Page images


God? Or what derogation is this to Heaven 2 Ye may not, then, I say, be offended with my similitude for because I liken preaching to a plowman's labor, and a prelate to a plowman. But now you will ask me whom I call a prelate. A prelate is that man, whatever he be, that hath a flock to be taught of him ; whosoever hath any spiritual charge in the faithful congregation, and whosoever he be that hath cure of souls. And well may the preacher and the plowman be likened together : First, for their labor at all seasons of the year; for there is no time of the year in which the plowman hath not some special work to do—as in my country, in Leicestershire, the plowman hath a time to set forth, and to assay his plow, and other times for other necessary works to be done. And then they also may be likened together for the diversity of works and variety of offices that they have to do. For as the plowman first setteth forth his plow, and then tilleth his land, and breaketh it in furrows, and sometimes ridgeth it up again ; and at another time harroweth it and clotteth it, and sometimes dungeth it and hedgeth it, diggeth it and weedeth it, purgeth it and maketh it clean ; so the prelate, the preacher, hath many diverse offices to do. He hath first a busy work to bring his parishioners to a right faith, as Paul calleth it; and not a swerving faith, but to a faith that embraceth Christ, and trusteth to his merits; a lively faith; a justifying faith ; a faith that maketh a man righteous without respect of works; as ye have it very well declared and set forth in the homily. He hath then a busy work, I say, to bring his flock to a right faith, and then to confirm them in the same faith—now casting them down with the law, and with threatenings of God for sin ; now ridging them up again with the Gospel, and with the promises of God's favor; now weeding them by telling them their faults, and making them for cake sin; now clotting them, by breaking their stony hearts, and by making them supple-hearted, and making them to have hearts of flesh—that is, soft hearts, and apt for doctrine to enter in ; now teaching to know God rightly, and to know their duty to God and their neighbors; now exhorting them when they know their duty that they do it, and be diligent in it; so that they have a continual work to do. Great is their business, and, therefore, great should be their hire. They have great labors, and, therefore, they ought to have good livings, that they may commodiously feed their flock—for the preaching of the Word of God unto the people is called meat. Scripture calleth it meat, not strawberries, that come but once a year, and tarry not long, but are soon gone—but it is meat; it is no dainties. The people must have meat that must be familiar and continual, and daily given unto them to feed upon. Many make a strawberry of it, ministering it but once a year;


but such do not the office of good prelates. For Christ saith : “Who think you is a wise and faithful servant? He that giveth meat in due time.” So that he must at all times convenient preach diligently; therefore, saith he “Who trow ye is a faithful servant?” He speaketh it as though it were a rare thing to find such a one, and as though he should say there be but few of them to find in the world. And how few of thern there be throughout this world that give meat to their flock as they should do, the visitors can best tell. Too few, too few, the more is the pity, and never so few as now. By this, then, it appeareth that a prelate, or any that hath cure of souls, must diligently and substantially work and labor. Therefore saith Paul to Timothy: “He that desireth to have the office of a bishop, or a prelate, that man desireth a good work.” Then, if it be a good work, it is work; ye can but make a work of it. It is God's work, God's plow, and that plow God would have still going. Such, then, as loiter and live idly are not good prelates or ministers. And of such as do not preach and teach and do their duties, God saith by his prophet Jeremy : “Cursed be the man that doeth the work of God fraudulently, guilefully, or deceitfully;” some books have it negligenter, “negligently,” or “slackly.” How many such prelates, how many such bishops, Lord, for thy mercy, are there now in England ' And what shall we in this case do 2 Shall we company with them 2 O Lord, for thy mercy! Shall we not company with them 2 O Lord, whither shall we flee from them 2 But ‘‘cursed be he that doeth the work of God negligently or guilefully.” A sore word for them that are negligent in discharging their office or have done it fraudulently ; for there is the thing that maketh the people ill. . And now I would ask a strange question : Who is the most diligent bishop and prelate in all England that passeth all the rest in doing his office 2 I can tell, for I know him who he is; I know him well. But now I think I see you listening and hearkening that I should name him. There is one that passeth all the others, and is the most diligent prelate and preacher in all England. And will ye know who it is 2 I will tell you ; it is the devil. He is the most diligent preacher of all others; he is never out of his diocese; he is never from his cure; ye shall never find him unoccupied ; he is ever in his parish ; he keepeth residence at all time; ye shall never find him out of the way ; call for him when you will, he is ever at home; the diligentest preacher in all the realm ; he is ever at his plow ; no lording nor loitering can hinder him ; he is ever applying his business; ye shall never find him idle, I warrant you !

JOHN KNOX (1505-1572)


N his short funeral oration over the dead body of John Knox, I Murray, the Regent of Scotland, said, “Here lies he who never feared the face of man.” These words fitly indicate the character of the hardy and indomitable religious reformer of Scotland. A Roman Catholic until 1542, he became after that year a zealous preacher of the Protestant doctrines, till then hardly known in Scotland. He suffered for his faith. Assassins were employed to take his life. A castle in which he took refuge was assailed and captured, and for nineteen months he was held captive in the French galleys. When Queen Mary came to the English throne, his friends induced him to leave Scotland, and he retired to Geneva, where he became a friend of John Calvin. In 1559 he returned to Scotland, and here became the master-spirit of the growing body of Protestants, sustaining their courage by his own indomitable resolution, and his vehement harangues against what he designated the idolatries of the Romish Church. Few of the religious reformers of that age were his equals in courage and sagacity and in the inflexible austerity of his principles. Froude says that he was “perhaps in that extraordinary age its most extraordinary man, whose character became the mould in which the later fortunes of his country were cast.”


[The hardiness of John Knox did not flinch in the face of kingly power, and he thundered against tyranny as boldly as against any form of impiety. The following extract is from his Edinburgh sermon of August 19, 1565, its text being Isaiah xxvi, 13-16. Its tone was not a safe one in those autocratic days, but Knox had no fear of living men.]


The first thing, then, that God requires of him who is called to the honor of a king, is the knowledge of His will revealed in His Word.

The second is an upright and willing mind, to put in execution such things as God commands in His law, without declining to the right or to the left hand.

Kings, then, have not an absolute power to do in their government what pleases them, but their power is limited by God's Word; so that if they strike where God has not commanded, they are but murderers; and if they spare where God has commanded to strike, they and their thrones are criminal and guilty of the wickedness which abounds upon the face of the earth, for lack of punishment.

Oh that kings and princes would consider what account shall be craved of them, as well for their ignorance and misknowledge of God's will as for the neglecting of their office

Wouldst thou, O Scotland l have a king to reign over thee in justice, equity, and mercy 2. Subjeet thou thyself to the Lord thy God, obey His commandments, and magnify thou the Word that calleth unto thee, “This is the way, walk in it; ” and if thou wilt not, flatter not thyself; the same justice remains this day in God to punish thee, Scotland, and thee, Edinburgh, especially, which before punished the land of Judah and the city of Jerusalem. Every realm or nation, saith the prophet Jeremiah, that likewise offendeth shall be likewise punished, but if thou shalt see impiety placed in the seat of justice above thee, so that in the throne of God (as Solomon complains) reigns nothing but fraud and violence, accuse thine own ingratitude and rebellion against God; for that is the only cause why God takes away “the strong man and the man of war, the judge and the prophet, the prudent and the aged, the captain and the honorable, the counselor and the cunning artificer; and I will appoint, saith the Lord, children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. Children are extortioners of my people, and women have rule over them.”

If these calamities, I say, apprehend us, so that we see nothing but the oppression of good men and of all godliness, and that wicked men without God reign above us, let us accuse and condemn ourselves, as the only cause of our own miseries. For if we had heard the voice of the Lord our God, and given upright obedience unto the same, God would have multiplied our peace, and would have rewarded our obedience before the eyes of the world. But now let us hear what the prophet saith further: “The dead shall not live,” saith he, “neither shall the tyrants, nor the dead arise, because thou hast visited and scattered them, and destroyed all their memory.”

« PreviousContinue »