Selections From a Sermon Preached on the Basis of Galatians 2:3-5
WE FIND WELL ENOUGH what an enemy of our welfare the Devil is, sith [since] he ceaseth not to labor by all means to stop the course of the Gospel. And therein we perceive also, that God hath set all our welfare, joy, and happiness, in being taught by his word. For the Devil would not be so hasty to trouble that doctrine, unless he knew that the whole welfare of men lieth therein. True it is that he laboreth sore and straineth himself to deface God’s glory: but they be things that go together. For God of his gracious goodness hath appointed that to be the mean to reign among us, and to gather us unto himself: and all our welfare is to cleave unto him and to join with him. Now therefore the Devil not only stirreth up many enemies to make war against the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: but also laboreth to stir up much strife among ourselves, and to make us enemies one to another, and that hath been his practice at all times, as we see by example in the things that Saint Paul rehearseth to us here. We know what alarms were given him everywhere, and what a number of battelles [battles, struggles, controversy] and plunges he was put unto, by reason that the Heathen and the unbelievers did (to the uttermost of their power) withstand the preaching of God’s word: and yet over and besides this, he showeth how there were deceivers also, which wound themselves in slyly, and entered in as it were by stealth. For the Greek word that he useth, importeth so much, and it cannot well be expressed [by any one word] in our [french] tongue. His meaning then is that there were Cozeners [deceivers, frauds] which intermeddled themselves underminingly with the faithful, and yet all was no more but to cause the truth of the Gospel to be corrupted. And let us mark, that those dogs pretended not to reject utterly the whole doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ: but rather bear the name and title of Christianity. Howbeit in the meanwhile their intent was to have a half-assed Gospel, which should be nother [neither] fish nor flesh (as they say) but a medley of their own device: like as at this day there are still too many such folk in the world, who would fain [happily] forge and build a kind of Religion after their own fashion, taking a piece of the pure truth, and mingling many lies and dreams with it. Lo how there have been Neuters even from Saint Paul’s time hither. And now he saith, that he yielded not to them so much as one minute in way of subjection, to the end that the liberty of the Gospel might continue in his full force. That is in effect the thing that is rehearsed here. And first of all we have to arm ourselves against the household enemies, which labor to turmoil and trouble the doctrine of the Gospel in such wise, as it may become like a misshappen [distorted, monstrous] thing, and men may not discern anymore of it. But let us not be abashed when it happeneth so: for it is no novelty at all. Wherefore let us understand, that as it was God’s will to try the constancy of the faithful in Saint Paul’s time: so it is good reason that we also should be tried in these days, according as it is said, that it is necessary that there should be sects and heresies, to the intent that they which have taken deep root might be known (1 Corinthians 11:19) by continuing in their obedience to Godward, and bear their mark that men may know them have profited truly in the school of our Lord Jesus Christ, for that they have not suffered themselves to be misled or thrust out of the way. That therefore is the cause why our Lord doth always suffer some troublers to sow darnel [tares] seed, and to labor to turn the pure doctrine upside down. He could well let it if he thought good: but he giveth Satan the bridle, that our faith may be the better tried. Although we see occasions before our eyes, yet let us not swarve one way nor other, but keep on still in the way that is showed us, assuring ourselves that we cannot do amiss in resting wholly upon God’s word. Then if we stand to that, it is a good trial of our faith. Furthermore let us fight against such dogs, knowing that they be deadly plagues, and do much more harm then they that leap quite out of their sockets, and show themselves manifestly to be despisers of the Gospel. Those then that are intermeddled among us are the worser sort, and it standeth us on hand to resist them manfully. For if we shrink from them in the battle, surely we shall have so much the greater confusion, and men shall not be able anymore to put a difference between white and black….
And we have need to be warned thereof: for in these days we have the like encounter against the Papists. True it is that the Papist have less color than had the deceivers of whom Saint Paul speaketh. For although they were Satan’s underlings, and sought nothing but to pervert the truth of the Gospel, yet had they at leastwise this color, that they brought not in their own dreams and traditions, but alleged the authority of God, how that the law ought to be kept, and that was a meetly apparent excuse. But the Papists have no such foundation: For all their Ceremonies are forgeries of man’s brain. It is true that they have mingled Jewishness with them, and made such a gallimaufry [hodgepodge] as man cannot tell of whom they have borrowed most. But howsoever the world go, yet are the Ceremonies of men’s setting up, which are at this day in the Popedom [papal government]. Now when we strive to abolish them, they say we trouble the world for nothing. And then step in these Neuters, which would fain [happily] please both parties, and make a Bastard Gospel. Those fellows cast us in the teeth, that we be seditious, and that through our preciseness we set much trouble in the world. And for proof thereof (say they) is it meet that there should be such striving about Ceremonies, seeing they be things indifferent?…
But now what reason will the Papists bring, when as men perceive by eyesight, that all their Ceremonies are a burying of our Lord Jesus Christ, and yet that they bind men to the keeping of them under pain of deadly sin? And furthermore when as in all their Ceremonies, they have a certain opinion, that Baptism is not enough for them, but that they must have holy water to christen or baptize men evening and morning: and finally, that when they have brought in all their pelting trash, and all their gewgaws [trinkets, showy trifles], there must always be somewhat in them to draw poor souls into bondage: is it to be borne withal? On the other side, we see there is so straight a yoke, as it is able to strangle the poor wretches. For the seely [silly, pitiable] souls are bereft of the freedom that was purchased for them by the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. We see then how it is not without urgent cause, yea and extreme necessity, that we strive against the Popish tyranny about ceremonies, considering that our Lord Jesus Christ hath not his deserved preeminence, so long as men busy their wits about those small trifles, and that moreover their wretched consciences are always in unquietness without end or ceasing: and finally, that on the other side the Papists think to deserve grace by the things which they term God’s service, bearing themselves in hand, that that is the mean whereby men should become righteous to obtain salvation. So then we see that Saint Paul in his time was driven to sustain that strife. And forasmuch as our case is altogether like at this day, so as we cannot hold our peace except we will betray both god and man: we must fight stoutly against that hellish tyranny, and against those pelting trash trumpery and illusions of Satan, whereby he would fain [happily] either quite deface the Gospel, or else so turmoil it as a man should not know which is the pure truth. This in effect is the thing that we have to bear in mind. And whereas Saint Paul saith, that he yielded not one jot to such men: it is to confirm us so much the better on the thing that I touched even now. Peace and friendship are an amiable thing among men. They be so indeed, and we ought to seek them to the uttermost of our power. But yet for all that, we must set such store by God’s truth, that if all the world should be set on fire for the maintenance thereof, we should not stick at it. As much as we can possibly, let us purchase peace: and if the matter concern but our own persons or goods, let us endeavor to compound with our adversaries, let us bear with them, and let us labor to overcome them by our patience: Lo in what manner we ought to buy peace. But yet in the meanwhile let not God’s truth be diminished, nor sustain any harm or prejudice. For the peace that men seek among themselves shall evermore be accursed, if God be not therewithal acknowledged and magnified as he ought to be, and his word also continue unimpeached, for that is the knot of our bond: and if we intend to have it acceptable to God, and the end of it to be good and for our welfare, surely God must knit us together. And he hath given us his Son, who is called our peace (Ephesians 2:14), to the end we should all of us fall in order under him. Then if we mind to have good and holy peace, let us aim us at this mark of yielding ourselves under the obeisance of God’s son, that he may be our head and we his body, like as there is but one Church. But if any man go about to withdraw us from our Lord Jesus Christ: let us rather bear all the hatred, outrages, and madness of the world, than to seek such agreement. And let us not be afraid of all the reproach that can be done unto us according as nowadays we shall be falsely slandered as stirrers up of many strives. Yea verily, but what can we do with it? For it behooveth us to abide still in the truth of the Gospel, or else woe be unto us. If the Papists will not agree with us, but be utterly willful in the stubbornness that is seen to be in them: we must be contented to be at defiance with men, seeing they purpose to turn us from the peace which we should have with God by the means of his Son, who not without cause beareth that title as I told you before. For they that will not agree unto God, nor hold themselves to his service in such wise as he hath appointed it in his word: they [say I] are the troublers of the world, and the parties that ought to be blamed for all the uproars, variances, and debates that happen. For (as I have showed already) it is no reason that God should be robbed of his right, when men seek to knit themselves together. Ye see then in effect what we have to think upon, when Saint Paul saith that he would not yield one minute as in way of subjection, to such as wound in themselves after that fashion under false colors, to make a bastard Gospel full of minglemangles and corruptions: for God’s truth is the thing that was to be known first of all. Furthermore let us not be afraid of the slander that is laid upon us [in telling us] that it is pride and presumption when we will not submit ourselves: like as nowadays the thing that the Papists allege against us, is that we seem to take upon us to be wiser than all the world, and that it is a great pride in us, that we cannot find in our hearts to submit ourselves to the common fashion. True it is that the title of obedience is amiable, like as I said even now of peace: but yet must God be obeyed first of all. For if we will openly spite God, and play mock holy day with him to the intent to submit ourselves unto men, and bow down our neck to bear their yoke, and in the meanwhile give no audience unto God: what shall become of it? Surely we cannot frame ourselves to the Papists in way of subjection or yielding to them, but God must be thrust out of doors, and his word as it were trodden under foot, so as it shall have nother [neither] authority nor reverence amongst us. What is it that the Papists would have us to do? That we should leave God’s word, and give over our Lord Jesus Christ, and yet in the meanwhile receive all that ever they have devised. They will not say in flat terms that God shall be spoiled of his honor, nor that Jesus Christ shall have no more authority among them, they will not speak so with open mouth, but yet it is so in deed. Like as these deceivers against whom Saint Paul strove, made fair protestations ynow [enough] that they meant to be Christians, but yet for all that he was fain [willing] to come to the touchstone, and to examine all things thoroughly. Now would the Papists have their traditions received: and what manner of things are they? We see that our Lord Jesus Christ is as good as buried there, as I have showed already. Again, there is nothing but corruption in them: the things that are contained under them are utter illusions of Satan, tending all to this end, that there may be no more any certainly, nor any man know whereunto to stick. Seeing it is so, it is not for us to make war against God, that men might be obeyed. And therefore let us have as it were a forehead of brass to resist them in that behalf. For the greatest manliness that can be, is to keep ourselves from swarving aside for men’s sakes, what color of fair show soever be set upon the matter, and to despise every whit of it as dung and filth, when it standeth upon reserving God’s sovereignty unto him, and upon giving ear to our Lord Jesus Christ, to the end that he may be our head, and govern us, and all of us from the most to the least continue under his guiding, and do nothing else but simply give ear unto him, and receive the things that are for our maintenance in the faith of the Gospel….
Even so must we do in these days. Let us be peaceable as near as we can: let us relent of our own right: let us not strive for these worldly goods, honor, and reputation: let us bear all wrongs and outrages, rather than be moved to any debate through our own fault. But in the meanwhile, let us fight for God’s truth with tooth and nail. Again, if any body despise us, so as one steppeth up maliciously against us, and another goes about to deface us: let us not make any quarrel at all for that. But if any man will draw us from the obeying of our God, to make us stoop to the tyranny of men: Let us hold our own in that case, let us withstand him stoutly to the uttermost, and let us defy all the loftiness of the world, to the end that our Lord Jesus Christ be not diminished, but may always reign over us, and we be subject unto him. Thus ye see in effect how we ought to put this text in practice, and also how the necessity of the time ought to steer us thereunto. For nowadays we be not only persecuted, so as we see the fires kindled to murder the poor servants of God: but also are fain [willing] to be accused and condemned as seditious persons, by those slaves that are in wages with Antichrist, to overthrow the truth of the Gospel. Moreover they say there is nothing but pride in us, because we will not receive their traditions. Well then, do they slander us so seriously? Let us bear it patiently, and let them rail their fill (as Saint Paul saith) so our quarrel be always to stand for our part in the pure truth of the Gospel, and to withstand the Creatures that will not suffer Christ alone to reign, and all knees to bow before him, and all men to do him homage. And that is the cause why Saint Paul saith, that we must hold still the singleness of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore when under color of handling the Gospel, men go about to make a patched and piedcoted [dressed in many colored garments] or motley religion (as a man might term it:) it is no more a true religion, but there is much falsehood mingled with it. Then let us mark well, that whereas Saint Paul useth here such speech, he (or rather the holy ghost by his mouth) warneth us that it is not enough for us to bear the name of Christians, and to make some fair show of cleaving to God’s word and to the doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ: but that we must stick to it thoroughly, and take heed that we nother [neither] mingle nor foist in anything to it, but consider that like as a little leaven is able to sour a great deal of dough, so all will be marred, as soon as we give any entrance to the things that men have devised of their own heads. To be short, the means to keep the doctrine of the Gospel pure, is that men add not anything at all to it, nor be so bold and licentious, as to lay one thing or other upon it, but to content themselves with the things that our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed us, so as we become his true disciples, and be not so hardy as to reply against him, but that all mouths may be shut, and no man lift up his neb [mouth] to say, this is my opinion, this think I to be good, but every one of us receive simply that which is taught us by our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath all dominion of reigning over our souls. Lo how we may have the truth of the Gospel: And it behooveth us so much the more to practice this doctrine, of Saint Paul’s because we see that nowadays many men seek nothing but to mingle one with another, so as they care not of what religion they be, so the same be most tolerable and easiest received of the world, True it is that among the Papists many be so willful, as they will never abide that a man should vary one point from them. For they see well, that if there be never so little a breach made, by and by all their tyranny decayeth and falls down to the ground. For what hold have they but by tyranny and violence, to tell us that we must neither will nor choose, but take it for good. Those therefore that are flatly on the pope’s side, would have men to hold throughout, all the filthiness and abominations which they have had hitherto. But there are a sort of fantastical heads, which would have a Reformation, wherein the Pope and Mahumet and Jesus Christ should be mingled together, so as men might no more discern which is which. For all is one to them so the world be agreed upon it: They bear no reverence at all unto God, and that is the cause why all things have been so turmoiled and confounded in our days, and the very foundation, whereupon the Interim (as they term it) was grounded. For seeing that many men could not find in their hearts to consent to Papistry: they thought it good to have a reformation between both. And even at this day a great sort incline still to the like reformation. It is true (say they) that there are abuses, and it were meet they should be mended. Yea, but their meaning is but to pluck away some leaf or little branch, and to let the rest alone, that the root might grow still: that is to say, that the Gospel of God might be defaced with all manner of superstitions that reign in the Popedom [papal government]. But what for that? here the holy Ghost condemneth all such neuters, and showeth that their doings are but crafts of Satan, yea and mere illusions and mockeries to lead silly souls to destruction, and moreover also a defacing of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. And why? For we have not the Gospel at all, except we have the pure truth, whereunto it may not be lawful for men to add anything, but all of us to hold ourselves to that which is showed us by our master. Ye see then, how that in these days we be enforced by the necessity of the time, to put this doctrine in ure [remembrance]. And therefore when God’s enemies upbraid us that we will not agree with them, let us always allege for our excuse, that our agreement is to be knit together in our Lord Jesus Christ, and to be all obedient to his word and doctrine. If they allege that it is a pride in us to reject so the things that are commanded by such men as term themselves superiors. Let us answer that we must first obey God, and that Jesus Christ must not be bereft of his right, and men set up in his place. If they ask why so? Were it not better to have some mean way, and that every man should show how he intendeth not to separate himself from the rest, than to strive after that fashion, and to cause Christendom to be as it were scattered? Let us answer that the matter standeth not upon knowing who shall get the upper hand, or who shall be master over his fellows: but God’s word must continue always unimpeached, or otherwise all the pretense of concord, that men can make, shall be but abomination before God. And why? For it were better that all things should go to havoc and confusion in the world, than to abide that God’s word (being so precious and holy a thing as it is) should in any wise be perverted: yea it were better that heaven and earth should be confounded together [than that that should be suffered.] So then let us consider well this doctrine, how it may serve our turn and do us good, not only to beat back all the assaults that shall be put to us by the enemies of God’s truth, but also to frame us to all lowliness and modesty, so as our whole desire may be to be guided and governed by God’s word, and by the doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ. Howbeit, therewithal, let us be so stouthearted, as not to be turned away by men, neither for their credit and authority, nor for their threatenings, nor for all the pride and stateliness of the world, but that we may always stick steadfastly to our Lord Jesus Christ. And if any body come and lay any new thing before us, let us evermore have a good eye to the end whereunto they would lead us, and [consider] that like as Satan hath many wiles and policies, so also have his underlings too. [And therefore] let us on our side have the skill to look to ourselves in such wise as we may always know our Lord Jesus Christ, and be guided thither, so as he may be our only mark and shoot anchor, and we understand that he hath all fullness of welfare in him, to the end that we should seek our wants in him, and all things be put away that might hinder us from coming unto him.
And now let us fall down before the majesty of our good God with acknowledgment of our faults, praying him to make us feel them in such wise, as we may crave forgiveness of them at his hand with true repentance, and profit after such sort more and more in his word, as it may make us to forsake ourselves, and lean unto him and his power, that he may hold us up in our frailness, till he have bought us to the perfection whereunto he calleth us at this day.