemies to the truth, yea, and do so conform themselves to please them, that they do much more esteem their favour, and their own life, than God’s honour and glory. Besides this, their impudence is so manifest and shameful, that I am ashamed to dispute against it, as though it had some colour or likeness of reason, yet I must needs do it, seeing they do please themselves so greatly, and are, as it were men drunken in their own opinions and pleasures, fallen fast asleep.
They think this is enough to worship God in spirit, whose then shall the body be? Truly, St. Paul, moves us to honour God, both in body and spirit, for they be his own, and belongeth to none other. 1. Cor. 6. 19. 20. God has created the body, and shall it be lawful for us, therewith to serve and honour the devil, as though he should seem to be the author and maker thereof? It were better, they would profess themselves openly to be Manichaeans, and deny that God made the whole man. If they had never so little taste of the Gospel, they would not burst out into so licentious impudence. But now it is plain enough, that they in nowise know, what is the power and greatness of this benefit, to be redeemed with the blood of God’s son. And to prove this true, how can we look for the resurrection of the flesh, except we believe that Christ Jesus is the redeemer, both of bodies and souls? St. Paul also does admonish us, not to be the servant of men, because we were bought and purchased with so great a price, which is the blood of God’s son.
Then he that does join and addict himself to the wicked service of idols, does he not tread under his feet, the most sacred blood of Jesus Christ, wherein does consist the price of the eternal and immortal glory, which we look for in our bodies? What reason is it, that our bodies should be defiled and profaned before idols, seeing the crown of eternal life is promised unto them in heaven? This wallowing in Satan’s stews, and most filthy defiling, is it a mean way, whereby we may come to the kingdom of God? Moreover, it was not said without a great cause, our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost, therefore they which perceive not, that they ought to be kept in all holiness, do plainly show themselves, to perceive and understand nothing at all of the Gospel.
Also, they declare that they know no whit at all, what is the power of Jesus Christ, and of his grace. For when it is said on this wise, that we are bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh: We ought to understand, that we be joined with him, both in body and soul. Therefore, no man can defile his own body, with any manner of superstition, but he does separate himself, from that conjunction and union, whereby we are made the members of the Son of God. But now let these witty and subtile doctors, answer me, whether they have received baptism only in their souls, or whether God has commanded rather, and instituted, that this sign should be imprinted in our flesh. Shall the body then wherein the mark of Jesus Christ is printed, be polluted and defiled with so contrary, repugnant, and so wicked abominations? Also, the Lord’s Supper, is it received in the mind only, and not also in the hands and mouth? Has God engraven in our bodies, the arms and badges of his son, that we afterward should pollute ourselves with all uncleanness, with most foul spots and shame, and so unseemly deform ourselves, that no kind nor likeness of Christian beauty should appear?
It is not lawful, in coining one piece of gold, to print two contrary coins, neither to set two seals, the one repugnant to the other, unto one writing: and shall a mortal man take upon him, to counterfeit and corrupt Baptism, and the most holy Supper of Jesus Christ, and also be bold to say, that there is no evil in so great and mischievous a fact? Such men truly are worthy, that their servants should persuade, and make them believe, they have a great pleasure to do them service, when notwithstanding, they give themselves to sleep, pleasures and all idleness, and do not move one finger to do any work at all. If they say it is not a like reason, because we have need of their labour that be under us: I answer, although God have no need of us, yet for that he will use our labour, service, and obedience, to serve and honour him, truly, it is too much unseemly, and for us the greatest shame and infamy, to do all things otherwise then he will, and clean to be void of the study and duty, which we owe unto him, yea, our shame is so much the greater, that the worm of the earth, and an unliving creature, shall require more power over us, and honour than his Creator.
But yet we must talk with these beasts more plainly. They say it is lawful for them, to feign and cloak whatsoever they will among the Papists, and to conform themselves to that manner and fashion of religion, which is thought most apt to nourish superstition. Who is he then that gives them bread, to be fed therewithal? Who does make the ground fertile, to bring forth fruit? If God do feed and nourish them, in those places where they dwell, as he does all other men in the other parts of the earth: why do they not honour the giver of the benefit, with that part of themselves, which is so bountifully nourished of him? Why do they rather obey, and serve the devil with their bodies? If these men were in any part Christians, I would use with them more weighty and higher reasons: and I would ask of them, to what end we live in this world, and whereunto our life ought to be referred. But oh miserable case, that they which with subtleties and shifts, will dally with God, are so brutish, that they must be handled, as men not only destitute of God’s spirit, but in a manner void of natural common sense. They think this is a sufficient excuse, to say, they do nothing in this kind, but for fear of peril and danger, but if this colour may take place, then must we say, that Joseph should have done none evil, if he had committed whoredome with his mistress, when it was violently offered him, seeing he should not have followed his own will, but have given place to necessity and violence, which she did unto him. It should have been a foolish fact of him, to enter such peril and infamy, as afterward he suffered, by the false accusation of that naughty woman, seeing he might have escaped those evils, if he had accomplished her will. But we ought rather to follow the example of Joseph, and allow the testimony of the Holy Ghost, who does commend his constancy.
If there be no wickedness, in taking upon us idolatrous religion, when we do it to avoid the raging cruelty of the Papists: the servant shall not sin, who for his Master’s pleasure, shall play the bawd, kill, and play the traitor, for fear to displease him, under whose power he is. But I abide too long in this matter, wherein (as I said before) there is no doubt or difficult. It shall not be far from the purpose, to consider into how great confusion they fall, which travail with all their crafts, to escape God’s judgement. Others there be, that have found an other shift and starting hole: they grant, that the superstition of the Gentiles, is a wicked and detestable religion, but it is not all one reason of these, and the superstitions which are in Papism. As though all the false religion that ever was among the heathen, was not a corrupting and depravation of the true religion of God. From whence did the heathen draw, and take to themselves their ceremonies, but of the holy fathers? In which doing this was their great fault, that they depraved and utterly perverted, those things which they had received, well and wisely instituted of God. But yet all the abominations that ever were in the world, have been cloaked with a beautiful title of God himself, and the culture of his religion. But those counterfeit religions, had never that commendation, power and authority, that God did any time approve those service and congregations, or that faithful men did use and frequent them. Go to, let us proceed further. Although I should grant the idolatry of the Papists to be unlike, and differ from the superstition of the old Gentiles, yet can they not deny, but God so earnestly did forbid the religion, wickedly set up in Bethel, as all other superstitions which were instituted and celebrated in other places. When the calves were erected in Dan and Bethel, this was instituted and done under a certain colour of his name, which had brought his people out of Egypt, and yet the same religion which was there appointed, is manifestly against the doctrine of the law. God does condemn all those that goes thither, to defile and pollute themselves.
And truly, the Supper of Jesus Christ and the popish Mass, are no less repugnant and contrary, the one to the other, than the sacrifices of Moses and Jeroboam. From whence then is this dispensation and license, to go and hear Mass under this colour, that the Supper of Jesus Christ is but transformed, yea, rather indeed deformed? But I say and affirm contrariwise, that all they that do fear God truly, and honour him godly, ought so much the more to hate and detest it, for that it does more openly violate and profane the holy institution of Jesus Christ, than if it were not so repugnant and contrary unto the same. Wherefore, let us keep this common rule generally, that all the ordinance and inventions of men, propound and taken in hand, to corrupt the simple truth of God’s word, and to pervert that religion which he requires and allows, are very sacrileges, with which the Christian man, may in nowise communicate, without that injury and contumely, which treads under feet God’s honour most wickedly.
I know well enough, how grievous and intolerable, this severe judgement seems to them, which would after their own lust and delicate mind, be more nicely and meekly spoken too and taught. Wherein, what would they I should do? What moderation and lenity should I use? Truly, now I perceive how tender and dainty they are, I covet so much as may be to spare them, but both I and they must be condemned so soon as God has spoken: therefore if we will tender our own salvation, let us take it in good part.
They say, they find no man more severe and sharpe than I am, but I will declare unto them, on the other part, that I handle them more meekly and tenderly, than the truth of the cause, the worthiness of God’s name, and their salvation, did require. Which thing being so indeed, truly they cannot excuse and deliver themselves, from the necessity of that duty and testimony, that the Prophet Jeremy does require of the Jews, captives in Babylon, whom he not only forbids to come near the abominations of the Chaldeans, or colorably or feignedly, to give any consent to them: but also does give a plain commandment, that they should declare the wicked religion of the Chaldeans, to be unto them a most filthy savour. You shall say to them, (says the Prophet Jeremy) the gods which have not made heaven and earth, shall perish both out from the earth, and also from under heaven. There is also in this place another circumstance to be marked, that when the Prophet had written his book in Hebrew, yet he put in this sentence, expressed in the common vulgar speech of the Chaldeans, as though he would by this means, constrain the Jews, to change from their tongue, to the end they might more publicly profess, the hatred and disagreement they have with the wicked idolators.
Now let our nice younglings complain of me, as though my advertisement exceeds all measure, and yet I have not at any time desired the half part of that duty, which the Prophet requires and asks so earnestly. But whatsoever be the manner, either of my saying or moderation, or else of my silence and taciturnity, nevertheless, we are tied and bound to that law, which God does give unto us. And truly, it is not without a cause, that God speaking to his faithful, says to them, You are my witnesses, and my servants whom I have chosen. Wherefore, whosoever will prove himself to be a member of Jesus Christ, ought by all means to declare, that the praise and honour of God’s name, does so appertain to him, that they which by their feigning, do hide and bury the testimony of his truth, do leave themselves inexcusable.
What I pray you is to be thought, of them that do all their lifetime subvert the same? Of what sort are they, that do not only hide the profession of the Christian religion, and shows no token thereof before men, but also commits many things, and those most contrary and unseemly. This therefore rests, that God’s children which live, where these impurities and abominations remain, do mourn after the example of the godly man Lot, and also speak so freely, against so many and so great abominable vices of men, as God shall give to them power and opportunity.
Let us now come to show certain kinds of idolatries, which are of most estimation in these days. Among which sort, the Mass is chief, whereof I have taught something before. For although it be so famous and notable blasphemy, both in absurdity and greatness of mischief, that nothing can be imagined more foul and wicked, yet still be there patrons found for an evil cause, which do trifle forth in this part. But will they, nill they, they shall be compelled to confess this that I say, that the Mass by itself, is a denial of Jesus Christ’s death, and a certain sacrilege invented and ordained by Satan, to abolish the Sacrament of the Supper. Neither are they able to deny, but that their invocation of Saints, and suffrages for the dead, are wicked abuses, whereby the invocation of God’s name, a thing of all other most holy is profaned. And they, who among the Papists, do defile themselves with these abominations, do think themselves guilty of no fault. What should we do, say they? It is not lawful for us to correct and amend those things, which we know evil and faulty, we are private men, and they that have the power and public authority, do earnestly defend these things. Therefore we must suffer that violent necessity. I grant all this to be true. But I say this is not to the purpose. It belongs not to their office, to correct and appoint a common order for the people, neither does any man require this at their hand, yet nevertheless, they are admonished to amend themselves, and to institute an honest and mannerly behaviour of private life, which thing without all doubt pertains to their duty.
Neither do we command them, to cleanse the temples and the common streets, but that every man keep, his own body and heart in purity and holiness, and labour by all means that God may be honoured, served, and obeyed, in his own house. For these are far unlike, and much dissonant, to abolish the Mass in any region, and not to be present at it, when as the use thereof, and that religion can by no other means be letted. But they repeat and iterate their saying, that is, that they do not deny the death and passion of Jesus Christ, seeing, they have no such purpose, to worship it in their mind. But I do ask of them, what is that a Christian man does confess with his mouth, but that same that he believes in his heart? This is plain and manifest enough, that this thing which they do, is most disagreeing with the confession of faith. So that, as much as in them lies, they do not only hide the true and proper testimony of faith, but also do utterly deny and forsake it. I will yet talk with them something, more familiarly and plainly. For the Papists do say, the Mass is a sacrifice, wherein they will offer Jesus Christ, to reconcile themselves to God. But if this be so, it follows, that Jesus Christ has not obtained unto us, by his death, righteousness, and eternal salvation. Let them seek all the compasses and shifts they will, yet must they come hereunto, that all which go to Mass, under the name of devotion and religion, do profess that they consent therewith. Therefore as much truly as in them lies, they show that they have not their redemption perfect enough, by the death of Jesus Christ.
There be many that speak not so largely, neither suffer their talk to wander throughout all sorts of Masses, that is to say, sacrileges. They choose out one kind of Mass only, and that they defend: it is called the parish Mass, or the high Mass, for in this they think, there is more likeness and agreeing with the Supper of Jesus Christ. And truly it might be said not unaptly, that all Masses, which are said both of the Priests of the lowest degree, and also of the Canons, or of those Priests that have certain Chapels, and all other which are founded by any man’s will, or that are so saleable, that they be set forth daily to sale: that all these I say, are not unlike to harlots, which in the stewes setting themselves to sale without all shame and honesty, do make their bodies common to all men: but the high Mass to be very like the same harlot, which does craftily abuse the honest name of an husband, to hide her unshamefastness, and to retain and defend the estimation of an honest and chaste wife. Although this similitude does not a∣agree on every part, because that an harlot joined in matrimony to an husband, will have some shamefastness and modesty, that she will not set forth and make herself common to all that comes: but the parish or high Mass, is an whorish idolatry, of all other most common, ready and set forth to all mens desires and wicked lusts: al∣though these filthy bawds, do colour and smooth here with this colour and such beauty, that they retain still some relics of Jesus Christ’s Supper. It is with these as with the thief, who brags and boasts himself than more highly and gloriously, when he has won, and is clothed with the spoils of him, whom he has slain, and whose horse he rides on.
We (say they) seek the Supper of Jesus Christ, and when we cannot, being oppressed under that tyranny, wherein we dwell, have the same pure, we must be content with that which is left to us, looking for the helping hand of God. Forsooth a goodly and pretty excuse. Because they have no right and perfect use, of the Supper, as though they had gotten a proviso: they witness and openly profess, that they have not Jesus Christ, the eternal and only Priest, and therefore every week do seek a new sacrifice, to put away their sins. For all this is in the high Mass, as well in that which is said in the name of Nicholas, or for the dead. In which thing they feign themselves to worship an idol, and yet do boast that they seek Jesus Christ: and because they would not seem to fight against God, without sword or buckler, they bring and object the authority of this or that man, as though the absolution of any one man, may exempt and deliver them, that they be not condemned of God. I will not say, that they lie egregiously, when they allege such men as they do, for the defence of their cause. But in case it were so, that a devoted and godly man, were sometime of this mind, that he thought it was nothing evil to come to the high Mass, yet afterward when he knows the truth, if he does disallow and condemn his former judgment, his later is so much the more to be believed, for that God has brought him, or rather compelled him to disallow the same: and because he perceives, and plainly knows, that he is overcome in that thing which he before did greatly embrace and allow.
But what need we herein to stir the truth, as if we should trouble a water that is pure and clear. Do they think that with the judgement and saying of a mortal man, they may stop God and hedge him in? We know that there is nothing besides the truth, that in judgement ought to prevail, without the respect of any person. This matter is such, that the parish or high Mass, is instituted to sacrifice Jesus Christ, and to reconcile the favour of God, both for quick and dead, and also that a piece of bread should be there worshipped, as though it were the Son of God. I do not examine thoroughly, all the abominations and wickedness, that are in that Mass for they be almost innumerable. But I rehearse only the worse and grosser. Now let them that do but feign a consent with such wickedness and corruptions, wash their hands so clean as they will, yet shall they never be more just and innocent then Pilate. But this is a marvel, that these good and religious parishioners at Easter time, do seek, some by Chapel, or some mockchristian Monk, which may prepare and deliver unto them the apish and counterfeit Supper. If the high Mass is most nearest the Supper of Jesus Christ, as they say it is, why do they not observe and keep it? But now after that they have been at the high Mass, every Sunday through the year, because they would seem to communicate in the Sacrament of the Supper a right, they soddenly shake off and forsake the high Mass. But we should not marvel at such inconstancy, for this is a sure and due punishment, for them which have laid no foundation at any time of truth in their minds, that they should always waver, and be contrary to themselves, in all things that they do, and take in hand.
As touching that same hypocritical Supper, I know that they be of this mind, that they suppose it to be the greatest injury to themselves that may be, when it is rebuked and improved. But what can we do in that matter, seeing it is nothing agreeable to Christ’s rule? Neither do I find fault with this, that they do it secretly, for I know that the Supper was never better celebrated, nor more devoutly, than when the Disciples went into some secret place, to slip the tyranny of the enemy. But here are two faults, truly not to be suffered. One, that they which do make such a Supper, and like apes do falsely and corruptly counterfeit, the true Supper of Christ, do feign that they keep and worship their Mass. The other is, that the Minister, which for the most part is some religious man, the rather to dissemble the matter, does not that office as a Christian, but as a Priest of the popish profession: and in this they suppose they have an honest and sure defence, if the Mass sayer have not this purpose, to show the bread and wine to them to be worshipped, if he leave out the Canon, wherein are contained many great impieties, and if he deliver the sacrament to all that be present under both kinds. But when they shall come before the highest Judge, then shall they feel the fruit that they sought, by such glossing and lies, yea truly, they ought now already to perceive it. For I do judge, those same goads and pricks, wherewith their consciences are pricked and wounded, to be a grievous feeling of the same judgement. And truly this cause must be decided, and plainly debated in that same place and court, where the truth has her grave and true witnesses.
For to be short, they do know themselves guilty of the matter, which they have purposed to declare, both to God’s enemies, and also to the common people. But God must needs deny himself, if he allow the order and doing of that profession. If all the men in the world, with one mind and purpose, would conspire to pronounce these men righteous: yet none be he never so ready and mighty, can excuse and deliver them from this, but they shall be thought to halt on both sides. And God does declare by his Prophet, that no such halting of any man, shall be ever allowed before him. As touching the man, whom they choose to be the Minister of their Supper, it is a foolish thing to abuse his person, as though they could seem to make him an apt man to that office and function. Yea, but the virtue of that same Sacrament (say they) rests not in the worthiness of the Ministers. That I grant and add this too also, if any devil should minister the Supper, it should be never the worse. On the contrary part, if an Angel sing Mass, yet then should it be no whit the better. But we are now in an other question, that is, whether orders given by the Pope to a Monk, do make him apt, to the office and function of a Pastor. If they say contrary that they perceive that thing does make nothing to the purpose, and that they do not choose him in that sort, the thing itself shows contrary. But let it be, that they as touching the Minister have no such respect. You must I abide in that outward profession which they take upon them and worship yea, I must press it earnestly, as a profession most contrary and unworthy a Christian man. For this is plain and manifest, that they do and will defend and ever themselves, under the person of Priest, made for the nonce to colour a dissemble.
But if they would rightly and lawfully celebrate the Supper, it were their duty so to separate themselves, from the order and profession of idolators, that they should appear, in that to have nothing common with them. But now they so far from this separation, that they scribe themselves into their fellowship and communion, and do every one them, feignedly profess themselves to members of that body. After this, they will compare us to old heretics, that did refuse the use the Sacraments, for the vices of the Ministers, as though we do here respect the proper sins of every man, and not rather the common state and condition.
I do pass over this matter shortly, because that which is spoken, is sufficient enough, to convince so foul and shameful impudence. But if these men be so foolish and dull witted, that they perceive not this filthiness, the word of God must suffice us, as when the Lord says by the Prophet Jeremy: Israel, if thou dost turn, turn unto me. In which words is most plainly expressed, with what simplicity and integrity of mind, we ought to deal and walk before God, without any thought and will to return to those things, which we know are not thankful nor allowed of him. Which is a cause, why St. Paul does testify, that he was sent to turn the unfaithful from their vanities, unto the living God, as though he would say, it is to no purpose, to change some one old and accustomed to evil with other hypocrisies and feignings, but utterly to abolish all superstitions, that the true religion may be set in her own purity and holiness. For without this faith and integrity, men never come the right way unto God, but do always waver and are uncertain, to what part they may turn themselves. There be others that are come thus far, that they disallow and refuse the Mass, but they would have some patches kept style, which they call God’s service, least as some men say, they should seem to be destitute of all religion. And it may be, that some of these be moved with a godly mind and zeal: at the least I will so think, but whatsoever their zeal and purpose be, yet may we not say, that they keep the true rule or any good measure.
Many say we may come to their baptisms, because there is no manifest idolatry in them. As who would say, that this Sacrament were not also corrupted, and utterly deformed with all kind of corruption, in so much as Jesus Christ may seem to be yet still be in Pilate’s house, to suffer all opprobries and shames. To conclude, where as they say, that this is the cause, why they would retain some ceremonies, least they should appear to be void of all religion: if one should examine their consciences, the same truly will answer, that they do it to satisfy the Papists, and they change their countenance to flee persecution. Other some do watch a time, least they come in the Mass while, and yet they come to the Temple, that men should suppose they hear Mass. Other some do come, but at Evensong time, of whom I would know, whether they think this to be nothing, that at that same time the idols be honoured, that the pictures and images be sensed with fumigations, that a solemn prayer is made in the intercession of some Saint, and grounded on his merits, that Salue Regina, be song with a loud voice, and that on every side, a matter is heard so filled and replenished with devilish and cursed blasphemy, that the mind, shall not only abhor the offence of the ears and eyes there present, but most vehemently the thought, and recordation thereof.
I do pass over, that the singing itself in an unknown tongue, is manifest profanation of God’s praises, and of holy Scripture, as Saint Paul does admonish in the fourteenth to the Corinthians. But let this fault be forgiven them. If they come to Evensong, to give some sign and testimony of their Christianity, they will do this chiefly on the solemn feasts. But then there shall be solemn incensing the chiefest idols, and great plenty of sweet fumigations powered out, the which is a kind of sacrifice as the Scripture teaches. It was also a manner used among the Gentiles, and whereby they compelled the weak men to deny God. And for this cause, the greatest part of Martyrs did suffer death constantly, for that they would not make perfumes, and burn incense to idols. When these men be come thus far, that they receive in their noses the savour of the censors, they also pollute themselves with that pollution, which is most greatest and execrable there. And yet they think we ought, to hide and cover this so great wickedness and mischief.
But I beseech them, in the honourable and holy name of God, that they will diligently mark this saying of the Psalm: That idols are so to be detested of the faithful and godly man, that they should not be in his mouth or tongue, least the talk had of them should seem to contaminate and defile him. This one word, ought to fray and withdraw us from all congregation and fellowship of idolators, because that we living in that congregation, may easily be wrapped in and defiled.
But to speak plainly and freely what I think of all these, which seek a mean way, betwixt God and the devil: they have double and variable minds, and I cannot find out a more apt and fit comparison to set them out, and paint them in their lively colours, than that same which may be brought of Esau, that same filthy and double man. For when he saw his brother Jacob, sent by his father Isaac into Mesopotamia to seek a wife, because the women of the land of Canaan, did so much mislike the father and his wife Rebecca, that they thought their life bitter and irksome to live among them, and rather wishes death, he marries a new wife, somewhat to satisfy his parents, but he does not put away the old. So that he does keep still, the evil whereof Isaac did so grievously complain, but somewhat to amend the matter, he marries a new wife.
Even so, they that are wrapped up in the world, that they can in nowise follow God, do mingle and toss together, many and diverse kinds of religions and superstitions, that they may apply and conform themselves by some way, to the will of God, and they always keep still some corruption, so that whatsoever they do, cannot appear to be pure and sincere. I know also right well, that there be in those places many miserable souls, which live there in great difficulties and cares, which truly covet to walk rightly without hypocrisy, and yet cannot loose themselves, out of many doubts and scruples, which is no marvel in so great and horrible confusion, as we see at this time in the Papism. Yea, I do greatly pity their miserable state, which seek means whereby they may serve God devoutly, and live among the enemies of faith, if it may be possible by any ways. But what will we? I can do nothing else to the one, or to the other, but declare their error and sin, that they themselves may add the remedy. If they come hereafter to ask of me this or that, more diligently and particularly, I will send such curious inquisitors to the common rule which I have of God.
I speak this, for that there be some of this sort of men so importune, that if a man should answer all their difficulties and doubts, he should seem never to make an end of any thing. And me think such men, may well be compared to them, who after they be taught in a sermon, to use sober apparel, and decking of the body, without all dissolute and sumptuous trimming, they would have the preacher, to make their hose and sew their shoes. Well, what must we do then? In this matter, there is a certain thing set before us, whereunto we ought to direct and confer our whole mind, study, and thought. That is, that the zeal of God’s house may eat up our heart, and so move us, that we bear and take upon ourselves, all dishonours, contumelies, and opprobries, which are done most unworthily against God’s holy name. When such desire of God's honour, and fervent love shall be kindled in our hearts, not like dry stubble soon set on fire, and easily extinguished, but like a fire that burns continually, a man shall be so far from suffering, or approving these abominations, wherewith the name of God most shamefully and unworthily is polluted, that when he shall behold them, he shall be able in no wise to suffer dissimulation, silence, and taciturnity.
And it is diligently to be marked, that he says, The zeal of God’s house: that we should know that to be referred, unto the outward order, which is instituted in the Church, that we should exercise ourselves in confession of our faith. I do not weigh the mockers, which say, that I myself living here without any danger, yea, rather in great quietness, do talk goodly of these matters. I am not he, with whom these men have any thing to do: For this is well known, I have here no land of mine own. So may we think and say, of all these Philosophers, which give their judgement without knowledge of the cause. For seeing they will not hear God, who does now truly speak so gently to them, to teach them: I do declare the day and judgement, at what time being called before the judgement seat of God, they shall hear that sentence, against the which there shall be no answer nor defence. For seeing they will not hear him, as the best and most meek master, they shall then know at the last, and feel him, as their most severe and just judge. At which time, the stoutest and the craftiest of them, shall perceive and know, that they were deceived in their opinions.
Let them be so well exercised and prepared as they will, to obscure or subvert justice, and equity, yet their law-like and judicial ornaments, and the badges of the great dignity and power, wherewith they now proudly wax insolent, shall not then give them the victory. I speak this, because Counsellors, Judges, Proctors, Advocates, and such other, bearing the sway in courts and judgements are not only bold to strive with God, and so to contend, that they would seem, to have gotten a certain right, to scorn and mock his Majesty, but also rejecting all holy Scripture, do spew out their blasphemies, as the greatest sentences of the law, and most high decrees. These men whom the world does honour as certain idols, so soon as they have spoken one word, cannot suffer reason and truth to have any place to rest in. But yet by the way, I do admonish and warn them beforehand, that it shall be better for them, to have some remembrance of that same horrible vengeance, which is ordained for them that change justice with iniquity, and truth with lying. Neither the doctors, and chamber-masters, the delicious banqueters, and very voluptuous men, take any higher degree here, than that they may chatter in their feasts and banquets, and babble forth their words against the heavenly Master, to whom truly all men ought to give most diligent ear. Neither can their goodly and famous titles, pluck any man from this judgement, in which the lordly and reverend Abbots, Priors, Deans, Archdeacons, as chief masters of the game, shall be compelled to lead the dance in that condemnation, which God shall make most grievous. Now although the courtiers are wont to gratify men, with the sprinkling of their holy water, let them not think, that they can with that kind of doing, satisfy God.
To conclude, all jesters, and praters, let them hold their tongue, and boast not out their merry witty sayings, unless they will feel his mighty hand, at whose word they ought to tremble. Wherein their error is too much foolish, that believes because they take me for their adversary, therefore, they shall not have God to be their judge. Let them scrape my name out of their books, and utterly blot it out, specially, in this kind of cause and question, wherein my purpose is only that God be heard and obeyed, not that I should rule mens consciences after my lust, and charge them with any necessity or law. As for all others, which do not so proudly despise God’s word, and yet are so delicate and weak, that they can in no wise be moved, I do most heartily beseech them, that they will take more thought, and regard to their own duty, salvation, and God’s honour, and no more flatter themselves, as they have done hitherto.
Let them therefore open their eyes, and rear up themselves, that they may behold the misery wherein they are. I know well enough the evils, difficulties, and stops, wherein they be wrapt among the Papists: I do not speak unto them, as though it were an easy matter, in the midst of the idolaters, to take upon them and defend, the pure and sincere religion of God, but if they lack strength, I advertise them to flee unto God, the author of all power, that they may be made strong by him, and learn to prefer his glory before all things of this world. For I do earnestly desire, that all faithful men which are miserable afflicted in the Papism, should understand and know this, how that the Prophet Jeremy remaining at Jerusalem in Jewry, did send this advertisement and exhortation unto the people, which were holden captive and oppressed in Babylon. If the tyranny of the Pope and of all his ministers, be to them sharpe and cruel, they must consider, that the Jews also of that time, suffered heavy and bitter bondage, and yet they are commanded in the vulgar speech of the country, to execrate the idolatry of the Chaldeans. It is not reason, that the tyranny of men should break, or any deal diminish from us, the due honour we owe unto God. Here is no exception or pretence of privilege, which high or low, rich or poor, may, or ought to usurp unto themselves. Let all men therefore bow down their neck, and with most humility submit, themselves to God.
Let the poor man have the true fear of God, let him not say unconstantly, I know not what to do, least God answer him, neither know I what to do with thee. The rich and wealthy men, let them not like drunken sluggards, sleep in their wealth, and consume in their prosperity, and abundance of all things, as it were in a certain draft tube, but rather after the example of St. Paul: let them learn to esteem all that, as dirt and damage, which does withdraw us from godly and Christian life, nor may seem any thing to hinder us.
We also which live here in rest and quiet, enjoying the use of the greatest, and singular benefits of God: let us not forget that I touched in the beginning, that we apply these things to our learning, that whatsoever hereafter befall us, or into whatsoever country we shall be led, yet we may always constantly abide in the pure confession of our faith, detesting all idolatrous religion, superstitions, and abuses, which are against God’s truth, do obscure his honour, and utterly subvert his religion. Amen.