A PATHWAY INTO THE HOLY SCRIPTURE
By William Tyndale
Presented by: The Master's table
I have edited this paper from what someone already edited many years ago but at that time left the wording such as "readest, forbiddeth, thee, thou, and whatsoever. I changed these words to make this great work more legible in our modern language, but this edit is in no way to re-write the authors work. If you would like to compare the original paper for yourselves click here. Pathway 1 End Note: Web master: Timothy M. Youngblood - November 23, 2001
First printed in 1531; William Tyndale's ground breaking
prologue expanded and printed as a separate volume: A Pathway into the Holy
Scripture. It was attacked in
"These things, I say, to know, is to have all the scripture unlocked and opened before you; so that if you will go in, and read, you can not but understand. And in these things to be ignorant, is to have all the scripture locked up; so that the more you read it, the blinder you are. And now, because the lay and unlearned people are taught these first principles of our profession, therefore they read the scripture, and understand and delight in them. And our great pillars of the Catholic Church, which have nailed a veil of false glosses on Moses' face, to corrupt the true understanding of his law, cannot come in. And therefore they bark, and say the scripture make heretics, and it is not possible for them to understand it in the English, because they themselves do not even in Latin."
I do marvel greatly, dearly beloved in Christ, that any man would speak against the scripture to be printed in every language, and for every man to read. For I thought that no man could be so blind to ask why light should be shown to them that walk in darkness, where they can only stumble, and where to stumble is the danger of eternal damnation. And being so despiteful that he would want to deprive any man so necessary a thing as the true scriptures; or to be so insane as to say that good is the natural cause of evil, and darkness comes out of light, and that lying should be grounded in truth and reality. On the contrary, light shall destroy darkness; and reality and truth corrects all manner of lying.
Nevertheless, seeing that it has pleased God to send to our fellowman, even to as many as sincerely desire it, the scripture in their mother tongue, considering that there be in every place false teachers and blind leaders; that you should be deceived of no man. I believe it is very necessary to prepare this way into the scripture for you, that you might walk surely, and ever know the truth from the false. And, above all, to give you understanding of certain points, which are, to understand what these words mean. The Old Testament; the New Testament; the law; the gospel; Moses; Christ; nature; grace; working and believing; deeds and faith. We need to understand these point are we could ascribe to the one which belongs to the other, and make of Christ Moses; of the gospel, the law; despise grace, and rob faith; and fall from meek learning into idle disputations; brawling and scolding about words. The Old Testament is a book that is written of the law of God, and the deeds of them that fulfill them, and also of those which did not fulfill them. The New Testament is a book that contains the promises of God; and the deeds of them that believe them, or did not believe. The gospel is a Greek word; and signifies good, merry, glad and joyful tidings, that makes a man's heart glad, and makes him sing, dance, and leap for joy. As when David had killed Goliath the giant, came glad tidings among the Jews that their fearful and cruel enemy was slain, and they were delivered out of all danger, and because of their gladness they sung, danced, and were joyful. In like manner is the gospel of God; joyful tidings, and, as some say, a good hearing published by the apostles throughout all the world, of the Christ the son of David; how that he fought with sin, with death, and the devil, and overcome them: whereby all men that were in bondage to sin, wounded with death, and overcome of the devil, are, without their own merits or deserving, loosed, justified, restored to life and saved.
Brought to freedom and reconciled to the favor of God, and set at one with him again, which good news as many as believe, praise, and thank God; are glad, which sing and dance for joy. This bringing of the gospel (that is to say, such joyful tidings) is called the New Testament; because just as a man, when he knows he will die, appoints his goods to be dealt and distributed after his death among them which he names to be his heirs. Even so Christ, before his death, commanded and appointed that such preaching of the gospel, or tidings should be declared throughout all the world, and therewith to give to all that repent, and believe, all his goods: that is to say, his life, in that he swallowed and devoured up death; his righteousness, in that he banished sin; his salvation, in that he overcame eternal damnation. Now the wretched man (that knows he is wrapped in sin, and in danger to death and the grave) can hear no more joyous a thing, than such glad and comfortable news of Christ; so that he cannot but be glad, and laugh from the bottom of his heart, if he believe that the news of his salvation is true. To give strength for such faith, God promised this gospel in the Old Testament by the prophets, as Paul said in, (Romans 1), that he was chosen to preach God's Gospel, which he before had promised by the prophets in the Scriptures, that believe on his Son that was born of the seed of David.
In Genesis 3 God said to the serpent, "I will put hatred between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; that her seed shall tread your head under foot." Christ is this woman's seed: he it is that has trodden under foot the devil's head, that is to say, sin, death, hell, and all his power. For without this seed can no man avoid sin, death, hell, and everlasting damnation! Again, (Genesis 22), God promised Abraham, saying, "In your seed shall all the generations of the earth be blessed." Christ is that seed of Abraham, as stated by Paul in Galatians 3). He has blessed all the world through the gospel. For where Christ is not accepted, there remains the curse that fell on Adam as soon as he had sinned, so that they are in bondage under damnation of sin, death, and the grave. But we are now blessed by this gospel inasmuch as all the world cries openly, to all that confesses their sins and repent, saying, who ever believes on the seed of Abraham shall be blessed; that is, he shall be delivered from sin, death, and the grave, and shall from this day on continue in righteousness and be saved for ever; as Christ himself declared in the eleventh chapter of John. "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die."
"The law" (as we read in the gospel of John in the first chapter) "was given by Moses: but grace and truth by Jesus the Christ." The law (whose minister is Moses) was given to bring us the knowledge of sin in ourselves, that we might by the law feel and perceive what we are, of nature. The law which condemned us and all our deeds; and is called of Paul in 2 Corinthians 3, the ministration of death, for it kills our consciences, and drive us to desperation inasmuch as it requires of us that which is impossible for our nature to do. It requires of us the deeds of a perfect man, and perfect love, from the bottom of our heart, as well in all things that we suffer, as in the things we do. But, John writes in the same place, "Grace and truth is given to us in Christ, so that when the law has passed on us, condemnation to death, then we have in our Christ, grace, that is to say, favor, promises of life, of mercy, of pardon, freely given, by the merits of Jesus; and in Jesus we have truth, that God for his sake, fulfills all his promises to them that believe. Therefore is the Gospel the ministration of life? As stated above, Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3 the ministration of the Spirit and of righteousness. In the gospel, when we believe the promises, we receive the spirit of life; and are justified, in the blood of Christ, from all things in that the law condemned us. And then we receive love from the law, and power to fulfill it, and grow in it daily.
Of Christ it is written, as stated above in John 1. This is he of whose abundance, or fullness, all we have received grace for grace, or favor for favor. That is to say, for the favor that God has to his Son Jesus the Christ, he gives to us his favor and good-will, and all gifts of his grace, as a father to his us his children. As Paul declared, saying, "Which loved us in his Beloved before the creation of the world." So that Christ brings the love of God to us, and not our own works. Christ is made Lord over all, and is called in scripture God's mercy-stool. Whosoever therefore comes to Christ, can neither hear nor receive of God any other thing except mercy. In the Old Testament are many promises, which are nothing else but the preaching of the gospel message, to save those that believe them from the vengeance of the law. And the New Testament often mentions the law, to condemn them that do not believe the promises. Moreover, the law and the gospel may never be separate: for the gospel and promises help the troubled consciences, which are brought to desperation, and feel the pains of death and the bondage of the grave under the law, and are in captivity and bondage under the law. In all my deeds I must have the law before me, to condemn my imperfections.
For all that I do is yet damnable sin, when it is compared to the law, which requires the depth of my heart because I can't be perfect. I must therefore have always the law in my sight, that I may be meek in the spirit, and give God all the worship and praise, ascribing to him all righteousness, and to myself all unrighteousness and sin. I must also have the promises before mine eyes, that I despair not; in which promises I see the mercy, favor, and good-will of God upon me in the blood of his Son Jesus the Christ, which has made satisfaction for mine imperfections, and fulfilled for me that which I could not do. Here you may perceive that two types of people are very deceived. First, they which justify themselves with outward deeds, in that they abstain outwardly from that which the law forbids, and performs outwardly that which the law commands. They compare themselves to open sinners; and in respect of them justify themselves, condemning the open sinners. They set a veil on Moses' face, and do not see how the law requires love from the bottom of the heart, and that love only is the fulfilling of the law. If they did, they would not condemn their neighbors. "Love hides a multitude of sins," declared Peter in his first epistle. For whom I love from the very bottom of my heart, him I will not condemn, neither reckon his sins; but excuse his weakness and infirmity, as a mother the weakness of her son until he grow up into a better man. Those also are deceived which, without all fear of God, give themselves over to all manner of vices with full consent and full knowledge, having no respect to the law of God (under whose vengeance they are locked up in captivity); but say, God is merciful, and Christ died for us; supposing that such dreaming and imagination is that faith which is so greatly commended in holy scripture.
Nay, that is not faith, but rather a foolish blind opinion, springing of their own corrupt nature, and is not given them of the Spirit of God, but rather of the spirit of the devil, whose faith these days those of the pope compare and make equal to the best trust, confidence, and belief, that a repenting soul can have in the blood of our Savior Jesus, to their own confusion, shame, and truly declaring what they are within. But true faith is (as declared the apostle Paul) the gift of God; and is given to sinners, after the law has passed upon them, and has brought their consciences into the center of desperation and the many sorrows of death. They that have the right and true faith, consent to the law, that it is righteous and good; and justify God which made the law; and have delectation in the law (notwithstanding that they cannot fulfill it as they would like to, because of weakness in the flesh); and they abhor what ever the law forbids, though they cannot always avoid it. And their great sorrow is, because they cannot fulfill the will of God in the law; and the Spirit, that is in them, they cry to God night and day for strength and help, with tears (as Paul declared) that cannot be expressed with tongue. Of which things are the belief of the Catholic Church or of their father, the pope, whom they so magnify for his strong faith, has none experience at all. The first, that is to say, he which justifies himself with his outward deeds, does not consent to the law inwardly, neither has delectation therein, yea, he would rather that no such law were written. So he does not justify God, but hates him as a tyrant; neither does he care for the promises of God, but will with his own strength be savior of himself, and in no way does he glorify God, although he seems to do so outwardly.
The second, that is to say, the sensual person, like a indulgent swine, neither fears God in his law, nor is thankful to him for his promises and mercy, which is set forth in Jesus the Christ to all them that believe. The right Christian man however believes that the law is righteous, and that the law justifies God; for he affirms that God is righteous and just, which is author of the law. He believes the promises of God; and believing God to be true, and believing he will fulfill his promises. With the law he condemns himself, and all his deeds, and give all the praise to God. He believes the promises, and believes all truth is in God: thus, everywhere he states God is right, and praises Him. The right Christian man knows by nature, through the fall of Adam, we are the children of wrath, heirs of the vengeance of God by birth, yes, even from our conception. And we have our fellowship with the damned devils, under the power of darkness and rule of Satan, while we are yet in our mother's wombs; and although we don't show the fruits of sin as soon as we are born, yet we are full of the natural poison, whereof all sinful deeds spring, and cannot help but sin outwards even though we are a baby. As soon as we are able to work, if occasion be given: for our nature is to do sin, as is the nature of a serpent to sting. And as a serpent, yet young, or yet even in the egg, is full of poison, and when the time is come, and occasion given but bring forth the fruits thereof. And as an adder, a toad, or a snake, is hated of man, not for the evil that it has already done, but for the poison that is in it, and hurt which it cannot but do: so are we hated of God, for that natural poison, which is conceived and born within us, before we do any outward evil.
And as the evil, which a venomous snake will do, make it not a serpent; but
because it is a venomous serpent, it will bite a man: and the fruit does not
make the tree evil; but because it is an evil tree, it bears evil fruit, when
the season of the fruit is: even so do not our evil deeds make us first evil,
though ignorance and blindness, through evil working, locks us in evil, and
makes us worse and worse; but because that of human nature we are evil,
therefore we both think and do evil, and are under vengeance under the law,
which convicts us to eternal damnation by the law, and are contrary to the will
of God in all our will, and in all things consent to the will of the evil man.
By grace (that is to say, by favor) we are plucked out of Adam, the ground of all evil, and grafted in Jesus the Christ, the root of all goodness. In Christ God loved us, his elect and chosen, before the world began, and reserved us for the knowledge of his Son and of his holy gospel; and, when the gospel is preached to us, our hearts open, and gives us grace to believe, and puts the Spirit of Christ in us; and we know him as our savior most merciful, and consent to the law, and love it inwardly in our heart, and desire to fulfill it, and sorrow because we cannot: which is sufficient, till more strength be given us; the blood of Christ has made satisfaction for the rest; the blood of Christ has obtained all things for us of God. Christ is our satisfaction, Redeemer, Deliverer, Savior, from vengeance and wrath. Observe and mark in Paul's, Peter's, and John's epistles, and in the gospel, what Christ is for us. It is only by faith that we are saved, in believing the promises. And though faith there will always be love and good works, yet is our saving imputed neither to love nor to good works, but to faith only? For love and works are under the law which requires perfection and the bottom of the heart, and damns all imperfections. Yes faith is under the promises, which damn not; but give pardon, grace, mercy, favor, and what ever is contained in the promises.
Righteousness is many, for blind reason imagines all types of righteousness. There is the righteousness of works as I said before, when the heart is away, and does not feel how the law is spiritual, and cannot be fulfilled, but from the bottom of the heart: as the just ministration of all manner of laws, and the observing of them, for a worldly purpose and for our own profit, and not of love for our neighbor, without all other respect, and moral virtues, wherein philosophers put their great joy and blessedness, which all are nothing in the sight of God, in respect of the life to come. There is in like manner the justifying of ceremonies, which some come up with themselves, and some steel from others, saying in their blind reason, such holy persons did thus and thus, and they were holy men; therefore if I do so likewise, I shall please God. But they have not received this of God, to know if it would please Him. The Jews seek righteousness in their ceremonies, which God gave to them, not for justification, but to describe and paint Christ to them: of which Jews testifies that Paul, saying, how that they have affection to God, but not after knowledge; for they go about to establish their own justice, and are not obedient to the justice or righteousness that comes from God, which is the forgiveness of sin in Christ's blood for all that will repent and believe. The cause is truth, that except a man cast away his own thoughts and desires, he cannot perceive God, and understand the virtue and power of the blood of Christ.
Righteousness is complete when the law is fulfilled from the bottom of the heart, but neither Peter nor Paul kept it perfectly in this life although they greatly desired it. They were thus blessed in Christ that they hungered and thirsted after it. Paul's thirst was so great that he consented to the law of God, that it should be entirely kept. But he found another lust in his members contrary to the lust and desire of his mind that caused him to sin, and therefore cried out, saying, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ." So the righteousness of God that is of value is to believe the promises of God, after the law has convicted the conscience. Just as when the temporal law condemns the thief or murderer, and brings him to execution, and he realizes that nothing but sure death is before him, then when good tidings come such as a pardon from the king that will deliver him from death, likewise, when God's law has brought the sinner into knowledge of himself, and has confounded his conscience and opened his understanding to the wrath and vengeance of God; then cometh good tidings of the saving gospel of Christ. The preaching of the gospel reveals to him the promises of God in Christ, and how Christ has purchased pardon for him, and has satisfied the law, and appeased the wrath of God. And when the poor sinner believes, and accepts the gospel he then with thanksgiving praises God through Christ, and breaks out into exceeding inward joy and gladness, for that he has escaped so great wrath, and so heavy a vengeance, so fearful and so everlasting a death. And from that day forward he hungers and thirsts after more righteousness, that he might fulfill the law; and mourns continually because of his sins, commending his weakness to God in the blood of our Savior, Christ Jesus.
Now we shall see a summery plainly set out in the order and practice of everything rehearsed beforehand. The fall of Adam has made us heirs of the vengeance and wrath of God, and heirs of eternal damnation; and has brought us into captivity and bondage under the devil. And the devil is our lord, and our ruler, our head, our governor, our prince, yea, and our god. And our will is locked and tied into the will of the devil greater than a hundred thousand chains could bind a man to an iron post. We consent to the devils will with all our hearts, minds, might, power, strength, and lusts; so that the law and will of the devil is written as well in our hearts as in our members, and we run headlong after the devil with full zeal, and the whole swing of all the power we have; as a stone cast up into the air comes down naturally of itself, with all the violence and swing of it's own weight. With what poison, deadly, and venomous a man will hate his enemy! With how great malice of mind, inwardly, do we slay and murder! With what violence and rage, yea, and with how fervent lust commit we adultery, fornication, and such like uncleanness! With what pleasure and delight, inwardly, a glutton serves his own belly! With what diligence we deceive others! How busily we seek the things of this world! What ever we do, think, or imagine, is abominable in the sight of God. For we can refer nothing to the honor of God; neither is his law, or will, written in our members or in our hearts: neither is there any more power in us to follow the will of God, than in a stone to ascend upward of his own self.
And beside that, we are as it were asleep in so deep blindness, that we can neither see nor feel what misery, bondage, and wretchedness we are in, till the preaching of Moses come and wake us, and publish the law. When we hear the law truly preached on how we ought to love and honor God with all our strength and might, from the bottom of our heart, because he has created us, as well as heaven and earth for our sakes, and made us lord of it all. And our neighbors (yea, our enemies) as ourselves, inwardly, because God has made them after the likeness of his own image, and they are his sons as well as we are. And how Christ has bought them with his blood, and made them heirs of everlasting life as well as us; and how we ought to do what ever God commands, and abstain from what ever God forbids, with all love and meekness, with a fervent and a burning desire from the center of the heart; then begins the conscience to rage against the law, and against God. No sea, no matter how great a tempest, is as violent. For it is not possible for a natural man to consent to the law, that it should be good, or that God should be righteous who made the law. Inasmuch as it is contrary to our nature, and damns us and all that we can do, and neither shows us where to get help, nor preach any mercy; but only sets man at variance with God, (as Paul stated in Romans 4) and provoke man to rail on God, and to blaspheme him as a cruel tyrant. It is hard for man to think that God is righteous after making him of so poison a nature, either for his own pleasure or for the sin of another man, and to give him a law that is impossible for him to keep, or to consent to. His understanding, reason, and will being so greatly fixed, you nailed, and chained to the will of the devil. No man can be righteous until he is changed, and neither can any creature loose the bonds of unrighteousness, except the blood of Christ only.
This is the captivity and bondage, from which Christ delivered, redeemed and loosed us. His blood, death, and his patience in suffering have made right all wrongs to those that accept him. His prayers, fasting, meekness and fulfilling of the uttermost point of the law, appeased the wrath of God. Brought the favor of God to us again, and obtained that God can love us first, and be our Father, and that a merciful Father, that will consider our infirmities and weakness, and will give us his Spirit to rule, govern, and strengthen us, and to break the bonds of Satan, wherein we were so greatly bound. When Christ is preached in this manner, and the promises rehearsed, which are contained in the prophets, psalms, and in many places of the five books of Moses, which preaching is called the Gospel or glad tidings; then the hearts of them which are elect and chosen, begin to grow soft and melt at the generous mercy's of God, and kindness showed to us in the Christ. For when the gospel is preached, the Spirit of God enters into them which God has ordained and appointed into eternal life; and opens their inward understanding, and gives them faith. When the suffering consciences feel and taste how sweet a thing the bitter death of Christ is, and how merciful and loving God is, through Christ's purchasing and merits; they begin to love again, and to consent to the law of God, how that it is good and ought so to be, and that God is righteous which made it; and desire to fulfill the law, even as a sick man desires to be well. They begin to hunger and thirst after more righteousness, and after more strength, to fulfill the law more perfectly. And in all that they do, or omit and leave undone, they seek God's honor and his will with meekness, always condemning the imperfection of their actions and thoughts by the law.
Now Christ stands for two things and we should serve in both ways. First, he is our Redeemer, Deliverer, Reconciler, Mediator, Intercessor, Advocate, Attorney, Solicitor, our Hope, Comfort, Shield, Protection, Defender, Strength, Health, Satisfaction and Salvation. His blood, his death, all that he ever did, is ours. And Christ himself, with all that he is or can do, is ours. His blood-shedding, and all that he did, does for me as good a service as though I myself had done it. And God (as great as he is) is mine, with all that he has, as an husband is his wife's, through Christ and his purchasing. Secondarily, after that we be overcome with love and kindness, and now seek to do the will of God (which is a Christian man's nature), then have we Christ an example to imitate; as Jesus himself stated and is recorded in John, "I have given you an example." And in another evangelist he said, "He that will be great among you, shall be your servant and minister; as the Son of man came to minister, and not to be ministered to." And Paul wrote, "imitate Christ." And Peter wrote, "Christ died for you, and left you an example to follow his steps."
What ever faith has been received of God through Christ's blood and deserving that same must love shed out, every part, and bestow it on our neighbors for their profit even though they may be our enemies. What faith receive of God through Christ's blood that we must bestow on our neighbors, though they be our enemies. By faith we receive of God, and by love we give love out again. And that we must do freely, after the example of Christ, without any other respect, except our neighbor's wealth only; and neither look for reward in the earth, or from heaven, for anything we do, as true ministers preach; though we know that good deeds are rewarded, both in this life and in the life to come. But of pure love must we bestow ourselves, all that we have, and all that we are able to do, even on our enemies, to bring them to God, considering nothing but their wealth, as Christ did ours. Christ did not give of himself to obtain the Kingdom because it was his already, he was heir of it, as it was his by inheritance; but he did them freely for our sakes, considering nothing but our wealth, and to bring the favor of God to us again, and us to God. And no natural son, that is his father's heir, does his father's will because he would be heir; that he has already by birth; his father gave him that when he was born, and is unwilling that he should go without it, than he himself would be; but of pure love does he do what he does. And if you ask him, why he does anything that he does, he answers, because my father asked; it is my father's will, and it pleases my father.
Bond-servants work for hire, but children for the love of their father, and all he has, is theirs already. So does a Christian man freely all that he does; considers nothing but the will of God, and his neighbor's wealth only. If I live chaste, I do it not to obtain the Kingdom; for then should I do wrong to the blood of Christ; Christ's blood has obtained me the kingdom already. Christ's, merits have made me heir thereof; he is both door and way into it, neither should I look for an higher room in the Kingdom, than they shall have which live in wedlock, other than a whore of the stews (if she repent); for that were the pride of Lucifer: but freely to wait on the gospel; and to avoid the trouble of the world, and occasions that might pluck me from the grace of God, and to serve my brother withal; even as one hand helps another, or one member another, because one feels the another's grief, and the pain of the one is the pain of the other. What ever is done to the least of us (whether it be good or bad), it is done to Christ; and what ever is done to my brother (if I be a Christian man), it is done to me. Neither does my brother's pain grieve me less than mine own: neither rejoice I less at his wealth than at mine own, if I love him as well and as much as myself, as the law command me.
If it were not so, why would Paul have written, "Let him that will rejoice, rejoice in the Lord," that is to say, Christ, which is Lord over all creatures. If my merits obtained me the kingdom, or a higher place there, then had I wherein I might rejoice besides the Lord. Here we can see the nature of the law, and the nature of the gospel; how the law is the key that binds and condemns all men to death, and the gospel is the key that frees them again. The law came first, and the gospel followed. When a preacher preaches the law, he binds all consciences; and when he preaches the gospel, he frees them again. These two, the law and the gospel, God uses as well as his preacher, to heal and cure sinners all in all. The law drives out the disease and makes it appear, and is a sharp salve, fretting and kills the dead flesh, and loose and draws the sores out by the roots, and all corruption. It pulls from a man the trust and confidence that he has in himself, and in his own works, merits, rewards and ceremonies, and robs him of all his righteousness, and makes him poor. It kills, and sends him down to hell, and then brings him to total desperation, and prepares the way of the Lord, as it is written of John the Baptist.
For it is not possible that Christ should come to a man, as long as he trusts in himself, or in any worldly thing, or thinks he has any righteousness of his own, or riches of holy works. Then comes the preaching of the gospel, a more gentle pastor, which is flexible and sooths the wounds of the conscience, and brings health. The gospel brings the Spirit of God; which frees the bonds of Satan, and ties us to God and his will, through strong faith and fervent love, with bonds too strong for the devil, the world, or any creature to loose them. And the poor and wretched sinner feels such great mercy, love, and kindness in God, that he is sure in himself how that it is not possible that God should forsake him, or withdraw his mercy and love from him; and boldly cries out with Paul, saying, "Who shall separate us from the love that God loves us with?" That is to say, What shall make me believe that God does not love me? Shall tribulation? Anguish? Persecution? Shall hunger? Nakedness? Shall sword? Nay, "I am sure that neither death, nor life, neither angel, neither rule nor power, neither present things nor things to come, neither high nor low, neither any creature, is able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
In all such tribulations a Christian man understands that God is his Father, and loves him even as he loved Christ when he shed his blood on the stake. Finally, as before, when I was bond to the devil and his will, I committed all manner of evil and wickedness, not for the sake of death, which is the reward of sin, but because I was heir of condemnation by birth and bondage to the devil, that I did evil, (for I could not stop because to do sin was my nature:) even so now, since I am coupled to God by Christ's blood, do I his will, not for the kingdoms sake, which is yet the reward of doing well; but because I am heir of the kingdom by grace and Christ's purchasing, and have the Spirit of God, I do good freely, for so is my nature: as a good tree brings forth good fruit, and an evil tree evil fruit. By the fruits shall we know what the tree is. A man's deeds declare what he is within, but make him neither good nor bad; though, after we be created anew by the Spirit and doctrine of Christ, we grow towards perfection always, with working according to the doctrine, and not with blind works of our own doing. We must first be evil before we can do evil, as a serpent is first poison before he can poison. We must also be good before we can do well, as the fire must be first hot, before it can heat another thing.
As an example: As those blind and deaf, which are cured in the gospel, could not see nor hear, till Christ had given them sight and hearing; and those sick could not do the deeds of an whole man, till Christ had given them health; so can no man do good in his soul, till Christ have loosed him out of the bonds of Satan, and have given him wherewith to do good, yea, and first have poured into him that self good thing which he brings forth afterward on other. What ever is our own, is sin. What ever is above, that is Christ's gift, purchase, doing and working. He bought it of his Father dearly, with his own blood, with his most bitter death, and gave his life for it. What ever good thing is in us, that is, that which is given us freely, without our deserving or merits, for Christ's blood's sake. That we desire to follow the will of God, it is the gift of Christ's blood. That we now hate the devil's will (where we were so tightly locked, and could only love it), is also the gift of Christ's blood; to whom belongs the praise and honor of our good deeds, and not to us. Our deeds do us three manner of service after we accept the gospel and blood of the Christ. First, they certify to us that we are heirs of everlasting life, and that the Spirit of God, which is the earnest of His blood, is in us; in that our hearts consent to the law of God, and we have power in our members to do it, though imperfectly.
And secondarily, we tame the flesh with the power of the Holy Spirit, and kill the sin that remains yet in us; and grow daily towards perfection in the Spirit; and watch out that the lusts in our flesh does not choke the word of God that is sown in us, nor quench the gifts and working of the Spirit, and that we lose not the Spirit again. And thirdly, we do our duty to our neighbor as needed, and help their needs as if it was for our own comfort also, and draw all men into the honoring and praising of God. And whosoever does well in the gifts of grace, let the same think that they be given him, as much to do his brother service as for his own self, and as much for the love which God has to the weak, as he has to him whom God gives such gifts. And he that does not give what he has for his neighbor's need, robs his neighbor, and is a thief. And he that is proud of the gifts of God, and thinks that he is better than others because of the gifts and not rather (as the truth is) knowing himself a servant to his poor neighbor, by the reason of them; the same has Lucifer's spirit in him, and not Christ's. These things we need to know: first, the law; how that it is natural right, and equity; that we have but one God to put our hope and trust in, and him to love with all the heart, soul, and all our might and power.
Neither to move heart nor hand but at his commandment, because he has first created us of dust, and heaven and earth for our sakes; and afterwards when we had marred our self through sin, he forgave us, and created us again, in the blood of his beloved Son. And that we have the name of our one God in fear and reverence; and that we dishonor it not, in swearing about light trifles or vanity, or call it to record for the confirming of wickedness or falsehood, or ought that is to the dishonor of God, which is the breaking of his laws, or to the hurt of our neighbor: And inasmuch as he is our Lord and God, and we his double possession, by creation and redemption, and therefore ought (as I said) neither to move heart or hand without his commandment; it is right that we have needful holy days to come together, and learn his will, both the law which he will have us ruled by, and also the promises of mercy which he will have us trust unto; and to give God thanks together for his mercy, and to commit our infirmities to him through our Savior Jesus, and to reconcile ourselves to him, and each to other, if anything be between brother and brother that may require it. And for this purpose and such like, as to visit the sick and needy, and continue in peace and unity, were the holy days ordained only; and so far forth are they to be kept holy from all manner works that may be conveniently spared for the time, till this be done, and no further, but then lawfully to work as commanded.
And that it is right that we obey father and mother, master, lord, prince and king, and all the ordinances of the world, in body and spirit by which God rules us, and minister freely his benefits to us all: and that we love them for the benefits that we receive by them, and fear them for the power they have over us to punish us, if we trespass the law and good order. So far yet are the worldly powers or rulers to be obeyed only, as their commandments do not go against the commandment of God; and then if they do we are duty bound to obey God. Therefore we must have God's commandment ever in our hearts, and by the higher law interpret the inferior: that we obey nothing against the belief of one God, or against the faith, hope and trust that is in him only, or against the love of God, whereby we do or leave undone all things for his sake; and that we do nothing, for any man's commandment, against the reverence of the name of God, to make it despised, and the less feared and set by; and that we obey nothing to the hindrance of the knowledge of the blessed doctrine of God, whose servant the holy day is. Notwithstanding, though the rulers which God has set over us command us against God, or do us open wrong, and oppress us with cruel tyranny; yet because they are in God's room, we may not avenge ourselves, but by the process and order of God's law, and laws of man made by the authority of God's law, which is also God's law, ever by an higher power, and remitting the vengeance to God, and in the evil season suffer until the hour be come: And on the other side, to know that a man ought to love his neighbor equally and fully as well as himself, because his neighbor is equally created of God, and as full redeemed by the blood of our Savior Jesus Christ. Out of which commandment of love spring these: Murder not your neighbor: defile not his wife: bear no false witness against him; and finally, not only do not these things in deed, but covet not in your heart his house, his wife, his man-servant, maid-servant, ox, ass, or what ever is his: so that these laws, pertaining to our neighbor, are not fulfilled in the sight of God, save with love.
He that does not love his neighbor breaks this commandment, 'Defile not thy neighbor's wife,' though he never touch her, or never see her, or think upon her. For the commandment is, Though thy neighbor's wife be very attractive, and you have never such a great opportunity given to you, and she consent, or happen to provoke you (as Potiphar's wife did Joseph), yet see that you love your neighbor so well, that you can not find it in your heart to do that wickedness. And even so he that trust in anything, save in God only and in his Son Jesus Christ, keep no commandment at all, in the sight of God. For he that has trust in any creature, whether in heaven or in earth, save in God and his Son Jesus, can see no cause to love God with all his heart, neither to abstain from dishonoring his name, nor to keep the holy day for the love of his doctrine, nor to obey lovingly the rulers of this world; nor any cause to love his neighbor as himself, and to abstain from hurting him, where he may get profit by him, and save himself harmless. And in like wise, against this law, 'Love your neighbor as yourself,' I may obey no worldly power, to do ought at any man's commandment to the hurt of my neighbor that has not deserved it, though he be a cruel and brutal man. And to know how contrary this law is to our nature, and how it is damnation not to have this law written in our hearts, though we never commit the deeds; and how there is no other means to be saved from this damnation, than through repentance toward the law, and faith in Christ's blood; which are the very inward baptism of our souls, and the washing and the dipping of our bodies in the water is the outward sign.
The plunging of the body under the water exhibits that we repent and profess to fight against sin and lusts, and to kill them every day more and more, with the help of God, and our diligence in following the doctrine of Christ and the leading of his Spirit; and that we believe to be washed from our natural damnation in which we are born, and from all the wrath of the law, and from all the infirmities and weaknesses that remain in us after we have given our consent unto the law, and yielded our self to be scholars of it; and from all the imperfectness of all our deeds done with cold love, and from all actual sin which shall chance on us, while we enforce the contrary and ever fight there against, and hope to sin no more. And thus repentance and faith begin at our baptism, and first professing the laws of God; and continue in our lives' end, and grow as we grow in the Spirit: for the more perfect we become the greater is our repentance, and the stronger our faith. And thus, as the Spirit and doctrine on God's part, and repentance and faith on our part, beget us anew in Christ, even so they make us grow, and become more perfect, and save us in the end; and never leave us until all sin be put off, and we become clean, purified, and full formed, and fashioned after the similitude and likeness of the perfectness of our Savior Jesus, whose gift all is.
And finally, to know that what ever good thing is in us, that same is the gift of grace, and therefore not of deserving, though many things be given of God through our diligence in working his laws, and chastising our bodies, and in praying for them, and believing his promises, which else should not be given us; yet our working deserve not the gifts, no more than the diligence of a merchant in seeking a good ship brings the goods safe to land, though such diligence does now and then help thereto: but when we believe in God, and then do all that is in our might, and not tempt him, then is God true to abide by his promise, and to help us, and perform alone when our strength is past: These things, I say, to know, is to have all the scripture unlocked and opened before you; so that if you will go in, and read, you will understand. And in these things to be ignorant, is to have all the scripture locked up; so that the more you read it, the blinder you become, and the more contrariety you find in it, and the more tangled you become in it, and can not understand: for if you had a explanation in one place, in another it will fit. And therefore, because we be never taught the profession of our baptism, we remain always unlearned, as well the spirituality, for all their great clergy and high schools, as the lay people. And now, because the lay and unlearned people are taught these first principles of our profession, therefore they read the scripture, and understand and delight in them. And our great pillars of the church, which have nailed a veil of false glosses on Moses face, to corrupt the true understanding of his law, cannot come in. And therefore they bark, and say the scripture makes heretics of the people, and it is not possible for them to understand it in the English, because they themselves do not even understand it in Latin. And of pure malice, that they cannot have their will, they murder their brethren for their faith they have in our Savior, and as a result commit their bloody wolfish tyranny, and what they truly are within, and are disciples of Satan. In this, reader, be committed to the grace of our Savior Jesus; in whom, and God our Father through him, be praise forever, and forever.